After a merry chase around Sydney to pick up our new radio receiver the first crew of the April 2014 trip headed out in wet conditions. The rain only lasted for a day and soon enough we were driving under the familiar sunny blue skies. Most areas seemed to have enjoyed at least enough showers to keep the kangaroos from the roads. Arriving at Ethabuka we didn’t see much greening, however the flies apparently had found enough water to breed some extra offspring. On the way in we checked Pulchera water hole which turned out to have filled up into lake-like proportions and was teeming with birds. Continue reading
In what proved to be an auspicious start to the February 2014 trip, the rain began to pour down as we reached the foothills of the Blue Mountains. It kept raining as we passed the western slopes of the mountains and out onto the plains. By Nyngan, where we stopped for dinner, we were out of the worst of it, but there had been just enough to fill some puddles beside the road. This provided the opportunity for the first of many opportunistic frog observations of the trip, with several species calling from the roadside about 50 km towards Bourke (Litoria rubella, L. caerulea, L. peronii, L. latopalmata, Uperoleia rugosa, Limnodynastes dumerilii). Continue reading
As one might imagine, it is pretty hot in the Simpson Desert in summer. The typical day begins with a glow in the east and thirsty flies at 5:30 when it’s about 25° C, then the temperature begins to climb as soon as the sun does. By midday it’s already 40° C and it just stays hot. In fact, it doesn’t start to cool below that point until about 6 pm, an hour before sunset. Bedtime is before 10 pm, when the mercury still registers something like 33° C. The temperature in the shade got up to 43° on our hottest day, and venturing out of the shade one is met not just by the intense rays from above, but also a blast of radiant heat coming off the iron-rich sand.
One of the great things about visiting and re-visiting the Simpson Desert is the variability of the region. Every trip is truly different. Some animals are just naturally present in small numbers or have a patchy distribution and are only occasionally seen on certain grids or localities; some plants only crop up once every few years, and the desert always has another surprise in store.
A heat-wave on top of a dry year set the scene for the trip. The small flush of greenery and flowering that was present on our July trip following May rain had dried and withered away to crisps that crunched underfoot. The lack of summer rain and the ensuing shortage of grass seed signified bad news for rodents and other seed eaters. Compared with trips conducted in winter, however, we were hoping for a good showing from the reptiles.