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Top End of the NT - Kakadu, Matarinka & Tennant Cr

Author: Carl from pahrump (More Trip Reviews by Carl from pahrump)
Date of Trip: September 2006

Later in the morning we drove out to Elsey NP (14.922S 133.134E). We were greeted by a conclave of Apostle Birds squawking like gray crows. The Palm trees along the river are home to 200,000 Little Red Flying Foxes (a.k.a. Bats). They were hanging and flapping everywhere.

The water in the Thermal Pool looked clean, so we went for a swim.

We had massive Barra burgers and chips at the resort for Lunch. A Great Bower Bird was willing to join us for Lunch, but we didn't share. The old movie "Never Never Land" based on the book "We Of The Never-Never" By Jeanie Gunn was always playing on the big screen TV.

Most things seem more expensive at the local grocery store. The wash detergent we paid $4A for in Darwin cost $12A here. No wonder some of the local folks don't smell so good.

We went back to Elsey NP at sundown to see the big Bat fly-off. Just as the sky turned golden, stacks and stacks of Little Red Flying Foxes blackened the horizon going in all directions.

We were up before sunrise on Oct 1 to listen to the birds. About 8am we drove out to Elsey NP to go birding on the Botanic Walk (14.922S 133.134E) -- a nice shaded walk on a hot day. We ran into the Little Red Flying foxes along the river. Our presence caused them to panic and noisily fly away. We spotted a Buff-sided Robin. There are 17 varieties of Robins in Australia. In the afternoon we went birding around our cabin (which is on a fruit orchard). A Germany birder helped us find a Weebill.

We were off at 5:45am on Oct 2 for the 90-mile drive to Katherine Gorge NP (a.k.a. Nitmiluk National Park). Three Flowerpeckers greeted us at the Visitor Center. We took the 4-hour boat tour (14.312S 132.423E) that covered the first 3 of the 13 sandstone gorges. There was ample water in the river, but the side waterfalls had dried up. When it starts raining, the water level can raise 10ft.

fairy martinsYou have to change motorboats between gorges, and walk from the head of one gorge to the beginning of the next gorge. There weren't a lot of birds, but we did see a flock of Fairy Martins nesting in a cave on the side of the gorge. We had a swim break at a nice sandy beach late morning since there are no Salt Water Crocs in the Gorge.

We had Lunch in Katherine at the Cheeky Crock. I had a steak sandwich minus the Beet Root. My wife had the fisherperson basket. The young waiter asked us how we like the weather. My wife said it was pretty hot (95F). The waiter said "this is nothing, in the summer it gets 40 to 45C (113F) here with a pot load of humidity".

We bought a box of No Worries Insect Repellent Patches. The patch uses Vit B1 to keep Sandflies, Mosquitoes, and Bush flies away. Seemed to work.

When we got back to our cabin, we noticed that Long-tailed Finches were building a nest in a bush beside our patio.

We were at Elsey NP at sun-up on Oct 3, but the bat stench was already so strong we decided to skip the thermal pool and bird walk. We drove away from the resort stopping to check the spring-fed marshes. Wallabies kept running out in front of the car, but we managed to miss them. We eventually found a Buff-banded Rail in a marsh. About that time a Dingo found us. My wife stared it down.

When we got far enough away from the bats stench, we went for a walk along the Roper River (14.948S 133.209E). We were surprised to find lots of rough lava rocks. We found the rare Great-billed Heron along the river. Later we saw some Little Woodswallows. At 10:30am we headed home -- the temp was 93F, but with the direct sun it felt like 113F.

On Oct 4 we decided to walk the 4 Km track to Matarinka Falls (14.953S 133.220E) in Elsey NP. After 2-hours of walking and bird watching we had only gone 1.1 Km. We saw the Great-billed Heron again and heaps of Finches, Lorikeets, and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. An Azure Kingfisher zipped past our face on its way up a creek. We decided to turn back. It only took 1.5 hours to get back to the car. We could have made it faster but we got hung-up watching Channel-billed Cuckoos nesting.

Mid afternoon we went for a walk around the Billabong (14.909S 133.085E) behind our Caravan Park. It is mind-blowing when you think that this marshy area will soon be submerged under 10 to 30 feet of water for a few months before the dry land appears again next April. In fact, all the marshes, Billabongs and rivers around for 100's of miles here merge into a vast inland sea as part of the annual cycle of life.

We saw a young Jabiru at our Caravan Park today. Jabiru is Portuguese for Stork. The bird watching Establishment in Australia wants to rename the Jabiru to be the Brown-neck Stork (except the Jabiru has an aqua green neck). Australians are fairly rebellious, and birders still refers to it as the Jabiru.

A Jabiru can kill a Croc by jabbing its machete-like beak into a Croc's skull. The Jabiru is the only animal that is known to kill Crocs (except Cane Toads and other Crocs). It is said that there are no records of Crocks killing Jabirus.

At 6am on Oct 5 we successfully ran the Wallaby gauntlet and headed off to the Low Level Park on the Katherine River (14.491S 132.250E). The Little Red Flying Foxes had taken up residence across the river in Eucalyptus trees. We saw a pair of White-belly Sea Eagles perched in a tree drooling (Sea Eagles eat Flying Foxes) We got to Cutta Cutta Cave Natural Park (14.576S 132.472 E) about 9:30am. It was already too hot for birding. We only saw a White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike.

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