Monday, 2 January 2012

Walking on Moonlight..

.. Hollow Road.  This is the report of a foray, with a couple of friends, along Moonlight Hollow Road in the Brindabella Ranges (part of Namadgi National Park).   This is described in the excellent book "Above the Cotter" by Ian Fraser and Margaret McJannett (unfortunately out of print).

Apart from hoping to have an enjoyable walk we were also checking the place out as a possible venue for an ANPS Wednesday Walk.  With 6.3 scenic (ie a bit more than undulating) kilometres probably a bit too long for the latter purpose. However the walk was very enjoyable.

The venue is shown on the attached map extract.  It is possible that a quick glance at the map underplays the undulations!
A simple description of the walk is a traverse below the border ridge line crossing several deep moist gullies.  This image shows a view looking down into one of the gullies, well populated with tree ferns.
 This is particularly pleasing as the area was effectively carbonised in the 2003 Bush fires.  There are also some nice tall trees along the road.
Incidentally, note the density of the vegetation at ground level.  This is mainly - at this point on the road - Daviesia mimosoides a highly flammable shrub, the seeds of which require scarifying (eg by fire) to regrow.   This is an example of how a fire can cause, rather than reduce, a fuel load problem as described in a recent post on the Nature of Robertson.. 

Anyhow, we positioned our vehicles as required for a car shuffle and set out from the high point.  The first significant flower we saw was Veronica derwentiana.
 A little later in the walk we found a sub-gully rather full of this attractive plant.
After the delights of the swamp a few days previously I was hoping to get a good lot of orchids on the walk.  Alas, we only found one cluster of this family.   They were of rather understated glory also, being Microtis (aka Onion Orchids). 
As best as I can work out, noting the colour of the flower and the shape of the labellum this is Microtis sp aff unifolia - the Alpine Onion Orchid.  I will note in passing that I reckon the 'aff' designation is pathetic: it is saying "We reckon this could be something different but haven't been able to prove it, even to our own satisfaction, yet."

This next flower is one I have been looking for, for quite a while.  It is the floral emblem of the ACT, Wahlenbergia gloriosa, the Royal Bluebell.  As I have noted previously it is a bit of mystery why this is the floral emblem as it is not endemic to the ACT, but found through to the Victorian Alps.  A suggestion was that it was chosen because it was easy to make into a logo!
 Viola hederacea were very common in shady spots (of which there were many).
 This daisy is Ozothamnus stirlingii.
 Another Veronica - this one V. pertifolia.
There were relatively few weeds along the path - far fewer thistles than at the nearby Chalet Rd.  Not very many blackberries (hooray) but quite a few Native Raspberries (Rubus parvifolius).
 This is Bedfordia aborescens with the interesting vernacular name of Blanket bush.  In this case I was able to capture the small (OK, tiny) yellow flowers with a zoom shot down a mini-cliff.  Most of the specimens we found had finished flowering.
Persoonia chamaepeuce looks very attractive in images.  The flowers are rather small so are not as striking in the bush.   Perhaps that is an advantage of photography- it lets one appreciate the beauties that might otherwise be concealed?
We found few examples of Cullen microcephalum.  Again it is more  impressive as an image that the actual small plant - which does of course does not mean preserve the image and not the plant!.

Although it is generally against my principles to photograph grasses I thought this one was worth taking.  Unfortunately I got the wrong plant and this Acaena novae-zelandii was next to the  Echinopogon (translating as Spiny beard) which is the grass I thought I had taken.. 
 A number of stumps along the way - probably residue from cleaning up after the bushfire - had got a good collection of fungi, moss and lichen.
Linking between the vegetative and animal worlds we found a gall encrusted leaf that was very colourful.  Perhaps they could be sold as Christmas decorations?
Insects were few and far between.  The only one that I photograped was this hairy caterpillar.
Caterpillars are a mainstay of the diet of Cuckoos of which a fair number were heard during the trip.  Birds generally were in good supply.  I wrote down 24 species on the walk.  The only one  got a good (OK, tolerable) image of was this Spotted Pardalote.
The birdie highlights were:
  • A good sighting of a Red-browed Treecreeper; and
  • Superb Lyrebirds, with a male running across the road in front of us and a female perching on a dead branch not far off the track.
Birds are, in evolutionary terms (I have no idea, nor interest in, how they line up according to the weirdnesses of Creationism)  close to lizards.  So that justifies me in including this lovely Water Dragon guarding our creek crossing before we got home.
A close-up oshows the colouration of the head (and the spines).

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