Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Gundabooka - Part 4 - Final day

We could all easily have used another day or two in the national park, but even extended long weekends runs out. Before leaving the park entirely, we made a detour to the Mulgowan Aboriginal site between the Dry Tank camping ground, where we had resided, and the highway.

As always, it pays off to take you time, do some stops and detours and make the travel a part of the holiday ... hope that makes sense? On the way towards the park we had been very focused on getting there as early as possible and had tried to avoid "unnecessary" time consuming breaks. Departing already Monday morning and not having to start work before Wednesday, we felt much more relaxed about "wasting" time ... and it was tempting to try to nail the last two types of woodswallows - We had seen many thousands on the drive out (how many non-identified do you have to see to claim you have seen them all?) but a picture or two would be nice to have.

Guess it gives sense; a good spot for an Aboriginal site would obviously include accessibility to water and where there is water there is life. The eastern end of the park felt much more alive than in the dryer mulga scrub where we had camped ... in the wisdom of hindsight "Dry Tank camping ground" does not give the impression of a sparking river running close by ;-)

A short walk took us into a shallow gorge where on wet days a little creek would run through. When we were there the creek had turned into a row of small puddles, but enough water to sustain quite a bit of life. Under some of the rocks there were a good display of some heavily guarded Aboriginal drawings.

Great spot, could have been fun staying around for a bit longer, but we had decided to push a bit further north towards Bourke and do another little stop at a small wildlife refuge next to Fort Bourke Stockade.

Once again it was quite evident that water means life in the outback! We stopped at a little picnic area next to the river and it was all happening around us! Absolute fantastic spot for woodswallows, but we also saw a few honeyeaters, White-browed Treecreepers, parrots, doves and more importantly a few Dusky Moorhens lacking the white tail, which meant they were indeed Black-tailed Native-hens instead :-)

All good! The hot weather sucks the energy out of you and after running around in the bush for 3 days it was actually very pleasant to enter the confined and air conditioned space of the Magna and point that long sparkling(?) bonnet towards Sydney.

Jarrod and Adelle had told us that The road between Bourke and Nyngan would be excellent for spotting reptiles and that was true indeed, we actually had a hard time trying to avoid running over various critters sitting sunning themselves on the tarmac. Apart from the reptiles the trip home also produced good views of some Blue-winged Parrots, not bad at all - one of the birds we missed last time when we did our Mungo plus Hattah-Kulkyne trip.

Great trip, as already mentioned I saw 10 new birds, trouble is that little G. probably tripled that :-( I will desperately need to go somewhere exciting soon to get an advantage before she catches up ... and so will others ;-)

Black-tailed Native-hen
Blue-winged Parrot
Red-backed Kingfisher
Varied Sittella
Striped Honeyeater
Crimson Chat
Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush
Crested Bellbird
White-browed Woodswallow
Black-faced Woodswallow

After 4 posts dealing with our Gundabooka trip I understand that the readers might be a bit bored hearing about the outback. For those dedicated souls that wants even more red dust and blue sky I have included a link to my Picasa album below where a few extra pictures from the trip has been included.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Gundabooka National Park - Part 3 - Wildlife in the Mulga

The faithful reader will remember already seeing some of the landscape highlights from our long weekend bushwalk to the Mount Gundabooka range, in addition to the photogenic vistas the selection of wildlife made the walk turn into something really special.

Walking for 8 hours passing through something like 4 different types of habitats will necessarily have to give you a good selection of wildlife and some decent photo opportunities ...

and it did, but looking through my pictures from the trip it seems that the wildlife of Gundabooka is slightly more suspicious and less tolerant to the approach of the camera equipped bushwalker. I have a much higher ratio of pictures that can only be used for ID purpose, but are nowhere near the quality needed for the blog :-)

From a birding point of view, the more open mulga forest as well as the grassy slopes below the mountain were absolutely fantastic areas to visit and we managed to see 6 species of birds that I have not encountered previously: Red-backed Kingfisher, Varied Sittella, Striped Honeyeater, Crimson Chat, Chestnut-breasted Quail-thrush and Crested Bellbird.

We saw very little life in the denser mulga ... it could obviously rely on the fact that we had our eyes fixed well and truly on the compasses :-D Climbing the mountain, we had excellent views of a variety of reptiles, more goats than I have seen in any national park before and the usual swallows and martins plus great display of a few Little Woodswallows.

The outback somehow always feels dry, but driving towards Gundabooka it had looked like there had been rain in the area not to long ago, that might be the reason for our luck with the wildlife(?)

As usual I have had terrible trouble with the ID of the various reptiles spotted. I had actually hoped Jarrod, who is fairly skilled in the business of turning over stuff lying on the ground and naming what crawls underneath, would have helped me out by sorting out the naming on his blog ... instead it seems he also focused on the much easier task of just taking the pictures :-)

The kingfisher above had us puzzled for a while, it never showed its back, but sporting a slightly racier haircut than the usual type, we knew we were onto something exciting. Also the treecreeper in the second picture is puzzling, it has to be the Brown type (only Brown and White-browed in Gundabooka) but it looks different from the Brown variety that I have seen before - any thoughts are welcome.

Great guns! Super walk, would love to go again if someone will sponsor a extra day off ;-)

Friday, October 9, 2009

Gundabooka National Park - part 2 - Summit day :-)

Sunday morning after the usual very early little wander around with the binoculars and camera followed by another solid breakfast we were ready to take on the big one - Mount Gundabooka! The above pictures is a panorama stitched together from 7 pictures by use of autostich, press the picture to see a larger version.

Walking to Mount Gundabooka is hard work, walking back is hard work as well, but more importantly it is tricky business! The reason being that it is very easy to walk towards something you can see - like a mountain - but hard to pinpoint a clearing in some dense mulga forest ... even if you put the worlds biggest (value for money) dome tent in it. However if you have a compass - and someone that knows what direction to point it in - you can find everything ... or at least back to your tent again. Our companions were both greatly skilled in the art of following magnetic needles so we happily joined in on some exceptional rewarding off the track bushwalking to and fro the Gundabooka range.

Walking through the mulga scrub might not be the thing to do if you are exclusively into landscape photography (or a lot of other things), but wildlife was quite fantastic - I will add some pictures from the traverse of the scrub in the next post - Climbing the mountain though was an entirely different thing :-)

The range makes a great climb, it looks impressive on pictures but is still fairly easily negotiated and gives plenty of opportunities of enjoying the views across the mulga covered plains below.

Like all good mountain climbers we celebrated our conquest of the summit with a feast. Ours consisting of a delicious combo of chocolate, scones and water while enjoying the vistas and the acrobatic performance of the woodswallows flying around us, how good was that? ;-)

Half way home the sun broke through the clouds and we realized how lucky we had been by having a thin layer of clouds protecting us most of the day. Walking in the outback under a burning sun very fast becomes unpleasant. First of all because it is bloody hot and secondly because of the army of flies assaulting every exposed part of your body, trying to suck any moisture out of you - or of a sweaty backpack :-)

Long Weekend in Gundabooka - part 1

1205 photos, 1915km, 10 new birds and 4 fantastic days! As my faithful readers will have noticed, there has been a little break in the steady stream of postings on my blog, however I can assure you that the hold up has been in the very best interests of all of you. I decided to take full advantage of the long weekend - even contributing myself by throwing into the pot a precious extra day off - to allow for an action packed excursion to the dry, sunny and very red outback surrounding Bourke in the north-western end of New South Wales - in particular Gundabooka National Park.

Getting out there was first challenge, little G had landed early Friday morning, but showed incredible determination and had voted for a 4pm departure from Sydney. We have tried that before, with less than medium luck - Getting out of Sydney a Friday afternoon heading into a long weekend via Parramatta road was not first choice! Instead we decided to head north before turning west, it gave nearly 100km extra, but at least we were moving :-) A good push the first night took us to Denman, where we found excellent accommodation at the Royal Hotel - top picture.

Covering a few thousand kilometers of Australian roads during a long weekend is an absolutely fantastic experience. Everything is changing - the sky grows higher and more blue, the dirt goes red and in the end the tarmac runs out!

We had a very relaxed drive out to Gundabooka, probably because we felt we had good time due to a jetlag caused pre-7am-start from Denman. We ended up making something like 7 stops over the remaining 700 km, visiting a fair, shopping apples, water, newspapers and petrol and just for the cause of changing driver, the Golden Hwy surely has a lot to offer.

Arriving in Gundabooka national park there could be no doubt that our companions had arrived - the Mazda was there, but more "in your face" they had erected their own Taj Mahal! An enormous dome tent rivaling the mulga trees in height and a footprint so large that you would have to compensate for the earth curvature when aligning the tent walls!

A quick little afternoon walk around the campsite gave high hopes for the rest of the weekend. Mulga is a very different habitat to anything you find around Sydney and hence it would be very likely that we would encounter some equally foreign flora and fauna.

As the sun disappeared, we dug into a serve of camping food, gathering energy for a bit of early night spotlighting and more importantly refueling or topping up the energy stores knowing that we would be up for a big one next day.