The Burrup Archipelago sticks out of the northern coast Western Australia like an old spear driven into the ground. An old spear that has disintergrated into pieces and lies in a long fragmented chain of islands stretching out into the Indian Ocean. It's extremities are remote, inaccessible, uninhabited, seldom visited, inhospitable and during the summer season stiflingly hot. Summer also usually brings extreme cyclonic rain events that turn the parched hills green. During the Dry any remaining ephemeral water rapidly disappears. The land is mostly covered in spinifex grassland between extensive mounds of exposed dark red rock. The surrounding seas abound in life but on the land the birds and animals that are dependent on fresh water can only survive around the few gullys and creeks where permanent fresh water trickles from the ground.
West Lewis Island in the early morning light. The islands and peninsulars of the Burrup Archipelago are part of a north-east and south west orientated ridge tops of ancient hills drowned since the last Ice Age.
The archipelago has an intricately indented coastline of isolated sandy beaches, mangrove lined estuaries, rocky headlands and dark hills of rusty iron coloured rock. The numerous array of tiny islets as well as the larger islands are fringed with turquoise tropical seas and coral reefs. It is starkly beautiful. From the month of May whales appear, continually punctuating the sea surface north of the archipelago as increasing numbers of them migrate northwards for the winter.
Much of the archipelago has large areas of exposed rock that has been fractured over immence ages into angular blocks. They create an ideal canvas for rock carvings or petroglyths. Emu footprints march across the ancient landscape.
It’s an area that seldom or ever enters the conversations of Australians and less so internationally. Still, its not just it’s dramatic beauty alone that sets it apart in the world. It’s real significance is that it is the world’s longest spanning pictorial history of human occupation. There are hundreds of thousands of rock carvings etched into the mounds of bare rock that lie in huge ridges across the archipelago.
Fat-tailed Kangaroo. The upper neck, back and tail describe an almost perfect arc as if it was scribed by a tool attached to a radius arm. The effort required to create this image, as it was for all of the petroglyths, in such hard rock is astounding. This would have required work over a considerable time.
These carvings, or petroglyths (petro - rock + glyth - carving), made by indigenous peoples go back 30,000 and possibly as far as 60,000 years. They represent the most significant chronicle of human habitation on the planet. Despite being of incalculable historical significance they are unknown and unrecognized other than by a relatively fortunate few.
Magpie Goose... maybe! The age of the carving can be judged by the colour of the image. The most recent are white and proceed back in time through yellow and orange as the etched rock weathers to the original deep reddish brown colour of the original rock.
The carvings have endured because the rocks they have been scored into are extremely hard, almost diamond hard. They weather at incredibly slow rates. The rocks are blue-grey porphyritic but surface weathered to a deep reddish brown. An it is that durability that has made them exist longer than any other art form on earth and will allow them to continue to exist long after all the other great artworks of the present have crumbled to dust.
Man. Images such are these are puzzling... one can only try to imagine the significance of the head and shoulders. Was it representative of local people, Asian or European explorers, aliens, just a bad hair day, or interesting choise in hats... early cubism?
I have strolled among the exhibits of the Tate Modern, the long corridors of the Vatican Galleries, the Uffizi in Firenze, and the floors of the MOMA in Manhattan. I’ve stared in wonder at the Statue of David in the Academia Gallery in Firenze. Much as I enjoyed all those places they didn’t match the anticipation of seeing my first rock carving on the Burrup.
This petroglyth is a very early example of the carvings on the Burrup Achipelago evidenced by being weathered back to the surrounding rock colour. Early images often tend to be symbolic rather than be representive of animals.
It is quite humbling to stand on a pile of rocks surrounded by the results of human endeavour that were made before the last Ice Age and beyond. The portrayal of humans are believed to be the earliest images of man that exist in the world. Animals such as the extinct Tasmanian Tiger and Fat-tailed Kangaroo are depicted here among many different creatures. These are no casual scribblings. The rock is so hard it would have taken long, arduous and deliberate artistry to carve them and even more labourious considering the primitive tools those early people would have had available to them.
Much of the Burrup is crossed by extensive hills and ridges of exposed rocks. Here and there a gully such as this provides permanent water. And a supply of drinking water would have been essential for carvers to complete their work considering the long time each carving would have taken. Today the pools provide water for Rock Wallabies and birds.
What is tellingly incongruous is comparing the long queues of people extending down the footpaths waiting to get the chance to enter the Vatican Galleries or the Uffuizi while here on the Burrup Archipelago where even the most known of these extraordinarily significant carving sites is accessed down a dusty unsign-posted track. And there is little chance of having to share it with the milling and pushing thousands that flock to those more famous places of the art world.
Tools are also common images as this array of boomerangs show.
Under a clear blue sky you can explore at your leisure. Everywhere you look there are carvings. And there are thousands yet to be rediscovered. As you clamber over the rocks images appear here and there. There is a delight in searching for images by yourself and trying to understand what each image represents. Some are obvious but many are puzzling. It is truly a great place to visit and it is a place that needs protecting. This is a proposed World Heritage area and more than meets the criteria for it to be established as such. At the moment it is languishing despite the efforts of many.
Artists suited the subject to the canvas. Much of the rocks on the Burrup have split into angular shapes providing ideal surfaces for images to be created. Here a snake fits the shape ideally.
Similar to the vast array of carvings in the Burrup there is a lot more to this story. I have barely scatched the surface if you'll excuse the weak attempt at a pun. But it's a story that needs telling and it's a story that needs telling to our children... and to the world. If you would like more information then the Friends of Australian Rock Art, among many others, have an excellent and informative website at
This place needs to be at the top of your bucket list...
An Ilyushin II-76TD-90VD operated by Volga Dnepr arrived at Karratha carrying a large thing during the weekend. It's wings neatly framing the hills south of the town as it taxiied into to the apron.
Its rego is RA 769... something, something... possibly 76952. Note the windows in the nose especially designed for sight seeing. There is a small door at the front for the crew... using a portable ladder from Bunningski and clam shell doors at the back for large things.
It's the 30th of April (2013) and there still hasn't been a day this year where the day time temperature has not exceeded 30°C but happily it is slowly getting not so hot - meaning 40° plus... and thankfully the mornings have been pleasantly cool, about 25°. Surprisingly though, after such an unusually dry summer we had a late season band of thunderstorms a few nights ago lighting up the night with continuous lightning, thunder and torrential rain. It was enough to fill some of the ephemeral pools that have only just in the last week or so dried out from the modest rain we got from the handful of summer cyclones that occurred this year. The rain caused the rivers and streams to begin flowing again... for a short time at least.
Although most of the waders have left Pied and Sooty Oystercatchers are continuing to rest on the rocks when the tide is too high for them to forage out over the mudflats.
The late season storm co-incided with some of the highest tides of the year - rising to 6 metres. The tide flowed into the estuaries in a surge of muddy brown water flooding along channels through the mangroves and spreading out across the samphire flats and open salt pans.
The small resident mangroves birds are still here. A Mangrove Robin sits on the branch of a small mangrove tree in the Nickol River estuary.
Most of the summer migrating waders have departed on their long journey northwards. Looking out over the wide expanse of tidal mudflats their absence is obvious. During the summer when the tide is out there are waders foraging as far as the eye can see.
A Western Bowerbird displays it beautifully spotted plumage. They are reasonably common in the Pilbara and can often be seen sitting high on dead branches or in the mangroves. They are generally quite suspcious of people but their raucous calls are helpful in locating them hidden deep in the shrubs or by their undulating flight as they disappear into the distance.
Rainbow Bee-eaters are common in small numbers at the moment. I don't ever get tired of looking at or photographing them. They have the most striking colouration that never fails to impress.
The question is... if a bird is confronted with a cloud barrier where their way is blocked do they avoid cloud completely or do they have the ability to fly on through... who really knows other than the birds. The main reason why I think it is unlikely is because visual cues are needed to to maintain level flight and in cloud visual information is usually totally absent. However clouds also create additional dangers for birds such as strong wind shears, lightning, hail and loss of visual navigation information. Most birds can avoid the problem anyway by staying low down close to the ground or water or simply landing and waiting for the bad weather to pass.
A Bar-tailed Godwit at the Shoalhavn River in NSW. These migrants make some of the longest non-stop overwater migrations of any bird species. They optimize their flight endurance by flying at high altitudes but flying up high creates challenges from encounters with cloud barriers across their flight paths...
Clouds over South Australia. Even this Qantas jet altered it's flight path to avoid this band of frontal cumulus.
The climate debate has focussed our attention more and more on the air above us. It’s not actually carbon dioxide in the atmosphere that is the problem... its water. Water in its three states; water vapour (which we can’t see), liquid water in the form of rain and minute droplets that makeup most low level clouds and solid water in the form of the ice clouds of the high altitude cirrus layers as well as ice falling as snow and hail. According to P. H. Gleick in the Encyclopedia of Climate and Weather there is 12,900 cubic kilometers of water in the atmosphere at any one time... and that’s a lot of water. The problem is for people and birds alike is there is often either too much or not enough.
Most migrants travel north south however Double-banded Plovers make east west migrations back and forth across the Tasman Sea between Australia and New Zealand.
Climate change is a fact... it’s been going on for millions of years. Even if we were to somehow magically neutralise all human carbon emissions climate change would continue as it has in the past. I don't like the focus on carbon as the silver bullet of environmental change... I belive "sustainability" is a better catchword because we need sustainability in all things not just carbon... anyway, anyway... moving on...
Here in Australia in the southern summer of 2013 and now continuing well into the autumn, water in the atmosphere has had dramatic and contrasting results. The centre of Australia has been largely cloudless because of a lack of moisture in the airmass above the continent. The Red Centre has baked day after day under a relentless sun. And as this hot air moves south it continues to create record temperatures. And while the lack of atmospheric moisture continues to affect much of the continent, to the northeast cyclonic and low pressure systems have brought the opposite... huge floods along the coasts of Queensland and NSW.
Clear skies over much of Australia brought about by the lack of moisture in the atmosphere have created record high temperatures.
Air ain't just air... looking up in the sky on any one day we might see lots of stuff up there; party balloons, birds, dust, aeroplanes, rainbows, helicopters, a cow or two (having jumped over the moon), sheets of corrugated iron (from tornados), base jumpers, kites, con-trails, aliens departing at warp speed after doing intergalactic work experience for their art major on a crop of wheat... ￼
After a cloudless day on the north Pilbara coast a band of small cumulus clouds appears. The clouds we see give us a clue to what is going on in the air above us... we just have to look and try to understand what the clouds are telling us about not only what is happening now but in the future as well. Birds use their powers of observation of the weather to help them; swifts track frontal changes... pelicans and avocets seem to know, despite being hundreds of kilometers away, that the normally dry Lake Eyre in the middle of Australia is flooding and congregate in vast numbers to breed.
The vanguard clouds of Cyclone Peta move westwards along the Western Australian coast. Cyclones bring strong winds, torrential rain and tidal surges threatening coastal areas. Inland they loose strength and become rain depressions but still are powerful enough to cause widespread flooding.
The windsock silhouetted against the sunrise at Tooradin Airport on the edge of Western Port Bay in southern Victoria. Pilots use a windsock to tell them what the wind direction and strength is on the ground but what's going on above may be completely different.
Finding out just what part of the sky birds occupy when they are flying is actually quite difficult, especially for those birds that fly well above the ground. However, pilots provide us with some of the clues to where birds are and when. And they do that as a result of reporting bird strikes. It is actually surprising that there is not more bird strikes considering that in the USA it is estimated that more than five billion birds migrate southwards each fall and return back in the spring. According to the International Bird Strike Committee which researches bird strikes estimates that about 75% of strikes occur at less than 500 feet above ground level and 41% in the vicinity of an airport.
This Southern Royal Albatross is getting air-borne from the ocean south of Port MacDonnell in South Australia. It remains at sea for long periods but is able to mitigate the effects of reduced vision in clouds by flying close to the surface where it can still see as well as having the ability to land on the surface of the sea and wait it out.
In the USA in the years 1990 to 1998 there were 22,935 reported wildlife strikes on aircraft of which 585 were mammals. Mammals generally live on the ground, apart from cows returning from jumping over the moon and bats. Aircraft strike deer, kangaroos, coyotes, bats, foxes, rabbits and even alligators... but by far the majority are birds. So if we were to accept that 5 billion birds migrate back and forth each year in the USA then over that same nine year period there were 90 billion individual birds migration flights and only 22,320 twenty encounters resulting in impacting an aircraft. Roughly one bird strike for every 4,032,258 individual migration flights and as many of those bird strikes would have involved non-migrating resident birds the chances of hitting a migrating bird are even less. Clearly, apart from around airports, birds and aircraft don’t occupy the same airspace... much.
The sky above Wilson’s Prom in Victoria gives us clues to the complex nature of the atmosphere above.
A Jetstar A330 becomes airborne at Sydney's Kingsford Smith Airport.
Generally aircraft only fly below 500 feet for taking off or landing. They climb rapidly to altitudes well above 30,000 ft well out of the range of most birds. Likewise they descend relatively steeply to minimize the amount of time at low level. Aircraft can fly faster and use substantially less fuel by keeping as high as possible for as long as possible. Fortunately for the birds and air travelers, birds are down low and aircraft are up high. Having said that the highest bird strike reported so far involves a Ruppeli’s Vulture and a commercial jet airliner that occurred over the Cote d’Ivoire at the astonishing altitude of 37,000 feet (11,300 m).
Osprey vs Osprey... maybe... on the 24th November 1987 an amatuer built Osprey aeroplane struck a bird on take-off near Cape Liptrap in Victoria. The bird shattered the windscreen and impaired the pilot's vision. The pilot was able to land the aircraft but it caught fire thought to have ben caused by the bird rupturing the fuel line. Hstory doesn't record whether the unfortunate bird was an Osprey but it would be kind of endocentric.
While it is likely that most birds fly at low level there are good reasons for migrating birds to go higher. Like aircraft birds can fly faster at height because of the reduction in air density that occurs as altitude increases. They can also take advantage of more stronger winds as wind speed generally increases with altitude. Wind can have a substantial benefit for migrating birds. This of course is a double-edged sword if the wind happens to be coming from the opposite direction.
What is enlightening is that very few if any bird strikes occur in cloud. They occur almost without exception in clear air... to be continued...
The first post can be found at the following link...
The day slowly dawned into a calm and cloudless sky over the Pilbara this morning - 16th April, 2013. The early mornings are now pleasantly cool and for the first time this year shallow fog lay in the low lying areas. It was a good mornings bird watching with about 45 species spread among the tidal mudflats, mangrove lined estuary of the Nickol River and the sand hills and grasslands behind the coast.
One bird I was not expecting to see was a Spotted Dove and I'm not sure whether they have been spotted this far north in Western Australia. The distribution maps on my bird books and on the internet don't indicate that they are found in the Pilbara. The Spotted Dove is a native of east Asia and was introduced to Australia. Where this individual came from is a mystery... It is recorded in Western Australia around Perth, but isolated records exist of it in the Tanami, Top end of the NT and in western Queensland. Maybe its a boat bird...
A flock of Little Corella were also foraging in the shrubs beside the coast this morning....
... as was a lone Banded Stilt with its characteristic sideways sweeping motion of its long needle like bill foraging in the last remaining remnants of a fresh water pool.
I did aerobatics over the Bristol Channel in an NDN 1T Firecracker. What, I hear you asking is a Firecracker... apart from being a small explosive red thing frequently seen in the hands of badly behaved children around Guy Fawkes Day and designed to scare the heebie-jeebies out of Grandma... is an aeroplane that showed great promise but never really came to much. Not a lot of pilots got to fly the Firecracker or it’s other two stable mates; a turbine agricultural aeroplane called the Fieldmaster and a single engine light aeroplane called the Freelander. We saw them at a small hanger facility at Cardiff Airport but none of them went into serious production. Nigel Desmond Norman, formerly of Fairey Britten - Norman, established the Company (NDN) in 1976. NDN which became Norman Aircraft Company (NAC) went out of existence in 1988. I’m guessing here but the NDN 1T designator probably stands for Nigel Desmond Norman - One Trainer.
The Firecracker was a two seat tandem trainer with a turbo-prop engine and a retractable tri-cycle undercarriage and designed as a contender for military flying training schools. The aeroplane was to be an economical transition for a pilot to high performance aircraft by reproducing the handling and performance of a jet. Originally it had a piston engine but when we flew it, it was fitted with a Pratt and Whitney PT6 turbo-prop engine.
In earlier days Desmond Norman and co-founder John Britten designed and built the ubiquitous Britten Norman Islander that were used all over the world. In Papua New Guinea Islanders were as rife as Cassowaries... although generally not killed and made into head-dresses for a Sing-sing. Small flocks of Islanders were a feature of the PNG skies... “Plenty balus bilong ples bilong klaut” - lots of aeroplanes in place belong clouds. In the early 1980’s Talair, PNG’s major third level operator had a complete registration of them from A to Z - P2 ISA to P2 ISZ.
Also at Cardiff Airport was this prototype Fieldmaster (G-NRDC) designed by Desmond Norman. It was first flown at Sandown in the Isle of Wight 17 December 1981; 17 December is an auspicious day for an aeroplane... anniversary of the first flight of the Wright Byplane, the DC 3 and my birthday... the first production Fieldmaster (G-NACL) flew 29 March 1987; we saw it in September 1987.
Desmond Norman showed me stored in the back of the hanger where the Firecracker was being built at Cardiff Airport the original templates used for making the BN Islander. All the formers, ribs and wings etc., of the Islander were hand beaten into shape by artisan like craftsman with ball-peen hammers. Ball-peen-hammer wielding metal benders, no doubt by venting their frustrations on bits of metal were consequently much better husbands and fathers than most and unlikely to get into trouble at the pub... by their skillful calibrated banging about not only gave the wings ideal aerodynamics but increased the resistance to metal fatigue substantially... and I bet you didn’t know that. 3D printing didn’t exist in those days...
Anyway, many an airline pilot sitting today at FL400 mind numbingly watching the Flight Director and the the FMS guide them across the globe to somewhere or other cut their teeth with seat-of-the-pants-flying through narrow cloud filled passes between hidden mountain tops in the Highlands of PNG and landing on impossibly short one-way grass strips with nothing more to hang on to than a control column, two throttles and a trim wheel with a blind hope they got it right the first time because there was no second time.
Desmond Normal walks behind an aeroplane he designed when with Britten-Norman. The BN-3 Nymph was an all-metal high-wing braced monoplane powered by a 115hp Lycoming O-235 engine. It was renamed the Freelander and designated the NAC -1 It was further modified to have a wider cabin and designated the NAC-2. It was a tricycle but with a tail wheel and if memory serves me right had folding wings for easy storage in the shed at home.
What impressed me about Desmond Norman was that his aeroplanes were designed around the practical issues of being a pilot and operator that came from his background in the military as well as crop spraying in Africa.
The Freelander and Fieldmaster at Cardiff Airport... Desmond Norman and John Stewart (NSCA Pararescue)
16th September, 1987 four of us left London in the dark and drove across a large bridge and descended into the Cymur countryside to Caerdydd airport. I was working for the National Safety Council of Australia at the time and was on my way home from a fire bombing contract in the south of France where incidentally I got fleeting and alarming preview of the Fieldmaster when one appeared unannounced out of a cloud of smoke and taking up most of the view as we were doing a bombing run. Anyway I stopped in the UK to join the party and travel down to Cardiff in Wales to check out the potential of using the Firecracker for flying training in Australia. By this stage NDN had been renamed the Normal Aircraft Company. They gave a us a very welcoming and pleasant day.
Jeff Millar who was the other pilot with me at Cardiff about to fly the Firecracker. The name of the instructor I haven't recorded.
After a tour of the facility, lunch and a flight brief I jumped in the front seat with the NDN test pilot in the back. We flew out over the Bristol Channel for some aerobatics and then back to Cardiff for a few circuits. I’d flown Harvard's and Vampire’s back in my military days and many years later a PC-9. I can’t really remember much details about flying the Firecracker... it was too long ago... other than I was quite impressed with it. The PT 6 gave it plenty of power and its handling seemed OK.
Also at Cardiff Airport was this DH 89 Dragon Rapide. Alderney is the name of the Airport on Alderney Island in the Channel Islands off the coast of France. I can remember these aeroplanes being used for commercal airline operations in New Zealand.
I have heard rumours such as the whole production facility is up for sale and the other that A Firecracker or two is in New Zealand... but they are just scuttlebutt as far as I know. Maybe someone knows more and I’d be interested in whether they’re true or not.
Iechyd da i chwi yn awr ac yn oesoedd which translates into English as "Good health to you now and forever".
I was up before dawn in the hills just east of Karratha yesterday morning (Thursday 21st March, 2013). The summer heat is still oppresive even before dawn... it just doesn't want to cool down this year. Anyway, anyway, I came across a lone Jabiru foraging in the rapidly evaporating remnants of an ephemeral pond accompanied by a couple of Black-winged Stilts and some Gull-billed Terns and took some photos...
The first bit of information I found when I searched the internet was that the Jabiru is a large stork found in the Americas from Mexico to South America! Huh! I thought the Jabiru was an Australian bird and the name originated from an Australian indigenous language.
The Policeman Bird or Asian Black-necked Stork is our stork here in Australia and in Asia but fondly and commonly called the Jabiru. The Saddle-billed Stork of sub-Saharan Africa is also called a Jabiru. Wikipedia suggests that the name Jabiru was found in ancient Egyptian hieroglyths referring to the Saddle-billed Stork.
The online Free Dictionary suggests that Jabiru is Portuguese and American Spanish and was part of the lingua franca spoken by the Tupi - Guarani people of southern coastal Brazil in the 17th and 18th centuries and means "swollen neck".
So Jabiru is probably not indigenous Australian.
A black-necked Stork foraging in an ephemeral pool in the Pilbara.
Black-necked Storks catch their prey by plunging their bills into the water open...
... to catch small fish and crustaceans.
They make excelent subjects for silhouettes... contre jour... like the openning titles of James Bond films.
Like flamingoes, storks have knees that bend the wrong way... actually they're analogous joints to our ankles...
A whole mob of backward facing knees at the Po Delta in Italy... how I miss those pizza's.
Anyway, anyway, anyway... back to the Jabiru story: The Jabiru was widespread in Australia particularly in pre-European times and would have been commonly seen by the people of many indigenous language groups. As you would expect with such an impressive and conspicuous bird there are stories about the Jabiru:
Long time ago Jabiru and Brolga were sisters and like all sisters they fought. When their cousin the Emu tried to get in between a fight one day she got hurt and her blood made the head of the brolga red and the legs of the Jabiru likewise...
The question that intrigues me is how did what was possibly an ancient Egyptian name for an African stork enter indigenous languages here in Australia. Maybe through early contact with the Portuguese but it would seem to me that for a name to be passed from one language to another there would need to be extensive and long lasting contact rather than just a short fleeting meeting as some early navigator passed along the coast. It could well be that the name was passed by the Portuguese to the peoples of the Indonesian archipelago and then to Australian indigenous peoples... but then I'm just speculating.
But it's speculation that makes me believe that the history of contact, trading and exploration of the Australian continent is a lot earlier in time and more extensive than what we are conventionally taught. Maybe we need to listen to the Indigenous histories a lot more than we do... But in my opinion it's not just human history of the exploration of the Australia that is bound by entrenched views but also the subject of biogeography, particularly in regard to birds. The maps of migration and range are constrained by humans thinking as humans rather than as looking at what the birds themselves are capable of achieving.
I don't get to see Spinifexbirds very often. I could count on one hand the times I've seen them and the last time was at Newhaven in the Tanami Desert so when I saw two birds a few mornings ago here in the Pilbara east of Karratha I was kind of puzzled to what they were. They were kind of nondescript which is a way of saying that they might be something else. But the long and rounded tail seems to be a give-away. If you get the idea that I'm beating about the spinifex clump in trying to make up my mind whether both of them were run-of-the-mill Spinifexbirds or not... then your right!
One of a pair of Spinifex birds in the Pilbara.
The rufous crown and the rounded tail are clues to this species...
not to mention that they were lolling about in some low shrubs surrounded by spinifex grasses. They are kind of cute... what do you think?
Sunday Morning; Cyclone Rusty is out in the Timor Sea north of Broome and building itself into a state of feverishness. Its still a long way from the Pilbara but the winds are increasing here in Karratha and the birds are heading inland as the cyclone heads this way slowly making its mind up where its going to cross the coast.
Marsh Terns repeatedly flying back and forth at low level over a spinifex grassland. Admittedly they weren't far from the estuary where they normally are but this type of behaviour is unusual... yeah!
Whiskered... or Marsh Terns which I like to call them because I never get close enough to see whether they have whiskers or not - but I do see them over marshes... actually I've only seen them over marshes until today and usually a few at a time or singly; but today for some reason a flock of about 45 birds were... well maybe they were... hawking for insects over the spinifex! They hunted upwind in a tight group, sometimes descending below the tops of the grasses but mostly just above it. Then as a group they would wheel downwind and start beating back into the wind again. This went on for about half an hour over more or less the same patch of spinifex... what the heck is going on! Maybe they've been watching the Pratincoles and thought they might give it a try.
This isn't a bird...it's a strikingly handsome Monitor Lizard climbing up on a low mound of gravel beside the track ... what a fantastic animal... I saw about a hundred and fifty Red-capped Plovers foraging on the dry estuary mud and sand flats... they tend to be found on the drier parts of the esturine habitat. Lately they have been displaying breeding behaviour; broken wing performances that would do Mel Gibson justice and attacking the Gull-billed Terns when they fly over their foraging areas. Maybe the monitor is after their eggs...
Among the larger numbers of Bar-tailed Godwits, Greater Sand Plovers, Pied Oystercatchers and Great Knots found here there is usually just a few Grey Plovers... Incidently, the Bar-tailed Godwits and Greater Sand Plovers are starting to colour up into their breeding plumages.
Anyway the mangrove estuary has almost completely dried up from the last cyclone and set of high tides, and now only a few narrow patches of shallow water remain. If this cyclone hits the area they'll be flooded again. It was high tide this morning and the birds were resting inland. They know the bad weather is comng I'm sure.
Now this is a bird... An Eastern Osprey gives me the eye... both eyes....
... and then casually examines those massive claws. Landing on a rock like this for the Osprey must be problematic with great talons that get in the way. What sensational animals we have the privilege of seeing... even if it is 40°C in the shade but there's no shade and the humidity... well it could worse, it's only 99% at the moment. Stamp collecting might be easier!