Trip Report Kanangra Walls and Jenolan Caves
The Jenolan-Kanangra weekend is always a fun trip to lead. The awesome scenery never fails to take my breath away, in an environment where the rocks are older, the altitude higher and the vegetation quite different to other parts of the Blue Mountains. As for the birds, this is the land of Flame and Scarlet Robins and that's enough to make it special for me!
For our recent trip on the weekend of 2-3 April we had an enthusiastic, all-female group of 8. Our first stop enroute was Evans Lookout for morning tea where the hoped-for Rockwarbler appeared right on cue as we got out of the bus. At the lookout we watched small groups of Spotted and Striated Pardalotes migrating north, landing momentarily in a tree on the cliff-edge before launching off over the valley.
Further on at the Coxs River, a dead tree became the main focal point with a number of species using its high exposed limbs, including Dusky Woodswallows which repeatedly took to the air in their most graceful way. Here we also watched a Wedge-tailed Eagle, Welcome Swallows, White-throated Treecreeper, Rufous Whistler, Red-browed Finches and several other species including a number of water birds, while a White-throated Gerygone and a Diamond Firetail tantalised us with their calls.
Next it was up onto the Great Dividing Range and Jenolan State Forest, where we found a Satin Bowerbird's bower decorated with many yellow daisies amongst a good collection of blue items. Autumn is of course, the season for spectacular fungi, and under the pine trees were bright red Fly Agaric toadstools. While this species is poisonous, we had a fascinating conversation with some people who were collecting bucketloads of another species, beautiful apricot-coloured mushrooms which they would then pickle for later eating (according to my fungi book, these I think would be Lactarius deliciosus). The things you learn about on a birding trip!
Speaking of delicious.... during lunch, my attention was drawn to a soft lilting call which I hear all too infrequently these days. We abandoned our sandwiches for a while and went off through the trees chasing the call until we all got marvellous views of a brilliant male Scarlet Robin and his mate.
Our afternoon walk along a part of the Six Foot Track took us through beautiful forest with a grassy understorey. In fact, it proved very difficult to begin this walk as a mixed flock of about a dozen species kept drawing us back to the carpark. Amongst the birds here were a female Flame Robin and a Golden Whistler. Further along we watched - and listened to - a female Grey Shrike-thrush singing softly a beautiful song, and a lyrebird which only I managed to catch a glimpse of.
Ladies Kanangra Walls
Best of all though, was a male Spotted Quail-thrush. After some perseverance and a great deal of stealth, creeping forward and breathless whispering, everyone saw this elusive bird moving quietly along the ground between the trees. Definitely a favourite! Later, three Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos flew over the ridge just before the track began plunging steeply down to the Caves.
While two of the group did a cave tour, the rest of us enjoyed coffee on the verandah as a prelude to a lavish dinner in the old-world charm of Caves House, what a treat!
Sunday dawned bright and clear in Oberon, with Goldfinches and Eastern Rosellas being the best of the pre-breakfast birds.
Kanangra provided the scenic highlight of the weekend and our walk along the Tops had us gazing at the majesty of Kanangra Deep, the sheer sandstone and conglomerate walls and the picturesque mountains fading into the distance, leading the eye ever upward to Mt Cloudmaker. Although a strong "breeze" made birding rather challenging we did get nice views of a White-eared Honeyeater, two Rockwarblers and three magnificent Wedge-tailed Eagles soaring at times overhead and then further down the gorge until they were mere specks.
The woodland around a small dam at our Boyd River lunch site turned up some pretty good birds as well, including Buff-rumped Thornbills, Red-browed Treecreeper, White-eared Honeyeater, Striated Pardalote and another female Flame Robin. Some of the group did eventually see a brightly coloured male Flame when we stopped for a photo in forest along the roadside. As the bus wound its way back along the Jenolan Caves road I suspect everyone was a bit sorry to be heading back to "civilisation" and the end of a great weekend.
Carol Probets guiding for Follow That Bird