Thursday, 11 December 2014 11:00

Sturt National Park

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I've just returned from 5 weeks travelling around Central Aus. The first stop on this trip wasSturt NPin the far north west of NSW. My last visit to this National Park was years ago when the area was in the middle of a drought.

Sturt National Park is in the Northwest coner of NSW. The closest major town is Broken Hill, which is over 300km to the south. Tibooburra a small rural town with fuel and suppies is right on the southeast boundary of the park.

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We stayed at the excellent Dead Horse Gully camping ground which is located just a couple of kilometres from Tibooburra. This campground is situated amongst the granite boulders that give this area of Sturt NP its distinct character. The camping sites are nicely spaced with reasonable privacy. There are toilets, free gas BBQs, but no showers. If you are desperate for a shower you can pay a small fee for one in nearby Tibooburra. I think we manged about five days without showering, which wasn't too bad as we didn't meet up with anyone else. In total we spent 7 days in Sturt with five nights at Dead Horse Gully and two nights at Fort Grey. In total there are 4 camping grounds of similar quality within the park.


Photographic Considerations

Our routine while residing at Dead Horse Gully was to travel out to the South Myres Tank on the Jump-up Loop Track early each morning for the best light and return again in the afternoon. The first thing that struck me on my return visit was the Mitchell grass plains that stretched for kilometres. I'm sure on my prior visit these were barren gibber plains. There number of tanks/dam on both the loop and gorge tracks that attract good numbers of birds when when they contain water. The dam at South Myres tank was reasonably full, however the banks were shallow enough to provide plenty of landing and wading areas for birds. One of the target species I was after was the Flock Bronzewing. These had recently been photographed in this area byRob DrummondandSimon Bennett, so I was delighted when these birds made an appearance on my first visit. Small flocks came in to drink each morning and afternoon. They proved to be very difficult subjects as they were very nervous and appeared to take flight for no apparent reason. In hindsight I would have been better off concentrating on flight shots as they spent so much of their time in the air whirling around the dam, usually before coming to land on the opposite shoreline. What really surprised me was their willingness to actually land in the shallow water. Most did land on the banks, however they still tended to move beyond the water's edge.


One of the other species I was interested in photographing was the Cinnamon Quail-thrush. While photographing a group of White-winged Fairy-wrens I noticed a couple of Quail-thrush dart between some grass clumps. I set-up in the hope of intercepting them as they moved towards the road. I made no attempt to camouflage myself or call them in, however after waiting about five minutes a group of 6 birds started happily foraging out in the open only metres from where I stood. It was obvious that they were aware of my presence yet they continued to feed to with a couple of metres. They even let me move about them to get better angles. In the end after getting several hundred shots I left them alone to feed. Another species I had on top of my list was the Gibberbird. I'd seen in my opinion the best image of this species posted onFeathersandphotosby Rob Drummond. Unfortunately even though I spent considerable time looking I was only able to obtain a record shot.

The drive to Fort Grey takes you initially through the Mitchell Grass/gibber plains to sand dune country. Along the way there were pipits, orange chats, woodwallows and plenty of birds of prey. Fort Grey camp is set amongst the sand dunes and near the ephemeral Lake Pinaroo. The camp is set up in a similar fashion to the Sturt NP camps in that toilets and gas BBQs are provided. Fortunately during our visit the lake was nearly full. There wasn't a lot of waterbirds obvious, however the birds of prey were numerous. The woodland and sand dune country surrounding the camp provided the opportunity to photograph some different birds, including Red-browed Pardalote, Red-capped Robin and Crested Bellbird.

One evening during our stay at Fort Grey our travelling companion, Rod Warnock, alerted us to the presence of native hopping mice. We all jumped at the opportunity to photograph these cute little mammals. During our stay at Fort Grey the mouse plague was in full cry. I pity the hopping mice as they compete for food and burrows.

The Gorge Loop track is definitely worth checking out, if not for the scenery then for the heaps of Red Kangaroos that can be seen.

The birds photographedin Sturt NP were: Gibberbird, Orange Chat, Brown Falcon, Black-shouldered Kite, Nankeen Kestrel, Swamp Harrier, Black Kite, Whistling Kite, Wedgetailed Eagle, Black-faced Woodswallow, White-browed Woodswallow, Black-fronted Dotterel, Straw-necked Ibis, Grey Teal, Pink-eared Duck, Eurasian Coot, Australasian Grebe, White-winged Fairy-wren, Australian Pipit, Cinnamon Quail-thrush, Red-capped Robin, Flock Bronzewing, Budgerigar, Bourke Parrot, Galah,Welcome Swallow, Singing Honeyeater, Yellow-throated Miner, Blue Bonnet, White-plumed Honeyeater. yellow-billed Spoonbill. Red-browed Pardalote, Horsefield's Bronze-cuckoo, Mistletoebird Crested Bellbird, Emu, Black-tailed Native-hen, White-necked Heron.