Date: Sunday, October 12, 2014

Project: Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey

Observer: Richard Kingsford

6am out of Rocky in a cab and its driver who had not been to bed. On the way down to Band 8, we passed over the Mt Morgan mine, closed in 1981, but the ‘blue-green’ pools of the Dee River remain a toxic legacy. Their waters highly acidic from the copper waste that few animals survive. First on the list for survey – a dam for the Callide coal-fired power station, home to pelican and cormorants.

Photo 1. The Callide Reservoir supplies water for the nearby coal-fired power station.

Beef cattle country rolls past as we head west, interrupted by the odd coal mine. Where thirty years ago when we began this survey, there was a hint of a mine, there is now a mighty north south gash in the land. Near Rolleston, another large coal mine has appeared in the last few years. Only scattered dams provide waterbird habitat around here but most are only half full.

Video – Small dams in our path between large wetlands are also surveyed with coal mine in the background

We refuel at Springsure, where the refueler insisted we needed hot pies and sausage rolls.

Photo 2. The NSW National Parks and Wildlife Cessna 206, our great survey plane, refuelling at Springsure

The temperature continues to rise quickly as we head over the Great Dividing Range into the Lake Eyre Basin to the west.

Photo 3. Over the Great Dividing Range once again

Our first western river, the Barcoo River, has a few waterholes with water but nowhere else hospitable for waterbirds. Here dry creek beds criss cross the sandy river beds.

Photo 4. Dry creek beds, showing the floodplain on one of the tributaries of the Barcoo River

And so it is the story until we meet the Thomson River which we follow into Windorah after it is joined by the Barcoo River to become Cooper Creek. There are no lakes in this part of the survey and so unless there are floods, the water is gone quickly downstream.

Photo 5. A waterhole on Cooper Creek, near Windorah

Map of Aerial Survey, Sunday the 12th of October