Gayle is an accountant. Shh – don’t tell. She thinks she’s a writer.
Published November 28th 2014
Meet the Azure Kingfisher on the Barmah Choke
We came to Echuca-Moama for the Murray River. We expected to see paddle steamers and house boats, river gums and water birds. We hoped to see kingfishers, so booked onto Kingfisher Cruises, an eco-tourism cruise on the Barmah Choke, the narrowest section of the Murray River where the water runs twice as fast as normal.
The cruise leaves from the Day Visitor Area at Barmah Lake, a pleasant 30km drive from Echuca. This area is home to the largest remaining red gum forest on the planet and we are surrounded by these majestic beauties.
Sulphur-crested cockatoos watch as our boat, The MV Kingfisher, approaches. Our captain, Benita Cox, docks at the river bank and drops a ramp for us to board this flat bottom, roofed boat with rows of seats. We set off past the mouth of Barmah Lake and cruise alongside Snake Island. Although snakes are sometimes sighted on the cruise we do not see any today.
Suddenly Benita points out an azure kingfisher. Who would have thought they were so small and so fast. They dart from one reed to another, settle for barely a moment. Oh but they are exquisite! Their head and back are a deep azure blue and their breast as orange as the moon on a smoky night. This the first of several sightings.
A distance marker - 1774 kilometres to the mouth of the Murray River.
Along the bank to our right is a River Red Gum believed to be 500 years old. Further along a gum has dropped a branch, exposing at the break the rust red colour from which they get their name. Known for dropping large branches without warning, these trees are sometimes referred to as widow-makers.
We spot significant nests in the trees. A whistling kite soars overhead and later, a pelican. We see a cormorant perched on a submerged branch, drying its wings. A shy bird, it attempts to fly off, but its wings are still wet. It swims instead.
On the return trip we cruise by a creek, that rather than flowing into the Murray, flows out of it. Then all too soon this relaxing cruise is over.
Check the websit www.kingfishercruises.com.au/cruise.html for cruise times, email Benita on firstname.lastname@example.org or telephone (03) 5855 2855. Cruises depart from the Day Visitors Area at Barmah Lake, around 30kms from Echuca. Take the Cobb Highway to Barmah Road and continue over a small bridge onto Moira Lakes Road. There is ample parking, a camping ground and a public toilet. Lunch can be bought at the nearby Barmah Hotel, or at the Barmah Café, both in Maloney Street, Barmah.