Ethabuka – land of extremes

Kyle Barton
Published 29 Jan 2019 
about  Ethabuka Reserve  
Lightning storm seen from from the deck of the homestead.<br/> Lightning storm seen from from the deck of the homestead.
A storm approaches.<br/> A storm approaches.
Thunderstom (left) and dustorm passing through Ethabuka.<br/> Thunderstom (left) and dustorm passing through Ethabuka.
The never ending spring cleaning after each dust storm. Photo by Hélène Aubault.<br/> The never ending spring cleaning after each dust storm. Photo by Hélène Aubault.
The Chrismas Crew: Tim Heupink, Abel, Kyle Barton, Anne-Sohpie Iotti, Opal and Helene Aubault together with the Ethabuka Sand Man at Chrismas.<br/> The Chrismas Crew: Tim Heupink, Abel, Kyle Barton, Anne-Sohpie Iotti, Opal and Helene Aubault together with the Ethabuka Sand Man at Chrismas.
Zebra Finches and Black-faced Woodswallows.<br/> Zebra Finches and Black-faced Woodswallows.

Already 7 months have passed since we arrived at Ethabuka Station Reserve, and one thing that has amazed us is the weather. Arid areas certainly are lands of the extreme! cold, hot, windy, dusty…

It started with the cold. Arriving from tropical Queensland in winter, it was a bit of a shock to get 0°C mornings! But winter also gave us brilliant clear blue skies during the day and spectacular stars at night. With this also came a cycle of chilling winds, which built up over the week as the cold fronts moved across the continent. With so little protection from trees out here, the wind is relentless when it starts to blow.

In spring, the strong winds brought dust storms, which meant house cleaning! Ten big ones passed through the homestead to the great delight of Hélène who studied them for a while before heading out here. I was less enthusiastic. While spring cleaning is traditional, the weekly dust storms left a nice layer of fine red dust covering everything in the house. It should be expected, after all Bedourie, our closest town, means ‘dust storm’ in the aboriginal language of the area, so we knew it would happen but maybe not quite as much. Cleaning almost became our weekend occupation as the dust storms seemed to arrive on Friday or Saturdays.

But these fronts also meant rains. How exciting! The rain is a real wonder out here and a big subject of conversation no matter who you talk to. So far we've only had 33ml since arriving and most of that rain came from thunderstorms.

The feeling of thunder rattling the homestead and lightning flashes that for an instant brought daylight to the night sky was amazing. The response that followed just this little bit of rain was great to see – we can't wait for a big wet. The green flush across the property attracted an amazing array of water birds to the ponds now scattered across the land. The ponds themselves were full of life, with water beetles and dragonflies, tadpoles, frogs as well as the ancient shield shrimps.

And then came the heat of summer. Relentless brutal heat – our cat was even seeking shelter in the fridge. We've been in a heatwave since Christmas with over 40°C every day and more often than not 44 to 45°C. Night time temperatures are a bit better – usually around 30°C! Fortunately, our AC was fixed on the 22nd. What a great Christmas present and perfect timing too as some friends, Anne-Sophie Iotti and Tim Heupink and their two children were visiting from Belgium during the festive season!

They certainly felt the heat with temperatures almost 50 degrees higher than back home, but overall they enjoy the relaxing break with early morning walks and kite flying at sunset over dunes, plus a lot of pool time, ice blocks and board games in air conditioning!

We all had the privilege to join our neighbours Damian and Emma Clarke on Kamaran Downs for Christmas lunch with a feed of amazing shrimp.

As the extreme heat has hung about and the ponds of water created by the rain disappeared, we noticed an increase in the amount of wildlife congregating around the few water points on the reserve. Hundreds of birds were drawn to the small amount of water at the homestead. We spotted 27 different species of birds along with a few Red Kangaroos and unfortunately a number of feral cats and foxes.

We're both excited about what lays ahead on Ethabuka. Hopefully, we'll see a big wet or bigger duststorm, maybe like the ones that have been seen further south.

A storm approaches.<br/> A storm approaches.
Thunderstom (left) and dustorm passing through Ethabuka.<br/> Thunderstom (left) and dustorm passing through Ethabuka.
The never ending spring cleaning after each dust storm. Photo by Hélène Aubault.<br/> The never ending spring cleaning after each dust storm. Photo by Hélène Aubault.
The Chrismas Crew: Tim Heupink, Abel, Kyle Barton, Anne-Sohpie Iotti, Opal and Helene Aubault together with the Ethabuka Sand Man at Chrismas.<br/> The Chrismas Crew: Tim Heupink, Abel, Kyle Barton, Anne-Sohpie Iotti, Opal and Helene Aubault together with the Ethabuka Sand Man at Chrismas.
Zebra Finches and Black-faced Woodswallows.<br/> Zebra Finches and Black-faced Woodswallows.