Day 19, Goolwa to Sydney
Observer: Richard Kingsford
Home run today, via the lower River Murray between Berri and Mildura. We left the Murray Mouth and the Coorong behind and headed for our second counts up on the lower River Murray. Great day for flying with little wind and no heat.
The Murray Mouth and Lake Alexandrina in the overcast morning light.
These counts up the River Murray were repeats of the wetlands which we surveyed along this part of the river on Thursday. We started on the River Murray near Berri, which was peaceful in the morning light, where houseboats hugged the banks of the river and green irrigation fields stretched out behind the houses with their water views. Not much on the river for waterbirds – just a few pelicans and cormorants.
Surveying the River Murray near the South Australian town of Berri.
The lower River Murray near Berri
We continued to survey mostly along the river, between locks, recording the pelicans, darters, cormorants, mountain duck, black ducks and wood ducks. They were only in small flocks of up to ten waterbirds. We then went and did the evaporation basin again, where the water was salty and there were thousands of waterbirds, mostly red-necked avocets, pink-eared ducks and grey teal.
Wetland used as a salt evaporation basin attracted thousands of waterbirds.
Today’s flight was pretty simple, duck north and south of the river to pick up the odd billabong where there were usually a few more pelicans, cormorants and mountain duck, but otherwise stay on the river between the locks.
Surveying over Lock 6, near Loxton
Houseboats parked on the River Murray, near Loxton
Past Loxton, we headed north on one of the distributary creeks which feeds the Chowilla floodplain. This is now extensively modified with an active weir system which can shunt water up into the northern part of this floodplain, no longer possible naturally because the floods so seldom get over the banks because of diversions upstream for irrigation. This system allows environmental water to be managed into a series of lakes.
Distributary creek system used to manage environmental flows onto the Chowilla floodplain
The side of the bridge and environmental flows management system for the Chowilla floodplain.
From here, we headed east to Wentworth, surveying along the River Murray, until Lock 10 where we finished the survey and then made our way to Mildura to refuel.
Surveying the River Murray just west of Wentworth
Skiers on the River Murray at Wentworth
We left Mildura and headed back to Sydney. After refuelling, we headed for Sydney, past the Lower Murrumbidgee floodplain, the Nimmie-Caira system, with the environmental flow going into Telephone Bank, while further west, Tala Lake stood out on an otherwise dry Lowbidgee floodplain with Yanga Lake further to the south.
Tala Lake on the Lower Murrumbidgee floodplain
Environmental flows make their way into the Nimmie-Caira system.