Echuca and District Branch of BOCA's mallee safari ~ part 4 of 4
After a few nights at Eremophila Park, the 15 of us travelled via Waikerie
(and its highway bakery) to spend two nights at Stockyard Plains, off the
Sturt Highway19km south-west of Waikerie.
Stockyard Plains is a 1,870ha reserve which features a 500ha lake of saline
ground-water extracted from beneath a 50km stretch of the Murray River and
piped to the site at a rate of 340 litres per second. Much of the water
evaporates from the lake and some seeps into the ground. Surrounding the
wetland are open saltbush plains and mallee bushland.
Needless to say a variety of water birds make use of the wetland. The
saltbush and mallee supports good numbers of inland bush birds.
Campers and visitors are required to collect a key (and pay a deposit for
same) from a government office in Waikerie before assessing the reserve. We
received our deposit back less $5 so the camping fee worked out to about 20
When we arrived, we were unsure as to which of three camp sites to say at.
I checked out one of the sites. Before I managed to check out the
facilities, I was surrounded by a large mob of inquisitive emus, all the
time reporting to the others via UHF radio. They thought I was exaggerating
as i am sometimes prone to do. As the site seemed okay apart from the emus,
the the others decided to come to this camp site and they too had to fend
off emus as they tried to set up tents/vans and eat lunch. I saw one
participant using a bread board to fend off an emu from her lunch but it
was all to little avail. There was no need to wave a handkerchief over
one's head to attract them.
It was very windy that day and we saw very few birds. We thought the birder
who had recommended this place, Dick Wellington, must have been here in
But at least there was a shower at our camp ground and the water, which
came via a poly pipe lying on the ground, was very hot.
Next morning dawned and the wind had abated. The lake and its shallow edges
were smothered with hundreds of ducks and water birds. Dick was right: this
is a g ret birding spot even though the vibes were not as good as they were
at Gluepot (one participant said that she wouldn't want to camp here
It was interesting to observe a small number of Avocets and Banded Stilts
feeding together. Thanks to Geoff who was first to observe that the stilts
were Banded rather than Pied: the rest of us had not paid them much
We observed 73 species at Stockyard Plains including:
Pink-eared (Zebra) Duck
Great Black Cormorant
Spotted Nightjar (heard)
Owlet Nightjar (heard)
Spotted Pardalote (mallee form)
plus the more-common birds like magpies, fantails, ravens &c.
Since we started our safari in the Victorian mallee, he bird count at the
end of our visit here stood at 147. Most of us went on to attend the BOCA
Easter Camp on private property alongside Wyperfeld National Park whilst
one couple went on to Mungo National Park to attend a Birds Australia
At and close to Wyperfeld, the now larger group observed over 100 species.
A highlight there was driving on 4WD tracks up to a very dry Pine Plains to
visit Susan O'Sullivan who is a friend of Jon's. There were about 17 of us
there that day (including four or five of Susan's eight children and other
relatives). Much time was spent recalling a marathon horse race which
several of those present had participated in some years ago. The race
started at Wentworth and passed through Pine Plains on its way south. The
O'Sullivans have long been associated with Pine Plains but lost most of
their grazing land when a 99-year lease expired and the land was absorbed
into Wyperfeld National Park.
Susan's partner told us that the population of Lowan (Mallee Fowl) in the
area has fallen dramatically over the past few years because of the rising
numbers of foxes. Rabbit numbers have fallen so foxes are eating Lowan and
other native animals. The fact that some rangers have left and not yet been
replaced has not helped (the positions have been advertised but cannot be
Some of the 103 or so species sighted by group members at Wyperfeld
included Black Falcon (by a few participants but not by any of us who had
been on the tagalong); Peaceful Dove; Regent, Australian Ringneck and Mulga
Parrot; Splendid Fairy Wren; Spotted and Striated Pardalote; Brown,
Chestnut-rumped and Inland Thornbill; 15 species of Honeyeater (including
White-fronted, Purple-gaped, Brown-headed, Yellow-plumed, Singing and
White-eared); Jacky Winter; Red-capped and Hooded Robin; Varied Sittella;
White-backed Swallow, and Tree Martin.
Most of us left for home on the Wednesday following Easter.
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