Date: Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Project: Eastern Australian Waterbird Survey

Observers: Richard Kingsford

We had a fairly short day flying along part of Band 6 which eventually goes out to Lake Eyre. Our inspection of satellite images, flow records and rainfall showed that everything west of the Bulloo River was dry. This included Strzelecki Creek, Cooper Creek lakes on the Birdsville Track and Lake Eyre. Out of Cunnamulla, there were lots of small canegrass, blackbox and coolibah swamps, as well as claypans that fill with more than 24mm of rain. Not today. Only one of the many had a little bit of water in it. Apart from that, there was only one dam filled by a bore drain which we counted, and it had a handful of waterbirds, including a migratory shorebird and some grey teal.

Dam filled by a bore drain UNSW

From there, we flew along the sinuous western Bulloo River, a very picturesque inland river stretching for tens of kilometres along our survey band. So we surveyed it for about 20 minutes. There were long stretches of water interspersed with dry patches. I don’t think I have ever seen this river with less water. Underlining this, you could see large algal green patches on the water and a few dead cattle in the water. The waterbirds were few, just the odd Pacific heron and black duck.

Surveying along the Bulloo River UNSW

I always look forward to surveying the lakes at the end of the Bulloo River. This is another of those great rivers that eventually dumps all its water into a large lake – Bulloo Lake. It is a very special place which hums with waterbirds when there is water, as there were a couple of years ago when pelicans, ibis and herons bred in their hundreds. There were only a couple of tiny patches of water today but it was a thrill to see so many brolgas, about a couple of hundred, in one place, among about fifty other waterbirds.

Brolgas on a small flooded area on Bulloo Lake UNSW
A dry Bulloo Lake UNSW

From here we headed to overnight near Tibooburra where we had to refuel using drums.

Refueling the plane at Tibooburra UNSW