Day 42-44: Little Desert and Wyperfeld National Parks
We can barely contain our excitement as we enter the desert region of Victoria. A series of four national parks are stacked on each other, from south to north: Little Desert, Wyperfeld, Hattah-Kulkyne, and Murray-Sunset. Approaching the southernmost park first, we head north toward mallee scrub and woodland, one of the most treasured habitats in Australia. Mallee is mainly comprised of low-growing eucalypt species in semi-arid flatlands. “Desert chaparral” comes to mind, although these areas receive only 8-15” of rain in a good year.
We dragged our feet for a couple of days and waited out a heat wave that was slamming the region into the mid-100s. Not a good time to be caught anywhere in the desert, even if you have water! Distances feel longer and help is not always readily available. Cell service is nil.
We didn’t push our luck and waited until the high dropped another 20 degrees. Then we made a break for it and went out on a walk adjoining the Wonga campground in Wyperfeld National Park.
Let’s just celebrate fairywrens for a second. The white-winged fairywren (below) is a desert specialty, usually in low scrub of saltbush and spinifex and along margins of salt lakes. Several males and a large group of female and juvenile types maintained social groups near a lake in Mildura. This male was busily feeding all the hungry mouths.
The next species that popped into view was a stunner! The purple-backed fairywren.
This unbelievably beautiful “splendid fairywren” also came into view for a few seconds. Even obscured by branches, it still drew your eye right to it. A flying glowing ball of cobalt.
Then we heard a song that was new, so we tracked it down in the scrub. A little western whistler was singing its heart out, but refused to move. We kept closing in on it and finally found it singing near the bottom of the shrub.
Eventually he worked up the courage to come out in the open…
It’s not every day that we are surprised by a reptile, but this time we were lucky! A lace monitor (or tree goanna) the mass and length of a medium-sized dog ran across the road and went up a eucalyptus. They were a traditional food among Aboriginal peoples and their fat was valued as medicine.