Tuesday, July 14, 2009

Gulf to the Desert

Phew! It's been a packed three weeks since my last post. From Normanton I headed out west to Burketown then Doomagee, where I turned my car southwards and made for Adele's Grove. I spent a week there with the paleontologist mob, doing a little fossil-digging out at the sites, but mainly having a look around the various ranges and escarpments for rock wallabies with Arthur White. There are probably three rock wallaby species in the greater area - the common one is the purple-necked, but the black-footed occurs not too far away, and another, mysterious species, something like a short-eared has been sighted though never formally identified.

Rock Wallaby Country

As well as plenty of climbing over rocks and spinifex in search of these elusive beasts (with occasional sightings), we did a couple of other memorable things - like snorkelling in a beautiful creek, brimming with rainbowfish, hardyhead, archer fish, glass fish, mouth almighties, spangled perch, eel-tailed catfish, two turtle species, and most exciting of all, freshwater crocodiles. Truly a magical experience, like swimming in a fishtank. Oh, for an underwater camera...

Speaking of swimming - we also had a fantastic swim at Indarri Falls - the stars here were the file snakes, nestled in crevices in wait for their aquatic prey. I saw one big female in the classic pose of the pythons - tail curled around a branch, body bunched into tight S shapes as the snake faced down the branch. This was all about two metres underwater of course. When we were sick of seeing the fish, turtles and snakes (!) here, we swam down the beautiful Lawn Hill Gorge.

Other highlights:

Boating on the Gregory - Arthur with the turtle he described first as a fossil, then again in the flesh: Elseya lavarackorum.

Striking yet stupid - the Spinifex Pigeon

John Scanlon with the little-known Pygmy Mulga Snake, Pseudechis weigeli/Pseudechis 'pailsus'

Young Wedge-tailed Eagle posing

Rock-Ringtail possum

Purple-necked Rock Wallaby disappearing down a rock face

It's beautiful country. I could have spent more time there, exploring, but I was due in Mount Isa to catch up with some CSIRO scientists conducting a fauna survey around the town.

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