The Family Responsibilities Tour – Part 3

Excess water released from Hume Dam

We left Phillip Island amid showers sweeping across Westernport Bay and the adjoining coastal plains. Our route lead along the South Gippsland Highway, Monash Freeway, skirting around the city to reach the Tullamarine Freeway and finally to the Hume Highway. We were headed to Bright to see if Autumn had yet reached the area, famous for its Autumn colours.

Afternoon tea on the lawn
Bright Cenotaph
More colour in Bright
Rosella in the tree on the lawns

We only took necessary breaks, arriving in Bright in the late afternoon. Our motel backed onto lawns that run down to the path that runs along Ovens River. We look our afternoon tea to the lawn and were joined by some Parrots.

Early Autumn at Bright

The Liquid Amber trees were turning nicely but the Poplars and other deciduous trees had only just started to put on their show.

We left town next morning via Yackandandah, a nearby town also known for its colours, but it seemed to be running later than Bright.

We were bound for Hume Dam on the Murray River to see what it looked when when full. Excess water was being released to a huge roar, in sufficient quantities to fill the river down stream to the top of its banks. When we came through there on our way home from Tasmania two years ago the water level was well below the spillway and further up stream, cattle were grazing on river flats that had been exposed for years but now are inundated by the water in the dam.

Sunlit clouds over Goulburn.
Lake Hume, full to the brim

We made our way to the Hume Highway and continued on to Goulburn for the night.

Heavy rain was forecast for the recently flooded North Coast of NSW so we decided to cross the Blue Mountains and make our way home inland. But first we wanted to see the recently overflowing Warragamba Dam. Warragamba was not far off our track.

Warragamba Dam, also full to the brim
Water released into the Warragamba River.

We thought that refreshments might be available at the visitor center at the dam, but no such luck. We did our tourist thing under increasingly threatening skies. Walking back from an observation point I took a wrong turn and came upon a pair of Rosellas. Then a Wonga Pigeon landed on stairs behind me, the first of this type that I had seen.

The visitor centre overlooks the dam

Soon, after departing the dam, the sky opened and stayed that way. As we approached the Great Western Highway, traffic congestion was becoming an issue so a quick change of plans and we were on the highway heading west. With the rain still falling and a stop becoming necessary, we found a convergent McDonald’s and stopped for lunch. Back on the road the rain continued to well on the way to Mudgee, our next overnight stop.

Wonga Pigeon at Warragamba Dam

Mudgee is a week end town, thriving on visitors from the coast, so they have their weekend on Monday and Tuesday. We were there on Monday night and found most restaurants were closed. The Chinese restaurant at the Gold Club was recommended. They served excellent food in huge quantities. We only eat half the food served to us but were able to take the leftovers. They were sufficient for dinner the following night.

Silo artwork at Dunedoo in Central NSW

Next morning, we had passed through Gulgong and Dunedoo when a phone call from last night’s motel advised that I had left my binoculars behind. So, after returning the necessary 85 kilometres, we had coffee and started again. We left Mudgee, this time by the Ulan Road, then through Binnaway so saw some new country. Lunch at Coonabarabran and a stop for the last night at Moree to rest and deal with leftover Chinese food.

Vineyard near Mudgee

The plan was to do the last leg of the journey via the Gore Highway to Toowoomba and then the Warrego Highway to Brisbane but as we left Goondiwindi a roadside sign advised that the Gore Highway was closed. So on through continuing rain with a stop at Warwick and arrived home mid afternoon. 

Eighteen days and a bit over 5,000 kilometres with average weather and escalating petrol prices. But we saw all of the relatives that were planned and respects paid at two grave sites. In all a successful trip. 

The Family Responsibilities Tour – Part 2

Phillip Island south cost
A Common Starling greeted us at Trafalgar

We had chosen Trafalgar to stay because it was conveniently located to my Sister’s new place of residence, following the death of her husband, Colin. After breakfast we picked her up from Moe South and headed back towards Melbourne to reach our destination at the Drouin cemetery. Colin rests in a lawn grave but with an elevated headstone. My parents and younger brother Winston occupy similar graves in this cemetery. We quietly paid our respects before proceeding with our day, for which we had made no further fixed plans.

On our previous trips to the area, we had visited a bakery in Neerim South, a picturesque farming and now retirement town, in the southern foothills of the Great Dividing Range. Aileen’s doctor is located in the town, so she and Colin often visited here and took a coffee break at the excellent bakery. My Sister and Brother-in-law had got to know the very friendly Vietnamese female proprietor. Condolences were expressed during a very pleasant country chat. Good coffee and a delicious cake set the occasion off nicely.

Village Central Restaurant at Baw Baw operates all year
Small chalet with snow shedding roof

With most of the day still untouched, a suggestion to drive up to Mount Baw Baw was readily agreed to. We proceeded to the old timber town of Noojee and then followed the narrow winding road through Tanjil Bren to reach the 1,567-metre summit and site of the Baw Baw ski fields. There was no snow, thankfully, the day being mild. We probably would have launched on the sunny deck of the bistro if it had not been for the rather keen breeze blowing across the mountain. When we last visited, Boxing Day about three years ago, the mountain top was covered by thick cloud.

A memorial to one of the founders of the Mount Baw Baw ski village.

Part way back down the mountain a direct road to Moe turns off, so we took it, returning Aileen to her new home, a granny flat at the home of her daughter. We dropped her off and returned to our motel for a shower, as we were due back for dinner in the main house, with Aileen, her daughter and most of her family.

In our caravanning days we periodically met caravan owning siblings and others who hired a cabin, at a mutually convenient caravan park. We had decided to continue the practice notwithstanding our depleted numbers. For convenience we had booked for three nights at a caravan park at Cowes on Phillip Island, less than an hour’s drive from the area where our Victorian relatives live. And none of us are now caravan owners.

The weather was not brilliant but we were able to fit activities in between showers, without too much inconvenience. It was not beach weather but we are not beach people and the youngest of us doesn’t get much change out of eighty.

San Remo fishing port

Philip Island is an area familiar to us from our time of residence in this part of Victoria very early in our married life. There have been many changes over the years but the area has not changed that much either. There is much more accommodation on offer and increased opportunities to spend money, but Phillip Island still is essentially an area of farmland with a couple of towns. But it is scenic and relaxed and a suitable place to take a few days of relaxation, its charms increased because it is all on an island.

San Remo Bridge to Phillip Island
Part of the main street of San Remo
Round Island and The Nobbies

Tuesday was the day for travel to Cowes, but first we joined Aileen and a couple who are mutual friends, for coffee in Drouin. The road from Drouin to Cowes passes the front gate of youngest brother Bernard’s farm, so we headed off in convoy. At San Remo, where the bridge carries the road to Phillip Island, we stopped for lunch and probably overindulged a bit on local fish and chips.

Cape Barren Geese grazing. They are grass eaters.

San Remo to Cowes is a 16 km drive.  We checked into our cabins and settled in. Rain had commenced so we had a cuppa, while watching it though the window. For dinner we found a bistro at a local pub and fed ourselves again, but a bit more sparingly this time.

A Cape Barren Goose watching Round Island

Wednesday dawned, an improvement on the previous day, so we set out for The Nobbies, where a visitor information centre is located at the south west tip of the island. This is Seal and Penguin territory but there were no Seals visible on Seal Rocks and you really need to return at night for the Penguins. Many years ago, when we lived not too far away from here, you could walk near the Penguin burrows during the day and see a few birds. In this modern tourist era such are the demands of commercialism and environmentalism that the whole area is now behind security fencing, with tiered seating on the sand dunes and even dugout bunkers for those willing pay more to see the Penguins up close.

Rear view of Nobbies Visitor Centre

At The Nobbies, the visitor centre provides viewing areas in the rather elaborate National Parks souvenir shop which has an excellent café as well. The area overlooking Round Island and Seal Rocks is well supplied with boardwalks and wooden stairways, so viewing the scenery and the flora and fauna is easy. The wildlife available was the Cape Barren Geese that occupy the area in considerable numbers. An approaching rain squall encouraged us inside for coffee.

The Penguin viewing area at Summerland Bay, Phillip Island

Coffee done and rain gone too, we made our way along the south coast until we reached the Phillip Island Grand Prix Circuit, turning into each road that would take us to the coast. This part of the coast is a series of coast scapes that are a photographer’s delight. With the weather deteriorating, we returned to our cabins via the supermarket, to acquire toasting bread and soup to provide us with the ingredients for a suitable lunch on a cool and damp afternoon.

The clouds cleared later in the afternoon. A couple of our number went on separate walks. Aileen and I went looking for some birds for me to photograph, but we only found Kangaroos. We returned to the bistro of the previous night, for another excellent meal.

Part of Phillip Island’s south coast
Kitty Millar Bay
Woolamai Beach
Waves breaking on Cape Woolamai

On Thursday morning we finished our tour of Phillip Island’s south coast. We drove to the Woolamai surf beach, parked in the provided area and walked along the beach to the east, as close as we could get to Cape Woolamai. There was a decent surf running so the wave action against the cliff face and exposed reefs was producing lots of spray and froth. Near the end of the beach a flight of stairs leads to the walking tracks that give access to the elevated areas of the Cape and the lookouts that are provided on these vantage points. A full day would be required to do the area properly. Flocks of Shearwater can be seen in that area but we didn’t see any. But there were Pacific Gulls that we don’t usually see around Brisbane.

Pacific Gull

After coffee at Newhaven, we crossed the one lane bridge to Churchill Island. This island faces into Westernport Bay and was a farm. The old farm house is open for inspection and there are animals and historic displays. The elevated centre of the island provides good views of parts of Cowes and the waters that surround the island. These waters are home to many birds, including Black Swans, a variety of ducks, Ibis and others. In wetlands back on the main island there were more water birds, including Spoonbills and lots of Australasian Swamphens. Swamphens are common on Phillip Island.

A Donkey by on the walk near the old homestead
The old homestead on Churchill Island is open for inspection for a small fee

The afternoon was cool with a constant breeze. We repeated the previous day’s soup arrangements for lunch. It was both a soup day and a jacket day for us Queenslanders. The afternoon was spent quietly. I might even have had a nap. For dinner we feasted royally at a Chinese restaurant.

Waves break against the south coast of the island

That brought an end to this limited family reunion. We packed our gear into bags and the car and after breakfast headed off. The Victorians departed to their separate places of abode. Ruth and I went via the quickest route through Melbourne to the Hume Highway. Our journey home is covered in the next part of this story.

The Family Responsibilities Tour – Part 1

Apsley Falls in full flow. Walcha NSW.

On 23rd November 2021 I lost both my eldest brother, Ivan, and my brother-in-law Colin, my only sister Aileen’s husband. Colin passed in the morning, Ivan in the early evening. Ivan was in the northern suburbs of Newcastle and Colin at Moe in Victoria’s West Gippsland region. There was no connection in their deaths, just one of life’s coincidences.

Covid-19 was at its high point, with borders closed in some states but not in others. We could have travelled to NSW, possibly to Victoria, but we would not have been permitted back into Queensland. We faced a real travel ban. So we had to provide our condolences and the support that we so much wanted to give by phone call, email and text message. We decided that as soon as possible after borders opened, we would travel south to visit grieving relatives and graves.

The opportunity came in March. With borders open and three vaccinations completed we headed south on 12th March, just four days after what would have been Ivan’s 88th birthday celebration.

Apsley Gorge. Walcha NSW

Our intention had been to first spend a couple of days with friends in Ballina, but they had been evacuated a few days before due to flooding of the Richmond River, which had closed the Pacific Highway from Ballina to south of Grafton. Their home was not inundated, and they returned to it after a couple of days, but a visit was not practical so soon after the floods, so we opted for the New England Highway.

Our first family call was to Marjorie, my sister-in-law, who requires constant care and who had gone into respite care in a retirement home in Bulahdelah, which is located about an hour north of her home in Newcastle. You will possible have read of Bulahdelah in the pages of these blogs. It is the town near which I spent the first 15 years of my life and where I met Ruth, my wife of almost 60 years. Ruth, of course, has been part of all the travels covered by the mobilesheathers.com blogs.

Apsley Gorge. Walcha NSW
Forster-Tuncurry Bridge on Wallis Lake

We spent the first night in Armidale. On day two we drove south to Uralla and there turned to join the Oxley Highway at Walcha, to reach the coast again. When we travel for almost any reason we are touring and taking in sights and points of interest along the way. We had been hoping for some early Autumn colours in the roadside trees so were a bit disappointed by the lack of colour, but the area had not progressed far into Autumn but it was very green from recent rain.

But just east of Walcha the Apsley Falls were at their thundering best. On our previous visit, back in our caravanning days, the drought was it its height and there was not even a trickle of water on the falls, just a pool of brackish water at the bottom. Viewing facilities at the falls are excellent. Ruth was able to make her way to the main viewing deck and was able to see as much as I could. There are some good walks at the falls, but time did not permit. We had appointments to keep.

Wallis Lake, Forster NSW

We paused for lunch at Wauchope and made it to our motel at Forster, at the mouth of Wallace Lake, in good time. Time to fit in a walk! So, with camera in hand, I set off for the bridge that spans the lake at a narrow point between Forster and neighbouring Tuncurry. The bridge is about one kilometre long with a hump on each end to allow boats to pass underneath.

Resort building beside Wallis Lake

An area south of Forster, Tiona, was a favourite holiday destination during my childhood, as it offered a range of options for my fishing loving Father. There were two ways of getting there from where we lived back then. If we came via Tuncurry the car and trailer (containing our camping equipment) would be loaded onto a small punt which was pulled through the meandering channel to the other side. Now the sand bars that shaped the channel carry the pylon foundations that support the bridge.

The bridge provides a scenic vantage point for both towns, Wallace Lake, and the entry to the lake from the ocean. Ever watchful for sea birds I noticed an Eastern Osprey making long sweeps over the lake in search of dinner, or perhaps a late lunch. After several failed attempts, it landed on a bridge street light and remained on its perch as I walked past taking photos of it. A call at the ocean beach and it was time to return to the motel for dinner.

Wootton School now a community centre

The easiest route from Forster to our next call at the retirement home at Bulahdelah was to fallow the Pacific Highway but a more interesting way was to leave the highway south of Coollongolook and followed The Wootton Way to where it re-joins the highway just north of Bulahdelah. This detour took us past a school that I attended for a couple of years during primary school and past the property on which I and my family lived for about 5 years prior to moving to Victoria when I was 15.

Tall strait trees

The school is now a community centre and the town much smaller than it was 70 plus years ago. The road is sealed as, for a time, it was the Pacific Highway. Further on we drove through magnificent stands of white-trunked trees, typical of the area. Further on we came to the property where our house stood near the road. The house was moved shortly after we vacated. New owners built further back on the property, behind the tree line and have operated a farm stay business for many years.

The old shed in which I milked the house cows

We arrived at the nursing home in good time next morning to complete the Covid safety procedure before visiting sister-in-law Marjorie. We found her in good spirits despite having been told a few days previously that the nursing home was to close thus causing uncertainty about her future. We stayed for morning coffee and lunch before making our way further south. Happily, Marjorie’s future accommodation arrangements were settled a few days later when her two daughters completed arrangements for her to take up residence on the top floor of a facility near Lake Macquarie in Newcastle, where she will have views of the lake as well as, we hope, good care.

Bulahdelah Alum Mountain
The sloping lawns of the Lake Macquarie Memorial Park

We stayed two nights at Warners Bay, our motel overlooking the northern end of Lake Macquarie. Ivan is buried at Lake Macquarie Memorial Park at Ryhope, just a few hundred metres off the Pacific Motorway, south of Newcastle. A very convenient location for paying our respects during future trips south.

Warners Bay viewed across the lake

We met Ivan’s two daughters with their respective spouses at the park. They showed us to the grave site, already almost covered with grass. The plaques are under way and should be in place when next we call. The grave is in a pleasant area on the side of a gently sloping hillside. The entire garden area appears to be well kept and will continue to be so. We left the cemetery and drove to the sports club in Toronto where we lingered over coffee with nieces and nephews that we rarely see.

White-necked Heron at Warners Bay

The afternoon was fine and sunny so we parked, and I took a walk on the path provided between Warners Bay and Speirs Point. It is not always possible to keep up my walking schedule when we are travelling, so such opportunities are not to be missed. As a bonus there were birds to photograph, including a White-necked Heron, a first sighting for me.

Next morning, Tuesday, we took the short drive to the home of Ruth’s elders sister Judy and her husband Alan, at West Wallsend. Judy has mobility problems but maintains a positive attitude which is most demonstrated by her determination to keep travelling. So over lunch we discussed, as well as family, travel plans and experiences. Visit over, we headed for Sydney.

Cronulla Beach

We were to have spent two nights with our daughter Briony at her Erskinville home, but she had come down with a non-Covid virus that we did not want to catch. A quick change of arrangements took us to the Travelodge at Bankstown, a bit of an experience as it is also the Bankstown Sports Club. Temporary club membership was bestowed upon us so that we could use the facilities of the club.

Coffee shop at Cronulla Beach

On our second night with Briony we had planned to meet Ruth’s youngest sister Dorothy (Dot) for dinner. So, a quad became a threesome at the NEM Riverwood Vietnamese restaurant, for good food and a good old family catch up.

Ferry terminal at Bundeena

To fill in the intervening day we revisited old stamping grounds from the first period of joint residence in Sydney during the time of my appointment to East Coast Transport at Botany. We started with morning coffee at Cronulla, right on the water on a lovely sunny morning. We then drove past Miranda Fair, where we used to do our shopping and stopped for a look at our former residence at 4 Tulong Place, Kirrawee. This house was built on top a couple of huge boulders, with views over the Royal National Park. Every time I see this house, I wish that we still lived there.

Bundeena main street

Next, we drove into the Royal National Park to the town of Bundeena on the southern shore of Port Hacking. This was to have been our lunch location but, after a largish morning coffee we were just not ready for more food. After looking around Bundeena we returned to the road through the park that leads to its southern coast entrance at Otford. At this point you will find one of the best scenic lookouts in Sydney. Otford lookout has an elevated viewing platform, heaps of parking space, a kiosk and views over the coast and from Sea Cliff Bridge to Port Kembla. We had a snack there before driving back through Stanwell Tops and Waterfall to Bankstown and dinner.

The following morning, we left Sydney early and drove to Bowral in the Southern Highlands of NSW, to call on Ruth’s youngest brother Wallace and his wife Ginny. Wallace is in advanced stages of a degenerative disease (similar to Parkinson’s disease) so our visits are relatively short. We joined them for lunch and family news. These calls are always sad and happy events because you never know if each one will be the last.

View from the Monaro Highway

Our destination for the night was Canberra. We were joined for breakfast next morning by grandson Jeremy who now works in the National Capital. The remainder of the day was spent driving via the Monaro Highway to its junction with the Princes Highway at Cann River. Then the run through the East Gippsland mountains and Orbost brought us to Lakes Entrance for the night.

There is always bird life at Lake Entrance, so the long lens got some use that evening and again on my walk next morning. Swans and Pelicans predominate, but there are many others. After leaving Lakes Entrance we detoured to Metung for morning coffee, lunched in Traralgon and arrived at our accommodation in Trafalgar in time to unpack and go out to find some dinner. 

A Stroll Along Humptybong Creek.

Humptybong Creek runs into Moreton Bay just north of the foodie strip in Redcliffe Parade, Redcliffe. But mostly it doesn’t. A dam behind the town holds the water back, unless there has been heavy rain. From the dam the creek waters make their way through drains and culverts to run across the sand. Evidence is soon washed away by incoming tides.

The creek runs to the south west, under Anzac and Oxley Avenues. It drains the slightly higher terrain behind the coastal strip. The dam holds back enough water to encourage wild life. This is what makes it such a good location to photograph bird life.

But Humptybong Creek has a link with history. The Redcliffe foreshore was the sight of the first European settlement on Moreton Bay. Humptybong Creek provided fresh water to the new and tiny settlement. At least two dams were built at different times to provide and increase water storage. Parts of the later dam to be built remain and have been preserved. They are in the park area to the south of Anzac Avenue.

Poinciana trees and Banksia are in bloom and attracting Rainbow Lorikeet in significant numbers. I only have to walk 100 meters from the side gate of our complex to find them in a Banksia in the corner of the Energex power substation, but a high chain wire fence makes it difficult to photograph them. But the trees in Humptybong Park, that runs on either side of the creek, makes photography easier.

Australasian Figbird (Sphecotheres vieilloti)

Food supply seems to attract other birds as well. There always seems to be a variety in the area. As suggested by its name, the Figbird eats fruit and berries, but also eats insects. They move around to the extent necessary to be near a food source.

Little Pied Cormorant (Microcarbo melanoleucos)

An area of the creek, nearer to its mouth, has enough permanent water to permanently support water birds. The most common are Ducks, but one particular tree frequently hosts Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants. They both rest and feed at this location. They are often to be seen swimming in search of food.

Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina tibicen)

Australian Magpies are frequently in the area. Their melodic carolling can often be heard. I see them regularly an my daily walks.

Spotted Turtle-Dove (Spilopelia chinensis)
Feral Pigeon (Columba livia domestica)
Crested Pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes)

There are always pigeons around. As a matter of fact I can hear one call is I write this blog. The Feral Pigeon is by far the most common bur we see the Spotted Turtle-Dove and Crested Pigeon quite regularly. There is one location beside the largest waterhole where they congregate, mainly because that is where people come to feed them.

The Australian Ibis is a regular around the water courses in this area, including the exposed sea floor when the tide is out. Often dozens are to be seen forging for food. Like the Cormorants, they have a favourite tree in the creek on which they like to perch.

Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca)
Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae)

We don’t see as many Kookaburra as we would like, but they are about. A few weeks ago two young birds called in for a swim in the complex pool and had a good preen afterwards. The bird pictured was sitting on a power line near the creek.

Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa
Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa
Australasian (Purple) Swamphen (Porphyrio melanotus)
Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata)
Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata)

What was formerly the Purple Swamphen and is now known as the Australasian Swamphen is another species that breeds on Humptybong Creek. The one pictured above was busy protecting the little ball of black feathers that is her chick. The Australian Weed Duck can be seen almost anywhere there is water. Family groups can often be seen at the creek.

Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala)

The Noisy Miner is another prolific bird. They can be seen wherever there is nectar to be taken from flowers, noisily protecting their patch. This one was taking a walk through the grass.

Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles0

Another regular around the Moreton Bay area is the Masked Lapwing or Plover as it is commonly known. While normally seen on land, they are often seen in or near the water. I have seen them feeding with water birds when the tide is down. This one dipped itself into the water as I took the shot.

The Little Corella (Cacatua sanguinea) has appeared again this year, as the pine nuts have reached the point of tempting them. Accompanied by their signature screeching sound they were flying from tree to tree as they fed. They offered lots of photo opportunities so I clicked away.

Dull Weather, Brilliant Birds at Bribie Island

Image

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:

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Buff-banded Rail
Eastern Curlew

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.

Godwits on the beach
Godwits in flight

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.

Rainbow Lorikeet
Rainbow Lorikeet
Torrestian Crow
Figbird
Pied Oyster catchers

And sleeping Pelicans. Some of the Eastern Curlews had also nodded off.

Sleeping Pelicans
Eastern Curlew
Drowsy Eastern Curlews?

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.

Masked Lapwing
Masked Lapwing
Masked Lapwing with chick
Masked Lapwing chic

I took no photos of humans with dogs but this pair of Pied Butcherbirds were giving the Lapwings plenty to keep them busy.

Pied Butcherbird
Pied Butcherbird

These Australian Wood Ducks joined me to watch the air show.

Australian Wood Duck
Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata)
Australian Wood Duck

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.

Thin Pickings at Kedron Brook Wetlands.

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.

Dalby to the Gold Coast

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.

Surrounding Farmlands

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.

Glengallan House Café

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 Visitor Centre/Café

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.

Our lunchtime view

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.

Sunset Over the Mountains

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A Short Stay at Maroochydore

View towards the ocean

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.

Loop off the track to stream

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.

Sunset Day 1

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.

Bougainvillea Near Dam

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.

High-rise units at Point Cartwright

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.

Noosa brunch – Truffle Omelette

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.

A quite spot in Noosa’s Hastings Street

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.

An Uncompleted Hike

Gold Coast high-rise through haze

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.

Rush Creek above the falls

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.

View into the valley

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.

Twin Falls

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.

The pool at the foot of the falls

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 with most areas smooth going

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.

A very pleasant walk through the rain forest

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.

The track runs between two huge boulders

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.

The track emerges between the boulders and is assisted by some steps

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.

Part of the track runs along the base of a cliff

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.

A look into the rain forwst

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!

This large nest may belong to an Eagle

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.

Purling Falls

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.

The upstream limit of the Hinze Dam

Birds at Deception Bay

A gathering of Gulls on an exposed sand bank

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.

Eastern Great Egret

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.

Intermediate Egret
Eastern Great Egret
Eastern Great Egret
A group of Bar-taited Godwits
Brahminy Kite
Inbound Australian Pelican