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Showing posts from March, 2007


In my post on 20 February 2007 I explained that it is unusual to see animals while walking in the mountains. Darwin’s Walk is no exception, though there are certainly plenty of dogs being walked by people. This is one of the disadvantages of being on a busy track and annoying that many of the dogs are not kept on their leash.

So you can imagine my delight when I saw a tiny Antechinus , marsupial “mouse” on the boardwalk. She shivered with fear before darting back into the protective undergrowth too quickly for me to get a photograph.

Photo: Darwin’s Walk, Wentworth Falls
I also saw skinks, New Holland Honeyeaters and Rosellas while walking and there were several other birds calling that I was unable to identify.

Words to walk with:From signage at the start of the track:
“Antechinus (Antechinus stuartii) Marsupial “mice”. Very vulnerable to cats, dogs and foxes these small marsupials breed in November, after which the males all die. Keep your cat in your yard and locked up at night to gi…

Bush Regeneration

The native vegetation along Darwin’s Walk is quite degraded because the creek is within an area of urban development where escapee plants from gardens are carried down the stream and colonise, replacing native plants. As such this has become the site of extensive bush regeneration work.

Over the years tall Radiata Pines towered over the track. While they made for dramatic effect they are not kind to native plants so are being progressively removed and the logs left to decay naturally while native plants are being reestablished.

Photo: Stump of pine beginning to decay while native plants
reestablish at Darwin’s Walk, Wentworth Falls.
Words to walk with:From signage beside Darwin’s Walk explaining why the pines are being removed .“Pinus radiata are unsuitable for bushland areas as they: Inhibit germination of other plants and turn the soil acidic, due to a combined chemical effect produced by their roots and shed leaves. Are invasive species that form single species stands (monocultur…

Darwin's Walk

Recently I have enjoyed Darwin's Walk and will write some of my observations over the next few days. This track is so named because it follows the path Charles Darwin took from Weatherboard Inn to the cliff edge in January 1836. This was 23 years before he published "The Origin of Species" which made him a famous and controversial figure. His visit over the mountains was on his way to Bathurst and was towards the end of his 5 year voyage on HMS Beagle.

He wrote in his book The Voyage of the Beagle "In the middle of the day we baited our horses at a little inn, called the Weatherboard. The country here is elevated 2800 feet above the sea. About a mile and a half from this place there is a view exceedingly well worth visiting. Following down a little valley and its tiny rill of water, an immense gulf unexpectedly opens through the trees which border the pathway, at the depth of perhaps 1500 feet. "

Today Darwin's Walk is an easy 3km (one way) walk on a well m…


The firewheel tree is flowering in my garden. This tall narrow tree is an Australian native but not indiginous to this area. It comes from the warmer north where its unusual red flowers show earlier in the year. Here they are an early autumn treat.

Firewheel tree flower (Stenocarpus soinuatus)Words to walk with:
The Pulley by George Herbert (1633)
"When God at first made man,
Having a glass of blessings standing by;
Let us (said he) pour on him all we can:
Let the world’s riches, which dispersed lie,
Contract into a span.

So strength first made a way,
Then beauty flowed, then wisdom, honor, pleasure
When almost all was out, God made a stay,
Perceiving that, alone of all his treasure,
Rest in the bottom lay.

For if I should (said he)
Bestow this jewel also on my creature,
He would adore my gifts instead of me,
And rest in nature, not the God of nature:
So both should losers be.

Yet let him keep the rest,
But keep them with repining restlessness;
Let him be rich and weary, that at least,
If goodness le…

No view

We've had friends from Queensland staying for a few days. Yesterday they went to Katoomba to see the Three Sisters and found the famous view obscured by thick fog.

It was one of those days when forlorn travelers take photographs of each other against the white backdrop and English tourists exclaim to their hosts “Why did you bring us to see this, we see plenty of this at home.”

Three sisters on a misty day
How they look on a clear dayWords to walk with:
The three sisters, according to aboriginal legend, are three young girls that were turned into stone. Their names were Meehni, Wimlah and Gunnedoo

Flowering Eucalypts

High above in the tall canopy the Eucalypts are flowering. I can see the creamy white blooms when I am looking down from the train or standing on a cliff edge. But walking in the forest I am hardly aware of the flowers except for those snipped off and littering the ground below.
Eucalypt FlowersFrom Flowering Eucalypt in Autumn by Les Murray Australia’s leading contempary poet.
"minute urns, pinch-sized rockets
knocked down by winds, by night-creaking
fig-squirting bats, or the daily

parrot gang with green pocketknife wings.
Bristling food tough delicate
raucous life, each flower comes

as a spray in its own turned vase,
a taut starbust, honeyed model
of the tree's fragrance crisping in your head."

The cycle of life

Fungus on fallen tree, Horse Shoe Falls Hazelbrook
Words to walk with:
Ecclesiastes 3: 1-8 from the Holy Bible – New International Version
"There is a time for everything,
and a season for every activity under heaven:
a time to be born and a time to die, a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh,
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak, a time to love and a time to hate, a time for war and a time for peace."

Cave behind the waterfall

A cool, dark room lit by flickering light – a disco dell for water nymphs.

Horse Shoe falls, Hazelbrook

Words to walk with:
From The Blue Mountains written in 1888 by Henry Lawson
“Above the ashes straight and tall,
Through ferns with moisture dripping,
I climb beneath the sandstone wall,
My feet on mosses slipping.

The stream that, crooning to itself,
Comes down a tireless rover,
Flows calmly to the rocky shelf,
And there leaps bravely over. ”

Ferny streams

Fairy’s live in ferny places. When I walk by a rippling creek, fringed with feathery fronds I am mesmerized by their charm.

Ferny Stream on Waterfall Circuit, South LawsonWords to walk with:
From The Blue Mountains written in 1888 by Henry Lawson

“Like ramparts round the valley's edge
The tinted cliffs are standing.
With many a broken wall and ledge,
And many a rocky landing. And round about their rugged feet
Deep ferny dells are hidden
In shadowed depths, whence dust and heat
Are banished and forbidden.”

Ball of feathers

This morning I found a big ball of feathers in the tree where the parrots usually feed. A brown blob looking like the dust from a vacuum cleaner. When an inquisitive bird flew in to investigate -- the ball of feathers moulded unto wings and flew away.

Owl in maple tree in my gardenI think it was a Southern Boobook owl, also known as Mopoke. Whenever I hear Mopoke’s calling in the blackness of night, I remember my father. He could call mopoke from the depths of throat and have the big birds reply enthusiastically across the dark distance as to a newfound mate.

Words to Walk With:
From Mopoke by Louis Lavater
"Mopoke! …. Mopoke!
The vague profound
Of forest night
Is in the sound."

Mushroom season

Soft autumn rains. Mushrooms stir in the leaf litter. A fairly land of little houses for the palette of discerning gourmands.

Tiny Mushrooms, North Hazelbook walking track Words to Walk With:
From May by John Shaw Neilson
"Shyly the silver-hatted mushrooms make
Soft entrance through
And undelivered lovers, half awake,
Hear noises in the dew."

Mountain devils

Devils live in our forest, everywhere, all year round.

Mountain Devil (Lambertia Formosa) It seems to be the fruit rather than the flower that gives this plant its common name – “woody with a short beak and a long horn on each of 2 valves: the famous Mountain Devil” (Native Plants of Blue Mountains by Baker and Cunningham). I can’t say I have ever noticed the fruit. I must look next time.

Words to Walk with
John 8:44 from the Holy Bible – New International Version
"He [the devil] was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies."

Weathered Rocks

Great stone boulders flung across the landscape. Timeless natural sculptures shaped by eternal wind and rain. Massive monuments at every turn.

Rocks at Echo Bluff, North LawsonToday I saw a lyrebird prancing on a rock tower, his tail feathers high, calling to his mate with mechanical buzzes and whirrs. (I was too slow to get a photograph – sigh).

Words to walk with:
From Lines Composed a Few Miles above Tintern Abbeyby William Wordsworth 1798
"Though absent long,
These forms of beauty have not been to me,
As is a landscape to a blind man's eye:
But oft, in lonely rooms, and mid the din
Of towns and cities, I have owed to them,
In hours of weariness, sensations sweet,
Felt in the blood, and felt along the heart"

Autumn in the Australian forest

Our forest trees are evergreen, not for us the flamboyant display of aspen, maple, elm and beech – except in our gardens. The change to autumn in the bush is a whisper, a subtle shift in the birds, bark and bouquet of flowers as the evenings cool and the days shorten.

Autumn flowering Hairpin Banksia
with Angaphora that has recently shed its bark,
North Lawson walking track

Hairpin Banksia, Banksia spinolsa, whose spectacular Autumn to winter flowers are a major source of food for bees, birds and possums. Colours vary from pale lemon, to red-gold and bronze.

Words to walk with:
From The Idyll Wheel: Cycle of a Year at Bunyah by Les Murray
“ the creek trees cluster, showered with pale expansion
from inside themselves, as if from dreams of rain;
heightening gum trees are tipped bronze and citrine

and grey-barked apple trees are misted round
with rosy bule – the aged angaphora trees
that sprout from every live part of themselves
and drop their heavy death along the ground.”

Looking the other way

Look the other away from the landslide -- hills, layer upon layer into the distance.

View from Narrow NeckWords to Walk With:
Luke 6:27-31 from Holy Bible – New International Version
[Jesus said] "But I tell you who hear me: Love your enemies, do good to those who hate you, bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you. If someone strikes you on one cheek, turn to him the other also. If someone takes your cloak, do not stop him from taking your tunic. Give to everyone who asks you, and if anyone takes what belongs to you, do not demand it back. Do to others as you would have them do to you.”

Vertical cliffs

A sign at Echo Point explains how the sheer cliffs of the Blue Mountains were formed “Mountain streams have cut through the upper layers of sandstone, following vertical faults in the strata. The softer claystone layers are more erodible. As the softer rock is eroded, unsupported sections of the cliff collapse. This results in the characteristic vertical cliffs of the Blue Mountains.”

Cliff face viewed from Narrow Neck Road
where a landslide occurred in 1931 Words to Walk With:
From Australia by AD Hope
“A nation of trees, drab green and desolate grey
In the field uniform of modern wars
Darkens her hills, those endless, outstretched paws
Of Sphinx demolished or stone lions worn away”

Birds of a feather

Bird feather after rain on my garden driveway

I’ve seen Rainbow Lorikeets in the bush and in the town recently – eating flowers in the gum trees. These multi-coloured birds typically stay closer to the coast and are an irregular visitor to these parts though apparently in the early days they were misnamed Blue Mountains Parrots (see below).

Words to walk with:
From Fauna of the Blue Mountains by
An early name for [Rainbow Lorikeet] was Blue Mountains Parrot and there are a number of references to it on the Mountains in the early 1800s. However, there seems to have been some confusion over the name and most of the early observers were probably referring to the Crimson Rosella, George Caley noted in 1804 that Blue Mountains Parrots, despite their name, were rarely encountered in the mountains.

Crimson Rosella
Unlike the Rainbow Lorikeet
flocks of Rosellas are seen frequently
all over the mountains

Wilderness observed

I sat in the warm afternoon sun, listening to the great blue wilderness breathe. No birds calling; the water still; ants and lizards moving noislessly about their business; just the sound of wind exhaling through the trees – in, out, in, out.

Wilderness from McMahon’s PointWords to walk with:
From Blue Mountains National Park signage at McMahon’s Point
“Wilderness areas are large natural expanses of land which contain little, if any, evidence of modern human activity … The wilderness is no longer a frontier to be pioneered. It is a valuable resource that contains the natural legacy of life’s diversity … Our role in the wilderness is caretaker, guardian and observer.”

Praying for rain

As I write, rain is pelting down, lightening is pulsing across the night sky and thunder is so loud it startles. Inside it is dry, dark, and quiet – the satellite TV reception is on the blink and our electricity intermittently failing. Almost certainly a busy night for Emergency Services. Our thirsty land welcomes this rain.

Yesterday we went for the long drive along Kings Tableland, 20kms bumping on dirt road through repetitive forest. Just as I begin to wonder if it is worth it, there is a glimpse of blue distance through the trees and the road ends abruptly near McMahon’s Point lookout.

Lake Burragorang from McMahon’s LookoutFrom there you can see Lake Burragorang which backs up behind Warragamba Dam – the drinking water for the great city of Sydney that sprawls at the foot of the mountains. With each new dry year the water line has been receding. Sydney Catchment Authority says the Warragamba storage is now 34.6% of capacity (up from 32.5% in February).

Thank you, heavenly Father, fo…


Budgerigars are native to Australia but belong in inland plains, not in the Blue Mountains so I was surprised to find this one flying free one morning. It was almost certainly an escapee from an aviary.

Budgerigar on fence, LawsonWords to Walk With:
From Land Leased Back to Themselvesby contemporary Australian poet John Kinsella

1. Budgies
… perching on fenceposts
and augmenting, balancing
on rusted strands of barbed wire
over the salt run-off. Flock-birds,
they scan and sharply angle
the low sky with flights
of piercing intensity.
For us, at least, it's unusual—
a witnessing.”


I saw a big sunflower in someone’s front garden. It made me smile all day.

Sunflower in garden, Lawson
(not a native plant) Words to Walk With:
Ah Sun-flower by William Blake written in 1794
Ah! Sun-flower, weary of time,
Who countest the steps of the Sun,
Seeking after that sweet golden clime
Where the traveller’s journey is done;

Where the youth pined away with desire,
And the pale virgin shrouded in snow,
Arise from their graves and aspire,
Where my Sun-flower wishes to go.

Walking in the Town

When I am short of time, tired or lack the inclination to bushwalk I amble around the mid-mountains towns instead. It’s interesting how, even here in the built environment, the mood changes with the time of day and the weather and there is always something new to delight my inner eye.

Web on fence post, LawsonWords to Walk With:
From Chance Met by Rosemary Dobson
“The drops hung bright on the wires, the diligent spider
Worked shifts all night to set up his house by sunrise
Between the hinge, rusted with rain, and the latch.”

Bird Song

I have been paying attention to bird melodies. Many birds I don’t see, but I do hear their song. Those that aren’t big or colourful I name “little brown bird” and I’d like to do better.

I’m thinking that if I knew which song belonged to which bird I might be able to see and identify them more readily. But even when I have worked really hard at remembering the tune like I did on the grey day I haven’t been able to match them with the sound recordings.

Worse still, when I look up the bird book and read the phonetic descriptions for bird calls I know well, I wonder if we have been listening to the same creatures! This is clearly a difficult area. The Birdsong Central website has some tips to get me started. I might give it a go.

Feather in the wind, Katoomba Words to Walk With:
Never Again Would Bird’s Song Be The Same by the American poet Robert Frost

“He would declare and could himself believe
That the birds there in all the garden round
From having heard the daylong voice of Eve
Had added t…

Extremely magnificent

On a clear morning at Wentworth Falls the sun glistens on the western cliffs and mist flows like a gentle white river in the valley.

View from Queen Victoria Lookout, Wentworth FallsIn 1836 as a young man, Charles Darwin who later became famous for his theory of evolution, visited the Blue Mountains and walked from Wentworth Falls Township (then known as Weatherboard) through to the cliff edge. There is a track known as Darwin’s Walk that follows his footsteps. I will do it one day.

Words to Walk With:
From Charles Darwin’s journal of 1836 published as the Voyage of the Beagle.
“An immense gulf unexpectedly opens through the trees … This kind of view was to me quite novel and extremely magnificent.”

Wentworth Falls

Yes, there is a waterfall at Wentworth Falls – white water splashing over an impressive drop into a deep ravine (today’s photo shows only half of its height). A good view of the falls can be seen from Princes Rock Lookout but I’ve been unable to get a picture because the morning sun glares too brightly at the head of the falls. So, later in the day when the sun had shifted elsewhere, I persuaded my husband to join me on the walk down to the rock, which is a short 20 minute stroll from the car park.

Wentworth Falls The downhill walk was easy. On the way up I aimed to show off my new found fitness and in no time I was puffing and complaining and begging him to go slower. Earlier in the week, as part of a much longer trek, I covered that track without as much as a whimper. It’s back to solitary walking for me.

Words to Walk With:
From The Rock-Lily’s Pale Spay by Roland Robinson
“The rocks crouch on their knees
in earth, torsos of trees
and limb-boughs lead up where
the cliff face scales the ai…

What to do on a grey day

It rained all night. The blue views from the Overcliff Walk were covered with a damp grey blanket. The morning bird chorus muffled. What to do on a grey day like this? I decided to listen harder than normal to the few birds singing.

I heard the now familiar call of Black Cockatoos in the distance. A smaller bird joined in with “Ptich too too” and a crow cawed mournfully as it flapped on dark wings overhead. Another little bird twittered. At the cliff edge there was the melodic "tink tink" of Bellbirds down in grey depths below.

At Lyrebird Lookout I heard the sound of water gurgling over the rocks, falling deep into the Valley of Waters – no Lyrebirds scratching in the damp undergrowth today.

As I turned up the hill for the climb out a Kookaburra laughed loudly (I never feel like laughing when I’m climbing). I found him sitting in a tree when I reached the top.

Laughing Kookaburra
Near the Conservation Hut, Wentworth Falls.
Listen to the Kookaburra laughWords to Walk With:
From Koo…


On the first day of my Wentworth Falls walks I was delighted to find two Lyrebirds scratching by the side of the path. At the sound of my arrival they scuttled off so I missed getting a photograph. I’ll write more about these interesting birds one day when I manage to get a picture.

A little further along the path I saw tiny birds flitting among the low shrubs. I paused, observing them closely so I could look them up in my bird book when I got home – a little chubbier than a wren, their brownish feathers had an olive green tinge in the sunlight and bronze colour at their breast. They turned out to be Brown Thornbills.

Picnic shed near Den Fenella track, Wentworth FallsAnother day, near the shelter shed at the start of the track to Den Fenella, there was similar shaped bird perched in the tree. This one had a full yellow underbelly – a Yellow Thornbill.

Amazing, a week ago I couldn’t have told you what a Thornbill looked like.

Words to Walk With:
Matthew 10:28-33 from Holy Bible – New Inte…

Walking around Wentworth Falls

I have been walking the tracks around Wentworth Falls and over the next few days will cover some of the things I have found. Walks in this area include the Undercliff Track, Overcliff track, Short Cut track, National Pass, Valley of Waters and the Nature Track. The views from the lookouts are spectacular but some of the paths are worse for wear in this highly trafficked area. Even so, I generally find the rougher tracks take less effort than the well ordered steps which always seem just the wrong width for easy walking.

Track near Breakfast Point LookoutSome parts must be very difficult to maintain because constant dripping from the hanging swamps above make the path boggy even in dry weather. I am always grateful for my sturdy pair of waterproofed leather hiking boots.

Words to Walk With:
To A Pair of Blucher Boots written in 1890 by Henry Lawson who is one the best-known Australian poets and fiction writers of the colonial period

"Old acquaintance unforgotten,
Though you may be “ugl…

Autumn is here

Today I stepped out the back door and smelt autumn. Ginger lilies lifted their yellow goemetric heads from the green fleshy leaves under the maples to waft a fragrant greeting on the cool morning air. A black and yellow butterfly danced welcome in the golden sunlight.

Ginger Lily (Hedychium gardenerianum)
not an Australian native plantWords to walk with:
From The Idyll Wheel: Cycle of a Year at Bunyah by Les Murray
"Bang! it was autumn,
right on the first of the month,
cool overcast after scorchers
and next day it poured ...

As flesh green abolished
this summer's only white-blond month
the first autumnal scents
were ginger and belladonna."

Delicate flowers

There are many, many tiny flowers blooming in the forest and heath of the Blue Mountains.

Tea tree (leptospermum trinervium)On 12 February I said I would see how many of them I could identify using Native Plants of the Blue Mountains by Margaret Baker and Robin Corringham. I’ve already matched more than 30 of 220 – that’s good progress.

Words to Walk With:
Journal written by Elizabeth Hawkins 1822
"For forty miles they are barren of herbage for cattle, but as far as the eye can reach, even from the summit of the highest, every hill and dale is covered with wood, lofty trees, and small shrubs many of them blooming with the most delicate flowers, the colours so beautiful that the highest circles in England would prize them."

Ghostly galleon

Old boat in Wentworth Falls Lake
A man in florescent green reflector jacket jumped down from the cabin of his truck. “We're here to chase the ghost boat,” he said gesturing across the misty waters. “Its been rising and diving back into the murky deep”

I could see its rectangular outline and heard water sucking and lapping across its prow. Then the light lifted and it was landed – its mystery gone.

Words to Walk With:
From The Owl and the Pussy-cat by Edward Lear
“The Owl and the Pussy-cat went to sea
In a beautiful pea green boat,
They took some honey, and plenty of money,
Wrapped up in a five pound note.
The Owl looked up to the stars above,
And sang to a small guitar,
O lovely Pussy! O Pussy my love,
What a beautiful Pussy you are,
You are,
You are!
What a beautiful Pussy you are!'”