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?

Mighty mangroves

The tidal rivers and creeks here, close to their ocean destination, are edged with mangroves and mud. Despite growing up near mangrove-fringed Erina Creek on the Central Coast, I had never thought them attractive, never stopped to look more closely. I knew almost nothing about mangroves.

Now they are my neighbours, I need to learn.

Until I came here I hadn’t thought of mangroves as actual trees; the only sort I knew grew low and dense like big shrubs. These clearly are trees, stretching and arching out for long distances.

In fact, mangroves come in trees and shrubs.

We have at least five species in NSW; here they are the taller Grey Mangroves, and perhaps the fringing shorter River Mangroves.

I used to wonder about all those short spiky things that you saw when the tide was out. ‘Ouch’ was my first thought! Shoots, I imagined. But they are ’peg roots’, the air-breathing roots of these plants, so cleverly adapted to tidal inundation and salt.

You can see the mangrove fruits fallen amongst the peg roots, as well as the resulting young seedlings.

These residents of the zone between land and sea are essential: as buffers protecting coastal land, as filters and carbon sinks, as habitat and food, as breeding grounds for many species of, for example, fish or prawns and crabs. 

They and their accompanying salt marshes are too often considered ’wastelands’ and cleared and filled for development.

While we have ‘lost’ about 17% of our mangroves since white settlement, the salt marshes have fared worse, with around 30% gone… and now listed as ‘vulnerable’.

Next to this salt marsh is an isolated mature mangrove, surrounded by its roots and its seedlings: I now see it as a mother tree.

Not pretty… pretty scary, actually! Bare feet not advised.

I haven’t seen the little crabs that must live in these mangrove mudflats but their patterns are as artistic as their beach counterparts, if a little murkier.

I promise to pay more attention to my front yard, come high or low tide!

Mirrorland

It’s not very often that this river is still enough to be a perfect mirror, but as I was out early after sunup this morning, I was treated to perfection.

The mountain usually takes my eye above all, but today the ‘mackerel’ sky of altocumulus cotton buds and its watery reflection was the most impressive.

At my feet, the clouds dissolved into oyster-studded rocks, blurring perceptions.

The she-oaks lean over clouds… and rocks.

The mountain narrows to meet itself in water image.

How fortunate I am to be in lockdown in a place where it’s so worth rising early!

Kooka competitors

From my desk I could see these two on high alert for movement on the ground. They seemed to have divided the territory.

One scored before the other and got the worm. It had the better territory, as the ground was more cleared that side.

Its mate still kept watch on its own side, but with somewhat ruffled feathers…

On a new branch, the loser seemed to be rethinking that allotted territory… ‘Should I turn around and compete for it?’

Yes.  And what’s more it appeared to be even more determinedly alert and ready to dive. I wished it luck!

Beach or bush?

I do love my new area, but I have one gripe: too many of the councils allow 4WDS on their beaches.

My heart sinks when I walk out onto such an uninhabited beach as this early of a morning and find it unnaturally defaced, scored with tyre tracks running the length of it …just for fun, just because they can.

The footprints of people, dogs, birds and crabs do not distress me; they belong or have earned the right to be there by being amongst Nature to get there.

I face south and it is the same. Indeed, worse, as I can see vehicles parked there. But perhaps they are there to fish… does that make it OK?  No, past generations of fishermen would have walked, or known where the bush access tracks where to the best spots along that beach. 

I’d better look down, between the tyre tracks, at what the tide has left; I am somewhat heartened that there does not seem to be plastic pieces amongst the shell fragments. Or are they so tiny as to be invisible to the naked eye? Pessimism, or realism?

I think I’d better take to the beachside bush instead…

There are three access or picnic spot tracks to this long Dunbogan Beach, each named after a tree, although at these mainly unburnt spots those trees are not obvious to me nor marked: Blackbutt, Cheesetree and Geebung. The signs at these spots tell only of the battle against the invading Bitou Bush all along the coast.

The drive to Blackbutt does wind through what I think is a Blackbutt and Banksia forest.

I am told at the Diamond Head camp National Park office that there are no brochures or leaflets anymore, on flora or fauna. Budget? What about the purpose of national parks to educate?

I suspect I am more in tune with bush than beach, and marvel at the lichen patterns on this tree trunk.

Then I turn and see this fine goanna sunbaking in the open. It hears my camera click on, and turns its head. ‘Hello, you’, I say, as is my wont with all the wild creatures I meet.

Once again, the intricate patterns that Nature has invented make all our human design attempts pale in contrast…

Diamond Head rocks

I have confessed my fascination with — and ignorance about — rocks before.

Cliffs are just bigger rocks.

At one end of Diamond Head Campground Beach these two striking sentinels called me closer.

But when I reach them I see one is a cliff, part of the land, and one is but part of a past cliff, so can I call this one a rock, albeit a very big rock? 

And did you spot the kookaburra poised at the top? On sentry duty on a sentry rock.

To reach that stunning slit to the sea, you have to make your way over a sward of tumbled rocks large and small, deceptively not fixed, ready to cause a grandma to twist an ankle.

Reaching the safety of sand again, I look back and marvel at how lucky I am to be near such a place of natural wonders.

I pass a nonchalantly lazing kangaroo mother and joey by a picnic table. This is a national park after all…

The beach isn’t bad either…

Diamond Head rocks!

Not sacred nor scarce

In these seemingly permanent wet times, the grounds here are either soggy or full-on watery. The most frequent bird visitor is thus a wader, the Australian White Ibis (Threskiornis molucca). Those long curved beaks are perfect for these shallow waterlogged areas.

Usually I see them only on the ground, while the kookaburras and lorikeets own the trees.

But the other day this one flew up to perch outside my windows and peep in.

Then, to its apparent surprise, it was joined by another one. Not for long; I was glad it took off again, as it seemed to have only one leg, not great for balancing.

They are sometimes called the Sacred Ibis — or were. Until the droughts of the late 1970s drove them eastwards they were rarely seen in our cities. They bred in the Macquarie Marshes, where now they are rare.

These days they are so common and in such numbers that they have become a pest, to the point of needing to be culled in some areas like Sydney’s Centennial Park. Tourists complained of their smell!

They are now more commonly called ‘Tip Turkey’ or ‘Bin Chicken’ as they have adapted to scavenging in rubbish bins… or swiping a sandwich from an unwary picnicker.

Because of that dining practice, their pure white is often tinged a rather grubby brown.

So not sacred and certainly not scarce!