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Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Shared Walks in Glen Rock State Forest, QLD.

Before arriving at Glen Rock State Forest we printed out a shared trail map. It turned out to be a good thing that we brought our own map because we couldn't find any information about walks at the campground or in the information hut. Even with the map we had a great deal of trouble finding the starting point for Christies Loop. We walked back along the entry road and eventually noticed a new shinny gate in a fence. We could just make out another new gate on the other side of the paddock which was flanked by a couple of green posts of a type commonly used in national parks. Throughout the walk we came upon several green posts whenever there was a choice in direction to be made but unfortunately they were all new and none of them had any arrows or other information on them. As we climbed we had phone reception so we ended up using Google Earth to guide us. We had to backtrack a couple of times but there wasn't much chance of getting completely lost as there were fantastic views of the valley below. We were more concerned about adding too many extra kilometers to the walk as the going was pretty tough. Later, a ranger told us that 4WD clubs had helped the rangers by installing the green posts. As we packed up to leave the campground, members from a couple of 4WD clubs were arriving for the weekend to continue helping with the establishment of the trails. 

Christies Loop, 5.2 km return. Shared walking, horse and mountain bike trail. Good fitness is required because the trail has a very steep ascent and a very steep descent. 

The starting point of Christies Loop. Only a few cow pats to negotiate!
The walk crosses the valley floor and climbs to the top of the ridge before descending again. The only answer to "Why did we do it?" is "Because it was there!".

The creek crossing was completely dry.
At the top of the ridge looking back at Glen Rock.
Our destination.
From here we walked on the most pleasant part of the trail to another peak only to discover, when we looked at Google Earth, that this wasn't part of Christies Loop and we had to back track.

The pleasant part of the trail that wasn't part of the trail after all.
Rufous Whistler, female.
We didn't see a great variety of birds on this walk but there were quite a few Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Rufous Whistlers and Fairy Wrens.

The descent required a bit of concentration as it is quite steep but before long we were back walking along the creek bed. We saw a few cows on the walk but they seemed quite shy. In our absence a herd of cows had moved into the paddock, even though we tried not to disturb them, they quickly left when we showed up.

Blackfellow Creek Trail, 16 km return. Shared walking, horse and mountain bike trail. 

Blackfellow Creek Trail
This trail heads along the valley floor towards Main Range National Park. The walk is easy and pleasant. We didn't see any other people but we could see wildlife footprints along the track. The trail went past Glen Rock and we were able to view it from a different angle.
Dingo and Eastern Grey Kangaroo footprints.
Glen Rock
We noticed that large numbers of Double-barred Finch were sheltering in lantana alongside the track. Thankfully some of them emerged enough for us to get photos.
Spot the Double-barred Finch.

There were also plenty of Silvereyes feeding alongside the track.

Soon we came to a waterhole and after that the creek was flowing and we saw a greater variety of birds.

The first waterhole that hadn't completely dried out.
White-necked Heron
White-faced Heron.
Rufous Whistler, male.
We arrived at a creek crossing and startled a magnificent adult Brown Goshawk. We spent the next 20 minutes playing hide and seek with the goshawk in the hope of getting a usable photo but goshawks are very intelligent and it had no intention of giving us a good view. 

Coming up to the creek crossing where we startled a brown Goshawk.
We found several pupal cases emerging from the ground but we didn't see any Rain Moths. We did see lots of Monarch butterflies.
Monarch Butterfly Danaus plexippus and Pupal Case of the Rain Moth Trictena atripalpis
We had spent so much time taking photos that we ran out of time to complete the walk and we reluctantly decided to return to the campground. We will definitely be back.

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

Casuarina Camping Area, Glen Rock State Forest, QLD.

Glen Rock, reflecting the setting sun.
The drive south from Gatton to Glen Rock has great views of the food producing farms along the valley floor. We passed an organic pecan farm and a paddock with three camels. Closer to the campground there are Brahman cattle farms where the cattle come in three colours; red, black or white.

Food crops growing in fertile alluvial soil.
Pecan trees.
Red, white and black Brahmans.
The road has been done up since it was extensively damaged by flooding and is in good condition. The concrete causeways, some with 3m markers, indicate that flooding should be taken seriously around here.

We set up in the well appointed campground and had the place to ourselves for a couple of days before people started arriving from the Mitsubishi 4WD Club for a working-bee to help the rangers. 

Casuarina Camping Area, Glen Rock State Forest.
There is a slab hut opposite the campground which is used as an information centre. We browsed through the hut but had to return with a torch to read the maps as it is surprising dark inside.

Slab Hut at Glen Rock State Forest.
Detail: slab hut at Glen Rock.
A resident goanna cruised around the campground. 

Lace Monitor (goanna)  Varanus varius
The most common birds in the campground were Noisy Miners but Grey-crowned Babblers were also present as well as Butcherbirds and Magpies. Every afternoon Rosella's flew overhead. There were Crimson Rosella's and Eastern Rosella's and large numbers of birds that at first glance appeared to be Pale-headed Rosella's but proved to be hybrids on closer inspection. Despite their numbers they proved challenging to get photos of.

Grey-crowned Babbler
We noticed strange alien-like creatures had emerged from holes in the ground. Upon further research I discovered that this is the empty pupal case of a Bardi Grub. The grub is actually the caterpillar of the large Rain Moth and it lives in the ground for many years feeding on the roots of trees. The adult emerges just before heavy rain, typically from April to June, leaving the empty case sticking out of the ground. 

8 cm pupal case of the Rain Moth Trictena atripalpis

Details for Casuarina Camping Area, Glen Rock State Forest, QLD.

Access: Narrow sealed roads in good condition for most of the way. Good dirt road for the last few kilometers. Caution: this is a floodplain.

Directions: Glen Rock State Forest is 42 km south of Gatton, on East Haldon Road via Tenthill and Junction View. The route is well sign posted.
Type of Camping: tent beside your car, caravans, camper trailer, motor home. Maximum stay of 30 days.

Sites: Not numbered. One large grassy area with two sites and another large grassy area divided into 4 large sites with small trees separating each site. Each site suitable for up to 12 people. Also a group camping area and a horse yard (a new yard was being constructed while we were there).
Facilities: drop toilets, cold showers, covered tables in each site, fire rings, non-potable water taps. BYO wood. Walking is permitted on roads and tracks. Shared walking, horse and mountain bike trails. No bins. We had no Telstra phone reception. 

Prohibitions: No domestic pets except horses. No generators. Do not collect firewood from the park.

Fees: $5.95 per person, children under 5 years are free. There is a Family Rate of $23.80 for 1 to 2 adults with children under the age of 18, with a maximum of 8 people in total. 

Bookings: Phone 13 74 68 or online at

Cautions: Floodplain: some causeways have 3m flood indicators. Narrow bridges, causeways and grids. The creek near the campground was completely dry while we were there. One of the campsites was heavily affected by ants.

Day Use Area: Large shelter with tables and wood BBQ's, individual tables and wood BBQ's, drop toilets. Bush Tucker Walk.

Wildlife List for this trip:
Eastern Grey Kangaroo. Wild dogs/Dingoes could be heard at night and we saw their footprints when we went on the Blackfellow Creek Walk. The ranger we spoke to said there are Dingoes in the area. Unidentified small and large bats.
Butterflies: Large numbers of Monarch and Lesser Wanderer. 
Birds: Pacific Black Duck, White-necked Heron, White-faced Heron, Masked Lapwing, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Brown Goshawk, Peaceful Dove, Bar-shouldered Dove, Crested Pigeon, Galah, Australian King Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Eastern Rosella, Eastern Rosella hybrids, Laughing Kookaburra, Rainbow Bee-eater, White-throated Treecreeper, Variegated Fairy-wren, Striped Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Yellow-throated Miner, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Striped Honeyeater, Eastern Whipbird, Grey-crowned Babbler, Jacky Winter, Grey Shrike-thrush, Rufous Whistler, Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Magpie-lark, Dusky Woodswallow, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Australian Raven, Welcome Swallow, Golden-headed Cisticola, Double-barred Finch, Silvereye. 

Monday, June 6, 2016

Tent Camping at Booloumba Creek Camping Area 3, Conondale National Park, QLD.

We decided to tent camp at Booloumba Creek Camping Area 3 because we couldn't resist camping on the creek bank. We were surprised to have the whole place to ourselves. No one else was camping in Camping Area 3 or Camping Area 4 while we were there. We don't think there was anyone camping at Area 1 either but we didn't go over to check. Our camping companions were Kookaburras, Brush Turkeys and the occasional Red-legged Pademelon. Night visitors to our campsite were Bandicoots and a large mouse of some type. Boobooks could be heard calling through the night.

Our campsite at Booloumba Camping Area 3
Red-legged Pademelon Thylogale stigmatica
We set our tent up on the tent pad provided and took our chairs to the waters edge. It was so peaceful sitting next to the creek and watching the birds come down to bathe in the afternoons.

Azure Kingfisher
Lewin's Honeyeater having a bath.
Booloumba Creek has crystal clear water; perfect for watching native catfish and tadpoles swimming along.

Eel-tailed catfish Tandanus tandanus 
We could hear a few frogs in the evenings but unfortunately we only found a Cane Toad.

Cane Toad Rhinella marina
We had better luck when we spotted a mature-sized Small-eyed Snake. These small highly venomous snakes are active at night. 

Small-eyed Snake Cryptophis nigrescens
The weather has been dry for a very long time and Booloumba Creek is drying up in patches. It is a shame to see the creek and it's wildlife under stress and so badly in need of a good rainfall. As it turned out we had to pack up and leave because a Severe Weather Warning was issued. It started raining during our last night and we had to do a wet pack up which reminded us of one of the reasons we have bought a van. Hopefully there was enough rain falling in the catchment to give Booloumba Creek some relief.

Artist Cascades Walk: Class 4, 10.6 km from the Day Use Area (less from Camping Area 3 and 4 and more from Camping Area 1). The Strangler Cairn Walk, Class 3 and the Gold Mine Walk, Class 3 are both on the way to the Artist Cascades.

The track from our campground led us over a dry section of Booloumba Creek and into the dark rainforest. We spotted a python crossing the track in front of us.

Carpet Python Morelia spilota
We have done all these walks before but we decided to take the short off-shoot to the Strangler Cairn to see how the Strangler Fig was growing since the last time we saw it. We didn't notice any progress, however, there did appear to be attempts to maintain moisture around the young tree so perhaps it had been suffering from the very dry conditions. Certainly the plants at the base of the cairn weren't looking too happy.

Strangler Cairn
We didn't take the side loop to the Gold Mine this time.

There were quite a few Logrunners scratching about in the leaf litter and Yellow-throated Scrubwrens on the path. Wompoo Fruit Doves were eating fruit in the tree canopy. Both Pale-yellow and Eastern Yellow Robins were about. We came across a Noisy Pitta but it bolted before we could get a photo.

Pale-yellow Robin.
Due to the very dry conditions and the low water level in Booloumba Creek we were concerned that the Artists Cascades would be reduced to a trickle so we were pleased to hear the cascades as we approached. We found a large rock to sit on and enjoyed a picnic before returning to our camp site. We didn't see a single person on the trail.

Artists Cascades
Our trip may have been cut short but we will be back to beautiful Booloumba. Full details about the campgrounds in Conondale National Park can be found here in a previous blog.

Wildlife List for this trip:
Red-legged Pademelon, Northern Brown Bandicoot, Carpet Snake, Small-eyed Snake, Cane Toad, Eel-tailed Catfish.
Birds: Australian Brush Turkey, White-faced Heron, Wompoo Fruit Dove, Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Australian King Parrot, Laughing Kookaburra, Rainbow Bee-eater, Azure Kingfisher, Noisy Pitta, White-browed Scrubwren, Yellow-throated Scrubwren, Brown Thornbill, Bell Miner, Lewin's Honeyeater, Logrunner, Eastern Whipbird, Eastern Yellow Robin, Pale-yellow Robin, Little Shrike-thrush, Grey Shrike-thrush, Golden Whistler, Grey Fantail, Rufous Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Magpie-lark, Satin Bowerbird, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Currawong, Torresian Crow, Red-browed Finch, Bassian Thrush.

Saturday, June 4, 2016

Spicers Gap Camping Area, Main Range National Park, QLD.

Spicers Gap Camping Area
We packed the tent in the ute and enjoyed a tranquil stay at Spicers Gap Campground. During the early evening the sounds of heavy trucks making their way up and down Cunninghams Gap drift up the range, yet this the campground has a remote feel and during the week is quite often empty. Another thing that seems incongruous is that, despite being in a national park, the campground is opposite a small mango farm. No doubt there is an interesting back story as to how this came about.
Mango farm (L), Spicers Gap Camping Area (R).
Day Use Area
The Day Use Area adjoins the campground and shares the only amenities block. There are three picnic tables with fireplaces which can also be used by day trippers or campers.
Picnic facilities.
Pioneer Graves Track: 260 m, Class 2.
There is an historical graveyard only a short walk from the Day Use Area. There are no headstones, only a cairn in memory of the dead.
Spicers Gap memorial cairn.
Mount Mathieson Trail, 8.1 km.
View on the way up.
In the early morning, we crossed Spicers Gap Road to the start of the trail head. The first section is dominated by the constant calls of Bell Miners. Then we entered lush, cool rainforest. We saw Green Catbirds calling out in the open. The track climbs steadily until it reaches an area with excellent views over the Cunningham Highway. We had a good vantage point right above the emergency escape ramp for vehicles that lose their breaks. Thankfully, there were no emergencies while we watched on.

Views of the Cunningham Highway from Mount Mathieson.
Magnificent views on the Mount Mathieson Trail
We continued on for a short distance and came to a sign stating that the Mount Mathieson Trail is “ungraded”. Having read on the official national parks internet site that the Mount Mathieson Trail is a Class 4 trail we weren’t too worried and continued on. Before long the track deteriorated and at one point we spent some time carefully deciding just where the track continued forward. We didn’t want to get lost and we certainly didn’t want to accidentally fall off a cliff and end up using the helipad on Cunninghams Gap! About this time, we checked that, yes, we did have our Personal Locator Beacon. The next challenge was a mercifully short but very steep section. We began to regret carrying so much camera gear and we started to hope that the trail wasn’t going to get any worse because we didn’t fancy trying to return back down the way we had just come! 
Some of the steeper section of the "trail".
We proceeded along a ridge line with more magnificent views and before long the trail became an easy descent through rainforest. 

We crossed open balds where we saw Swamp Wallabies bounding away from us and open grasslands with large tracts of non-native Hairy Balls milkweed. 
Milkweed Gomphocarpus physcocarpus is an important plant for Monarch Danaus plexippus caterpillars.
1.7 km after Mount Matheison and 1.1 km before the Mount Mathieson car park, is the remains of an old timber jinker.

Front half of an old timber jinker.
About 100 m before we reached the Mount Mathieson car park we startled two wild pigs. One, a large sow, stopped and turned back towards us and it looked like she was considering charging back at us. This had me worried that perhaps we had inadvertently placed ourselves between a mother and her piglets. After a tense moment, while we held our breath and looked around for the nearest climbable tree, she turned around and hurtled away from us.
The Mount Mathieson car park is at the top end of the 4WD road that starts at Cunninghams Gap. Between this car park and the car park at Governors Chair is a pleasant, 1.6 km, Heritage Trail, which forms part of the Mount Mathieson Trail. The trail has informative signs along it explaining the history of the area.
Entering the Heritage Trail from the Mount Mathieson car park.
From the Governors Chair car park we walked 150 m to the Governors Chair Lookout. We sat on the “chair” and enjoyed a snack with magnificent views over Moogerah Peaks National Park, despite it being an overcast day. Caution: there is a sheer drop at the lookout and no fences. 

Governors Chair Lookout.
We walked the final 2 km of the trail by descending to the campground along Spicers Gap Road. We did a quick detour of 120 m (return) to Moss’s Well on the way. The well had seen better days but a Grey Fantail seemed to be guarding over it.
Moss's Well.
We didn’t see a single person on the walk. The only people we saw all day were a couple that drove up to Governors Chair Lookout Car Park while we were there.
If you are not an experienced hiker, I would recommend doing the Mount Mathieson Trail in two sections. One section, which requires some fitness, would be to start walking the trail opposite the Day Use Area and climb until you reach an area with interesting views and return the way you came. The second section would be to drive to the parking area at Governors Chair and do the Heritage Trail. At the end of the Heritage Trail either return to the Governors Chair parking area or walk along the Mount Mathieson Trail for any distance that feels comfortable before returning the way you came.
The following day we packed up and did a short section of the Mathieson Trail before leaving. It wasn’t until we downloaded our photos that we discovered that during the whole camping trip, including our walk of the Mount Mathieson Trail, the lens stabilization switch on our zoom camera lens had accidentally been switched off. Unfortunately, all of our bird photos were unusable as they were decidedly on the blurry side.
Details for Spicers Gap Camping Area, Main Range National Park:
Spicers Gap Road
Access: Spicers Gap Campground is about 105 km west of Brisbane, off the Cunningham Highway. Continue past Aratula for 5 km then turn left into Lake Moogerah Road. After about 6 km turn into Spicers Gap Road which is a 2WD unsealed road and continue for 3.3 km to the campground and Day Use Area. The national park section of Spicers Gap road is very narrow and not suitable for caravans, buses and large motorhomes. It is a further 2 km to Governors Chair carpark. The road to Governors Chair car park is listed as 2WD, however, it is quite steep. The road stops at the car park and it is not possible to drive through the range to the high-clearance, dry weather only, 4WD road on the other side of Spicers Gap which stops at the Mount Mathieson car park. It is a pleasant ….km walk along the Heritage Trail between the two car parks.
Type of Camping: tent camping on open grassy areas separated from your vehicle by bollards.
Number of Sites: undefined sites, maximum of 50 people.
Facilities: There is one male and one female composting toilet shared between the campground and the Day Use Area. There is one tap of non-potable water near the amenities block. There are no fire rings, however, elevated BBQ’s and braziers are allowed. There are three picnic tables with wood BBQ’s positioned between the camping and picnic areas. We had good Telstra mobile phone reception. Walks. No bins. No showers.
Prohibitions: No generators, no fires on the ground, no wood collection from the park or the side of the road, no amplified music, no domestic pets and no firearms.
Fees: $5.95 per person, children under 5 years are free. There is a Family Rate of $23.80 for 1 to 2 adults with children under the age of 18, with a maximum of 8 people in total. 
Bookings: Phone 13 74 68 or online at Limited phone reception. We had Telstra mobile phone reception. 

Bird List for this trip:
Wompoo Fruit Dove, Wonga Pigeon, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Australian King Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Laughing Kookaburra, White-throated Treecreeper, Variegated Fairy-wren, Yellow-throated Scrubwren, Bell Miner, Noisy Miner, Lewin's Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Eastern Whipbird, Eastern Yellow Robin, Little Shrike-thrush, Grey Shrike-thrush, Golden Whistler, Rufous Whistler, Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Green Catbird, Satin Bowerbird, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Currawong, Torresian Crow, Red-browed Finch.