Bridal whites

These gorgeous bouquets of fragrant white flowers, with their four seductively waving stamens, belong to a small isolated sample of the native tree called Hairy lollybush or Clerodendrum tomentosum. The developing fruit you can see here is green now but will become strikingly bright with a black-dark blue centre surrounded by red calyxes… hence the lolly looks?

This particular tree had a most unusual trunk, like a periscope, with viewing holes. How did it come by them? It is in a public park, so perhaps man-made…

Not at all isolated, this smallish tree, Blueberry Ash or Eleocarpus reticulatus is evidently common here, as its dainty flowers are so eyecatchingly abundant.

A rainforest tree, it is also commonly called Fairy Petticoats or Prima Donna, referring to the pretty fringed bell skirts of flowers. These scented flowers do indeed develop blue berries, much loved by birds.

(As these two local trees were unfamiliar to me, I thank local Robyn for her identification help.)

And not at all white, but eyecatching for me, was this bark slope of flowering moss (?), like a miniature forest in perfect profile.

I love equally the minutiae and the grandeur of Nature… all on free show for us to marvel at.

Tree hugs?

Strangler figs are extraordinary plants, but this large one seemed to be a cannibal as well. It was likely newer aerial roots embracing the original fig… and who knows what sort of tree it had strangled.

The labyrinthine inner root system sat within the older one’s arms. No wonder fairy stories anthropomorphise trees…

At other times the figs cuddle up to a different species, embracing it so closely it merges. These two seem on equal terms as yet, but I know which will win in the end. Treehugging gone too far?

As always I am fascinated by the apparently wilful choices made by trees, like this small one on a heathland. Having decided ‘up there’ was too windy and exposed, it headed back down, curving in on itself in an almost embrace.

Curves are favoured by others, like these wattle seed pods. After popping open to release the seeds, they curl up into spirals as fascinating as the flowers were.

Isn’t Nature amazing?

Seashore spot colours

At last I managed to be at this rock platform at low enough tide to see its treasures. It’s Wash House Beach near Camden Head.

Beaches are cream and brown; rock platforms are that too, but with extra arrays of greens and pinks… and some surprising spots of vivid colour, like these shy red starfish.

One very bright red slash caught my eye; it moved… a bird. Then it doubled.

Two Sooty Oystercatchers, glossy black, unmistakable with those red eyes, legs and bill, poking their way like automatons across the cunjevoi-covered rocks.

Amongst the pretty underwater garden plants a single orange ‘finger’ was waving; attached, was it a slug or… ?

Bigger and brighter orange splashes showed in the lichen on rocky crevices nearer the sea. This one was home to the only sea urchin I saw.

Blue was also present. Below the galeolaria sea worm casings these clusters of pale blue were attached. They reminded me of shellback ticks…I touched one with the back of a fingernail and it felt soft… not hard like a barnacle.

And blue there certainly was in this sole bluebottle jellyfish, stranded by the tide, looking more like a plastic bath toy than the giver of very painful stings I recall from childhood. Occasionally there would be mass beachings of them, and their long stinging tentacles were not always visible to us kids hopping amongst them.  We learnt!

Pelican display

Common around these waterways, our Australian Pelicans are always amazing birds to watch. I never tire of watching them take off, or land on their watery runways, wings out as brakes.

On a breezy day, most of this flock were curled in on themselves, hunkered down and looking backwards with their large eyes, in the disconcerting way they do.

 But then I saw the large area of pink on one; what was it doing? Was it airing the inside of its bill? Was it yawning?!

Then it seemed to lay the soft lower bill pouch, inside out, flat across its chest. None of its fellows looked surprised, so it must happen often enough.

This display happened very quickly before it returned its head and bill to a more usual position.

Snapping away almost blindly, it was only when I looked at the photos at home that I saw that one of its erstwhile dozing mates had woken up.

Then it did  this … but what am I looking at? What is it doing?!

Our Pelicans have the largest bill of any living bird. I accept that they are extraordinary birds; after all I saw…and loved  and wept at… the film Storm Boy, decades ago.

But the mystery remains of what else it does with its bill other than use it as a mating display, a scratcher, a trawling net, or to catch and temporarily hold prey.  Why does it turn it inside out?

No information site yielded an answer, so I will be greatly pleased if somebody can tell me!

Coast walk surprises

The Coast Walk from North Haven near Laurieton to Grants Head near Bonny Hills can be done in sections, quite varied, and not always well signposted.

It was only because we got a bit lost that we found this wonderful avenue of flannel flowers through low banksia forest. It was an unmarked sandy sideways trail that did reconnect with the Coast Walk and its much taller forest.

There were few other plants in bloom at this late stage of Spring, so those that were, like this melaleuca(?) or callistemon (?) were even more appreciated.

The track leads one to the beach before Grants Head, where this seemingly man-made rock mirrored its slope in reverse.

To avoid retracing our beach steps — plus the tide was coming in — we walked up through a low heath.

Here candles of creamy blossoms were out in profusion amongst windswept low banksias.

My new plant guru Robyn tells me this bountiful and hardy plant is Hakea teretifolia.

The walk winds back down to take you back past peaceful paperbark swamps, now mostly dry but with healthy reed carpets.

This coastal area is a paperbark paradise… !

Pattern master

This large Goanna, or Lace Monitor, scoots past my yard most days.  That netting fence means nothing to it and the set route goes right through it. Usually I only catch a glimpse, so fast and determinedly does it move.

But this day I wanted to see it over the fence and moved higher and closer. The click of the camera caused it to stop and look at me… or the source of the noise.

I am always amazed at massivity of these creatures: look at those legs! Common in eastern Australia, it is one of our largest lizards; some of the males can exceed 2m in length. 

Carnivores, they are quite partial to carrion.

I have seen them foraging around campsites… and enjoying a meat pie.

This one decided it was safer off the ground;  one of their common names is Tree Goanna. Those claws give good grip, holding it here for me to admire the extraordinary patterning of stripes and spots… an Aboriginal art template.

They are actually shy, and while they have been known to run up a human, it is not from aggression, but because they have mistaken the vertical ‘thing’ for a safe tree.

One aspect of their lives that was new to me was how they breed: the female digs a hole in a termite mound and lays her 6-12 eggs there. The termites rebuild over the hole and keep the eggs steadily warm (30ºC). Then 8-9 months later, she returns to dig out the hatchlings. How clever is that at delegating?!

Warm colour curiosities

This is a totally unfamiliar plant, with its stem-hugging clusters of fleshy orange ‘flowers’ … or are they fruit? ‘Mistletoe’ crossed my mind but there are no accompanying copycat leaves. What is this?

Orange is common enough in the fungi world, here forming bright stepping platters up this stump.

Often it will be seen glowing brightly as new leaves amongst the green, as so prettily done by this vine.

Many of the pea flowering shrubs sport orange in their yellow hearts, as in what I assume is a Dillwynia, noted as very plentiful at Kattang. Any such flowers we used to call ‘Bacon and eggs.’

Others have no orange in their yellow pea centres. I have now bought some secondhand wildflower books but none are arranged so that I can look up, say, ‘all yellow flowers’.

So I am even more confused. Is this a Pultenaea?

And then I see a single tall leggy shrub with clusters of golden flowers and long thin leaves… nothing like the dense low ones.  Help! I need a friendly local botanist…

One familiar sunny face was the Twining Guinea Flower (Hibbertia scandens) that I first met at my Mountain.

Leaving the sunny colours, but staying on the warm side of the spectrum, I am relieved to see a plant I do know: the purple Hardenbergia, one of my favourite native climbers, also with pea-shaped blooms. No idea what the white flowering shrub is that it is threading its way through, but a pretty sight altogether!

And flowering fairy-like amongst the grasses were lots of these Blue Flax Lilies (Dianella revoluta). Tiny but stunning, dangling purple stars with golden centres. A fittingly royal purple end to this wildflower walk… 

The weird and the white

I am hoping somebody can tell me what these strange extra-terrestrial looking clumps are, congregating under the graceful weeping branches of the Horsetail She-oak, Casuarina equisetifolia.

With that grey-green colour, from afar I thought they may have been immature Flannel Flower (Actinotus helianthi) plants, not yet leggy and stretching skyward.  But hardly likely…

Yet a few weeks later, those weird clumps on the stony headland, where little else grew, had bloomed… indisputably with Flannel Flowers, though small and still unlike the usual ones, now also in bloom in sandier soil.

These open foliaged, taller Flannel Flowers are the norm… 

There’s a lot of white flowers now, although much of the Spring show has finished.

And is this an Isopogon???

But the most mysterious of all to me was this shrub or small tree that a few weeks ago was to be seen in profuse white blossom in much of the Reserve. So widespread and numerous was it that I expected it to be touted, like the Flannel Flowers, as one of the sights to be seen here.

Any clues?

Pretty and profuse, and equally unidentified.

As for weird, the nubbly bark of this Banksia tree takes the cake!

Known bush blooms

There are few wildflowers I can identify in Kattang Nature Reserve. It is coastal bush, and I have not lived with that before.

I do recognise this Boronia, which is not the highly scented Brown Boronia.

My wildflower books were amongst those ruined in the flood; I had bought them over 45 years ago…

This lavishly blooming Pandorea pandorana, or Wonga Wonga vine, here spilling over a stump, had no need to climb.

For scent it is hard to go past this familiar Sweet Pittosporum, Pittosporum undulatum. It was native to my Mountain too.

It made me recall that on a riverside walk nearby I had seen, but not then recognised, the Yellow Pittosporum, Pittosporum revolutum.

The dainty Caladenia pink ground orchids were a welcome Spring sight. Their white or blue cousins are often seen too.

 This one I did not know, but I have asked Dr Google and it is a Native Iris or Flag, a Patersonia species.

I do miss my wildflower reference books; will seek to replace them when bookshop visits are permissible again…

Gilding the day

With the aim of getting to the beach before the sun rises, I have been late too many times. By the time the light wakes up my body clock, around 6.30 am, the sun is already gilding the paperbarks outside my window.

So I set the alarm for 5.30, dressed quickly, fast-walked along the dirt road to the beach…begging the sun to wait for me… and lo, I crested the small sandhill, to see this. 

Dawn, but no actual sun up!

Mere seconds after I got to this long empty beach, the event began.… and moving fast.

As I could see the sun more fully, I was treated to a double sunrise in the wet sand mirror.

And here it was. Yet again, to gild and kickstart my day, to colour my world.

The show under way, I turned to the land to see the effects: watery sand gleaming, shells catching the light on the still-dark damp sand.

Like a true landlubber, I am as fascinated by what the sea has done to the land than what it is doing in its own restless surges.

The receding tide has left in hesitant stages, depositing scalloped ripples of plants and runners ripped both from sea and sand dunes.

Up close, there are also tiny grey pebbles of lava… from New Zealand, I am told!

My next ambition is to be present at a sunrise when the sky hold clouds to also receive that gilding, an even more spectacular show. Looks like that alarm awakening will be regular, so I can check for clouds… and get up… or go back to sleep.

Tough and tricky

The cliffs here are rough and rugged; not sheer drops, but lurching staggers and slides.

One has a stern Old Man of the Sea orating to the endless waters.

As you walk along the clifftop paths, lined with Casuarinas and Banksias, their sharp drop-away edges are usually hidden, until suddenly a bare opening seduces you to edge closer, to slip down its loose gravelly slope.

We don’t, watching for whales from well back…

But is from here that we see across to the next cliff, and spy a large bird busily feeding on something; what, we can’t see, even with the help of my camera zoom. The bird is totally preoccupied, does not even look over to our voices.

I think it is an Osprey, that most specialised fisher raptor, so its dinner is likely a fish, caught in one its spectacular feet-first plunges into the sea. 

The water here is so clear that its hunting would be easy. Perhaps it has its large stick nest somewhere in that rugged cliff face. Binoculars needed, I remind myself.

It’s not only the rocks that act tough and take on strange shapes. Termites have given this dead Banksia a head to surpass any of May Gibbs’ Banksia Men.

A vine forms a perfect circle before beginning its climb to the light. Why?

I know Spotted Pythons exist; is this a Mottled Python, or more muscular vines tricking us with their beautiful intertwined shapes and lichen blotches?

Next post I must praise the many wildflowers out now in this Kattang Nature Reserve, but as you see, have had trouble getting past its more solid features.

I love them all.

Ain’t Nature grand?

Kid stop?

Hearing a lot of chattering outside my window, I saw two green parrots on a far branch opposite. Lorikeets, I assumed as there had been a lot of those about in weeks gone by. But these were too big, surely?

Leaning past my desk to look down, I could see the bird water dish along the fence. It had only before attracted a sole Peewee, or that I had noticed.

Now there was a mighty flurry and fluttering of seven of these same green parrots, jockeying for turns at sipping the water, swapping places on the fence, teetering and balancing on the wire.

There were nine of them all up. But what were they?

Then my memory of my Mountain Kingies started to rev up. These looked like female King Parrots, which are mostly green except for the red lower breast and belly… were they young ones, who have similar colours to the females? The young have brown irises instead of grey, but I was too far away to see such detail.

There I was used to having plenty of the more colourful males about, with much more red on head and front…and an occasional female.

Never had I seen a whole gang like this.

One of them might have been developing the male colours, as it had a paler green strip along its wing.

They took off very quickly. Had it been a brief pit stop for the whingeing kids? ‘Mum, I’m thirsty!’

Mental note: keep that bird water dish full! Who knows what else it may attract?