Tuesday, 12 July 2016

Mataranka - Elsey National Park

From Alice we headed about 1,000km due north up the Stuart Highway to Mataranka with one overnight stop in Tenant Creek. We camped at the 12 Mile Yards camp ground in Elsey National Park for two nights. The park and camp ground are located on the Roper River with great birds in savannah woodland and riparian habitat. From Elsey NP the Roper River runs due east along the southern edge of Arnhem Land to the Gulf of Carpentaria, a rough distance of about 300km to its discharge into Limmen Bight. Even at Elsey the river is 100 metres wide in places.

We recorded 34 species during our brief stay in the camp ground and on a 4km walk to Mataranka Falls on the Roper River. The highlight bird was a Pacific Baza, a life tick for us, found by luck in dense melaleuca foliage where it had just caught a large species of mantid. The bird flew to a nearby small tree where it ignored us as it removed the legs and wings of the mantid ahead of eating it.

Pacific Baza with large mantid ready to eat following removal of legs and wings.
The bird did not seem too concerned about our presence as it removed wings and legs from its prey. The distinctive small crest can be seen in this photo – this species is/was also known as the Crested Hawk.
At about this point the Baza departed to consume its succulent morsel away from our prying eyes.

Here is a selection of other photos captured at Elsey.

Little Woodswallows are common in the Top End.
A Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, another Top End species.
White-bellied, or Little, Cuckoo-shrikes were common however like their close cousins, the Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, their calls were a little different to the ones found at home in East Gippsland.
White-gaped Honeyeater, another Top End species.
Bar-shouldered Dove - along with the Peaceful Dove the call of these two doves are the sound of the Top End for me.
A narrower section of the Roper R at Elsey NP.

Mataranka Falls – a tufa formation.
Freshwater Crocodile on the Roper River. Salt Water crocs are possible here – signs were clear, “No Swimming”.
Saltwater Crocodile traps are common at popular tourist locations where an attempt is made to intercept Saltwater Crocs.

From Elsey we moved up to the small settlement of Pine Creek to look for the Northern Territory endemic Hooded Parrot.

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