A forward: Visiting the dreamtime

To: Birding-Aus <>
Subject: A forward: Visiting the dreamtime
From: John Gamblin <>
Date: Thu, 31 Aug 2000 21:40:05 -0700 (PDT)
Sid and Sharon Genaux <> wrote:
Date: Fri, 01 Sep 2000 03:43:13 GMT

Hi everyone,

We are in Katherine now after spending a week in and
around Kakadu National Park. What a stunning place it
is to visit. There is gorgeous scenery, multitudes of
wildlife, and awe-inspiring rock art.
     Our first stop after we left Darwin was Mary
River Park on the Arnhem Highway west of Kakadu. We
had planned to stay one night but liked it so much we
stayed an extra day. The park is owned by Mike and
Gina Ostwald. Mike takes out tours in a 4WD vehicle
and also has boat cruises on the Mary River. He is an
excellent guide for birds and wildlife in general.
Sharon went on a late afternoon 4WD tour the first
evening and Mike knew right where to find a Black
Bittern. She got great views of it. We also saw a
White-bellied Sea Eagle and some Whistling Kites
having a dispute over the
ownership of a long-necked turtle. We saw a pair of
Rajah Shelducks with a brood of downy duckling
swimming in a billabong. Near that same billabong, we
saw a rock that Mike called a 40,000 year old kitchen
table. It had several depressions worn in it from
Aboriginal women grinding water lily bulbs to make
flour. One of the pits was about 6 inches deep and the
surface of the stone was polished from the people
using it. The next morning on the cruise, we saw lots
of birds and both saltwater and freshwater crocodiles.
 Although we missed it that morning, Mike regularly
sees Great-billed Herons. One day he saw seven of them
in 4
or 5 hours on the river. It is fantastic how close you
can get to birds when you are in a boat.
     In the grove of trees where we camped, there were
two nests. One was a Whistling Kite's nest and the
other was Australian Hobby. Mike said in the last 12
months, there have been 5 species of raptors nesting
in that grove! They have cabins for rent there and are
affiliated with Youth Hostels of Australia, too. There
is a nice pool and for dinner, Mike grills a great
steak or barracuda. It is a great place for
birdwatchers to stay. 

They have a web site at and

pictures of birds seen there at

We drove from Mary River Park to Kakadu and camped for
3 days at South Alligator River, then 2 more days at
Yellow Waters area. When we drove into the park at
South Alligator, there was a rotating sprinkler going.
In a tree in its path were a flock of about 20 Little
Corella's sitting in a small tree enjoying the shower.
 They were all squawking and about half of them where
hanging upside down with their wings spread out! They
acted like a gang of kids at a water park. Kakadu is a
special, magical place. First of all, it is huge with
six major habitats. There are Savannah woodlands,
monsoon forests, hills and ridges, sandstone
escarpment, floodplain and billabongs, and tidal flats
and coast. All the land belongs to the local
aboriginal tribe, the Gadjudu, and is leased back to
the Australian government to be used as a park. The
Gadjudu have a say in the management of the park and
have the
right to hunt in the park.
      The area is wondrously fertile and prolific. 
The white of Great, Intermediate, Little, and Cattle
egrets dots the wetlands. Flocks of both Wandering and
Plumed Whistling Ducks float in rafts on the water or
line the shores making subdued flute-like noises.
are four million Magpie Geese in Kakadu. We watched
flight after flight of them etched in black against
the salmon and mauve of the evening sky just past
sunset.  They flew past in wave after wave until it
got too dark
to see them and still we heard their evocative
honking. We saw agile wallaby, antelopine wallaroo,
and short-eared rock wallaby in the mornings and a
dingo along the road. He watched us over his shoulder
with amber eyes before fading away into the scrub.

A two-foot long blue-tongued lizard crossed the road
in front of us and scrabbled away into the leaf litter
at our approach. The wetlands reminded us of the
Everglades and the sandstone escarpment looked like
parts of New Mexico. The park is maintained by
mosaic burning--setting small fires in separated areas
to burn off the underbrush. One night we drove past a
section burning just beside the road. The flames
crackled and flashed through the dark as they consumed
the grasses and darkened the tree trunks. In the
distance, we could see the glow of three more fires. 
The haze of smoke and the smell of burnt wood is an
integral part of Kakadu. At night, the sunset is a
bright orb of red through the haze, echoing the flames
below. With all the natural beauty of Kakadu, still
the soul of the land is seen at its purest in the rock
paintings at Ubirr and Nourlangie Rock. Painting is a
spiritual act for the aborigines. For thousands of
years, they have been recording their surroundings and
activities on the walls of the rock shelters. At
Ubirr, the paintings are 15 layers deep. There is a
picture of a thylacine on the rock wall. It has been
extinct in mainland Australia since the dingo arrived
about 4,000 years ago. There is also a drawing of a
European, probably a buffalo hunter, painted in the
last 100
years. The last paintings done at Nourlangie were
painted in the 1980s. The drawings of the animals,
people, and spirits are full of life and sometimes
humor. The buffalo hunter has large boots and stands
with his hands in his pockets. The paintings are
aesthetically pleasing and emotionally affecting. The
aboriginals say that the land does not belong to them;
they belong to the land and the paintings are one way
of caring for the land. We only scratched the surface
at Kakadu, but it is time to move on. We have been
told that the wildflowers in Western Australia are at
peak in September and early October. We will head that
way next. We are writing this report in Katherine, in
place called Didj. It is a neat place. You can buy a
cup of coffee, tea, or cappucino; eat a sandwich; read
your e-mail, or buy aboriginal art here. The
music is a CD of didjiridu music. We are going on a
cruise through the Katherine Gorge tonight to see
the sunset and view wildlife. We will have dinner
on the boat. Thanks for your e-mails. It is good to
hear from all of you. 

Many thanks to all who say they like these,
Sid and Sharon

Where Western Port waders regularily meet.

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