Snakes vs whining teenagers


Tiger snake curled face crop longThis is what people who hate camping think it’s all about, right?  I suspect spiders, high winds and rowdy neighbours also make that list.  Yep, a big tick next to them too – it’s all to play for when you camp in the summertime in Wollemi National Park.

But Ganguddy, or Dunn’s Swamp, to give its inaccurate and charmless non-indigenous name, was just as marvellous this January as it was when we first visited this time last year.

Sunrise corner sky

Ganguddy in early dawn light

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View from the pagoda lookout

Yes, there were more reptiles – lethal and benign – but to balance it out, there was also less torrential rain.  At no point this year did it seem likely that the full set of adult campers, each clinging to a leg of the kitchen-gazebo, would take off and fly over the pagoda rock formations like a quartet of grubby Mary Poppinses.  It rained, but not inside any of the tents.  And the whining teenagers weren’t my delightful children but the feathered offspring of the camp ground locals.

Noisy friarbird getting food crop

Juvenile noisy friarbird wants a snack

It seems a bit unfair for such giant children to be demanding food, although Gisela Kaplan in her fascinating book “Bird Minds” suggests some evolutionary advantages to having hungry teenagers hanging around.  Apparently adults noisy friarbirds only feed the young’uns for three weeks after fledging -hard to believe this galumphing one was so close to being a fluffster.

But you can see where all that food goes.  You reckon your adolescent’s feet are big?  What about junior purple swamphen‘s clodhoppers?

Unhygenic as it sounds, the drop dunny seemed to be a particularly popular spot for a snack.  The baby grey fantails spent a lot of time looking deliberately cute there in order to get a feed.  If you were still uncertain about the superiority of the earth toilet, this little guy is a clincher I reckon.

The white-browed scrubwren also enjoyed loitering out around the toilets.  I didn’t see any juveniles, but then this one looked so stern, perhaps they were there but just too nervous to beg for tucker.

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Grumpy looking white browed scrubwren

The suspiciously touselled looking eastern yellow robin – a juvenile perhaps – had worked out that the best place for tucker is definitely the barbecue.

I’m not sure if the adult reed warbler had gone into head down, bum up, to feed some chicks, or if it was just going to extreme lengths to avoid facing the long-lensed papperazzi.  I was rather pleased when after two years of trying I finally got a picture of one, without even having to visit the Rylstone Guns and Ammo for a flame thrower to thin out that pesky, snap obscuring habitat.

And, miracle of miracles, I found an azure kingfisher without ADD.  I reckon I can put away my paddle now – 18 months of kayaking have not been in vain.

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At last – a sluggish azure kingfisher

The invasive gambezi minnows that fill this reservoir – built in the 30s as a water supply for a concrete works – seem to be an optimal snack size for the kingfishers – I saw plenty of them, along with a randy musk duck, the ubiquitous Eurasian coots and a pair of Nankeen night herons that alighted, mockingly, in the trees opposite the campsite, just after it got a tiny bit too dark for a decent photograph.  But there was nothing larger – no whistling kites, for one.  Judging from the frustration level of the fisherman in our party and the track record of these mosquitofish of outcompeting native rivals, I suspect there weren’t many more substantial meals to be had (on the bright side, possibly thanks to the fish, there weren’t too many mosquitos making meals of us either).

With all these LBBs – and all the fast moving ones I didn’t get a decent shot of – busy flocks of brown thornbills high in the canopy, white-throated tree-creepers spiralling their way up the tea trees, the baffling grey strike-thrush, the white-eared honeyeaters darting around in the dew drenched dawn – I guess I shouldn’t be surprised at the snake that sidled through the camp site or or the one slithered along the ironstone tops.  Let’s hope the top predators were more successful at catching the flighty little buggers* than I was.

Western country rocks

Rock formations near the dam

Sunrise over swallow rocks

Dawn over “Swallow rocks”


*Okay I know red-bellied blacks mostly eat frogs, which is why they were down by the reedbeds near the camp. But I bet they don’t object to the odd gormless yellow robin if it’s available.

* * *

There’s more info about the history and geology of Ganguddy in my previous post from here: In other sandstone country

9 thoughts on “Snakes vs whining teenagers

  1. We stumbled across Dunn’s swamp last year when heading back to Victoria but the place was chockers, lucky you to see it with some space and quiet and a chance to see some wildlife. I glimpsed and photographed a heathwen, probably chestnut rumped. For a Victorian the sandstone formations are amazing .

    • It was pretty chockers when we first arrived early on NY Day but with the prospect of some rainy weather and the holidays wrapping up, people bunked off pretty quickly. When it rains there, it really rains! Good place to go during the school term I reckon, if you have that flexibility. The rock formations are pretty amazing even for those of us who are used to the trusty Hawkesbury sandstone! Clever you to spot a heathwren! I didn’t see anything really rare, though I suspect a Gang Gang cockatoo flew overhead (needless to say when I had my camera away!). Thanks for reading…

  2. Wow, this looks like a top spot for wildlife sightings when it’s not too busy with campers! Great gallery of shots, Nic! I’m especially envious of the snake and azure kingfisher ones. I never seem to be able to get decent ones of them. Beautiful dawn shots over the water too. 🙂

    • It’s a lovely place, especially if you can get out on the water. The dam isn’t that large – it’s less than an hour in a canoe from the campsite to the dam – but the landscape is gorgeous and the birdlife lovely – many more LBBs than I usually see at home. I was pleased with the snake pics. The tiger snake was completely indifferent to our presence – we kept well clear, but it had its own mission and very little interest in us either way. Thanks so much for reading, Jane!

  3. Lovely post and great pics! Sounds like a terrific spot. I would really like to know if wb scrubwrens are actually stern, or do they just get a bad rap for having facial feathers like that? And what is it with that little white fleck under each eye? We had the pleasure of watching an azure and a sacred kingfisher together while paddling the marvellous Esk river in northern NSW a couple of weeks ago. Sublime…

    • Ooo, very jealous of your kingfisher experiences. I bet you have some beautiful paintings! I *think* I have seen a sacred kingfisher here, last winter – but it was just a green flash! The Esk looks lovely – I must try to get there sometime. We are planning a trip north soon but I don’t think we will get quite that far… Thanks for reading!

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