Last weekend we drove to the Blue Mountains, west of Sydney, part of the Great Dividing Range, and home of some of Australia’s most stunning mountain and valley scenery, for my wife’s favorite birthday celebration tradition. The blue haze over the mountains is due to the eucalyptus oil vapor from the millions of eucalypt trees of various species. This oil also makes the forests very vulnerable and volatile to bush fire, which can rapidly devastate these pristine forests. One of the highlights is the view at Echo Point over the massive Jamison Valley of the famous rock formation called the Three Sisters after an aboriginal legend. My book is sold at the Tourist Information Centre here.
Standing on the various lookouts and waterfall vistas in the mountains, bird sounds can be heard, and flocks of birds fly over, including the Yellow-tail Black Cockatoo, which is currently feeding on the native Casuarina and introduced pine cones and Banksia cones. It is always a race to the camera when we hear the classic call of this bird loudly over the town.
While we were exploring the Valley of the Waters, where numerous waterfalls plummet into the valley from all directions, we saw canyoners coming down through Empress Falls, one of the most beautiful waterfalls here. We actually saw this same group a short time earlier up on top plunging and disappearing into the Empress Canyon which flows into the Empress Falls. We had climbed down to the bottom of the falls where they emerged.
Before our walk we had birthday cake and coffee under the trees near the Conservation Hut, where my step daughter sighted this White-browed Scrubwren, of which only one photo was taken as she sighted a female Superb Lyrebird almost immediately after.
The Lyrebird appeared relatively tame and use to visitors to the Hut, and appeared to be a young bird of only a couple of years old. The female does not have the fancy tail plumage seen in the male, and the rufous neck coloring remains a feature of the bird, whereas the males loose this after their fourth year. After some pursuit it easily mounted the fence and disappeared down the cliff side.
AS we walked down to the Valley of the Waters we came across this Eastern Crimson Rosella feeding on forest fruit, a common sight in the mountains.
This New Holland Honeyeater was also seen along the track.
One bird which is always a feature here is the Eastern Spinebill, which I have showcased from up here on many occasions. This bird with its long curved beak is able to reach down into tubular flowers such as the native Mountain Devil to extract yummy nectar. The two flowers which feed this bird during the winter months are the Mountain Devil and the Banksia species.
Because of the drought and extraordinary extended heat of autumn, breaking all records, bird numbers were low and new young bird numbers reduced. Though after our walk, as we had lunch at the Conservation Hut, we saw this beautiful male Grey Shrike-thrush, quite tame, sitting on a railing watching the outdoor tables. This bird has a beautiful song, and is known to be curious of humans coming quite close to watch them, having a classic head tilt on observation. mature because of dark beak and male because of white lores.
One of the features we enjoyed in various parts of the mountains was the beautiful warble of the Eastern Magpie. These birds will sit for hours on a branch communicating to other magpies nearby with their melodious warble. In scientific studies it has been noted that the Australian Magpie has one of the most complex and amazing calls of any bird being able to move between two octaves in a less than a second. Watch his throat move as he warbles.
Saturday night we had a lovely meal and stayed at the Three Sisters Motel. Early in the morning as the sun rose we all headed down to Echo Point to see the view.
As we walked back around the cliff face we saw many Grey Fantails flashing about catching insects on the fly, but found them difficult to photograph due to poor light and positioning.
I could show you the sunrise on the sandstone walls, but it is better if you come and see it for yourself, and let me show you around. Walking back to the motel we saw these two juvenile King Parrots feeding quietly by the footpath. Immature parrots, like many birds resemble the female till they reach maturity.
This Eastern Crimson Rosella was also feeding in the same tree with them.
I forgot to mention this Grey Butcherbird was the first beautiful bird song we heard as we awoke. This bird is my morning joy where I live also, always singing to me each morning, and enjoying our bird bath. Though our dear dog has passed, we leave her water bowl for this bird as he likes to use it if the bird bath gets emptied by the larger Magpies. This bird gets its name from hanging its victims in the forks of trees or on branch spikes till it is ready to eat them, like a butcher in a meat shop. There song is beautiful, and the song of their more violent Pied cousins even more beautiful, though they are found more further north from the mid-north coast upward.
In our search for the male Lyrebird at our usual spot, we were disappointed, possibly too many tourists were present. We did see this Yellow-faced Honeyeater before we left. Flocks of this bird were continually flying through the valley. This is a commonly seen winter and summer bird.
The last bird I caught before leaving the valley, and checking out my book in the Blackheath National Parks Visitor Centre, was this White-throated Treecreeper, creeping up this eucalypt in bright sunlight. This is unusual, as they prefer to climb the shaded side of the tree usually, but gave me an over exposed view of this female (note the orange spot on her face). This bird climbs the tree making its classic repatative cheep call as it checks beneath bark and in crevices of trunk and branches for insects.
A most enjoyable weekend had by all, so we made our way home back down the mountain to coast and Sydney. Our leg muscles ached for a few days after the strenuous mountain climbing, but we felt so much stronger and better for the weekend in the mountain air. Like the Treecreeper creeping ever upward, we seek the highest point of our lives to give them meaning and a sense of achievement. For many we can not highlight any particular time when this occurred, if it ever did. For some it occurs when they step courageously out of their comfort zone and take the risk of caring and loving and showing compassion beyond the norm of selfish, mundane human existence. To love with unconditional love, expecting nothing in return, but only to know the joy of having been the hands and feet of Jesus, by helping another come to a better place, this is the most blessed attainment in life. Reaching into the lives of people forgotten, broken and disgraced by our society and extending the hand and the heart of their Father God to them. This is the greatest delight and joy one can know.
“Let all that I am praise the Lord;
with my whole heart, I will praise his holy name.
Let all that I am praise the Lord;
may I never forget the good things he does for me.
He forgives all my sins
and heals all my diseases.
He redeems me from death
and crowns me with love and tender mercies.
He fills my life with good things.
My youth is renewed like the eagle’s!.” – Psalm 103:1-5 (NEV)
Have a wonderful week!
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