Monday, June 13, 2011

Willandra and the Plains Wanderer.

The Willandra Plains, Me, my truck and a sunset.. Photo Susanna Cotter
Willandra June 2011

Hi to all. My children suggested we return to Willandra, to light a candle and say goodbye to Jim in our own way, to bring closure to a remarkable friends life.

Willandra is home to the Plains Wanderer, a lovely small bird that looks like a quail but with yellow legs. It was great to see and rare. It requires very specific terrain to survive. The herbage must be sparce enough for it to wander. the soil must be red, and the height of the herbage must be high enough to provide shelter but not too high. Jim explained a few weeks ago that its unlikly we would see it. I also saw Spotted Bowerbird, again a great bird to see, that we did not see last time.

Plains Wanderer. Note the long yellow legs.

I not only enjoy the wildlife, but also its pastoral history. The park is about one eigth the size of the original station, and contains the original 1920's shearing 1/4s, the restored homestead and 1950s shearing 1/4s.

This weekend we stayed in the managers cottage which is small, comfortable and clean. The nights were cold , crisp and clear and the days were bright and sunny with a cold breeze from the south. At night we had a roaring log fire and played guitar.

The Restored Homestead, palm trees, tennis court and water views

With my new binoculars I recorded more than 50 species including the trip there and back, there are more but I do not have the exeprience yet to identify them. Duirng the day I walked and drove the tracks. At night David and I went looking for owls and wandered the shearing sheds, (thats interesting in the dark!! Let me tell you).
The park is looking healthy thanks to the rain and the salt bush is certanly in better contition than whats on the working Willandra Station which you have to drive about 30km through the staion to get to the national park. Cattle do a lot of damage.

Here is what I wrote in May:-

Willandra April 2011

Willandra sunset. ( photo Dr Jim Fowler)

Some posts ago I talked about Willandra. We have visited the park three times. It is a park of National significance as it was the home of some of Australias finest Marino Sheep. It was with pleasure that I took my mate, Jim and my family to experience the shearers quarters, and the grand homestead.

Dave Fishing. (photo Dr Jim Fowler)

Situated west of Hillston and east of Ivanhoe, Willandra is home to a wide variety of birds, mammals, and reptiles. With all the rain we have had the Willandra creek was full and home to a variety of fish too. The nice thing about this park is- you can stay in the shearers 1/4's or stay in the managers 1/4's or, ( if you prefer), use the camping grounds. Wood is provided and the amenities are clean and functional. The roads in are "dry weather" roads only and whilst the road will take an average sedan, there are rocks and corrugations that would test it. A four wheels drive is recommended. Once a centermetre of rain has fallen.. you must wait for the roads to dry.. or you will have to pay for the repairs!

The office.

A self guided tour of the grand homestead is recommended as too is use of the BBQ near the tennis court and grape vine. It is truly remarkable to cook and look at the beautiful surroundings whilst relaxing on the Buffalo grass lawn. In walking through the rooms of the homestead, with some of the furniture and photos still hanging, it was not hard to feel that the owners were still present. built in the shape of a 'U" the centre has a magnificent rose garden, cellar and the kitchen, whilst being under the same roof was away from the rest of the house so as to avoid the cooking smells. The womens lodgings was also at the other end- So as to avoid any runcible behaviour from the traveling wool buyers!

1920s Shearers 1/4s

About a km back along the main dirt road is the shearing shed and the early shearers quarters. It is easy to compare the conditions of the 1920's with the 1950's as both quarters remain. The boys did it tough as too the ladies in the kitchens.

Beautiful Galahs

A drive tour is also recommended taking you along the creek, and through the grasslands where, if you are lucky you will see a Plains Wanderer (we did not). Magnificent kangaroos, birds of prey, and sunsets are all on offer.

Western Red Kangaroo

This is an opportunity not to be missed, and one all of us will never forget.

Bird list ( please note this includes birds on the drive to and from Willandra):- Australian Pelican, Wedge tailed Eagle, Sulphur crested cockatoo, Galah, Australian Magpie, Pee Wee, White Winged coughs, Apostle Bird, Willy Wagtail, Grey fantail, White faced Heron, Australian Wood Duck, Pacific Black Duck, Plains Wanderer, Black Shouldered Kite, Black Kite, Whistling Kite, Spotted Harrier, Sacred Kingfisher, Barn Owl, Australasian Grebe, Mallie Ringneck, Red-rumped Parrot, Black faced Cuckoo-shrike, Red capped Robin, Superb Fairy Wren, Brown Thornbill, Rufus Whistler, Yellow Throated Miner, Richards Pipit, Little Eagle, Crested Pigeon, Blue Bonnet, Hard Head, White Necked Heron, Welcome Swallow, Swamp Harrier,Grey Butcherbird, Pied Butcherbird, Straw-necked Ibis, Pied Cormorant, Spotted Bowerbird, Silvereye, Australian Rave, Little Raven, Little Corella, White Ibis, Eastern Rosella, White Headed Pigeon, House sparrow, Red Wattlebird, Common Starling, Black native Hens, Yellow Tailed Cockatoos, Laughing Kookaburra, Owlet Nightjar