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Humpty Doo | Litchfield Shire | Darwin Rural Area | Northern Territory | Australia

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Annual Bird Feasting Spectacle

June 8, 2017

In the few days since Sunday it has happened.


On Sunday the waters flowing from the lagoon had reduced to a small 10cm channel and both bodies of water sat with only a few mm difference in depth that was imperceptible from a distance. Fish continued to make for the inner lagoon in front of the Rakhi bird hide.








Today, 3 days and 16 hours later, the waters have separated and while the lagoon seems pretty much the same height the little lagoon has dropped around a meter, the moment when fish struggle to get to a dead end of hope has passed.


The deep hole level is below its edge and the level is dropping rapidly. I arrive at feeding rush hour.



The deep hole is cut through the laterite into permeable material underneath. It acts like a plug always letting water out of the lagoon. The flow is fast enough for fish to think this is the way out. Dead fish and bird poo cover the rim and the waters is a living fish soup. The fish have thrown themselves over the edge in the hope of a miracle. Birds have feasted. This is the source of the fertility of the swamp. The rest of the inner lagoon stopped dropping rapidly the moment it separated from the deep hole. The 20 ha lagoon reserve will have plenty of interest for the water birds of the area for another month.














The inner lagoon was full of birds on arrival. Too much rush and you miss the good bits. Between business trip to China and all that must be done on return when a flu has my motor on reduced cylinders i have not been able to indulge myself the time to make the most of this place. Perhaps next year someone will wake before dawn and see the spectacle at its best here.


Trying to sneak into a hide when the birds are there has a lot more uncertainty of success than going into a bird hide and waiting.


It is not impossible.


The causeway provides cover to the hide and it is just getting over the edge into to hide that can startle the birds. three attempts were not successful, bright cloths and too much rush. A hessian curtain in the right place will help.


Three times I manically snapped at rising storms of water birds on the over side of the hide with amateur camera settings and once also my laptop in hand.


I give myself an hour.




This time I have sat still and waited and written the above.

Two birds have returned.

First a lone raja duck,

Second a lone ibis.

The raja trawls the shallows of the little lagoon while the ibis picks and choses amongst the dead.

The raja moves on, ibis walks a bit and leaves with a squawk as some Kites swoop. Honeyeaters, pigeons and friarbirds sing and I hear herons in the lagoon discussing their return.

Another ibis swoops and the birds are building in the trees.


A jabiru arrives and stuns me as it flashes bright and enormous just a few meters away.

I should have stayed still but I rushed for the camera not close enough to me as I typed and it spotted the movement.

There are still a few cracks providing backlight in the hide and I am exposed. There is a pile of paperbark for the job but it is undone and so are my efforts to move undetected.

Camera fails to become functional as its feet disappear -

exit stage top left.

The little lagoon fills and the birds progress around the corner of the little lagoon and proceeds into the west view of the hide. Mixed flocks trawl together in a line and my camera engages.

The Jabiru returns on foot from the hidden corner of the little lagoon, sees me again and freaks causing half the birds present to bolt.













The remaining 30 or so birds go about their browsing and a kite sings its favourite “Feasting Time” song. I don’t rate its musical composition juxtaposed against a whistler i hear in the distance.


A spoonbill arrives and the ibis are content enough to be squabbling among themselves even in times of such abundance. After half an hour their little wars have spaced them optimally around the edge of the deep hole.












Herons arrive and I must move on.

Grateful for what i have had and a little discontented for the opportunity cost of busy industriousness.

Some moments indulged but alas i have things to do.

This place at this moment is amazing

Perhaps a little macabre with the honesty that a swamp has for life

The overuse of the word irritates me but i can genuinely say at times like this Rakhi is awesome

I sit here in awe

A little time here, still, is better than none.

Life and death continue their cycle and provided context for the rest of life's challenges and pleasures.












































Although I missed the moment when the waters separated in 2017, here is a video of it from around 2014.