Saturday, 9 September 2017

WWFF Queanbeyan Nature Reserve VKFF-1988

Following the publishing of CAPAD 2016 a whole lot of new WWFF Nature parks were added to New South Wales, including several close to the ACT by the VKFF manager Paul, VK5PAS. Decided to try activating one of these, VKFF-1988 Queanbeyan Nature Reserve. This has not been activated before.

After studying the park in Google Maps and Street View there seemed to be just one public entrance, a gate off Hoover Road in Queanbeyan. Drove there and parked nearby. The gate is locked but there was a gap on the left for walkers.

Headed through the gap into the park. A sign for the park, access for walkers only.

After the sign the road continued into the nature reserve. As mainly open grassland no suitable trees to use for the squid pole, so used the sign as a squid pole support and set up next to it. Dipole legs tied to the nearby fence.

Operating spot on a map of the park. Map from the Protected Planet website. The park is against the Eastern edge of the ACT border.

Operating shack on my camping table. Used my IC-7300 powered by a LifePO4 4300 maH battery. Kept the power to around 20w, but did use around 40w later as conditions were not good today.

Started by trying a park to park contact with Bill, VK4FW/p in VKFF-0485 The Palms National Park. I could hear him okay but he couldn't hear me, even using higher power. He was struggling to work other chasers, including some park activators in VK3, who I couldn't hear at all.

There was a solar disturbance which had knocked out all the close by NVIS propagation on 40m. Anyway tried spotting and calling, got Brett VK2VW in Northern NSW. He had trouble coping me but made it with a 35 report.

Continued working some of the regular chasers. VK3GGG/VK3PMG, VK2YK, VK7DW, VK5PAS/VK5FMAZ and VK5PL.

Saw a spot for John VK7JON/p in VKFF-1804 Forth Falls State Reserve. Got him on a 52 report, he usually booms in, so conditions were well down.

Went on to work VK5KLV, VK2FSAV, and my regular chaser Rick VK4RF/VK4HA.

Got a mobile call from Peter, VK3PF activating a park in VK3, who said he couldn't hear me on 40m and could I try 80m. I agreed to give it a go and strung out the 80m dipole, but no luck hearing him, and no calls to my CQs on 80m.

After my poor results on 40m and 80m switched to 20m. I could hear some VK4s and ZL stations chatting away but no replies to my spotting and calling.

As obviously a poor day for playing portable radio gave it away after 13 contacts. At least this park is not too far from home so can return to try and get the remaining contacts for the 44 required for WWFF.

Tuesday, 1 August 2017

New FT8 digital mode

I haven't been on air much lately due to poor HF band conditions, so thought I'd get on air using  digital mode, as this will get through when bands are not too good. After reading some blogs decided to try the new digital mode, FT8. This is a lot faster to use compared to JT65, instead of waiting 60 seconds per over it transmits an over in 15 seconds. This makes it good for modes such as sporadic e where there is rapid QSB. The downside to overs speed is a drop in sensitivity, only able to decode down to around -20db, but this is good enough for contacts.

The software is still in beta and can be downloaded from Joe Taylor K1JTs website at It was v1.8.0-rc1 when I downloaded it.

Install was fairly easy. I needed to update JTAlert as well to the latest version, and also edit a couple of config files in my logging program Log4OM to include this new mode.

I started on 80m, as this is fairly quiet and not much range, mainly around VK, so wouldn't make a spectacle of myself testing it out. Note the FT8 working frequencies are 2 Khz down from the JT65 working frequencies. The software tunes to this for you.

Spotted a CQ call by VK4AAN, Alan in Stanthorpe. He was strong, -01 so gave him a call, by clicking on his spot on the waterfall and waiting for his CQ to end and hitting the Enable TX button.

Once he answered my call the software takes over and controls the QSO. Usual swapping of reports, RRR and 73s exchanged. This was a strange experience, a computer controlled QSO!
Screenshot of the QSO

I checked after on PSKReporter, he was the only station to hear me. There is not much digital activity on 80m as most hams tend to head to 40m for DX. A pity as it can be a good DX band, opening up to the USA later in the evening here.

As a bit more confident I changed to the main evening DX band, 40m. Plenty of signals on here from VK, Asia and the USA. Tried a call to N6QQ John in CA. It took a few goes to get heard above other USA stations calling him as well, but eventually he came back to me Screenshot of the QSO

Checked PSK reporter, seemed to be getting out okay to several parts of the USA. Running around 30w from my IC-7300.

FT8 contacts logged to eQSL okay. LOTW is still to be updated, so will wait for this new mode to be added in before uploading.

A fun mode that will be good when bands are poor... Could even be used for SOTA or parks activations with the right location and equipment. Would need a laptop with time sync to an internet connection.

Wednesday, 28 June 2017

VKFF Hunter 450 Parks, Activator Sapphire 75 and Murray River Parks 30 Awards

After working over 450 World Wide Flora and Fauna (WWFF) Australian VKFF park references was able to apply for the VKFF 450 parks VKFF Hunter award (Honour roll)

Received promptly from the VKFF awards manager Paul VK5PAS

Also following my portable activations of 2 new parks recently down the NSW South Coast reached 75 park activations with 10 or more contacts. Therefore able to apply for the VKFF Sapphire award.

Lastly, managed to work 30 park references listed in the Murray River Parks Award, and able to apply for the next award level.

The next level is to work all the Murray River parks, this won't be easy...

Sunday, 18 June 2017

WWFF Hunter 444 references Award

I've managed to confirm contacting 444 WWFF park references, so applied for the award on the WWFF website. Received promptly from the awards Manager Pit YO3JW.

Monday, 12 June 2017

WWFF Eurobodalla National Park VKFF-0164

After staying at Batemans Bay over the June Queens Birthday long weekend decided to do another WWFF park activation before going home. Activated Eurobodalla National Park, VKFF-0164.

This park is made up of several fragments of bush land from Moruya Heads down to Mystery Bay to the North of Bermagui. Map from Protected Planet.

I chose to activate from the nearest point to Batemans Bay, Moruya Heads, at the mouth of the Deua River.

You enter the park on Coronation Drive, a one way loop around the headland. There was a lookout and historic graveyard on the right, parked in front of this and walked along a secluded track on the left to an enclosed park in the middle of the heads, with the Trig for the headland.

Nameplate on the trig, Toragy

I could have operated off the trig, however there was a more comfortable picnic table nearby... Set up the squid pole on the table. One dipole leg was fine, running out into the reserve, however the other leg was a bit of a scrub bash to set up. There were some branches touching the wire, but the dipole still seemed to load up okay on 40m.

Radio, my IC-7300 set up on the table, running off LifePO4 batteries. Wound the power down to 15W to conserve the batteries.

Got on 40m. Could see from the scope only 3 signals on the whole band, they were all park activations...

Worked VK3XV/p Tony in VKFF-0752 Broken-Boosey State Park. Mark VK5QI/m in VKFF-0892 Hogwash Bend Conservation Park. Then VK5PAS/p Paul and VK5FMAZ/p Marija in VKFF-0797 Glen Roy Conservation Park.

Also worked Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-1170 Goolawah National Park. Lots of park hunters called me from VK2, VK3, VK4 and VK5. I had problems with deep QSB, some callers were strong and then faded right out, some solar disturbance on the band.

I also had problems on my frequency 7.130. The frequency 7.125 is used by AM enthusiasts, some strong AM station came up and splashed over me.

Finished with another park to park contact with Stef VK5HSX.2 in VKFF-0410 Paroo-Darling National Park.

Packed up after 19 contacts and had lunch, headed home. A nice National park that I will enjoy returning to for completing the 44 contacts for WWFF sometime, maybe picking another location.

Sunday, 11 June 2017

WWFF Batemans Marine Park VKFF-1406

For the June Queens Birthday long weekend decided to escape the Canberra cold and head down to the NSW South Coast, stopping at Batemans Bay. Decided to activate a WWFF park that has not been activated before, Batemans Marine Park VKFF-1406.

Batemans Marine Park extends from the most northerly point of Murramarang Beach near Bawley Point to the southern side of Wallaga Lake entrance at Murunna Point, covering parts of the coast, lakes, rivers, lagoons and estuaries, the Tollgate Islands off Batemans Bay and Montague Island.

Map of the protected areas from Protected Planet website.

For an access point to the park I went to Guerilla Bay, turning off Burri Point Rd onto Beach Parade, then taking Bay St down to the beach. Map also from Protected Planet.

At the end of Bay St is a very small car park for the beach and a sign for the park. The headland across the bay is Burrewarra Point.

In the grassy area to the right of the sign was a picnic table that I used for the activation. Sorry forgot to take photos of my setup this time...

This was the weekend of the Shires contest, so stations were giving their shires out in reports. I was in Eurobodalla Shire here, ES2.

Started on 40m with S2S contacts with VK3XV/p Tony in VKFF-0739 Barmah National Park and VK3ZPF/p Peter in VKFF-0774 Warrandyte State Park.

Peter offered to let me use his frequency as he had the required number of contacts, and spotted me on ParksnPeaks.

Went on to work VK4TJ, VK4RF/HA, another S2S with VK2YK Adam in VKFF-0606 Sea Acres National Park, VK3PF, VK3GGG/VK3PMG.

Worked Paul VK5PAS/p and Marija VK5FMAZ/p in VKFF-0296 Lower Glenelg National Park with good signals.

Went on to work VK2IO/p, VK4AAC/2, VK3ARH, VK2KYO and VK4SMA. Another S2S with Stef VK5HSX/2 in VKFF-0410 Paroo-Darling National Park.

Worked Bill ZL2AYZ with a good signal, fairly easy to get New Zealand here on the South Coast.

Finished with VK2LEE and VK3KMH. A total of 19 contacts, so need to return to this park for the 44 for WWFF.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

WIA AGM 2017 General and Gold Awards

The WIA Annual General Meeting in Hahndorf South Australia offered 2 awards for working the special Event Stations VK5WOW and VI5WOW on air leading up to and after the event.

The 2 awards require the following, taken from the WIA Awards page:

The General Award
-  5 contacts with VK5WOW or VI5WOW
 Among the 5 contacts, at least two different modes or channels (eg SSB and RTTY, or analogue FM Echolink and CW) need to have been used, OR, at least one contact has to be with the callsigns when they have been activated from a Park under the terms of the VK5 Parks awards. (watch the usual parks activation alert sites for times and parks)

The Gold Award
 - 5 contacts with VK5WOW & 1 contact with VI5WOW - must include a digital data or voice modes contact and contact with at least one VK5WOW or VI5WOW parks activation

I worked VI5WOW/p 4 times and VK5WOW/p 6 times, so no problems getting both awards 😄
Most of the contacts were with Paul VK5PAS/p using the callsigns in WWFF/VK5 parks which I chase anyway...

I first needed to upload my logs to Clublog to confirm them, after which just a matter of applying and downloading the awards.

The General Award

The Gold Award

Monday, 8 May 2017

WWFF VKFF Honour Roll 425 areas award

Noticed on WWFF Logsearch that I've reached 425 VKFF references hunted, so able to apply for the award.

For interest did a breakdown of the number of parks hunted per call area. Using ParksnPeaks to get the total number of parks in each call area, able to work out the % of parks hunted so far.

 State Number Worked Total Parks % hunted
VK1 19                         45                 42
VK2 89                     394                 23
VK3 110                         119            92
VK4 56                     541           10
VK5 124                   375           33
VK6 12                     145           8
VK7 14                     46             30
VK8 0                        54             0
VK9 1                          7               14

Total 425                    1726         25

VK1 I've got 42%, There are not many park activators here, so this figure is quite good,,,
VK2 23%, still heaps of parks to chase. Its a big state.
VK3 92%, in fact only missing 9 parks to get them all! Lots of activators in a small state helps.
VK4 10%. A vast state with few activators. Many more left...distance also makes it hard to hear them
VK5 33% A fairly active lot of park activators. Some parks are remote and won't be heard often
VK6 8% A vast state with a low amateur population. Also a long way away so some park activations are not workable, especially on 40m in the daytime.
VK7 30% A small state with not many parks, but also not many activators.
VK8 0% Yet to hear a VK8 park... A big area with a low population, and a long way away from me.
VK9 14% Not many parks but they are all rare DX islands.

I've reached 25% of the total number of parks. Here is the award received from the VKFF Awards Manager Paul VK5PAS

Sunday, 30 April 2017

WWFF Gossan Hill Nature Reserve VKFF-0842

With a nice sunny Sunday morning decided to do a local WWFF activation, returning to Gossan Hill Nature Reserve VKFF-0842. I activated this park back on 23rd Mar 2015, after the Canberra Nature Parks were added to WWFF, and only managed 25 contacts, so needed to return to get the 19 needed for the 44 contacts for WWFF.

As per last activation parked in Weatherburn Place Bruce and walked up the hill, using the "Gossan Four" track

a short walk to the top of Gossan Hill. Operating spot shown, from Protected Planet.

Summit marked by a large rock pile. Good views to the West over the Brindabella mountains.

Gossan Seven Track sign with Belconnen town centre beyond.

Last time used this track marker for squid pole support, this time used an old fence post. Other fence posts used for dipole leg support. Looking up the hill.

Looking down the hill

Shack on the tarp near the fence post. Usual FT-817 running 5 W.

Note no paper log book... Decided to try electronic logging, as seems to becoming common now for SOTA and park activators, and would save me transferring the paper log to electronic form back home, a tedious process...

Like others got a cheap android tablet, a Lenovo Tab 3 7 inch tablet. Installed VK3ZPFs VK port-a-log program. I initially fumbled about adding contacts, but got the hang of it after a while. Found a setting to keep the recorded frequency with each contact so saved some retyping. Still a bit of fiddling quickly entering chasers with multiple callsigns, and when being called by multiple calls at once just had to try and remember who had also called later...

I also used my phone to just monitor parks and peaks for activity.

Started by working Andrew VK1AD/2 and Al VK1RX/2 on SOTA peak Mt Wee Jasper VK2/ST-017. Also worked Gerard VK2IO/p in VKFF-0490 Tomaree National Park.

After spotting myself on 7.095 Mhz went on to work lots of hunters in VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4 and VK5. A couple more SOTA contacts, VK3ARR/p Andrew on VK3/VC-002 Mt Donna Buang, and VK1FWBD/p Wade on VK1/AC-040 Mt Ainslie.

Gerard VK2IO/p popped up again later in a new park VKFF-1410 Port Stephens/Great Lakes Marine Park.

Briefly tried 20m. Worked VK4UH Kevin, VK4FW Bill and VK6XL Allen with good signals.

Returned to 40m to contact VK3PF/p Peter on VK3/VE-033 Mt Number 3.

Gave it away at 12:30 pm as I had made 38 contacts and with the 25 before qualified the park.

At home connected the tablet to the PC via USB cable, it showed up as a storage device, and just copied off the adif logs for importing into my logging program. Simple 😃

Stations contacted on 40m


Stations contacted on 20m


Monday, 17 April 2017

WWFF Oakey Hill Nature Reserve VKFF-0858

Easter Monday had some time in the afternoon to do a WWFF park activation. Decided to visit Oakey Hill Nature Reserve VKFF-0858 as a new park for me. Parked on a side road off Derwent St Lyons near the electricity substation, with a gate and sign for the park.

Location of the park, taken from Protected Planet.

Climbed up a walking track to the summit. Steep but not too long.

Did flatten out approaching the trig. Nice grassy area with Kangaroos grazing.

Oakey Hill trig.

View to the North. Black Mountain and the tower on the left, Canberra city in the Centre, Mt Ainslie on the right.

Set up the squid pole on the trig. Dipole legs tied to a small log and some weeds as no trees nearby.

FT-817 Radio on nearby rocks. Bit of a seat.

Got on 40m. Started with a park to park with Helen VK7FOLK/p in VKFF-1137 Gunns Plains Conservation Area. Also worked a special event station VK5WOW/p in VKFF-0776 Black Hill Conservation Park.

Usual park hunters from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5 and VK7.

Tried 20m, worked VK4TJ John, VK4FW Bill, and a weak signal from VK4FE Fred up at Port Douglas.

Approaching sunset, packed up after 25 contacts. Another park to revisit for the 44 needed for WWFF points.

Sunday, 16 April 2017

WWFF Woodstock Nature Reserve VKFF-0988

With a warm sunny Sunday decided to reactivate a nearby WWFF park, VKFF-0988 Woodstock Nature Reserve. I had visited it a couple of times before but due to poor propagation still had not made the 44 contacts needed for a WWFF point, still needed another 12 contacts.

As per other activations drove to the car park off Stockdill Drive in Holt, at the start of the walk to Shephards Lookout. I took the park access gate to the right of the walking track.

After a short walk set up in the bush to the right of the track. Used a fallen tree for squid pole support.

Radio on the table. Used the IC-7300 for a bit more power, set to 20w. Note the radio touch screen in the full sun was hard to read, used my own shadow for a sunscreen...

Got on 40m. Started with a park to park with Bob VK5AFZ/p in VKFF-1767 Lawari Conservation Park, a newly added WWFF park. Found a spot and spotted myself, usual park hunters from VK2, VK3, VK4 and VK7.

Another couple of park to park contacts with Marc VK3OHM/p in VKFF-0741 Lower Goulburn National Park, and Mike VK3XL/p in VKFF-0747 Gippsland Lakes Coastal Park.

Worked Marija VK5FMAZ/p and Paul VK5PAS/p in VKFF-0788 Scott Creek Conservation Park.

Worked several more hunters in VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4, VK5 and VK7. Another park to park with John VK5BJE/3 in VKFF-0264 Kinglake National Park.

Finished with another Park to park with special event station VK5WOW/p in VKFF-0788 Scott Creek Conservation Park, run by Paul VK5PAS. The pileup after this call was massive... I managed to get logged after Paul asked for QRP stations, I turned my power down to 5W and worked him...

After trying for another 12 contacts I had made 48, so actually qualified the park on this activation alone... headed home.

Saturday, 8 April 2017

SOTA Mt Cowangerong VK2/ST-001

After activating Mt Tumanang VK2/SM-049 headed for nearby Mt Cowangerong, VK2/ST-001, the Captains Flat BOM rain radar site. Parked near the start of the side road off Cowangerong Fire Trail and walked the short distance to the site.

Didn't set up too close to the radar, it is a QRM generator on HF... used the spot I used last time just down the road to the North of the site, using a gas pipeline warning sign for squid pole support. Dipole legs up and down the road.

Shack on the tarp just off the road.

Got on 40 m and spotted myself. First call was Wade VK1FWBD/p still on Mt Taylor VK1/AC-037. He was packing up and saw my spot so got back on for the S2S contact.

Went on to work the regular chasers, from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK4 and VK7. Most good signals.

A WWFF park contact with Neil VK4HNS/p in VKFF-0546 Wondul Range National Park. Not a park to park contact though as I was outside the boundary of Tallaganda National Park.

Tried 20 m, one contact only with the usual ZL chaser John ZL1BYZ.

Packed up after 23 contacts and headed home.

SOTA Mt Tumanang VK2/SM-049

I've been meaning to give SOTA peak Mt Tumanang VK2/SM-049 a try but been put off by the description of the rough Cowangerong Fire Trail. VK1MBE Andrew mentioned a better access method using South Forest Way, so gave this a try.

Drove out to Captains Flat from home in Canberra, taking about an hour. Drove past the Cowangerong Firetrail, and took the next road on the right, South Forest Way. This was a well maintained unsealed road, able to make good speed. Looking at the map, decided to cut across to Cowangerong Firetrail using Gum Creek Rd off to the right.

Gum Creek Rd was a bit rougher... narrow and slow going. There were a few deep puddles to cross, but no real problems. Quite a pretty drive in places with tree ferns. Joined up to the Cowangerong Firetrail, about 5 Km South of Mt Cowangerong, VK2/ST-001.

Found that I hadn't missed the rough bits... lots of dirt mounds to carefully drive slowly over. My Nissan Xtrail has a fair ground clearance but sure there were some hits underneath...Eventually reached the end of the Cowangerong Fire trail, joining the Tumenang Firetrail, thankfully wide and smooth. Note the sign for Tallaganda NP, this only applies to bush on the right side of the road.

A few Km down the fire trail found my way blocked by a large logging truck, and a grader. They were harvesting trees on the non National Park side of the road. Spoke to the driver, who said there was a road closed sign, but I missed seeing this the way I had come in. They had certainly not come the way I did! Anyway he backed up to a point where I could pass and continue.

The fire trail enters the park completely and I parked on a bend to the North of the summit. From here about a 600 m climb to the top, with an 80 m rise. See map.

Fairly light scrub, in 15 minutes reached the trig. A large rocky trig with a big disk on top. Typical of the ones in this area. 

Set up the squid pole on a stump just down from the trig.

Shack on the tarp. The sun came out but it was still cool at altitude, about 15c.

Got on 40m. Found some activations just packing up so a bit of a quick round to grab them before they went clear. Worked VK5PAS/3 Paul and VK3QB/p Chris in VKFF-0749 Shallow Inlet Marine Park with strong signals.

Then worked Peter VK3PF/p and Sergio VK3SPG/p on SOTA summit VK3/VT-071 Mt Square Top, also just about to go clear.

Worked Wade VK1FWBD/p on VK1/AC-037 with a good signal.

Spotted myself on 7.095 after Peter/Sergio were gone and got a good pileup going. Usual chasers from VK1, VK2, VK3, VK7. 

Briefly tried 20m, only worked one chaser, the reliable John ZL1BYZ with a good signal. A total of 20 contacts made.

Packed up after lunch. Was just able to pass the stopped logging truck on the left side. Going back along the Cowangerong Fire Trail came behind a 4WD with a canopy containing several hunting dogs. A couple of the dogs jumped out into the bush and he stopped. He had some radio tracking device on them so left him to track them down.

Returned back the same way, the on to Mt Cowangerong Vk2/ST-001.