Barmah …

I visit Barmah National Park from time to time largely because it’s the one spot in Victoria where the Superb Parrot turns up. I’d love to add it to my state list and one day I might.

The Sandridge track runs from the park entrance to River Road and the mighty Murray. It’s about 15km of dirt road and a good test of the camper trailer which passed with flying colours coping well with the corrugations and some muddy patches. And the muddy patches on the way in were nothing compared to the muddy patches on the way out after a night of steady downpour. It really was the first sharp bite of winter, there were blizzards and snow down to 700 metres in the high country.

I had a more realistic target as well as the elusive parrot which was to photograph the beautiful Azure Kingfisher. I was able to camp right on the river bank at a spot where I have seen adults feeding a brood of youngsters on a previous trip. The light was actually quite good during the afternoon so it was just a game of patience.

Good things soon happened. This Jacky Winter presented itself for a nice natural portrait. While the next one came even closer, posing on the UHF radio aerial.

A White-bellied Sea Eagle cruised up the river …

A Kangaroo checked me out.

A Scarlet Robin took a bath not far off

And yes, the Azure Kingfisher played nicely.


The Mighty Murray …

Victoria lies in the south east of the Australian mainland. The colonies around it were given a degree of definition when Victoria was just the Port Phillip District of New South Wales. Tasmania, then van Deiman’s Land was separated from NSW in 1825 and was given virtually all the Bass Strait Islands even most of those that you can see from our most southerly point. Jibbed. (Tassie was renamed in 1856). South Australia happened into existence in 1834. Its eastern boundary was defined as the 141°E meridian (but a curious thing happened).

When Victoria was mooted the formula for its northern boundary was to start on the east coast at Point Howe, draw a line to the source of the nearest tributary of the Murray and then follow the left hand river bank until bumping into the South Australian border that already existed. Easy. So NSW got all the river, jibbed again, a Victorian needs a NSW fishing licence to fish from Victoria’s bank and where is the top of the bank in a flood, or where it has been altered. Wars have been fought over less. Anyway everyone knows that Victoria has none of the river.

And that popular view is wrong, South Australia’s turn to be jibbed. When their eastern border was surveyed between 1846 and 1850 it was set two minutes too far to the west. The mistake was discovered in 1868. Victoria was unwilling to give up the little slice of SA it had received by luck. The case ran for quite a while until the Privy Council ruled in favour of Victoria in 1914. For 10 km of river Victoria is on the left bank and South Australia is on the right and for that 10km the border runs right down the middle of the river. Ten kilometres of half a river is better than none. If you have a Victorian fishing licence you can use it here!

Even though Victorians have very little stake in it, it remains a mighty river 2,508 kilometres (1,558 mi) in length. It is joined by the Darling and together they drain about one seventh of Australia’s total land mass.

There is one little bit of the Murray that is of considerable interest to the Victorian birdwatcher, the Barmah Forest is the only place in Victoria where the Superb Parrot, essentially a denizen of the inland slopes of the Dividing range of NSW, deigns to cross the border. If you want it on your Victorian list you have to go to Barmah. If you will give me a few minutes I will search the internet and see if I can filch a photo of one …


Once again it’s Graham Chapman that I’ve parasitised, I hope he will forgive me, it may help my cause if you visit his splendid site.

I spent a couple of days there just before Christmas. The Superb Parrot eluded me. The Yellow Rosella came to say hello. They are common in the Red Gum forest along the Murray and don’t wander far from there. Officially they are a subspecies of the Crimson Rosella but they rarely interbreed in the wild.

Yellow Rosella

Noisy Friarbirds share the same tastes in habitat. Some are resident but their numbers are boosted by a summer influx across the river.

Noisy Friar

I camped right on the bank. A pair of Azure Kingfishers were feeding three youngsters. They soon became fairly comfortable around me. It would not have been safe to leave sardines on the table.

Azure Kingfisher

A few minutes walk away I came upon this guy.