Saturday, 19 January 2008

Lake Corangamite

We left Melbourne at the civilized hour of 9.30 am, so it was almost - but - not - quite lunch time by the time we got to the thriving metropolis country town of Colac. After coffee and sticky buns we were sufficiently fortified to make a detour to Lake Corangamite, a few kilometres NW of town.

Lake Corangamite is a salt lake, one of nine water bodies in the area listed under the Ramsar Convention. At 23,000 hectares, it is the largest lake in Victoria. Even so, it's a shadow of its former self. First lava flows cut it up. Then more recent disruption to natural drainage reduced the water levels.

The receding water line has left a linear landscape — a series of horizontal bands in green and burgundy, white and blue. Weeds grow among the lawn of beaded glasswort (Sarcocornia quinqueflora). Their roots are anchored in loose dunes of Coxiella shells, stranded by the receding waters and swept into drifts by the wind.

Introduced snails (Theba pisana) cling to vertical surfaces. They favour thistles but aren't fussy.

In good years, the lake supports large numbers of ducks, stilts, pelicans and ibis. Either this wasn't a good year or the birds were all hanging around at the north end. Possibly both. Superb wrens sang in the windbreak and a pair of whistling kites quartered the paddocks. When we walked out onto the salt pan, a couple of red-capped dotterels scurried past. They looked like clockwork toys. And although they didn't seem to be particularly bothered by us, they kept a constant distance. By a strange coincidence, the distance was always just beyond the range of the telephoto setting on my camera. I'll be back when I get my new SLR and long lens. That'll fox them.

After an hour or so in the sun, we packed up the ute again and got back on the road. Next stop Portland and Cape Nelson.