Billiatt Conservation Park

After a very enjoyable 2 nights in Renmark it was time to head home.  I had ‘strict instructions’ that I was allowed to operate from one park on the way home.  So we headed south out through Berri, and on to Loxton.  And then along the Karoona Highway to the little town of Alawoona.  We continued south from Alawoona on the Alawoona-Lameroo Road, which disects the Billiatt Conservation Park.

The park, which is about 18 km south of Alawoona, is 593 km 2 in size and consists of sand dunes and mallee scrub.  The ecological value of the area was first formally recognised in 1940, when the Billiatt and Peebinga flora and fauna reserves were dedicated.  Following the acquisition of additional land in 1979, Billiatt Conservation Park was formally proclaimed under the National Parks and Wildlife Act, 1972.

More recently, the majority of Billiatt Conservation Park was recommended for protection under the Wilderness Protection Act,1992, following formal assessment by the South Australian Wilderness Advisory Committee.  The Billiatt Wilderness Protection Area was subsequently proclaimed in 2008, with a small area remaining as Billiatt Conservation Park.

Although left largely uncleared, some attempts at farming the land within the reserves were made between the 1870s and 1930s.  Some relics of earlier pastoral activity still exist, including old wells, bores and ruins.  The Pankina Well and ruins in Billiatt Wilderness Protection Area are remnants of Pankina Station, a pastoral lease which existed over the land until 1979.  A small area of vegetation was cleared as part of this development for sheep grazing, but is now naturally regenerating.  A trigonometric point also exists in the southern section of the wilderness protection area.

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The Park is home to a total of 93 different native mammals including the Common Dunnart, Mitchell’s Hopping Mouse, Western Grey kangaroo, and the rare Western Pygmy possum.  About 18 species of reptile are also found in the Park.  The Park has been identified by BirdLife International as an Important Bird Area due to the fact that it contains small but globally important populations of Malleefowl, Mallee Emu-wren, and Purple-gaped Honeyeaters, as well as the rare Western Whipbird and Red-lored Whistler.

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My wife Marija and I set up in a little clearing on the western side of the bitumen road, amongst the mallee scrub.  I used the normal equipment…the Yaesu FT-817nd and the 40m/20m linked dipole.  There was no shortage of trees and shrubs here to secure squid poles and the ends of the dipole.  It was a warm day, so I set up the fold up table and deck chair as close as I could to some shade.

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My first contact was with Larry VK5LY, and this was followed by Marshall VK3MRG who was operating portable from Yarra Park in Melbourne.  Marshall had a terrific 5/8 signal with his qrp 2.5 watt signal.  My 3rd contact was with David VK5KC who was portable in the Brookfield Conservation Park near Blanchetown.  David and his wife Joy were also on their way home from the Riverland.  It was great to work David, and bag another ‘Park to Park’ QSO.  Ivan, VK5HS was my fourth contact with a booming signal.

I was then called by Andrew VK2ONZ who was operating from the top of Mount Lambie, VK2/ CT-007, in the Central Tablelands of New South Wales.  Andrew’s signal was up and down dramatically.  He sometimes peaked at 5/6 but then totally disappeared on me, despite the noise floor being virtually non existant.

I also managed another SOTA contact, and that was with Kevin VK3KAB who was portable on Bill Head, VK3/ VN-004.

Again it was good to hear from a number of stations operating QRP.  They included Marshall VK3MRG/p, David VK5KC/p, Andrew VK2ONZ/p, Peter VK3PF, Ron VK3AFW, and Col VK5HCF.  All had great signals and were very readable despite the fact that they were running with low power.

I decided to have a quick listen on 20m and I was glad I did.  There were some excellent signals coming in from Europe.  I managed 3 DX contacts into Austria, Russia and Italy, with good signal reports given for my little 5 watt signal.

The afternoon was getting on, and we still had a 2 hour drive to get home, so it was time to pack up.  It was the end of a great weekend.  I had a total of 22 QSO’s in the notebook from Billiatt CP, including 1 VK5 Park, 2 SOTA contacts, and 3 DX stations, so I was very happy.

The following stations were worked:-

Larry VK5LY; Marshall VK3MRG/p; David VK5KC/p; Ivan VK5HS; Andrew VK2ONZ/p; Kas VK5ZKT; Tim VK5AV; Andy VK5LA; Graham VK5KGP; Nick VK3ANL; Kevin VK3KAB/p; Matt VK1MA; Roy VK5NRG; Peter VK3PF/qrp; Ron VK3AFW/qrp; Jim VK2TWY; Col VK5HCF/qrp; Rod VK5FTTC; Shaun VK5FAKV; Ivan OE3DIA; Oleg RY3D; Diego and IW2MZX.

I have posted a video of this activation on You Tube.

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