Day 5 - walking through herbfields, and an archaeological discovery

After a beautiful smoked roast chicken dinner with gravy and potatoes cooked in their jackets in the coals of the campfire with peas, we sat around our campfire sharing yarns and reciting poetry by Banjo Patterson. We retired early to bed with the sounds of the Nightjar sending us to sleep.

Boyd set up the pit traps in the dunes ready for checking in the morning. We arose early (6.00 am) and after a quick breakfast, I set off with Monica, Susan, Andrea and Judith to check the pit traps with Boyd. We were very lucky to catch a Beaded gecko (Lucasium damaeum) and 5 Inland Sandy Desert Mice (Pseudomys hermannsburgensis); all adult males. We also caught a Spinifex Hopping Mouse (Notomys alexis). This was our first one! In the other pit trap we caught 2 Inland Sandy Desert Mice and what appeared to be a house mouse. This must have been an introduced species. These small mammals were all carefully weighed and released.

We set off after loading the camels, walking towards the east around the base of the saltpan and then started walking down the eastern side of the salt pan. The landscape changed as we entered the drainage channels of the saltpan- there were many raised calcareous mounds and gypsum deposits and many areas had been deflayed to form low depressions. In one of these low depression surrounded by Gidgee bushes and herbs we found a muller which is an aboriginal grinding stone. This was quite a significant find and made one wonder when this area last had human habitation.

An aboriginal grinding stone

             The muller (grinding stone) we found

The bird life also seemed to change subtly with several new species we hadn’t seen before. This included many Orange Chats (these were less numerous than the Crimson Chats), a Black-Winged Kite, both species of Wood Swallows (hooded and masked), an Inland Dotterel, a Red Capped Robin, a Blue Necked Kingfisher, White Tailed Wrens, Honeyeaters and a Cinnamon Quail Bird.

A colony of Zebra Finches

    A colony of zebra finches

An Inland Dotterel     

                           An Inland Dotterel

As we came into Camp 5, halfway down the eastern side of the clay pan (S 25 degrees 46.779 minutes E 138 degrees 07.314 minutes) we saw what appeared to be a Frilled Necked Dragon Lizard.

Today we had covered around 11 km, however our actual walking distance was probably much longer as we spent a lot of time walking away from the camels through country that seemed richer in species biodiversity. The camels had to cross over the salt pan at a carefully selected crossing point and this proved to be a little precarious as the camels sank down too low into the soft sandy floor of the saltpan at times. We were able to cross safely and passed through some of the most beautiful and picturesque desert landscape we had seen so far. In fact, at times you could almost imagine you were walking through an alpine herb field rather than a desert if it was not for the very oppressive hot and windy weather.

A desert herbfield   

                            A desert herbfield

Charlie our botanist finds an unusual species of Dysphania

Charlie our botanist finds an unusual species of Dysphania