Or I could rename this post…..CROCODILES and SNAKES!
Last Saturday we were able to visit Berry Springs Nature Reserve late in the afternoon, which is located to the south of Darwin and alongside the Territory Wildlife Park. The wildlife park is actually going to be 25 years old next month and will have free entry to celebrate. With limited time and preferring to bird alone in a natural environment we headed into the nature reserve and away from the springs. There are warnings about the possible presence of crocodiles and that all attempts are made to remove them and the pools were very busy with people cooling off. In fact the trail hardly gets mentioned on the above map-it is the vague pale section on the left of the map!
Crocodile warning at Berry Springs Nature Reserve
It was a very hot day and there had been a bush-fire right to the reserve border only a few weeks prior to our visit and as such we did not have particularly high hopes for a lot of birds. Whistling Kites and Black Kites soared overhead and White Ibis and Straw-necked Ibis wandered around the picnic area. The taller trees had a Varied Triller, Rufous-banded Honeyeaters, White-gaped Honeyeaters and Peaceful Doves. We headed off down the short trail and it soon became a boardwalk with dense rain-forest. We were constantly listening for any leaf litter movement and soon saw Orange-footed Scrubfowl turning over piles of leaves. Suddenly there was a rush from under the boardwalk below my feet and an Emerald Dove shot out and disappeared into the green upper storey and we just could not find it again. Then another flick of leaves and we had an Arafura Fantail flicking around on a log. It was not going to stay still and you can tell by the following photos it was quite an active little bird!
We then approached a magnificent Banyan Tree and a male Shining Flycatcher nipped around it and then out the back and joined its mate, but the chance of getting a photograph eluded me. High up in the trees there were Pied Imperial Pigeons cooing and also White-bellied Cuckoo-shrikes called out as they flew through the canopy.
Thank goodness for the bright red around the eyes of the Australasian Figbirds, or they could have easily been overlooked among the green leaves. They are generally not particularly quiet, so along with the brightness of the head colour you do eventually find them high up.
Once we got to the far end of the trail we decided that due to it being rather short we would return all the way back along it in the opposite direction. This was successful because we found three Grey Whistlers, a Northern Fantail, White-throated Honeyeaters and Bar-shouldered Doves. We then heard a sound in the leaf litter and both said at exactly the same time “snake”. We have never seen a snake move so fast. We were on the boardwalk and it was climbing a tree to escape from us and to reach maximum height in as short a time as possible. Taking photographs was challenging! This was one fast moving Golden Tree Snake about the same length as I am tall!
Golden Tree Snake racing up a tall tree!
I have heard more about the Golden Tree Snake over the last week on the radio and apparently they are the snake most likely to get into a home and get into air-conditioning systems around the Darwin area. The highest they have retrieved one from is the seventh floor of a building…that is one impressive climb by a snake!
I suggested that we visit Darwin River Dam next, because it was not far away and we had never been there. On arrival we discovered that the gate closes for vehicular traffic at 4pm, so we ventured in on foot. Once again we were faced with crocodile warnings, but we were out to look for birds and had no intention of swimming. How am I going to top up my year list if I am eaten by a crocodile! Well, there are crocodiles and they are visible!
Crocodile warning at Darwin River Dam
Two of the crocodiles at the dam
It was getting late in the day, but there were Pelicans soaring over the dam and Red-tailed Black Cockatoos called across the sky as they flew by. We climbed up the road to the main dam wall and there were more Pelicans bobbing about on the choppy waters and Whiskered Terns swooped down across the surface. Little Black Cormorants and Little Pied Cormorants roosted in the trees and a Great Egret perched against the dam wall. The main picnic area was home to Blue-winged Kookaburras, Little Corellas, Northern Rosellas, Mistletoebirds, Red-winged Parrots, Crimson Finch and Dollarbirds. A dripping tap was being used by local wildlife and the wallabies and birds were taking advantage of the water availability away from the crocodiles. A delightful pair of Forest Kingfishers perched on a tree in the last light as we left the dam area to return to town.
Pair of Forest Kingfishers
Despite the limited time we had we were able to add three more species to the year list by venturing into varied environments and an encounter with a Golden Tree Snake and a crocodile or two!