Today I led a walk to "The Grotto", for the National Parks Association, Southern Highlands Branch. This spot is found by following a fire trail which runs off Belmore Falls Road. It is one of my favourite local haunts, and I was happy to lead this group of about a dozen people. They were very pleasant company, the weather was nice, and we saw some good birds and interesting plants and natural features of the bush.
I went out there on Thursday, to do a reconnaissance trip, and took these photos. Today, when we got close to the creek, I asked everyone to stay quiet, so we could sneak up on any Wood Ducks which might have been there. We were rewarded with a sight of about 20 of them, perched on various dead trees in the creek, and some swimming. A lovely moment or two, before they all took flight.
The creek is known as Barrengarry Creek, but it used be called Wallangunda Creek, which I think is more accurate. It does run down to Belmore Falls, where Barrengarry Creek does indeed fall into the Kangaroo Valley. But there are several creeks which flow into this little creek prior to the Falls - hence my doubts about the name, despite the fact that the Council has changed the name on one of the road signs, recently.
We then went to the nearby waterfall which carries the name of "The Grotto". In my mind, this reflects the Catholic heritage of the Robertson district, more than anything. There were no apparitions of the "Virgin Mary" while we were there to day.
But moving on from the issue of the name, it is a truly lovely spot. I love the sound of the waters crashing onto the rocks below this little waterfall. It is about a 3 metre drop, so it barely qualifies as a waterfall. But it is a lovely spot. Because the drop falls onto a rock shelf, instead of a pool of deep water, it gives one the unexpected opportunity to walk right up to the falls. One could literally have stood there, and showered under it, if one felt inclined to do so.
There were some flowers on the Fieldia australis which grows underneath the waterfall, on the rock wall, as well as more prolific native "Rainforest Spinach" (Elatostema reticulatum).
Here was a very nice seedling Coachwood plant, growing in a dark spot, beside the creek. Its leaves had this amazing purplish tinge to them. Very striking indeed.
The best moment for me, this morning, was when I heard a slightly metallic twittering call of a bird, as it flew past us, very fast and low, along the creek. I saw a flash of brilliant blue and knew I had just been passed by an Azure Kingfisher. Then I looked up along the creek, and there was another one, perched in classic Kingfisher pose, on a dead branch above the creek. Of course I had the wrong lens on the camera, and by the time I had changed lenses, the bird had flown.
I will take the opportunity to direct you to this image by my fellow Nature Blogger, "Tyto Tony", from Ingham in Queensland (where the floods were). He has posted a stunning image of an Azure Kingfisher - the likes of which I can only ever dream of snapping.