Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Lake Dulverton.....Worth a Look

I stopped fairly briefly at Lake Dulverton, Oatlands, about 10 days ago, and took the accompanying images. For the past several years this lake has been effectively dry, save for a small section next to the high street, but thanks to good winter rain, it's looking more like its' old self. The view at right was taken from the "far side" looking towards the township. I always start from the highway side, looking first at the dammed area which during the last decade has held the only water of any moment for wildfowl. Here were several Black Swan, some with cygnets ranging from near flying to still covered in down. It also appeared probable that Eurasian Coot had bred here too, among the dense floating vegetation, as there were several juvenile coot, one pictured below. I'd heard reports of Hardheads at the lake, and this is where they often hangout, but the combination of looking towards the early morning sun and the thick vegetation made for difficult viewing conditions. To get a better view I walked along the top of the grassed dam, but apart from getting several shots of coot, swan and a couple of Purple Swamphens, I didn't have any better luck, although walking back I spotted a roost of several Little Pied Cormorants in the top of a waterside fir.
I drove round to the camper van parking area and noted as I approached, a few duck and coot on the foreshore and drove closer to investigate. A driveby found a few duck including 2 Australian Shelduck, a pair of Australasian Shoveler, several coot and a few Chestnut Teal. Realising that I had no hope of approaching them on foot without flushing them, I drove along the lake edge and 'shot' them out of the window (accompanying images). Feeling that I'd done my photography "thing", I set about getting an appreciation of the bird life. There were several hundred coot, numerous Black Duck, Chestnut Teal, several 'flotillas' of Hoary-headed Grebe, scores of Black Swan, a scattering of Australasian Shoveler and Wood Duck, but still no sign of Harhead or Great Crested Grebe. Lake Dulverton was once the home of Great Cresteds in Tasmania, and the only site that they regularly bred at. When the main lake dried they bred in the small dammed area that I have previously mentioned, but although I know they nested and laid eggs, I don't believe they ever successfully raised any young. It was here that on one memorable morning I saw 6 Australsian Bitterns on the shoreline, most probably refugees from other drying and dried out lakes. A species that is now rarely seen in this state.
I drove on round the lake to the headland opposite the island. This spot gives a good view of the eastern end of the lake, and has been the best site to see the great cresteds from and appears the preferred area for Blue-billed Ducks too.Here were many more duck, swans and coot, as well as several White-faced Herons chasing grasshoppers along the top of the second dam.
I walked out along this fairly recently built dam, more in hope than expectation, and after much searching drew a blank on the grebes. As I reached the far side a stiffening breeze got up and I decided to call it quits. It also seemed to have some effect on the ducks too, as a procession of duck, mainly pairs of Blacks, flew over towards the eastern section. A small flock of duck showing white in the wings, and obviously not Blacks, flew rapidly towards me and I took a few shots as they passed--"my' Hardheads! About a dozen off them, alighting about 200 metres away, they were quickly 'swallowed up' in the floating vegetation. I drove off feeling somewhat satisfied.
If you're in this neck of the woods, it's also worth having a look at the Mud Walls dam. It's situated on the Mud Walls road about 3 kilometres from the junction of the Midland Highway and the "Richmond road", B31. It's easy viewing from the roadside and if you don't wish to panic the waterfowl, you'd be advised to stay in your vehicle. There were several hundred duck on the water and in the surrounding paddocks as I returned from Oatlands. They included 300 plus Australian Shelduck, numerous Black Duck and Chestnut Teal, 40 odd Australasian Shoveler, around 60 Wood Duck and 2 Grey Teal. This is one of the few sites that I have regularly seen Grey Teal. Both sites are worth a look.