Things I Learned About Crocodiles

While I was on holiday I learned something about crocodiles. They are very considerate and intelligent. Take this crocodile for example:


It does not want to endanger humans, so it hangs out under a sign telling people to keep away. Also, note the crocodile is looking slightly confused (it takes quite a bit of experience to read crocodile emotions, so you may miss it). A closer inspection of the sign tells us why. A warning written in German in Australia? A good query for a crocodile. But he obviously had not read about German tourists and their “success” at going near the water in the region.

While we are talking about warning signs in Tropical North Queensland, I have seen enough anime to know where this is heading…


The Quest For The Forty-Spotted Pardalote

Recently I went to Tasmania on a quest to see the Forty-spotted Pardalote. Some might say it was a work trip given I spent most of my time at a conference and work paid for the the travel. And they might be right… but there are twelve species of birds found only on Tasmania, so I might have had other ideas!

Given I only had a two and a half day window to actually have a look around Tasmania (which I had never visited before), and the Forty-spotted Pardalote is restricted to a small area of the island, my chances of success were always low. The odds were made worse given that I was not going to have time to go to either of the islands with the main breeding populations. But the internet had assured me that the Peter Murrell Reserve had a breeding population and it was only a ten minute drive from my hotel, so I could easily go there early morning before heading off elsewhere.

Day 1: Finished with work and had checked into the new hotel by 3pm, so a quick trip out to the reserve before the evening meal. Three hours, no Forty-Spotted Pardalote… but I saw plenty of other endemics including the Green Rosella, Yellow Wattlebird, Yellow-throated and Black-headed Honeyeaters and the Tasmanian Native Hen.

Day 2: This was my day to see Tasmania. A complete impossibility for one day, but I gave it my best shot. An early morning start, and I drove up the east coast from Hobart to St. Helens, cut across to Launceston and then back to Hobart. About 600km in total and a 12 hour journey by the time I stopped at a bunch of tourist attractions and did a couple of small beach and forest walks. I highly recommend anyone who visits the area to spend a lot more time exploring the region. I also recommend never renting a Nissan Micra to drive, as that was an underpowered piece of crap.

Day 3: Up early and headed to the reserve. Four hours of searching, no Forty-Spotted Pardalote… Decided to take a break and drove to Mt. Wellington for a view over Hobart and then to the Tahune Airwalk – a 600m walk through the treetops of a wet eucalypt forest (pictured). See the cantilever at the end there? That is about 50m off the ground… and there was no way I was walking out on it! Headed back to the reserve for another couple of hours. Still no Forty-Spotted Pardalote…

Overall, I managed to see eight of the twelve endemic bird species and thirteen bird species I have not seen in total. So a good haul overall. However…

Final score: Forty-spotted Pardalote 3: Allan 0

Camping – Canarvon Gorge

I recently went on a driving/camping trip into Carnarvon Gorge, which is about a 720 km (450 miles) drive to the north-west of Brisbane. (Well, I actually did this a little over a month ago now but I never got around to organising photos until now…)

The drive to Carnarvon Gorge was a long one… I was sole driver due to a lack of drivers license being held by the other person coming on the trip. It also rained fairly heavily most of the way and the roads were in a bit of disrepair. Luckily the traffic was low so you could just drive on the other side of the road to avoid the larger potholes. The heavy rain did make it less likely that a kangaroo would jump in front of me, so that was a bonus I suppose. However, it made the actual road into the Gorge into mud (it is gravel and had just been graded) with multiple flooded sections. Fortunately, none of the flooding was too deep to ford, so we slid our way to the camping ground.

My main motivation for driving that far was to see an Emu (pictured) because I have never seen any of the Ratites (large flightless birds) in the wild before. The region also provided a good chance of seeing both Australian Mudnesters (White-winged Chough and Apostlebird) and the Australian Bustard, all of which I had not seen before. Seeing all these was completed by the time we put up our tents on the first night, so that was a real bonus after the hard drive.

During the first night, the wind really picked up. Trees fell down in the camping area and blocked the road out for the start of the morning… Not that I was affected by that, because the creek at the entrance to the camping grounds has also substantially risen and I could not cross it with the car for a few hours anyway. We were actually quite lucky to take no damage to car or tents (and the people inside) looking at the size of a branch that fell only 20 metres away from where we camped.

When we finally escaped the camping ground, it was on to the main point of the trip; the main Gorge walking track with all its side-tracks to various attractions. The main track follows the river winding between spectacular sandstone cliffs. But as we were to find out, that track involves many river crossings. These are normally nice step-across-the-boulder affairs, but the rain meant that the river had risen quite substantially and the track was officially closed for the day. Luckily, that was more to keep groups of elderly from crossing the river and the ranger indicated he would let us cross some time in the early afternoon. A couple of short walks of little note and a decent lunch and we were on our way.

The flooding did make the river crossings far more time consuming than expected (some were mid-thigh level…) and did I mention that there were many of them, so we had to skip most of the side-attractions on the walk to the Big Bend camping area for that night in order to get there before dark. The only attraction we made it to on the first day was the Amphitheatre. The Amphitheatre is a gouged out hold in the sandstone that is about 60m tall on all sides. The entrance is a crack in one of the walls. And it lives up to its name, reflecting all sounds made such that you could whisper to a person on the other side and they would hear you clearly.

We had intended to camp for two nights at the Big Bend camping area, and leave in somewhat of a hurry on the final day, but we decided to skip the planned walk to a lookout at the top of the sandstone cliffs and instead take a slower walk out and stop at all the side attractions we missed on the first day. This actually turned out to be a good plan as we were unable to locate the entrance to the walk to the top of the cliffs anyway. Well, it turns out that maybe we did locate it, but we dismissed it as a crack in the side of the cliff because of the amount of debris that had been washed into it.

There are two main areas of Aboriginal art works to see on the side tracks; Cathedral Cave and The Art Gallery. Apparently the Art Gallery is one of the best examples of stencil art in Australia and it did live up to its billing with outlines of boomerangs, shields, axes and some weird double handed arms.

The final attraction on the way out was the Moss Garden. We attempted to get to this on the first day but the river was too flooded then. Luckily it had lowered enough for us to get into on the return walk. The Moss Garden is a cut path in the sandstone that receive little sunlight so has sheets of moss over all its walls. This is quite a difference from the rather dry landscape all around it and was very peaceful with the crystal clear creak in a small waterfall in the middle.

And from there, it was a straight walk back out to the car. In total we made forty-two river crossings over the two days of walking (did I mentioned there were many river crossings already?). We stayed overnight in our original camping spot and managed a to drive home at a nice relaxed pace the next day in quite reasonable weather, only breaking heavily to avoid one kangaroo.