Friday, November 28, 2008

Day one - Sydney to the Watagans

Mixophyes iteratus, Giant Barred Frog. Check out the rest of the gallery here

I'm writing this in the comfort of a picnic shelter at Boarding House Dam - it's raining steadily so I thought I'd enjoy a hot mug of tea and do a report on my exciting first day.

I took the scenic route up to the watagans (which are west of Newcastle), entering Wyong state forest on the central coast and following the road up through Jilliby state conservation area, Watagan state forest then into Watagan national park.

Almost immediately after entering the forest I had my first encounter with something special - when I noticed big flakes of eucalypt bark falling onto the road I was alerted to a big lace monitor (Varanus varius) climbing up the trunk.

A little further on I saw an echidna crossing the road and stopped to watch as it worked along the road cutting, levering off pieces of earth with its bill and probing with its tongue. Whenever it found ants and had a feed, it would close its eyes - no doubt to protect them from the attacking ants - but it looked like an expression of bliss. Interestingly, there were two or three leeches on a specific spot on its back. I saw it try to scratch them off at one stage but it seemed like they were in exactly the right spot so that it couldn't reach them.

Other sightings of interest as I drove included a brush turkey, satin bowerbirds (males and females), another goanna and another echidna.

I was planning to camp near Gap creek, but at the turnoff was a sign saying the road was closed! I'd like to get down there tonight to check it out but I might have to do a bit of walking! I ended up returning to boarding house dam as it was a place I wanted to do some frogging at too. As I cooked while it grew dark, I started hearing tentative noises from the leaf litter near the creek, just metres from where I sat. I was in luck! There were sprinkles of rain though the threatening thunderstorm didn't actually hit here.

The frogging turned out to be very successful. I saw the species I was most hoping for - the Giant Barred Frog (Mixophyes iteratus) - as well as a nice selection of other things too. The Mixophyes were here in good numbers - I saw about a dozen - very visible despite their good camoflague because of the strong eyeshine their big eyes give off. The other frogs I saw were the Blue Mountains Treefrog (Litoria citropa), the Leaf Green Treefrog (Litoria phyllochroa), and another bonus: the Sandpaper Frog, Lechriodus fletcheri (I nearly didn't look at it, thinking it was just another mixo).

The only other sighting was a leaf-tailed gecko, Phyllurus platurus.

It rained for much of the night and all morning, it looks really set in at the moment.

A big group of Duke of Ed kids just emerged - completely sodden - from the forest! Two of the kids came over to me... then got confused and walked back to their friends. I think they had mistaken me for their support crew as after a few minutes a hilux and minibus pulled up and took them away!



Welcome to my new blog. I'm going to guess that most of you know me already though there's a chance that others will stumble upon this blog from my photoblog or random googling. So hello one and all, I'm David.

Yesterday I began my trip. I could talk about what I aim to do and see whilst on my travels, but really this thing is a sort of big experiment. But, in broad terms, I'm trying to explore and experience Australia.

At this stage my plan is to head north from Sydney, taking in many of the national parks along eastern Australia, and end up in the far north. I anticipate that this stage will take me about 2-4 months, and after that I'll consider keeping on going. I'm hoping to see lots of animals, different environments, meet other travellers, have adventures and generally enjoy the outdoor life.

I'm driving my new car, a 1991 Toyotoa 4runner (2.8l turbo diesel). It's filled with a big load of camping, photographic and electronic gear and I'm trusting it'll get me where ever I want to go.

Time to start the report on day one!