Re-visiting some great spots: Old Police Station Waterhole, not near anywhere, mid east Northern Territory

Egret, GreatSince none of us are going anywhere, I thought it would be a good opportunity to re-visit some geat spots I have been fortunate to get to, and sort out my photos from that trip in the process.

In July 2016, on an extended 4WD drive trip around Western Australia and the Northern Territory, with great friends who also knew their way around, and knew vital things like how to swear at a flat tyre to get it to stay up for 100km to the nearest town. where was I, oh yes, one great spot we went to was the Old Police Station Waterhole, which can loosely be said to be in Davenport, Northern Territory – sort of 260 km south-east of Tennant Creek off the Stuart Highway, and some other road-like structures.

IMG_6343 (2)

On the way-ish we went to a place you all know, namely Frews Ponds. Apart from gaining fame for being half way between the Daly’s River pub and Newcastle Waters, and not actually being recognised by Google Maps, it is the site of the 1872 stupendous feat of joining the telegraph line between Darwin and Adelaide, and hence Great Britain.

Telegraph join Frews PondsTelegraph 2

Also in the area are some great roadhouses, frequented by road trains that take longer to pass (they are passing you) than it now took to get a dot-dash-dot message to the mother country. roadtrain

Also nearby, in the very loose sense of that word, is the furthest north that John McDougall Stuart got in 1860; presumably he took the highway named after himself.stuart

On the way, the rare river lands contained lots of great birds, such as Brolgas and Straw-necked Ibis.

But once at the Old Police Station Waterhole, just us and a couple way down there somewhere, it proved an absolute treasure, not just because it was the first spot in weeks where you could turn your back to the water and not be taken by a giant croc!.

Old Police Station Waterhole

IMG_6457 (2)

What looked like a fairly young Whistling Kite landed in the tree right in front of us and proceeded to devour an unfortunate Golden Orb Spider, which as you see was big enough to contain a red pigmented internal organ.

Kite, WhistlingKite, Whistling2Kite, Whistling3Kite, Whistling4Kite, Whistling5Kite, Whistling6Kite, Whistling7Kite, Whistling8Kite, Whistling9

A valuable learning to distinguish Whistling Kites from Black Kites is that a Whistling Kite has a whole tail, and the Black Kite has a bit missing (ie it is concave).

Kite, Whistling taii

Both Great and Intermediate Egrets abounded (another thing I have learned is that all Egrets are Herons, but not all Herons are Egrets). The first are Great Egrets, identifiable by the slight extension of the eye piece to behind the eye:

Egret, Great2Egret, Great

and then this is an Intermediate Egret, pictured with a Royal Spoonbill:

Egret, Intermediate, and Royal Spoonbill

There were also plenty of Australasian Darters, known colloquially as Snake Birds, with the first picture showing why. The second picture is of a Little Black Cormorant (left) and a Darter.Snake Bird (Darter)Darter, Australasian m, juvDarter, Australasian

Some White-naped Honeyeaters were frolicking, with the reason for one being particularly keen on a wash evident at the end of the second sequence:

Honeyeater, White-naped bathingHoneyeater, White-naped bathing2HOney-eater, White-naped bathing3Honeyeater, White-naped bathing 5

It was a remarkable area, with massive sandstone boulders, some split so clinically it would make the Incas proud:

And there were plenty of asses (some might cruelly say, other asses):


Other birds to feature were white-necked Heron (breeding plumage is the claret shaded stuff):

Heron, white-necked br

magpie-geese (perhaps interbred with domestic geese) :

Goose, Magpie cross

Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrikes, followed by black faced woodswallows:

Woodswallow, Black-faced

Lots of Zebra-Finch (probably Australia’s number one avian export):

Little Corella and Rainbow Bee-eaters:

and then finally, the cunning little smugglers, the budgies (First the female with a pinkish cere – the little area above the beak, then the male, with a blue cere):

Budgerigar m adult


What a wonderful spot. Thanks to my expert friends.


Michael Monaghan

This edition: April 2020

One thought on “Re-visiting some great spots: Old Police Station Waterhole, not near anywhere, mid east Northern Territory

  1. Hi Michael,

    What a wonderful trip. It is certainly on our bucket list. You have got some really nice pictures, especially of the young Whistling Kite. It looked to be eating a large Golden Orb Spider, which obviously had some red pigmented internal organ, that looked like blood on the kite’s beak. The second picture of a darter featured a Little Black Cormorant (not a juvenile darter). And I think the budgerigar was a female (had a pinkish cere rather than a blue cere which is present in the male). I also think that your first pictures of Masked Woodswallows are actually of a Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike – note how the black head graduates to a grey chest and then a white belly (no white facial crescent). The Masked Woodswallow has a black head and then a completely white underbelly (there is no grey border on the breast and the white extends onto the head as a crescent around the margin of the black mask). Also the bill is silver/grey tipped with black. The second picture is as you say, of a pair of Black-faced Woodswallows, and you can see the distinctive tail patterning quite clearly. But some great photos!


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