Life on the edge – an encounter with a dragon (in the Australian Outback)

Australian Reptile

Oh, no need to worry…!

This wasn’t an encounter with the fire-breathing type of dragon ready to flash fry you you with a quick burst of flame.

No, this was an encounter with a rather cute reptile, aptly named the “Ornate Dragon”, that is barely bigger than the size of your foot and unlikely to do you any harm. We came across this wonderful reptile whilst visiting Wave Rock during our recent travel in West Australia.

Mind you, it took some skill and patience to capture them on camera as they scooted across the rock at a great pace, stopping only momentarily to bob their head up and down as well as doing some push-ups.

The head bobbing and push-ups are part of its mating ritual and from all the head bobbing and push-ups we observed there was little doubt the mating season was in full swing…

About us…

We have always loved the colours of the Australian Outback, the ochre red earth touching a deep blue sky on a faraway horizon; and the fabulous coastline of our sunburnt country, where a golden sandy beach is washed over by a turquoise blue sea; and the characters you meet in a quiet country pub, where it is nothing flash, but you are enriched by the encounter and the banter…

In 2017 we decided that after many years of paid and unpaid work that it was time for us to “graduate from work” and re-enter “the classroom of life” where an education is guaranteed and all that is needed is an open mind.

Thanks for joining us in the adventure…!

 

Beach Shacks and Lazy Summer Days…

Beach shacks and lazy summer days along the fabulous Australian Coastline, you got to love it, hey…!

Photo’s: Baz, Kangaroo Island, Southern Australia.

Powerful Owl – A chance encounter…

Australian Owl

The Australian Bush is full of unique experiences, especially when it comes to our wildlife, and sometimes you might just find something interesting in your own backyard…

Recently, I was fortunate to observe a magnificent looking ‘Powerful Owl’ whilst walking the Warimoo and Sphinx Tracks at Bobbin Head, in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park.

Janet and I think of this area as our ‘backyard’ and over many years we have walked and kayaked through this area, which is little more than 20-kilometres north of the Sydney CBD. And yet, this was a first time spotting for us of the powerful owl, which is Australia’s largest, in this location.

Although, it is a familiar bird for us as we have visitations from one into the local park opposite our home. In fact, I heard our resident owl calling just a few nights ago…

Following my sighting of the bird last week I made contact with Beth Mott, Project Officer for the Powerful Owl Project with Birdlife Australia who was excited to review the area and to glean if there is a pair that might be raising a young chick.

So today, Janet, myself and Beth set off along the track to see if we could find any further signs of inhabitation.

Janet and I were on a steep learning curve when it came to bird observation, but Beth, who holds a Degree in Conservation Biology, and who has undertaken a PhD study on ‘Animal Community Dynamics’, enthusiastically showed us many of the ‘telltale’ signs to look for.

Um, that includes bird vomit and droppings, you know, poo!

Beth’s enthusiasm was infectious and on our walk she went on to explain…

“We aim to locate Powerful Owl breeding pairs within urban Greater Sydney, which also includes Newcastle in the north to Kiama in the south and west to the Blue Mountains.

We also aim to identify the location of nesting trees and record breeding behaviour and success.

This information will help determine the critical roosting and breeding requirements of urban Powerful Owls. We are collecting data on diet and foraging habitat to gain a greater understanding of their urban ecology, as well as look at threats (causes of injury and mortality) within the urban landscape.”

We were surprised to learn that there is estimated to be only around 400 Powerful Owls in the Greater Sydney Region and around 5,000 in Australia, and that puts them only one notch above being an “endangered species”.

Powerful Owls have a slow; double-note ‘whoo-hoo’ call that is soft, but very strong and resonant, and which can be heard more than 1-kilometre away. And the most common time to hear them is when they “wake” to a new day, at least for them, around dusk…

So if you hear that sound, take the time to look around your ‘backyard’ you might just find a special visitor, and if you do observe one, be sure to let the good people at Birdlife Australia know…

Photos: Baz – The Landy, Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, Bobbin Head.

A Zebra – In the Australian Outback

 

Birds

 

If there is something other than the gorgeous colours that draws me deep into the Australian Outback, it is our unique and diverse birdlife.

I never tire of sitting in the bush observing the many varieties of birds of all shapes and sizes and colour.

Recently, I was contacted by a researcher from Germany who is doing a thesis on a bird that I grew up with in Northern Australia and one that will be familiar too many, the Zebra Finch, and they were keen to use this photograph in their paper.

It is a favourite photograph of mine that showcases this wonderful bird in all its splendour…!

Photo: Baz – The Landy, Outback Australia

ps: I had about one-second to get this shot away before they flittered away – the wonders of continuous shooting…!

 

An Oasis in the Desert – Boodjamulla National Park

lawn hill NP

Situated in the Gulf Savannah country of northern Australia, with its deep gorges and craggy rocky outcrops, is the rugged and spectacularly beautiful Boodjamulla National Park…

 

This is an ancient, sunburnt land, and archaeological evidence suggests the area has been continuously occupied for at least 30,000-years, possibly longer than anywhere else in Australia.

 

The attraction is the permanent water source of Lawn Hill Creek. During arid times, when other sites where abandoned, this area was like an oasis in the desert for aboriginal people, Australia’s first people, who gathered here to camp, fish, and hunt.

Janet, TomO, and I have explored this region previously, but it has drawn us back like a magnet on many occasions, and being in North Queensland I could not resist the lure of another visit, to walk through the country and swim in Lawn Hill Creek.

In the Dreamtime stories of the Waanyi people, “Boodjamulla” is a spiritual person, the creator of all animals.

In the words of the Waanyi people…

“He made all the animals in the Lawn Hill area, and all the billabongs such as the green swamp, and all the bush tucker. Boodjamulla’s dreamtime travels started in Waanyi country at Cabbage Tree Spring, up above Riversleigh, giving water to O’Shanassy Creek, Lawn Hill Creek, the Gregory River, Louie Creek and Lilydale Springs.

Waanyi believe that Boodjamulla created these rivers as healing waters – known in Waanyi language as Bougli Water”…

Perhaps for the Waanyi people, the “Bougli Waters” has a different interpretation, but I certainly found the cool spring fed water of Lawn Hill Creek soothing after a day of walking in the gorges and climbing the Constance Range.

As a base for this trip I stayed just outside of the national park at Adels Grove, a private campground that we first visited in the early 1990s. Not much has changed over the years, and that is a good thing.

Adels Grove was declared a ’Miner’s Homestead Perpetual Lease’ in 1920, being within the Burketown Mineral Field at that time.

According to the history provided by the current owners, Adels Grove lease was purchased by Albert De Lestang, a French botanist, who experimented with the growing of tropical trees and fruits and had in excess of 1,000 trees and sold the fruit to supplement his income.

Lawn Hill

Tragically, in the early 1950s the ‘Grove’ and buildings were accidently burnt down. By this time Albert was in his seventies and after loosing everything, including all of his written records, he succumbed to depression and died age 75 at Charters Towers in 1959.

‘The Grove’ has certainly provided shade and comfort from the heat of the winter sun during my stay, with temperatures reaching up to 36 degrees throughout the day and around 15 degrees at night…

Apart from the rugged and rocky outcrops surrounding the gorge, the country has a prolific amount of wildlife. This includes the Johnstone’s crocodile or Freshie as it is usually known, turtles, the olive python, a large variety of birds, and a favourite of ours, the Gilbert Dragon, or Ta-Ta lizard due to the peculiar little wave it gives with its front legs before scampering away.

I managed to photograph some of the wildlife on my walks and at other times, simply sat back and enjoyed the calls of the birds flittering through the trees, and of the birds of prey soaring overhead.

And yes, I did swim with the Freshwater Crocs. Unlike their Saltwater cousins, the Freshie’s are generally timid and will leave you alone, if you stay out of their way…!

Boodjamulla National Park, truly an Oasis in the Desert in Australia’s Gulf Savannah.

Photos: Baz – The Landy, in the Gulf Savannah, Northern Australia…Hinchinbrook Island

 

 

 

 

Rosenberg’s Goanna, inquisitive and vulnerable…

australian reptile

The Rosenberg Goanna is a monitor lizard and Kangaroo Island, situated off Australia’s southern coastline, is the last stronghold for this wonderful and inquisitive reptile. We came across this one on our recent visit to the island. 

It has been declared a vulnerable species, so let’s hope we won’t just be looking at them in wildlife journals in years to come…

Photo: Baz – The Landy

Postcard from the beach – A “Hoodie”

Australian Birds

Hooded Plover, Stokes Beach, Australia.

I photographed this wonderful little fella on a recent trip to Kangaroo Island, just off Australia’s southern coastline.

This small bird, affectionally referred to as a “Hoodie”, is on the endangered list with numbers estimated at around 200 on the island…

 Photo: Baz – The Landy

The Pink Lakes…

Murray Sunset National Park

Situated in the far north-west of Victoria is a park that showcases the rugged and spectacularly beautiful Mallee landscape of low scrubland and sand dunes, the Murray-Sunset National Park.

Murray-Sunset gives you a feeling of being Out and About in Australia’s vast outback without the need for travelling the vast distances usually associated with visits to “the interior”…

On a recent trip south to Kangaroo Island we took a couple of days to traverse parts of the park and view the Pink Lakes for which it is renown. Pigmentation caused by algae colours the lakes pink during the summer months and is quite spectacular to view later in the day.

Throughout the 1900s salt was commercially mined in the area with operations ceasing around 1975, but relics of this era can be viewed as you make your way around the lakes on the Pioneer Circuit.

Our starting point for travelling into the park was the small township of Linga where there is a well-signed and formed dirt road that takes you to the Pink Lakes. The Pioneer Track is a circuit that is suitable for two-wheel drive vehicles taking visitors on a tour around the lakes and can easily be accessed from the larger towns of Ouyen or Pinaroo for those wanting to do a day visit.

Being summer, we were cautious to ensure temperatures were not too high in the park before committing to travelling through it. Not that we are unaccustomed to extreme heat and humidity, after all, we grew up in Queensland and lived in tropical Papua New Guinea for a number of years. But at this time of the year the park sees far less visitors and despite being not too far from a number of towns it remains a remote area that should be respected.

Pink Lakes

 

After a short drive from the highway we arrived at the Pink Lakes and Janet took the opportunity to photograph numerous plants and flowers at Lake Hardy before we moved on to Lake Crosby, a larger lake with camping sites available.

For those travelling the Mallee Highway this would be a good overnight spot to take a break, or alternatively, a good base to further explore the park over a number of days.

Murray-Sunset is a large area with a seemingly endless amount of tracks that you can explore, but for the most part, this will require a four-wheel drive vehicle due to the many sandy sections that are encountered.

And come well prepared with plenty of water and basic recovery gear as you may be on your own. We did not see anyone else in the park during our short visit.

With only a limited time to explore the park we headed north along the Underbool Track with an overnight camp at the Underbool campsite, before continuing north the following day to the intersection with the Pheeney ‘s Track and a drive towards the western boundary of the park.

There is a campsite not too far from the western border of the park on Pheeney’s Track, however we headed northwards along the North South Settlement Road and had our second night in the park at the Shearer’s Quarters campsite.

This is a campsite set amongst the trees not too far from the Shearer’s Quarters. And there is a walk that you can take through the scrub, but this is best done late in the day during the warmer months. And if you are lucky you’ll be rewarded with a glimpse of some of the wildlife and wonderful display of wildflowers.  And not to forget, marvellous bark-art as we like to call the patterns found on the many types of trees one encounters when exploring…

After a pleasant overnight stay at this campsite, which we had to ourselves, we made our way out of the park at Taplan, a small town on the park’s western border, before making our way south to Cape Jervis, the stepping off point for our Kangaroo Island Adventure.

We had frequently looked at Murray-Sunset on our maps and had it penciled in our “places to see book”.

Exploring the Outback

This short visit gave us a taste of what the park has to offer and provided an opportunity for us to give our new Track TVAN Firetail a test in the sand. We had no doubt it would perform as well as our older TVAN Canning that it replaced, and it did, flawlessly…

We have vowed to return in the cooler months, although we suspect that in the depths of winter Murray Sunset would be a very cold place, but with changing seasons comes new perspectives, a warm campfire and the opportunity to XPLORE…!

thelandy.comPhotos: Baz – The Landy and Janet-Planet, Murray Sunset National Park, Australia.