GRAYnomad Nature Photography :: The GRAYnomad Chronicles :: #059



Yep, more birds and more billabongs. We've certainly got the knack of finding good spots and then staying for long periods.

As you know we canned the idea of going up to Kakadu because we took so long to get up into the top end, now we're wondering about some other places that were a given we would visit.



Till next time then, and remember,

Don't Dream it, Be it!

Tue 8 Jun 2010

We are supposed to leave today but we got an offer of a lift into the Isa. Chris has run out of vegies and is looking down the barrel of 2-3 weeks of satay sauce with rice so she jumps at the opportunity to get some greens.

I like satay sauce with rice and so stay with the truck.

Wed 9 Jun 2010

We are supposed to leave today but need a rest after yesterday's shopping spree and the ten minutes toil it took to pack the groceries away.

Thu 10 Jun 2010

We are supposed to leave today but...couldn't be bothered.

Fri 11 Jun 2010

We are supposed to leave today, and we do. We drive 225k to Wonarah Bore, a pleasant enough rest area that's supposed to have a water hole with 100s of birds. However the windmill no longer works and the water hole is dry.

Sun 13 Jun 2010

After a quick 40k drive into the Barkly Roadhouse we turn north onto the Tablelands Highway, it's about 150k to the rest area of which 90k is very lumpy. Still it's a pleasant drive on some of the flattest and emptiest country around.

Mon 14 Jun 2010

We pull into the camping area on the banks of the Little River. What a difference a day makes.


  • Cold wind
  • No Sun
  • Shutters closed
  • Heater on
  • Electric blankets on


  • Cool breeze
  • Sunny
  • Shutters open
  • Heater off
  • Electric blankets off

All that in a couple of hundred kilometres.

Tue 15 Jun 2010

Today we decide to try using our pump to top up the water tanks. We've used it many times to decant from the car into the truck but never directly from a river which after all was the original idea.

 Sucking water from the river.

I'm pleased to report that it works just fine.

Wed 16 Jun 2010

The water is so clear we can easily see the bottom, and the myriad of fish. Short ones longs ones, and some so long that they look like gar fish (I thought gars are salt water fish). It's like having an aquarium and we spend much time watching the fish which is very relaxing.

 Some of the locals.

It's 30 degrees, dead still, not a sound but the twittering of birds, clear skies, kangaroos, goannas yada yada.

If this ain't paradise then I don't know what is...actually I do, it's exactly the same place but with internet access.


Fri 18 Jun 2010

A battered Falcon pulls into the camp and four blackfellas get out, beers in hand and smiles on faces.

One comes over, Jacob Riley is his name and he asks if I want a beer. Well it is a little early, but a bloke's gotta be sociable eh?

We talk for a while and after another beer I mention my home brew. "Can we have one?" asks Jacob. No problem but I can't give away the bottle, what to do?

One of the lads goes over to the bin to retrieve some empty stubbies, he gives them a quick rinse in the creek, problem solved.

With that downed we get back into the XXXX. (Nobody has ever asked for a refill of my home brew, dunno why, maybe it's the name "Graywater").

The driver only has one leg (yes the car is automatic) so one of the young lads fetches a stubby of water from the creek and and gives it to him. Well that makes sense, can't drink too much water if you're driving. He must be a bit hot though because the water is not wasted on drinking they have beer for that, it's used for a quick wash while he's still in the car.

Jacob now wants a photo of us all so I get my camera. I take a shot of them then one of the lads takes one of me with the other three. For a whitefella I'm reasonably dark but nothing compared to these blokes of course and we have a good laugh about the "shining beacon" in between the black faces.


 Can you spot the odd man out?

Then it's time for them to head west, they have a funeral to get to.

 Last word from Little River as you head west. I suspect the lads will have to ignore this directive before long.

Jacob is an elder with one of the local mobs that own a property north of here, he extends an invitation to stay with them but we're leaving tomorrow so can't really make it work. I hope the invite is still good next time we're in the area.

Sat 19 Jun 2010

After an early start (around 8, that's early for us) we drive 220k to a waterhole we've read about in Jan Holland's "Priceless campsites NT" book. It's not easy to find in the sense that there are no signposts or obvious landmarks, but at about the right spot Chris sees a track leading into the bush.

She investigates and sure enough this is the spot.

One of the first things we notice are the 1000s of tadpoles in the shallows.

 Gazzillions of tadpoles.

Working on the assumption that where there are tadpoles there are also frogs I pay more attention to the ground and sure enough it's littered with tiny frogs.

 Two of the little frogs, they're only about 10mm long.

Then we notice that the birds like to sit in the two saplings that are right outside the lounge room window.

 Rainbow bee-eater.

Sun 20 Jun 2010

We've counted about 30 varieties of birds so far, from huge brolgas to tiny jacky winters. One of my favourites though is the resident juvenile Australasian darter. It spends all day either fishing or drying its wings. It has a favourite branch to sit on and I manage to get some good shots of it.

 'Our Australiasian darter.

 I dunno it must be something I ate but my guts feel like they're about to explode.

 Aaah, that's better.


 Jackie winters on a termite mound.

 Rainbow bee-eater.


 Brolga flying overhead.

 Planes flying overhead.

One thing to remember when you camp at waterholes is to make sure you don't hog the place, if you're too close and the waterhole is small you may put the wildlife off coming down for a drink.

Even though we're pretty close to the edge this waterhole is over 100m long and there's a second smaller one at the other end, so we don't seem to be worrying the local wildlife.

Here are some of the locals having a drink from the waterhole.




 Great bower birds and a magpie lark.


 Galahs and pigeons.

And the reason we're not drinking from the waterhole.


Mon 21 Jun 2010

The daily apostle bird ablutions occur at about 11. Today we're mobbed by about a 100 of the birds all vying for a position on the shore to have a bath.

I just love apostle birds, with their constant chatter and bickering they are a joy to watch.


I stand on the shore photographing them for a while, every 20-30 seconds something will get to them and they will bolt en masse for the nearest tree. Sometimes it's because a hawk has flown over, but mostly there's no apparent reason for the exodus.


Within seconds though they are back. Every now and then one jumps into the air for no obvious reason, which probably explains why one of their other names is Grey Jumper.


Most however just get on with the process of having a bath.


Once all bathed the mob retires into the nearby bushes for preening. I follow but have little success taking photos because the bushes are too dense. It's very frustrating because the birds will sit still for ages on a branch that is mostly obscured to me by foliage, then they'll fly to an open branch but only stay there for a few seconds.

It's as though they don't want to be photographed, but I guess it's really a matter of feeling safer in amongst the foliage.

However it's lovely to be surrounded by the little things, and they will come quite close, within 2-3 metres and sit there watching (or is it taunting) me.

I do manage to get some reasonable shots despite the uncooperative birds.

 Getting the old bird-bad-eye.

 Nice portrait.

 And then there were two.

 Finally I get a close shot.


I also learn to interpret one of their calls. There's the normal cacophony of calls that I am learning to differentiate but of course have no idea of the meaning, however I do now recognise their alarm call. It's a short raspy sound.

I test this several times, if I move too much or too quickly the general chatter fades and the raspy sound becomes predominant. Once I stop there's dead quite for a few seconds, then the chatter starts again. The same occurs as a hawk flies overhead.

While in the bush I have a good look at the termite mounds and decide to return with a different camera and photograph them.

These are the "cathedral" style of termite mound, and while nowhere near as large as found further north they are still 6-7 feet tall.


Tue 22 Jun 2010

The apostle birds are back.

 Domestic bliss, apostle bird style.

At around dusk I walk down to the end of the waterhole in the hope of photographing the galahs as they have their last drink of the day. I sit on the bank and try to blend in and sure enough before long some galahs land.

However before they start to drink a hawk flies over and the galahs bolt. Still they will probably be back.

I find that most animals will ignore you if you are already in place when they arrive, so I just sit in relatively plain view but trying to blend in all the same by not moving.

Sometimes however I guess you can blend a little too much, after all you don't want all forms of wildlife to approach too closely.

For example — ooh and this is just off the top of my head — a 2-metre snake. Now as a rule that's not something I want approaching too close.

Unfortunately that's exactly the situation I now find myself in, ie. being approached by a 2-metre snake. It gets so close I can't focus with the lens I'm using (that means < 3.5 metres) and while I'm not up on snake identification I know it's not a brown or a tiapan so there's no problem.


The snake slides right past me (as I try to make my temperature the same as ambient), and enters the water, it rummages through the lilies, then exits and appears to have a drink.


It then re-enters the water and swims back towards me.


By now I'm on my feet so I follow it as it exits the lake once again and mosies off into the bush. I run ahead and try to get photos as it approaches.


But it's getting too dark so I leave my scaly mate to his business. I return to the truck and get the snake books out. It's a black-headed python, not poisonous but a "ready biter".

Wed 23 Jun 2010

More bird shots from the lounge room.

 Great bower bird.

 Long-tailed finches.

 Rainbow bee-eater having a bath.

Actually the bee-eater has just had a bath, you can see the ripples and water droplets. But they are so fast this is as good as I can get.

Later I walk around the waterhole and get a few more photos.

 Magpie lark.

 Willy wagtail.

 Double-barred finch.

Well that's nice, I've got a few good photos for the day and hang the camera up at beer o'clock. Later in the evening though Chris sees something in the moonlight, I go out with a torch and camera and find this little guy.


He's a Nankeen night heron.

Thu 24 Jun 2010

We mixed a homebrew today so will have to stay here another four days. Such a shame, but we do what we gotta do.

Off course that means another four days without the internet, something we remedy by driving 28k towards town until we have phone signal. We spend an hour or so on the side of the road catching up with our email etc then return to the truck.

I sit in my comfortable chair with a view to relaxing with a cup of coffee, but the chair doesn't feel right. It's been making strange sounds for a couple of days but now it appears to have broken.

Further investigation reveals that the parent metal around a weld has torn off.

So it's out with the trusty 24v MIG welder. We bought this welder a few years ago for use in the Landscruiser, it's essentially a high-tech version of the time-honoured bush welding technique of connecting a stick hand piece across two batteries.

Twenty minutes later the chair is fixed.

The welder is a very useful gadget but not designed for fine welding, couple that with my visor not working properly and the very thin gauge of the chair's tubing and the resultant weld is, um what do they call it in the trade?...that's right

Duck shit.

 Not one of my better welds.

 The 24-volt Ready welder.

Still as long as it holds I don't care. In order improve the weld's appearance we apply some black gaffer tape and on looking at the result I wonder if that's all we needed to do in the first place.

Fri 25 Jun 2010

More birds.

 Great bower bird.

 Rainbow bee-eater and long-tailed finch.

 Galahs at dusk.

Sat 26 Jun 2010

I spot a white-necked heron over at the second pool, so creep up through the bushes to get closer but don't get a very good shot.

 White-necked heron.

Then I realise that it's heading in the direction of the truck so I may as well sit in comfort and wait for it to come to me.

 White-necked heron. Note the wasp in the last shot, I saw it when I took the photo but didn't think for a second I was quick enough to catch it in focus.

Sometime later...blow me down if a white-faced heron isn't now heading our way.

 White-faced heron.

Sun 27 Jun 2010

 One stands guard in the tree.

 Then hops down and has a bath.

 Then flys back to the tree to dry off.

 Then the other bird has a bath.

 It also flys up to the tree to dry off.

 Last look at our campsite.

 Moonlight reflected in the billabong.

Tue 29 Jun 2010

We drive 30k until we're certain of getting phone reception then pull into the bush.

Wed 30 Jun 2010

Chris & Margaret (friends we met at Camooweal a few weeks ago) see us from the road and drop in.

Tomorrow we'll drive the last 10k to the Stuart Hwy and the hurly burly of the world.



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