We’d been in Mallee country for several days and not had even a glimpse of a Mallee Fowl. We were keen to see one, especially as we are familiar with both the other megapodes in Australia and were curious as to their similarities.
Mt Crozier camp-ground was our choice for a 5 day stay, it is quite a few kilometres into the park along a sandy track but well worth the drive. We had several days totally on our own, it was very peaceful, no road noise at all but there was some distant air traffic so we were not really isolated! There are some good walks in this park as well as several long, overnight hikes for which we are not equipped and not particularly keen, physically or mentally. The Mallee vegetation and birds provided plenty of interest for us and on our first driving excursion further afield we did indeed see a pair of Mallee Fowl. They crossed the road quite quickly and once in the low vegetation their attractively patterned feathers provided an excellent camouflage as they moved away. Our second sighting occurred just as we had passed by a sign informing us of the Mallee Fowl and its life cycle. The bird walked across the road just a short distance in front of us then froze in position on the very edge – not a good survival tactic against vehicles! It did, however, give us a wonderful photo opportunity so we thanked the bird and wished it well.
Everywhere we walked we were conscious of a variety of ant hills – in this dry, sandy environment ants take over from worms as the great recyclers of materials. I was fascinated by the many different varieties of ant as well as by their constructions. The top photo shows some ‘ant apartments’ or strata title residences and the lower one a small suburb built around a shrub.
And getting back to the birds: amongst one mixed group of blossom feeders we came across a party of Miners on a windy afternoon, presumed they were Yellow-throated Miners without looking carefully, as the wind was increasing in strength and it was very cold. Allen thought about it overnight as there were several features that, on reflection, didn’t seem quite right. So the next morning we drove back to the same area and there, feeding on the same tree was a group of Black-eared Miners. We carefully checked each feature and they conformed in every way. A week later we arrived in Gluepot and discovered that some of the Gluepot Black-eared Miner population had been translocated to Murray-Sunset National Park as a safety measure in case of wildfire causing major damage to this threatened species. No photos of the BeM as we were too far away and they move fast.
This tiny Liliaceae caught my attention, a solitary plant growing in the sand. I later found large areas of it growing amongst other grasses and low herbs. It goes by the delightful name of Early Nancy which flows more easily than its botanical nomenclature Wurmbea dioica.
It is a challenge to pick out one or two highlights when we had so many wonderful experiences here so I’ll finish off with some colour. The parrots in this part of the country are an absolute delight. The Mallee Ringneck has probably been our most frequent parrot sighting during this trip but we never tire of them.
And we still reach for the binoculars to enjoy any sighting of the gorgeous, multi-coloured Mulga parrot. This male was patiently sitting about waiting for his mate to emerge from a nesting hole nearby.
Even when he turned his back he was still gorgeous!