South Australia has many salt lakes and quite a problem with farmland salinity. But along the road from Adelaide to Melbourne is a lake that’s not blindingly white and is an asset rather than a liability. In my photo you’ll see only a faint tinge of pink in the surface of this lake at Dimboola in the Wimmera country but at other times of the year the pink tinge is more intense. The coloration is caused by an algae that manages to live in salt water and which produces beta carotene. The salt, unlike most table salts, is rich in mineral traces which come from the lake’s underground sources. These natural minerals include calcium, magnesium, phosphorous, sulphur, iron, manganese, zinc and copper. The salt has been harvested since 1912 but until recently was mostly for industrial use. Now a partnership between Olive growers at Mt Zero and the local indigenous land owners, the Barengi Gadjin Land Council, sees a smaller harvest, but one which is aimed at a higher value market as a boutique table salt. My photo was made as a panorama stitch…which explains why we have gravity-defying powerlines in the foreground! Oops.
ON THE ROAD — All down the east coast of Australia and around the south west corner of Western Australia the New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novaehollandiae) is a common sight in gardens and the bush. It may be commonly seen but it is a striking bird with its scimitar beak, white eye-ring and the brilliant flash of yellow on the wings.
ON THE ROAD — Two different Orb-weaving spiders (family Araneidae) from South Australia. One shows red sections on leg segments, something typical of some groups of Orb Weavers. Sorry no species ID today — The revision of Australian orb-weavers lists 268 species in 39 genera and the informed estimate in Volker et al’s Guide to the Spiders of Australia is 500 species in 60 genera. Worldwide there are 3030 species known in 169 genera.
ON THE ROAD — Early morning at Ngarkat National Park in eastern South Australia and a pair of White-Backed Australian Magpies (Cracticus tibicen hypoleuca) are tutoring their offspring in the songs of their people.
ON THE ROAD — The core elements of this stone cottage on the Fleurieu Peninsular were constructed about 150 years ago. The thick stone walls keep the building cool in summer and warm in winter. Just when the stylish copper wind vane was added to the chimney remains a mystery. The cottage is about 90 minutes drive from Adelaide and only a short drive from the ferry that connects Kangaroo Island to the mainland.
ON THE ROAD — The Singing Honeyeater (Lichenostomus virescens) has a range that covers most of the Australian continent. But it’s not found in my home range at the Top End of the Northern Territory. We met this handsome specimen in the Arid Lands Botanic Gardens, Port Augusta.
ON THE ROAD — X marks the spot as commercial aircraft con trails cross above the Arid Lands Botanic Garden at Port Augusta. Later that day the temperature hit 44 degrees centigrade.
ON THE ROAD — Big trees and a little camper. We took delivery of our tear drop camper in Adelaide and yesterday we stopped for lunch at Poocher Swamp just out of Bordertown, near the South Australian/Victorian state borders. The trees are Red River Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) and these are the dominant species at the swamp. These are not the biggest of their species at Poocher. One appeared in a news report in 1966 as measuring 10.5m in circumference and another was said to have a diameter at breast height (DBH) of 3.34m. The hydrology of Poocher Swamp is unusual and signs warn of the dangers of “runaway holes”. After good seasons Tatiara Creek quickly refills Poocher swamp and when it reaches a sufficient level it starts to flow quickly underground down these “runaway holes” which deliver surface water to aquifers. Some holes are permanent, but others can appear at random. When the flow is too much for these to absorb, outflow from the swamp goes downstream to Scown’s Runaway Hole. In floods in 1981 this hole was taking in water at a rate of 4,500 litres per hour.
ON THE ROAD — We met the male Golden Whistler (Pachycephela pectoralis) in low scrub outside Tintinara and two days later saw the female of the species on a sandy ridge in Ngarkat National Park.
ON THE ROAD — on the way from Adelaide to Melbourne we took a little detour to visit the Ngarkat National Park which sits on the South Australian/Victoria border. Very few plants were in flower — we’d missed the nectar laden stems of the yakka grass tree and Banksia ornata was just coming into flower. We did see this white-eared honeyeater (Lichenostomus leucatis) waiting for better times. The flowering cones of Banksia ornata are a major food source for the two species of pigmy possums to be found at Ngarkat.