Monday, June 28, 2010

Devil's Marbles to Longreach Waterhole

Birdlife on Longreach Waterhole
It was a late start leaving the campsite at the Devil’s Marbles having taken photos and walked around the marbles again. From there it was into Tennant Creak, a place that I cannot say much about except to avoid if possible. We did however fuel up here and bought lunch for a change.

Settling for a short day, we drove to a roadside rest area known as Attack Creek which is 70 Kilometres north of Tennant Creek. We were now in the tropics and winter seemed far away even though it was only June. While we were at this campsite, we packed our bed Dooners into plastic bags and stored them under the bed. The feather down coat also went into storage; no we will not need them again this winter. The days are now in the low 30 degrees and the nights very pleasant.

Friday was to be another short day doing less than 200 kilometres. Why is that? Well we found a small piece of Paradise. We followed the Stuart highway to Elliott, another town not worth mentioning but the gateway to Longreach Waterhole, 10 kilometres west of the township on a dirt road. There are no signs to show you it is there just a dirt track and a Private Property Keep Out sign. We heard about it in Tennant Creek but the locals in Elliott like to keep the place for themselves.

Longreach Waterhole is a natural watercourse approximately 150 metres wide that leads into the 240 square kilometre Lake Woods and the waterhole forms part of this lake. Lake Woods is a major breeding habitat for many inland birds. As we pulled up there were water birds everywhere. They included Pelicans, Cormorants, Darters, Straw neck and Glossy Black Ibis, Caspian and Gull-billed Terns, Whistling and Black kites, Brolgas, Jabiru, Large and Intermediate Herons, Finches, White winged Thrillers, Rufus Whistlers, Jacky Winter and the list goes on. It was difficult to make time to set up the caravan, I just wanted to go but Coba had other ideas.

Just after we stopped a pair of Brolgas was dancing on the bank opposite the caravan. Then an army of around 500+ pelicans and 2000 little black Cormorants came down the waterhole hearting the fish in front of them and fishing at the same time. They were packed together so tight I do not know how they got their head in the water. This happens several times a day.

Birdlife on Longreach Waterhole

The birdlife on the waterhole was an example of the biggest and strongest beats up the smallest and lives easy on the small guy’s hard work. The Terns would dive into the water and catch fish and the kites would attack them to make them drop their catch and then swoop down and take it up from the water. The little black cormorants need to surface to swallow their fish that they catch and the nearest pelican would attack it for the fish. I saw a pelican grab a Little Black Cormorant in its bill and hold it under water until it let the fish go and then the pelican took the fish. It was nature at its best.

Caspian Tern with a fish
Little Black Cormorant with a fish

Next morning I was up at daylight and out with the camera. It was a shot a second and I did not know where to point the camera next. It is unbelievable that there could be so many fish in this waterway. At times there would be a dozen cormorants in camera range all trying to swallow full live fish. At the same time there were so many birds in the air I wanted to get flight shots. This place was a bird photographers dream.

A Jabiru or Black Necked Stork skims the water at Longreach Waterhole
Pelicans in Flight - Longreach Waterhole
A Black Kite on the lookout for Terns with fish.

By 10.00 am I had to walk away and try for some bush birds. Red-browed Pardalotes were calling in the trees but finding them was another challenge. There was one calling from a tree just outside the van and I had Coba and myself searching for it and we still have not found it. I headed bush and after two hours I saw my first Red Browed Pardalote. An hour later and I had managed to get some shots of these small elusive birds. After lunch we went for a drive following the winding waterway and looking for more birds. In the evening we had some of our caravan neighbours over for a show of bird photos taken along the way. While we were doing this I noticed that there was an eclipse taking place so we followed the moon though part of this process.

Sunday was a repeat of the first two days although several pelicans left the waterhole soaring up until they were out of sight before heading off, probably to Lake Eyre. We had our third great sunset again this evening and it was necessary to capture the moment for the memories. Monday morning it was on the road again, next stop – Mataranka.

Sunset at Longreach Waterhole near Elliott in the NT


  1. Just another clear example of I wish I was there to see that...great reporting as usual...hope that you GPSed that spot for me?

  2. Unbelievable stuff Alwyn. Stay safe & continue your great adventure. Thanks for sharing.