Lower Murray River in photos

This page was created when I took part in a 'Regent parrot recovery survey' between September 1st and September 9th of 2021. I did a second stint from October 4th to 9th.

While I have always been interested in wildlife in general, and in birds in that they are an important part of wildlife, I have never been a devotee of bird watching. I was probably accepted as a voluntary participant in this particular survey because I had experience piloting a houseboat and had a power boat license. The survey was along the river banks so a houseboat and 'tinny' runabout was used to move people between known regent parrot sites.

I was unfamiliar with the call of the regent parrot. Had I been familiar with it I would have been of more use. I also took a few days to be able to reliably distinguish a sitting regent parrot from a yellow rosella - the modes of flight of the two are quite distinctive.

The photos on this page are mine unless otherwise noted.

This page was started 2021/09/05, last edited 2021/10/19
Contact: David K. Clarke – ©

Regent parrot survey

I know little about it but I believe the regent parrot is listed as 'vulnerable'. It seems to have a very limited range near the Murray river nesting in hollows in river red gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis).

There were two parts each day to the survey that I was involved in. We started soon after first light, looked for and recorded parrots until about 11am. We then usually went back to the houseboat and had free time until around 3pm and went out looking for parrots until about 5pm. The houseboat acted as our base. It was moved to a new place every day. Usually two of the group would move the houseboat (while also looking for regents) while the other four were out in the field. There were a total of six people in the group all the time I was involved, not the same six people all the time.


Pelicans (Pelecanus conspicillatus) on a narrow strip of land between the main channel and a lagoon seen on our way to the first site that we were to survey.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/01

Early morning on the Murray

Early one morning near Cadell on the Murray. This is by far the best time of day to see the beauty of the river, but not many people do it because they can't be bothered getting out of bed.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/04

Mist on river
A low-lying mist in the early morning light makes a view so much more beautiful than it would otherwise be.

I love ground-hugging mists, I've taken advantage of them on other occasions, in Blinman in the Flinders Ranges, at Clare, in the Gleeson Wetlands, and on my own property (Elysium 1 and Elysium 2) also at Clare.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/04

Big redgum with mist
One of the beautiful big old red-gums with a mist on the river in the background and early morning sunlight.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/04

Gums and mist
River red gums and mist in the early morning light again.

The river bank has been eroded by high flows and the tree's roots exposed.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/04

The tinny
Setting off in 'the tinny' (aluminium dingy) for the afternoon survey. Taken a few kilometres downstream of Morgan looking upstream.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/04

Birds other than the regent parrot

Yellow rosella

Yellow rosellas
Yellow rosellas (Platycercus elegans, also called the Adelaide variety of the crimson rosella) are far more common in the area of the survey than are the regent parrot.

There is an interesting article on this remarkably variable species in The Conversation.

The red rumped parrot (Psephotus haematonotus) was another in the area that looked somewhat similar to the regent.

Photo Canon Powershot S3, 2021/09/08

Black swan

Black swan
This black swan (Cygnus atratus) was shepherding his (or her) cygnets quickly downstream as we travelled upstream in our houseboat. Although we were not particularly close the swan family was plainly quite concerned about us being near. The other adult was a little further behind.

Photo Canon Powershot S3, 2021/09/08


The Australian pelican (Pelecanus conspicillatus) is an iconic species of the Murray river. They are by far the biggest bird on the river and one of the most graceful once fully in the air.

Its size also makes it one of the easiest to photograph.

Photo Canon Powershot S3, 2021/09/08

Pelican on log
Pelicans generally flew off when we passed them on the river in the fast tinny, no matter how far we tried to keep away from them. They were less inclined to be frightened off by the slow houseboat.

This photo was probably taken from the houseboat, but I don't recall the exact circumstances.

Photo Canon Powershot S3 IS, 2021/09/01

Wood duck ducklings

Wood duck ducklings
Wood duck ducklings hoping that they haven't been seen.

The wood duck (Chenonetta jubata), also called the maned goose, while looking like a duck has feeding habits closer to those of a goose than a duck, it can as often be seen grazing near water as feeding in the water.

Photo Canon Powershot S3, 2021/09/08

Little eagle

Little eagle
A little eagle (Hieraaetus morphnoides), not often seen. Clicking on the image will show a higher resolution image of the bird itself.

The Whistling kite (Haliastur sphenurus) was much more common along the section of the Murray that we covered.

Photo Canon Powershot S3, 2021/09/04

Little eagle
Again, the little eagle. This time looking in a different direction and showing the crest on the top of its head.

Photo Canon Powershot S3, 2021/09/04

Whistling kite

Whistling kite
Whistling kites (Haliastur sphenurus) were the most common raptors along the section of the Murray that we surveyed. They have a very distinctive call which once heard will easily be remembered.

Their conspicuous nests, which consist of large piles of sticks, are usually in the taller gums along the river.

They have varied diets which, significantly in this context, include fish. Wikipedia gives their diet as "small mammals, birds, fish, reptiles, amphibians, crustaceans, insects and carrion".

Photo Canon Powershot S3 IS, 2021/09/08

Tawny frogmouth

Tawny frogmouth
Tawny frogmouth (commonly called frogmouth owl, but it is not an owl).

Photo Canon Ixus 190, 2021/10/06. This image was captured using the full 10x optical zoom of the Ixus and the full resolution of a very small part of the original.

Regent parrots (Polytelis anthopeplus)

Distinguishing between the sexes of the regents is not always easy. The information I have is that the males tend to be more yellowish and have bright red beaks while the females tend more toward green with a less bright red beak. The immature males have a colouring similar to the females.


This photo by Margaret Hains. Peter Barnes' regent photos are elsewhere on this page, my photos are immediately below.

Margaret was in the same group as was I, she is a keen photographer, and, fortunately for the rest of us, a very good and willing cook - we ate well.

It is difficult to get the right lighting when looking up into a tree from underneath; Margaret did a great job with this shot of an adult male.

Regent parrot
Regent parrots, male on the left, female or immature male on the right. This is the species this particular trip (2021/09/01 - 2021/09/09 and 2021/10/04 - 2021/10/09 for me) was about.

Photo Canon Powershot S3 2021/09/02

Regent parrot
Regent parrot, probably female, possibly immature male

Photo Canon Powershot S3,2021/09/03

Regent parrot
Regent parrot, male

Photo Canon Powershot S3, 2021/09/04

Regent parrot
Regent parrot, probably male

Photo Canon Powershot S3, 2021/09/04

Regent on silo
This regent parrot painting is on the river side (the back, north side, away from the adjacent road) of the Waikerie silos. I missed seeing it when I photographed the south (road) side of the silo in 2019; I didn't realise that there were other paintings on the far side.

I have other silo art recorded on another page on Victoria, here and here, and a particularly beautiful piece on the Wirrabara silo.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/09

Some interesting plants

Unrooted lichen
A lichen that is not rooted at all to the ground. It must rely for moisture on rain and dew; how it gets its minerals is a mystery to me.

The bright circle is a 10¢ coin, for scale.

Photo Canon Ixus 190, 2021/09/03

Another very interesting lichen. I don't recall seeing this species elsewhere.

It was in the same area as the one above, the colours were distinctly different, the above one was much more greenish, this blue-grey.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/03

Feral gazanias (Gazania rigens)

Flowers and housboat
At our last mooring point, a few kilometres upstream of Waikerie, we had our own little garden, the flowering plants are introduced, they are ferals, but they are also pretty.

Should we shun or ignore plants because they are weeds, even if they are beautiful? I don't think so. We might need to try to remove them from where they shouldn't be, but there is no reason why we shouldn't enjoy their beauty.

This, and one other of the moorings that we used, had obviously been looked after by someone with a connection to the area. There was no indication that the general public were not welcome to moor at these places. It was refreshing to see some altruism here rather than the selfishness that can be seen elsewhere on the river.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/08

Gazania 1 Gazania 2

Two gazanias

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/08

Gazania 3
The full beauty of these flowers can't be appreciated until we look at them in their entire and complex detail.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/08

A foggy morning

The morning of 2021/09/08 started with a thin mist over the water near the houseboat. It got so thick as we travelled to the survey area in the tinny that we had to stop a couple of times and wait for it to clear; we just couldn't see where were were going.

Thin mist

A thin mist in the air before we set out for the morning's survey. Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/08

One bank of the river seen through the fog, the sun was well up before the fog cleared.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/08

Pea soup
When the view from the tinny got to this point we had no choice but to stop and wait for it to clear.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/08

Cobwebs: 'the kingdom of the spiders'


When the fog cleared sufficiently for us to get to the area we needed to survey and we landed we were met with this view. The cobwebs must have been there on previous days but we weren't aware of them. The back-sunlight combined with the water drops left on the cobwebs from the fog to make them conspicuous.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/08


Drone views of a couple of lagoons

Lock 2

Our houseboat is in the left foreground in this image and the weir and Lock 2 in the distance on the right (more clearly seen in the high definition image - click on this one).

The very small, narrow lagoon left of centre in the distance, that appears pink in this photo, beyond the large lagoon, is shown close-up in several other photos on this page. A large part of it is concealed behind nearer trees. I believe it was also near some regent parrot habitat.

Photo DJI Mavik Mini Drone, 2021/09/07

The lagoon in the foreground was within easy walking distance of our houseboat mooring of the 5th.

The expanse of water further on the right is also lagoon, not the main channel of the river.

Photo DJI Mavic Mini drone, 2021/09/05

The same lagoon as in the above photo, looking further toward the right.

Photo DJI Mavic Mini drone, 2021/09/05

One of the more picturesque lagoons

The reddish plant that can be seen floating on the water on the far side of the lagoon is Azolla (pinnata or filiculoides); it is free-floating (doesn't have roots in the ground) and is common in Murray lagoons in South Australia.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/07

We noticed strong recrutment of red gums as with these saplings along this lagoon. It will probably not be long before overcrowding will thin them out.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/07


A panorama of the same lagoon

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/07

Houseboat view

While moving the houseboat from one overnight mooring site to the next a watch was kept for regent parrots. The procedure consisted of travelling for about 1.5 kilometres and then stopping, listening and watching for about ten minutes.

The houseboat that was used when I did my second stint was much more luxurious than that on my first stint. Note the spar-bath on the left. This boat also had 24 hour 240 volt power and power points in all rooms, the first only had 240 volt power when the noisy generator was running and there were only a very few power points in the lounge, none in the bedrooms.

Photo 2021/10/05, iPhone 7

Houseboat lounge
The houseboat of my second stint had two control stations; this is the one on the lower deck. (It had two barbecues too, one on each deck.)

On Both stints there were six people present.

Peter Barnes, whose bird photos are below, is on the left.

Photo 2021/10/05, iPhone 7

Red gum forest
Young red gum forest close to the river bank. The oldest trees in this view might be about 20 years, the youngest perhaps five years.

Red gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) germinate in huge numbers following flooding, and then there is competition for resources that sees the great majority die off. The sparse foliage on these trees suggests that they are highly stressed.

The green shrubby tree on the lower right is a native cherry, Exocarpos curessiformis.

This is poor regent parrot habitat because the trees are far too young to have hollows suitable for nesting.

Photo 2021/10/05, iPhone 7

One of the many places we pulled into the river bank with the 'tinny' to search for regents.

Photo 2021/10/06, iPhone 7

Flowering pigface (Carpobrotus species), together with creeping boobialla, was among the most common groundcovers along the flats near the river.

Photo 2021/10/06, iPhone 7

Knobbly tree
A bizarrely shaped red gum tree. Regent parrots, as well as other parrots, galahs, cockatoos and other birds, use tree hollows for nesting. Trees such as this one provide homes for many animals, birds and others.

The red object is an insulated bag that had apparently blown away from someone's camp.

Photo 2021/10/06, iPhone 7

The native ground-cover creeping boobialla (Myoporum parvifolium) grew luxuriantly near the river downstream of Loxton. This surprised me because it was too far from the river to be accessing river water and the winter had been a little drier than usual.

I have found creeping boobialla to be a very useful ground-cover at my places, at the Gleeson Wetlands in Clare and Central Park in Crystal Brook.

Photo 2021/10/07, iPhone 7

Flooded trees
The flow in the Murray during the survey was higher than usual and consequently so was the water level as shown by these trees being in the water. There were many places where the water level was flooding some of the bank-side red gums.

Red gums are remarkable trees, even for Eucalypts, they can stand having their roots waterlogged for several months without harm.

Photo 2021/10/07, iPhone 7

Sunrise on a calm morning.

Regent parrots were active in the early mornings. This made it necessary for us to get out and start looking for them also in the early mornings, we saw the sunrises every morning.

Photo 2021/10/08, iPhone 7

Several of us had gone ahead in the tinny and started the 'colony search' when 'our' houseboat motored past disturbing the layer of mist lying on the river.

Photo 2021/10/08, iPhone 7

Photos by Peter Barnes

Peter was rostered on for the same period as my second stint. He is a keen birder and bird photographer. He was good enough to provide some of his photos for me to add to this page.

Chestnut rumped thornbill Chestnut rumped thornbill
Chestnut rumped thornbills

Mallee ringneck Tree martin
Mallee ringnecked parrot
Tree martin

PB regent 1 PB regent 2
PB regent 3 PB regent 4

Peter Barnes regent parrot photos.
"First 3 photos adult male Regent parrots. Last photo probably a fledgling. It has a short splayed tail from being in a nest hollow. Relatively green colour. Small."
The images all have high definition versions. Click on one of the small images to see the high definition version.

Peter Barnes - wood swallows

PB F Masked PB F white-browed
Female masked wood swallow

Female white-browed wood swallow

PB Dusky PB M white-browed
Dusky wood swallow
Male white-browed wood swallow

Peter Barnes - sacred kingfisher

Sacred kingfisher

This is my favourite among those photos of Peter's that I saw.

Photo early October 2021

Miscellaneous subjects

Standing wave

Standing wave Standing wave

I noticed this very small and subtle standing wave on a very calm morning (running from the bottom left corner of the left image upward and toward the right and enlarged in the right image). I'm theorising that it formed along the line where the water moving with the quite strong current met the stationary water that had been blocked by the pontoon under the houseboat.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/10/08

Canoe tree

Canoe tree
This tree shows a scar that is probably where Aboriginal people carved out a bark canoe; it must have been very small, the scar is only about 2m long. I was informed that it was unusual for a bark canoe to be taken from a box tree rather than a gum tree (both, of course are Eucalypts).

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/07

Gum tree burl

The dried and weathered burl of a fallen gum tree

Photo Canon Ixus 190, 2021/09/06

Pumps and groundwater

One of a great many pumps that we saw as we moved up and down the river; this one was near our mooring of 7th September.

Water has been diverted from the Murray for irrigation at least since the Chaffey Brothers established their first irrigation settlement at Mildura in northern Victoria in 1886, followed by one at Renmark in South Australia.

Apart from the impact of climate change most of the problems of the present day Murray-Darling Basin, including the declining numbers of regent parrots, can be traced back to excessive or wasteful water extraction and irrigation practices.

Photo Apple iPhone 7, 2021/09/07

Groundwater seepage

A problem in a number of places along the lower Murray river is due to irrigation water beyond that used by plants getting into perched aquifers and the seeping out into the river. In this case seepage from the perched aquifer has left these flowstone formations on the cliff-face just upstream of Waikerie.

Note the dry reeds on the shelf where the seepage comes out.

Photo Canon Powershot S3 IS, 2021/09/08

This photo shows active seepage. It was recorded close to the above photo. The darker rock is wet.

Seepage out of the perched aquifers going into the river is always much more saline than the water that was taken from the river for the irrigation - much of the water and none of the salt is lost to evaporation and transpiration.

(I was involved in the Woolpunda saline groundwater interception scheme, and the one that followed it, in my work with the hydrogeology section of the SA Department of Mines and Energy.)

Both these photos show feral palm trees that have established along this and other sections of Murray cliffs. There were many more in other sections.

Photo Canon Powershot S3 IS, 2021/09/08


A shot of me looking like some subject in a Frederick McCubbin painting, perhaps the man in Down on his luck?

For the first few days I used my own binoculars, not realising how much better were those that were available from the organisers of the survey. I think I paid about $70 for mine some 40 or so years ago, the quality Leica ones that were in use on the survey were worth about $3,500.

Photo by Margaret Hains taken on our first afternoon in the field, 2021/09/01.


Launching ramp
Chaining off a launching ramp struck me as a selfish thing to do, especially as I believe that all the land in South Australia within 50 metres of the bank of the Murray is supposed to be available for public access; plainly, this launching ramp near Cadell is within that area. It is very ruggedly constructed and would handle a lot of use without harm.

Anyone using this particular launching ramp would have had to cross privately owned land so perhaps the 'owner' had had problems with irresponsible people on his land. The apparent selfishness might be justifiable if all the facts were known.

There was another 'private' launching ramp near the mooring we used south of Morgan. Again, it was very difficult to see why the ramp should not be available to all. Compassion to our fellow humans and to the animals and plants with whom we share the planet is one of the most admirable of human characteristics.

This world is desperately in need of shifting from fossil fuels to renewable energy, most of the reasons that we are not doing so have something to do with selfishness, as particularly in the case of those who oppose wind power.

Drone overview

I took the few photos below on my way to the meeting point on the first day of the survey, 2021/09/01. All were taken with my Mavic Mini drone.

The Murray at Morgan. I flew my drone from a little park on top of the high bank on the town side of the river.

Morgan is at the point where the Murray makes a major turn to flow southward toward its mouth after flowing generally westward for many hundreds of kilometres. It was once the main railhead and port on the South Australian section of the river.

The paddle 'steamer' in the foreground is the PS Canally. The Morgan ferry can be seen crossing the river in the distance.

Saline flats
Saline river flats near the Cadell ferry, upstream of Morgan, the main channel of the river in the background.

Salinisation is a huge problem along the South Australian section of the Murray.

Cadell ferry
The Cadell ferry, seen crossing the river here, is one of three between bridges at Blanchetown (downstream) and Kingston (upstream). The others are at Morgan and Waikerie.

Limestone cliffs such as those on the right in this image line much of the South Australian part of the Murray. In some sections they are right on the river, like these, at other places they may be a kilometre or more away.

We were to come back along these sections of the river during the part of the survey in which I took part.


Should I spend my time helping out in environmental work like the Regent Parrot Recovery Survey, or could I spend my time more constructively elsewhere?

Open letter to Angus Taylor, Minister for Energy and Emissions 'Reduction', sent to several newspapers 2021/09/01. It was published in at least two.
"Perhaps the thing about you I find hardest to understand is why you have chosen to make of yourself a person who will be despised by future generations, by your children and possible future grandchildren. Of all the world's energy ministers you are perhaps the leader among those who are opposing action on the climate change that is damaging our precious shared world.

At a time when South Australian's power bills have been reduced by our adoption of clean renewable energy, you have chosen to increase everyone's power bills in order to raise money to subsidise old, inefficient coal-fired power stations and keep them operating past their use-by dates - your 'Coalkeeper' scheme. Does what the world thinks of you concern you in the slightest?

Some background to this letter is on another page on this site."

Wildlife is one major part of our environment, birds are a part of wildlife, parrots are a group of bird species, Australian parrots are a sub-group of all parrots, regent parrots are numerically a very small fraction of Australian parrots.

If an individual is concerned about the whole environment how much time and resources should he/she put into regent parrots. And then how much use will a survey be toward the survival of the regent parrot?

It seems to me that my time will be better spent trying to get action on global problems, particularly climate change and the millions of people who are killed each year by the air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels.

More locally I will continue to counter the lies told about wind turbines, such as the misrepresentation of a WHO report by Member of the SA Legislative Council Connie Bonaros.

At the time of writing a study of the effects on people's sleep due to wind farms by Flinders University was unfinished. I have written about the study elsewhere on these pages.

I will continue to argue in support of wind power because we must replace fossil fuel energy with renewable energy including wind power.

Related pages

External sites...

Regent Parrot Nest Survey 2010, Prepared for the S.A. Regent Parrot Recovery Team, March 2011

Australian Geographic, "Regent parrots thriving in SA wetland, Banrock Station’s Ramsar site".

National Recovery Plan for the Regent Parrot (eastern subspecies) Polytelis anthopeplus monarchoides; Prepared by David Baker-Gabb (Elanus Pty. Ltd.) and Victor G. Hurley (Department of Sustainability and Environment, Mildura), October 2011.

Recovery Plan for the Regent Parrot (eastern subspecies) Polytelis anthopeplus monarchoides in the South Australian Murray Darling Basin; Published by the Department for Environment and Heritage, Berri, South Australia; October 2006

On this site...

Lists of my pages mainly concentrating on images: overseas and in Australia

A list of my pages relating to the Australian environment

A 750 kilometre walk for climate action

The burning of fossil fuels is widely recognised as the main cause of climate change, ocean acidification, sea level rise and ocean warming. The air pollution from the burning of fossil fuels kills millions of people world-wide each year.

Media lies about climate change and the refusal to reduce emissions by those in power should rightly be ranked as the greatest crimes in history due to the enormous harm that they are doing to our precious shared planet. Among the criminals would have to be listed Australia's Prime Ministers Tony Abbott and Scot Morrison and Energy Minister Angus Taylor.