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)

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!

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