Horizontal Falls

We were still waiting for parts from Kedron so we left our problems behind in Derby and headed for the horizontal falls!

The horizontal falls is the name given to a natural phenomenon on the Kimberley coast first described by David Attenborough as “one of the greatest wonders of the natural world”. It is a fast moving tidal flow through 2 narrow gorges (one 20 metres and the other 12 metres), of the Mclarty Range which is on a wild remote area of the Kimberly coast.  Tides in this area can be 10 metres, so it’s easy to see how this can occur. We had been told by friends from Darwin that we HAD to do this trip and they raved about. IT WAS AMAZING! Thanks Rick and Louise! M

horizontal falls boarding
The falls are in a wild area with no development nearby so you fly in to the area by float plane and must have your life vest ready to go around your waist before boarding.
steve getting excited
Steve’s getting excited.
horizontal falls map
We did this trip with Horizontal falls Seaplane Adventures who have won numerous awards for their trips and for good reason. They were fantastic. We took the route from Derby to Talbot bay. It is only a 25 min flight to this pristine area from the already remote Derby. They take you a different route out and back so you see as much as possible.
mud flats on flight 2
The blue water is from nutrient in the water coming from mangrove plants lining the creeks and bays.
buccaneer from plane
Buccaneer archipelago coming into view.  This is a group of around 1000 islands green in a sea of turquoise. Blue and green should always be seen!
arriving at hories almost not flowing
The horizontal falls from the air around the time of the turning of the tide. There is only one minute when things are slack otherwise it’s moving one direction or the other and fast.
leaving falls from plane
Taking off and landing was amazingly bumpy for something floating on water.
float plane
Getting our luggage out of the floaties on arrival to the pontoon.
The floating pontoon
The main pontoon had 3-4 boats 3 planes and 2 helicopters on it at the beginning and end of the day. We were transferred to a speed boat and then went out to our own floating hotel boat for the night in our own secluded bay.  We were on the 24 hr tour and there were only 11 of us and 3 crew members.
going to pick up the next group
Within minutes the pilot was off to pick up the next group. It was a very busy but well run operation and the staff were all young, enthusiastic, well trained and fun.
plane departing
We met our guide and boat driver Louie. The very FIRST thing we were told was NOT to put your hands or feet over the edge of the pontoon as there were sharks and crocodiles. There was an enclosed pool to swim in if you wanted and next to it was an area open to the sea where tawny grey nurse sharks came up to be fed .
shark feeding
Tawny grey nurse sharks waiting to be fed chunks of barramundi. They were like huge Wobbygongs and made the strangest noise when they sucked in the fish with their mouths clamping shut with great pressure and a whoosh of air that made you jump!
shark patting
They all had names and one that came up to be stroked was Steve, believe it or not. They felt like sandpaper.

We met all the other people we would be spending the next 24 hours with. We were a group of only 11. We had a nice group of people who were mainly grey nomads traveling. We also met the resident sharks and heard about the bull and reef sharks that sometimes show up. Then we jumped in our speed boat and headed over to see the falls around the turning of the tide. On this tour we were to see both an in going and out going tide but we were also taken out this first time to see it comparatively flat, so we could see the difference. The boat had 3x 300hp motors, so that we could sit in between these narrow gaps in the rock with turbulent water and whirlpools everywhere. You needed to be very skilled with the boats to hold them in this position. Louie was a pro!I think he was a NZ jet boat driver in another life and gave us a bit of speed now and again which was a lot of fun. M

falls at high tide no glow
The narrow falls a few minutes after the turning of the high tide starting to flow outwards.   The rhino horn on the right was only about 3m above the water at this point.  A few hours later it would be about 10m up
faraday
The Faraday was our floating hotel for the night. It was an old pearling lugger converted to take 12 passengers. Rowena was our chef and the food was delish. Sophie was the gorgeous Swedish girlfriend of Louie who was an all around crew member and kept Louie in line. Sophie kept us entertained with her stories of what it was like when she first arrived in the wild west to visit her sister who’s partner was an Aussie pearl diver. He gets 50% of Paspaley pearls! 
faraday cabin
Our room on the Faraday.
lunch on faraday
The view from the outdoor dining table. Barramundi and yummy salads for lunch.
tea on faraday
Tea in the lounge inside.
faraday top deck
The bar and BBQ area with beautiful views in every direction. Helicopter pad is behind the bar.

After the excitement of speeding through narrow gaps in gorges at full speed with the feel of a roller coaster at times, we went for a slow cruise up Cyclone Creek into a bay and did a bit of fishing near the mangroves. We were told we already had dinner sorted but we could catch our entree if we liked. There were a few keen fisherman on the trip hanging out to wet a line. There were also 2 newbies like Steve who had a go. M

steve having another try at fishing
Steve seeing if he can entice another crocodile!
a rock cod
Steve and his Rock Cod. You can eat these, but they threw this one back. The fishing is so good up here you keep only the very best fish. The other newbie fishman got a good sized fingermark which we ate panko crumbed by  chef Rowena and dipped in a delicious sauce. One of the experienced fishers caught 2 overly small snapper that were also thrown back.

Cyclone creek is so named because it is a very safe harbour. The old pearlers used to bring their boats in this bay during cyclones for safety. This business does the same thing in the wet season when there are no trip for 4 months. The boats and pontoon and left up here and spend a good deal of their time sitting on mud at low tide so there is less decrusting of the bottoms of the boats. M

cyclone creek fossilised riverbed
Fossilised riverbed up cyclone creek
heading up cyclone creek
The waters of cyclone creek was the most beautiful blue!

We then headed back to the falls to see the outgoing tide. It was now 2 metres high and it was now unsafe to squeeze through the narrow gap only being safe up to a metre. It was pretty exciting just having the boat sitting just outside getting very close to the rocks and in the middle of the turbulence.  M

narrow gap
Only a few hours later the water was pumping out of the narrow gap.  The rhino horn is now far up on the left

falls outgoing tidefalls

upper falls running outupper falls running out 2

lower falls running out
Tide going out from the large gap. We sped through this at speed and then we were taken back through slowly while Louie held the boat in position with whirlpools spinning all around us. There was a bit of “jet boat” type driving in there as well, which had a few of us shouting like we were on a roller coaster. It was as fun as the location was amazing. The boat was handled expertly by Louie our boat driver.

And if all THAT wasn’t exciting enough, we next went on a helicopter ride to view the falls from the air a bit more slowly. The 2 choppers from the pontoon came to pick us up and take us up for the sunset. M

robinson 44 chopper
We got the little chopper the Robinson 44
helicopter arriving
Chopper landing behind the bar.
Eleni excited about sitting next to the pilot!
Eleni from Tassie was the only single on board and excited about sitting next to the pilot! I was excited for her!
chopper over the falls
LOVE a chopper flight with no doors!

helicopter 1helicopter 2

no doors was good for photos
No dirty windows to get in the way of your photos!
falls from chopper 2
Both gaps seem from the air.   It was now pretty close to low tide, so the wide gap did not have much turbulent flow left.
upper and lower falls from helicopter
Narrow gap below and the more sedate wide gap behind
horizontal falls pontoon
The main pontoon in Talbot bay in the evening.   All the seaplanes have gone to roost on the mainland.   Our accommodation lies about 2km to the right in a quiet secluded cove.

upper falls from helicopterboth falls from helicopter

coming in to land
Coming in to land on the Faraday
other helicopter landing
The others went in the larger chopper
sunrise on faraday
Sunrise on the Faraday

We got up very early the next morning to see the sunrise on the speed boat out in the bay and returned for a relaxed breakfast. It was a bit cool but a lovely way to start the day and this fantastic trip. If you are up this way, it is something worth saving up to do. A trip you wont forget. M

maddy and steve on sunrise boat trip
Sunrise on Cyclone Creek
talbot bay serenity
Later that morning we went for a final trip to see the falls on an incoming tide.   Here we can see a few of the boats in Talbot bay including a rather large cruise ship.  Louie told us that after dropping us off he needed to take 160 people from this cruise ship on a ride through the falls.
pontoon in the morning
The main pontoon, now populated with a good complement of day trippers
upper falls rinning in
Going through the narrow gap on the incoming tide.   It was nearly high tide by this time and you can see the rhino is not too high above the waterline.  The water had also slowed to the point that we could go through the narrow gap
inside upper falls slowing in
Looking back out the narrow gap
below lower falls
A final view back to the falls.   The gap in the distance is the wide gap and as the water is flowing away from us you can’t see too much turbulence

 

 

 

Mowanjum Festival

Another annual event at Boab Festival time is the Mowanjum Festival. This is held out at the Mowanjum Aboriginal Community, not far from Derby on the Gibb River rd. The community comprises of people from three different language groups, the Wororra, The Ngarinyin and Wunumbul. Traditionally language groups did not live together. All these people were moved off their different lands when white man came along and took it. No longer able to live their old way of life on these now mostly cattle/sheep properties some worked for the new land owners (on their old lands) as stockman, drovers or kitchen hands or maids. Others were moved onto church missions. Eventually these missions were closed and the three groups of the area were moved (yet again) to a combined community of their own. This is Mowanjum. The festival is a celebration of their culture and to share their culture with outsiders. Everyone seemed to really be enjoying themselves, particularly the older dancers who took the dance very seriously.

mowanjum cultural centre
The three different Wandjinas on the sign represent the three language groups. They believe the Wandjina is the supreme being and they paint the Wandjina’s image in a lot of their paintings. They do NOT believe the Wandjinas found in rock caves were painted by man but by the Wandjinas themselves. It is sort of like painting God and they take it very seriously. If you remember the giant Wandjina from the 2000 Olympics opening ceremony, it was done by an artist from Mowanjum.
womanjum festival
The performance area is ready.

We started at the cultural centre and art gallery. I saw a paining  I REALLY would have liked but managed to get back out the door without it. We have repairs to pay for now!

music mowanjun
The kids playing in a band for the crowd. I love the mitre 10 drums.
ocre painting
You could learn to paint with ochre, which is what they use in this area.
boab nut carving
I had a go at boab nut carving. You start by rubbing off all the white fluff off the nut to get down to the dark stuff.
boab nut carving2
Then you etch a design in this. I really wanted a little hand engraver instead of the blunt knife though.
mother from goulburn islandgetting down
There were two other aboriginal groups invited to travel to Mowanjum for the festival. One was from Goulburn Island in the NT and the other was from Warmun which we had visited earlier. This lady was from Goulburn Island and she took her dance seriously. The younger girls watched her and tried to copy her dance style.
mammas and pappas
2 dancers from Goulburn Island
little guy2
The little guy at the front must have been under 2, but he still got to dance. The other boys danced but kept an eye on him/looked after him and picked him up to get him off the stage when necessary, as he loved to perform!
little guy
The boys were enjoying themselves. An ABC photographer was in our way the whole time!
kallum
A bit of modern singing from Kallum Mungulu
big snake from warmun
Warmun dancers with giant rainbow serpent in Warmun ochre colours
the girls
The girls were pretty excited and enjoyed themselves.
mowanjun dance
Mowanjum dancers with pretty impressive props.

 

 

Derby during the Boab Festival

Well we are stuck in Derby waiting for parts. There is only one caravan park here and it is not bad as caravan parks go. It is full of people who have just come off the Gibb (many doing repairs or cleaning the dust out of everything) or are about to start it. We probably would not have come here otherwise, but it’s probably the best time to be in Derby, as we are here for the Boab Festival. The first night here we went to the “Mardi Gras” street parade which looked like it attracted the entire town. There were numerous floats, the police, fire dept, SES, local business owners, aboriginal health service etc. We lined the main street watching and had candy thrown at us from the people on the floats. You’ve never seen so many gray nomads picking up lollies off the ground! I even saw patients out the front of the hospital, out on the street with a nurse with them watching.

derby mardi gras 2
This guy had been waiting all year to get out and play in this costume!

AHS sign

aboriginal heath service
“Nuff of the Puff” is one of the latest campaigns out here to get the high levels of smoking in Aboriginal communities down. These are staff from the Aboriginal health service float.
young dancers from Mowanjum community
Mowanjum community young dancers
wanjina
Mowanjum community float with huge Wandjina
derby parade1
The band made a lot of noise and you had the dodge the fire dept hose squirting people
derby parade2
Mowanjum community boys dancers
derby parade tea time
This sign was like a beacon for Steve
derby parade show
We then followed everyone to the football oval where there was a fair. We were looking forward to seeing Broome’s Stephen Pigram who we had met at Port Fairy and who was supposed to play.
derby dodgems
This was the only “ride” I was prepared to go on, so I made the most of it. I smashed into as many people as I could. You are not allowed to ram people at the Royal Easter show but this is the wild west after all. Two little aboriginal girls gave back as good as they got too!
derby fire show
The Broome fire jugglers

derby fire show 2

The next night we were off to the Mary Island fishing club for the crab races. Marine Biologist Lesley back in Sydney, will not be happy about this. Never having been to a crab race we were not sure what to expect. We bought a “racer” crab for $10 and tried our luck. We named it speedie. The winner got a crab pot with their crab in it which we planned to give to a fishing nomad neighbor at the caravan park.

crab races at the fishing club

bucket of crabs
Crabs getting ready to race
Mary Island fishing club crab races
And they are off. The judge just had to turn them over.
madge cheering
Your crab just has to crawl to the rope- simple! Just look at Madge shouting at her crab from the sidelines. She was desperate to win that crab pot!
crab races
Some crabs are making their move trying to make a run for it. Maybe they knew what was in store for them.
speedy
Speedy was our crab and though it had the brightest eyes when I choose it, it DID NOT MOVE in the race.
crab racing
Slapping the ground near speedy to encourage him. This did not work.
cheating
Checking for a pulse. Is he still alive? I think the poor thing was just petrified. Needless to say we didn’t win.

We thought we had to see what a crab race was about. I did feel sorry for the crabs in the end though. Apart from the terror of the race they all ended up in a pot after all that racing and were eaten at the BBQ later. We couldn’t eat any crabs that we had met, so we went down to the wharf for the sunset and to eat other sea creatures at the restaurant there.

derby wharf mudflats
Derby wharf mudflats which sees huge tides. Back in the day, they used to drive cattle huge distances to Derby wharf and walk them onto ships at high tide!

 

saw fish sign 2
The endangered Sawfish are being studied to find out why.
waiting for the sunset derby wharf
Everyone goes to the jetty to watch the sunset which always is beautiful.
bus shelter
This is the 2 km walk along the mudflats to the jetty.
derby wharf at high tide
Waiting for the sunset
her face
People come out to see the Mark Norval sculture at sunset on the mudflats
mark norval sculture
Mark Norval was a teacher and is an artist and was the director of the Mowunjum Art Centre some years ago and now has his own gallery in town.
norval gallery
Mark Norval has his own work in the gallery and also allows Aboriginal people to paint there and show/sell their work at the galley. It was VERY difficult getting out of there without buying something.
derby prison tree
Derby also has a “prison Boab tree like Wyndham. It also has a horrible history.
derby prisoners in neck chains
Some of the first workers in the early pearling days were Aboriginal people kidnapped from the western Kimberly. Sometimes these were women and girls. They were walked to the coast and put to work in the pearl shell industry against their will. This tree was used to hold people. 80 percent of the worlds buttons once came from the Kimberly coast but there were not enough workers to do the work. Others held here were those that fought against invasion of their land or those that speared and ate sheep that had taken over their old hunting grounds.
boab prison tree
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derby trough
Myalls Bore and the longest cattle trough in the world supposedly. They used to walk cattle right onto the ships at Derby wharf and this was the last drinking point after crossing the Gibb River Rd. Before is was a road it was a cattle track across the Kimberly.
derby artificial wetland
We went for a visit to the artificial wetland created near the sewage works. The water here was what came after the last stage of treatment and was right next to the fenced in concrete tanks of the first two stages but ran out onto the mudflats. The birds seemed to like the concrete tanks with the stinky water better than the wetland created for them!
sewer and rubbish birds
The sewage ponds with the tip in the background was a haven for birds
derby rubbish birds
Royal spoonbills, dirty ibis, gray teals and corellas just loving the stinky water.
sewer outfall from the air
The artificial wetland from the air

 

 

 

 

Tunnel Creek

Leaving our limping caravan at Windjana Gorge, we headed down to Tunnel Creek for a day trip.   Like at Windjana Gorge, a river has carved its way through the ancient limestone reef, but this time mostly underground.     Apart from the interesting natural spectacle this provides, it was also the site of the hideout of Jandamarra – an aboriginal freedom fighter who lead a series of non-violent and violent resistance actions against European settlement.

tunnel creek walk

tunnel creek midway
About halfway through the tunnel, the roof has caved in allowing the light to shine down.    There is about 300 to 400m of tunnel either side of this midpoint, so you definitely need torches to find your way through the dark middle bits. In places you must walk through cold water up past your knees in the pitch dark. You just have to feel your way through slowly with the creek bed being rocky in places. We knew there were at least 3 crocs in these pools somewhere, but we didnt step on them in the dark thankfully.
tunnel creek further
Limestone cave formation near the far entrance (or exit) to tunnel creek.
tunnel creek looking back
A large stalactite near the exit.
tunnel creek catfish
These catfish inhabit most of the pools in tunnel creek.   Some of the pools like this one that are fed from a side spring are crystal clear and relatively warm (they felt like they were somewhere in the mid to high twenties).   However further from the spring they became cold and murky. There were also at least 3 crocs in the tunnel but we did not see any or more importantly feel any under our feet walking knee deep in the cold pool!

Jandamarra and the Bunuba resistance.

 

Jandamarra is probably the most famous of the Aboriginal Freedom fighters. He is important because many people have said that Aboriginal people never fought for their land. He is a good example that this was simply not true. From 1885, for 10yrs he led the Bunuba people in preventing colonisation by white people occupying their hill country. This ended with his death.

jandamarra onejandamarra bunuba resistanceJandamarra's last stand

 

 

Windjana Gorge

Next we headed to Windjana Gorge but not before seeing our first dressed termite mound in Western Australia. I thought this was quite a nicely dressed one too. Almost too nice. I thought the shirt might look good on Steve!

termite man on the gibb river rd
Very exciting to see the first dressed termite mound in Western Australia

 

view to march fly creek
A beautiful view from the Gibb River Road over the not so beautifully named “March fly Creek”  

Windjana Gorge cuts through a 300 million year old limestone reef.    It’s towering rocky walls border a sandy creek bed that normally contains many pools of water that are home to what is probably the largest concentration of freshwater crocodiles in the country.   When we were there, the river bed had been reduced to just 3 pools due to the preceding poor wet season.   In contrast when we visited 16 years ago, there were numerous pools all the way up the gorge.   Of the 3 remaining pools (and one tiny puddle) – two were teeming with crocodiles, especially the first one where I counted over 120 crocks.

winjana panorama
Windjana Gorge panorama – just upstream from the first pool
winjana jabiru
The second pool was pretty small and it appeared that the crocs had already abandoned this one.
intermediate egret
Intermediate Egret at the third pool
brush cuckoo
Brush cuckoo
winjana entrance
The narrow entry to Windjana Gorge
fossil in the devonian reef winjana
A fossil of a sea creature in the wall
devonian black kites
Black kites on the jagged limestone cliffs on the upper walls of the gorge 
winjana flying foxes
Thousands of fruit bats roosted along the upper reaches of the gorge.  In the late evening, these bats flew down the gorge and out to forage, swooping down on the pools to drink along the way.   As they do this, the crocodiles try to grab them.    Although I sat to watch this spectacle, it happened when it was almost dark, so it was more a matter of listening to the spectacle than watching it.  While I did manage to see one silhouette of a crocodile jumping up at a bat in a small section of the pool where the light from the entrance to the gorge reflected on the water, most of the time I was simply listening to the thrashing noises as they jumped from the water so I have no idea as to how successful the crocodiles.
black bittern
While I saw no new birds in Mornington (despite its reputation for birds), I saw two new species of bird in Windjana Gorge:  this Black Bittern, with one of the many freshwater crocodiles, and a Green-backed Gerygone
winjana morning walk
Early morning bird walk with the tiny puddle on the right – normally there are pools all along and it is not possible to walk up the riverbed itself.
winjana freshie
Keeping dead still and waiting for bats
winjana night time croceyes
Each white dot is a crocodile eye – about 35 in this photo alone.   To see how small a bit of the pool that this photo covers, note the bit of driftwood at the back that can be compared in the daylight photo a bit further down

short eared rock wallaby

A short eared rock wallaby next to the entrance of the gorge

bam bel lam
Despite the crocs doing their best to catch bats, the black bittern did not get caught in the cross-fire and was still around the next morning.
winjana morning
The first (main) pool at Windjana Gorge.   I counted 120 crocodiles in this section of the pool the previous night and there were probably another 80 or more in the section that winds back behind me.  S 
crocadoteril
This one just smiled as the Dotterel ran all around it!
squashed croc
Big ones didn’t seem to mind other big ones sitting on top of them but smaller ones stayed right away from the big ones. I guess when your pool is shrinking and your food is running out…..
cosy crocs winjana gorge
Windjana gorge is the place in Australia you are likely to see the highest concentration of freshwater crocodiles. They are so used to people coming (too) close and staring at them that they don’t get a fright and swim away as is the norm with these guys.
croc soup winjana gorge
There were hundreds here and in ever shrinking pools of water. There was half as much water in the gorge from our trip 16 yrs ago.

Plan B (it’s amazing how much damage a worn shock absorber can do).

Just before leaving Mornington we noticed that the chassis cracks that had been re-welded earlier had started to reopen.   Getting under the caravan with a torch, I found that one of the suspension bolts showed signs of having shifted position.   When I investigated I found that it was quite loose and after removing the nut, saw that the bolt has been jiggling around and badly eroded into the upper side of the slot in the hanger.    It appears to me that because of the resultant misalignment from this eroded hole, when the suspension arm moves up and down it now puts quite a high twisting force on the axle bar and this is probably causing it to crack where it attaches to the chassis.

higher view

Given this situation we were rather wary about driving any further than necessary until we could get replacement suspension bolts and bushes and get the hanger and chassis fixed properly – especially on the corrugated Gibb River Road.   So while we had planned to back track a bit to see Manning Gorge, Galvans Gorge and another Australian Wildlife Conservancy property at Charnley River, we now decided to just drive slowly and carefully directly towards Derby, a town of about 3000, which has a specialist welding company that could do the necessary repairs and arrange for the necessary spares to be sent there.   We called Kedron, who agreed to send us the spares, and advised us that if we just tightened up the loose bolt, it was very unlikely to cause more damage and that we need not alter our original plans.   However, while their reassurance made us confident that we could limp all the way to Derby (still about 400km away, 300km on unsealed roads), we did not want to push our luck and do an additional 300km that our original plan would have required.   Getting a broken down caravan put on a truck and taken to Derby would cost about $4000 and since our insurance would cover only the first $1000, we didn’t want to take this risk.

So plan B had us make our way to Imintji, a small Aboriginal community on the Gibb River Road where we spent two nights and left the caravan to do a day trip to Bell Gorge.  From there we moved on to Winjana Gorge (just 20km off the Gibb River Road) and again left the caravan there while doing a side trip to Tunnel Creek.    We then drove on to Derby and upon getting there noticed that the tyre on the wheel which had had the worn shock absorber had started to crack badly where it meets the rim and needed to be replaced.

cracked tyre

gibb river road plan b
Our Plan B route with side trips to Bell Gorge and Tunnel Creek done without Keddie.

OK, to change the tone of the blog entry from doom and gloom, here are some photos of Bell Gorge and around Imintji.

bell gorge jumper
Lower Bell Gorge:  school holidays have kicked off so we shared the serenity with about 100 others!    In this photo some younger folk can be seen jumping off a cliff.     Unfortunately, my nose is not designed for doing this and I usually end up with half the pool in my sinuses.  So, while it looks fun, I tend to steer away from such activity myself – S
bell gorge swim
By incredible chance and skill I managed to get this shot of Maddy alone in the pool below the main falls at Bell Gorge.   About 20 people lie obscured behind the rock ridge on the left and about 6 or 8 swimmers are just out of the frame on the right.   However, all we had to do was walk about 200m upstream (away from the gorge) and we could enjoy some peace and quiet next to a serene section of Bell Creek on our own. 
steve at bell gorge
Dying to get into my swimmers.
roadside black cockatoo
A permanent spring feeds a creek that crosses the Gibb River Road on the eastern edge of Imintji. I went there to look for birds each evening.   On both occasions, this red tailed black cockatoo came to drink from a small muddy pool formed by cars splashing up water at the crossing rather than drinking the nice clean water just metres away.   It obviously likes the taste of mud, rubber, oil and brake shoe dust.
leaden flycatcher male
A male leaden flycatcher at the crossing
imintji sign
Our campsite at Imintji was immaculate and managed by the community.
imintji campsite with the king leopold ranges
Our spot at Imintji with the beautiful backdrop of the King Leopold Ranges.    The open hatch behind the caravan’s wheel houses the fridge compressor.    The little fan on the door of this hatch has started to give out, so we leave it open when camped – it seems like we are discovering a new problem every day. 
health education at an aboriginal community
Diabetes is a major problem in the aboriginal community so this sign tries to raise awareness of the risks of processed drinks.
Victoria head Napier Range
From Imintji, we continued on to Winjana Gorge, which cuts though a 300 million year old limestone reef that runs for several hundred kilometers in the western Kimberley.   This feature, called Queen Victoria’s Head, lies at the point where the Gibb River Road passes through this reef about 20 km north of Winjana Gorge – the subject of the next post 

Mornington Wildlife Sanctuary-The dawn bird tour with the ecologist.

Having seen over 300 birds so far on our trip in the past 8 months we actually saw no new birds at Mornington.   After spending 6 weeks or so in the northern savanna regions, means we have probably seen most of the easier birds to see in this type of environment.    It was however, a very birdy place and doing wonderful things for the Gouldian finches and Purple crowned fairy wrens in this area of the Kimberly among other things.  On our last morning we did the bird tour with ecologist Riannon and had an amazing 2 hours spent at a rather dismal looking water hole that was only days away from drying up. It was however a bird magnet and we saw a huge array of different birds. M

mornington bird waterhole
A rather grubby water hole that has nearly dried up is one of the scientists secret spots here on Mornington
mornington bird watching
We beat the birds there and are waiting for them to come in. It was cool at about 9 degrees so maybe they we still in bed.
first arrivals
Always the first to come – the sweet and tiny double barred finch
budgie and long tails
Budgies are not so common in this area, so our guide was quite excited by their appearance that morning.   Also on this tree are long tailed finches
pictorella mannikin 2
Pictorella Mannikin looking sweet

 

gouldian
Double barred and long tailed finches came to drink. Then the Gouldian finch showed up to show how much more beautiful it’s colours are. Steve noticed before the guide that there was a huge (maybe 3 mtr) olive python below the water line.  You can just see its head very close to the long tailed finch that is drinking between the 2 double barred finches
gouldian note the python
The birds did not seem to see the snake while they were at the waters edge. The snake is easier to see in this shot. It was sooo tense at this point!
doves and pictorella
Peaceful and diamond doves drinking together with a pictorella mannikin

 

painted finches at mornington
Painted finches came to watch the show from above us on a rock.
snake 1
See how close the long tailed finch  is to the snake’s head and still it does not see it. It is coiled and ready to strike. We all were holding our breath!
snake 2
Zebra finch and long tailed finch drinking. Here the double barred finch just about pecked the snake on the head and still doesn’t see it. We all thought the bird would soon be dead!  It was soooo tense!
snake 3
The snake just kept thinking about it. SOOOO close. The birds oblivious! That it is, we all thought. Still holding our breath………..
snake 4
The snake made it’s move in slow motion. It was so cold from being submerged in the cold water. The finches scattered and we all cheered!    After a few more pathetic attempts we started to feel sorry for the snake.  The ecologist said the snake would be very cold and the bird would have to sit on it’s head for the snake to be able to get one. It’s a jungle out here!

It was a pretty amazing 2 hours despite not seeing a new type of bird! M