The preceding 5 weeks of the three Watti Watti / Kangkuwulunhna Explorer Surveys and Watti Watti / Kangkuwulunhna East Survey will determine exactly where this survey will explore.
A similar survey in 2018 (though in a different area) discovered significant areas of habitation and so this transect will be an important part of our Ancient Stories theme. Who knows what we will find!
The country will morph from the red crested dunes and gidgee forests in the north to white dunes with broad and sparse inter-dune corridors and smaller salt lakes as we near the Warburton River. The survey will terminate approximately 25km north of the river.
The white sand ridges of the south-eastern portion of the desert holds many unique attributes compared to the broader Simpson. Made up of sediments deposited by ancient river channels and paleo drainage lines the area now sits atop the remnants of these long gone land systems. Characterised by jumbled and often towering white dunes, ephemeral salt lakes and expansive claypans, this part of the desert abuts the famed Warburton River floodplain - creating an ecotone (or transition) between desert river system and the wider dune field.
There are many unique plants and animals that had/have evolved to live in this part of the desert. The flora can be a mix of floodplain and desert species, creating a varied and interesting suite of plant communities. Birds can readily move across and between land systems, whilst some mammals like the Dingo and Long-haired Rat (Rattus villosissimus) take advantage of the varied landscape to move in and out of the desert when conditions suit. It is presumed many of the now extinct medium sized mammals (e.g. bandicoots, hare wallabies and rat-kangaroos) would have exploited these areas in similar ways.
A prime survey objective is to assess the impact of feral predators (i.e. cats and foxes).
It creates a fascinating land system that can offer many discoveries and insights into the general ecology of desert fauna and flora.
Walking in this landscape is on firm sand and occasional large claypans. Spinifex, the dominant plant species to the north, is virtually absent in this part of the desert, so walking is easy. The eastern Simpson will probably be dry and mostly devoid of any wildflowers unless there has been sufficient rain in March/early April, in which case a profusion of yellow flowers such as poached-egg daisy & 'Yellowtop' will be covering the landscape, and supplying our camels with fresh feed.