Woke this morning to find that the rain hadn't left the ground too soggy so we headed down the road to Hattah-Kulkyne National Park. The park protects 48,000 hectares of Mallee vegetation and is home to some rare birds, hence the main reason for our visit.
We began with a quick walk near Lake Hattah, where we spotted pelicans, a darter, emus, Red Kangaroos and Western Grey Kangaroos within the first ten minutes. Next we headed north up an unsealed, yet gravel, road to Lake Mournpall, one in a series of interconnected shallow lakes and swamps which are protected by the Ramsar Convention as internationally significant wetlands.
The lakes have a feeling of mystery about them because they are obscured from view by a ring of Red River Gums that grow out of the lake a few metres in from the shore.
From here we headed west along the Konardin Track, a red sand road that cuts through spinifex habitat. We stopped along here to search for our main target of the day Mallee Emu-wren. These birds are tiny little skulkers with even tinier little voices, and we spent an hour or so searching the spinifex hoping to hear their calls. And as if they are not hard enough to find it was also a bit windy which pretty much made finding them impossible. As always happens, the moment you give up the birds appear. On my way back to the car I caught a glimpse of a little bird disappearing into a spinifex clump. It stayed pretty much hidden but I snapped a few photos, pretty dodgy ones but good enough to confirm the sighting. Not the view we would've liked but it still counts.
Continuing on through the sand hills to the Nowingi Track we stopped at another patch of suitable wren habitat. Again we faced the same obstacles, and while we didn't find any emu-wrens we did get a quick view of Striated Grasswren, another of our target species.
We headed back to Lake Hattah for a picnic lunch and then drove out to Lake Bulla for a look, spotting lots of Yellow Rosellas on the way.
At Warepil Lookout we scaled the hill and then the tower for 360-degree views of Mallee scrub as far as the eye can see.
Originally, we had planned to stay in the park until after dark, hoping we might see Malleefowl or a nightjar but when we arrived we found out the park was closing at sunset, so we amended our plans and headed back up to Nowingi for one last go at the wrens. No luck but we might try again in the morning.
Back along the highway we had a quick stop at Red Cliffs to look at Big Lizzie, a massive tractor designed by Frank Bottrill. It was built in Melbourne in 1915 and was meant to cart wool from Broken Hill but they couldn't get it across the Murray River so it ended up being used to cart wheat in the Mildura area. Random.
Back in Mildura we checked out Kings Billabong, a pretty spot which is home to lots of birds like swans, cormorants and pelicans. We stayed until dusk and then drove back to town through all the vineyards at sunset. The vineyards surround the whole town and it's cool to see how agriculture and lifestyle are so interwoven here.
Not sure what the plan is for tomorrow, head south I guess.