Monday, December 6, 2010

Blue Gum Forest in the Grose Valley - Blue Mountains

Back in the Blue Mountains! Still taken by the profound in-your-face beauty of the Grose Valley that had hit me during our Mount Banks trip, I had convinced Jarrod to come along for (one of) the steepest track in the Blue Mountains - the descent into the Grose Valley and the Blue Gum Forest from Perrys Lookdown - good to have someone along that can help carrying you up and out if you get tired :-D

Once again weather was on our side and we had stunning views over the valley for most of our descent and, apart from a good healthy(?) burning sensation in the quadriceps and slightly shaky legs due to the muscles working overtime trying to stop us from running wild down the steep track, it was all pretty fantastic :-)

What a difference 656m makes! Vegetation up high on top of the sandstone cliffs is scrubby and dry, but when you get yourself down into the valley where the river flows it is like entering an entirely different world. The blue gums are standing tall and strong, everything is green and lush - full of life.

What a great spot! There was a bit of traffic up and down the track, but as soon as you are down in the valley, the vastness will dilute the hordes of trampers (we saw less than 10 all day) and it is easy to find some serenity. Remember to press the river panorama below to be taken to a high resolution version.

Great walk and quite a bit of a workout, I managed to avoid taking any pictures during the ascent - I had other things to concentrate on .. like breathing and the repetitive exercise of trying to bring the lowest foot up higher than where the front foot was parked. At some point I was even getting slightly grumpy with myself for always having to drag the DSLR along - You do not need 3kg of long tele-lens in a dense gum forest, next time I will bring the primes instead! .. maybe :-)

Such a good feeling, to sit there in the car, heading back home to Sydney in a dry t-shirt (the other was "slightly" damp) with a coffee and a mountain pie in the belly and feeling good about having done something with your weekend - that is all you need to forget about all hassle of dragging your lazy carcass up the hill .. who knows maybe I will even do it again one day.

Sunday, November 28, 2010

Coogee - Evening HDR

A few HDRs from Coogee. I finally have a little more time for photography and writing again and hopefully I will be able to do something about the backlog - it would be sad having to go into an eventful 2011 still trying to deal with 2010.

HDR is pretty perfect for capturing the last sunlight of the day and still keep some details in the shadow Unfortunately I was out at least 20 min late so the sun had already disappeared and I had to battle very slow shutter speeds. However, with a few natural camera supports around - who needs a tripod when there are solid rocks around? - it was possible to get enough light through the lens to call it a photo. Knowing how dark is was towards the end, it is quite impressive how the HDR manages to extract colors from all the darkness.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

Cape Banks and Long Bay - Pelagic Excursion

Last year I was blessed with some seriously good winter storms, nothing better than a cold winter morning with a solid south easterly when you are out trying to get a photo of an albatross or two. This year has been very disappointing when it comes to albatross sightings, it seems I never really got the combination of weekend and strong onshore winds.

Back in the beginning of September, however, a single weekend seemed to be decent i.e. weather so rubbish that the birds would not expect any human being foolish enough to be standings exposed on the cliffs, so there was a chance those pelagic winter visitors would relax and drift close to shore hopefully getting inside Bigma range.

Cape Banks did not deliver any albatrosses this September weekend, but I managed to finally get decent views of a few Hutton's Shearwaters passing by, they were a first for me :-)

Conditions were pretty rough and I decided to retreat. Furthest out on the cliffs around Long Bay an abandoned military observation post gives good shelter when all other options are too extreme and with nothing else on I opted for a few hours out in the "shed".

The shearwaters were flying too far away from the coast to allow for identification, but quite a few terns came in literally flying straight above me and a nice surprise was a juvenile Pacific Gull hanging around. Earlier this year I saw my first ever Pacific Gull in Long Bay, few weeks before seeing hundreds of them down in Wilson's Promontory.

All good - after a day like that you feel proud to have been outside, just make sure to wash some of all that saltwater spray of the camera and it will all be fine :-)

Friday, November 12, 2010

Mount Banks Panoramas

It is impossible to catch the grand views of the Blue Mountains, but nevertheless I keep on trying :-) I still remember first time I was bushwalking in the Blue Mountains: You are making your way through the bush, noticing that the ground start to slope downwards and you start to see blue sky between the trees in front of you, you push the last few meters out through all the greenness and bang! You are hit by these fantastic views of green forest below, blue sky above and vertical walls of golden sandstone - Not bad at all! :-)

You simply cannot have a bad walk with views like that - great day in the mountains! Mount Banks is definitely worth a visit. Being located 20 min off the Great Western Hwy and hence a safe distance away from most of the crowded Blue Mountains tourist magnets, you are likely to have a hole lot of national park to yourself and your companions, without in any way having to feel that you settled for a sub-prime experience.

All the panoramas have been put together with AutoStitch and have been uploaded to my Picasa album in high resolution (press the photo to be taken to the HR version).

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Mount Banks - Stunning Vistas in The Blue Mountains

Back in Australia and back to the Blue Mountains! I had a few weekends, where I felt that without extra days off work it would be impossible getting anywhere new and exciting - How wrong I was :-) True that a good solid drive will take you into unknown territory, but a couple of hours an early Sunday morning and you will find yourself in the Blue Mountains, where you can equally well get a double shot injection of some breathtaking nature.

Mount Banks or apparently Mount King George was the target of the weekend. Bill and the Amoores were as usual keen for a bit of bush walking and the Blue Mountains delivered one of the best days I have ever had out there. Crystal clear and crisp cold mountain morning air combined with some breathtaking views - what more can you hope for a lazy Sunday morning? :-)

During my very first trip to the Blue Mountains about 5 years ago I was standing at Evans Lookout overlooking the Grose Valley thinking - WOW! - and then "Wonder if you can get to the other side?". I am nearly embarrassed to admit it took 5 years, however, I have done the walk down into the valley and out again a few times and that is significantly harder walks than the Mount Banks hike.

Great day out and a good opportunity of practicing some landscape photography, I will put together some panoramas and post them here soon'ish. The birding highlight of the day was a Chestnut-rumped Heathwren. I managed to spot it, but in my eagerness to get everyone onto this little shy beauty I forgot to take a photo, however, Jarrod managed to get a great shot - see here for yourself.

Friday, October 29, 2010

A Roommate Lost And A New One Found :-)

I had been a bit afraid of how I would cope with suddenly living alone again. There were obviously quite a few advantages associated with not having a roommate. Like, it would surprise me if the disappearing ice-cream problem would persist and also, my expectations were that it would be significantly easier to negotiate pillow ownership with an opponent less :-)

So there I was with all the pillows and a bucket of ice-cream while feeling slightly lonely, when a movement revealed that a new little visitor had moved in; a freezing tiny lizard was trying to warm in the sun on the cold floor of my sun-room. Reptiles desperately need heat to be able to move and this little fellow looked in trouble, it was so cold that it could barely move and it looked hungry .. and it was not the ice-cream it was after :-)

I quickly arranged a tiny puddle of water and a selection of food crumbs in the sunny windowsill, lifted the cold little lizard up there and got hold of my camera and macro lens. It was incredible easy getting the close-ups of the lizard, it barely moved .. for about 2 min! :-) After that its movements became faster and I decided to observe from a distance.

I somehow had imagined that it would just stand there and let the sun slowly heat its body, instead the lizard immediately flattened itself onto the warm windowsill as soon as I had placed it there to maximize heat transfer. What a smart feller! :-) The crumbs disappeared and the little fellow took off up along the sliding window - great little happening on an otherwise boring August day :-)

Thursday, October 28, 2010

Botany Bay National Park - Land of The Southern Emu-wren

After that I have been traveling, I often end up revisiting many of my old favorite spots close to Sydney. Being slightly beaten up by jetlag, full up of exploring foreign territories and often running out of memory card space ;-) it is very convenient to just go and have a bit of a relax in one of Sydney's not so busy backyard - Botany Bay National Park, specifically the area between Boat Harbour and Cape Solander, qualifies for that.

Apart from delivering some good bushwalking and great vistas, it is a fantastic spot for some lazy birding and it gives the visitor a chance of seeing one of the cutest small birds Sydney has to offer; Southern Emu-wren - Botany Bay was where I saw my first SE-w and it proved to still be the spot. Get a bit away from the coast into the scrubby parts of the heathland, keep the camera ready and listen for high pitched wren chirps and you might get lucky :-) This time I got onto a female SE-w exposing itself to a bit of afternoon sun for about 20 seconds (top photo) not bad at all.

Great blue sky, Cockatoos flying above and some opportunistic plants flowering despite of the calender showing mid winter. Sydney is not to shabby a place to live :-)

It is possible to cover the full stretch from Cape Solander to Boat Harbour and back in a few hours, it is even possible doing it while birding, but depending on the activity of the feathered inhabitants it can take you most of an afternoon. I expected Boat harbour to be fairly quiet mid August, it is just a bit too early for the arrival of all the exotic waders, so I decided to cut the walk short and save some energy for later in the year. It could very well be the right time of year just now to release some of that energy - the internet is full of rumors about good waders around and there is a few of them that I still need to see. :-)

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Barren Grounds - Finally I Got My Ground Parrot :-)

Back in Australia and back to Barren Grounds Nature Reserve. The faithful readers out there will remember that I have been to Barren Grounds at least twice while blogging; the trip with Jarrod where we saw the Jewel Spider and when Gemma and I had a (nearly too) close encounter with a Highlands Copperhead. In total I have probably made the trip south 5 times, so why keep going when you have already seen all that stuff? ;-)

Well, despite of all those visits, I had only seen 1 of the 2 birds Barren Grounds is famous for: Eastern Bristlebird, ca. 2 years ago I was down there and saw half a dozen of them running around in less than 1 hour, but on every single visit I have dipped on the Ground Parrot! Despite of missing 5 times, Barren Ground is still the best spots in the universe to go if you want to see Ground Parrot, Pezoporus wallicus, it is simply just a tricky bird to see.

Finally, the little green-feathered parrot decided to show :-) We had two sightings, firstly a bird in flight which I did not manage to get photos of and ca. 1 hour later, but not to far away from our first sighting, we got views of a bird in high grass ca. 25 meters in front of us on the path, I managed to get a few poor photos of that one, I cannot rule out that it was not the same bird.

Good stuff! Quite happy to finally get decent views of this little secretive gem. Apart from the GP we saw very few bird, it could be because weather was less than impressive. Strong winds, cloudy and so little light, that it nearly felt like evening - maybe that had helped us, since the GP is famous for only showing during early morning and at dusk. Only one other bird qualifies for the blog - Beautiful Firetail above is always a good spot.

Hopefully I will still go to Barren Grounds once and a while, it is great bushwalking down there and after having finally covered most of the birds flying around at the plateau, I can just concentrate more on all the other stuff making it worth getting your lazy bum of the sofa. :-)

Friday, October 22, 2010

Back in Copenhagen - Danish Holiday Coming to An End - Final Post

The holiday was coming to an end and I was only a good long weekend away from having to board another lovely long-haul for down under. Before that, however, we were going to take full advantage of a long weekend opportunity in Copenhagen.

As I stated in the very first post, Copenhagen knows how to put on a show and if you ask, there is a good possibility of some of the friendly locals taking you for a little tour - particular if you actually know them ;-) We caught up with a(nother) friendly little gang of Larsens, which gave us the tour of Christianshavn where the keen tourist will be able to tick the spire of Church of Our Saviour (Vor Frelsers Kirke) and one of Copenhagen's newest and most popular sights: Noma - the best restaurant in the world!!

Best way to see Copenhagen is from the water! Head down to Nyhavn and jump onto one of the canal tours, that will take you around the harbor and canals for about 30kr ($6). The full tour will take you about 1 hour, and all the boats I have been on have excellent guides that are capable of covering all the stories in a minimum of 3 languages without even breaking a sweat.

Having to sit still in the flight back home to Sydney for a day I convinced my companions to join in on a solid walk up along the harbor front to Langelinie. Great walk with heaps of stuff going on around you. The new Opera House in the photo above is a newcomer, it only finished in 2005. Discussing the architectural quality of the Opera is a favorite topic of many Danes. Expectations were sky high since that combo - Danish architect and Opera House - has quite a fine track record. Sound quality is apparently state of the art, so no matter what people think of the building otherwise, it is probably fair to primarily judge an opera on its capability of producing nice sounds :-)

We reached Amalienborg and dad was on home turf, he is probably the only one I know that has actually been invited over to visit the Queen :-) Another visitor were in town and he had arrived in style - Paul Allen had sailed in on his ship "Octopus", 125m long, 60 crew on board, 2 helicopters and a submarine just to mention a few of the facts about this tinny .. it only just makes top ten on the largest superyacht list, but hopefully Paul does not care about that :-)

The little mermaid was not home at Langelinie this summer - she had made the trip to China - Expo 2010 - to help promoting Danish export, quite a task for an old lady :-) Instead we used a bit of time at the Gefion Fountain, which definitely has the size to impress - strange how it has been absolutely crushed in level of appreciation by a tiny non-water-squirting figurine sitting quietly on a rock :-)

Fantastic stuff! Great holiday! It nearly felt a little sad to leave for Sydney, but very few things in life are irreversible and I will probably do the same trip once and a while in the future. I have created a little Picasa album with all the photos from these Danish-Holiday blog posts and a few bonus ones. Feel free to access them by clicking the link below. :-)
Denmark summer 2010