Everthing is Relative …

I’ve just spent a couple of days in Victoria’s deserts.  The Big Desert covers about 1500 square km so compared to the Sahara (9.2 million square km) it’s not all that big at all. But it is bigger than the Little Desert. Neither of our deserts are devoid of vegetation but they are sandy and rainfall is not overly generous. To their north is another similar area – the Sunset Country.

The dunefield that covers most of these three areas came from South Australia courtesy of the prevailing westerly wind during the ice ages. Conditions were much drier back then. Collectively the dunefield is known as the Lowan Sands. And even the Sahara can only boast about 138,00 square km of actual dunefield.

the Lowan Sands.

First stop was the south-east corner of the Big Desert along the Netting Fence and Chinaman Well tracks.

The area is rich in pioneer archeology. In 1885 the Netting Fence was constructed to keep the Dingo out of the  sheep and wheat growing areas to the south and to keep the rabbits from spreading further north. The grandfather of one of my favorite co-workers was a dogger back in the day. The fence helped to keep down recruitment of dogs from the desert replacing those shot on the agricultural land. It did little to slow the spread of the rabbit.

Bores and windmills provided water for the sheep and cattle that were herded through the desert. The remains can be found, mostly scattered across the ground but there is one in quite good condition along the Chinaman Well Track.

I also found three old ploughs, lying around like skeletons, with the vegetation growing up between their ribs.

 

Whether they represent failed attempts to cultivate the area or whether it was a handy spot for the locals to dump old ploughs I don’t know.

In any case the pioneers did it pretty tough out here, it’s a long walk to anywhere especially over soft sand.

I revisited the windmill at 2 am and was lucky enough to get a short break in the clouds.

 

Another Day in the Desert …

The south west of Victoria has a reasonable rainfall and fertile volcanic soils. Imaginatively named the Western District it is a rich agricultural area. Moving north rainfall diminishes and temperature increases. To the north of the Western District Victoria has its deserts. The sand was donated by South Australia during past ice ages brought by the  prevailing westerly winds.  These deposits are known as the Lowan sands. The Big Desert is in the middle, to the north is the Sunset Country, to the south the Little Desert. They are dry, they are hot in summer but they are all quite well vegetated.  Too well vegetated to be real deserts.

BigDesertLocale

I thought the Big Desert would be a good place to try out the new FJ Cruiser on the sand. Here it is with my trusty Pod Camper on the edge of the desert.

Desert Edge

The next day was a hot one. Birds were fairly scarce except for a patch where the Mallee Eucalypts were just bursting with blossom. I took a seat close by and photographed the incoming flock. The White-fronted Honeyeaters came in good numbers …

White-fronted Honeyeater

WFHand the ubiquitous Galah posed nicely …

Galah

I had to work a little harder for this one …

Shy Heathwren

This is the Shy Heathwren, Hylacola cauta. There is another species in the same genus, the Chestnut Rumped Heathwren, that is even harder to find. It has been said that the Chestnut-rumped Heathwren makes the Shy Heathwren look like a social butterfly.

A rewarding day, day’s end brought yet another treasure …

B D Sunset