The dry season in the Australian tropics starts after the monsoon or wet season, generally from mid-May onwards and can last into January if the wet is late. But any time from October, which is known as the build-up season, storm clouds may gather. This picture shows what the dry looks like when the country is in drought-like mode.
Within days after the north-west monsoon starts, the drought-like conditions of the dry are replaced by verdant grasses as the land heals and recovers. After the wet season, wildfires sweep large tracts of the north, though farmers rarely burn as they wish to protect their winter crops.
The dry season is a harsh period of no rain for months on end. The land withers under the onslaught of the sun. Cattle and wildlife seek shady places and only in the evening do they head to water before feeding at night on the sparse grasses. Stocklick and other substance foods are provided by farmers to help break down the dry grasses in their cows’ stomachs.
Bushfires, many deliberately lit by traditional owners as controlled burn-offs, cover the tropics in the dry season. Ripe grasses burn away and both wildlife and stock retreat to drying billabongs and pools. Black kites and whistling hawks work the fires in front and catch insects, reptiles, birds and rodents as they flee. Both species are known to carry ‘fire sticks’ across the tracks, roads and streams to try to restart the fires. Black kites are also known as ‘firehawks’ in the Top End.