Driving across the Newnes Plateau (north of Clarence in the Blue Mountains,
NSW) one could easily think the country is all dry and featureless. However
just a short walk off any of the maze of fire trails reveals a fascinating
landscape dissected by deep narrow canyons, lush diatremes and rocky pagoda
Yesterday I did some walking in an area near the Glowworm Tunnel with a
friend who is interested in orchids. This is not far from where, one winter
a few years ago, I watched a number of Superb Lyrebirds nesting - that year
it seemed like every creek or gully that I explored had an active lyrebird
nest - and followed the progress of each chick as it developed from a
helpless ball of fluff to a feisty youngster with an ear-splitting alarm
call and huge powerful claws. A friend at the time used to half-joke that
the lyrebirds were thicker on the ground in that area than anywhere else in
the world. It certainly seemed that way to us.
So it was not surprising yesterday to find that much of the ground where we
walked had been freshly turned over by lyrebirds. It's a wonder we found
any terrestrial orchids at all, but we did. Even the rock orchids are
sometimes torn off the cliffs and boulders by the lyrebird's eager claws.
Our walk took us into a tall forest of Eucalyptus cypellocarpa where
Red-browed Treecreepers were in abundance. Many other species were calling
persistently, and these included Pilotbird, Golden Whistler, Rufous
Fantail, Rose Robin, Black-faced Monarch, Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, Brush
Bronzewing and Gang-gangs.
Near the end of the day I found a lavishly decorated Satin Bowerbird's
bower, on a ledge between boulders halfway up a steep hillside. It was far
enough from civilisation that the majority of the decorations were natural.
These included a large number of blue Crimson Rosella feathers, blue
Stypandra flowers, yellow wattle flowers, pale greenish and brown leaves, a
number of greenish cocoons, a large huntsman spider (almost, but not quite,
dead and looking like it had been placed there by the bird) and, to our
surprise, two freshly-picked beautiful yellow flowers of Dendrobium
speciosum - the showiest of all the local orchid species. This of course
led us on a hopeful search for the plants nearby, but we remained outdone
by the orchid-finding skills of a bowerbird.
Among the man-made decorations was a green plastic ring from a bottle top,
similar to the blue milk bottle rings which have proved to be such a hazard
for these birds. Obviously the risk is not limited to blue objects.
Large numbers of Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos are currently in the Newnes
State Forest pine plantations, with a flock of 100 apparently seen there
last week. Yesterday we only saw 30 or so as we drove through.
The Newnes Plateau can be accessed by dirt roads from Clarence or Lithgow
and encompasses Newnes State Forest, and part of the Gardens of Stone, Blue
Mountains and Wollemi National Parks. It is not the same place as Newnes
itself, which is several kilometres further north and 500 metres lower down
in the Wolgan Valley.
Blue Mountains NSW
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