Dry as …

The drive from home in Victoria’s Goldfields to Byron Bay and back took us through the most seriously drought affected regions of south-east Australia. Ironically, whilst on our journey the first rains in a very long time reached much of the affected area. There is something inauthentic about photographing parched country under black rain clouds. On the return journey the sun came out for a while.

The dry July has exacerbated rainfall deficiencies already being seen over much of the southeast of the mainland … deficiencies have increased in severity and spread through most of New South Wales and northern Victoria (apart from the far southeast corner near the border), southern Queensland, the eastern half of South Australia in the Agricultural and east Pastoral regions and in the southwest coast of Western Australia.          Bureau of Meteorology.

Not a lot of feed for the cattle but they are nonetheless in good shape. Testament to the hard work put in by the farmers. Same goes for the sheep …

We saw plenty of trucks loaded with hay rolling in and some loaded with stock rolling out.

Both those shots are from northern NSW. Further south we got talking to a sheep/wheat farmer. This time last year there were heads on the wheat. This year the wheat is barely a third of the height. He’d also planted a paddock with oats as a fodder crop. It has no chance of reaching a height at which he could cut it. He’s turned the sheep on it to reduce the work load of hand feeding. Fortunately he doesn’t have to cart water because he has a bore on his property. He was cheerful. He’d done quite well last year and the occasional drought is a fact of life.

He’d had a heart attack and triple bypass last year. He was cheerful about that as well. The air ambulance ride to Sydney was his first time on a plane.

They’re as tough as nails out here.

August …

The odd Wood Duck is wandering around the Victorian Goldfields with a trail of little Wood Ducks in tow. Little Ravens are gathering nesting material. The nice days of late winter really are nice. Spring has served notice of its intentions.

The winter visitors are leaving. Over in Newstead 45km away Geoff Park  reports the departure of the Flame Robins. They are heading for the hills now. It was a good year for them over there. We have had none overwinter on the McGee country estate this year and few in the neighbourhood but I did run into a flock on the move through Paddys Ranges State Park the other day.

Other birds are also on the move. It’s a good time to turn up species that are just passing through. They all add to the fun. Cuckoos will soon be here. The bad days are still wintry, however, and the last couple have let us know that it’s too soon to plant anything that is not frost hardy.

The other day I was surprised to find a solitary Barcoo Bantam rushing past as I worked (no, slaved) in the garden. It was a first for the property list. Their correct name is Black-tailed Native Hen. They are denizens of lignum swamps and have a knack of turning up out of the blue after rain even in places that have been dry for years. One on its own is unusual so I have no idea why it was passing through. Other parts of Australia though are in serious drought so it may not be the only refugee we see. Another influx of Budgerigars would be nice.

And bear in mind that most of the western half of the continent is desert anyway.

Our dryish part of Victoria is in better shape. The estate is pretty much on the average for winter rain, our tanks are full (we can shower and wash our clothes, drink water in stead of wine) and the paddocks are green. If it keeps up there will be a good crop of hay. The view westwards yesterday tells the story …

Was it about to rain? Indeed it was, but only briefly.

In a couple of weeks time I will be driving through the heart of the drought. I’m sure the photos I take there will be in stark contrast to this one.