Monday, 8 January 2018

Summary of 2017 wildlife recording

Here goes with another write-up of a year's wildlife watching. It's always interesting to look back and pull together many different observations into a single summary, often reminding myself of things I've already half-forgotten about. It's also great to re-read the equivalent summaries I wrote about previous years.

2017 was another species-packed year, although very much a year of two halves. I managed to record 1,820 species in Britain, almost exactly the same as in 2016. For the third year in a row, I recorded over 1,000 species of insects. However, I really lost drive in the second half of the year, probably caused by taking on a new role at work in combination with a post-holiday "low". The "low" was perhaps due to the holiday itself being such a high of course - my first ever trip to Australia (and hopefully not the last), which really was such an amazing experience, it took a while to get back into focusing on the smaller and subtler species of Britain which I've been looking at for the last few years.

Mapping out my records with QGIS, I see I didn't actually travel very much at all within Britain in 2017. Most of the outliers on a 10km map are from a few work trips and a few days back home in Yorkshire, but the vast majority of my time was spent in East Anglia.



Even more striking, I didn't really go many places in East Anglia; the 1km scale map below shows that almost all my recording was in my home area south of Norwich and around Thetford, with a few excursions to the Broads and the Suffolk coast, and hardly any trips to the north Norfolk coast at all. There seems to have been some sort of invisible forcefield banning me from north of the A11 in fact.


During the year, I found 234 new British species, bringing my end of year total to 4,597, but only 40 of these were post-Australia, meaning I've left myself with quite a mountain to climb if I want to push for 5,000 by the end of 2018. Nevertheless, that's a total which is still quite possible if I put in the effort. Let's see....


Species per year


Non-arthropod invertebrates


Worms (2 species, 2 ticks, list total = 12)
A short session netting the stream in Shotesham in April produced two new leeches: Alboglossiphona heteroclita and Hemiclepsis marginata.

Molluscs (16 species, 2 ticks, list total = 57)
New species were the freshwater Valvata cristata on Shotesham Common in March, and Slipper Limpet Crepidula fornicata on Skegness beach in December (I'd seen shells of this species in the past, but never found occupied ones). A variety of other common slugs and snails were also noted.

Starfish (0 species, 0 ticks, list total = 0)
Still no live starfish found, but a very striking wreck on Skegness beach on 29th Dec involved probably over 1,000 Common Starfish Asterias rubens as well as a couple of Common Sunstars Crossaster papposus. I nudged a fair few, but could find no apparent signs of life.

Starfish buddies on Skegness Beach (sadly both dead)



Non-insect arthropods


Arachnids (38 species, 13 ticks, list total = 97)
A reasonable selection by my standards, although I still haven't got into spiders in a big enough way. The breakdown was 20 spiders (5 new), 4 harvestmen (1 new), 3 pseudoscorpions (1 new) and 11 mites/ticks (6 new). I finally got round to going to Lopham Fen and seeing the legendary Fen Raft Spiders Dolomedes plantarius and also finally caught up with many other naturalists and found myself a Wasp Spider Ariope bruennichi at Minsmere. Another highlight was the pseudoscorpion Lamprochernes savignyi which proved to be abundant in a muck heap in Shotesham, when sieved by visiting coleopterists in May.

Fen Raft Spider at Lopham Fen

Wasp Spider at Minsmere


Crustaceans (12 species, 3 ticks, list total = 24)
A reasonable selection of woodlice, including my first record of Porcellionides pruinosus which proved to be abundant in a muck heap in Shotesham in May. I was pleased to finally nail Signal Crayfish Pacifastacus leniusculus which I've known have been in the river Little Ouse by work for years. The other new species was the non-native barnacle Austrominius modestus which was encrusting beach groynes at Skegness in December.

Barnacle Austrominius modestus at Skegness


Myriapods (15 species, 3 ticks, list total = 34)
A little less attention paid to these this year, but I ought to do more as there's clearly lots still to be found; Melogona scutellaris in the garden was a potential new species for Norfolk. Also in the garden, Geophilus truncorum was new for me, whilst I also sorted out Cylindroiulus britannicus from Thetford.

Springtails, proturans and 2-tailed bristetails (1 species, 1 tick, list total = 5)
I finally got round to identifying the common globular springtail Dicyrtomina saundersi from the garden.


Insects


Mayflies (2 species, 0 ticks, list total = 7)
Ephemera danica recorded several times around Shotesham, with Ephemera vulgata in Thetford.

Dragonflies (20 species, 0 ticks, list total = 36)
First of the year was typically Large Red Damselfly Pyrrhosoma nymphula on the early date of 9th Apr at Whitlingham. Further evidence of a slight range expansion of Norfolk Hawker Aeshna isosceles with records within Shotesham parish on 27th-28th May and 10th Jun, but still not quite into the home 1 km square (2018 surely!) I recorded Willow Emerald Damselfly Chalcolestes viridis in the garden again on 27th Aug (and saw again at Minsmere the following week). Most other common species were noted although unaccountably, I failed to record Common Blue Damselfly Enallagma cyathigerum all year - I presume this was down to incompetence as opposed to a catastrophic population crash.

Earwigs (2 species, 0 ticks, list total = 3)
Pleasing to see Lesser Earwig Labia minor again, after my only previous record in 2000; lots were seen in a muck heap in Shotesham, thanks to the sieving skills of visiting coleopterists!

When I say we sieved a muck-heap....this is home to a squillion invertebrates


Grasshoppers and crickets (11 species, 0 ticks, list total = 21)
Started with my earliest ever nymph of Dark Bush-cricket Pholidoptera griseoaptera in the garden on 15th April. Roesel's Bush-crickets Metrioptera roseselii started "calling" from 1st July in Shotesham (hooray, can still hear them). Otherwise, most regular species noted.

Stoneflies (2 species, 2 ticks, list total = 8)
Both species recorded were new to me, with Nemoura avicularis from Thetford in April being a common species, but Nemoura dubitans from Surlingham and Whitlingham (also in April) much more localised nationally (although it appears that East Anglia is a stronghold).

Bugs (84 species, 19 ticks, list total = 215)
Not a bad selection of bugs, although a little lower than last year. I did pass the 200 mark as hoped for though. Some of the nicest new ones were Gastrodes grossipes at the Nunnery Lakes, Ulopa reticulata in Sherwood Forest, Forget-me-not Shieldbug Sehirus luctuosus in the garden (how have I overlooked this so far, the garden is over-run with forget-me-nots?), Halticus luteicollis in Thetford and the splendid Kalama tricornis also at The Nunnery. Most other common species were noted, although I was lazy and didn't get round to identifying any Psocoptera (barkflies) this year.

Gastrodes grossipes at the Nunnery Lakes


Beetles (216 species, 80 ticks, list total = 514)
Although I didn't set out with the intention of particularly focusing on beetles this year, I seem to have seen quite a lot of new ones; in fact, about a third of my new species in 2017 were beetles and I smashed through the 500 barrier. The 80 new species were from 23 different families. I found 23 new rove beetles (Staphylinidae) during the year, including an incredible 11 new ones on 23rd May when Steve Lane, Martin Collier and Tim Hodge came to visit Shotesham; one day, I'll learn to sieve a muck-heap like that! I have learned to look in a variety of places for rove beetles though, finding them under dead pheasants and moles, in henhouse bedding/shit and in sieved flood debris, as well as catching Philonthus cognatus in flight. I suspect the staphs will be my most species-rich beetle family by the end of next year (currently in third place). The next most tick-rich group were the Chrysomelidae with 12 new ones, mostly unremarkable common species although it was interesting to identify the Viburnum Leaf Beetle Pyrrhalta viburni from its larvae feeding on Guelder-rose at Woodbastwick Fen. In third place were the nine new weevils (Curculionidae), a feeble number really given the available targets out there and the fact there's plenty of information on how to find them. I ought to be much more focused on chasing some weevils down in 2018! The ground beetles (Carabidae) remain my most species-rich beetle family (79 species now), although just four additions in 2017: Bembidion illigeri (Barnhamcross Common), Harpalus latus (Winterton Dunes), Acupalpus meridianus and Stenolophus mixtus (both Shotesham). Away from these larger groups, highlights of a hotchpotch of other families included Hylecoetus dermestoides, Nalassus laevioctostriatus and Orchesia undulata (Sherwood Forest), Diaperis boleti at the Nunnery Lakes, the longhorns Phytoecia cylindrica (Nunnery) and Alosterna tabacicolor (Harling Woods), the histerids Atholus bimaculatus (Shotesham) and Saprinus aeneus (under dead mole on Barnhamcross Common) and the large black Prionychus ater (in the garden moth-trap). Lots more to look for in 2018 though - will I make it to 600?

Flies (135 species, 30 ticks, list total = 365)
A good selection, albeit fewer than last year and only half the number of new ones; no excuse as there are still thousands (in fact, almost all of them) still to look for. Nine of the new ones were craneflies, and I still feel like there's lots more easy ones to work out here; four of these were in the garden for example. I saw two new hoverflies (Meliscaeva cinctella at The Nunnery and Eumerus strigatus in Shotesham) bringing my total to 97 species; I clearly need to find some targets for 2018. I also added my 21st soldierfly (Beris geniculatus at Wheatfen), five more of the leaf-mining Agromyzidae, three more of the picture-winged Tephritidae and two more Bibio species (anglicus at Whitlingham and reticulatus at Sherwood bringing my total to 11 out of the 16 species). I also came across two recently colonising non-native species at the Nunnery: the leaf-miner Obolodiplosis robiniae on a False-acacia and Drosophila suzukii in the office. I will be disappointed if I don't make it to 400 flies by the end of 2018.

Lipara lucens reared from reed gall at Minsmere

Tipula vittata at Whitlingham Great Broad


Hymenoptera (97 species, 35 ticks, list total = 225)
Although I'm clearly remaining very much a pan-species recorder, I've been trying to work out where to specialise a bit more. During the year, a vacancy arose for the position of Norfolk sawfly recorder, and despite not being particularly knowledgeable about the group, I decided to put myself forward - and was accepted! Gulp. Anyway, I do find the Hymenoptera a really interesting group, and there's no shortage of new discoveries to be made, so I will try to focus a little more on these in 2018. But as for 2017:
Symphyta (sawflies): I recorded 33 species during the year, 20 of which were new to me. This brings my total to 65 sawflies, out of a British total of 537. Clearly I need to learn a great deal more to be able to undertake my new role effectively! My new ones included some which are very common and obvious (such as the Alder Sawfly Eriocampa ovata and Figwort Sawfly Tenthredo scrophulariae) as well as others that are a little more obscure. I was pleased to discover the Skullcap Sawfly Athalia scutellariae around a patch of Skullcap in wet woods at the Nunnery Lakes. Another interesting discovery was of some sawfly larvae reported by Mike Dawson on a birch sapling in his garden which proved to be Pristiphora testacea, apparently new to Norfolk. As I said, lots to discover still and I really look forward to getting stuck in this year. Perhaps a target of 100 sawflies by the end of the year is a good aim.
Aculeata (aculeates: bees, ants, some wasps): as well as a new focus on sawflies, I still also really like aculeates. I recorded 54 species during the year, of which ten were new for me. Three new bees were Andrena minutula (High Ash Farm), Heriades truncorum (The Nunnery) and Lasioglossum leucopus (Nunnery Lakes). Five splendid solitary wasps were Argogorytes fargeii, Nysson spinosus and Trypoxylon attenuatum (Shotesham), Astata boops (Barnhamcross) and Ammophila sabulosa (Dunwich Heath). I found the ruby-tailed wasp Chrysis angustula in the garden. Finally, and particularly interesting, I noted the spider-hunting wasp Auplopus carbonarius in Shotesham on 17th June, again on 26th August and finally again in Thetford on 27th October; this species was not known in Norfolk until very recently and is clearly spreading rapidly.
Parasitica (parastic wasps): although by far the most species-rich group, it remains difficult (although not impossible) to break into this group. I recorded five new species, three of which were gall-wasps in the family Cynipidae: Trigonaspis megaptera galls around the base of the Medusa Oak in Sherwood Forest, Biorhiza pallida 'oak-apple' galls in Shotesham (seen many times previously but never confirmed as occupied) and Phanacis hypochoeridis galls on Cat's-ear on Great Yarmouth North Denes. Some additional oak galls were found but the wasps were not actually seen and I don't currently count these towards my totals - Cynips quercusfolii, Andricus curvator, A. lignicola, A. fecundator and A. quercuscalicis. However, one of my favourite finds of the year was the blue wasp Ormyrus nitidulus (Ormyridae) which emerged from galls of A. quercuscalicis that I'd kept. Finally, I only identified one new Ichneumon all year, a female of Virgichneumon monostagon from the garden moth-trap.

Birch Sawfly Cimbex femoratus in Sherwood Forest

Ormyrus nitidulus reared from gall of Andricus quercuscalicis in Shotesham


Moths and butterflies (423 species, 13 ticks, list total = 1,101)
As ever, Lepidoptera were my most diverse insect group during the year, due to long familiarity and regular moth-trapping (at least once per week for most of the year in the garden). However, due to the number of other things I'm recording, I have got very lazy regarding butterfly recording; I only made 44 records of 24 species during the year, with no new ones again and no records of Grayling, Wall, Dark Green Fritillary, Green Hairstreak, etc. I did record 13 new moths in the year, and for a change, the majority of these were macro-moths. Apart from a splendid Tree-lichen Beauty Cryphia algae at the Nunnery, however, all of the other new macros were pheromone-attracted clearwings. I tried clearwing pheromones years ago and failed, but persevered this year (backed up with better info and, perhaps, better pheromones) I succeeded in recording my first six species, all in June: Hornet (Nun's Bridges), Yellow-legged (Barnhamcross), Currant and Red-tipped (Surlingham Church Marsh), Red-belted (The Nunnery) and Six-belted (Minsmere). All stunning creatures, and I hope to find some of the others in 2018. A few other less regular macro-moths noted in the garden trap included Chamomile Shark, Muslin Footman and The Coronet, whilst significant absences were Shaded Broad-bar, The Lychnis, Rosy Rustic, Lesser Swallow Prominent and Angle Shades; whilst some of these were doubtless not helped by the timing of our trip to Australia, the latter was particularly surprising and was its first blank year following an unbroken run since 1993. The six new micro-moths were Coleophora follicularis (occupied cases on fleabane in the garden), Phyllonorycter cerasicolella (occupied mines on cherry in garden), Ectoedemia argyropeza (occupied mines on Aspen at Fewston Reservoir), Stigmella obliquella (occupied mine on willow in Thetford), Marasmarcha lunaedactyla (Dunwich beach toilets) and Ancylis upupana (Sherwood Forest). Other noteworthy micros included Bucculatrix nigricomella (garden trap), Duponchelia fovealis (inside house on 20th Sep and 14th Oct, my 2nd & 3rd records after finding the 4th for Britain back in 1999), Synaphe punctalis (Dunwich beach toilets), Stathmopoda pedella (Wheatfen) and Pammene regiana (Earlham Park). Conversely, a few suprising omissions were Elophila nymphaeata, Acleris holmiana, Acleris rhombana and Pandemis corylana.

Red-tipped Clearwing at Surlingham Church Marsh

Scorpionflies (1 species, 0 ticks, list total = 2)
Only Panorpa germanica was identified to species this year.

Alderflies (1 species, 0 ticks, list total = 1)
Sialis lutaria was confirmed to species from both Whitlingham and Upton Marshes.

Lacewings (4 species, 0 ticks, list total = 13)
Just four common species were noted: Chrysoperla carnea, Hemerobius lutescens, H. micans and H. humulinus.

Snakeflies (1 species, 0 ticks, list total = 2)
Phaeostigma notata was found dead in a cobweb on the wall of the Nunnery in June.

Fleas (1 species, 1 tick, list total = 5)
Numerous small black fleas were sieved from henhouse bedding in December and looked right for the expected species Ceratophyllus gallinae, although I failed to key them perfectly due to size.

Caddisflies (15 species, 3 ticks, list total = 33)
A reasonable year, with new species being Limnephilus rhombicus from Tasburgh, Leptocerus tineiformis from the garden trap (abundant on a few nights in June) and Oecetis ocharacea also in the garden trap. Of some of the more recognisable species, Limnephilus lunatus was recorded in the garden moth trap between 1st Sep and 4th Nov, Phryganea grandis was noted from Minsmere and the garden moth trap, Anabolia nervosa was noted along riverbanks between 4th and 16th Oct and Chaetopteryx villosa was seen by torchlight after dark on a bridge over the stream in Shotesham on 6th Nov and 22nd Dec. Still feels like I could record much more about these reasonably easily.

Anabolia nervosa at the Nunnery Lakes

Vertebrates


Amphibians (3 species, 0 ticks, list total = 6)
A count of 12 Smooth Newts at a pond by Shotesham Little Wood was notable, alongside a small number of records of Common Frog and Common Toad.

Birds (191 species, 2 ticks, list total = 432)
An unimpressive year-list albeit my highest since 2012. My two new species were on the same day -  Dusky Thrush (Beeley, Derbyshire) and White-billed Diver (R Witham, Lincolnshire) on 29th Jan, both very enjoyable indeed, particularly the diver which I'd wanted to see for years. Other avian highlights of the year included the Great Reed Warbler at the Nunnery Lakes, Parrot Crossbills at Santon Downham, a combination of Iceland, Glaucous, Caspian and Yellow-legged Gulls in Thetford, a great selection of birds around the new Potter Heigham Marshes including Spoonbills, breeding Black-winged Stilts and a Caspian Tern, and finally the autumn influx of Hawfinches, of which I found four individuals/records around Shotesham (including one over the garden). Inevitably with my focus away from birds these days there were many missing common species, notably many seabirds but I also didn't find Spotted Flycatcher, Tree Sparrow, Redstart, Tree Pipit, Raven, Corn Bunting, Common Crossbill, etc etc.

Spoonbill squadron at Potter Heigham

White-billed Diver, R Witham


Fish (4 species, 1 tick, list total = 10)
One of my favourite sightings of the year was a Flounder in a shallow tidal pool at Winterton in November (followed by another at Skegness); my first ever live flatfish. The only other species noted were Minnow, Three-spined Stickleback and Perch, the latter my first for the Little Ouse in Thetford. I remain a desperately poor fish-lister!

Flounder at Winterton

Mammals (17 species, 0 ticks, list total = 41)
No new species this year, but nice to see Badger (Menstrie in Scotland) and Otter (Minsmere). The ever-increasing hordes of Grey Seals are making Horsey a bit less of a favoured destination now, given the number of people going to see them (and the fact that they rule out the beach for walking the dog). Chinese Water Deer were recorded in the Shotesham area twice but still not quite into the home 1 km square; surely in 2018? No Weasel or Porpoise this year. Still not come across Pygmy Shrew, Water Shrew and Yellow-necked Mouse - must try harder!

Reptiles (2 species, 0 ticks, list total = 6)
Grass Snakes were regularly counted under felt sheeting at Stubbs Green with a max count of 9 on 2nd April. This species was also seen at the Nunnery Lakes, along with Slow Worm, 10 of which were under sheets on 10th May. Unusually, I didn't come across Common Lizard during the year.

Plants


Bryophytes (7 species, 1 tick, list total = 65)
A completely feeble effort this year with just a handful of common mosses and one liverwort (Lunularia cruciata). The new one was Smaller White-moss Leucobryum juniperoideum in Sherwood Forest in May.

Vascular Plants (448 species, 8 ticks, list total = 983)
At the end of last year I noted I only had 25 more species to find to get to 1,000. Well, I put in a feeble botanical effort in 2017 clearly with only eight new ones. Of these, it was nice to pick up a few native species, including Spiked Water-milfoil at Horsey, Spring Speedwell at Icklingham (my last remaining speedwell in the south), Shepherd's-needle at Mendham and the somewhat embarrassing (but surprisingly difficult in my area) Common Comfrey, finally nailed in Cambridge. The other new ones were non-native: Pale Yellow-eyed Grass at the Thickthorn roundabout (Norwich), Thorn-apple in Shotesham, Soapwort at Minsmere and Peach-leaved Bellflower in Poringland. Having said that, I did spend more time making sure I jotted down the common species I was seeing, so my overall total for the year was much higher than the 295 I noted in 2016. As a result, the omissions from the list were a more genuine reflection of habitats I didn't visit; for example I didn't record Ramsons, Tormentil, Moschatel, etc all of which are present at certain sites locally. Other less regular (for me) species also noted during the year included Grape-hyacinth, White Helleborine, , Slender Thistle, Red-tipped Cudweed, Smooth Cat's-ear, Fringed Water-lily, Yellow Bartsia, Cut-leaved Dead-nettle and Hairy Violet.

The Medusa Oak in Sherwood Forest

Spring Speedwell, Icklingham

Fungi etc.


Fungi/Lichens (49 species, 15 ticks, list total = 245)
I didn't put very much effort into fungi this year, and really should try harder. The new species I recorded were a bit of a mixed bag. Most were micro-fungi on plants, including Protomyces macrosporus (on Cow Parsley), Melampsora populnea (on Dog's Mercury), Puccinia lagenophorae (on Groundsel), Taphrina populina (on Hybrid Black Poplar)Erysiphe heraclei (on Hogweed), Neoerysiphe galeopsidis (on White Dead-nettle), Arthrocladiella mougeotii (on Duke-of-Argyll's Teaplant) and Ramularia centranthi (on Red Valerian). Additional new species were Purple Jellydisc Ascocoryne sarcoides, Crystal Brain Exidia nucleata and Wrinkled Crust Phlebia radiata (all Mousehold Heath), the lichen Peltigera hymenina (High Ash Farm), Phellinus conchatus (Whitlingham Marsh), Hoof Fungus Fomes fomentarius (Sherwood Forest) and Scarlet Waxcap Hygrocybe coccinea (Buckden Pike).

Overseas records


Some great trips abroad in 2017, although short work trips to the Netherlands in January (highlight Short-toed Treecreeper) and Barcelona in November (highlight Monk Parakeets) didn't really get the pulse racing. However, team BUBO had a great few days in Corsica in April where the highlights were obviously Corsican Nuthatch and Corsican Citril, but also Lammergeier and a range of other Mediterranean birds, and a good selection of nice insects and plants; I particularly liked the Early Spider Orchids. A Caspian Tern was a good find too, five minutes from the terminal at Nice airport during a stop-over on the way out.

Oxythyrea funesta in Nice

Early Spider Orchid, Corsica

And then we had an amazing, long-planned family trip to Australia in the summer. What a fantastic place for wildlife watching, and I really want to go back to explore more. I've blogged the hell out of it already, but five months on, the highlights that spring to mind were both some of the special targets - Cassowaries, Golden Bowerbird, Lesser Sooty Owl, Rainbow Pitta, Hooded Parrot, Platypus - but also some of the common species such as the Sulphur-crested Cockatoos. Swimming alongside a Green Turtle on the reef will also take some beating, as will watching the departure of up to half a million fruit bats. But let's see what 2018 has to offer....

Southern Cassowary, Daintree

Golden Bowerbird, Mt Hypipamee


Saltwater Crocodile, Kakadu National Park

Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, somewhere down under


Sunday, 24 September 2017

Australia 2017. Part 7: Pine Creek, Katherine and Berry Springs

[Saturday 12th August cont...]

Heading south out of Kakadu, the landscape didn’t really change a lot, except for going over a low range of hills. Our next stop (well, the next stop – there aren’t many) was the small town of Pine Creek. This is renowned in birding circles as the best place to see Hooded Parrots, an extremely range-restricted species of the Northern Territory. We’d got gen that we needed to look in the small Bogger’s Park behind the Shell garage. Predictably, we couldn’t find a Shell garage. We popped into the ‘Lazy Lizard’ store for a drink (=iced coffee fix) and the store owner assured me that I didn’t want to go to Bogger’s Park, but that the very best place for the parrot was just in front of his store. However, they only ever appeared at dawn and dusk when he put his sprinklers on. It was now 1330 and we had a long way to go, so there was no way I was going to convince the troops to hang around for another five hours. So, we had a small wander around the ‘water gardens’ in the middle of town and did see a few things – Blue-faced and White-throated Honeyeaters, Grey-crowned Babbler and Forest Kingfisher. Most noteworthy though were hundreds of roosting Black Flying-fox in some of the trees. We’d previously (in Atherton) been warned that our next campsite at Katherine should be avoided as it had been ‘devastated’ by 100,000 fruit bats. We were mildy perturbed by this intelligence, but didn’t really have a plan B, so were pushing on anyway. But it was interesting to see these bats here in Pine Creek (even if they weren’t quite Hooded Parrots).

Black Flying-fox, Pine Creek

Blue-faced Honeyeater, Pine Creek

Onwards south to Katherine along the Stuart Highway, a good fast road through more miles of monotonous country. Not a lot to see on the way – I only jotted down Black and Whistling Kites and Black-faced Cuckooshrike. Others have noted Black-chested Buzzard along here, but no such luck. We finally made it to Katherine itself (lots of Black Kites), stocked up on supplies, and took advantage of the first bit of Wifi for a few days. Then north to Katherine Gorge itself, with a flock of ten Galahs and a Blue-winged Kookaburra on the way. We got to the site and checked in, and were able to look down on the riverside trees where – yes – there were quite a lot of fruit bats. Lots and lots, roosting in trees but a few already flying around in the late afternoon. We went to put up tents then had a wander nearby. There were a few very tame Agile Wallabies on the site, and birds included White-bellied Sea Eagle, Great Bowerbird, Paperbark Flycatcher, Galah and Red-winged Parrot. After doing a few sample counts of c500 in a typical tree, we felt that 100,000 bats was not an unrealistic estimate, and was perhaps even a little too small; anything up to a million would have been believable. The bats’ guano apparently smelt a little overpowering after a while (although I am blessed with a dysfunctional sense of smell). The majority of the bats down nearer the river appeared to be Little Red Flying-fox, although there were also some Black Flying-fox around the campsite itself. As dusk descended, the bats became increasingly active, many flying over the river to drink.


We watched for a while, then returned and ate our dinner on a campsite table, with bats overhead and a Bush Thick-knee wandering about calling. Oddly, there were also three Blue-winged Kookaburras visible in the lights after dark, one being approached within six feet. Then back to the tent, but just as I was getting in, I heard a distant call of what was surely a Southern Boobook (owl), so I grabbed the torch and headed off to find it. Sadly, it shut up before I got anywhere near so I returned to bed. I then had to get up again to tell a stoned couple next door to pipe down (which they did, eventually).

Sunday 13th August

I slept fitfully and as dawn approached, the clamour of bats got louder and louder. I was amazed (well, not really I suppose) that the rest of the family slept through the din. The sight of bats streaming across the pre-dawn sky was an incredible experience. But as the sun rose, the flow switched off and the noise dropped to nothing. I got up and had a mosy around the campsite. Highlight was watching and listening to some Pied Butcherbirds – an adult and two immatures – incredibly attractive sound seemingly at odds with the thuggish appearance. Other birds included Yellow and Olive-backed Orioles, Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, Galah, Little Friarbird, Grey-crowned Babbler, Red-winged Parrot and a single Northern Rosella. After breakfast we walked the Baruwei loop, up onto the escarpment and back down. This was OK but not especially challenging and pretty birdless, the exception being a relatively distant view of my first Wedge-tailed Eagle (an immature) and the only Great Cormorants of the trip flying over – also Brown Goshawk, Blue-winged Kookaburra, etc.

Justice dealt out to our noisy neighbours in the shape of a raiding Great Bowerbird

Distant Wedge-tailed Eagle

We then had an early bit of lunch before going down to the boat launch area; an adult Wedge-tailed Eagle flew over being mobbed by Torresian Crows. Also whilst waiting for the boat, I picked up Rufous Whistler and White-gaped Honeyeater. We then got on a powered boat to take us a few miles up the river into the gorge. Highlight was seeing our first Freshwater Crocodiles – reasonably sizeable beasts in their own right, even if not a shade on the Salties. We were then dropped off and given canoes, and had a couple of hours paddling up and down the steep-side gorge. Quite fun, although the only species I noted were Peregrine, White-faced Heron, Sulphur-crested and Red-tailed Black Cockatoos, Great Bowerbird, Torresian Crow, Brown Honeyeater and Fairy Martin (including seeing nests of the latter in overhung riverside caves). After this the boat took us back downstream (past more Freshie Crocs) and delivered us back to the campsite. Had a fairly lazy evening thereafter, nothing to report (except for several 100,000 fruit bats of course).

A few Little Red Flying-foxes, Katherine Gorge

Mouth of Katherine Gorge (many of the trees along the river here were full of fruit-bats)

Monday 14th August

My birthday today, so of course I was hoping for some nice new species, and indeed I struck lucky almost straight away. Rising at first light, just outside the campsite I found the bower of a Great Bowerbird that was under attack by a flock of seven Apostlebirds; this interesting species had been reported here by someone else in a trip report, so I was pleased to catch up on it (especially after previously dipping at Mareeba). Amongst other common species I also had good views of Leaden Flycatcher, Collared Sparrowhawk, White-winged Triller, Northern Rosella and a nesting Brown Honeyeater.

Impressive bower by a Great Bowerbird

After breakfast we sponged the bat shit off the tents and packed up, then headed off south again. Amazingly, I had two more lifers at a random roadside stop in a more open area of fields – a Masked Woodswallow on a wire and then I noted a couple of Rufous Songlarks on the roadside fences. There was also another Wedge-tailed Eagle along this road this morning. We again stopped in Katherine for supplies and wifi (and saw a Crested Pigeon in the supermarket car-park). We then had to make a decision: head back north as planned toward Darwin and home; or say goodbye to our normal lives and turn the other way and off into the interior. Sadly, the others talked me out of the latter option, and we turned back north along the road towards the coast.

The next place we stopped was by coming off on the Edith Falls Rd, where Hooded Parrots had been seen by others previously about 6 km from the main road. This was very dry and hot – Trudy stayed in the car whilst the boys and I had a few minutes wandering about along the edge of a small creek. No luck with the parrots, but from the tiny bit of wet habitat we did manage to flush a surprising number of waterbirds – our second Black Bittern, plus two Nankeen Night-herons, Great White Egret, White-faced Heron and a Black-necked Stork. It really was too hot to subject non-birders to a long stay though, so we headed back north (Pheasant Coucal and several Brown Falcons along the road) to try again around Pine Creek. Again, we hit it at the wrong time of day, which just couldn’t be helped. However, this time we did find the small Bogger’s Park; the Shell garage we’d been looking for is now a United garage! We drove up to the viewpoint at the top of the hill out over the flooded mine workings, then returned down to have lunch in Bogger’s park. No luck with the Hooded Parrots though. I was somewhat despondent about the fact it looked likely that I would dip these. We popped into the local museum, and the lady in there also confirmed that people only ever saw them at dawn and dusk at the Lazy Lizard store. Yeah thanks. Anyway, we thought we’d walk down to where there was a mining museum and as we did so, I picked up three tiny, long-tailed parrots hurtling into a dense tree. Surely? Yes, we got up to the tree and peered up, and picked up a couple of stunning Hooded Parrots sitting quietly in the shade. Brilliant! So, you don’t have to visit at dawn or dusk (but to be fair, I’m sure it helps!) For reference, the tree was by the ‘1889 water column’ – in fact, just for fun, I think this is the tree. Other birds around Pine Creek today included Brown Falcon, Great Bowerbird, Figbird, White-winged Triller, Paperbark Flycatcher, Rufous Whistler, Little and Silver-crowned Friarbirds and Galah, as well as about 250 Black Flying-foxes.

Hooded Parrot, Pine Creek

We celebrated with an iced coffee (well I did) and then we pushed on north. Not a lot to see by the roadside, the habitat still looking essentially the same as within Kakadu – tall eucalypts and termite mounds, with an open understorey including Sand Palms and Pandanus. We had a stop at the Manton Dam reservoir for a leg-stretch, but there wasn’t really a decent walking trail here. A few birds included Green Pygmy Goose, Darter, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Red-winged Parrot, Drongo, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Torresian Imperial Pigeon (note the far-carrying booming call), Pheasant Coucal and Orange-footed Scrubfowl.  We then continued a few miles further north to Berry Springs, a very dispersed ‘village’ where we’d booked a room for our last two nights. This was a cabin in the corner of someone’s plot along Kultaar Road, which was very pleasant and relaxing. A handful of birds around here before dark included Little Corella, Red-winged Parrot, Double-barred Finch and Bush Thick-knee. We went out for a meal at a nearby restaurant as a birthday treat after days of cold camp food.

Tuesday 15th August

Our penultimate day. On waking, I simply logged the birds around our accommodation; nothing particularly special but including Black-faced and White-breasted Cuckooshrikes, Pied Butcherbird, Galah, etc. After breakfast we headed off to a small site nearby called Berry Springs Nature Park. This was OK, but its main attraction was a few natural swimming pools that were very popular, so the number of people was a bit high for our liking. There were also lots of signs saying to the water had high bacterial levels and we should stay out, so we just sat on the side and dangled our feet it, watching some large fish swim past. There was a short loop trail that had a sign saying it was closed for repairs, but we walked around it anyway and I was surprised to pick up two lifers; at least two Green-backed Gerygones in a mixed flock of birds, plus a Little Bronze Cuckoo. Other species here included Lemon-bellied and Shining Flycatchers, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Arafura Fantail, Large-billed Gerygone and White-winged Triller.

Black-faced Cuckooshrike, Berry Springs

From here we made a short visit to the Crazy Acres mango farm, where they sell mango ice-cream. Nice, but we thought there might have been more to it than just a shop and tables. So we ate our ice-cream then drove off. We tried the road to Middle Arm which is supposed to be a site for a number of mangrove species that I still needed, but the road was frustratingly closed for repairs. Instead we drove north then west onto Channel Island. Not really recommended – it’s a long way, a bit industrial around here and the access wasn’t great, but we did get close to a few mangroves. After some lunch in the car we had a short wander around the boat ramp area where I picked out Varied Triller, White-gaped Honeyeater, three Common Sandpipers, Eastern Reef Heron and Lemon-bellied Flycatcher. But nothing more exciting. The heat was quite intense here so we didn’t last long and in the end we gave up and returned to our accommodation via a supermarket to pick up beer and supplies for a barbecue. We then spent the afternoon doing what normal people probably do on holiday – i.e. not very much, just sat around reading and drinking beer. I did have a nice view of a perched Brown Goshawk being mobbed by Pied Butcherbirds though. Towards the end of the day, the boys and I walked a short loop around the roads, picking up 19 species in about an hour including 40 Little Corellas, Red-winged Parrot, Galah, Silver-crowned Friarbird etc. We then sat and watched the Baz Luhrman film ‘Australia’ on the TV, which seemed apt (particularly the bits of it set around Darwin).

Brown Goshawk, Berry Springs

Wednesday 16th August

Our final morning. The usual selection of common species around our digs was joined by a fab little male Red-backed Fairywren, visible from the loo.

Red-backed Fairywren, Berry Springs 

We packed everything up ready for the plane and set off north back towards Darwin. A flock of four quails (likely Brown Quails?) flew across the road at one point, my only sighting of any except for the ones at Mareeba Wetlands. We had time for a few stops, so we had a quick look around the boat ramp on the north side of the Elizabeth River crossing, which others had mentioned as a place for mangrove species including Chestnut Rail. Again, the tide was in although I thought I might have heard a distant rail calling. I tried a little tape-luring for Mangrove Gerygone and Mangrove Robin, to no avail. We did see a nice Red-headed Honeyeater, and there was a pair of White-bellied Sea Eagles on the pylon. Most impressive thing though was a cool jellyfish swimming past the end of the ramp.

White-bellied Sea Eagle, Elizabeth River


Cool jellyfish at Elizabeth River boat ramp

Red-headed Honeyeater, Elizabeth River

Our final place to look around was the Charles Darwin National Park, an impressively large protected area on the outskirts of the city with lots of mangrove habitat. Sadly, the walking trails were all in the scrubby woodland and we couldn’t find any way of accessing the mangroves. So it was pleasant enough, but we didn’t add any final new species. Birds here included a flock of Chestnut-breasted Mannikins, Rufous-banded Honeyeater, Black-faced Cuckooshrike and so on. We finally called it a day and made our way round the airport. Not wanting to give up the Australian birding until the last minute, I logged nine species around the airport terminal: Brown Honeyeater, Red-collared Lorikeet, Spangled Drongo, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Magpie-lark, White-breasted Woodswallow, Figbird, Little Friarbird and Dusky Honeyeater.

We flew from Darwin to Singapore, where in the fading light, we noted hundreds of mynas along the runway.  Despite not really being able to study them in any detail (and it was dark by the time we finally made it into the terminal), these were clearly Javan Myna which, it appears, has mostly ousted Common Myna from its position as number one introduced species in the Singapore area. We spent a few hours around the airport, getting food and looking at the unique in-airport butterfly garden (although the butterflies were clearly asleep), before taking the long flight back. In contrast to our way out, the Singapore Airlines A380 was very comfortable indeed, even in cattle class where we were travelling (sadly, we didn’t have our own suite, which you can get for about £7K per person). We landed back at Heathrow on time and 10 minutes later had the welcome news that Tom had got the grades he needed for his place at Cambridge University, a great end to a great trip. The final Australian bird tally was 240 species of which 205 were new. I definitely want to go back and continue to explore this amazing continent.

Finally, huge thanks to my ever-patient and long-suffering family. Even if they did grip me off with the Red-necked Crake...

Team Musgrove at Mossman Gorge


Australia 2017. Part 6: Kakadu

[Wednesday 9th August cont...]

Onwards east and into Kakadu. This was a two hour drive that seemed much longer. Most of this journey (and indeed most of the next few days) involved a vista of long straight roads through unending Eucalyptus scrub, peppered with termite mounds. Impressive at first, a little wearing after a while. There was very little wildlife to be seen whilst driving at speed, except for Black and Whistling Kites congregating wherever there was an active bush fire. The only open area was after passing the South Alligator River; this looks like it could be amazing in the wet season, but we saw little here except for a couple more Black-necked Storks. Otherwise, in this two hour journey, I noted Brown Falcon, Collared Sparrowhawk and Torresian Crow. We finally made it to the Bowali visitor centre at Jabiru. Had a drink, filled our water bottles, and looked round the displays. Not a lot of birds around here – Blue-winged Kookaburra and Orange-footed Scrubfowl of note.

We then drove a few miles further south, picking up my first flock of about 20 Little Corellas by the roadside – easily overlooked as Sulphur-crested Cockatoos if not paying attention. After yet another pair of Black-necked Storks, we pulled off down a track to the Burdulba camp ground. This was a very basic site, the only facility being a small toilet block. The downside of this site was the mosquitoes. The upside was that we had it entirely to ourselves. We had a short walk along a trail as dusk approached, and picked up my first Little Woodswallow and Nankeen Night-heron, as well as Forest Kingfisher, Rufous Whistler, Yellow Oriole, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher and so on. We then put the tents up (without bothering with the outer covers). I had one more wander down the track and found myself an immature Brush Cuckoo, before returning for tea inside the tents, all of us highly focused on keeping mozzies out. After dark, without our outer tent covers on we had an amazing view of the stars overhead, as well as a few fruit bats and the inevitable wail of Bush Thick-knees nearby.

Thursday 10th August

We managed to stay mozzie-free overnight, but on waking, we could see them clustered on the outside of the tent. So we did a rapid pack-up and sadly we didn’t really get a chance to explore Burdulba any further. We set off on a relatively short drive to Nourlangie. After leaving the main road for a few km, I finally clapped eyes on something I’d been scouring the roadside for miles for - a Partridge Pigeon flew up and landed not far away, allowing a decent view from the car. Sadly, this was the only one of these that we saw, but they’re clearly pretty elusive.

Partridge Pigeon, Nourlangie

At Nourlangie car park we had breakfast, whilst I tried to scan the cliffs of the impressive sandstone escarpment for some of my key Kakadu targets, namely Chestnut-quilled Rock Pigeon, Banded Fruit-dove, White-lined Honeyeater and Sandstone Shrike-thrush. No such luck, with just a Great Bowerbird, Yellow Oriole and a few Helmeted Friarbirds in evidence. We joined the first ranger-guided walk, which explained nicely about the rock art (which was OK, but not as impressive as expected). During one of the talks, I noted my first Peregrine of the trip high overhead, and I later notched up a handful of other species including Torresian Crow, Dusky Honeyeater, Norther Fantail, Mistletoebird, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo and Rufous Whistler. But no hint of the key targets, which was disappointing.

Green Tree Ants (Oecophylla sp?) were common and apparently taste of lemon...

It was getting hot now, but we decided to try a different strategy, driving a few miles back along the track then branching off a short way to the car park for the track to Nanguluwur. From here we had a short hot march through the bush to another point at the foot of the sandstone escarpment – nice to be aware from the crowds of tourists at the main Nourlangie site, but similarly birdless. I only noted Black Cockatoos, Red-collared Lorikeets, White-bellied Cuckooshrike, Great Bowerbird, Helmeted Friarbird, Grey-crowned Babbler and Spangled Drongo. We gave up and sweated our way back to the car and had some lunch in the shade. Overall, I was disappointed with the Nourlangie area, although I guess just a slight change in luck could have made it great. Interestingly, I spoke to a birder who spent the effort doing the full 12 km Barrk Bushwalk, and he also failed to find any of the target specialities either.

After lunch we made our way to Cooinda for a cold drink (I started developing a bit of an addiction to cartons of iced coffee) then had a look at the nearby Warradjan Aboriginal Cultural Centre at Cooinda which was reasonably interesting. In the vicinity I noted White-bellied Sea-eagle, Whistling Kite, Forest Kingfisher, Paperbark Flycatcher and Torresian Crow. We then made our way to our evening campground – Jim Jim Billabong – a bit early. Another nice quiet site, although some other people at this one. No mozzies thankfully, although the site was occupied by a Dingo. Somewhat chunkier than my preconceived idea of what one should look like, but it seems that most are very mixed up with more recent feral dogs, giving them very variable appearance. Anyway, no-one owned it and it was wandering around in the bush, so surely a Dingo. We called it Ringo.

Ringo the Dingo at Jim Jim Billabong

After putting the tents up we went for a walk along the tracks here (accompanied by Ringo who seemed to have adopted us). There were some decent birds in the open bush here, with four new ones for me. Firstly, I finally confirmed Fairy Martin, a couple of which were flying around with a flock of Little Woodswallows. Two new species of finch were welcome – a couple of Masked Finch and about 10 Crimson Finch. I was confused by the final tick and had to work through the book later comparing my photo to the plates, but eventually I realised it was a White-winged Triller. Quite a few other birds here – Black Cockatoos, Dusky Honeyeater, Leaden Flycatcher. Grey-crowned Babbler, Australian Pipit, Rufous Whistler and Black-faced Cuckooshrike. A surprising flock of about 100 White-headed Stilts flew over high up, followed by 150 Little Black Cormorants; clearly water somewhere nearby, apart from the relatively small billabong. We returned to the tents, ate and turned in for the night. For a change, the Bush Thick-knee calls had to compete with Long-tailed Nightjars.

White-winged Triller, Jim Jim Billabong

Friday 11th August

We were woken by Torresian Crows, which we felt have quite an amusing call – a series of descending caws rather like a classic cartoon downfall ‘wah-wah-waaah’. The Long-tailed Nightjars were still calling at dawn too. I had a short walk along the track, finding a pair of White-winged Trillers, about 40 Rainbow Bee-eaters, Leaden Flycatcher and had good views of an adult Brush Cuckoo, before finding my only new bird of the morning, a Striated Pardalote which took a bit of separating from Red-browed. A flock of finches that flew through may have been Long-tailed Finch, but they didn’t stop for confirmation.

Little Corella, Yellow Water

We packed up and headed off to Yellow Water, with nice views of a Pheasant Coucal on the way. We had a boat trip (courtesy of my generous parents) booked on Yellow Water but arrived a bit early, so had a bit of a wander on foot, chatting to a Texan birder who was there too. Around the car park, there was a persistant call which I finally tracked down as emanating from a pair of Brush Cuckoos, as well as Rufous Whistler, Leaden and Paperbark Flycatchers and a Brown Goshawk. By the boats there was also a very short boardwalk but this gave nice views of a range of waterbirds, including Whiskered Tern, Green Pygmy Goose, Darter, Shining Flycatcher, Black-necked Stork, White-necked Heron, Comb-crested Jacana, Pied Heron, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Royal Spoonbill, Nankeen Night-heron, Rajah Shelduck and eight Glossy Ibis. I was also a little surprised to find a Torresian Imperial Pigeon here too. However, the highlight was good views of two Saltwater Crocodiles.

Magpie Goose, Yellow Water

With a little time still to spare we popped back to the nearby Cooinda camp for a drink, where there was a flock of Little Corellas, Blue-faced Honeyeaters and White-bellied Sea Eagles. Then time for the cruise, from about 1130 to 1330. This was great and the guide was excellent – inevitably focusing on crocodiles for most of the guests but paying attention to the birds too. Most of the birds were the common and widespread waterbirds we’d been seeing so far, but views were good of species like both Plumed and Wandering Whistling Duck, Rainbow Bee-eater, Azure Kingfisher, Black-necked Stork, Royal Spoonbill, Nankeen Night-heron, Crimson Finch and Australian Swamphen. A couple of Brolgas flew over and a Dusky Moorhen was a surprise as it wasn’t mapped here in the field guide (but subsequent investigations showed that they aren’t unknown here). The avian highlight was my first Black Bittern that flew across the channel in front of the boat, landing in bankside vegetation and sadly quickly dropping out of sight. The mammals were interesting too, with one area of marsh with a dozen feral pigs causing very visible habitat destruction, a group of six brumbies (feral horses) accompanied by Cattle Egrets, and three feral buffalo in dense bankside vegetation – plus Agile Wallabies. The Saltwater Crocodiles were obviously also a highlight – I counted 10 individuals, mostly large and impressive specimens.

Saltwater Crocodile, Yellow Water

Comb-crested Jacana, Yellow Water

Yellow Water cruise

Feral Water Buffalo, Yellow Water

Don't swim here

After the boat trip, we drove a few miles south to have lunch at the Mardugal car park – nice views here of a perched Collared Sparrowhawk being mobbed by Brown Honeyeaters. We then headed south through more interminable miles of eucalypts/termite mounds until we reached the Gunlom track. I really wanted to go to Gunlom, but it has the slight disadvantage that the approach track is about 37 km of bumpy red dirt. Suffice to say this wasn’t the family’s favourite bit of driving of the holiday, but we gritted our teeth and made it through, nerves jangling. Well worth the effort though as Gunlom (also known as Waterfall Creek) is a lovely spot, albeit a lot busier than we’d experienced at the previous two sites. We put up the tents surrounded by lots of noisy Rainbow Lorikeets, with other campsite birds being typical species such as Magpie Lark, Black and Whistling Kites, Torresian Crow, Forest Kingfisher, Brown and White-throated Honeyeaters, Great Bowerbird, Silver-crowned Friarbird and Sulphur-crested Cockatoo. However, it was also pleasing here to find Olive-backed Oriole, something I’d been expecting to see anywhere for weeks. The heat was quite intense here – about 37 degrees – and we quickly made our way to the waterfall-fed pool at the foot of the cliff which is popular for swimming. Most people stuck to the edge but Trudy and I swam right across and back, before being informed that although the pool wasn’t supposed to have any crocodiles, that wasn’t 100% certain. Anyway, we did get bitten, but by some little nippy fish instead of anything more serious.

Gunlom plunge pool

As we had a little bit of daylight left, we then climbed the steep path to the top of the escarpment. Although a steep climb it doesn’t take too long and the view from the top is worth the effort. Sadly, I didn’t have time to go exploring up here this evening for the local specialities, but planned to return in the morning. The only birds of note were Red-winged Parrot and Helmeted Friarbirds, and there were lots of small frogs on the rocks. We returned to the campsite, had some food and listened to a talk by a ranger before bed.

Frog at top of Gunlom falls

Saturday 12th August

Duncan decided to join me and we rose pre-dawn to climb back up the escarpment, managing the ascent in double-quick time. We then spent a couple of hours exploring the jumbled landscape of limestone rocks and scrub, famed as essentially the only site where White-throated Grasswren can be seen. Our hopes weren’t high as no-one had seen the species here recently. However, I also thought we had a good chance of the other local targets I’d missed at Nourlangie, namely Chestnut-quilled Rock Pigeon, Banded Fruit Dove, Sandstone Shrikethrush and White-lined Honeyeater. For about the first hour we had very little success at all, although I thought I could hear a distant White-lined Honeyeater way up a steep slope, that I didn’t pursue. Our luck changed slightly when at one spot we came across my first Banded Honeyeater, and this was followed shortly afterwards by another tick – a group of three Northern Rosellas. Other than these, the species tally wasn’t high, with more notable species being White-winged Triller, Brown Goshawk, Northern Fantail, Azure Kingfisher, Red-winged Parrot and White-gaped and Dusky Honeyeaters. But no sign of any of the local specialities, which was very annoying. The terrain was pretty tough and we’d got spiked and probably taken more snake-related risks than were entirely wise too. We’d arranged to meet Tom and Trudy at a pre-set time at the pools at the top of the falls and as we made our way to meet them, at the last moment I heard and then saw a White-lined Honeyeater close to the path. So, at least one of the local endemics, but probably my least sought after.

Olive-backed Oriole, Gunlom

Anyway we had a pleasant swim in the pools here, being nipped occasionally by crayfish, and then made our way back down, effectively having to give up on the other Kakadu endemics. We put the tents down and then bumped our way back along the track to the main road; tarmac is seriously under-rated when you’ve got lots of it. We then headed south and out of Kakadu National Park.

Pools at the top of Gunlom escarpment