Sunshine Coast Birds

Birding and other wildlife experiences from the Sunshine Coast and elsewhere in Australia - and from overseas - with scribblings about travel, environmental issues, kayaking, hiking and camping.

Sunday, 22 June 2014

Around Oz Part 7 - Kakadu: Yellow Waters & Mardugal

Saltwater Crocodile
Moving on from the town of Pine Creek (see last post) we entered Kakadu National Park after paying the $25-each entry fee now charged. As we headed north-east along the Kakadu Highway, we saw lots of impressive termite mounts in the savannah woodland. A Black-breasted Buzzard was seen 25km from the Mary River Roadhouse.

Termite mounds - Kakadu
We camped for two nights at the pleasant Mardugal park camping ground, where deep shade under trees lining a billabong offered pleasant relief from the unexpectedly warm conditions we had experienced in the Top End to date.

Our campsite at Mardugal
We were camped 50 metres or so from a billabong that is part of the fabled Yellow Waters - a vast area of rivers, swamps and billabongs in the vicinity of the junction of the South Alligator River and Jim Jim Creek. I was last at Yellow Waters as a hitch-hiking teenager in 1972, when Dave Lindner, a national park ranger at the time and something of a legend in the Top End these days - by all accounts he is still fighting fit - took me under his wing.

Yellow Waters
Things have changed. Yellow Waters is now a thriving tourist centre based around the village of Cooinda, a few kilometres from the Mardugal camp.

Yellow Waters billagong
We opted to take one of the commercial cruises (an excessive $90 per person) to optimise our experience with the wetlands, regarded as some of the most impressive anywhere.

Rufous-banded Honeyeater
Rufous-banded Honeyeater was nice to see while we waited for the boat. We also saw a couple of Saltwater Crocodiles swimming past.

4-metre Saltwater Crocodile male

A family of shelducks walks past the crocodile

Saltwater Crocodile 2.5m female
Saltwater Crocodiles are the star attraction here and we were not disappointed. A huge 4-metre male impressed; like lions with vehicles in African national parks, they are so accustomed to boats that  they allow close approach.
3m Saltwater Crocodile swimming 
Another 5 or 6 smaller crocodiles were equally approachable as they basked in the sun. Just a couple of weeks ago, upstream from here along the South Alligator River, a man was killed by a Saltwater Crocodile which dragged him from his fishing dinghy. There have been several fatalities in Kakadu.

Radjah Shelduck

Green Pygmy-Goose

Nankeen Night-Heron

Pied Heron
Waterfowl were in abundance. Radjah Shelducks were pleasantly common, with one family of ducklings passing close by a nonchalantly uninterested crocodile.  Others included Green Pygmy-Goose, Magpie Goose (very common) and Wandering and Plumed Whistling-Ducks in huge mixed flocks. Other waterbirds included Nankeen Night-Heron, Pied Heron and Glossy Ibis.

Little Kingfisher
A highlight of a walk along the camping ground billabong was a Little Kingfisher in a waterside freshwater mangrove. A full list of birds at Yellow Water and Mardugal can be found here.

Arafura Fantail

Blue-winged Kookaburra

Shining Flycatcher
In the paperbark and pandanus forest near the water around the camping-ground, nice birds included Arafura Fantail, Pied Imperial-Pigeon, Blue-winged Kookaburra, Shining Flycatcher (very common, and much less secretive than in their mangrove haunts in south-east Queensland), Paperbark Flycatcher and Large-tailed Nightjar.
Black-tailed Treecreeper
Good birds in savannah woodland nearby include Black-tailed Treecreeper and Partridge Pigeon, while a Dingo was seen early one morning. I found a colony of Northern Cave Bats roosting in a crevice under a bridge.

1 comment:

  1. Stunning pics Greg. Please keep them coming. Was one of them not a white necked heron?