Christmas Bells

Christmas Bells
Christmas Bells - Blandfordia nobilis

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Budderoo visit by Canberra ANPS people

Firstly, I should explain that the Canberra branch of the Australian Native Plants Society organised a visit to the Southern Highlands for this last weekend. They asked to go to the Macquarie Pass rainforests and to Budderoo Plateau.

I would have to say that there was very little in flower. However, we managed to have a pleasant trip on the Saturday (for the rainforest visit). The trick was that after walking along the Clover Hill Track as far as the abandoned farm, we headed back to the cars, and went down to Bass Point, near Shell Cove. There is a patch of Littoral Rainforest there, which at least has the advantage of being more picturesque, and warmer, being beside the coast. Everyone seemed to enjoy this little "surprise" variation to the original Plan.

On the Sunday, we went out along the Budderoo Fire Trail and straight away I was able to show them some nice sandstone heathland and (of course) some very nice Orchids.

The Mecopodum striatum plants were in flower. 
Mecopodum striatum
These cute little creamy flowers are known as Hunchback Orchids. 
They are a variant of Leek Orchids, 
having originally been classified as Prasophyllum striatum.

The next event was quite exciting for me, even though it was only very brief. We stopped along the Budderoo Fire Trail in a patch of tall Eucalypt forest, to admire some very nice examples of a large-leafed form of Polyscias sambucifolia. These plants had similar leaves to that form illustrated from Brisbane Waters (near Gosford), even though the normal Southern Highlands forms do not have such large leaves (that's why I stopped there). So we were able to contrast these plants with the lovely tall specimens of Pencil Cedars (Polyscias murrayi) we had seen on Macquarie Pass the day before.

While we were stopped, I heard and then saw an unusual Parrot fly into the top of a flowering "Eucalypt". The tree was in fact a Red Bloodwood, or Corymbia gummifera, one of many just coming into flower on this Sandstone plateau habitat.

The bird was more interesting,. It was a Swift Parrot. These are an endangered species, which migrates from Tasmania (where it breeds) to the mainland, in autumn and winter, to feed on blossoms of suitable plants (mostly in the Eucalypt tribe). So its appearance in a patch of flowering Gums, in early autumn (more or less) is just a bit early, but is in keeping with their pattern of movement.

I will lodge a formal report of this sighting with Birds Australia which monitors the Swift Parrot Recovery Program.

I recognised this bird by its call, and the fine, pointed wings and the longish pointed tail. I could not make out the diagnostic patches of colour of these birds, As you will see from any illustrations, they have a red throat and red under-tail and red under-wings. But as it was against a grey sky, I could not make out those colours. But the call, habits, flight pattern and the seasonality of the sighting all fit with the Swift Parrot.

  • What it was not: We seldom get Lorikeets on the Budderoo Plateau, but I am familiar with them from the Shoalhaven region, where they are common. And I know the calls of the Rainbow, Scaly-breasted and Musk Lorikeets and even the Little Lorikeet, and it was none of those birds.
This report seems "slightly early" in the season, to me, but it does match with the commencement of the Bloodwood flowering season on the Sandstone plateaux of the Shoalhaven and Illawarra Escarpment regions.

The bird only stayed in sight for a few moments, before flying away, calling. I had no opportunity to attempt to photograph it, unfortunately.

So, we pack up again, and moved along the Fire Trail to the track which leads to Gerringong Falls. Despite the name, these Falls (and the eponymously named Creek) flow west into the Upper Kangaroo River, so it has nothing to do with the township of the same name on the coast, south from Nowra.

Along the track there were many fine examples of Banksia ericifolia in flower.
Banksia ericifolia

The track to the Falls peters out in a swampy area, close to the edge of the Valley gorge. But we pressed ahead, through some swampy stuff, to the Creek, and walked along the more-or-less flat rock bottom of the creek, until, above the Falls, there was a deepish pool.
Pool above Gerringong Falls

We took to the shrubbery and followed Wombat trails and some human-made trails, to reach a spectacular viewing rock, opposite the Falls.
Gerringong Falls
I sat on the rock for as long as my companions would allow, for me to recover from my exertions.

Ledge at top of the Gerringong Falls
as seen from the shrubbery
framed by two Old Man Banksia trunks

The shallow rocky creek bed, above Gerringong Falls

Then we retraced our steps back 3 Km up the gently sloping track, back to the main Budderoo Fire Trail. It was a satisfying walk, with the Mecopodum plants in flower, a Swift Parrot and the lovely views of the Gerringong Falls.

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