Tuesday, 25 December 2007

Walking in the Wet

On December 21, our daughter Sarah Jane came up from Sydney and persuaded us to go on a trek to the Glowworm Tunnel, deep in the bushland northwest of our home. We drove for miles on dirt roads of questionable condition although our little Toyota Echo bounced cheerfully over the potholes and corrugations without any dire consequences. Arriving at a tunnel which turned out to be the wrong one, we set off on foot from there, and walked about 4 or 5 km to the actual Glowworm tunnel under threatening skies.

The track is the bed of an old railway: hence the tunnels, not to mention the easy grade. As it had been a rainy week, we passed several small waterfalls running off the rocks beside the track.

It had begun to drizzle by the time we reached this little bridge across a gully,
just before the dark, cold tunnel in which the glowworms reside. Having only a small flashlight between the three of us, we ventured in just far enough to see the first ones, sparkling on the walls. Of course, photos were impossible. Sarah Jane told us that the glowwworms spin tiny webs across crevices in the rock, and lurk behind them with their lights on to attract unwary insects on which they feed. Brighter than fireflies, they look like LED points of light against the surrounding velvet blackness of the tunnel.

On our return trek, the skies opened and we were drenched in the downpour. As we headed home to hot showers and dry clothes, we passed a tea tree (Leptospermum macrocarpum?) in full bloom, and later a couple of large grey kangaroos feeding on cleared land.

Despite the challenges of weather and terrain, it was a great way to spend an afternoon with much to see and appreciate.

Sunday, 16 December 2007

Flowers in the Bushland

Mount Wilson is noted for its large homesteads with expansive English-style gardens. People visit for the flowering shrubs in spring and the autumn colours in - well - autumn. However, in the natural bushland there are shrubs and flowers that I find more interesting because they are new to me. On a hike last week, we came across drifts of flannel flowers (Arctotis helianthi), a lovely sight. I remember these flowers from my youth in this country and how soft and fleecy the bracts surrounding the pinhead flowers are to the touch. They are in the carrot family (Apiaceae), and are one of many plant groups that flourish after the bushfires that are prevalent in this region.

Although my photo of the habitat isn't very good, I'm including it to give an idea of the rough and seemingly inhospitable terrain that the flannel flowers seem to like.

We also noted a graceful shrub with black branches, bright green leaves and tufts of small, tubular, yellow flowers at the tips of the branches. Someone identified it to me as a Geebung so I was able to look it up and find that its botanical name is Persoonia, it's a member of the Protea family and it produces tasty fruit. Sadly, it is difficult to propagate either by seed or cuttings so it is not easy to obtain a plant for the garden.

The other significant thing about Mount Wilson is that it supports the kind of subtropical rainforest found only in particular pockets of the Blue Mountains. We walked through some of this lush jungle on our way back to a barbeque dinner at Merrygarth, one of the best of the English-style gardens of the area.

Thursday, 6 December 2007

Still More Birds

When I'm working in the garden, this black and white currawong frequently approaches, on the lookout for any juicy morsel I might turn up. Currawongs are members of the crow family and just as intelligent. They do, however, have a much more melodious call than crows, a ripple of notes sounding like their name.
And a crimson rosella has begun visiting the vacant lot next door to snack on grass seedheads. It's not as tolerant of my presence so my photo is not nearly as good, being taken rather hastily before it flew off.