Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Creeks and fish

We got such a surprise today when we stopped for lunch at Surat.

For a start, it's a town not just a pub. And it's a town with a lot of town pride. It's a great spot on the river with some interesting buildings as well.

But the biggest surprise was the Cobb & Co museum they've developed in an original Cobb & Co stopping point in the town - it's first class. A huge fish tank has been installed in the entry foyer, stocked with local fish including the threatened Murray Cod. I liked the fact that they are swimming around submerged tree branches like they would naturally if we could only learn to leave the creeks and rivers alone.

This river just to the north of Hebel is a perfect illustration of how it should be. Looks good for fish doesn't it. But I wouldn't like to have to resort to drinking it.

Monday, 27 July 2009

Taking sides

I'm not sure what the land-clearing laws are in Queensland but apparently the land owners are still allowed to push natural vegetation. This is what we saw on our left as we drove towards Dirranbandi, bush that is grazed by sheep or cattle (and feral goats and pigs).

And this is what we saw on our right. The vegetation in the paddock has been recently dragged flat - a lot of the trees still had green leaves. In this area we also saw huge privately-owned dams for irrigation purposes. The infamous Cubbie Station is also in this area.

Sunday, 26 July 2009

Life cycle of a butterfly

His nibs stopped to talk to an opal miner at Lightning Ridge. I used the time to explore the local shrubs and found one covered in cocoons in various stages of development, as well as a caterpillar and several butterflies mating. I presume they're all the same species. The opal miner told me they, the butterflies, like peanut butter.

Friday, 24 July 2009

The bad and the beautiful_Lightning Ridge

We've been exploring Lightning Ridge today. We've never been here before and I must admit to being pleasantly surprised because the last opal town we visited was White Cliffs and there aren't too many trees there. The township itself is surprisingly vibrant but then tourism is big here, and it's a mecca for gem collectors.

Being a mining town has the inevitable effects on the environment, and the amount of discarded machinery around the town is astonishing.

It would be good to stay awhile to explore the natural world. I'm sure it has a lot to offer but unfortunately we have to move on. We'll be back, but not in summer when it must be near boiling here. As a taster, a different species of mistletoe is flowering, and so are some of the cactus in the cactus gardens.

Lunch time

Time for a coffee stop, keep a lookout for a likely spot, one with natural vegetation, shelter from wind or shade (whichever applies), level, accessible. There's one. Pull over and fill the kettle, wander around with the camera and binoculars while waiting for kettle to boil.

Our choice of a spot south of Coonamble was a gem. Really it was just an entrance to a station - mailbox (an old fridge) and a gate with the station name attached, but the wide road had lots of trees. The mistletoe was flowering and the trees had hollows and fallen timber underneath, only one car travelled alone the dirt road while we were there, a flat horizon with the blue Warrumbungles off into the distance to the south, the sun was shining and birds were flying from tree to tree and calling.

The grasshoppers were jumping around and in the roly-poly, and I found one little spider in amongst the prickles holding firmly to a little blue butterfly. It must have thought it was lunch time as well.

A lot of rain but not a lot of run-off so the sheoak lined creeks in the Warrumbungles are still not running. The posts marked to indicate flood depth are not needed at present.

The view through the mirrors as we say goodbye to the Warrumbungles. (Note Siding Springs Observatory perched on top of one of the peaks.)

Thursday, 23 July 2009

Exporing the Warrumbungles

The weather cleared and we've had a beautiful sunny day in which to explore the Warrumbungle range that we last saw 20 years ago. And we had time to visit Siding Springs Observatory as well. Lots of birds calling - so pleasant after the extremely quiet bush around Geelong - and I had great views of spinebills, currawongs, a Fan-tailed Cuckoo and Red-browed Firetails.

The plants in the understory are just starting to flower. Apparently there are over six hundred species here so it must be spectacular in spring. I'm not familiar with the species below but they're very pretty.

There are one and a half emus in the photo below - you wouldn't think such a big bird could hide so easily.

Wednesday, 22 July 2009

Goonoo to Warrumbungle

We avoided the Newell Highway and drove from Dubbo to Coonabarabran via the Goonoo NP and the interesting little village of Mendooran. Lots of wattle was flowering and several other species as well so the drive was looking very colourful. It's probably spectacular in spring. The park is home to Glossy Cockatoos and Malleefowls but we didn't see either of course.

It was raining as we drove in to the Warrumbungle National Park, and because it's school holidays we weren't sure that we would get one of the powered sites in the campsite here, but actually we not only have power we have hot showers, emus and kangaroos in the camp, full TV reception and mobile phone reception and as a bonus I also have full mobile modem reception. Perfect.

I don't have any reference books with me so can't name the species flowering in the Goonoo NP.

Tuesday, 21 July 2009

A visit to the Western Plains Zoo

The meerkats are always good for a laugh and those at Western Plains Zoo at Dubbo didn't disappoint. And we weren't disappointed by the zoo either - a very impressive display of large animals in healthy living conditions, great crowd control measures, beautiful grounds and fantastic weather as well.
We had a great day, although a lot of the animals seemed to be snoozing in the warmth of the afternoon sun. Even the Galapagos Tortoises were sleeping on their heated sand bed and reluctant to move to eat.
I found myself intrigued by feet.

Monday, 20 July 2009


At home in Victoria the roadsides are becoming more and more weed infested with Mirror Bush, Pittosporum, fruit trees, Gazania, Pine Tree, thistles and other herby weeds.

We've been travelling through New South Wales and the roadside vegetation looks pretty good. This is a track near Peak Hill.

Sunday, 19 July 2009

The Murrumbidgee

We followed the Murrumbidgee River upstream today, through the flat and productive lands around Hay and Griffith, and stopped for a coffee break beside the river at the Carrathool Bridge. I feel like I've reached a different country when I see Apostlebirds, Bluebonnets and Murray Pines.

Thursday, 16 July 2009


A photopoint is a particular place from which photos are taken regularly in order to monitor changes in vegetation, environmental damage and so on. For several years now I've been taking photos from a bridge over the Darlot Creek at Homerton so I can monitor changes after a bluegum plantation was put in on the west side.

The first photo here was taken early in 2007 - note the tree on the right, on its last legs, lots of hollows, broken limbs on the ground and sparse foliage. Compare this with the second photo that I took last week. See how the tree seems to have a new lease of life. The new leafy growth in the centre of the tree is quite amazing.

I'm wondering if the tree is enjoying the fact that the cattle that used to puddle around its base have now been removed, and that it is protected it from the prevailing winds by the trees that now surround it.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

Fungi at Homerton

There wasn't a lot of fungi in our bush at Homerton, but I ended up finding quite a few different species. My local friends tell me that I should have been there a few weeks earlier. (The story of my life.) But it's lovely to find something tucked away under bracken or on a log, and these are photos of just a few.

These little orange discs were growing on kangaroo dung. Each disc has eyelashes but you'd need a magnifying glass to see them. (Or you can click on the photo here to enlarge.)

Tuesday, 14 July 2009

Natural gardens

A week's holiday, seven days to explore our bush block near Heywood. Sounds like heaven doesn't it? Well, it rained! A lot. I haven't seen mud for a while, and I'd forgotten how, well, muddy it is. And I managed to get the little ATV bogged as well, and they're hard to bog.
So in effect I had a day and a half of lovely weather to search for fungi (more on those later) and other goodies, and then I was inside next to the lovely fire sewing, reading, drinking coffee, watching TV, adding tags to my photos so I can find them - so relaxing and welcome but not what I'd planned.
This little moss garden was growing on top of a stump. Fungi, moss, lichen and possibly a hornwort all growing in their own tiny ecosystem. Nature is truly marvellous. It's not very many weeks ago that this bit of bush was so parched and crackly you'd think it impossible that such a thing was possible. Just add water.

The only orchid I found flowering was the Nodding Greenhood, a common species but beautiful all the same. The leaves of a number of other species were evident, and if I was there next week the Tall Greenhoods would be flowering. I think the Tall Greenhoods are being split so I'm not sure which one grows in our bush. The only other plant flowering was the Epacris impressa.

Standing at attention

This is a new one for me. These little caterpillars were on a gum leaf, tails up (or down depending on which side of the leaf you're on), and they seem to have globules at both ends. While I was watching they didn't move at all. I've no ideas for an ID. Maybe they're not even caterpillars.