The Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists‘ website has a page on Pulletop Nature Reserve, that says, amongst other things, not to try to get there when the roads are wet.
There’s a reason for that advice. I wrote it. I should know.
But did that stop me last Sunday? The picture tells the story … so there’s not really much more that I should add.
It was a very cold day, as you can tell by the clouds, and it took over an hour to get out. That mud is really slippery and these ‘all wheel drive’ cars are not as good as I would have hoped in these circumstances.
It doesn’t rain very often in Griffith these days, but it doesn’t take long for the unsealed roads to become unusable. Check out the conditions before you travel, and get out of the car and have a look at the puddles before you try driving through them!!
I think I still have traces of mud between my toes and my clothes are stained. We’ll laugh in weeks to come.
Doing a Google search on Stackpoole State Forest is not the most rewarding research task I have ever undertaken.
I mean, I know where it is, but I thought that I would check up to see what the landowners think of it. You know, find the Plan of Management, find a map, find some history for the site. But no, nothing. A brief mention in the NSW Government Gazette from this year about the reserve being open to shooting game animals, but that is all.
But there is evidence, on the ground, of logging and perhaps milling and certainly evidence of grazing. None of this has happened for some time, and the land has had a chance to go on growing old in its own time.
Mixed woodlands like this one are becoming so much more rare with clearing pressures for agricultural lands. The mixture of old growth mallee, cypress, melaleuca and Bimble Box makes an enchanting little forest. All the usual suspects for mixed woodland birds are present, and following on from rain, the flora is magnificent.
There are no facilities there. And perhaps it is illegal to camp, but the urge to do so was too strong. So we did. The quiet stillness of the autumn night was wonderful. No night birds unfortunately, but we cant have it all.
If you are in the area, check out Stackpoole. 25 km north east of Goolgowi (which is 50kms north of Griffith NSW). You’ll be pleased that you did.
Not really within our realm, but of much interest anyway. With a long weekend and perfect weather what else would you do but go bush?
The Tilpa to Tongo road was open with water still flowing over it. And they are the exact conditions we were looking for. The bird life was amazing. We camped by the eastern edge of the channels, and the morning chorus was magnificent.
I cant begin to list all the birds. Just know that when the conditions are right, it is the place to be. We were also lucky with the weather. All our photos show glorious clouds. They did not rain on us, but there was evidence everywhere that we had not long missed the passing showers. Some of the roads would be impassable with much rain.
Peery Lake was full to the brim. The bird life was far less there than anywhere else on the weekend. But I guess that the birds want to wait until the water is receeding, exposing mud flats before they congregate in their large numbers. The day use area of Peery Lakes is the most exposed and uninviting place I’ve seen for some time. And there was nowhere else to camp. At least at night, with all the big lights out, it was beautiful.
If you get a chance, get out back in western NSW and take the time to see what water does to the arid inland.
What a journey the creation of the brochure has been. 18 months from initial idea to fruitition. There are always stops and starts in the development of any project, and projects for community groups staffed with volunteers are amongst the most difficult to complete. One of our main concerns was that we were duplicating effort by the regional tourism people. But their brochure still seems to be ‘in the works’.
It is so good to see ours finished and out there.
We had a version of the brochure for a while. It was an A3 page, double sided and photocopied when the boss was away. It was a prototype of the now published document.
For real commitment to quality, we needed to have it printed in full colour and have lots of them the hand around. The funding for the project has come from the collection and sale of seeds.
You can download a copy from our website (although there are no bird images on that version - copyright permission was only granted for print) or you can request it from the Griffith Visitor’s Centre. Copies will also, soon, be available from Vistior’s Centres in Leeton, Narrandera and Hay.
But its not over yet. In the works are similar publications for Narrandera and Leeton.
We’ll write about them when they are ready.
Tom Bullen is not open to the public. It no longer has any water in it to speak of. Yet a walk through, with the Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists, was one of the best of my recent experiences.
The area is an off river storage for StateWater. The inflow is off the Coleambally Canal and the water is returned to the river via a 3km creek from the south west corner.
Recent drought and lack of water has meant that the storage has not been needed. A few pelicans were hanging around with a Sea Eagle keeping and eye on them.
The really interesting thing was walking on the bed of the storage area with the water level marks on the trees above us. Just look at the photo. It was amazing.
If you ever get a chance to get into the reserve, do so.
Ah! The internet. So much information and so little time to find it all.
So you want to go on a trip, or a weekend away and combine it with some outdoors and some birdwatching. How do you know where the best places are and what to look for when you get there?
At Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists we try to provide you with some of that information for our area - Griffith, Leeton and Narrandera in NSW. The best information is shared information. You can go to as many Tourist Information Centres as you like, but without staff who are keen and interested in birds and low impact visiting, you really need word of mouth.
A site like Birdpedia is one that attempts to provide a broad coverage of reserves and good field trip locations. In order to cover the areas they want, they need your help too. If you sign up with them, you can submit your bird lists from your favourite locations and you can write the trip reports too.
A quick look at Birdpedia’s locations for our region show a lack of knowledge, so far. But at least its a start. When you come to visit the Mid Murrumbidgee Valley, or Griffith NSW, check us out first and then see what the rest have to offer.
From where I live, I can see some of the best sunsets ever. I look out over paddocks to the west with a clear view for many kilometres.
A common sight many years ago was our farmer neighbour silhouetted against the sky with his shovel over his shoulder as he checked out how his watering was going. With his death went an era in water management. And with the change in water management went the almost permanent wetlands that are Nericon and Campbell’s Swamps.
In fact, the whole of the Lake Wyangan Wetlands System has changed in the last 10 - 15 years. Situated just north of Griffith NSW, the wetlands system has no other drainage. Each waterbody contains the run off - or irrigation overflow - from the immediate vicinity. With years of drought, with less water available and with change land use, the quantity of water available for wetlands has decreased dramatically. Areas that were once almost permanently wet and available as breeding areas are now dry and defunct.
But that does not mean that the area is not worth a visit. The birds have moved on from the swamps to the lake itself as the water level in the north basin fall to its lowest levels in living memory. As the water recedes, the mudflats are exposed and are a haven for freshwater waders and even a Common Sandpiper (which turns out to be not so common after all in this area).
Have you been to Griffith NSW? Or been to the wetlands? Why not tell us what you think about them.
That’s exactly what I did on Wednesday. With no pressing deadlines and a beautiful clear day, I packed my things and set off.
Pulletop Nature Reserve is a 145 hectare reserve about 40 kilometres north of Griffith NSW. It is a remnant mallee bush block that in the 1980’s still had Mallee Fowl nesting. Time has passed, the land around the reesrve has been heavily cropped and the habitat reduced.
What is left is worth a visit. The long years of drought and a vermin eridaction plan have eliminated many of the usual pests and allowed the understorey of plants to regrow. There are kangaroos and echindas in the reserve, Gould’s goanna and other reptiles. And there are masses of birds, if you go at the right time. That, of course, is the key.
The reserve has no watercourse and is basically flat. If it rains, some water will be retained, but mostly it just drains straight through the red loamy soils. And immediately after rain, the roads into the reserve are impassable, even to four wheel drives.
But wait a few weeks for the effect of the rain to show and you will be rewarded with the wonders of the Australian bush regenerating. The grasses return, the forbs and herbs reshoot, the trees take on that wonderful, relaxed shiny green colour. The insects return, as do the birds who feed off them.
You wont find the rare to see and endangered species for which this region is known, but you will see a wide range of woodland birds.
It is worth taking a picnic and spending the time to immerse yourself in the mallee.
There are no facilites at the reserve.
The Narrandera Wetlands are a constructed project to allow the simulation of natural filters for town storm water before it reaches the Murrumbidgee River.
Situated on the western side of the Newell Highway between the river and the Main Canal, the Wetlands are a great place to stop and enjoy a break in your journey. The water birds certainly like it.
The Narrandera community have been responsible for planting the native vegetation, the walking paths and for the interpretive signs. There are more plans and more work to be done, but have a look at it now and see what can be achieved when a community cares.
We had a fabulous little walk at Ironbark Creek last Sunday. By ‘we’ I mean the Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists, of course.
I have to admit that over the years I’ve not been a fan of Cocoparra National Park. I’ve always found it to be weed infested, neglected and generally abused by users. But the years of drought, while bad for everyone in the surrounding districts, has been good to ‘the hills’. Introduced weeds have struggled to survive, and the local endemic species have been able to regain a foothold. Tenuously, of course, but at least there are the signs of a fightback.
The creek at Ironbark Creek is dry. We’ve had little rain since January. But the creek bed makes a passable substitute for a walking trail, and the gully narrows in places with some interesting rock formations and colours. A walk all the way up the creek will take you up to the top of the ridge and over, if you wish, into Jack’s Creek. We didn’t go that far. Some of us were less nimble than we’d like, so we found our way back to the picnic area.
The area is significant for its huge old Dwyer’s Mallee, as well as Stringy Bark, Bimble Box and, of course, Ironbarks. These magnificent old trees provide protection for the two storeys of vegetation below. There were Mallee Tanglevine, grey Hill Teatree, Black and White Cypress, Urnheath and Geebung. The dragonflies were out in full force as well.
If you cross the gully to the west and then climb, there is also a clear trail on the edge of the rock face that will take you to good views of the Woolshed Flat valley and then drop you off close to the road for an easier walk back. Easier, but not quicker, because it is along this road that we saw many of our bird species for the day.
Our list of birds:
Red-rumped Parrot Blue Bonnet
White-browed Babblers building a nest
Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike
White winged Chough
A great little day out. I’ll have to go again one day, soon - perhaps after some rain?