The connection of seasons
by Di Lucas, Land for Wildlife member and local author
It is Yegge, the seasonal name given to this time of year, by the Gun’djehmi speaking Aboriginal people of Kakadu and Western Arnhem Land. It is the time of year when the climate starts to cool down, the humidity should drop soon and the nights will be noticeably cooler. Wattles bloom, filling the air with a thick blossom scent. Unfortunately for some people wattles bring sneezles! I’m not one of those people, I like to peer into the flowers to see what insects visit and then I take deep breaths to pick up the strong scent of these flowers. It seems to be a time of celebration in the woodlands. With sprays of yellow flowers from various wattle species, Kapok flowers – ‘andjed’ (Cochlospermum fraseri); orange flowers of the Grevillea pteridifolia – ‘andjandjek’, Eucalyptus miniata – ‘andjalen’; pink flowering shrubs of Turkey bush – ‘anbandar’ (Calytrix exstipulata), ‘angodjmong-mong’ Gomphrena canescens (papery daisy shrubs). The woodlands are in song with the calls of many birds and insects. If you happen to camp around these trees you are in for a treat. The bees are working hard collecting nectar to make honey and birds and bats are busy gathering nectar and insects from the flowers.
The spear grass fuel loads are getting burnt, which makes way for new growth as well as leaving an important feeding ground for animals and birds. Goannas, Bandicoots, Kites, Falcons, Night birds, Bustards find victims of the fires, whilst Black Cockatoos feed on spear grass seeds and fruits now the grass has been burnt.
Near the floodplains, early morning or late afternoon one often hears then sees a large flock of Sulphur crested Corellas, cackling amongst themselves and almost greeting everything they fly across.
There is still plenty of water on the floodplains but as the dry winds blow the water begins to recede. At the edges, delicate yellow lilies and the white fringed lilies reappear. The larger waterliles ( Nymphaea species) are also in bloom, over the next couple of months they flower on mass across the floodplains and billabongs, a wondrous sight and scent to be experienced.
Brilliant sunsets depart the day across the floodplains now the dry season fires are with us. In Kakadu the Yellow-water boat cruises allow you to experience this, or just standing at the boat ramp and floodplain viewing platforms at Yellow-waters or Fogg Dam and Darwin beaches, anywhere really, the sunsets are beautiful!
The migratory birds have moved on. The Magpie geese have young babes, as do the Partridge pigeon (red eye pigeons). Wedge-tailed Eagles are ready to breed.
If you are out walking in Woodland country, or just around your block, look out for Billy goat plums (Terminalia ferdinandiana) they still have lots of nice fruits to collect off the ground.
During Yegge treat yourself to some walks in the bush to see what is going on; smell the waterlilies across the floodplains and billabongs; Catch some fish; Watch the birds eating nectar, you could even dip your face into a low flowering Grevillea flower and lick the honey nectar to see why the birds go crazy for this food, I think it is delicious.
For more details about birds and animals of this season, look at Ian Morris’s book, “Kakadu”, Yegge section pages 77-99, and Diane Lucas’s book. ‘Walking with the Seasons in Kakadu’