|Cooinda, Kakadu National Park||June 11 - 12 2021|
|This trip started with the simple idea of "let's go have a
look at Kakadu.
And here we are. After only 7 weeks and about 6,000 km. A bit more than estimated.
The Old Jim Jim Road runs through a military area. We didn't quite expect to see a Hercules parked near the road.
|The South Alligator River.
The river and its floodplain are central to Kakadu. Its neither the southern most nor does it contain alligators, but what's in a name?
This far south, and this time of year, its not very high. We are also in sandy country.
|Another part of it, the track detours to the left.
With a bit of a hole before the exit.
|We reached the main Jabiru - Pine Creek road to head north.
Its three weeks since we were at Umbrawarra Gorge and passed through Pine Creek.
The rivers become wider.
|Camped at Mardukal 2 Campground I explored the surrounding
We haven't failed to notice that Turkey Bush (the pink flowery stuff) is present on the drier sandier land and absent on black soil floodplains.
|After much confusion - the campsite notice board was in
Mardukal 1 - we found the track to Mardukal Billabong, which is not labeled
on our maps and is part of Jim Jim Creek. It leaves from the north west
corner of number one campsite - the caravan and generator area.
We watched flycatchers and other small birds for a while, until disturbed by other campers.
|We stayed at Mardukal so we could get an early start for
our dawn cruise.
The queue to check-in didn't take too long and the boats departed on time - at precisely 06:45.
|The sun just beginning to influence the sky.|
|First stop - an intro to the Jabiru.
The wildlife has been well trained by years of tourist boats intruding into their space - they ignore us, concentrating instead on breakfast.
|More than one boat provided some entertainment as radio communication failed to create the requisite action and shouting "get out of my sunrise" was reverted to. The ripples are as the recalcitrant boat captain gently reversed.|
|I think we've come to realise that wetlands are about
quantity with a handful of the very obvious species in abundance, while we
are sure there are many less obvious that we never see.
Today is about being close.
The Royal Spoonbills and whistling diving ducks join the throng of birds ignoring us.
|One wonders if the egrets and herons are cold.|
|The glossy ibis and stilt are too ravenous to be cold.|
|And the plumed whistling ducks are too thirsty.
Even the boat captain and tour guide is confused by the difference between plumed and whistling ducks, not helped by there being more than one name for each.
|The dawn light slowly encompasses the landscape.
A vast (to me) floodplain that is still flooded. The grass floats.
|We now know what a juvenile Nankeen Night Heron looks like.
The last wet season has been a good breeding year, they thrived, so now they are easy to find, and there is a bit of competition for territory.
|The jabiru continued to entertain us. Its as if this spot
has been claimed both by the jabiru and our boat captain.
With such long legs we wonder why it doesn't fall over, but, like an imitation of a model walking a catwalk, though for very different reasons, how to place one's feet is important.
|The suspension grows - every good venture must have a
Will she catch a fish? We know its a she by the eyes - though we may have become mixed up on which is which ......
|Or will she be eaten by a crocodile?
It seems crocodiles are fast, but birds are faster .....
|In the background a half dozen buffalo decide to move to a
different grazing spot.
There is so much choice.
There seemed to be a bit of a track. But buffalo are heavy and this one sank a bit into the mud, requiring some effort to pull legs out.
|The croc didn't catch any birds, but having skillfully
herded fish towards the bank, a sort of slow sideways movement, some
escaping by jumping over its back, it caught one.
Which required a tilt of the head to help swallow.
|While the jabiru looked disdainfully on.|
|More fish, for all the early morning feeders, the drama
One of those dramas that never reach a climax and never end. Just the routine of tour boats and the hordes of people watching the hordes of wildlife.
The tension increased for a while when a second crocodile appeared - would there be a fight? But like a slow motion ballet the new arrival gracefully retreated after only a small movement of the first.
Would the boat captain expect a tip if the crocs had a fight, or is tour etiquette different here to Ranthambore National Park when tigers are sighted?
|Breakfast complete the ducks in the dress circle survey the
We also saw some pygmy geese.
At this time of year this part of the river is isolated as a billabong. We don't go that far, but the journey would be stopped near the line of paperbarks in the distance.
The magpie geese, conspicuous by their absence, are away downstream where the young are hatched. They will return later in the year as billabongs dry up.
|We've come to see the Jacana (lily trotter) family.|
|Something spooks the ducks.
The tilt on the camera is perhaps due to the tilt of the boat as attention is drawn to something on the left side and people move to look.
|It was a white bellied sea eagle. It grasped its breakfast as we watched, with no-one fast enough with the camera.|
|A last look at the spoonbill family.|
|And the lilies.|
|Alligator Billabong, Kakadu National Park||June 12 - 14 2021|