It was another Friday afternoon, 10th March 2017, and time for another Friday event for the VK5 National and Conservation Parks Award. I headed out to activate the Lowan Conservation Park 5CP-1121 and VKFF-1052, which is situated about 130 km east of Adelaide, near Bow Hill on the River Murray. It is about one hour drive from my home.
I had activated the Lowan Conservation Park only once previously, and that was way back in July 2013. This was prior to the park being added to the Directory for the World Wide Flora Fauna (WWFF) program. For information on that activation please see my previous post at….
Above:- Map showing the location of the Lowan Conservation Park, east of Adelaide in the Mallee region of the State. Map courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
This coincided with National Parks Week.
The Lowan Conservation Park is about 660 hectares in size and consists of remnant mallee scrub in the midst of wheat and sheep farms. The park consists of grey cypress pines, dryland tea-trees, hop bush and areas of open grassland.
Numerous bird species can be found in the park, including the Malleefowl, which is an endangered species. Malleefowl are also known as Lowan, and the park derives its name from the bird. More information on the Malleefowl can be found on the National Mallefowl Recovery Team website.
Above:- Malleefowl. Courtesy of wikipedia.
Western grey kangaroos are also common and it is a good place to see short-beaked Echidnas, and fat tailed dunnarts if you are lucky. There are no marked walking tracks in the park and the mallee is very thick in parts, so a compass or GPS device is definitely needed if you are feeling adventurous. There are no facilities and no marked campgrounds.
I headed out along the South Eastern Freeway to Murray Bridge and then took Burdett Road to Bow Hill Road where I started travelling east towards the park. I then turned right onto Gribble Bore Road. The intersection of Bow Hill Road and Gribble Bore Road is easy to spot as there is an old windmill and a stone water tank at this location. There is also a cairn to commemorate the sealing of the Bow Hill Road.
I travelled about 4 km up Gribble Bore Road and soon reached the north western corner of the park. There is a park sign at this location. Prior to leaving home I did see on the maps that there was a track in this vicinity which travelled north-south through the park, down towards a ruin near the southern boundary of the park. However I was unable to find this track. I continued on to the north eastern corner of the park where I found a small break in the scrub. This lead to an open gate and a track. Don’t blink, because you will miss the break in the scrub.
Prior to setting up I decided to have a look where this track lead to. It took me from the northern side of the park to the south eastern corner of the park and an open paddock. Unfortunately I could not find any other tracks through the park.
So I headed back along the track to the northern section of the park and a clearing in the mallee scrub which was an ideal operating spot. I set up the station which comprised the Yaesu FT-857d, 40 watts output and the 80/40/20m linked dipole supported on the 7m heavy duty telescopic squid pole. The soil in the park is very sandy, so driving the squid pole holder into the ground was like a knife through butter.
It was quite a warm afternoon, around 30 deg C, so I set up the deck chair and the fold up table underneath the shade of some gum trees. Always with a watchful eye for snakes. I was all set up and ready to go by 0630 UTC (5.00 p.m. South Australian local time), a little ahead of my posted activation time of 0700 UTC.
Above:- Aerial shot of the park showing my operating spot. Image courtesy of Location SA Map Viewer.
I headed to 7.144, which is a nominated WWFF frequency, but found there were some stations on 7.146, so I went down to 7.143 and asked if the frequency was in use. This was answered by Ken ZL4KD who was portable in the Hakatere Conservation Park ZLFF-0026. I knew that Ken was going to be out and about, but it was a real pleasant surprise to have him as number one in the log. Ken had a nice 5/7 signal and it was a real pleasure to have a Park to Park contact into New Zealand in the log. Hakatere Conservation Park is located on the South Island, west of Christchurch. Ken was also with his wife Margaret ZL3YS, who I also logged. This was Margaret’s first ever park activation.
Above:- Ken ZL4KD & Margaret ZL3YS operating from the motorhome in Hakatere Conservation Park in New Zealand.
Peter VK3PF then called in, followed by Dennis VK2HHA, and then Bill VK4FW. All had good 5/9 signals. The 40m band seemed to be in very good condition. There was absolutely no man made noise on the band and the static crashes were about strength 5. Unfortunately I had no internet coverage and I was relying on being spotted by others. Many thanks to Bill VK4FW, Brett VK3FLCS and Jonathan VK7JON who spotted me on parksnpeaks, early on during the activation. Thanks also to Steve VK4KUS who spotted me on Facebook. Spotting certainly helps the activator and also assists your fellow park hunter. I highly recommend hunters taking the time to spot activators. Please don’t rely on great spotting facilities like parksnpeaks, but never bother to spot yourself.
Contact number eleven was another Park to Park contact. Neil VK4HNS was activating the Venman Bushland National Park VKFF-0507, south east of Brisbane. Neil had a strong 5/8 signal and reciprocated with a 5/6 for me. My last contact on 40m before QSYing to 20m, was with Les VK5KLV/p who was in the Telowie Gorge Conservation Park VKFF-1105 and 5CP-227. Les was quite low down, but very readable as there was no man made noise in the park. Telowie Gorge is around 300 km north west of Lowan.
So with a total of 29 contacts in the log from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5 and VK7 in the log, I headed to the 20m band. I started calling CQ on 14.310 and this was answered by Bill VK4FW who was 5/3 off the back of his beam, followed by Rob VK4AAC with a strong 5/8 signal, and then Rick VK4RF/VK4HA who was 5/9. My one and only contact into Western Australia followed, with John VK6NU who was only 5/3. Conditions into VK6 of late on 20m have been down significantly.
I am sure that due to a spot on the DX cluster by Bill VK4FW, a few DX contacts followed. I logged Valery UT5PI in Ukraine, Rolf HB9RDE in Switzerland, and Rolf DK2MH in Germany. But sadly that was the extent of my DX contacts on the 20m band. My final contact on 20m was with Mike VK4HS with an excellent 5/9 signal.
I then lowered the squid pole and inserted the links in the dipole and headed off to the 80m band. It was coming up to 6.15 p.m. local time and still bright sunshine, but I was hopeful of making some contacts around VK5, as 40m was just not working for local contacts. My first taker on the 80m band was Mick VK3GGG/VK3PMG with a 5/7 signal (5/7 received) from western Victoria. Mick kindly spotted me on parksnpeaks. I was then called by Bill VK4FW with a strong 5/8 signal from Queensland, followed by Kev VK3VEK in western Victoria.
I went on to work a total of 14 stations on 80m, from VK2, VK3, VK4, and VK5. This included a Park to Park contact with Les VK5KLV in the Telowie Gorge Conservation Park, VKFF-1105 and 5CP-227. Les was much stronger on the 80m band (5/9 plus) compared to 40m. I also logged a Park to Park contact with Adrian VK5FANA who was activating the Clinton Conservation Park VKFF-0813 and 5CP-044. Thanks to Don VK3MCK who went up to 40m to tell Adrian I was on 3.610. I had very spotty phone coverage from the park, but an SMS message from Adrian did sneak through to tell me he was on 80m. So Don kindly went up to 40m to pass the message on to Adrian for him to come down to 80m to work me.
Around 0830 UTC (7.00 p.m. local time) I moved back to the 40m band. The sun was just starting to set at this time, and I was quite surprised to see a flock of pelicans flying overhead. The park is around 20 km south of the mighty Murray River and I suspect that is where they were headed. I called CQ on 7.144 and it wasnt long before Peter VK2NEO called in with his normal thumping 5/9 plus signal. This was followed by Simon VK2JAZ and then Glenn VK2WGW. Sadly, despite half a dozen CQ calls I had no further takers. So I took the opportunity of having a tune across the 40m band. I heard a few JA stations and a couple of USA stations, however I was unable to break through the pile ups to work them.
It was approaching 8.00 p.m. local time and was starting to get dark. It was almost time for the 7130 DX Net. I had about 15 minutes before the net started so I called CQ on 7.130. This was answered by Peter VK2STO in Lightning Ridge with a 5/9 plus signal. Brian ZL2ASH in Wellington then called me (5/9 plus), followed by William FO5JV in French Polynesia.
The net commenced shortly afterwards and I only remained on the net for one round, working Roscoe ZL1AAF an Robert VK7VZ. I was joined by a number of bats who flew around me continuosly, perhaps attracted by the torch light. I was getting really hungry, so I moved up the band to 7.137 with the intention of working a few stations and then heading home. First in the log on 7.137 was Keith VK6WK who was quite a difficult copy due to the ever increasing static crashes. Regular park hunter Damien VK3FRAB then called in, followed by Perrin VK3XPT who was operating remote. I worked a total of 17 stations from VK2m VK3, VK6, and VK7. Conditions on the 40m band were excellent. My final contact on 7.137 was with Andrew VK2VRC and we agreed we would try 80m.
So I lowered the squid pole and inserted the links for the 80m length of the dipole and headed to 3.610. I was pleased that I did, as band conditions there were excellent, with a total of 10 stations logged from VK2, VK3, VK4, and VK5. It was interested to note that I was hearing the Over the Horizon Radar on 80m for the very first time. Along with some signals on the same frequency from South East Asia.
It was now 9.30 p.m. local time and I had a total of 87 stations in the log. It was time to head home for a late evening meal. The 1 hour drive home was quite slow at times as there were numerous kangaroos out and about.
I worked the following stations on 40m SSB:-
- ZL4KD/p (Hakatere Conservation Park ZLFF-0026)
- ZL3YS/p (Hakatere Conservation Park ZLFF-0026)
- VK4HNS/p (Venman Bushland National Park VKFF-0507)
- VK5KLV/p (Telowie Gorge Conservation Park VKFF-1105 and 5CP-227)
I worked the following stations on 20m SSB:-
I worked the following stations on 80m SSB:-
- VK5KLV/p (Telowie Gorge Conservation Park VKFF-1105 and 5CP-227)
- VK5FANA/p (Clinton Conservation Park VKFF-0813 and 5CP-044)
Mallee Bound, 2017, <http://www.malleebound.com.au/html/lowan-conservation-park.html>, viewed 1th March 2017