Tag Archive for: Australia

Jervis Bay, a wonderful stop on the way to Sydney

Returning from the Snowy Mountains via Tidbinbilla we had a few more days in Canberra with the family before Jervis Bay called us to the coast. We spent them exploring parts of the city we had yet to visit, the National Capital Exhibition was our first port of call. It was a fascinating insight into the history of the city from deciding where it should be based to choosing a winning town plan. The victorious designer was an American, Walter Burley-Griffin and the grand artificial lake in the centre of the city bears his name to this day. The view over the lake from the exhibition is a fine one and at certain times each day you can also see an impressive fountain reaching over 100 metres into the air, which forms part of a memorial to Captain Cook, along with a globe nearby on the shoreline which details the voyages he took.

Captain Cook Memorial Fountain, Canberra

The park behind the museum is also worth a wander, not only is it a beautiful, tranquil place for a walk, but for the naturalist it holds additional interest in the form of a Flying Fox roost. These are Grey-headed Flying Foxes, the largest of Australia’s fruit bats and their roost here is a little bone of contention for some of the locals who consider them a pest due to tree damage and their fruit based diet can bring them into conflict with fruit growers. Nevertheless, I wasn’t going to pass up the opportunity to see these magnificent creatures and so we went for a walk in the sunshine.

Flying Fox Roost, Canberra

The noise was the first indicator that we were approaching the roost, despite them being nocturnal there was quite a bit of chatter and presumed disputes among them as they jostled for the perfect spot to hang out for the day. We were also lucky to see a few flying around trying to find a suitable perch and while my photos were not the best I thought I’d include one anyway because it gives a really clear indication of how the bat’s wing is basically adapted from an arm and hand structure not dissimilar to our own.

Flying fox

We also visited the Parliament Building which was very interesting and we were lucky to be there the day after the historic referendum for Gay Marriage was passed, which meant that we were able to witness some powerful and moving speeches in the Senate House. We spent an afternoon exploring the wine making region around Murrumbateman, particularly enjoying tasting at Clonakilla and lunch at Shaw Vineyard. At the suggestion of our niece, we also visited the War Memorial where we thoroughly enjoyed the museum exhibits. We were particularly moved by the tradition of sticking commemorative poppies into the gaps between the panels on the Roll of Honour.

We found ourselves in the right place at the right time as we were there for a Wreath Laying Ceremony too which was interesting to watch.

This marked the end of our time in Canberra though and having had a wonderful time with family we set out for the next leg of our Australian adventure. Having stopped for a few supplies for the journey, we set out towards the coast, heading for Batemans Bay. We stopped for a pastry in the small town of Braidwood and admired the views and the dense vegetation as the Kings Highway wound its way between Monga and Budawang National Parks. Reaching the coast we turned north before taking a right to get down to the sea. We ended up at Maloney’s Beach where Kagaroos lazed in a comical fashion on the short grass behind the sand and moody skies cut our visit a little short.

Our journey further north was a slightly winding one as we took the opportunity to explore a few side roads off Princes Highway and take in the scenery. We spotted a gorgeous Satin Bowerbird in a small residential area, watched Silver Gulls buffeted by strong winds, saw a pair of Sooty Oystercatchers flying over a rocky shore and passed some idyllic spots. We eventually arrived at our Airbnb for the next couple of nights in Vincentia, a small town on the shore of Jervis Bay, and having settled in we decided to take a walk. We headed out to Nelson’s Beach and found an Echidna wandering about on the edge of the sand. As the tide was out, we were able to walk round the headland at Plantation Point, along Barfleur Beach and onto Orion Beach before climbing up to the roadside to complete our circuit. As we neared the end of our walk, I came across an Orange Tiger Moth on the pavement. There are quite a few similar species and I’ve only narrowed it down to the Amata genus but it was something a little different either way and I took this image on my phone.

After a lovely meal in a local restaurant and a relaxing evening, we woke to find the garden of our Airbnb thronging with birdlife. These were new species to us and we enjoyed a happy half hour watching them over breakfast. They were feeding on flowering shrubs in the garden and it was a lovely start to the day. The first was a Little Wattlebird which seemed to specialise in reaching its food by hanging upside down.

Little Wattlebird, Jervis Bay

Next in were some noisy Rainbow Lorikeets, there were 4 or 5 altogether but they were constantly on the move and chattering to one another.

Rainbow Lorikeets, Jervis Bay

I did manage a clearer portrait shot of one of these stunningly colourful birds against a clearer background too. As a photographer I found them an enchanting subject albeit tricky to capture as they didn’t stay in one place for long.

They soon moved on, presumably to another garden full of flowers, and we set out for a day’s exploring around the bay. It was an overcast start to the day but we didn’t let that dampen our spirits. We began by visiting what must surely be the best known beach in the area, Hyam’s Beach which is reported to have the whitest sand in the world. Of course, I couldn’t go there and not record how white the sand really was so I took a silly snap on my phone comparing the whiteness of my very British feet to the sand around them!

Hyam's Beach, Jervis Bay

It may not have seemed at its whitest on that grey morning but it was beautiful nevertheless.

Our next port of call was Booderee National Park at the southern end of Jervis Bay. Here, we drove the small road through the park and walked to Murray’s Beach. Stopping for a drink at a picnic bench we found ourselves close at quarter with a couple of wonderfully charismatic birds, male Superb Fairy Wrens. These tiny birds are really very wren-like in their characteristics although a perhaps little larger and with longer legs and tails, they still behaved like our wrens at home, hopping around with confidence and sticking their tails in the air. The most striking difference of course was their gorgeous blue and black colouring and I may have got a little carried away photographing them… I’ll let you decide!

By now the sun had emerged from behind the clouds and the day was brightening up. Moving on we entered an area of woodland that had suffered a bushfire. It was a slightly sobering experience as the area of trees affected was quite large but it wa fascinating to see how it wa regenerating. There was green growth in the understory and new shoots were emerging from the blackened eucalyptus trunks. The larger trees retained their uppermost leaves and provided some dappled shade while the smaller saplings beneath had kept only the dry, burnt leaves that signalled their demise.

Among the dessicated branches there was still birdlife foraging. We saw a lovely Eastern Spinebill in the higher canopy which was amazingly camouflaged in this tawny, orangey dappled world, while a New Holland Honeyeater came amazingly close overhead.

Continuing on our path, we came to a clearing out towards the peninsula where a rowdy gang of Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos were feeding on the green seedpods of a type of Banksia, using their dextrous claws to hold the pod while stripping the seeds with their beaks.

Every now and then one would move to a different tree, prompting the rest to adjust their positions accordingly. Only in flight were their striking yellow tail feathers really evident.

We concluded our walk with a flutter of butterflies which were under the trees on the edge of the carpark and went for a lovely lunch in Huskisson before spending the afternoon enjoying some more of the local beaches.

The following day dawned bright and we decided to head out to the other end of Jervis Bay, aiming for Point Perpendicular. This is located on part of a military base and so you have to gain permission at the gates before entering. A rough, corrugated track then takes you the 8km to the end of the peninsula where the Point Perpendicular lighthouse stands proudly atop the cliff.

This spectacular spot not only gives a great view over the entrance to Jervis Bay but is also reputed to be a fantastic place from which to watch for cetaceans. This became my husband’s new mission in life and so we ventured carefully toward the edge for a better view.

Finding a safe spot to stand and scan the waves for telltale signs we settled in for a while to peer through binoculars in the hope of spotting something. I must admit I soon got a bit bored and wandered back into the bush behind to find things to photograph while he was happily occupied. There were some quite nice flowers, several I recognised as Banksia and Tea Tree species and several which were less familiar. I haven’t narrowed down this rather attractive and seemingly fluffy one but if anyone has any idea I’d be glad to hear!

I took a few more photos of flowers but I won’t bore you with them all. I did find a few with interesting critters on though so I’ll share one of those. This one is a rather nice dark purple beetle which was clearly enjoying its dinner.

There were also a number of robber flies around which hunt other insects. They were impressive beasts and I couldn’t resist a snap of a particularly smart one with red legs resting on a small dead twig.

After a little while my husband came looking for me. He said he had seen a dolphin with a calf. I went back to look with him but they were gone. Nonetheless he had seen something of what he was looking for and we moved to the other side of the peninsula to take a walk down a track a short way. The view from here looked back over the whole of Jervis Bay and was equally lovely as the one out to sea. Here though, the low shrubby vegetation was also recovering from a previous bushfire and there were all sorts of lovely flowers blooming beneath the bare, blackened branches. We saw an incredible, green Horsfield’s Bronze Cuckoo briefly perched on top of a shrub and on the way back to our car, a Wallaby which stopped grazing to sniff a flower.

As our second full day in Jervis Bay drew to a close we knew that we had made the right decision to spend some time here. We had had a wonderful stay, visited some lovely places and seen some great wildlife too. We celebrated in style with a lovely dinner out and prepared to make our way back to Sydney in the morning.

Setting out the next day we made a fairly routine journey back to Sydney, following the main coastal road north till we hit the city. We dropped our hire car off and caught the train to our hotel before hopping on the Manly ferry. We may not have done this if not for the fact that we were meeting up with a dear school friend of mine who lives in Manly with her husband. They are both doctors and were scheduled to work nights so if we were to see them it would have to be in Manly. The journey was great though as we got a wonderful view of the Opera House, the Harbour Bridge and the rest of the Harbour while on our way. We met up for drinks and they then took us to North Point to have a walk. The heavens opened while we were there but we carried on regardless with an umbrella and were rewarded with the most extraordinary view of Sydney Harbour in the afterglow of the rain storm. It was a truly memorable afternoon. We even saw Brush Turkeys as we left the car park and we ended our stay in Sydney with dinner in a restaurant overlooking Manly Beach before catching the last ferry back to the city. The following day we would leave Australia for the next leg of our adventure, New Zealand.


Tidbinbilla, in search of Platypuses…

Tidbinbilla; even the name sounds distinctly Aussie and indeed it derives from Aboriginal origins. The meaning behind it is “a place where boys are made men”. Put into context that sounds potentially a little daunting but, having spent a wonderful weekend exploring the highest of Australia’s peaks, we decided to take a detour on our way back into Canberra and head to into the foothills of the Australian Alps once more, stopping at the Tidbinbilla Nature Reserve.

We had beautiful weather for our drive and managed to do a little wildlife spotting on the way with an unusual sighting of a splendid male Ostrich. Despite some strange looks on announcing our sighting, with a few querying our identification and suggesting it was an Emu, the rest of the family backed us up having seen it too from their car and it is known that there are a small population of feral Ostriches in Australia.

We arrived at Tidbinbilla in the middle of a torrential downpour but our spirits weren’t dampened and after an indoor picnic in the visitors centre, we set off to explore what the reserve had to offer. We began by taking the circular drive that runs round the reserve. The rain persisted and so most of our wildlife viewing was done from the dry comfort of our hire car. We took a short side track to a viewpoint which must have been spectacular in clearer weather. The rain eased off and we made a break from our shelter to take it all in. The outlook was still interesting as it gave an indication of the scale of the valley and the density of vegetation here. The low cloud certainly made it an atmospheric experience and we also had a lovely close encounter with a female Eastern Grey Kangaroo and her Joey.

Our next stop was at one of the main carparks for the eucalyptus forest. Here we waited out another heavy shower before venturing out for a walk. Our niece was particularly keen to look for Koalas so we headed into the enclosure. I should note here that while all the animals here are native and in a natural habitat, there are areas which are protected by predator proof fencing as part of a conservation programme which is particularly beneficial to some of the more unusual and endangered species on the reserve. During a pleasant walk round this smaller enclosure, we spotted a number of Brush-tailed Rock Wallabies and some Potoroos which are rabbit sized kangaroo-like marsupials. To our dismay we didn’t manage to spot any Koalas out in the forest but there was a small area near the gate where a couple of captive individuals were sheltering from the damp weather, along with 2 tiny babies which were rather adorable to see.

Moving on, we decided that as the worst of the rain seemed to have passed, we would take a longer walk round the main Sanctuary area. There was so much to take in, not only visually but in terms of smells and sounds too. There was a wonderful petrichor in the air after the rain which was quite different to that at home, it had a hint of that medicinal quality of eucalyptus whilst still being earthy. There was plenty of birdsong too plus Kookaburras laughing nearby. One of the first things we came across was an Australian Swamp Hen foraging in the tussocky grasses beside the path.




We followed the trail round to the furthest pool where we stood in front of the weir and watched the water. There was a bird in the reeds on the lefthand side which, when it eventually revealed itself, turned out to be an Australian Reed Warbler.




Then there was a ripple and we saw what we had been looking for in every pool we had passed; a trail of bubbles and, after a few moments waiting, at the end of them a Platypus. We stood and watched for some time as it went about its business. Most of our time was spent wondering where it would surface next or trying to follow the bubbles it left in its wake. It stayed mostly at the far end of the pool but we had reasonably clear views of it. The light was not ideal, but I managed a record shot or two, and seeing as it was such a highlight for us, I decided to share one with you.



Tearing ourselves away from this bizarre creature, we continued on down the path to see what else we could find. Suddenly, beneath a tree beside the path we spotted a slightly more dangerous resident, a Red-Bellied Black Snake. This individual was an impressive size, easily four or five feet long and spread out to bask in the warm air, presumably having cooled down in the earlier rain.



Having studied the serpent from a safe distance, we continued on once more. Here a boardwalk took us over one of the larger pools and we had a different view of the species that called it home. A Little Pied Cormorant was perched up on a half sunken tree trunk looking particularly photogenic with barely a ripple disturbing its reflection.



Presently, the Cormorant took to the water and joined a Musk Duck in diving for prey items. The male Musk Duck has to be one of the most peculiar looking wildfowl I’ve come across with a large leathery disc-shaped flap beneath its bill. I’m not sure what purpose this serves other than perhaps as a favoured feature during the breeding season. The duck itself is large and quite bulky too, sitting low in the water and almost appearing to be unsuited to its preferred habitat as a result. We watched this one for some time as it dived repeatedly.



In addition to the birds, there was other life in the water too and although not crystal clear the visibility was certainly good enough to spot a reasonable number of Eastern Long-necked Turtles going about their business beneath the surface. As the afternoon drew on, there seemed to be more insects around the water and this drew in the Welcome Swallows that were flying overhead. One particular individual was bold enough to sit on the handrail only a few feet from us. I am particularly fond of hirundines and Swallows in particular so it was lovely to see these little birds so close.



Having crossed the boardwalk, the path wound round to another pool where we came across an Australian White Ibis feeding in the shallows.




A short way further on, we disturbed a small number of Eastern Grey Kangaroos as they browsed the foliage at the water’s edge. They didn’t seemed too perturbed by our presence as we kept quiet but there was always one of the group watching us to make sure we weren’t a threat.




Nearing the end of the main circular trail, we finally had a good close view of the noisiest residents that we had heard, the Laughing Kookaburra. These are among the largest members of the Kingfisher family although they don’t eat fish but tend to hunt small ground prey such as small mammals, lizards and insects. Their call is very loud and carries a fair distance too so although we had heard them regularly throughout the trip it was a treat to get a really good look at one.



Returning to our starting point, the rest of the family headed on home but my husband and I decided to stay on a little longer and explore the Black Flats Dam area. We had an enjoyable wander through the scrub and saw a few new and different birds including Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike and Dusky Woodswallow. Taking a seat near the dam itself we also had lovely views of another new bird for the trip, a Grey Shrike Thrush. It was a rather charming bird and was hopping around between several eucalyptus trees above us. I tried in vain to get the photo that I wanted but didn’t quite manage it –  all I can say is “sometimes stick happens!”.



We eventually decided that we should wend our way home and so climbed back into the car to drive back round the rest of the loop to the reserve exit. We were not short of a few more encounters on our way out though as now that the rain had stopped there were a few more opportunities to see things. Using the car as a moving hide, we were able to get nice views of a few species which we had seen only in passing before. The first was a Masked Lapwing which had a chick with it.



Next we came across a curious Kangaroo with a Joey in it’s pouch.



Lastly, we were able to watch a pair of wonderful pink Galahs foraging in the short grass near the visitor centre on the way out.



Our trip to Tidbinbilla had been a great success and a wonderful day. We made it back to Canberra just in time to head up Mount Ainslie for the sunset which was a particularly good one looking out over the Telstra Tower to the very hills we had just come from. It rounded off our family weekend away beautifully.