We had a great time hanging on the block at Humpty Doo, birding from the patio, examining spiders, listening to curlews wail after dark, strolling around the property and generally adhering to the principle of steady steady. We took an evening walk to the Billabong hoping to spot some wildlife having one last drink for the evening. Raowl, a Thai Korat, happily joined us. We didn’t manage to spot any wildlife at the water, but did spot wallaby tracks, evidence of a recent visit, and later on in the night, we caught a possum munching some stale corn chips.
We also took a closer look at magnetic termite mounds, which are always built on a north-south axis. There are two species of termite (Armiteres) that build magnetic mounds. Curiously, Amitermes laurensis build magnetic mounds on Cape York Peninsula and eastern Arnhem Land, but build simple conical mounds further south. Amitermes meridionalis is the species found near Darwin in the Northern Territory. It is thought that these species of termites construct mounds with this orientation to protect the colony from the hot tropical sun. Other species of termites retreat below ground into cool underground systems of tunnels when temperatures in the mound are high. But, in the Northern Territory, the highest temperatures coincide with the wet season, and these mounds are typically found in terrain that remains flooded during the wet, making it impossible for the termites to retreat underground. They can however, retreat to the side of the mound opposite of where the sun is shining and maintain temperature balance. I couldn’t find anything on potential climate change effects on these critters, but they provide some interesting food for thought as temperatures rise in southern Arizona.
We took a break from home and the bush to travel into Darwin and enjoy the Mindil Beach Sunset Markets with Shay and Mark. The ocean was a beautiful sight, and the temperatures were perfect, but don’t be fooled–it’s not such a good place to swim. There are multiple species of jellyfish found in these waters, the most notorious of which is the box jellyfish (Chironex fleckeri) also known as the Indo-Pacific Sea Wasp and said to be the most venomous creature in the world. Their smaller counterparts, collectively known as Irikandji (Carukia sp), also pack a frightful punch, with untreated stings producing such symptoms as lower back pain, muscle cramps, vomiting, fluid in the lungs, hypertension and heart failure.
We were visiting just after prime stinger season, which runs from early August to late June in Darwin, but were informed that doesn’t guarantee anything, and given all the mixed up seasonality caused by climate change, we weren’t taking any chances. We stayed on land and enjoyed some delicious Sri Lankan pumpkin dahl, lamb curry, prawn satay, and Malaysian jackfruit curry (YUM!) and strolled on the path above the beach.
We couldn’t resist a bit of birding along the way because even city parks and the developed beachfront host some exciting bird life when all the local birds are new to you. We got good looks at double-barred finches, magpie-larks, masked lapwings, and caught a possum eyeing our snacks in broad daylight on the veranda at the Museum and Art Gallery of the Northern Territory.
Mindil Beach is famous for its sunsets, and we were not disappointed.
We also had a great time enjoying the high energy didgeridoo fusion of our gracious host in Humpty-Doo, Marc Hoffman, and his partner Lukas Bendal, who together form the band eMDee. Their music blends modern technology with one of the most powerful and ancient traditional instruments on the planet. eMDee has been a fixture at the Mindil Markets for 17 years, and it’s not hard to understand why after watching them play.
We’re very grateful to Mark and his partner Shay for their music and hospitality during our stay in the Northern Territory. With their help, we saw and did things that very few tourists would ever happen upon.