I have upgraded my camera from a Canon 700D to a Canon 90D. The 700D is about six years old and has been well and truly been bypassed by technology. The Canon 90D was released in 2019 and is one of the most modern EOS DSLR cameras in Canon’s range, but by no means the most expensive or sophisticated.
Last Saturday, 27th November, provided a dry day in a run of wet days, so I took the opportunity to give the new camera a try out. We drove to Bribie Island and went to the shore bird refuge at Kakadu Beach. Our arrival coincided with the landing of a large group of Godwits on the protected beach, with other flocks flying above. Quite a sight!
I saw three birds for the first time. “Lifers” bird fanciers call them. Here they are:
It is always a thrill to see a breed or variety for the first time.
The Eastern Curlews provided good photo opportunities. The Godwits were too far away for good photos. And meny of them appeared to be already asleep.
There were also repeat opportunities. There always seems to be a Figbird at Kakadu Beach. On Saturday there was also Rainbow Lorikeets, a Torrestian Crow and Pied Oystercatchers.
And sleeping Pelicans. Some of the Eastern Curlews had also nodded off.
Before we left the area, we drove further north for a kilometre or so and found two Masked Lapwings protecting their solitary chick from marauding birds and humans walking dogs. They gave a fine aerobatic display. Sadly, I didn’t get any photos of them in flight.
I took no photos of humans with dogs but this pair of Pied Butcherbirds were giving the Lapwings plenty to keep them busy.
These Australian Wood Ducks joined me to watch the air show.
So that ended our day out. I was quite pleased with the result. The Canon 90D is a dream to work with. I am very happy with the purchase.
I added a bird photography subject to my blog, didn’t I? And I haven’t followed through, have I? So I guess it is time to do something about it.
Last Saturday I drove towards Brisbane Airport to see what was about at the Kedron Brook Wetlands. This area lies between the Gateway Arterial Road and Brisbane Airport, near the bay side suburb of Nudgee. The most accessible area is near the highway. You can easily walk around the area (about a 4 kilometre walk) using a combination of well graded gravel paths and part of the concrete bikeway that runs all the way to Nudgee Beach. But watch out for speeding cyclists. It can be busy, especially at weekends.
Here are my captures for the day
The photo at the top of the page is a panorama of sleeping Pelicans. They were out in the middle of the waterhole, perched in an area where there were Pelicans roosted last time that I was there. The other birds residents that morning were Black-winged Stilts. They were feeding individually rather than in a group, some in deep water, some in shallow water and one going for a walk in the long grass.
Black-winged Stilts, also known as Pied Stilts, are a common coastal birds but are also found some distance inland in swampy areas and on rivers and creeks. They do not as a rule inhabit dry areas. Although regarded as a water bird, their feet are only partially webbed. They wade rather than swim, not surprising considering the length of their legs.
A short distance away, just north on the Nudgee Shell Service centre, I found a Little Black Cormorant sitting on a perch that is frequently used by one of its kind. The pond also held a number of Dusky Moorhens, including one having a scratch.
I would like to have visited the Cunnamulla area, to check out some of the better known birding sites in the area, but time available in between commitments did not allow for this to be planned. So instead we went only as far as Dalby and returned home via the Gold Coast, to keep an appointment for lunch with friends.
So on Tuesday 21st September we drove to Dalby via the Bunya Mountains. It’s not much further than the Warrego Highway, but does take a bit longer. At Dandabah, the tiny community centre of the Bunyas, it was blowing a gale and was about 10C, so no photos were taken and no walks attempted, but we did have lunch at Poppies Coffee Shop. The gale was still blowing at Dalby, with winds of 50+ km per hour, from the south west. So no Dalby photos either, but we did brave a visit to Myall Creek and I had a walk along the path beside the creek.
The attraction at Dalby was Lake Broadwater, 30 km to the south west. Had weather been normal we had intended to visit on Tuesday afternoon in an attempt to maximise the opportunity for bird photographs. That didn’t work out, so we did not visit there until Wednesday morning. The wind had abated and the surface of the lake was relatively undisturbed.
We had intended to call at Lake Broadwater during our caravaning days, but never did. We found a surprisingly good camping area and lots of day use facilities along the shore line. We enjoyed a Thermos morning coffee with a view over the lake. But of the 180 or so species of bird claimed to be resident in the reserve we saw but a few. I did make a first sighting of the Grey-crowned Babbler but apart from Magpies and Pelicans there was few to see. A bit too late in the day, probably.
From the lake we returned to Dalby and then drove south east to Toowoomba, via Oakey and a lunch stop at the suburb of Wilsonton. It being September and school holidays, Toowoomba was in the grip of the colourful blaze of Carnival of Flowers.
As the gardens at Laurel Bank were almost on our path through the town they were our first choice. But alas! No parking spaces were available. So we went to Queens Park and lucked onto a spot right near the gate. We wondered if the displays might be damaged from the high wind on Tuesday but there was little sign of damage. But, as usual, an exquisite display.
We wandered through the rather crowded area and gave ourselves plenty of time to view the displays. But as you leave you cannot help but enquire of yourself “Isn’t there another photo that I should take?”
Warwick is an easy 84 km drive south of Toowoomba. But we diverged at Emu Creek to visit the Steele Rudd Memorial Park. Rudd’s real name was Arthur Davis, who later used his experiences as a youth on the “selection” as material for his book “On Our Selection” and some of his other work. He was quite a prolific writer of novels and plays in the late 1800s and early 1900s. The old radio series “Dad and Dave” was based on his writing.
The park is on the site of the house on the selection where Watson (Rudd) lived as a child. Recreated versions of the buildings of the day are on display, with a bit of farm equipment and numerous plaques that tell much of the story of his life.
The park is only about 1.5 km from the New England Highway and is well worth the effort to call. If you were diverging on a drive from Toowoomba to Brisbane, the park is on a road that leads to the Clifton to Gatton road that provides an alternative route from the Southern Darling Downs to Brisbane.
We drove on and spent the night in Warwick, where the temperature at 8.00 AM next morning was a mere 8C. So we lingered to a bit closer to check out time.
If time had permitted the previous day we would have called at Glengallan House as we drove past. This interesting piece of history is located about 15 km north of Warwick, beside the New England Highway, a couple of clicks past the intersection with the Cunningham Highway.
The mansion was built on one of the first grazing leases in the Southern Darling Downs. It has a long history and has had many owners. It fell into serous disrepair but was rescued and has been restored to some of its former glory. It is now owned by a trust purposed for its improvement. There is still a lot of work to be carried out.
A café has been included in a reception building, with a gift shop and administration offices. It costs $10 to see through, and the tour is self conducted. Your effort is well rewarded by the picture that you will gain of life in the area in the late 1800s and the early 1900s. We had coffee before moving on.
We travelled to the Gold Coast via Killarney and Queen Mary Falls. I finally realised my ambition to walk down to the bottom of the Falls. The full walk was about 2 km and took about 45 minutes, including stops for photos. There is a good quantity of water flowing down the river at that point. Waterfalls are their own reward.
We then drove the mountainous and winding Spring Creek Road to Boonah and on to the Coast. We were lucky to have been able to do the drive, as roads between Queen Mary Falls and Boonah were to have been closed for major repairs. But because border closures have had such an impact on businesses in the area the work has been deferred.
We spent two nights at the RACV Royal Pines Resort at Benowa on the Gold Coast. On the intervening day we took a run up to Binna Burra. We hadn’t been there for a some time. The resort area and visitor facilities, of course, had been burned out in the interim.
The Binna Burra visitor area and other track head parking lots remains popular as access points to the eastern parts of the Lamington National Park. Groups of cars were parked at the start of walking tracks. At the visitor facilities, we secured the last parking space.
I walked the 1.2 km Rain Forest Circuit, during which I met a number of other walkers, some casual and some with back packs, as parts of the path are shared by other walks including the Border Track that links Binna Burra with O’Reillys Rainforest Resort.
The visitor area has been rebuilt since the fires with the old facilities renovated or replaced. It now has a modern appearance.
The main change is that the original chalet building that was at the top of the mountain as you turned right at the T intersection has not been rebuilt. A large shed occupies that site. New luxury units have been built to the east of that area where they enjoy sweeping views of the coast and the privacy provided by a “Guests Only” sign. But you can see the top of the units from the road, just before you reach the resort entrance.
We had lunch in the café located in the visitor centre building, with coastal views through the vegetation, but views were obscured a bit by haze.
Binna Burra is always a pleasant place to visit.
Back at the hotel, room service sufficed for dinner. We couldn’t be bothered leaving the room, let alone the hotel. Increasing age has its effects.
With a lunch appointment at the Kurrawa Surf Lifesaving Club at 11.30 AM there was no hurry. Check out time was at 11.00 AM so there was plenty of time. After a leisurely lunch we made our way back to Brisbane along a pleasantly quiet highway.
Our original plans for our annual trip to find warmer weather had been much more ambitious but a short lock down followed by a couple weeks of travel restrictions put paid to them. The plan had been to travel via the Warrego and Landsborough Highways to Winton to do the tours at The Australian Age of Dinosaurs, via the Flinders Highway to a stay on Magnetic Island off Townsville and then to return home via a couple of days on Daydream Island and finally two days ay Yeppoon. Some single nights in between some destinations, of course.
But the restrictions and the always imminent danger of a short notice lock down convinced us that it was not smart to stray more than half a day’s drive from home. Who, other than the wealthy, would risk lock down on Daydream Island?
So we settled on a newish hotel near Sunshine Plaza at Maroochydore. Symphony on Beach, it is called. I read that as Symphony on the Beach and confused myself into thinking it was at Cotton Tree. Never mind. We are not great beach people anyway. Walking on sand gets harder as you get older.
Arrival at the hotel was later than expected due to an unexpected chore that required completion before we left home, so that settled the first day. We eat in and had a normal quiet night.
The first full day was Thursday. We had a quiet morning but went out in the afternoon, the destination being Maroochy Nature Reserve, near Bli Bli. It is a marshy and timbered area that runs down to the Maroochy River.
The parks people have build an extensive board walk from the end of ramped concrete paths at the visitor centre to the pontoon at the edge of the river, so it is easy to visit by road or boat.
Two loops run off the main track to allow viewing of special areas. All is wheelchair and walker friendly. It is probably about 1.5 km from carpark to river.
I walked the full length looking for birds, but only saw an Egret in the far distance on the river bank and another small bird that flew swiftly across my path and disappeared into the forest.
On the way back to our hotel we detoured to Twin Waters to view Maroochydore from a different direction. And to fill in time until dinner.
Our hotel is near to the Big Top shopping centre. When Sunshine Plaza was built and then continually increased in size, Big Top, which was the original shopping centre in Maroochydore, was over shadowed. But it has come back as a food area with rows of eating places along the streets, just like Mooloolaba and parts of the Gold Coast. We went to a seafood restaurant called The Red Sea in Duporth Street. It was well priced, the food was excellent and there was plenty of it. And great service by keen young staff. A restaurant worth remembering!
Day two of our four day trip saw us on the road to Imbil, Kenilworth, Melany, Mapleton and back to Maroochydore. It was some years since we had visited much of this area. So, up the newish highway to the turn onto the old highway and then the roads into the Mary River Valley.
The main change to Imbil is the long grass growing over the railway line as a result of the Mary Valley Rattler no longer reaching the town. The station has been turned into the first tee of a golf course but the station buildings and the engine turntable have been preserved and an old steam engine and carriage stand on the old tracks, secured by a flimsy netting barrier.
The town was busy, with caravans driving through at irregular intervals. We saw many of them later at the Borumba Dam Camping area. We had coffee at the Rattler Café, served by a young man dressed as a farm hand.
Imbil was the terminus for the Gympie to Imbil tourist steam train known as “The Rattler”.
The track was badly damaged by the tail end of a cyclone. The rail line was reinstated only to Amamoor and the old Imbil station was set up as a museum, with an old steam locomotive and a single car standing on the track leading to the station. The strip along the old permanent way has been converted into a small golf course, with the first tee adjacent to the station building.
Borumba Dam is a water impoundment on Yabba Creek south west of Imbil. It has been there since 1964 so is well known to SE Queenslanders. The wall is 43 metres high and 343 metres long and is of rock fill construction. Whilst primarily a water storage for irrigation and town supply, it is a popular fishing spot and location for other water sports. A caravan and camping park is located down stream from the wall.
After a drive to the dam, we went on to Kenilworth. The town was very busy so we had to find parking in a side street. The Bushtracker Caravan club was in residence at the showgrounds as were many other caravans, campers and tents.
Clearly, many visitors to the coast were having a hinterland day. The bakery closed right after lunch as it had sold all of its stock. We had lunch overlooking the main street, then visited the cheese factory to make the obligatory cheese purchase. We never come to Kenilworth without buying cheese.
Continuing our drive, we called at the Charlie Moreland camping area in the Imbil Forest Park. There were a few campers set up for the weekend. The gravel road in was in great condition.
From there it was just a pleasant drive through the valley and over the range to Maleny. The day was clear so we enjoyed great views of the coast as we drove through Montville to Mapleton. Then down the range and through the afternoon traffic congestion of Nambour and Maroochydore to Rhythm on Beach.
We dined in. We had leftovers to finish from the previous night. A better sunset with a bit of cloud to add interest.
We didn’t do much at all on day three. Coffee at Cotton Tree and a walk on the beach south of the river mouth was followed by lunch at the unit. Later we drove to Mooloolaba, grabbing a lucky parking spot overlooking the beach adjacent to the shopping and eating strip. Later we drove to the peninsula and stretched our legs with a walk to the end of the inner wall at the mouth of the Mooloolah River. Dinner in because we couldn’t bother going out.
Sunday was our last day. We had planned a drive to Noosa and despite threatening rain we stuck to our plan. A kind visitor pulled out of a parking space just as we began to look for one. A good start.
The famous Aromas on Hastings was under serious renovation last time that we were in Noosa, so a delayed visit for brunch was the focal point of our visit. They were enjoying a busy morning with a short queue for tables. As we reached the front of the socially distanced queue, a table in the front row became vacant and was awarded to us. Coffee was available quickly but there was a 40 minute delay for food as the kitchen could not keep up with demand. While we waited for our food we received a visit from two Rainbow Lorikeets that landed briefly on our table and it started to rain. The meal was worth waiting for.
Brunch done, we walked the length of Hastings street, pausing for a few minutes to stand out of a recommenced drizzle, drove down to the river mouth where there was no parking available and drove back to Maroochydore via Nicklin Way, the road along the coast.
The day was rounded out by a call at Sunshine Plaza for Galati and a return to our hotel for dinner. The final act was to drive home the following morning, happy that Brisbane had not been locked down while we were away.
During our almost 40 years of residence in South East Queensland, Ruth and I have visited Springbrook Mountain in the Gold Coast hinterland perhaps half a dozen times. But our activities have never taken us further afield than the town and the several spectacular lookouts along the lip of the impressive (by Australian standards) precipice, much of which overlooks the Gold Coast coastal strip.
Encouraged by the rating of the Twin Falls Circuit walk as “easy” and the enthusiastic writings of Springbrook devotees on a Facebook walking sight that I follow, I decided to give my almost 82 year old legs a bit of a workout. The circuit is 4.3 km in length with an elevation gain, or loss in this case, of 179 metres. Time to complete is stated on the All Trails app as 1hr 29min. My daily walk to Moreton Bay and back is about the same difference but with much more gentle and less change in altitude.
I had mistakenly believed that the Twin Falls Circuit was so named because within its length you encounter two waterfalls. I knew that the second was Blackfellow Falls but when I researched the name of the first I discovered that it, or perhaps they, were called Twin Falls. More in that later.
We parked at the Tallanbana picnic area and with Ruth settled in the car with her knitting I slipped into my back pack and headed down the path, very conscious that I would need to come back up the path at the end of the walk.
Twin falls are on Rush Creek which rises in the highest part of the range near the NSW border and ultimately, I think, joining a number of other streams in Little Nerang Creek which then flows into the Hinze Dam.
The track is easy, well formed and well maintained. Streams that intersect the track are bridged of have concrete stepping stones. Hand rails are provided in most places where steep drops into the gorge would cause death or serious injury. Stairs, timber, stone and steel, are provided in a number of places. There are a couple of formed concrete ramps.
The trail soon crosses Rush Creek immediately above Twin Falls, then continues on a slowly declining angle along the ridge to a point where is switches back on itself to start the descent to the bottom of Twin Falls. At this point you take a narrow path between two huge boulders and then follow a number of changes in direction until the falls are reached.
There, falling into the edge of a pool was the single fall of Twin Falls. It seems to only become twin falls after heavier rain, so when I saw it there was a single fall of water. That did not detract from its scenic beauty, but I would like to see in in full flow.
From the falls and pool the trail continues at the bottom of a cliff face to the left and a steep timbered slope to the right. The distance between the two sets of falls is about a kilometre. About halfway the track looses altitude via a succession of switch backs. It was at this point that I encountered a hiking couple coming in the other direction.
So I asked about the track ahead, as you do, to be told that it descended a fair distance, distance down that would ultimately become additional distance up later in the walk. I had been on the track for about an hour and had come about half way so concluded that the walk was going to take me about an hour longer than planned.
Considering the situation I decided to retrace my steps and leave Blackfellow Falls and the other half of the track for another day.
I spent the first 15 years of my life in the bush and have never lost my love of it, despite having spent the latter part in cities. This walk is a mix of rain forest and timbered ranges. Tall straight tree trunks emerge from rain forest thickets. Small streams and bubbling springs are located along the path. Stop and listen and you hear the calls of birds. Paradise!
Eating places close early in Springbrook because most tourists visit in the AM, but the Springbrook pub/café was open and had not run out of food. A couple of pies with cold fruit drinks hit the spot.
After lunch we drove down the street to the Purling Brook Falls lookout. Later, and on the way home, stopped off at Wunburra Lookout for its panoramic views over the Gold Coast high rise, before taking Pine Creek Road for a drive past the Hinze Dam before descending to Nerang and the highway to home.
Last Wednesday was a sunny day and quite pleasant notwithstanding the cool breeze from the South West. But the shore line at Deception Bay is sheltered with winds from that direction. With the tide ebbing it was likely that wading birds would be there to take advantage of the drying floor of the bay, the exposed area increasing as the tide receded.
Deception Bay is deceptive. At high tide it appears to be a body of deep water but any but the most shallow draft vessel that moves outside of the dredged channel into Newport Waterways will soon learn of its deceptive nature. So while limiting for boats it is a great feed area for birds.
The first bird I saw as we drove along The Esplanade was a brown and white bird in the water, just off shore. I parked, grabbed the camera and walked towards it, but before I could get near to it someone buzzed it with a drone. It took off and vanished over the trees to the south.
As the tide ebbed further, more birds came in. Smaller birds included Silver Gulls, Gull-billed Terns, Pied Stilts and Bar-tailed Godwits. Larger birds were represented by Egrets, both Great and Intermediate and White-faced Herons. This was by first opportunity to get a close look and a photo of the White-faced Heron.
Shorncliffe Pier is, not surprisingly, at Shorncliffe in suburban Brisbane. It runs from the beach at Lower Moora Park, below Saint Patrick’s College. The current version of the pier was opened in 2016 after a complete rebuild. It is an attractive and popular structure with a broad timber deck, white timber railing, colonial street lamps and a resting shelter towards its outer end. It extends 351.5 metres into the waters of Bramble Bay, which is part of Moreton Bay. It is just a few kilometres north east from the mouth of the Brisbane River and provides a view of the operations of the Port of Brisbane. It is the longest recreational timber pier in Brisbane and one of the longest in Australia.
Shorncliffe, and its neighbour Sandgate, were popular beach side suburbs in the early days of Brisbane and popular for day trips.
The first attempt to build a pier at Shorncliffe was in 1885, but lobbying to the Queensland Government failed. In 1879 local hotel proprietor William Deagon built a jetty opposite his hotel. It was smaller than the current pier but large enough to have a tram track on it.
The last ferry to Brisbane ran in 1928 after mixed commercial success during preceding years. At that time the pier housed an amusement parlour including gaming machines and an open air picture theatre.
In 1882 a decision was taken that the jetty was not big enough and a company was formed to build a new pier. Between 1883 and 1884 the new pier, with a length of 260 metres, was built and later extend by a further 91.5 meters to its current length. The additional length made the berthing of ferries possible, facilitating travel between Brisbane and the bay side area. A small toll was collected at the entry to the pier.
In 2012, lead by then Lord Mayor of Brisbane Graham Quirk, the Brisbane City Council decided to rebuild the pier, so it was closed to the public and rebuilt from the ground up. Or should that be from the sea bed up? The renewed pier design includes concrete and steel substructure and timber joists, decking, handrails and rotunda. There was also a larger hammerhead and a lower platform at the end of the pier, fish cleaning stations, water fountains, benches and light poles. The colonial style of light pole were retained. The removal works commenced in November 2014 and the new structure was opened on Good Friday, 25th March 2016.
The opening date was appropriate as the jetty is the starting point for the Brisbane to Gladstone yacht race, conducted at Easter each year, which starts at 10.00 AM each Good Friday. The pier is one end of the starting line.
The pier is a popular tourist destination but these days visitors arrive by car rather than by ferry. Views of the Port of Brisbane and the shore adjacent to the Brisbane Airport are to the south and Boondal Wetlands, Bramble Bay and the Redcliffe Peninsula with the Woody Point pier and high rise, clearly visible to the north.
Earlier in the life of the pier an area between its southern rail and the beach was enclosed by netting to form a safe swimming enclosure. The netting and other parts of the structure have long since disappeared but the concrete posts remain to the delight of sea birds like these Pied Cormorants.
The foreshore has been improved over the years, as has the adjacent park area on the hill. It the shelter of shade trees and pergolas, several picnic tables with seating have been provided. Be early on a sunny day if you want a table, particularly at weekends. The street behind the hillside park offers some dining options. A coffee van is often to be found near the base of the jetty adjacent to parking area.
I have been thinking about adding bird photographs to our blog pages for a while. I have been interested in bird photography for many years but did not own the lenses necessary to do anything about it.
My camera is a Canon 700D which I purchased in about 2015. It came with two kit lenses, a 18 – 55 mm primary and a 55 – 250 mm short telephoto lens. But changing lenses all the time is a pain in the neck so I mainly used the primary lens and cropped photos to bring distant subjects a bit closer. I mostly used the camera in one of the automatic modes as most photos were to support my travel blog text.
About a year ago I was able to obtain at a reasonable price a Sigma 18 – 250 mm telephoto lens. This was a great improvement but still placed me too far away from subject birds to achieve satisfactory results.
Then, on the principle of you can’t take it with you I went looking for something better and found a Sigma 150 – 600 mm telephoto. Used with my crop sensor camera I have an effective 900 mm reach. Much better.
I also started to really study the capabilities of my camera and began to shoot in manual mode. I purchased a high capacity data card for the camera and began shooting in RAW at maximum megapixels (18) and converting RAW data into JPEG in Canon Digital Photo Professional 4.
During processing I identify the bird by using apps and field guide books. A handy aid to identification is the “Google Lens” phone app. Available from your phone’s app store, it allows you to scan a bird photo on the computer screen and gives you a selection of photographs to use in identification.
I also use Cornell University’s “Merlin” app and the “Australian Birds” app. There are other that you can try for yourself. I also have a copy of the Michael Morcombe Field Guide to Australian Birds.
Sightings are recorded on an Excel spreadsheet where I record bird and variety and location and date sighted. My computer files are kept by location.
For the future I intend to post my better shots from each outing, together with some information on location and the featured birds. Unless I change my mind, of course.
But for now, here are some of the photos that I have accumulated to date.
Australasian Darter Anhinga novaehollandiae – front view
At breakfast, I confirmed with my niece that a left turn back at the main road, the Old Hume Highway, would take us through Camden and Picton. I used to know that road well until it changed its character completely, when multiple suburbs were built along it and it ceased to be the Hume Highway. But I forgot the second left turn at Narellan town centre. We were crossing Peter Brock Drive at Oran Park before I realised my mistake.
We turned and allowed Google Maps to guide us over several country roads, including one called Sheather Lane, until we reached Camden. The Old Hume Highway then lead us over The Razorback to Picton, where we stopped for coffee. The wrong turn had cost us time, so the quickest route, out to the motorway and directly to Bowral, was needed to bring us to our destination on schedule. We didn’t want to be late for lunch.
The next call was very much of the reason for the trip. Ruth’s youngest brother lives with his wife in the beautiful eastern suburbs of Bowral, in the NSW Southern Highlands. Wallace and Virginia (Wall & Jinny) have lived in Bowral for many years. As time passed they bought the block in a then new area to the east of the town and built a nice house around which they have laid out beautiful gardens.
Sadly Wall is in advanced stages of Parkinson’s disease. Jinny is his devoted carer these days. We spent a night with them and left next morning. We had as pleasant a time together as circumstanced would allow. It was pretty good.
Not only is Jinny a keen gardener but loves birds. Local birds know it as a good place for a regular feed. The current favourite is a Crimson Rosella that sits on Jinny’s thumb and eats out of the palm of her hand. Kookaburras call and laugh and other Australian native birds in the vicinity drop in.
For a couple of days we had been watching wet weather approach from the south. As we departed Bowral on that Saturday morning, it was clear that we were heading towards the front of the change. We reached Goulburn in slight drizzle. After coffee we took the Crookwell Road to the north, heading for a lunch stop at Bathurst. Beyond Crookwell the road passes through several kilometres of mountains, resulting in steep winding roads. It was on this section of road that the weather caught up with us. Heavy rain and gusty winds added to the challenge but there was not much other traffic.
Approaching Bathurst, we attempted to take a drive around the Mount Panorama circuit. It was not to be. From the foot of the serious mountains until the outskirts of Bathurst, road side signs warned of cycling activity in the area. We discovered that the centre for this Lycra clad event was the straight and buildings of the Mount Panorama racing circuit. Spectators were driving into parking areas and barriers protracted the track.
From Bathurst we drove through intermittent rain to Orange, Wellington and finally Dubbo, where we spent the night. The next day we followed the Newell Highway to Coonabarabran where we turned for Gunnedah. We enjoyed views of lush green Western Plains, so different to the drought conditions of recent trips. The grasshopper plague, part of which spread itself over the front of the car, was less welcome. We progressed under sunny skies having temporarily left the rain behind. It really was a pleasant drive. Morning coffee was taken at Coonabarabran and lunch at Gunnedah.
We joined the New England Highway at Moonbi after skirting to the north of Tamworth. This is quite a good alternative if you want to avoid Tamworth and interesting scenery, as the road runs through the collection of huge boulders known as the Moonbi Gap. A short side trip took us to the summit of Moonbi Hill. From there we drove to Armidale for the night.
Sunday 14th April dawned in Armidale with blue skies overhead but heavy cloud to the south west. We could have kept to the New England Highway by continuing north, but we figured that we could make it along the Waterfall Way and check out the area after recent rain, before more rain fell. So off we went.
There is a lot to see along this road but we stuck to waterfalls. The first call was at falls that we had not previously visited. About 20 km east of Armidale you turn to the right into Old Hillgrove Road, which starts as a narrow sealed road but quickly changes to corrugated gravel. The road leads down a hill, over an old wooden bridge over Bakers Creek and up the other side to a small car park hidden behind trees. A rough bush path leads to a surprisingly elaborate timber viewing platform that provides good views of the falls. It is a good spot and worth the roughish road.
From Bakers Creek Fall you can continue on Old Hillgrove Road to the historic mining town of Hillgrove, returning to the Waterfall Way via Stockton Road, that is now the main access to Hillgrove. We retraced our steps to Waterfall Way, having visited Hillgrove on a previous journey.
Next up was the Wollomombi Falls. Just a few kilometres along the Waterfall Way the turn again is to the right. A sealed road leads for about a kilometre, through a farm, into the Oxley Wild Rivers National Park. It is then only a few hundred metres to the day visitors’ area located on the edge of the gorge. The falls can be viewed through the trees at the edge of the picnic area, but a better view is had by taking a short walk to a commodious viewing platform.
The falls, which are on the Wollomombi River, are a spectacular 150 to 230 metre drop into Wollomombi Gorge. The elevation of the top of the falls above sea level is 907 meters.
At our last visit there was no water at all so it was great to see the falls flowing. Just downstream of the falls the Wollomombi River joins the Chandler River which empty into other rivers until the water reaches the Macleay River which flows through Kempsey and enters the Pacific Ocean at South West Rocks.
Not far along the highway, a turn to the left leads over a rise to the village of Wollomombi, where the general store provided acceptable coffee and with morning nibbles or lunch. It was too early for lunch so we nibbled with our coffee.
Ebor is the next waterfall stop along the road but to get there you pass the turn on the right that leads to the magnificent views of Point Lookout and a trout hatchery that offers smoked trout. Today the views would probably be of clouds and fog. On the left you pass the Cathedral Rock National park and the road to Guyra. Ebor falls are to the left before you reach the town. Views of the cascades in this impressive river are unfortunately marred by wire mesh barricades. As is so often the case, NSW authorities find it easier to erect a fence instead of maintaining tourist facilities. This is a very odd approach at a time when they are spending big on advertising programs to entice tourists to holiday in their own state. But we don’t do public tourist facility maintenance very well anywhere in Australia.
From Ebor we drove the undulating plateaux to Dorrigo where we headed to the Canopy Café at the Dorrigo National Park, for lunch. We took the mandatory walk along the Skywalk Lookout before returning to the car. As we returned to the highway the first sprinkles hit the windscreen but the deluge waited until we had descended the mountain to Urunga before it started. By the time we reached Coffs Harbour almost all of the deceased grasshoppers that had spread themselves over the front of the car were washed away.
We stayed two nights at Coffs, in a small apartment a little to the north of the main area, with glimpses of the ocean. The heavy rain experienced over night withdrew sufficiently for us to visit the lookout on the mountain behind Coffs Harbour and to drive to Sawtell where we had lunch in a pleasant cafe in the main street. We checked out the observation points in the area before returning north along the road nearest the coast. Just a quick look in at the harbour area and back to the unit as the rain became serious again.
The trip ended with the drive home from Coffs Harbour the next day. We had been away for exactly two weeks.
Our destination for the day was Mount Annan, near Liverpool, south of Sydney. Tollways with 80kph speed limits now bypass Sydney. You don’t see a single traffic light until after turning off the Hume Highway at Campbelltown. With a mid afternoon ETA we had time to spare, so stayed east of the Newcastle bypass highway, travelling down the Old Pacific Highway until we turned further east to join the real coast road at Budgewoi.
Most of our drive was familiar, but not all. We had intended to do a run into Caves Beach, just south of Swansea, but missed the turn in the new (to me) road arrangements south of the bridge over the entrance to Lake Macquarie. But we did take a run into Catherine Hill Bay. I wanted to see the old coal loading jetty, last viewed during an inshore tack when sailing a newly acquired yacht from Sydney to Brisbane, many years ago.
This was a coal mining area, of course. As you approach the beach and jetty, you pass through streets lined by old miner’s cottages, many under renovation, probably reaching seven figure valuations as a result. We parked above the beach so that I could walk down a sandy ramp to the ocean’s edge to take some photos.
We re-joined the highway via the southern access to the town, passing new houses, including large homes with ocean views and a new subdivision, down in a valley, with no views at all. At Doyalson we turned in again to the coast, driving through Budgewoi, over the bridge that spans the narrow waterway that joins Lake Munmorah and Lake Budgewoi. We then travelled through Toukley and Noraville to The Entrance which we made our morning coffee and photo stop.
As we had approached The Entrance we both noticed water birds in Tuggerah Lake. With morning coffee done, we returned the couple of kilometres to where we had seen the birds. I fitted my long lens and took a number of photos, including some with which I was reasonably happy.
Retracing our steps, we drove through The Entrance to Long Jetty, on the eastern shore of Tuggerah Lake. Long Jetty is both a suburb and a long jetty. I had heard of it in both forms and driven through the suburb a number of times. Today we called to visit.
The jetty is intended for foot traffic, with a hand rail on one side. The timber deck is about a metre above the water. On the outer end of the jetty I could see a group of water birds, sitting on the rail. My bird lens was not attached to the camera but the smaller one would do. But on the spur of the moment I forgot to change the camera settings from general sightseeing to bird photography. The result was photos of less quality than they could have been. We live and, hopefully, learn and remember in the future.
We continued south, keeping as near to the ocean as possible, turning east for a better view of the coast whenever the opportunity presented. Then we came to Terrigal and I realised that I had never been there. I was impressed. We drove through town to the bay where the launching ramp is located and where views are to be had over the bay, back to the residential and commercial development of the town centre. This location provided views of magnificent sea cliff top houses, the kind that dreams are made of.
After a viewing and photo stop we drove around point Kurrawyba with its two headlands and then via the Scenic Highway to eventually reach Woy Woy. There we did some necessary shopping and returned to the Pacific Motorway near Gosford to continue south. So after crossing the Hawkesbury River and reaching Hornsby we were taken underground for a long sweep to the west on the M7 until we swung back east to the Hume Motorway at Casula. It was then a quick and easy drive to Mount Annan, our destination.
There we caught up with Ruth’s youngest sister Dorothy (Dot) and her family, including newly minted grandson Max. We also caught up with Max’s mum Deahna, our niece Madison, Madison’s fiancé Josh and Dot’s other half, Peter. Max’s dad had work commitments.
After much talking and taking of refreshments, Peter took to the barbeque to produce the protein to accompany the other portions of the meal, previously prepared. With a libation or two we all enjoyed a very pleasant evening, called to an earlier close than might otherwise have been the case by our hosts need to make early departures for work the following morning.