Lake Eyre isn’t all pinks and blues and silver salt.
At the top of the main lake and the Goyder Lagoon where some water is flowing in from the Warburton River, it’s quite muddy but there is an abundance of birds.
The pelicans stand out because of their numbers and the apparent ease with which they can glide just above the water’s surface.
However there’s cormorants and black swans. sea gulls, banded stilts and ducks to be seen as well.
There appears to be even more in the Coongie Lake system where the water is fresh and abundant fish to feed on.
The Coongie Lakes, like Goyders Lagoon to the north – is an almost forgotten fresh water lake system hiding in the shadow of a flooded Lake Eyre.
Home to over 470 plant species -52 of which are considered rare – 180 species of birds, 20 native animal species, 12 native fish and 10 frog species, the Coongie lakes (and there’s hundreds of them ) are a desert wonderland filled from water that falls far away in south-western Queensland.
The lakes are recognised as having international heritage significance.
While thousands flock to see Lake Eyre in flood, they would be well advised to make the extra effort to see these freshwater lakes while they are teeming with wildlife.
The Coongie Lake System is almost full at the moment but the water levels will drop in the the coming months.
Cruisin’ down the Cooper Creek, a bunch of adventurers head for Lake Eyre.
A quick wave, a chat on the radio and they’re on their own again, with a long way to travel.
Like giant fingers, the dunes of the Strzelecki Desert reach far into the waters of the Coongie Lakes.
Canon 5D. Lens Canon EF 24-70mm f2.8L USM. Shot at f5.6, 1/500th sec, ISO 200
The contrast once again between the Coongie Lakes and the previous photo from Lake Eyre.
Both are very beautiful. Lake Eyre perhaps having the edge.
But to me the contrast is the abounding life in the Coongie system and the lifelessness of the Lake Eyre salt water.
Presumably science still hasn’t come up with the answer as to how these pelicans know when the Coongie Lakes fill with water.
Since it happens only once every decade or longer it’s hard to know how ‘they’ know.
Even birds in Russia get on the wing and head down for a paddle and a bit of mating.
All that aside, it’s even harder to figure out how they can come back to the same island in the lakes to breed.
I mean, when they left, they weren’t much more than chicks and have cruised around our coasts for ten years or so.
This is the same place I photographed in 1999. Click here to look at the island back then (it’s the third photo down). It doesn’t look much like the same place. Yet they know.
Soon, if not already, the larger of the two islands will be crammed with pelicans and not long after that there will be almost as many chicks ready to start the cycle all over again.
A partly submerged sand dune north-west of Innamincka
It’s almost impossible to convey just how much water is in the Coongie Lakes at the moment.
It just goes on an on, almost as far as they eye can see in every direction. Hundreds of islands amid a thousand lakes.
Hard to imagine this is a formidable desert most of the time.
The Warburton River just before it enters Lake Eyre which I am using to illustrate a recent question that came via email about what sort of fish are in Lake Eyre?
The Warburton is fresh water flowing into Lake Eyre which is very salty. So Salty that freshwater fish can’t live in it for very long.
The fish in the Warburton, if they continue downstream will be short-lived.
However the Coongie Lakes is teeming with Callope also known as Yellowbelly or Golden Perch which is what attracts the masses of birdlife to the Lakes.
A couple of links with more information on these fish: FishSA or Golden Perch