Cox Scrub Conservation Park

On Friday morning, 27th December, 2013, my wife Marija and I headed down to Victor Harbor, on the beautiful Fleurieu Peninsula, where we planned to stay 2 nights.  And I even had ‘permission’ to activate some parks, so I didn’t need to be asked twice.

We left home in the Adelaide Hills early in the morning, and our first stop on the way down to Victor Harbor was the Cox Scrub Conservation Park, which is situated about  40 km south from my home, about 70 km south of Adelaide and about 8 km south of the little town of Ashbourne (which has a great pub by the way, called The Greenman Inn).  The park is accessed off the Bull Creek Road, which was formerly known as the Adelaide to Goolwa Road.


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The Fleurieu Peninsula was named by French explorer Nicholas Baudin, after the eminent French explorer Charles Pierre Claret de Fleurieu.  Way back in 1802, Matthew Flinders, the English navigator, and Nicholas Baudin mapped the southern coast of Australia.  Flinders surveyed the area from the west, while Nicholas Baudin surveyed from the east.  Flinders and Baudin met at a point near the mouth of the Murray River.  Flinders named the bay where they met as Encounter Bay.


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Cox Creek Conservation Park is a large park, and comprises 544 hectares of open shrubby vegetation with a drought hardy under storey.  It is one of the larger parks on the Fleurieu Peninsula.  It was acquired in 1969 and was dedicated as a South Australian Conservation Park on the 5th day of March, 1970.  Prior to being declared a conservation park, the majority of the land was owned by Mr. V. Cox, who was apiarist at Ashbourne.  He preserved the park in its natural state for the over wintering of his honey bees.  The land was purchased from Mr Cox in 1969 on condition that he be allowed to keep bees in the park for as long as he required.  This right was withdrawn following his death.  In 1977 and then again in 1982, further smaller additions to the park were made.

The park also includes a short section of the Finnis River.  In the south eastern corner of the park there is a steep sided valley which contains a spring fed creek.  and there is also a winter swamp area near the main carpark off Bull Creek Road, and this was full of water when Marija and I visited.

The famous Heysen trail runs very close to the western boundary of the park.  Coles Crossing campsite on the western side of the park, offers trekers along the Heysen trail, a place to rest their weary bones.

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The February 1983 Ash Wednesday fires ravaged the park.  All but a small 5 hectare section in the south western corner of the park, was totally burnt out during the devastating bush fires which claimed 28 lives in South Australia (47 in Victoria) and destroyed about 2,300 homes in SA & Victoria.

There are a variety of birds located in the park (of the feathered variety), including Rainbow lorikeets, Eastern Spinebill, Golden Whistler,Black-shouldered kite, and yellow-tailed black cockatoos.  In fact over 80 species of birds have been recorded in the park.

Also located within the park are at least 15 species of mammals, 11 species of reptiles, and 6 species of frogs. Mammals include the echidna, and the endangered and vulnerable Southern-brown bandicoot.  While reptiles located within the park include Rosenberg’s Goanna.

Over 350 plant species have been recorded in Cox Scrub, with dominant species being Eucalyptus Pink Gum, Cup Gum, and Brown Stringy Bark.  In the north western corner of the park, there are a large number of Sugar Gums, and these were planted when then park was privately owned, to provide additional nectar for bees.


The park was burnt significantly during a recent scrub fire in May, 2013.  The fire which started off as controlled burn off, destroyed over 350 hectares of the park.  And there were clear signs of the fire, with the vegetation trying to slowly recover.  It is really quite amazing how the bush can recover from such an event.  I wonder how much wildlife was lost though as a result of the fire ?

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Courtesy of:-

I set up the gear in the carpark utilising the fence line to secure the 7m squid pole.  I made myself comfortable on the deck chair with the table, and put out a call on 7.095 to be greeted by a hungry pack of Park Hunters.  First cab off the rank was Graham VK5KGP with a very strong signal.  This was followed by Larry VK5LY who was mobile, and then David VK5DGR who was running just 2 watts and a magnetic loop antenna, under the carport of his home in Adelaide.  This was followed by a steady flow of callers from VK3 & VK5.



Whilst in the park I managed a few SOTA contacts on 20m SSB, including Andrew VK1NAM who was portable on Mount Stromlo VK1/ AC-043 (5/2 both ways), and only my 2nd ever Queensland SOTA contact with Dave VK4OZY who was portable on Mount Mary Smokes VK4/ SE-041 (5/7 sent & 5/6 received).  The contacts with Andrew & Dave were a real added bonus.

Whilst operating I was also approached by a young guy who was in the carpark in his Toyota Coaster travelling around SA with his girlfriend.  He was extremely interested in amateur radio and told me that he was an avid short wave listener.  I gave him my contact details and who knows, maybe when he gets back home to the Northern Territory, he might get his amateur licence.  he was certainly keen when I told him that CW was no longer compulsory.

After about 90 minutes in the park, it was time to pack up and head off to Scott Conservation Park.  I had 20 QSO’s in the log (18 on 40m SSB and 2 on 20m SSB).

I worked the following stations:-

Graham VK5KGP; Larry VK5LY/m; David VK5DGR (qrp); Brian VK5FMID; Ray VK3HSR; Bill VK5MBD; Col VK5HCF (qrp); Tom VK5EE (qrp); Tom VK5FTRG; Nick VK3ANL; Paul VK5FUZZ; Bernard VK3AMB; Allen VK3HRA; Bruce VK3IG; Ron VK3AFW; Nev VK5WG; Brian VK3MCD/2; Rohan VK5FVBR; Andrew VK1NAM/p (SOTA); and Dave VK4OZY/p (SOTA.


Friends of Cox Scrub Conservation Park 2012, Friends of Cox Scrub Conservation Park, Ashbourne, South Australia, viewed 30th December 2013, <;

South Australian Tourism Commission 2013, South australian Tourism Commission, Adelaide, South Australia, viewed 30th December 2013, <http://;

Wikimapia, 2013, viewed 30th December, 2013, <;

How to attract Chasers and Hunters

I was recently asked by an amateur who has been bitten by the ‘portable bug’ as to how they could ‘spot’ themselves for parks activity & thus attract callers.  And listening on air in the past couple of days, it has been evident that it has been a little bit of a struggle during a weekday for some ops to pick up the required number of 10 QSO’s for the WorldWide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program.  I know that in the past there have been a few unsuccessful SOTA & Parks activations here in VK5.  Not many, but enough to perhaps discourage activators.

So I thought I would point out the various websites & spotting / alert facilities which should help you in filling up your logbook.  And I’ve also included a few tips I’ve found when operating QRP from a summit or a park myself.

I would welcome all of the other regular SOTA & Parks Activators / Chasers / Hunters to comment with their own tips & suggestions.

If you are a SOTA Chaser, or Parks Hunter, please do your best to advertise that the Activator is out there.  Don’t just work them and leave it at that.  If they are not already on there, place them on SOTAwatch, parksnpeaks, etc.  Your contribution as a Chaser / Hunter may help the Activator qualify a SOTA peak or a WWFF Park.  It may also help another keen Summit or Parks Chaser / Hunter, to add another summit / park under their belt.


Summits on  the Air…..

The first point of call for SOTA is SOTAwatch2 of course.  Here you can view the ‘Latest Spots’ and ‘Upcoming Activations’.

As a Chaser, you can ‘spot’ an Activator.  Many keen SOTA Chasers keep a watchful eye on the SOTAwatch2 site.  And even if they are not near their computer, and viewing SOTAwatch, the introduction of various phone apps such as SOTAGoat and Rucksack radio will alert the keen Chaser to the ‘spot’.

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And of course you can post an intended activation as an activator.  For the vast majority of activators, SOTAWatch is used to very good effect.  Some activators find that adding an alert for a planned summit, places pressure on them regarding arrival time on the top of the summit.  But nowadays the vast majority of SOTA Chasers are well aware of the various anomalies that come in to play when reaching a summit on time.

There is also the SOTAwatch 2 reflector.

The SOTAwatch Reflector is an extension of the SOTAwatch facility.  Recently the SOTAwatch reflector has been put to very good use when advertising planned activations involving Europe – Australia contacts.

And there is the SOTA Australia Yahoo Group.

Many SOTA activators place their intended activations onto this site which has numerous members all around Australia.  If you place your intentions here, it is exposing your intended activation to a wider audience.

And why not also try the DX cluster.  Remember the ‘DX Code of Conduct’.  It is impolite to self spot (spot your own call sign) unless you are desperately trying to drum up activity on an open but quiet band.  But as a SOTA Chaser, why not spot the Activator you just worked, on the DX Cluster.  The bigger the audience the better !


VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award…..

With the VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award there are a number of different options open to you to ‘advertise’ your intended activation.  Sadly, at this time, there are no phone apps to alert you of activators being on a particular frequency in a South Australian National or Conservation park.  But this is being worked on.  To help you achieve success and lots of QSO’s in the log, try adding your intentions to the following sources.

There is the SANPCPA Yahoo Group.  This has members from all across Australia, and Activators are encouraged to place their intended activation/s on the Yahoo Group as a message.  Hunters have also placed messages on the group, announcing that they have just worked an Activator.  This is welcomed.

Allen VK3HRA has developed a magnificent site called parksnpeaks.  On the parksnpeaks site you can view VK Spots and VK Alerts.  Registration to the site is free.  You can add either a Spot (new VK Spot – Current Activity) or An Alert (new VK Alert – Proposed Activity) for a VK5 Park, QRP operation, Keith Roget Memorial National Parks Award (KRMNPA), VK WWFF.  For a SOTA spot/alert it is recommended that SOAwatch be used.


As mentioned above, consider using the DX Cluster.  If you hear an Activator out in a park, help him/her fill up their logbook, and place a spot on the DX cluster, so everyone around the world can see.

Why not consider setting up an SMS group on your mobile telephone.  I do this and use to to great effect.  It contains a list of amateurs I know that are keen Parks Hunters, who receive an SMS message each time I work a parks activator.


Try sending out an e-mail to your mates in the local radio club or other interested amateurs to notify them of your intended activation.

Use the local repeater to your advantage.  Although repeater contacts are not allowed for SOTA, VK5 Parks Award, WWFF, etc, there is nothing stopping you jumping on the local repeater before an activation, and advising people that you are sitting in a park and looking for contacts.

WorldWide Flora & Fauna…..

The World Wide Flora & Fauna program (WWFF) does not have a spotting & alert facility like SOTAwatch.  But Activators are encouraged to place their intended activations on the WWFF Forum.

The Australian (VKFF) branch of WWFF has a Yahoo Group.  Australian activators are encouraged to place any intended activations on the Yahoo Group.

Another option is the WWFF Facebook site.

And you can also follow WWFF on Twitter.


As mentioned above, the parksnpeaks site has a facility to either spot or alert.  It is a great tool, so please use it.

And as mentioned above, consider utilising the vast audience at the DX cluster.

Some general portable operation / QRP tips…..

Below are just a few general tips to help you fill up your logbook.  It is by no means an exhaustive list.  But it contains a few things that I have found through trial & error.

The secret is in the antenna

We have all heard this, but it is true.  It has been said that antennas compose one third of your QRP station.  The other two thirds are your operating equipment and your operating skills.

Try different bands 

Propagation is not always kind on 40m for the longer hauls around VK, and certainly for DX if you are running QRP.  So if possible, try operating on a selection of bands.  This may not always be possible I know, due to restrictions with licences, and lack of appropriate antennas.  But the give the people further afield the chance to get in the action as well.  The vast majority of portable activity here in Australia seems to be on 40m SSB, which often excludes the guys & girls in Western Australia (VK6).

Place your intentions on as many forums as possible

The more people who know you are out there the better.  So post your intentions on as many forums as possible.

Consider the time of day / know when bands are open

Who is your targeted audience ?  There is no point going out at midday if you want to work Europeans on 20m long path.  So try to time your activations for those who you would like to get in the log.

Look at the solar figures / propagation conditions

Propagation conditions are extremely important with any QRP operation.  If the solar figures are lousy, then maybe consider putting off an activation until another day.

Operating skills / practice

This is just a suggested practice I try to adopt.  If you do call for DX, you might be surprised who comes back to you.

–  call for any SOTA/parks activators
–  call for QRP stations
–  call for portable or mobile stations
–  call for any DX
–  call for stations who can hear you, but with difficulty (there is nothing worse as a Chaser/Hunter listening to an activator who is weak, but then disappears down below the noise floor due to a change in the band.)
–  call for anybody else (now the fun starts).

2,500 SOTA Chaser points

A few days ago on 21st December, 2013, I reached another milestone in SOTA…my 2,500 points as a Chaser.

Thanks to Peter VK3PF, I crossed the 2,500 point threshold.  Peter was on an un-named summit , VK3/ VE-159, which is south of Tallangatta in north eastern Victoria.  And to my surprise I was even able to comfortably work Peter on 20m, which is not normally the case between VK3 – VK5 on that band.

Thanks to all the keen activators who have allowed me to reach this point.

I have posted Peter a certificate of appreciation…..


European and UK activators

Last night (Monday 23rd December, 2013) I was on the 7.130 DX Net on 40m, and the goat bleated on my iPhone on the SOTA Goat app, to advise there was a SOTA activator out and about.  So I checked the phone and saw that it was Jana, DG5WU operating portable on Wildalpjoch, DL/ MF-075.  It was just starting to get dark outside, so things looked promising with the grayline.  I tuned to 20m and I could just barely hear Jana, but certainly not strong enough to work.  And there was a constant pile up.

So feeling a little dejected, my goat bleated again a few minutes later, and I saw a spot for Patricio EA2EX who was portable on Ilso, EA2/ BI-050 in the Vizcaya region of northern Spain, not far from the French border.  I tuned a few kc away from Jana, and there was Patricio.  Not all that strong, but audible all the way down here in South Australia.  So I eagerly picked up the mic, and I tried calling Patricio, but couldn’t make the grade through the European pile up.

But I kept listening and remained patient, and to his credit, Patricio called for outside Europe, and I was able to make contact with him.  Not flattering signal reports either way, but a contact nether less.  We were able to hear each other.  All the way from a mountain top in Spain to the Adelaide Hills in South Australia.  And all on Patricio’s 5 watts.

Patricio was using a Yaesu FT-817, 5 watts, and a ground plane antenna.

Patricio is ranked 9th in the EA2 Association as a SOTA activator.


I then saw another spot for Col, F/MM0YCJ, on 20m, on F/ AB-204.  Hoping that I might get lucky again, I tuned to his operating frequency.  But that wasn’t to be the case.  Sadly I could not hear Col at all.  I could clearly hear the Chasers, but not Col.

I have now worked a total of  22 DX Activators in 14 different European SOTA Associations on SSB (20m & 10m).  I have my Bronze Mountain Hunter certificate (currently 9 different Associations with QSO’s with at least 2 different summits).  I have 11 Associations where my count is 1 summit. So I need just 1 more contact to qualify for Silver Mountain Hunter.

I am yet to make contact with a US activator.  I must polish up on my CW skills and give Morse a go and I would probably have more success !

As I have found out myself, as a SOTA Activator, it is possible to make good DX contacts all the way to Europe, the UK, & the USA, on QRP power.  It all depends on the conditions, your antenna, the Chaser’s antenna, good listening skills, good operator practise, the time of the day, and of course GOOD LUCK !

In closing, I just wanted to say thank you to those European & UK SOTA activators that take the time to have a listen out for us all the way down here in Australia.  It seems that more & more interest is growing in getting Europe – Australia SOTA contacts, thanks to the recent efforts of Andrew VK1NAM, Ed VK2JI, & others. Ian VK5CZ (the VK5 SOTA Assoc Manager) made contact with a station in Poland on 10m just a few nights ago.

So thanks for listening for us Aussies.  There is a core group of us SOTA enthusiasts down here that would be more than happy to get you in the log.

New book added to my library

Recently I purchased the following book from the WIA Library…..

‘Low Power Communication.  The Art and Science of QRP”.


I am only half way through reading it, but this book is highly recommended.  It contains some terrific information and tips on QRP operation, not just for portable enthusiasts, but for Foundation calls as well.

The book includes the following…..

  • Tips to Get You Started the Right Way
    An introduction to QRP operating, FAQs for newbies and tips that even experienced amateurs will appreciate.
  • Equipment and Station Accessories
    Off-the-shelf commercial gear, kit building and homebrew, including an all-new homebrew photo gallery.
  • Antennas for QRP – Updated and Expanded!
    Wire beams, loops, dipoles, portable antennas and a look at the author’s new stealth antenna design.
  • Operating Strategies
    Contesting, awards and advanced techniques for becoming a successful QRP operator.
  • Emergency Communication
    Training, planning and other factors for utilizing low-power gear during an emergency.
  • HF Propagation for the QPRer
    NEW! An authoritative look at likely propagation conditions for Solar Cycle 24.
  • Plus, QRP calling frequencies, manufacturers…and much more!

The other day I heard someone commenting on air as to how stupid it was that Foundation calls used just 10 watts.  All I can say to that is that SOTA, the KRMNPA, the VK5 Parks Award, etc, have all recently shown what can be done with a lot less than 10 watts.  For me its all about knowing the band conditions, timing your calls, and antenna…antenna….antenna.

Mt Lofty summit and Cleland CP

On Friday evening, 20th December, 2013, I headed up to Mount Lofty summit, which is only 20 km west of home.  Well, I actually had the luxury of a chaufferred ride up there by my wife Marija, who dropped me off and then headed back home.  Marija didn’t fancy sitting on a log in the bush, holding hands, and listening to me talking on the radio, so she dropped me off and we organised for her to come back over and pick me up later.  Now thats a dedicated wife.  I think she may have had plans of leaving me on the summit !

Mount Lofty summit is also located within the Cleland Conservation Park, so it qualifies for the VK5 National & Conservation Parks Award as well as SOTA.  I have activated Mount Lofty & Cleland Conservation Park, 3 times before, but my motivation for the activation was that the 7.130 DX Net was holding a special Christmas edition of the net.  So I decided to do something a bit ‘novel’ for the net and head up to the summit.


After Marija dropped me off, I set up in my favourite spot on the eastern side of the summit, along a walking track in the bush.  This is a quieter location, away from the obelisk, the cafe, and the tourists.  There is a convenient Telstra sign there which is great to secure the squid pole to.  The weather conditions were not the best.  The temperature had dropped from a very hot 40 deg C down to about 25 deg C and the wind had really whipped up and was very strong.  Every time I heard a crack or a creak, I was looking up to make sure it wasn’t a gum tree limb about to come crushing down.  And out to the east of me there was plenty of shower activity.


I set up the linked dipole to 20m first, and my first contact was with John VK2YW who had  beautiful strong signal coming in from Wagga Wagga.  This was followed by Tom VK3EO who also had a very strong 5/9 signal from Swan Hill.  Normally the VK3 fellas don’t come in all that well on 20m, but Tom certainly had a magnificent signal.  Andrew VK1NAM then called in from the ACT with his normal good solid signal.  And thanks to Andrew as well for spotting me on SOTAWatch.  And my fourth contact was with another VK3….Marshall VK3MRG, who had a beautiful strong signal.


I was hoping that some of the Western Australia SOTA Chasers may call in, and sure enough Mike VK6MB came up.  It was good to get Mike in the log, because I can only imagine how hard it must be all the way over there in Western Australia to get 20m SOTA / QRP contacts.  So that’s why I have been trying to make a concerted effort to get onto 20m more often during any SOTA or Parks activation.  I have mentioned it before, but I think us Aussies take distance/s for granted down here in this big country of Oz.  It is about 4,000 km from Sydney to Perth (east to west), and a little over 3,000 km from Adelaide to Darwin (south to north).  They are big distances.  The map below will give you a good idea of the size of Australia compared to Europe.  And we regularly call VK3 – VK6 contacts…a local QSO !


I was also hoping that a bit of DX might call in, and to my surprise (with the help of Andrew’s spot on SOTAWatch), Michael DJ5AV called in with a booming 5/9 signal.  I received  a 5/5 signal report back Michael, who has recently been chasing a lot of the Australian SOTA activators.  My second DX contact was with Colin G4UXH.  This was much more of a challenge.  I could hear Colin very well (5/6) but he was struggling with me (3/2).

I then looked down the band to 14.156, hoping to speak to a few of my friends in the UK, Spain, Australia, and New Zealand, who gather there every day for a chat.  I spoke to John EA7BA (5/9 sent & 5/4 received).  I could clearly hear Terry G0VWP, but sadly he was unable to hear me.  This was a real shame, because Terry is a SOTA enthusiast.  I could also hear Billy, GI3NVW, but unfortunately I wasn’t quite making the grade with him.  He could hear me, but that was about it.

After working 11 stations on 20m I was running out of time, so I switched over to the 40m band and initially called CQ on 7.090 and worked Nev VK5WG, Allen VK3HRA, and Tony VK3CAT.  All had very nice signals.

I then QSY’d to the 7.130 DX Net.  Sadly the Over the Horizon radar was extremely strong and this made conditions very difficult indeed for me to work any of the DX that was on the net with my flea power of 5 watts.  I tried calling Brian ZL2ASH who was a good signal, but sadly he couldn’t hear me through the radar.  I normally make the grade quite easily with Brian when I am portable/QRP, but not this night.  William FO5JV was coming in very strong, and despite the fact that I had worked him previously whilst portable/QRP, I decided not to call, simply because of the radar.

I did take a little bit of video which I have placed on You Tube, which shows the radar in action…..

After working 6 stations on the net (in VK2, VK3, & VK7), I announced that I would QSY down to 7.110 and work anyone who might like Mount Lofty & Cleland Conservation Park.  The weather had deteriorated dramatically, and Marija had arrived and was waiting for me in the car, so it was a case of getting any interested ops in the log and moving on.  The weather had dropped from 40 deg C earlier in the day, down to about 13 deg C on the summit, with drizzly rain and strong gusty winds.  I did manage to work a few more stations in VK2, VK3, VK4, & VK5, (including Andrew VK2FAJG, operating QRP with 4 watts) before packing up and heading back home to the warmth of home.

By the end of the activation, I had a a total of 26 stations on 20m SSB and 40m SSB in the log.

The following stations were worked:-

John VK2YW; Tom VK3EO; Andrew VK1NAM; Marshall VK3MRG; Ed VK2AFY; Mike VK6MB; Michael DJ5AV; Gerard VK2IO; Colin G4UXH; Glenn VK3YY; John EA7BA; Nev VK5WG; Allen VK3HRA; Tony VK3CAT; Andy VK4TH; Ron VK3IO; Richard VK3IDX; Dennis VK2HHA; Paul VK7CC; Roy VK7ROY; Colin VK4FAAS; Urey VK3ATA; Luke VK3HJ; Iva VK4HG; Rod VK5FTTC; and Andrew VK2FAJG (QRP 4 watts).

Despite the weather, and the fact that it was no extra points for me for either SOTA or the VK5 Parks Award, this was a good fun evening.

The Summitsbase S2S Award

This morning I checked my e-mails and to my pleasure I found an e-mail from Mike G4BLH from ‘The Summitsbase’.  The e-mail contained my Class 2 Summit to Summit Award for 50 Summit to Summit contacts.

The Summitsbase website is primarily tailored for amateur radio operators who participate in programs such as Summits on the Air (SOTA),  the Summitsbase HuMPs Awards (HEMA) or S2S Awards, Wainwrights on the Air (WOTA).  More information can be found on the Summitsbase website……


Other than having some really interesting information which is well worth reading, Summitsbase also runs a number of awards.  Some of these such as the HuMPS Awards are not applicable to Australian hams, but the Summit to Summit (S2S) Awards Scheme is.  The S2S award is currently valid for contacts between two SOTA summits and is available at a number of different levels (I have highlighted the levels I have reached)…..

Class 3 Award: 25 unique Summit–Summit contacts
Class 2 Award: 50 unique Summit-Summit contacts
Class 1 Award: 100 unique Summit-Summit contacts
Intermediate Award: 250 unique Summit-Summit contacts
Advanced Award: 500 unique Summit-Summit contacts
Master Award: 750 unique Summit-Summit contacts
Supreme Award: 1000 unique Summit-Summit contacts

So why not add a bit more wallpaper to your shack and apply for some of The Summitsbase certificates.  They are really impressive.


VK5PAS SS-25-070