Random Adventure #3 – Dry Ground, Gales and the Great Crested Grebe! Lake Bindegolly, QLD

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 …*

Strike One.

Lake Bindegolly = 1

Red & Pilchard = 0

So when we passed Lake Bindegolly en route to Thargomindah from Bowra Sanctuary in June 2011, we couldn’t believe our luck!


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!

Strike Two.

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!!

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  1. @NJAMB – Well, they say virtual travel is the next best thing!! But why not plan an ACTUAL visit?!?! Tempting, isn’t it??!!

  2. If it defeated you twice, it says a lot that the Great Crested Grebes had the strength to windstand the wind and the weather! 🙂

  3. @Pearl Maple – It’s my pleasure to share my stories, and my pleasure to read yours!
    @SaucyKodz – yeah, but what’s the temperature??
    @Kalyan – Welcome and thanx!! Come back any time – there’s plenty more to explore …
    @Beach Bum – HHHMMmmm… sneak into the country, huh? Does that mean you’re a criminal, or just a subversive??!! Trust me, you don’t want to be an illegal immigrant here!!!
    @Andrew – Thanx!! Come back any time for more of the same (all egotism aside) …
    @Rae – Yeah … but somehow not a skill I thought we’d need in the middle of nowhere in an empty car park!!!

  4. @Marshall Stacks – You’re too kind … no, really!! Thanx and hope your weekend has been wonderful!!
    @Mrs K – Don’t let the spiders stop you – I haven’t seen one in … HHHMMMmmm… about 2 minutes!! Haha, only kidding, it’s EASY to keep away from them!!
    @Floating Clouds – Welcome, and thanx! The virtual tour with me is the next best thing!!
    @PDP – Yeah … you’re right!! It’s just GOT to be better the 3rd time round …
    @Alessandra – You’re right about the 10 canoes being Australian, but it was shot in the Northern Territory. But a lake’s a lake, right?!

  5. Winter’ is the term we Aussies use to describe our (generally) snowless cold season with (generally) temperatures above 0º C.

    Sounds like a winner to me. For some reason I can easily see myself living on the coast of Western Australia when I retire, if I can find someway to sneak into the country.

  6. Great post!
    Thanks for sharing your fabulous collection of stories and photos for your adventures and thanks for your kind comments on my blog

  7. You know you’re going back for a third attack Red, there’s no way you’re going to let a Lake called ‘Bindegolly’ get the better of you, come on!!

  8. Wow Great Pics!!!It looks amazing! Stopping by from the Bloghop!I always wanted to go to Australia but Im a little bit scared of spiders:D

  9. @magsx2 – I’m not so sure I could acclimatise to -40 temperatures, but I guess I don’t need to!
    @Towanda – I wish I’d taken photos of our 1st visit – it’d be interesting to see if it still looked similar to your valley! Not yet sure when the 3rd time will be …
    @Veronica – yes, the thought of ‘real’ winter fills me with horror … as does the thought of another 17 point turn!! Thanx for visiting again!
    @Andrew – That’s the charitable explanation!
    @Windsmoke – I guess it’s difficult to take a long term view when we only have written records for the last ~200 or so years!
    @Diane – This is one of my few successful bird pix! Glad you liked Mocka’s – I’m as jealous as hell …

  10. @diane b – an unbelieveable contrast between visits #1 and #2! If we’d been a couple of months later, we’d have seen the babies on their mothers’ backs!!
    @SaucyKods – ah, forests. We have ‘the bush’ or ‘the rainforest’ – I’ll always remember the Canadian calendar photos of forests/lakes we had when I was young!! But heat?? At what temperature do you don your shorts??!!
    @BaliRing – Me too!! Thanx for dropping by!!
    @River – Hahaha! I should have thought of that – but too busy getting warm/feeling indignant in the car!!!

  11. The markings on the crested glebe are spectacular – and so good to see them in their natural habitat.
    I went to Mocka’s Bakery in Port Douglas and our group ordered a variety of different pies – Yay!! fantastic – my fav was the mushroom pie – Yummo!!!

  12. Bonza photos and ditto what Andrew said. Its amazing what mother nature can provide at the right time its got nothing to do with climate change or global warming :-).

  13. I had a clear vision of the 17 point turn in my head!! Thank goodness we do not suffer at the hands of winter they way they do in other parts of the world, I clearly will be terribly bad at snow shovling etc! Sigh.. loving your birdie pics and your tale of travel…


  14. Hi,
    Really nice photo’s, and it is good to see all that water out there.
    Being a Queenslander I of course feel the cold, which some of my o/seas friends still can’t get over. If the temp goes below 20 degrees Celsius. I have to put on some sort of coat/jumper. LOL.
    I think it all comes down to what your body is used too. 🙂

  15. Well, here in Atlantic Canada in June it rained for approx 3 weeks – no floods this time. Jackets I wore and then we went right into a major heat wave for 3 weeks – tanks n shorts – now it is September and the days are warm, still shorts and tanks and evenings after 8 require light jacket. Loved your Bindegolly info and loved the photos –
    Leaves on trees are just starting to turn colour this past week and looking forward to our Fall Foliage of brilliant mix of colour against our green forests – n trust me girl, we have FORESTS. Take care Red n Happy Trails.

  16. Well June is the middle of winter and it can get cold in Qld, believe it or not but then what we call cold and what Canadians call cold are different. Great shote of the Grebes and it must have been interesting to see the lake in its different clothes.

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