Category Archives: Excursions

Chiltern – Mt Pilot National Park

Chiltern-Mt Pilot National Park is somewhat fragmented and the camping areas marked on the map are not widely advertised however,  we did find a lovely quiet spot where we enjoyed a few days on our own.  This lovely pond was a few metres from our camp ….. beautiful reflections in the still water.

Reflections

Reflections on the pond

There was more activity on the water surface than was first apparent! This pair of Australian Emperors were flying ‘together’ while the female laid eggs in several locations around the pond.

Australian Emperor - Hemianax papuensis

Australian Emperor – Hemianax papuensis

Awake with the birds on our first morning, we set off early on the Tuan Track walk, collecting a leaflet provided by the Friends of Chiltern National Park on our way.  It is a lovely walk  and the weather was perfect with some sun to warm us and only a gentle breeze.

Tuan Track

Tuan Track

With the aid of the descriptions in the leaflet we were able to not only appreciate the change in vegetation as we progressed along the track but also identify a few species.  It was also interesting to note the dominant bird species associated with particular flowering plants and along different sections of the track.

Dillwynia phylicoides

Dillwynia phylicoides – thanks to Eileen Collins from Mt Chiltern NP Friends for help with identification

Diuris sp. - Donkey Orchid

Donkey Orchid – Diuris sp.

Petalochilus carneus - Pink Fingers

Pink Fingers – Petalochilus carneus

Cat's claw Grevillea - Grevillea alpina

Cat’s claw Grevillea – Grevillea alpina

Other highlights of our few days exploring the variety of tracks in this national park included a morning walk at the Yeddonba Aboriginal site.  A very pleasant stroll along their well set out ‘self-guided’ tour gave us a different perspective and a chance to imagine how the country looked before our European ancestors cleared much of the beautiful forest.

We then drove on to the Mt Pilot section, parked the car for a short walk up to the summit and Allen spotted this delightful creature snoozing in a dead Callitris.

Koala woken briefly by our conversation.

Koala woken briefly by our conversation.

A short stroll to the summit revealed 360 degree spectacular views.

Easterly view of Mt Pilot range

Easterly view of Mt Pilot range

Looking north from the summit

Looking north from the summit

Enormous granite boulders on the summit support a surprising variety of vegetation that manages to not only survive but thrive in the extremes of summer heat and winter cold.

Leptospermum sp. with bee

Leptospermum sp. with bee

Some plants have found shelter between granite boulders or have taken root in cracks of the boulders but the most entrancing ‘miniature garden’ grew around a large pond which had formed in a dip in the rock.

Summit vegetation

Summit vegetation

Mossy garden in the granite

Granite rock-pool garden

After exploring the summit for a while we returned to the carpark to enjoy our morning coffee as well as the sight of a Scarlet Robin followed by a chestnut-rumped Heath-wren.   We kept our eyes out for a glimpse of a Spotted Quail-thrush – no luck there but we did find a lovely patch of Greenhood orchids.  We are not certain of which Greenhood but someone may be able to help us.

Greenhood Orchid

Greenhood Orchid – Pterostylis curta (thanks to Denis Wilson for identification)

Then we drove on to Woolshed Falls with its impressive granite race leading to the main falls – extensive paving with granite steps makes for very easy access to the viewing areas.

Granite race - Woolshed Falls

Granite race – Woolshed Falls

Woolshed Falls

Woolshed Falls

As we quietly enjoyed our picnic lunch we heard the unmistakeable creaky calls of some Gang-gang Cockatoos who alighted not far from us and sat in the tree  apparently undisturbed by us walking around trying to get a better angle for a photo.

Male Gang-Gang Cockatoo

Male Gang-Gang Cockatoo

Female Gang-Gang Cockatoo

Female Gang-Gang Cockatoo

On our last day in Chiltern-Mt Pilot  we were finally rewarded with a good sighting of a Turquoise parrot which, although not a first for us, was another on the list.
This is my final entry for our 2013 camping excursion – it was a wonderful journey, we did cover a lot of ground and there are many places to which we would like to return.  We have been considering calling it our ‘parrot trip’ as we saw many species of parrot, new to us.
And so we travelled on to the Brisbane environs where  we enjoyed some special time with grandchildren for a couple of weeks before travelling home up the coast.

Yanga National Park

Yanga National Park was opened to the public in 2009 after being purchased by the NSW government in 2005 on a “walk in – walk out’ basis at a cost of $30 million.  Some of that expenditure has been recouped by selling off those parts of the original property that were unsuitable for inclusion in a national park.

Yanga Lake, along with a vast frontage to the mighty Murrumbidgee River made this area now known as Yanga National Park a valuable pastoral property but it was also vitally important to the local indigenous population.
Excerpt from information in the cook’s cottage at Yanga homestead.
Yanga Lake:  when full Yanga Lake is 1,246 hectares in area, has a maximum depth of 5 m and is 24 km around the perimeter.  It consists of two connected sub-basins forming what was referred to in the 19th century as a ‘spectacle’ lake.  Current scientific information suggests that it formed around 128,000 years ago.  The regular filling and draining of the lake, stimulating plant growth and attracting animals and birds, in addition to the abundance of fish, turtles and yabbies in its waters, would have made Yanga lake an ‘oasis’ for Aboriginal people for 40,000 years.
The lake became a reserve ‘ for the preservation of game’ in 1909 and was notified as ‘sanctuary for birds and animals’ in 1922.  It was an important recreational area for the local population around Balranald as well as providing a living for a number of fishermen who held licences to fish the lake.

Infrastructure remaining from the days of the pastoralists is the most obvious history on the property.   The evidence of occupation by the original inhabitants exists but certainly doesn’t  have the visual impact that European settlers inflicted upon the country.  However, many aboriginals were employed at Yanga and so they are also part of the pastoral history.

William Wentworth became a major landholder in the Balranald district from the mid – 1840s to the early 1850s – during that brief period he occupied almost all of the land in  the present Yanga National Park.  Agents or  ‘run-hunters’ took up land on his behalf and superintendents managed his stations.
By the 1850s a series of runs had been converted to a leasehold of nearly 300,000 acres – Yanga Station had more than 150 km of Murrumbidgee river frontage as well as the benefits of Yanga Lake.

Yanga Lake fills when there is a sustained flooding of the Murrumbidgee River – in 1913 a control weir was constructed to retain water after flooding.  Yanga homestead overlooks the lake;  such is the position of the homestead it is possible to watch the sun rise and set over the water. 

Original section of Yanga homestead constructed from slabs of  Red Gum.

Original section of Yanga homestead constructed from slabs of Red Gum.

Yanga homestead - dropped log construction using Cypress pine logs.

Yanga homestead – dropped log construction using Cypress pine logs.

A major local community asset since the establishment of Balranald, the lake has been used for swimming, camping, wildlife-watching, wind surfing, water-skiing, canoeing and sailing.  There was even a yacht club, which hosted a national inland regatta in the 1950s.
Since the purchase of Yanga as a National Park a bird hide has been constructed on a peninsular not far from the homestead.  It is a large, quite well-designed structure, able to accommodate many bird watchers, although at the time we visited there were not any birds visible.

Bird hide on Yanga Lake

Bird hide on Yanga Lake

The woolshed, able to hold 3,000 sheep under cover is simply enormous.  Videos of the final shearing in November 2005, along with interviews conducted with some of the employees, are available via touch screen at various locations within the shed.  They give a wonderful insight into shearing operations at Yanga Station  and with further information displayed they bring the history alive.

Yanga Woolshed1

Sheep pens stretching into the distance

Shearing stands

Shearing stands – there were 10 on each side of the shed

The shed, being close to the banks of the Murrumbidgee,  was ideally situated for the transport of the wool bales by paddle steamer.  In the 1922 shearing season 75,016 adult sheep and 18,370 lambs were shorn, producing 2002 bales of wool.  The shearing season involved intense activity for less than a month but at other times of the year the shed was made available for woolshed dances including the local B & S Ball (bachelor & spinsters).  Apparently many people headed to Yanga Lake for ‘the recovery’ the following day.

Wool classer's cottage with a lovely river view from its verandah.

Wool classer’s cottage with a lovely river view from its verandah. The mess hut is visible behind the cottage to the left.

Shearer's quarters akin to small cells, no shady verandah for the really hard workers!

Shearer’s quarters akin to small cells, no shady verandah for the really hard workers!  There was a communal wash room in a separate building.

Our own accommodation,on the banks of the Murrumbidgee, looking across to Red Gum forest on the opposite bank, made a pleasant camp. Although the bird life was not prolific we did enjoy watching a Square-tailed Kite circling overhead but no photo to show.  Colourful parrots were the main attraction in the camping area.

Yellow Rosella at the end of the day with the light fading.

Yellow Rosella at the end of the day with the light fading.

Red-rumped Parrot

Red-rumped Parrot

Our original itinerary did not include Yanga National Park,  but after our stay at Gluepot it seemed like a good direction to travel in and we are very glad that we did.

Excellent camp site

Camp site with a lovely view

 

Gluepot – August Part 3

Birdlife Australia manages Gluepot reserve and bird watching was initially the main attraction, yet so far my dissertations have featured only a couple of species.  This is mostly due to some difficulty in producing adequate photographic illustration.   As the weather cleared and the wind dropped bird activity certainly increased – we saw Chestnut-crowned Babblers, Crested Bellbird, Mulga Parrots, and Mallee-Ringnecks.  We found both White-winged Fairy-wrens and Splendid Fairy-wrens,  Allen got a few glimpses of a Red-lored Whistler but it certainly didn’t wait for me to get a good look.  Honeyeaters included Brown-headed, White-fronted, Spiny-cheeked, Yellow-plumed (in great numbers), White-eared and Striped.  Many, many thornbills; Inland, Chestnut-rumped, Brown, Yellow, Yellow-rumped and Slender-billed Thornbills – where ever we went there seemed to be some Thornbills busy feeding amongst the foliage, most often in the Mallee Gums.  The advantage of bird watching in the Mallee is that the average height of the trees is much less than we are accustomed to in the rainforest and it makes identification so much easier.
CSC_0020A well numbered spread of tracks lead to varied and interesting locations around Gluepot;  there were many places to explore not far from our camp at ‘Bellbird’ however we did travel over to old Gluepot in the SW of the reserve to look at the remains of the original homestead.  The most interesting part was the cellar, presumably a cool store for food, which still appeared in relatively good condition.
Cellar at old Gluepot homesteadOn our return to camp  a flock of  Miners crossed the track in front of us.  A rapid halt and we were out of the vehicle trying to get a definite identification as this flock of 20+ moved through the trees.  Not being a gambler I wouldn’t put money on this but they did appear to be Black-eared Miners although with the difficulties presented with the hybridization of the species with Yellow-throated Miners we can’t really be certain.
Flowers are not always very obvious until you look closely – this Westringia rigida – Stiff Westringia is a good example.  Not the sort of form you would look for in a garden plant but on closer examination there were some rather lovely flowers.
Westringia rigida - Stiff WestringiaWestringia rigida - Stiff Westringia
Now for a couple of splashes of yellow ……….the lovely Senna artemisioides ssp. filifolia followed by Zygophyllum aurantiacum – Shrubby Twin Leaf
Senna artemisioides ssp. filifolia

Zygophyllum aurantiacum - Shrubby Twin LeafAnd a magnificent Mallee sunset on the eve of our last day was a fitting end to our first Gluepot visit.

Gluepot Sunset-002

Gluepot – August Part 2

A pink glow through the tent window alerted me to a spectacular daybreak and I scrambled out to capture the moment.  Although a red sky in the morning, according to folklore, is supposed to give warning to shepherds or sailors, the weather didn’t deteriorate markedly during the day ………… Gluepot Sunrise-006We experienced a couple of windy, overcast days at the start of our visit which then settled into gloriously sunny, late winter weather.  After a chilly night the sun’s rays encouraged some of our cold-blooded friends to emerge for a warm-up. Mallee Dragon-001                                                  Ctenophorus fordi  -  Mallee Dragon Bearded Dragon                                         Pogona vitticeps –  Central Bearded Dragon Painted Dragon - backview                                             Ctenophorus pictus – Painted Dragon Painted Dragon 2                                       Skink standing in log1                                                    Egernia striolata  – Tree Skink
Other warm-blooded animals, including those of us used to more tropical climes, were also happy to bask in the early morning sun.  This female White-browed Treecreeper was being so thorough with her preening that most of my shots showed her head buried deep in her feathers! It didn’t appear to be a very comfortable place but for a Treecreeper it was probably ideal.Female White-browed Tree-creeperA Grey Kangaroo and her offspring were also making the most of the sun’s warmth so we stayed still and, like them, warmed up after  the chilly night,P1020313

Gluepot in August: Part 1

A big gap between posts  …. too difficult to keep up when we were often out of range and then there was the delightful distraction of our adorable grandchildren.  I’ll gradually catch up – we are now home again and appreciating our own backyard which, in spite of a few weeds, is looking particularly beautiful.
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Having retreated from the Coorong in the lull between storms we spent a lovely few days with one of Allen’s sisters who happens to live right near the Barossa Valley.  Bird watching is a wonderful occupation and we are very happy spending time amongst native vegetation but we also appreciate any form of horticulture and that includes vineyards.  So when we left for Gluepot we did have a couple of bottles of red packed safely with our food stores!

We were inspired to visit Gluepot after reading several Gouldiae reports on his visits there. We now understand why he is so fond of this reserve and revisits regularly.  On arrival it is a requirement to book in at the visitor centre and we were delighted to find lots of information on the numbered walks and driving tracks, all of which was a great help in planning our stay.  There are leaflets which describe each walk and provide additional information on the local fauna and flora which we found very interesting.

Chestnut-backed Quail-thrush
This Chestnut-backed Quail-thrush was one of the first birds we saw as we were setting up our camp.  Later on he wandered quite close when we were sitting quietly, neither of us with a camera, so we just appreciated the moment….and although we resolved to keep the camera handy when sitting he didn’t wander quite as close again.
Olearia muelleri - Mueller Daisy-bushOlearia muelleri – Mueller Daisy-bush above is one of many white flowering plants.  Although we were a bit early for some of the Spring flowering there were still a lot of shrubs and herbaceous plants with blooms to admire.  As usual we were floundering with some of the identification but I found a wonderful little publication in the Gluepot visitor centre called “The Mallee in Flower” which was quite helpful in addition to our other reference material.
Olearia pimeleoids - Pimelea Daisy BushOlearia pimeleoids – Pimelea Daisy Bush above makes a striking contrast in the Mallee landscape with its lovely grey foliage while the grey understorey below is predominately made up of Chenopods.  Chenopodiaceae is a large family of saltbush species and close relatives.

Mallee gums with grey shrub understorey
Chenopod close-upThis is one Chenopod we were able to identify thanks to its colourful fruit.
Enchylaena tomentosa commonly known as Ruby Saltbush.
Enchylaena tomentosa - Ruby Saltbush
Not so many flowers in blue-mauve-purple hue about but Olearia ciliata or Fringed Daisy bush certainly caught our attention, as did
Olearia ciliata-001                                          this Eremophila scoparia.
Eremophila scopariaA  delightful selection of Eremophila shrubs provided splashes of colour in the landscape as well as, more importantly,  a plentiful nectar supply for the Honeyeaters.
Eremophila - bright pink Eremophila - pink Yellow EremophilaWe hope to return to Gluepot only next time we’ll aim for a mid Spring visit, it would be very interesting as well as a spectacular experience.  

Coorong

We headed south from Murray-Sunset with some trepidation on my part as we had been unable to check the forecast and I wasn’t looking forward to any more cold weather. We booked into the Meningie caravan park so we could have a bit of a tidy up and the next morning dawned fine, windy and cold so I put on a load of washing.
P1020151
The Pelicans were huddling together to get some protection from the elements and as I was hanging out the washing a bloke passing by mentioned that gale force winds were expected.  I hastened back to the tent to check the weather forecast;  the outlook certainly wasn’t good so we set off for a quick drive down to the Coorong with the sky  looking exceedingly ominous.

P1020157The wind increased in intensity as the next cold front approached, and after taking a quick couple of photos we leapt back into our vehicle and headed back to camp as a few spits of rain began to hit the windscreen.
P1020162I managed to rescue the washing which was partially dry after a couple of hours in wind and sun, enough to drape the larger items around the inside of the still warm vehicle while the smaller items fitted onto a temporary line in the tent.
Pelican on the wavesBy now the waters of Lake Albert were getting very choppy and splashing against the banks of the caravan park which were being further eroded by the wave action.  The Coots had all taken to the grass along with one pink-eared Duck but the Pelican was braving the waves.
Pink-eared DuckThe wind increased in intensity as the rain started to fall and the temperature dropped – not a lot of fun in a tent.  I was wearing two layers of thermals plus everything else warm I owned and spent most of the afternoon huddled in a blanket inside the tent annex which we had zipped up.  Allen, unbelievably, was still dashing outside to check on bird calls and was very excited to report a purple-crowned Lorikeet.  I braved the elements with my waterproof jacket and hood pulled up but the raindrops falling on my glasses, as well as my binoculars, were too much of a challenge for me especially as the Lorikeets were in a tree which was being whipped around by the gale force winds.  I have come to the conclusion that I am only a fair weather bird watcher – and so I hope one day to see a purple-crowned Lorikeet in more suitable conditions.

Murray-Sunset National Park – Part 2

We’d been in Mallee country for several days and not had even a glimpse of a Mallee Fowl.  We were keen to see one, especially as we are familiar with both the other megapodes in Australia and were curious as to their similarities.
Mt Crozier camp-ground was our choice for a 5 day stay, it is quite a few kilometres into the park along a sandy track but well worth the drive.  We had several days totally on our own,  it was very peaceful, no road noise at all but there was some distant air traffic so we were not really isolated!  There are some good walks in this park as well as several long, overnight hikes for which we are not equipped and not particularly keen, physically or mentally.  The Mallee vegetation and birds provided plenty of interest for us and on our first driving excursion further afield we did indeed see a pair of Mallee Fowl.  They crossed the road quite quickly and once in the low vegetation their attractively patterned feathers provided an excellent camouflage as they moved away.  Our second sighting occurred just as we had passed by a sign informing us of the Mallee Fowl and its life cycle.  The bird walked across the road just a short distance in front of us then froze in position on the very edge – not a good survival tactic against vehicles!  It did, however, give us a wonderful photo opportunity so we thanked the bird and wished it well.

Mallee fowl crossing road

Mallee fowl1Everywhere we walked we were conscious of a variety of ant hills – in this dry, sandy environment ants take over from worms as the great recyclers of materials. I was fascinated by the many different varieties of ant as well as by their constructions.  The top photo shows some ‘ant apartments’ or strata title residences and the lower one a small suburb built around a shrub.
Ant apartments

Ant hillsAnd getting back to the birds:  amongst one mixed group of blossom feeders we came across a party of Miners on a windy afternoon, presumed they were Yellow-throated Miners without looking carefully, as the wind was increasing in strength and it was very cold. Allen thought about it overnight as there were several features that, on reflection, didn’t seem quite right.  So the next morning we drove back to the same area and there, feeding on the same tree was a group of Black-eared Miners.  We carefully checked each feature and they conformed in every way.  A week later we arrived in Gluepot and discovered that some of the Gluepot Black-eared Miner population had been translocated to Murray-Sunset National Park as a safety measure in case of wildfire causing major damage to this threatened species. No photos of the BeM as we were too far away and they move fast.
This tiny Liliaceae caught my attention, a solitary plant growing in the sand.  I later found large areas of it growing amongst other grasses and low herbs.  It goes by the delightful name of Early Nancy which flows more easily than its botanical nomenclature Wurmbea dioica.
Early Nancy - Wurmbea dioicaIt is a challenge to pick out one or two highlights when we had so many wonderful experiences here so I’ll finish off with some colour. The parrots in this part of the country are an absolute delight. The Mallee Ringneck has probably been our most frequent parrot sighting during this trip but we never tire of them.
Mallee Ringneck-cold morning2And we still reach for the binoculars to enjoy any sighting of the gorgeous, multi-coloured Mulga parrot.  This male was patiently sitting about waiting for his mate to emerge from a nesting hole nearby.
Mulga parrot - maleEven when he turned his back he was still gorgeous!Mulga Parrot back view