The six seasons
Kakadu's Aboriginal owners recognise six different seasons. There are subtle variations that signal the transition from one season to another—changes in the weather, which plants are in flower, and which bush foods are abundant. This knowledge of nature is fundamental to the culture of Kakadu and its people. Bininj/Mungguy have lived with the changing landscape for tens of thousands of years, adapting and using the land for food, shelter and general well-being.
Gudjewg can be described as the 'true' wet season and lasts from December to March. With average temperatures between 24-34°C, it is a time of electrifying thunderstorms, heavy rain and flooding, and vivid green landscapes.
The heat and humidity generate an explosion of plant and animal life. Spear grass grows to over two metres tall and creates a silvery-green hue throughout the woodlands. Magpie geese nest in the sedgelands. Flooding may cause goannas, snakes and rats to seek refuge in the trees. Eggs and stranded animals are a good food source for Bininj/Mungguy during this time.
Banggerreng, in April, is the season when the rain clouds have dispersed and clear skies prevail. Average temperatures are between 23-34°C and the vast expanses of floodwater recede and streams start to run clear.
Most plants are fruiting and animals are caring for their young. Violent, windy storms early in this season flatten the spear grass—they are called 'knock 'em down' storms.
Yegge, from May to mid-June, is relatively cool (between 21-33°C) with low humidity. Early morning mists hang low over the plains and waterholes.
The shallow wetlands and billabongs are carpeted with water lilies. Drying winds and flowering Darwin woolly butt tell Bininj/Mungguy that it is time to start burning the woodlands in patches to 'clean the country' and encourage new growth for grazing animals.
Wurrgeng, from mid-June to mid-August, is the 'cold weather' time. The humidity is low, daytime temperatures are around 30°C and night-time temperatures are around 17°C. During this period, most creeks stop flowing and the floodplains quickly dry out.
Burning continues, extinguished by the dew at night. By day, birds of prey patrol the fire lines as insects and small animals try to escape the flames. Magpie geese, fat and heavy after weeks of abundant food, and a myriad of other waterbirds crowd the shrinking billabongs.
Gurrung, from mid-August to mid-October, is hot and dry in Kakadu with temperatures between 23-37°C. It is still 'goose time' but also time for Bininj/Mungguy to hunt file snakes and long-necked turtles.
Sea turtles lay their eggs on the sandy beaches of Field Island and West Alligator Head and goannas rob their nests sometimes. White-breasted wood swallows arrive as thunderclouds build, signalling the return of Gunumeleng.
Gunumeleng is Kakadu’s pre-monsoon season. It occurs between mid-October and late December and can last from a few weeks to several months.
The floodplains and billabongs slowly replenish, as thunderstorms build in the afternoons and showers begin to bring green to the dry land. Waterbirds spread out as surface water and new growth become more widespread.
Barramundi move from the waterholes downstream to the estuaries to breed. This was when Kakadu's Aboriginal owners, Bininj/Mungguy, moved camp from the floodplains to the stone country, to shelter from the violent storms of the coming wet season.
Thunderstorms build in the afternoons and showers bring green to the dry land. As the streams begin to run, acidic water that washes from the floodplains can cause fish to die in billabongs with low oxygen levels. Waterbirds spread out as surface water and new growth become more widespread. Barramundi move from the waterholes downstream to the estuaries to breed. This was when Bininj/Mungguy moved camp from the floodplains to the stone country, to shelter from the violent storms of the coming wet season.