Our family has spent countless hours beside Lake Charm, enjoying the water in various ways - water skiing, wind surfing, swimming, birdwatching (one of us does that - yours truly). But that has always been a summer activity. This time I was there in winter. And with a different group of people. I had arranged the Geelong Field Naturalists Club campout for the long weekend in June. It's been a tradition that we go somewhere 'north of the divide' for the June campout each year and I suggested the Kerang Lakes so got to organise it (funny thing that!).
The train/truck crash happened several days before the weekend and I'd arranged for campers to stay at the Pelican Waters caravan park at Lake Charm. Because the road was still closed we had to go a long way around to get to the camp - through Lake Boga or Murrabit. And I was (guiltily, and as it turned out, needlessly) a bit concerned that our activities would be curtailed because of roadblocks.
Local farmer, Stuart Simms, met up with us on Saturday morning and told us all about how the numerous Kerang lakes and creeks interconnect, how they are artificially managed for irrigation purposes, how they are trying to manage the huge salt problem. He showed us Kangaroo Lake, Salt Lake, Racecourse Lake and Lake Charm. His knowledge was truly impressive and he's such a friendly bloke. After lunch we talked to the guys at the roadblock and they let us through to have a look at the Ibis Rookery at Middle Lake (no ibis but a very interesting place) and Reedy Lake. A beautiful Intermediate Egret stood proudly on a stump for us all to see, numbers of Whistling Kites in the lakeside trees were very impressive, many Darters swam at Lake Charm, Blue-faced Honeyeaters and Musk Lorikeets in the flowering trees at the caravan park were very noisy and the countryside was looking its best because of the recent rain after years of drought. It all looked fantastic and the weather was perfect.
On Sunday Stuart's brother-in-law, Tom Lowe, met us and took us to Lake Tutchewop, Kangaroo Lake and The Marsh. Tom grew up in the area and took the huge numbers of waterbirds for granted until they started disappearing as a result of different water management schemes in the lakes. In The Marsh we saw many hundreds of dead Red Gums that died as a result of a half-metre concrete sill being installed to keep water in the marshes for duck-shooters. Having wet feet for three or four years in a row was too much for the trees. One or two would have been fine.After lunch at Lake Boga, and a small diversion to see the Catalina (I was overruled), we went out past Round Lake to the mallee reserve at Goschen. We got very excited when we saw our first Bluebonnets on the side of the road but we got a bit blase after a while because there were so many. At Goschen we were lucky enough to see babblers and Brown Treecreepers. It was pretty quiet in the bush at that time of the day. The lichen on the ground was amazing - all different sorts and colours. I remember reading somewhere that the mallee lichens have a very important role to play in binding the soil. It would have been great to spend a bit more time there and will go back again.
On the way back to through Kerang to return to Geelong we had to cross the rail crossing and we saw the men working to restore the damage done to the road and the rail. All our thoughts were with the families of those who had been killed and injured. It's going to take a lifetime to restore the damage done to their lives.