|Lake Bindegolly – FULL!|
Way back in the dim, distant past – if just over 2 years ago counts – under the hot and pitiless Aussie Outback sun, 2 lonely figures trudged numbly across the vast, alien landscape of a waterless plain. Lake Bindegolly appeared to have been dry for some time, except for a general impression of water gleaming in the middle distance. But that could have been a mirage …
Far above the lake’s edge – and several kilometres from the ‘water’ – a bird hide nestled into the tree line. Who could blame the water birds for being far, far away from this sweltering salt pan? Despite the absence of water, Pilchard and I were walking the 9.2 km lake circuit track to give any lost or misplaced water birds a fighting chance to be spotted. Hot and thirsty, I was ruing the cardinal rule – ‘do it now, for we may not pass this way again’ – that had impelled us to take the walk.
|Great Crested Grebe Nesting at Lake Bindegolly|
This was no time to regret our failure to check with the locals at Thargomindah, 40km to the west. If we ‘d asked the right questions beforehand, we’d have discovered that 2009 was apparently the first time in living memory the lake had completely dried out! So yes, that ‘water’ in the distance probably WAS a mirage!! But anything that remotely resembled a water bird was clearly a complete fabrication …*
Lake Bindegolly = 1
Red & Pilchard = 0
And not just full, FULL!! So full, in fact, the overflow on the other side of the road was also full. And Lake Bindegolly, part of a chain of lakes that form the Lake Bindegolly National Park is no small body of water. Covering much of the Park’s 14,000 hectares, it takes some filling – and the birds had returned with a vengeance. Easily visible from the road, thousands of Great Crested Grebe were nesting.
|Lake Bindegolly Landscape|
As we headed down the road to Thargomindah, we agreed on one thing. After we’d done the mountain of washing we’d accumulated at Bowra, we’d give the lake – and the birds – another chance!
It couldn’t possibly be as bad as our first experience, could it? COULD IT??
The next day dawned. Not merely perfect, but the archetype against which all Outback winter days should be measured. Clear. Blue Sky. Sunny. Warm – but not hot.
In retrospect, possibly a little TOO good a day to spend washing, but the clothing situation was getting critical!
The following day also dawned with what appeared to be unmistakeable signs of perfection. We hastily packed essentials into the car. Camera, binoculars. Lunch, water. Hat, sunscreen, jacket – just in case – and headed east to Lake Bindegolly.
|Great Crested Grebe|
Where we stood agape at the splendid panorama – endless blue water, endless blue sky, and more Great Crested Grebe than we thought existed!! Like attending a masterclass in Great Crested Grebe behaviour**, we watched fascinated as they cavorted on the water around us, swimming, hunting, fighting, building nests, hatching eggs, playing dead when they spotted us.
A slight chill breeze skimmed across the water.
‘Just going back for my jacket,’ I called to Pilchard. ‘Then we’ll walk the track!’
But by the time I returned from the car, the breeze had become a stiff wind. And by the time we’d reached the trail head, the wind had become a gale – strong and cold***. So strong I could hardly stand upright as it knifed through clothing suddenly inappropriate. And so cold, I could barely stutter ‘let’s go back to the car’ though my chattering teeth. Thankfully, Pilchard’s assent was non-verbal or I might not have been able to hear it through my numb ears.
Staggering back to the warm sanctuary of the car through the howling wind wasn’t quite how we thought the day would pan out. But Lake Bindegolly wasn’t finished with us yet …
|One of many Great Crested Grebe nests – Lake Bindegolly|
Unable to manage parking in one of the many empty spots in this spacious car park, the only other tourist for miles had parked directly behind us. Whether s/he intended to box us in is unknown – but it’s possible s/he didn’t figure on Pilchard’s precision driving skills – the 17 point turn with which he extricated us was a thing of beauty …
The wind chased us all the way back to Thargomindah, then blew itself out over the next 15 hours or so. The next day dawned not just perfect, but archetypally perfect …
Of course it did!
Lake Bindegolly = 2
Red & Pilchard = 0
With what fresh hell will the lake greet us if we should again venture into western Queensland’s Outback for Strike 3?
|Yet another Great Crested Grebe!|
Don’t know. But I can’t wait to find out! Do you think it’ll be 3rd time lucky??!!
*Sadly, there’s no photographic evidence of this unhappy episode.
**Actually, this is a bare-faced lie. How would I know what attending a masterclass was like? Let alone one on Grebe behaviour – if there even is such a thing!! But it sounds good, right?!
***Yes, northern hemisphere readers, well may you laugh. ‘Winter’ is the term we Aussies use to describe our (generally) snowless cold season with (generally) temperatures above 0º C. But indulge me, and bear in mind that other than the type of light jacket you’d wear in your ‘hot’ season, we were dressed in summer clothes!!