From Deniliquin we crossed the border back into Victoria and on to Murray-Sunset National Park. Not far from Manangatang we pulled up along the Mallee Highway after spotting a flock of waders in a water filled salt lake beside the road. After walking back about 200 metres, we got a better look at them through our binos and found a new bird for us both, about 20 Banded Stilts. One of the easiest lifers I've ever picked up!
These were a mix of immature or non-breeding adults (white breast) and breeding adults (chestnut breast band). The population of this distinct endemic would hopefully have increased after the good inland rainfall in recent years.
We set up our van at the Lake Crosbie campground alongside the largest of the Pink Lakes in the Murray-Sunset National Park. The lakes get their amazing colour from the red algae in the salt beds under the clear water.
One of the more common species around the camp were small flocks of Yellow-throated Miners that were nowhere near as rambunctious as their east cost cousins, the Noisy Miners.
These pigeons were playing follow the leader on a dead branch.
And these inquisitive kangaroos didn't mind hanging around for a photo opportunity
We managed a couple of walks around the lakes and through the mallee scrub along some well defined tracks, stumbling across a pair of Mallee Emu-Wrens on one trek, feeding in the triodia (spinifex) grass prevalent in the area. This gorgeous little bird is a range restricted, vulnerable species and an unexpected lifer. We knew they were in the National Park but didn't rate our chances because of their rarity. No pictures unfortunately but I have added a link here: http://bird.net.au/bird/index.php?title=Mallee_Emu-wren with superb images and info on this amazing little bird. A couple of Striated Grass-wrens were also a first for us, spotted from the car along Pioneer Drive, a maintained road that takes you past all four lakes.
Another fairly common but multi-hued bird was the Mallee Ringneck, a form (or sub-species) of the Australian Ringneck that also occurs as three other geographic forms across the inland.
This member of the colourful Psephotus genus (which includes the extinct Paradise Parrot) was alive and well and feeding contentedly on the fruit of a low growing shrub beside our campsite. I think it's one of the most beautiful parrots in our "land of of parrots", but I have yet to clap eyes on some of the rarer and equally stunning members of the family Psittacidae in Australia.
One gentleman wrote a fascinating account of his encounter with the mythical Paradise Parrot ninety years ago and the link here: http://www.bundabergbirdobservers.org/site/2012/02/paradise-parrot-photography/ is well worth a read.
|Mulga Parrot - male|
|Sunset over Murray-Sunset|
The lakes were utilized for commercial salt harvesting between 1916 and 1979. The remnants of this era can still be found rusting away beneath azure skies.
|Red algae in salt crystals|
|Old salt stockpile|
This most colourful member of the woodswallow family was making the most of the plentiful supply of flying insects in the hot, dry weather. They also have brush-like tongues for feeding on blossom nectar and are apparently one of the few passerines that soar in flight.
I forgot to mention the superb night skies.