Tag Archives: Saltwater Crocodile

Hard Rains ……

Well not really – we’ve had glorious steady rain and much cooler temperatures have been a welcome relief to us after the recent extreme heat and humidity. So far the violent storms and torrential rain have missed us and my newly planted fruit trees have had a chance to settle in. When we plant trees we always give them a good watering but it doesn’t match the benefit of a decent rainfall. Allen thought this morning was a good opportunity to plant out a few more rainforest trees that he’s grown. His timing was perfect for the trees but as the rain got heavier I was very pleased he hadn’t needed an assistant!

Tarennia dallechiana flowers just visible through the rain. These beautifully perfumed flowers are one of the many rainforest species to make late summer afternoons such a sensory experience.

About a week ago Betty finally made a reappearance in our wetlands! She quietly slid into the water as Allen watched from the bird hide. She had been lying on a bank in the shade, blending so well into her environment that he didn’t see her until she moved. On subsequent days we saw her in the water, sometimes with part of her back exposed to absorb the sun’s heat. As the days have been so hot recently it wasn’t long before she quietly submerged, leaving a trail of bubbles for us to follow.

Only necessary to expose a small portion of the back when it was so hot as the raised scales have a plentiful blood supply transporting heat into the body of the crocodile.
Barely a ripple on the water as she swims quietly through the water lilies.

There has been some speculation regarding potential crocodile nest construction in our swamps. Although it would be confirmation of a successful wetland restoration project I must admit to some nervousness at the prospect. Continuing this theme one might consider why Betty has not nested when she appears to be a mature female. Might she, in fact, be Bob and not Betty?

Not Sitting Ducks

A beautiful, sunny day and a quiet afternoon with time for a walk but I didn’t get much further than the bird hide. Finally it was my turn to get a good look at the Burdekin Duck family! There had been no sign of them for nearly a week so I was thrilled to have a chance to observe them. They were just coming down to the water as I carefully made my way into the hide without alerting them.

7 ducklings with vigilant parents

After a splash in the water while staying very close to the bank the ducklings swam along a little channel behind Crake Island.

A quick swim with a few dives, a bit of a wash then they moved on.
Ducklings drying off after their swim

As I watched the duck family I could see a Magpie goose moving around on Crake Island then the ducks swam behind the island and the goose family walked into the sun with their 3 gangly goslings. The ducks appeared a short distance away on the same little island but only to dry off in the sun before they retreated out of sight.

With all this paddling about in the mud it is no wonder the water is a bit stirred up.

So where was Betty Barratt while all this splashing and preening was going on? She was in the next door pond hiding fairly effectively in a patch of Persicaria strigosa. This photo of her tail is taken from a safe distance just to illustrate her ability to warm in the sun while remaining less than obvious to a casual observer.

Winter Update

The wet season has drizzled to a close through June and we are now experiencing some dry weather with mostly sunny days and quite cold nights. River mist is often a feature of these cold, clear mornings as we experienced yesterday at the start of a tour with Murray the Daintree Boatman. In spite of the cold it was a wonderful morning excursion and we were able to enjoy lengthy observations of a Great-billed Heron both on the main river and in Barratt Creek. It was peaceful on the water in the early morning, watching the bird with only occasional quiet talk and the whir of camera motor-drives breaking the silence.

Murray heading in to pick up his passengers
Fabulous reflections in the still water as we waited for the Heron to move into better light

Back at Wild Wings & Swampy Things ……..in early June a little flock of Spotted Whistling ducks arrived and stayed for a few weeks. We watched their movements with interest as they shared a pond with Betty Barratt, the crocodile who frequently enjoys our hospitality. The larger and apparently more senior Spotted Whistling Duck, which we took to be the male, kept a very close look-out after one of the flock went missing.

Spotted Whistling Ducks in the background – living dangerously.

Betty continues her quiet life in our ponds while they hold sufficient water for her to feel comfortable. She is becoming a little more adventurous this year with more frequent movements between ‘Graham’ and ‘Rupert’ (all our ponds have names) leaving a muddy track on the bund wall separating the two ponds.

Many of the ‘bush birds’ have been a little quiet in the last week, possibly due to cold and sometimes windy weather. A few Magpie geese have been hanging around recently and several days ago, having noticed some trampled sedge, I was able to observe an adult goose with at least four, possibly five goslings. My dusk sighting didn’t enable a good view so Allen and I went out the next morning to see what was happening. We walked to Graham’s hide first; no visible goose activity but Betty was sunning herself amongst the waterlilies looking distinctly satisfied.

Is that a self-satisfied gleam in her eye?

We walked down to the ’07 ponds (never properly named!) from where we could hear geese. There were several lookout birds honking from surrounding trees and nervous parents on the water with only two goslings. As Allen saw both a Sea Eagle and a Brahminy Kite having a go at the goslings later in the morning he was loath to blame Betty but the next morning only one gosling remained.

One gosling closely guarded

This morning the geese were sounding very unsettled, Betty was swimming around below the trees in which they perched and there was no gosling to be seen. There was, however, a Black Bittern skulking around on a small island in between the sedge plants (Rhynchospora corymbosa). It’s fun to have the opportunity to observe a BB without being seen although I didn’t see any dramatic action. Their ability to hold a pose for minutes on end with no apparent movement is extraordinary.

Female Black Bittern in typical pose on Crake Island in Graham’s Pond

And so life on the ponds continues, a visiting friend today suggested that a renaming of the property to Wild Wings & Bitey Things might be appropriate as we await our official Crocodile warning sign! My mind immediately thought of the Faulty Towers television series and the fun we could have with an easily altered sign.

Floods, mud and more…..

It has indeed been very wet this summer and it’s probably not over yet. We’ve had several floods including one major one which deposited a great deal of silt in our orchard as well as all areas below our house and garden surrounds. While watching the flood waters rise can be ‘exciting’ at times the aftermath is not, but we are exceedingly grateful that our house avoided inundation.

A layer of silt over the track to the orchard

A thick layer of mud stuck on a Mangosteen leaf -although these leaves are quite shiny the mud doesn’t wash off even when heavy rain follows the flood.
Malay Apple (Syzygium puberulum) – bursting out with it’s brilliantly coloured blooms a week after total inundation.

During the big flood, a saltwater crocodile moved into our front wetland system for a holiday. There are no pesky tour boats to disturb her here so she is able to enjoy the peace and quiet, apart from Allen occasionally mowing the bank of her pond . We first noticed her after a flood last year and she stayed for a few months only returning to the creek when our ponds became too shallow for her.
Betty Barratt appears to prefer Rupert’s pond which is the deepest and has easy access to the creek as well as convenient sunny banks on which to warm up. While it is a privilege to host an apex predator her presence does limit the delights of loitering around the edges of the ponds.

Just looking……
Basking quietly in the sun