As the weather warms and the year moves on there are signs that the bush around us is waking from its season of waiting.
The beautiful yellow flower of the kapok that was so evident a few weeks ago is drying off and the tree will be soon setting seed.
Many Katherine region plants are deciduous once the wet season rains fade.
The stunning Cochlospermum fraserii, or Yellow Kapok is no exception. In the wet season this unremarkable little tree is covered in large, soft green leaves, blending in well with the tall grasses that usually surround it
When it sets seed, this is a sign to us that the freshwater crocodiles in Nitmiluk National Park have laid their eggs at night in holes dug in the sandy banks near the river.
These expectant mums aren’t as protective of their nests as the saltwater crocodile but will normally remain nearby for the almost 80 days that it will take for the eggs to hatch.
During this time the eggs are vulnerable to unseasonal flooding as they are so close to the water’s edge.
They also regularly fall victim to the hungry mouths of goannas and pigs.
Experts suggest that more than 80 per cent of nests can be destroyed this way each year.
Luckily the sand banks that fringe the river within Nitmiluk National Park are protected from the predations of feral pigs.
Our Park Rangers protect the nests further by asking swimmers, hikers and canoeists to stay away from these steeply sloping beaches as any compaction of the sand above the nest can kill the eggs.
Once the rains fall and the river rises again the mother crocodile will move over the nesting area.
The vibrations that this causes stimulates the hatchlings to call out to her letting her know that it is time to open the nest so that the babies can make their way out into the world.
These littlest members of our crocodile family will be making their way off into the big wide world until they reach around 11 to 17 years of age. This is when they too will be nest building and laying eggs while the kapok seeds grow.
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