Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Sunday, November 29, 2009

Lees Road - above and below the escarpment

Lees Road runs along the area of grey soil covering the sandstone plateau (below the Robertson Basalt), and runs out to the edge of the coastal escarpment. It leads out towards Knights Hill, the southern end of the Illawarra Escarpment.

Sandstone escarpment, with Knights Hill rising in the background.
Note the small sandstone gully with a patch of Coachwoods (in flower).
The bright green line of rainforest vegetation is markedly different
from the greyer colour of the Eucalypt forest.
This week, the Coachwoods were in flower
making them far more obvious than normal.
From the Lees Road lookout one sees down over the lower levels of tall wet Eucalypt forest, below the escarpment. There is also a "Warm-temperate Rainforest Gully" there, populated with Sassafras, Blackwood Wattles, Coachwood Trees, and Cabbage Tree Palms. These rainforest trees are largely covered with huge vines, especially Wonga Vines and Anchor Vines, both of which easily grow to the tops of the large rainforest trees - indeed they virtually smother some fo them. That results in what is called a "closed forest".
Click to enlarge this next image.
You can see the tops of Cabbage Tree Palms.
There are also sheets of vines covering some trees.
The Coachwoods flower on fresh growth,
which helps them stand out over other levels of forest growth.

The forest along the top of the escarpment is known as "Gully Gum forest". It grows in a very narrow band along the very edge of the escarpment. Along Lees Road, the original forest which was growing on the next layer of soil - the richer (than sandstone) black soil (Wianamatta Shale soils) has largely been cleared for grazing.

So, you will see in these few photos that there is a great habitat differential between the forest immediately below the cliff line and the open land above the cliffline (but less than 500 metres away from the cliff line).

To demonstrate this, I am showing photos of two "dry country" birds - a Pipit (a Grassland bird) and a Dusky Woodswallow which I normally only ever seen in drier country than Robertson. Neither would be expected to be seen anywhere near warm-temperate Rainforest (dominated by Coachwoods).
A Dusky Woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus)
sitting in an Acacia binervata
A dull photo, but it shows the diagnostic white bar along the edge of the wing. This bird is common around Canberra, but not Robertson, which is generally to wet for them.And here is an Australasian (Richard's) Pipit - a bird associated with open grasslands and farmland.The Robertson district is a land of contrasts. All this within 500 metres distance.


mick said...

Fascinating landscape! You would certainly get a wide variety of birds in a very short distance there.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mick
Indeed it is very varied, and quite spectacular, looking down over sheer cliffs like that.
I love to go there on clear days, for you look straight out over Wollongong. It feels like you could see New Zealand on a good day.

Mosura said...

....and not just birds. A great spot to set up a moth trap too :-) Nice pics.

Gouldiae said...

G'day Denis,
I'm with Mick. It always seems to me that there is a concentration or at least a good variety of birds at any delineation of habitat.
Nice looking country.

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Mosura
Never been there at night, and no power sources nearby.
But I have seen huge flocks of migrating (or meandering) Caper White Butterflies from that lookout point.

Sebastian said...

Loving the photos of Robertson Denis. I grew up just down the pass in Albion Park (before it turned into an ugly giant monster). We spent much time in your beautiful little town, particularly at the nursery from memory! Has the town grown much?

P.S. How's the giant potato?

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Sebastian
Welcome to my Blog.
Nice to know you were almost a local, once.
I have added your Blog to my list of "Aussie Nature Bloggers" - which is a self-updating list. Every time you post a new blog posting, you will pop to the head of the list.
Its a great system. Makes it easy for me to keep track of new entries by the people whose work I am following.
Good on you.

Sebastian said...

Hey Denis,

Could you possibly email me details on this? If its a blogger only feature though I may have to do the hard yards combing through Wordpress plugins!


Denis Wilson said...

Hi Sebastian
I have sent you a message via the "contact" section of your website.
If you email me privately I will send you more information.