Aerial Survey, 16th November 2014

Thankfully Saturday’s heat was gone but there was a howling southwesterly wind, just what we didn’t really want going west. First we ‘mopped up’ surveying a couple of small wetland areas around the Gwydir before we headed west for the Paroo. In a wet year, we would have surveyed Narran Lake and Yantabulla Swamp but they were both dry. We chugged along about 100 knots across the Culgoa and Warrego Rivers.

Our destination was Currawinya Lakes on the Paroo River. These magnificent wetlands within Currawinya Lakes are one of my favourite system of wetlands in Australia. It’s not just because they often have more than 100,000 waterbirds but they are so different. There is a freshwater lake, Lake Numalla, and a salt lake, Lake Wyara, side by side but with quite different ecologies.

Starting our survey on Lake Numalla

Lake Wyara was bone dry and Lake Numalla was drying back considerably from last year, perhaps only 70-80% of its full area.

Water on Lake Numalla was confined the middle of the lake, with the margins dry on both sides

There were relatively few birds on Lake Numalla which surprised me. I thought with so little water around, they would have really clumped on this lake. There were possibly only a few thousand compared to the tens of thousands in 2013 on this lake.

Surveying up one of the arms on Lake Numalla

There were still plenty of cormorants on the lake and probably more than a thousand grey teal but even the diversity was not particularly high for one of the most important and diverse lakes in Australia.

Grey teal and pied stilts were feeding along the margins of Lake Numalla

We refuelled in Bourke and headed southeast to do ten transects across the Macquarie Marshes. This massive wetland probably stretches over about 80 km, north to south, and 20 km wide. We have now established 11 ‘transects’ east west across the Macquarie Marshes.

Most of the reed bed areas in the northern part of the Macquarie Marshes were dry with a few channels with environmental flow

Much of the northern part of the Marshes had very little water but as we got further south we started to pick up the tell tale sign of the environmental flow and how much it makes a difference.

Flooding in the southern part of the Macquarie Marshes with environmental flows

There were ducks, egret and herons clustered around the water which was making its way north. As the flood creeps across the dry landscape it triggers the hatching of hundreds of thousands of invertebrates and germinates plants which drive the whole food web. The waterbirds, fish, turtles and frogs come in because they food sources are so rich.

Sun catching the environmental flow creeping across the Macquarie Marshes

Read about Day 1, Sydney to Maroochydore on the 7th of October 2014

Read about Day 2, Maroochydore to Airlie Beach on the 8th of October 2014

Read about Day 3, Airlie Beach to Mt Isa on the 9th of October 2014

Read about Day 4, Mt Isa to Rockhampton on the 10th of October 2014

Read about Day 5, Rockhampton to Windorah on the 12th of October 2014

Read about Day 6, Windorah to Quilpie on the 13th of October 2014

Read about Day 7, Quilpie to St George on the 14th of October 2014

Read about Day 8, St George to Broken Hill on the 15th of October 2014

Read about Day 9, Broken Hill to Armidale on the 16th of October 2014

Read about Day 10, Armidale to Sydney on the 17th of October 2014

Read about Day 17, Sydney to Mildura on the 5th of November 2014

Read about Day 18, Mildura to Goolwa on the 6th of November 2014

Read about Day 19, The Lower Lakes on the 7th of November 2014

Read about Day 21, Sydney to Moree on the 15th of November 2014

Read about Day 22, Moree to Dubbo on the 16th of November 2014

Read about Day 23, Dubbo to Griffith on the 17th of November 2014

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