Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre

Magic, pure magic.

Last weekend my youngest daughter and I took a trip to Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre in a Twin Comanche piloted by Graham, a long time friend and born adventurer who didn’t think my suggestion was as crazy as I feared he might.


Galah 4 - Kim Wormald

Galah (Eolophus roseicapillus) – female
Canon 5DSR, 1/1600, f/8, ISO 400, focal length 300mm

Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre is in the desert country of northeast South Australia, it’s 15m below sea level and on the rare occasions that it fills it becomes Australia’s largest lake.

There were several bird species around the remote William Creek Hotel, including Galahs. This female was preening perched on top of a disused giant tap that I understand was once used to fill the water tanks of the old Ghan trains.

I like the eye contact and the way she has fluffed her feathers as she preens. I’ve always been especially fond of Galahs and love seeing them flying when the sun is near the horizon and their rose-pink plumage catches the light and makes them look like animated sunsets as they wheel and turn.

 

Galahs - Kim Wormald

Galah (Eolophus roseicapillus) – male and female
Canon 5DSR, 1/1600, f/8, ISO 400, focal length 360mm

As I watched the female was joined by a male who began preening his mate. Allopreening is a pair bonding ritual that is often performed during the breeding season. Galahs form permanent breeding pairs.

It’s not easy to differentiate between male and female Galahs from a distance but if you can discern eye colour you’ll notice that females have pinkish irises while the males’ eyes are dark. Adult eye colour is reached by the time they are two to three years old but females eyes begin to lighten when they are about six months old.

 

Galah 1 - Kim Wormald

Galah (Eolophus roseicapillus) – male
Canon 5DSR, 1/12500, f/6.3, ISO 400, focal length 120mm

To my surprise the female disappeared into the top of the pipe, which I realised must be the pair’s nesting hollow. There aren’t many trees with hollows in the middle of the desert so this giant tap must be prime real estate.

 

Galah 2 - Kim Wormald

Galah (Eolophus roseicapillus) – male
Canon 5DSR, 1/12500, f/6.3, ISO 400, focal length 120mm

 

 

Lake Eyre water - Kim Wormald

Kati Thanda-Lake Eyre, South Australia
1/2000, f/4.0, ISO 400, focal length 35mm

 

I’ve included a couple of landscape images this week to share a little of how the area looks from the air. It took almost an hour to fly to the far end of the northern lake and all we could see in every direction were areas of water and the dry lake bed. It was phenomenal. Below us were several bird species including pelicans and Silver Gulls. I haven’t had the chance to examine all my images yet but there were other species that I may be able to identify. Hundreds of thousands of birds fly to the lake when it fills; this must be an incredible sight and it’s fascinating that scientists are yet to discover how birds know that water has arrived.

 

The Painted Hills

The Painted Hills, South Australia
1/1600, f/4.0, ISO 200, focal length 27mm

 

It takes an hour’s flight from William Creek to view the pristine Painted Hills, they can only be viewed from the air. 50-80 million years ago the area was a sea bed and the beautiful colours are due to oxidisation. Taking landscapes from the plane suited me perfectly as I was trying to capture a moving scene, much the same as I do with bird photography.

After the difficulties of the past couple of months this outback trip seemed like an odyssey, I’m still smiling.

Happy birding, Kim

 

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