New Territories

Christmas Eve at the billabong just south of Camooweal, QLD was really quite nice; I got to sit in my ‘office’ to edit photos and work on an excel spreadsheet for a bit. Everyone loves excel!

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Once the sun was down enough not to threaten my precious skin, I went for another walk along the water’s edge, which was especially nice given that no one else was there!

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Whistling kite in the shallows
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Moonrise over the billabong south of Camooweal (a nudist site actually)

So my last morning in QLD was very enjoyable, I cooked up a nice [Christmas] breakfast before packing up my things and getting ready for the short drive to the Northern Territories, where I managed to get a cliché photo to commemorate my border crossing….

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#NTAustralia. Yep the whole territory is hash-tagged!

 

Anyway, I was greeted with a 130km/hr speed limit which I fulfilled a couple of times just for the hell of it, but mostly stayed between 110 and 120km/hr! Unfortunately the fan in the front of the van has died (thankfully not the back) so the air-con isn’t going great…

Regardless, having no bees in the back to take photos of, I was on the hunt, and the flowering shrubs on the edge of the highway seemed like a good place to start!

However, I was only able to find a single species along a few hundred kilometers of highway [and later Alice Springs]! Although that little bee seemed to be buzz pollinating, which is quite cool! …Buzz pollinating is when a bee grabs onto a flower then vibrates (buzzes) at a certain frequency to get the pollen to come out of the flower. Not all bees are capable of it – European honeybees for example cannot do it, but bumblebees can!

What else struck me was how the landscape barely changed at all. Whereas when I was traveling through QLD it was always different; today’s drive has been through an almost homogenous landscape. Mostly what seems to change is the last time that it was burned!

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The left hand side has been burned much more recently than the right hand side of the road

 

While it looks like not much is happening in this burned landscape…

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Little bits of green start to show through the cracked, red earth

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I sometimes feel like there is so much straight road that our eyes cannot be bothered rendering it, and so just display it as part of the sky…. Damn brain setting the graphics too low 😉 An oncoming truck can look twice the size with its reflection in the mirage. Quite an awesome sight!

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Mirage and car on the horizon

Near the end of my days drive I still had only found the one damn species of bee! Though I did see a nice big flowering tree on the side of the road, and decided to turn around and go back to have a look! When I turned the car off, I could immediately hear a buzzing, which was promising. I could also see what looked like little specks moving outside… I wondered if it was dust, pollen, flies or maybe bees… the last I though very unlikely as I’d only seen natives swarm once before on the top of Mt. Warning. A few swipes of my net later and I knew the answer!

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Part of the swarm!
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A little closer…
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A little closer again… ~3mm long

Thousands and thousands of these little yellow native bees! The tree also had quite a few species on it! Of course I can only reach the lowest branches (the low hanging fruit perhaps), but there are only so many photos that I can take in a night while still getting some sleep! So I collected 7-8 species and headed to camp, which was only three hours drive north of Alice Springs!

After two days in Alice Springs I haven’t really done much… A couple of days off and some sight-seeing it is. First day I met a friendly Belgian who I hung out with and saw some sights with the first day and morning after. Next day I met with a friend from Byron, Justin. I had a great lunch, and then watched the new Star Wars with him and his partner in the evening. Such a good film! But now I feel the tug of my restless feet (and net)! Tomorrow I am back on the hunt… I also have more stacking to do, as always…

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Tree growing on the dry riverbed near Simpson’s Gap
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Dead tree [no longer] growing on a random bit of dry creek
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View from a rise just to the West of Alice Springs

So I left for Darwin after a brief search for bees in Alice. Along a dry riverbed I found one new species and another that I already had, and in a small gum tree I found another six, so I had plenty to photograph for that night!

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Small flowers on the dry riverbed where I found two bee species
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Now to Darwin!
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From the get go I was greeted with wet weather on my drive north
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Wet desert

This continued past Threeways and into the night and next morning

By morning, the creeks were running, which I imagine must be something of a rarity in these parts, but great to see as I pass through!

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An old road is submerged by the creek water
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Trees up to their trunks in floodwater

All was going well until now, in Eliot, NT. I’m stuck with 300km of closed highway north. Although an afternoon to catch up on some editing, writing and excelling is not so bad!

Until next time

James

 

Editor: Dana Miller

 

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