And the bush has friends to meet him, and their kindly voices greet him, In the murmur of the breezes and the river on its bars,
And he sees the vision splendid of the sunlit plains extended, And at night the wonderous glory of the everlasting stars.

Banjo Paterson (1889)

Friday, December 17, 2010

Marbled Gecko Video

This is a short video of the beautiful Marbled Gecko (Christinus marmoratus) that lives among the rocks in our garden. I often find them when I'm working in the garden or running along the walls after dusk. Typical of geckos, they have wonderful eyes.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Ripon Hills Fauna Survey

The recent fauna survey in the Ripon Hills east of Marble Bar was a challenge with a two and a half hour drive one way just to get there from our minesite accommodation, that's 5 hours driving every day for 12 days! On the next survey it looks like we may be camping among the hot rocky hills at the survey site instead, for two weeks. That might be interesting!

The windy conditions, and I mean some days there were gale force winds blowing, making bird surveys very hard. One of the birds we often saw were Black-faced Woodswallows including this nest, where we watched the nestlings grow over the two weeks.

A lucky find was this Australian Owlet-Nightjar, always at the same spot in one of the gorges.

The typical rocky terrain of Ripon Hills which made getting our 80 pit traps in real hard work! At one site we could only get nine out of 10 buckets in and that took 6 hours!

We were often so tired, we felt like joining this guy! One of the lonely graves in the area.

Killed by blacks. This cattle station was along a nice watered river where Aborigines would have travelled, so that's probably why the shooting/spearing occurred. 

This area in the Ripon Hills is known as the Crater, is one of the most interesting spots I have seen in the Pilbara.

A huge sunken cavern with giant caves.

The view from near the end of the cave chamber.

Jill, one of our environmental scientists, at the bottom of the first cave.

The second cave is even bigger.

Jill among the massive boulders from the collapsed roof.

The cavern looking like the entrance to hell, is home to a number of bats including the endangered Ghost Bats that like deep caves.

At the end of the survey, we spent a lovely morning relaxing by the cool waters of Carawine Gorge.

Half way back to Port Hedland is Marble Bar, with it's famous rocks in the riverbed. Once you wet the rocks with water, the wonderful rich colours really start to appear. Marble Bar is the hottest town is Australia and it was 41 degrees the morning we were there!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010


A few of the landscape panoramas from our last fauna survey in the Woodie Woodie area, east of Marble Bar.

The Ripon Hills looking south-east.

The Ripon Hills area looking northwards.

Carawine Gorge north-west of Woodie Woodie.

The cool waters of Carawine.

The famous marble bar of the town of Marble Bar.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Birding North Queensland 2

This is the second part of our birding holiday video which has some of the birds and environments my wife and I saw around the Cairns area. The birds are migratory waders, Little Egret, Brush-Turkey, Victoria's Riflebird, Rainbow Lorikeet, Metallic Starlings, Helmeted Friarbird, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Olive-backed Sunbird (in it's sock-like nest) and Pied Monarch, as well as a Boyd's Forest Dragon.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Birding North Queensland

It's almost Christmas and time for our annual end of year birding trip somewhere. This year it looks like it's going to be Thailand.

Here is a short video of some of last year's birding tour to the northern tip of Australia at Cape York. There was once until recently a nice metal plaque at the northern point, till some morons stole it. Now it's only a old car license plate with some writing on it!

The birds in the video are Red-bellied Pitta (the one bird everyone wants to see), Buff-breasted Paradise Kingfisher and Spectacled Monarch. An added bonus was a Spotted Cuscus out during the day.

Friday, December 10, 2010

Fauna Survey Conundrum #47

Question: How do you get an Echidna (a Spiny Anteater) out of a cage trap when he is annoyed and has all his spines erect?

Answer: Open the door and leave it, and hope he just walks out.

This guy bent the internal pressure plate rods on the way out, just to teach us a lesson.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

The Caves

Spring is a busy time for surveys, so it's been less blogging lately, plus the weather in Perth has been nice and cool, so lots of work around the house and garden. Painting and clearing. A whole redesign of the garden is in order, as many of our plants are old and dying and the recent tree-loppers didn't help by dropping big tree branches on our best plants! Maybe it's also time for planting some more fruit trees and vegetables in our future garden. A garden full of colour and food, a place to relax and ponder life.

Here are a few more photos of the Niah Caves.

King Kong/Jurrasic Park gate into the caves.

Big cave and little wife.

A cave is a lot like life, you only see a little ahead and around you, as you head towards the bright light at your final destination.

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Niah Caves

One of the places I always like to visit when in Miri are the Niah Caves, a great birding area about an hour's drive from Miri.

The walk to the caves has some good birding, especially along some of the muddy side tracks, but beware of the concrete sections of the path to the caves, as it's damp most of the time and on any small slope it's like trying to walk on ice! I'm sure every day a lot of visitors must end up falling on their bum!

A beautiful carved pole with traditional Sarawaks designs at the start of the walk

You must pay the ferryman! To get into the park, you must get the little boat across the Sungai Niah.

The Sungai Niah is a fairly major river. It was interesting to see a number of Wood Sandpipers feeding along the grassy river edges in the rainforest.

Steve and Liz on the 3km path and boardwalk to the caves.

One of the many small rainforest creeks that cross the path. Excellent spots to spend an hour and see what birds turn up.

An interesting fleshy Jew's Ear fungus.

One of the many rainforest millipede species, a species of Tractor Millipede.

A very colourful species of Assassin Bug. A nice big black proboscis for suck out the body juices of other insects.

A Trilobite Beetle, but this was a black one. Most of the other ones I've seen in Bornean rainforests have been coloured black and orange.

Beautiful big orange millipedes can be found along the walkway to the caves.

While it's still damp in the early morning, a few species of rainforest snails are on the move after last nights feeding.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Miri City Fan

I have a few days to relax and also do some more work around our house, before the next big fauna survey, this time near Perth. The Woodie Woodie fauna survey was hard work, as the extreme hot temperatures there were around 40 degrees, every day of the 14 days!

Here are some more Borneo pictures of the Miri City Fan, a wonderful garden park right in the centre of Miri. It's a place I like to go to every time we visit Miri, a great place to relax in and see a few of the more common Sarawak birds.

The City Fan with it's big amphitheatre (called the Garden of Vision) is only minutes from the city centre.

The musical fountian in the Garden of Vision.

Some of the images from the gardens. I didn't have too much time there this visit, as a huge thunderstorm was developing in the late morning and I had to leg it back to the hotel before getting soaked to the bone!

Wood carvings at the gardens are typical Sarawak designs.

Some of the great murals depicting the wildlife and history of the Miri area.

The view from the Grand Imperial Hotel near the centre of Miri.

Always try and end with a sunset. One of the wonderful sunsets at Miri.

For more information about Miri see