Readers’ wildlife photos

March 1, 2023 • 8:15 am

Today we have a series from Australia by reader Rodney Graetz: bush travel in his country. His captions are indented, and you can click on the photos to enlarge them.

Bush Travel

Bush camping is a pleasant way to travel; isolated, sleeping under the stars in a swag (aka bedroll), and awakening to red earth and blue skies.  The mosquito nets are ‘just in case’, but rarely needed.  Always hopeful to see, or just a hear, a Dingo, the charismatic native dog.  On our way from the cool south to the tropical north of the Australian continent:

There was flooding in the arid centre: The Diamantina River was turbid and full of fish.  Our crossing was temporarily halted by a dispute between two egrets (Ardea modesta?).  Elegant and effortless flyers, with upraised wings, their ultralight bodies are revealed:

Nearby, a juvenile Nankeen Night Heron (Nycticorax caledonicus), with stylish green legs, was concerned at my presence. Its swollen crop indicates the fishing was good. Interesting, because this species is regarded as nocturnal only, no daylight activity:

Big sky, and long straight road country.  All unpaved bush roads develop corrugations, but by adjusting speed, their irritating impact is minimised:

At the end of a long travelling day, a camp in the sandy bed of a large ephemeral creek, and a campfire to sit around, talk, and the watch the stars come out.  Bliss!

Dawn (aka Sun sight), in the Outback seems slow compared to the Tropics, as it silently lights up the landscape.  The dead trees are all Eucalypts (‘Gum trees’) which germinated and grew after a big flood in 1974 and were subsequently killed by wildfire in the 1990s.

Six White-breasted Woodswallows (Artamus leucorynchus)wait patiently for the return of parent birds.  Their graceful flying displays are a pleasure to watch, as is their obedient perching behaviour.  Perhaps a parent bird says ‘Sit’, and they compliantly cluster and obey:

At one campsite, a mature adult Little Corella (Cacatua sanguinea) was not pleased that we were close to its roosting tree, producing threating wing displays and much screeching.  After the 10-minute display, both parties slept peacefully:

A cluster of ibis in their breeding finery.  The rearmost two birds are Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca), and the two foremost are Straw-necked ibis (Threskiornis spinicollis), with one displaying iridescent feathering.  The large bird is a Magpie Goose (Anseranas semipalmata): not a true goose, and unusual in that its feet are not fully webbed:

Towards the end of the Dry Season (October), wetlands are drying and crowded.  The most common bird here is the Magpie Goose.  Experienced Tour guides regularly promise their clients the sight of thousands of Magpie Geese at the large wetlands, such as Mamukala:

Because wetlands are so productive, birds cram them, large and small.  Here a foraging, tiny Black-fronted Dotterel (Elseyornis melanops) scampers hurriedly past the towering bulk of a mud-covered, preening Magpie Goose:

A juvenile, Black-necked Stork (Ephippiorhyncus asiaticus), commonly called Jabiru, is the only Australian stork.  Beginning life as an all-brown bird, when mature, it is bold black and white, with shimmering neck feathers.  A skilled stalker of fish and aquatic snakes, and very people-shy:


Perhaps, the most colourful bird in the Tropics, a Rainbow Bee-eater (Merops ornatus) rests on a termite mound after having captured a large wasp(?).  They are common in open woodlands: always conspicuous, always industriously reducing the insect population.  By the length of its two tail spines (streamers), this is a male bird:

A feeding cluster of Little Corellas, part of a much larger flock of several hundred young and mature birds.  Young Corellas engage in endless play, such as mock fighting and teasing, where one bird will grab a toe of another, then try to tip it over.  The two birds on top of this termite mound spent hours preening and repelling other young birds who wanted the high perch.  This game was continuously repeated at several other mounds.  Birds would fly from one mound to another to contest the highest perch:

No matter how hot you feel, you never wade or swim in the Tropical wetlands.   Here a 3+ metre estuarine crocodile (Crocodylus porosus), aka ‘Saltie’, taking a close interest in the boat and passengers.  Deaths by crocodile attacks average just two per year, and the details of each suggest the deceased almost always deserved their demise.  You cannot fix stupidity:

There are many wise sayings with this same message: The best travelling of all is the journey that takes you back home:

14 thoughts on “Readers’ wildlife photos

  1. How far will those crocs travel on land for a meal? And any snakes? I particularly liked the bee-eater and your campfire.

  2. How incredible this place is. Thank you for sharing this. I love those Little Corellas and their games.

  3. One thing the would-be tourist wants to know: what precautions should the camper take, while sleeping on the ground? The Australian outback has a LOT of highly poisonous snakes and spiders and insects. Expert opinion would be welcome.

  4. Does anyone have any idea of how those corrugations on unpaved roads form? As I recall, it’s a bit of a mystery – odd that such a common phenomenon should go unexplained.

  5. It’s cool to have two Australian RWP in a row.

    What a fun journey. Terrific landscapes and wildlife photos. Thanks for taking us for the ride!

  6. Oh wow, that’s my absolute favourite part of the country. Lovely shots. One small correction, that’s not the common and widespread Black-fronted Dotterel but the somewhat rarer Red-kneed Dotterel Erythrogonys cinctus

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