Monday, 31 July 2017

A sandy rise

After checking out Leinster (it's a very neat and treed mining town similar to Leigh Creek in SA) we turned west towards Geraldton. We happened to be there when there was a change of shift and saw lots of miners congregating to board the buses that ferried them out to the mines.

At one delightful spot on the way there was sandy rise with spinifex and beautiful eucalypts and discovered budgies in the trees.

And I was particularly delighted to find a group of small and hardy plants with the beautiful red flowers right on the ground. It would be interesting to know what the pollinating agent is. And there was also a suite of other flowering plants that I hadn't seen growing elsewhere on our travels.


River gums and more

We're on the road north of Kalgoorlie and Leonora, heading for the mining town of Leinster. The road, like all the bitumen roads in this area, is amazing. It's wide and smooth, the shoulders are graded perfectly, the water runoffs are all well-maintained. And the reason is that there is money in gold and all the minerals mined between Norseman and Geraldton. We see a lot of roadtrains on the road and they're not there for the local station owners, they're there because of the mining industry and they need good roads.

So it can be easy to be mesmerised by the road because there are few geographical features and the vegetation can be almost like a monoculture. It's grey, even though there are a number of species, and of uniform height. Mulga, saltbush, mulga, mulga. I find it fascinating.

So it came as something of a surprise when I'd been viewing mulga and saltbush, mulga and ... ?? River Redgum!!

River Redgum

It was the first redgum we'd seen. We pulled in to have a closer look and discovered an information board which stated that we were looking at Eucaltptus camaldulensis var. obtusa the first of the river red gums that grow to the north and east of this spot. It's related to Eucalyptus camaldulensis var. camaldulensis that grows in the Eastern states.

Thunderbox Mine, one of numerous mines in the west
And some more flowering plants on the rocky red plains.

Saturday, 29 July 2017

Malcolm Dam, Leonora

Extreme wind forced us to tuck ourselves away behind some vegetation at Malcolm Dam, away from a clear view of the water. It was late afternoon as well, so no time to explore.

Campsite, Malcolm Dam
Sunset, Malcolm Dam
But next morning I discovered that we couldn't have chosen a more perfect spot. The van was our birdhide and all around us were an abundance of Red-capped Robins, Black-tailed Native-hens, Zebra Finches, White-winged Fairy-wrens, Singing honeyeaters, Willie Wagtails and more. Such a delight. And on the dam were ducks, Black-fronted Dotterals, White-necked Herons and many more further away that I couldn't identify. The highlight was the number of native-hens - there were probably 100 within cooee of the van, feeding on the foreshore and in the scrubby vegetation.
Black-tailed Native-hens
To the west the view across the stony plain was equally impressive.

Of course I photographed all the flowering plants around as well, despite a fairly brisk breeze. If only I knew the names of what I was seeing. Sigh!

These are some of them.

Mistletoe Lysiana murrayi
Emu Bush.
Emu Bush.
Emu Bush


Friday, 28 July 2017

Niagara Dam

In 1897 Niagara Dam was built in a small rocky gully near Kookynie as a water supply for people and trains but its purpose was never fulfilled because underground water was found at Kookynie. It is now a heritage site.

Niagara Dam
We camped at Niagara Dam and walked the two signposted walks around the dam and out to the breakaway. One of the information boards promised the common Sand Goannas but of course we didn't see one, but we did see lots of flowering plants and beautiful old mallee trees.

There is an introduced species in the dam and noone knows how it got there. They are yabbies (Cherax destructor) from the eastern states and they are surviving very well.

Dam wall, Niagara Dam
A wall intended to prevent debris from entering the dam after a heavy rain event.
White Cypress

Breakaway area

Breakaway area with quartz in the drainage line. It is a goldmining area.

Newman Rocks

Newman Rocks west of Balladonia is a large granite outcrop , a monolith, with a water catchment on top and Salmon Gum woodlands nearby. After the hundreds of kilometres of flat Nullarbor it was a great spot to stretch our legs while we hunted for, and found, a geocache. Birds are attracted to the water and there were plants thriving in seepage areas.

Cactus Beach

Well, we didn't actually go to the famous surfing beach at Cactus Beach at Point Sinclair but we did go to Port Le Hunte which is on the eastern side of the point.

To get there we turned south off the Eyre Highway at Penong with caravan in tow. At Penong we asked a local bloke what the road was like and he said "It's corrugated mate but if you travel at 60 you'll skim over the top". So we took a chance and discovered the road was smooth all the way!

One of the famous Penong windmills (and a crane for hire).
The scenery was spectacular all the way. First the gypsum harvest fields, then a band of sand dunes on the horizon and then a lake, divided by our road, that had a faint tinge of pink but apparently can be very pink. As we got closer the lakes reflected the sand dunes and the sky and the vegetation very beautifully. We saw a number of little wading birds beside the road.

Slow Down - 40 - Slow Birds

Then we came to a sign indicating that the road ahead was very steep so we asked a local bloke who said he thought we would be OK with our caravan so we ventured forward and to our surprise found, after a gentle incline, a most delightful sheltered harbour. There is a shark net to create a safe swimming area, a jetty, a picnic shelter and a view to more sand dunes and cliffs. Our lunch break there was rather longer than we had planned. Cactus Beach will wait for another day.