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Saturday, October 31, 2015

Girraween National Park, QLD: Part 5: Mount Norman.

Mount Norman from near the start of the walk.
We drove from our campground in Girraween National Park to the Mount Norman Day Use Area. We did find it quite a challenge to find so I suggest getting good directions before setting off. Once through Wallangarra and heading up Mount Norman Road it is straight forward. Go through the closed gate and travel a few kilometers along a dirt road to the Day Use Area. There is a small parking area, picnic tables and toilets but no water.
Mount Norman Day Use Area and the start of the walking track.
The walk to Mount Norman starts on the opposite side of the road. (Please note that it is also possible to walk to Mount Normon from the Girraween National Park Day Use Area and Castle Rock Camping Area by approaching the summit from the north, via Castle Rock. An 11 km return, Class 3 and 4 track.)

Mount Norman Track (from Mount Norman Day Use Area), 4 km return, Class 3 and 4.

This track climbs to the top of Mount Norman from the southern side.

Wildflowers on the track.
The track climbs steadily upwards but the difficulty gets harder just after the halfway mark. Strategically placed white dashes on the granite show the way.

Right about here the going gets a bit tougher.
Interesting growth in the damp areas of the granite.
Towards the top, I momentarily lost the track before I realised that it went through a gap in the rock wall.

Then the track works its way alongside the rockface until it joins up with the track coming up Mount Norman from the north.

The scale of the massive rocks at the top is hard to capture in a photo. 

It took a bit of hard work, but the final destination is worth it. The "Eye of the Needle" is a magnificent sight!

The Eye of the Needle.
We only saw a few birds on the walk. We took this photo of a White-throated Treecreeper, and although I've seen this bird lots of times, I didn't recognize it because I've only ever seen them from the back or side and never from the front before. 

White-throated Treecreeper
Eastern Spinebill and Willie Wagtail
It was getting pretty late in the afternoon by the time we drove back to Castle Rock Campground and we had to brake very hard to miss a kangaroo. Luckily we weren't driving fast or towing.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Girraween National Park, QLD: Part 4: Dr Robert's Waterhole.

The parking area for Dr Robert's Waterhole and the Underground Creek tracks is a short drive on an unsealed road from the Day Use Area in Girraween national Park. I have covered the Underground Creek Track here in the previous blog. 

The waterhole is named after Dr Robert's, a medical doctor in Stanthorpe in the 1930's. His love of lyrebirds and wombats and his vision for the area, ultimately led to the protection of this amazing environment as Girraween National Park.

Dr Robert's Waterhole, 1.2 km return, Class 2.

We took the short walk to Dr Robert's Waterhole on our return to the carpark from Underground Creek and we were so glad that we went to the waterhole on the way back because our timing was perfect to witness one of natures most amazing spectacles.

Dr Robert's Waterhole.
While standing on the banks of the waterhole we heard a rustling noise coming from the opposite bank. We got pretty excited when we saw two dark "tufts" sticking up out of the undergrowth because there is a long-tailed northern subspecies of Superb Lyrebird (edwardi) found in this area.

Oops, that definitely isn't a Lyrebird tail swaying in the undergrowth.
We were frantically peering into the long grass and taking photos in the hope that a photo might turn out to be clearer than the naked eye when two of the biggest Red-bellied Black snakes we have ever seen emerged in full mating embrace. We have always admired Red-bellied Blacks but we had no idea they could grow this big; this pair were as heavy in circumference and as long as carpet pythons. We spent the next few minutes in absolute awe, watching these amazing creatures thrashing around as they moved entwined together from the waters edge to a rock overhang a few meters away.

A pair of Red-bellied Black Snakes mating at Girraween National Park.
We were a little glad that for this encounter we were separated by a body of water because otherwise we would have tried to sneak up on the "lyrebirds" and it would have been quite a shock to encounter this pair up close.

On the drive back to our campground we pulled off the road to take a photo of The Pyramid. I lept out of the ute and while taking the photo I heard a "hissing" noise nearby. I laughed my head off because I thought the noise was coming from the ute and that it was a joke. Turns out the noise was coming from the undergrowth but I don't know what was making the sound.

The Pyramid, seen from a different angle.
I did discover a stowaway on my shoe though.

Back at Castle Rock Campground the friendly Red Wattlebird was waiting on our camp chair.

Later that day, we drove to Old Wallangarra Road to look for Turquoise parrots. We didn't see any Turquoise parrots but we did see a nice colourful pair of Eastern Rosellas. 

In Wallangarra we were questioned by a police officer as to what we were up to. What are you using those cameras for? Where have you been? What birds were you looking for? What birds did you see? Where are you going? We thought this was a good time to ask for directions to the Mount Norman Day Use Area but when the officer told us we were in the wrong place altogether and that we needed to return to Pyramids Road to find it we decided not to contradict her. She may have been wearing one of those nice blue uniforms rather than one of those new black uniforms but we were, after all, right on the border of Queensland and NSW and we thought it prudent to leave while the going was good.

Saturday, October 24, 2015

Girraween National Park, QLD: Part 3: Underground Creek.

It's a short drive, on an unsealed road, to Dr Robert's Car Park from the Day Use Area or the camping areas in Girraween National Park.

The Underground Creek Trail
The Underground Creek Trail is a Class 2 and 3 walking track;2.8 km return.

We set off walking the pleasant trail to Underground Creek. Just at the turnoff to Dr Robert's Waterhole we saw a very healthy looking Swamp Wallaby.

Swamp Wallaby, ears twitching.
We continued on to Underground Creek, encountering plenty of Rufous Whistlers and Brown Thornbills along the way. 

Rufous Whistler
Brown Thornbill
There are so many fascinating geological features at Underground Creek. Girraween has outdone itself again. Millions of years ago Balk Rock Creek ran alongside this rock face but over time the rock face collapsed and now Bald Rock Creek runs under the collapsed boulders and is known as Underground Creek.

Underground Creek
Interesting geological feature.
Creek cutting into the granite.
We heard a number of different frogs calling but were only able to sneak up on one hiding in some sludge. Sundews were also thriving in the damp areas.
Two photos of the same frog.
Sundew Drosera
Lizards were out and about on the granite rocks. Surprisingly, until now we had never seen a juvenile Eastern Water Dragon and had no idea that they could look so dark but I was able to confirm the identity of this one by sending the photo into the excellent Facebook site:
Australian Marsupials, Reptiles, Amphibians,Invertebrates and Plants.

Eastern Water Dragon Physignathus lesueurii, juvenile.
Eastern Water Skink, Eulamprus quoyii
The She-oaks and Native Iris were flowering. 
Native Iris (Leafy Purple Flag) Patersonia glabrata, and a flowering Casuarina (Sheoak)

A couple of curiosities were a case moth and some red resin seeping from a tree.

On the walk back we noticed quite a few birds nesting.

Nesting pair of Grey Fantails
Nesting Black-faced Cuckoo-shike.
Other birds we saw on the walks were: Australian King Parrots, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, White-naped Honeyeaters and New Holland Honeyeaters.
Australian King Parrot and New Holland Honeyeater.
Yellow-faced Honeyeaters and Whit-naped Honeyeaters migrate together to it was good to capture them in the same location.
Yellow-faced Honeyeater and White-naped Honeyeater.
We walked to Dr Robert's Waterhole on the way back to the car but because we had the most amazing wildlife encounter there we will cover that visit in the next blog.

Monday, October 19, 2015

Girraween National Park, QLD: Part 2. The Pyramid, Granite Arch and Junction Tracks.

We woke up early and it was a fine dry day so we decided to do The Pyramid Track. On our previous visit to Girraween National Park we were unable to climb The Pyramid because there was light rain and the granite was weeping water. Believe me it was very slippery and dangerous so we turned back and we've been keen to return ever since.

The Pyramid
The Pyramid, Granite Arch and Junction Tracks, 8.3 km.

The first part of the walk is rated as a Class 3 track and it climbs steadily upwards to The Pyramid past eucalypt forest and more amazing granite rocks. The challenge moves up a notch when you reach the exposed granite dome which is quite steep. At this point it becomes a Class 4 track; good fitness and a head for heights is required. There are white dashes painted on the rock to indicate the route. 

Balancing boulder on the Pyramid Track
Climbing The Pyramid in the early morning.
View while climbing the pyramid.
We came back down slowly and carefully before heading to Granite Arch. We encountered wildflowers and butterflies along the way.
Wildflowers and a Meadow Argus Butterfly
Granite Arch
From Granite Arch we walked along part of the Bald Rock Creek Circuit on our way to The Junction. This part of the walk is an easy Class 3. At the lower end of this track we were excited to see a family of three Chestnut-rumped Heathwren. In the birding world, seeing a bird for the first time is called a "lifer" and we were very happy to add this bird to our tick list. 

Soon we came to the sign for The Junction and were heading that way. The Junction Track is rated Class 3 and is a very pleasant walk. The scenery is very striking and like nothing we have encountered before.  It is hard to describe the raw beauty of Bald Rock Creek as it flows across a huge gully of stone which is stained with ribbons of colour where water has seeped across the rock to join the flow. It must be a truly awesome sight after heavy rain. 

The Junction Track
Walking to The Junction
It seems that around every bend there are interesting boulders strewn about.

This rock looks like it could bite you!
The Junction is where Bald Rock Creek and Ramsay Creek meet. We continued past the junction and found a nice place to sit on the granite next to the water for a picnic lunch. We watched Yellow-faced Honeyeaters on the opposite bank as we soaked up the tranquility for a while.

The Junction
Nice place for a picnic.
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Girraween is the perfect place to keep an eye out for various skinks, dragons and geckos.

Eastern Water Skink Eulamprus quoyii
Tree Skink Egernia striolata
Nobbi Dragon Amphibolurus nobbi
On the walk to The Junction and on the return we saw many Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters in the trees on the side of the track and good numbers of delightful Dusky Woodswallows dashing about.
Dusky Woodswallow
Yellow-tufted Honeyeater
After enjoying our picnic in such an idyllic setting we retraced our steps to the turn off and returned to Castle Rock camping area via Bald Rock camping area.