New Year's Atlasing Around Mt Barney [the silence of the cicadas]

Subject: New Year's Atlasing Around Mt Barney [the silence of the cicadas]
From: Laurie & Leanne Knight <>
Date: Thu, 03 Jan 2002 10:10:19 +1000
Over a four day period, my friend Richard Joll and I have been doing the
odd bit of atlasing while circumnavigating the Mt Barney watershed.  For
those of you unfamiliar with the location, Mt Barney [28 16S, 152 39E]
is the best bushwalking mountain in Australia and is connected to the
MacPherson Range to the east of the Lindsay Hwy.

We set out on Sunday afternoon from Yellowpinch and made our way up
Cronan's Creek.  The first of many storm cells for the next 24 hours
[the MacPherson Range is known as a storm maker and many a storm has had
its genesis in the back blocks of Barney] cooled things down nicely from
the Xmas heat wave.  There weren't too many birds to be seen, and those
that weren't visible were hard to hear as the cicadas were making a fine
racket [this seems to be a pretty 'good' summer for cicadas ? someone
said they have a 12 year cycle and this is the big year].  After the
cicadas finally went to bed we did get to hear some sort of nightjar

Monday morning, we were up with the cicadas and made our way up Barney
Spur.  The cloud was down to 750 metres and the world was cool and damp
as we made our way up a ridge that had been selectively logged in the
1960s? There were very few birds to be seen in the mist, but at least
the conditions kept the cicadas subdued.

We climbed through a rocky section [end of the logged area] and heard a
'begging' call at around 900 metres.  This proved to be a group of at
least four glossy cockatoos, and the first time I had seen them around
that part of the Barney massif.  I remarked to Ritchie that the
vegetation reminded me of Barrajum - a comment that proved to be highly
accurate as we kept on climbing long after we had expected the ridge to
top out into rainforest.  

A conversion of the setting on the GPS from lat/long to UTM proved we
were indeed bound for Barajum [1260 metres] as opposed to a much lower
part of Barney Spur [950 metres].  This meant an interesting couple of
hours correcting our course in the mist, gestating storm cells and
variable habitat.  We heard our first alberts lyrebird near the summit
of Barrajum, which like Barrabool and Gwyala has some interesting

We finally managed to make our way into the headwaters of Barney Ck
[with its old growth forest].  Barney Ck was very beautiful, albeit wet
and slippery from the rain. The cicadas were also making a real racket
as there were plenty of their favourite box trees about.  By this stage
the din was starting to get to me and I was wishing I had brought my ear
muffs to protect my hearing.

There were lots of obstacles we had to clamber, slip and slide about,
and so it was nice to arrive at our campsite at T-Junction.  We couldn?t
hear much above the cicadas? throbbing, but we could see some topknots
rearranging themselves in a tree across the creek, and make out the call
of a white headed pigeon. [We also heard a boobook after the cicadas
packed it in after dusk].

As we were tired, we celebrated new years on New Zealand time [with a
five year old Margaret River Chardonnay which had been kept cool on dry

The silence of the cicadas was broken at dawn on Tuesday and necessity
being the mother of invention, I discovered that toilet paper made
effective ear plugs ? cutting out the painful higher frequencies while
allowing through most of the sounds I was interested in.  

As an indication of the density of cicadas in the area, I found 17
cicada shells on the underside of a waist high shrub near our tent ? we
could see them covering the sides of the box trees and there were many
flying about like thornbill sized bees.

Rather than following Barney Creek down to its junction with Ballow Ck,
we followed a ridge line, which took us through some nice forest
[including some 30 metre flame trees and 50 metre hoop pines] and a
diminution of the cicadas? din [no box trees].  We found a freshly raked
turkey mound [cleverly supplied from the uphill side] and a turkey about
a kilometre further on.  A group of satin bowerbirds were determined to
stay out of sight, and we heard a few albert?s lyrebirds at close

One of the highlights was seeing a shadow moving on the forest floor and
hence spotting a wedgetail eagle though a small window in the canopy. 
It was sitting on top of a hoop pine [the highest tree around] with its
ruff wafting in the breeze.  It seemed a bit strange to see an eagle
hanging around the rainforest as it was too big to approach anything
under the canopy.  We watched it and it watched us.  Another highlight
was eating lunch by a window overlooking Gwyala and having a king parrot
approach closely to check us out.

We managed to follow the ridge down through the box forest to Ballow Ck
[ear plugs in place] and a welcome swim [things had warmed up].  We then
motored down Barney Creek to the campsite near the Upper Portals, where
we found a flock of three glossy cockatoos [not sure if these were the
same birds we?d seen the previous day].  We heard some more weird calls
during the night [including a male koala with ?indigestion?] as well as
a pair of boobooks and the odd restless koel.

Wednesday dawned hot and we set off down Barney Ck to the Lower Portals,
with a series of swims to survive the 40C heat.  We saw a pair of
channel-billed cuckoos above Barrabool Ck and a few ructions of drongos
along the way.  We also saw a brush tailed rock wallaby on the rock
slabs down stream of Barney Gorge.

The walk out along the eroded track from the Lower Portals to the
carpark through the baking temperature was an exercise in heat
management, and it was a pleasant surprise to find a nice pool in Rocky
Creek for a psyche saving lie down. I think the circadas there were a
different species to the ones in the rainforest, as they made a
different sound and weren?t half as noisy.

On the road round to Yellowpinch, we came across a young kookaburra
sitting on the ground ? while it was able to fly it didn?t seem to be
able to get far off the ground, so we figured it had recently emerged
from the nesting hollow.  There were some encouraging calls from the
neighbouring trees so we left it to its own devices.

When we got to Yellowpinch, we found that some alcohol fueled types had
jacked my old Subaru up and placed large rocks under the wheels [so it
looked like a 4WD display].  It is certainly interesting to see what
some people get up to when they have too much time on their hands.

On the way home, the Rathdowney jabiru was on sentinel duty at the dam
on the corner of the Boonah Rd and the Lindsay Highway.

All up, it was another epic Barney trip [as Barney Trips should be] and
another new year?s in the bush.  Happy twitching in 2002.

Regards, Laurie.

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