Kakadu sees seasons of varied extremes. So varied, in fact, that the park's longtime Aboriginal inhabitants have divided the year into six distinct seasons.
Gunumeleng (Mid-October - December)
The pre-monsoon season of hot weather which becomes more and more humid.Along creeks, the air is heavy with the scent of blossoming paperbark trees, which in the evenings attract colonies of feeding fruit bats. Thunderstorms build in the afternoons and scattered showers bring a tinge of green to the dry earth. As the streams begin to run, 'old water' washes into the permanent billabongs from stagnating pools, causing localised fish kills. Waterbirds disperse as surface water and new growth becomes more widespread. Barramundi move out of the waterholes, and downstream to the estuaries.
Gudjeuk (January - March)
The time of violent thunderstorms, heavy rain, and flooding. 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 among the sedgelands. Flooding may cause goannas, snakes and possums to seek refuge in the trees.
Most plants are fruiting and animals are caring for their young. Expanses of water recede and streams run clear. Violent windy storms flatten the 2 metres high spear grass; hence the name knock 'em down season.
Early morning mists hang low over the plains and waterholes. The shallow wetlands and billabongs are carpeted with waterlilies. Drying winds signal it is time to commence burning the bush in patches to 'clean' the country and to encourage new growth for grazing animals. Early season fires are insurance against destructive fires in the hotter months.
The wooly butt Eucalyptus Miniata begins to flower and when flowering ceases by early August, fewer fires are lit.
Wurrgeng (June - July)
The 'cold weather' time with low humidity, daytime temperatures are around of 30°C and night-time temperatures are as low as 17°C. Creeks cease to flow and floodplains quickly dry out. Magpie Geese, fat and heavy after weeks of abundant food, crowd the diminishing billabongs with a myriad other water birds. Burning continues, dampened by the dew at night. By day the birds of prey patrol the firelines as insects and other small animals escape the flames.
Gurrung (August - Mid October)
Windless and hot the land seemingly lays dormant. It is still 'goose time' but also a time to hunt file snakes and long-necked turtles. Sea turtles lay their eggs on the sandy beach of Field Island and West Alligator Head where goannas rob the occasional nest. White-breasted Woodswallows arrive as thunderheads build again with the return of Gunumeleng.