I have been so busy this month that I nearly didn’t manage a field visit, but with today being the last day of the month, the weather being nice, and my having no hugely urgent work that desperately needed to be done today, I decided to take a day off and go for a walk/drive out bush somewhere.
I further decided that ‘somewhere’ would be MIA1 – a former state forest reserve that is now part of the Murrumbidgee Valley National Park, and is located between Narrandera and Leeton. MIA1 is one of the sadly numerous reserves in the Riverina that I have spent my life driving past, but never actually visiting. I fixed that today.
Today was the Annual Koala Count in Narrandera. I have been every year for the last several years, except when it’s been called off because of rain or flooding, and as I did last year, I decided the Count could be April’s official field visit.
This month I visited another precinct of the Murrumbidgee Valley National Park: Berry Jerry.
Berry Jerry is located along the Sturt Highway between Wagga Wagga and Narrandera, and like many of the reserves in the area is predominantly River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) woodland, with a creek passing through it that feeds into the Murrumbidgee River. There’s a highway rest stop with toilet facilities located just outside the entrance, so it’s a good spot for a day trip. You can park in the rest area or drive into the reserve itself.
My year got off to an exciting start when I was contacted by someone from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage (OEH) asking me if I’d like to visit one of their environmental watering project sites with some field officers doing a wetlands health survey. Naturally I said yes, and so last Tuesday I headed to Yarradda lagoon (within the Yarrada precinct of the Murrumbidgee Valley National Park) near Darlington Point with four field officers: two from OEH and two from Charles Sturt University (CSU).
I believe I have previously mentioned that this has been an unusually wet year – well it’s gotten wetter. All the creeks across the region are over-top, as is the river in several places, and there is so much standing water in paddocks just from rainfall that it’s impossible to tell if you’re looking at flooding from a waterway or not.
I was tempted to just drive around and take photos of all the water everywhere for this month’s field trip, but in the end I decided to head to Narrandera Common, so you can compare this month’s photos with ones I’ve taken there on previous visits.
With both Bundidgerry Creek and the Murrumbidgee River to contend with, Narrandera Common currently looks like this:
In my first attempt to keep my promise to you and myself to try and get out more in June – and to celebrate the end of the work assignment that kept me chained to my desk every waking moment of the past two weeks – I headed back to Narrandera Common yesterday for a walk along the canal bank.
I’m not counting this as an official monthly field visit, because I did one to Narrandera Common in February, so the official June Field Visit is yet to come. Maybe count this as in lieu of April or May – especially as I had intended to visit Narrandera Common in April, for the annual koala count, which unfortunately got rained out and cancelled, and I did see some koalas yesterday (scroll down for pics).
Instead of walking through the interior of the woodland, as I did in February, I decided to walk along the canal bank this time. The Main Canal comes off of Lake Talbot at Narrandera, right next to the Common/Wildlife Reserve, and goes on to feed the Murrumbidgee and Coleambally Irrigation Areas downstream. There is a lovely broad, flat walking path along the edge of the canal for several kilometres, from the gate into the Common down to the Rocky Waterholes Footbridge. This is a very popular place for walkers as it’s a lovely easy grade and you can set your own pace, there’s no vehicular access except occasionally for maintenance (or emergency) vehicles, and you have the great experience of walking along with river red gum woodland on one side, and the canal and Lake Talbot on the other. This gives a great cross-section of bush birds and waterbirds in one place, with a high probability of seeing a koala or several, and the rather lower but not impossible chance of coming across a turtle or water-rat. Something went very loudly ‘splosh’ right behind me yesterday as I was looking at birds in the trees, and I’m disappointed that I didn’t get to see what it was. The bank is also raised higher than the floodplain the trees grow in, so you’re at lower-branch level for many trees, which brings a lot of the more arboreal wildlife closer and easier to see.
I seem to be developing a habit of posting each month’s field trip report on the very last day of the month. Knowing what my calendar looks like for March, I suspect next month will be the same. Here’s hoping I manage to be a bit more timely with my posts after March.
Ironically, I actually did my February field visit at the start of the month but decided not to post it so soon after January’s report, then didn’t get the chance to post about it until now.
As I mentioned in a previous post, I visited Narrandera Wetlands for World Wetlands Day. After finishing at the wetlands, I decided to spend the rest of the day exploring some of the other ecosystems Narrandera boasts. Narrandera is interesting to visit, because the town itself is situated in the middle of several very different ecosystems. Within a few minutes drive, or a fairly easy hike if you’re a keen walker, you can find an ephemeral wetland, a permanent lake, remnant Inland Grey Box and Yellow Box grassy woodland, riparian River Red Gum woodland, and hillside scrub dominated by Acacia species and Cypress Pine.