An afternoon on Narrow Neck

Subject: An afternoon on Narrow Neck
From: Carol Probets <>
Date: Fri, 27 Jun 2003 21:26:15 +1000
On a fine winter's day in Katoomba what better place is there to be than
Narrow Neck, a long narrow peninsula which juts out like a finger from the
main Blue Mountains plateau on the south side of Katoomba and separates the
two big valleys - to the east the rugged and densely forested Jamison
Valley, largely inaccessible except on foot, and to the west the more
rolling terrain of the partly cleared and agricultural Megalong Valley. So
I spent this afternoon walking out along the fire trail which follows
Narrow Neck to its end. I reached a point about half way, where the
peninsula is at its narrowest and I could stand and listen to Superb
Lyrebirds in stereo. Nothing unusual about that, except that these two
lyrebirds were singing deep in two very different valleys!

I find that winter is the time when Pilotbirds are easiest to see here as
they come up onto the plateaus and sometimes feed out in the open along the
tracks - and today was no exception. At one stage I had a Pilotbird and a
Rockwarbler together in the one binocular view for ages; they were later
joined by a White-browed Scrubwren. All three seemed to be getting a good
deal of food from the track surface, though I couldn't find anything on the
sandy ground that they might have been eating. In total I saw six
Rockwarblers over the couple of hours I was walking.

The banksias are flowering and as expected, there were large numbers of
honeyeaters, though nothing like the numbers that were here in the winter
of 2000, which was a fantastic season. Today the area was alive with Red
Wattlebirds - they were everywhere - and the usual New Hollands and Eastern
Spinebills with moderate numbers of Yellow-faced and White-naped. Crescent
Honeyeaters were also very numerous, in some spots outdoing the New
Hollands with their loud calls and aerial chases.

One of the Heath Banksias (B. ericifolia) caught my eye and I realised why
it looked a little strange. The flowers in each inflorescence (cone) were
opening from the bottom of the cone up, instead of from the top down as
this species usually does. Incidentally, I have heard a theory that the
banksias which evolved to be pollinated by birds open from the top of the
cone first, while those which evolved to be pollinated by small mammals
open from the bottom up. I don't know if this is true - but certainly birds
seem to enjoy all the Banksia species regardless of which direction the
inflorescences open. Anyway, it's the first time I've ever seen an
individual plant which is atypical in this way.

With the sun sparkling on the cliffs of the Jamison and dark rain clouds
looming over the Megalong, I headed back. At the point where the peninsula
is narrowest and dips into a rocky saddle, a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles
suddenly appeared, almost motionless over the heath. They rose higher and
higher until they drew my eye to another bird, very high above. A
Peregrine, which as I watched, folded its wings and accelerated at
breathtaking speed in a stoop which took it halfway across the sky in an
instant until it disappeared into the valley. A magical moment to top off a
great afternoon. And, I beat the rain home to warm up with pumpkin soup.
Life is good.



Carol Probets
Blue Mountains NSW

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