Thursday, 22 December 2011

Going deeper into Touga Road

In October 2011 the ANPS (ACT Branch) took a Wednesday Walk to the start of the Touga Road in Morton National Park. Prior to this, but following a very enjoyable day with Denis Wilson and Alan Stephenson a little further along the Braidwood-Nowra Road (Highway 92) we had been wondering for sometime about exploring the area further down Touga Road.  One planned event had been put off due to bad weather but today we were determined to go.

Off we went at about 9:15am.  90 minutes. and 125 kms, later we were at The Jumps, some 7km down Touga Rd from Highway 92.  The main characteristic of the area is the sandstone pagodas including these at the start of the Park (Bulee Gap)...
 ... and those at the bottom of The Jump.
The watercourse running to the West of this formation is called Water Race Creek while that heading East is Bullfrog Creek!  We didn't ascend the track up The Jump in our car, mainly because of time shortage and other things to do, but it looked quite feasible to go further than we did.

Here s an extract from Google Earth showing the general topography of the area.  The Jump is in the midle of the screen where the road (light linear feature) takes a dogleg to the right.

We had hoped to find orchids on the day but all that we could find were some fertilised sun orchids (Thelymitra spp).  It is possibly heretical to say that we found enough dicotyledons in flower to make up for this omission.  But it does do away with my feeling of inadequacy!  Here are some interesting images.

As we drove towards the stop (and when we arrived) we noticed a lot of yellow flowers - Phyllota phylicoides.
The other really apparent flowers as we drove were tea-trees.  The most obvious flowering species was this moderate sized flower, Kunzea ambigua, which has one unappetising vernacular name of Tick Bush.  It is an addition to the ANPS Touga Rd list.:
Another common tea-tree still in flower was Leptospermum trinervium ...
 ... while L rotundifolia had mainly progressed to the fruit stage.
We were particularly excited to find some flowers of Isopogon anethifolius as well as many 'cones' of the fertilised plants.
By number, the most obvious flower was Stylidium linearis.  While the flowers were somewhat similar to the trigger plants common in Carwoola (and indeed at the start of Touga Rd)  the rosette is very different.
Goodenia heterophylla was also common and attractive.  (When several flowers were close together it reminded me of the exotic Oncidium orchids - Dancing Ladies -  which shows how the withdrawal from finding native orchids was setting in.)
Staying briefly with the yellow flowers this Persoonia mollis ssp ledifolia was very attractive, and once one 'got the eye in' quite common in the area.  This "common-ness" led me astray in my naming since one of references described P. mollis as rare!  Thanks Denis for the correction.
Blue Dampiera stricta (?) was well represented in the understorey (and enhanced with raindrops).

The next flower introduces 'white'.  Denis Wilson has advised that it is a succulent, Calandrinia sp, described from the Nerriga area.  Not only is it attractive but so is the background of moss with which it was growing on a rock shelf back at Bulee Gap.

Also white in flower were the 'Flannel flowers' (Actinotus helianthi)...
....  and Lesser Flannel Flowers Actinotus minor (a second addition to the ANPS list, identified by Frances).  These are much smaller than A helianthus - more the size of Stellaria pungens
 A white flowered Eucalypt was growing in the gullies between the pagodas.  A particular attraction was the chocolate coloured (I didn't do a taste check) caps on the buds.  The first image was taken at some distance on full zoom and still came out well.
I was not allowed to climb down the side of the pagoda to examine the tree in detail, which possibly explains why I am  not currently in:
  1. hospital; and 
  2. traction.
However looking at the leaves in the bottom of the image above suggests it is Eucalyptus obliqua - Messmate.  This is another - the third - addition to the list.  On the way out I managed to get a close up of a more cooperative tree.
Moving on to invertebrates, the first image is of a spiders web on the ground, full of raindrops.  Artistic, already!
Another spider was doing a more traditional act up in the air ...
... possibly to stay away from the ants: wouldn't you wish to stay away from mandibles like this?
It was not at all timid and although it didn't do any jumping I have concluded it was a Jumping Jack Myrmecia pilosula. (Possibly the 'jumping' refers to the actions of the recipient of a bite?)

The other fierce insect I noted was a huge wasp with bright yellow legs and antennae.  It disappeared into a burrow before I could catch an image, but I believe it to be Abispa splendida.  I am totally unsure if the wasp was nesting in the burrow or had gone in there looking to dine on the regular inhabitant.

Getting back to the gentle side of insects there were a number of Varied Sword-grass Brown Butterflies  (Tisiphone abeona) around.  
Also, many of the flowering bushes were covered in Plague Soldier beetles Chauliognathus lugubris in the family Cantharidae rather than a leaf beetle as I previously thought (thanks to Roger Farrow for picking that error up).
In case anyone is wondering about a bird list for the trip there were very few around and identifiable.  In the main this is due to the density of the vegetation off the rock shelves: there could well be Moas in there  and no-one would see them.  One highlight occurred in Bungendore where we counted 24 Australian Shelduck on the Trucking Yard Lane holding paddocks.  Amazing what ducks will do for a free feed!.  The highlight on the sandstone was a calling competition between 2 Superb Lyrebirds near the Jumps.  I am sure I was within 5m of one of them and could hear him rattling his tail feathers but caught nary a gilmpse.

Overall a very good day.  We had no rain while out of the car, and it really only rained in the last 5km or so driving home.  Even better, we found 8mm in the gauge on arriving home and after greeting a very anxious small dog, who does not like thunderstorms when she is on her own!


Mac_fromAustralia said...

Exquisite photographs. Reminds me I really didn't do anywhere near enough walking this year.
Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

Denis Wilson said...

Hi Martin
Your photographs have improved considerably over recent months.
I love that bush along Main Road 92.
Such a long way from my place, unfortunately, although on a clear day (whenever that rare event happens) I can see the hills around Sassafras from my back deck.

Flabmeister said...


Many thanks for the kind words!

You are quite right about quality improving. I believe that a contributing factor has been a new camera with macro-zoom function. Also, I have become much more willing both to: snap away; and then be ruthless in disregarding the dross.