Out back birding

I have just taken up a new job in St George, out back Queensland.

Now I am over 500kms from the coast and 1000kms form the Bellingen Shire in northern NSW.

What a contrast! It is hot, dry flat and desolate. The opposite the landscape the lush sub-tropical rain forest I have become used to.

Australian bustard on the road to Bowra Station

Australian bustard on the road to Bowra Station

I went to Cunnamulla last week end, a further 300kms west of St George to explore Bowra  Station.

Bowra Station is a former cattle station now managed by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy (AWC) and is home to over 200 bird species.

It is a birding and endangered wildlife hotspot on the edge of the desert and an amazing place.

The Australian budgerigar is an arid dwelling bird whose breeding is affected by the availability of water

The Australian budgerigar is an arid dwelling bird whose breeding is affected by the availability of watI went to Bowra to find budgies among other birds and was very happy to see them in their natural habitat rather than in cages.

While I was there by complete coincidence I ran into a group of bird banders collecting data on arid dwelling birds for the AWC.

Dr Jon Coleman was one of them, by day he is an IT worker in Brisbane on the weekend he applies his PHD in ecology to studying birds.

Red-winged parrot

Red-winged parrot

Already I am planning my next trip, most parts of South-West Queensland is in drought and they are doing it hard but the birding is amazing.

 

More budgies

More budgies

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Red backed fairy-wren

 

Occurring much less frequently than its cousin the superb fairy wren the red backed fairy-wren is the smallest of all Australia’s the fairy wrens, measuring a mere 11.5cm and weighing between 5 and 10 grams.

It is found north of Port Stephens in NSW all the way through Queensland the Northern Territory and as far south as Cape Keraudren in northern West Australia.

They enjoy a wide variety of habitats but i have mostly observed them close to the coast in areas of bush with low shrubs.They are rarely still for long and are one of my favorite Australian birds!

The Syndicate Tramway

I first heard of track that followed the route of an old Hoop Pine tramway from an old farmer while photographing the beautiful landscape of Gleniffer, west of Bellingen. It remained one of those things that the mind recollects but the body does nothing about for many months. Recently I made time to get out into the bush and take on the challenge of the Syndicate Track. A full days walk, the track begins at the end of Slingby’s Track 15kms north of Dorrigo and ends in Gleniffer, 10 west of Bellingen in the Bellinger Valley. The track traverses the country of the Dorrigo Plateau and the very steep descent into the Bellinger Valley, all the while taking in a wide range of environments, that are all part of the Dorrigo National Park and also part of the World Heritage listed Gondwana  Rainforests.

forest road

Slingy’s Trail – an old bullock logging trail.

Getting to the start of Slingby’s trail requires one to head north from Dorrigo along Coramba Road for 15km, the track begins at the end of this road. For the most part Slingby’s Trail follows an old logging road so is quite broad and traverses gently undulating ground taking in a number of crystal clear streams and the Killungoondie Plain. This natural treeless plain is thought to be maintained by the Gumbayngirr people who took advantage of sparse vegetation and hunted Red-necked Pademelons (small wallabys.) Local folk lore records Lane’s Lookout as the place that half the town of Dorrigo was conceived, during the time of the Cedar and Hoop Pine logging hey day in the late 1800s and early 1900s.

australian bush

The Killungoondie Plain on the Dorrigo Plateau

 

As Slingy’s Trail approachs the beginning of the Syndicate Tramway the walker is presented with a choice to continue to Lanes Lookout for a magical view all the way to the Pacific ocean or to veer across Wild Cattle Creek heading toward the top of the tram way. I took the second option and climbed back up to the lookout for lunch. The forest changes quite dramatically as the edge of the plateau is reached, sparse eucalypt forest gives way to thicker sub-tropical forest with a few large Hoop Pines that must have been not wanted by the loggers. At the top of the Syndicate Track lies ‘Old Bull’, a seven foot bull wheel mounted horizontally used to winch the empty carts up the tram-way from Gleniffer. The tram-way was built in 1912 and was constructed to transport Hoop Pine from the Dorrigo Plateau down to Gleniffer and then to the Bellingen wharf.

creek

Wild Cattle Creek

From ‘Old Bull’ the track actually follows the line of the old tram way, in some parts the sleepers on which the track was laid is still visible but mostly all evidence of the Hoop Pine Logging is gone. The track descend very steeply toward Gleniffer following a natural ridge, little imagination is needed to understand what kind of tough gig the loggers had constructing the tram-line. Halfway down the mountain is the site of the winching station used to power the cars up while counter balancing the loaded cars coming down. A 64 horsepower engine and a six-ton boiler were both pulled up the mountain by bullock teams; it took two teams over six weeks. (During my descent I came across a pair of trekkers in training for a Himalaya expedition – this perhaps illustrates how steep the Syndicate Track is.) The engine driver camped at the winching station so he could fire the boilers every morning, smoke from the boilers could be seen way down the Bellinger Valley.

'Old Bull' marks the edge of the Dorrigo Plateau and the start of the old Syndicate Tramway.

‘Old Bull’ marks the edge of the Dorrigo Plateau and the start of the old Syndicate Tramway.

The Syndicate Trail suddenly exits the lush forest at the bottom of the mountain onto private land. On my way down i encountered a pair of old cow farmers, complete with navy blue overalls and a beat up old tractor. They were looking for a lost cow in the National Park and had a good story to tell about the history of the tram line and subsequent bulldozer style logging of the Hoop Pine forest. An fantastic experience, the walk from the beginning of Slingby’s Track to Ryan’s Road in Gleniffer took about eight hours with half an hour for lunch and regular stops to take photos. The track in parts is overgrown and in a state of disrepair but all the same is still quite clear. I highly recommended this walk for anyone interested in the history of the Bellinger Valley or indeed anyone who loves the bush of northern New South Wales – i had a great day!

farming country

Farming land at the end of the track, Gleniffer. The dead trees have been the victims of lightning strikes!

Note: For most of the way there was no phone reception and this track is one of the lesser-traveled paths in the area. It is probable that you will encounter no one else during the descent. So I advise, if going alone as I did to let someone know when you expect to return.

Cathedral Rock

Acting on reports of snow on the ground near Ebor, a trip to the New England high country ensued. Leaving at 6am from the NSW north coast town of Urunga, the plan was to get to Ebor before the snow melted. A fuel stop at the Ebor Roadhouse confirmed that snow did settle on the ground the day before – while we were there taking shelter from the bitter cold the woman behind the counter took a break from her breakfast of fried chips to answer the phone. Apparently other people were inquiring about whether there was snow on the ground. Responding to the caller the servo attendant cast her eyes out the door of the shop and answered “I dunno, doesn’t look like it from here.” Having been reluctantly directed from Ebor to the Cathedral Rock National Park we left excited about seeing snow in the beautiful surrounds of the National Park. . . .

Red Necked Walaby

Red Necked Wallaby

 

No snow on the way in but there was quite a few Red Necked Wallabies, this one with a joey. It soon became apparent we were not going to find any snow but the absolute majesty of this place more than made up for it. The track to the summit leads from a BBQ area and the car park and offers for walkers a loop around the amazing rock formations that give the National Park its name.

 

On the track to the summit

On the track to the summit

This place early in the morning surrounded by fog is truly beautiful, the track is good but quite a difficult walk as the summit is neared, the final climb to the top requires hoping over large boulders and even pulling ones self up a big rock with a chain anchored to the top.

 

Fast moving fog blown by a feirce southerly wind

Fast moving fog blown by a fierce southerly wind

 

The day i climbed the rock there was a howling wind from the south west that was bitterly cold and fanned fog banks across the top of the rock at amazing speed.

veiw from the top

View from the top

 

 

Crimson Rosella

Crimson Rosella

News Photo Folio

festival

Bellingen Jazz Festival:  Moira Franklin advises punters at the Bellingen Memorial Hall.

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Bellingen Jazz Festival 2014: Published August 20 Coffs Coast Advocate

 

Bridge building

Newry Island Bridge works. Published August 26 2014, Coffs Coast Advocate.

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Newry Island Bridge works.

Valla Beach Volkswagan Spectular

Valla Beach Volkswagen Spectacular 2014

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Valla Beach Volkswagen Spectacular: Published August 6 2014, Coffs Coast Advocate

Forest Birds of Northen NSW, Australia

If you told me six months ago i would be today creeping through the coastal forests of NSW hunting birds i would have rolled my eyes and laughed at you. I have always been interested in photography and image making but I  now  have bought a decent DSLR, a super telephoto lens and find myself  instead of getting up early to catch waves, getting up early to catch Australian native birds in the view finder of a camera! What started as the desire to create a nice photo is quickly developing into an obsession. Every time i get a good shot of a new bird, i race home to refer to my field guide, i then slip the SD card into the computer and see what i really have – the sense of anticipation is almost like watching an image emerge before your eyes in the days of film and paper.

Some days i walk the coastal rain forest or mangroved rivers and get no keepers but when i see a bird i have not photographed or when a bird graces my screen that i have been chasing for a while the sense of excitement is amazing. I have been chasing a shot of an Eastern Whip Bird since the start on this journey but alas the beautiful, extremely elusive and enigmatic creature eludes me. Every day i set out imagining its crested head and deep olive green wings in my frame, every day i feel i get closer to that perfect shot, i know it will come but it hasn’t come yet.

colorful bird

Male Bee-eater, Third Headland Urunga, NSW. ©2014

pretty bird

Eastern Spinebill, Bellingen NSW. ©2014

spotted bird

Spotted Pardalote, Sawtell NSW. ©2014

green bird

Green Cat-bird, Sawtell NSW. ©2014

brown bird

Brown Honey-eater, Southwest Rocks, NSW. ©2014

nice bird

Striated Pardalote, Sawtell NSW. ©2014

baby bird

Juvenile Pied Butcher Bird, Sawtell NSW ©2014

 

New England National Park

I have just got back from a camping trip to the New England National Park about half an hours drive south west of Ebor, north New South Wales. The country surrounding the New England HWY does not prepare one for the absolute majesty of this place. One moment on the drive in, there is cow pasture left and right, the next the road is surrounded by lush Antarctic Beech forest, forming a dense canopy under which the road travels . Our first stop was Point Lookout,   this vantage point from the top of the escarpment provides an insight into the scale and altitude of the National Park, on a clear day one can see the coast in the distance to the east. Back down the road is a car park that provided access

Track around Point Lookout

Track around Point Lookout

Track to Weeping Rock

Track to Weeping Rock

Antarctic Beech forest

Antarctic Beech forest

to a network of walking tracks. The track marked Weeping Rock takes the walker into the Beech Forrest at the foot of a sheer cliff. The bush is lush, green, cool and dark. Oh, and truly amazing. The track follows the contour of the slope, leading through huge boulder caves and down into the valley.

The start of Lyrebird’s and Cascades’s track are gained through the Thungutti campground. Cascades track  descends into the valley and follows Five Day Creek before beginning a steep climb back out of the valley. This place is an absolute wonderland and a bush walkers paradise.

Camping is available at Thungutti and Styx River camp grounds at $5 a night, there are toilets BBQ’s and even a cold shower. Thungutti is the go, with more isolated camp spots available further into the bush for those who want to get away from the car park and other campers.IMG_9843IMG_9815IMG_9850

 

Digital Photography – Rationale

This series of collages has not been created with the idea of triggering a state of epiphany for the viewer. The main reason for choosing to create these images is because I already had accumulated quite a portfolio of good photos. I could have submitted a series of land and river scapes captured in and around the Bellingen Shire of NSW but I wanted to challenge myself to come up with something a little different. I think these 10 images have achieved the personal brief I created for myself and the one intended for the satisfaction of my unit assessor.

The ideological evolution started with making some kind of comment on how man has affected his environment and how an environment has the ability to shape a community or a civilisation. From here the idea took a leap to include the theory of binary opposites and dualism – a subject that could be expressed visually with dramatic effect. From there the idea floundered a little and all I could come up with was themes or styles of expression I did not want to pursue.

“Last week I mentioned I was developing what I wanted to say – as if I felt something needed to be said, some kind of bold, insightful or disturbing commentary on life, pain, the world perhaps. I don’t want to present something pretentious or something weird for the sake of being weird, I don’t want to take an anti-art, Dada style stance and I don’t want to draw upon my experience as a social outcast living a hedonistic, masochistic and horrible life until recently. I feel if I do create something expressive the nature of my being or me being the product of my experience will ensure the message being received is one not contrived and designed for mass appeal – it will be genuine.” (week 7)

Once again drawing inspiration from my environment and of course being influenced by the ever-popular sustainability/organic/ethics movement, the theme finally settled upon was one that aims to provoke thought about what we put in our mouths. Yes, we in our human need for sustenance have been killing and eating animals for a long time and I am not advocating for a vegetarian planet. These images are simply designed to draw attention to the majesty present in all living things and perhaps even encourage the making of a connection between an animals quality of life and the quality of the product made from that animal.

Twinky, simply far North Coast post hippie rhetoric? Perhaps, or is there real merit in critical analysis of how an animal lived before it died? Recently in the media we have heard about the link between e coli present in a cows gut and what the cow has been eating. Corn, rather than feeding the hungry multitudes or even to make some of the 10,000 different products in American supermarkets, (Pollen, 2006) is being fed to cows. Corn, used as a grass substitute, to cut the growing time of a cow by as much as a quarter (Robbins, 2001) is also responsible for lowering the Ph level in the gut and consequently increasing the presence of the deadly e coli bacteria. Not only does this practice potentially poison us it is simply an inefficient way of producing food. So if we, as food producers cared more about the diet of beef cows and less about the speed at which a product can be grown we could reduce the risk of being poisoned.

To me, the condition in which many animals exist before their slaughter is nothing short of appalling. Pollen considers modern factory farming techniques as an erosion of morality, which can be blamed on economic impulse – the casuality of course being mercy toward the animals. I am not an animal liberationist and unlike the teenagers in Fast Food Nation (2002) I don’t believe I can save the world by breaking into a feedlot and trying to free a few cows. I do however believe the consumer in our society has power – power to determine what is offered for sale by the current supermarket duopoly in Australia. I also believe information to be power, if the consumers of eggs for example knew – that pressures exerted by the supermarkets forced egg producers to starve and deprive chickens of water in their last days of life to maximize egg production (Pollen, 2006)– would they buy the product of this cruelty? Current Australian statistics show consumers care about the life a chicken lives while producing eggs. Dramatic increase in sale of free range eggs is proof of this. Despite the increase in ‘free range’ egg sales, The Journal of Bioethical Inquiry believes “the ‘free-range’ eggs currently available in supermarkets do not address animal welfare, environmental sustainability, and public health concerns but, rather, seek to drive down consumer expectations of what these issues mean by balancing them against commercial interests.”(2013) So perhaps there is still work to be done in order to advance public awareness and to align the ethical standards applied to media friendly animals with the animals we rely upon as food.

In a round about way that is what the 10 images I have submitted aim to do. For this assignment I photographed all kinds of cute baby farm animals in a shopping mall. There were children feeding baby cows, pigs and chickens as part of Christmas public relations exercise. What the children did not know and what their parents would not tell then even if they did know is that those same animals somewhere in Australia were getting their beaks sliced off with a hot blade, fed antibiotics and forced to exist in the case of the chicken in a space measuring 20cm by 20cm (and called free-range). I know you cannot force someone to care about these issues (supermarket and food producers don’t want you to) but perhaps the chickens, cows and pigs of the Western world have suffered from a problem of image– this set of collages is aimed at adjusting the way we perceive our food!

Parker, C   Brunswick, C and Kotey, J (2013) The Happy Hen on Your Supermarket Shelf What Choice Does Industrial Strength Free-Range Represent for Consumers? Journal of Bio-ethical Inquiry Volume 10 No 1 – Accessed online December 24th 2013 http://humanechoice.com.au/Resources/Documents/The%20Happy%20Hen%20on%20Your%20Supermarket%20Shelf_Journal%20of%20Bioethical%20Inquiry_Early%20Online%20Published%20Version.pdf

Pollan, M (2006) The Omnivore’s Dilemma: The Search for a Perfect Meal in a Fast-food World Accessed online 18th December 2013 http://books.google.com.au/books?hl=en&lr=&id=CBRRIoqyc-EC&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=The+Omnivore%E2%80%99s+Dilemma:+A+Natural+History+of+Four+Meals&ots=fn2N7Pk_0X&sig=h6qgOjzycG2fo26NJKFKTpuvlrM#v=onepage&q&f=false

Robbins, John (2001)The Food Revolution: How Your Diet Can Help Save Your Life and Our World                                                                                       Accessed online 17th December 2013 http://sanjosepby.org/documents/food-revolution.pdf

Digital Photography – Final Assignment

chicken in supermarket

The Chicken Shop

farm animals in skill tester game

The Food Factory

farm animals on belt leading to dinner table

Dinner TIme

chicken in shopping trolly on hill

Chicken Tonight?

cow coming out of fridge in paddok

No 515

duck by pond with barcode

Quack Quack

little pig on fork with driveway in bg

Say hi to Babe

baby cow in blood

To Veal or Not to Veal

profile of kangaroo in car headlights

Next 10 kilometers

rabbit on hill - supermarket

Rabbito Hill

Rational to accompany this post will follow – just had to upload as i will be away from screen

Digital Photography – Week 11

Week – 11

After putting some screen time in this week I feel a lot more confident about getting my final project done on the theme I was most excited about – the collage theme.

Now having completed 9 of the intended 10 images I am running out of ideas that actually inform the theme or statement I am attempting to make. So at the risk of introducing a slight deviation of style the last 2 images do differ from the ‘cut and paste’ style of the paper styled collage. I just could not help utlising some of the the amazing functions offered by Photoshop. I do love  the simplicity of the traditional style collage and even after the digital image manipulation revolution I have chosen paper collage as a way of expression. The process is for me quite similar but I do feel the digital way of creating a collage is an exercise in emulation. I have found a lot more planning needs to done when working with paper and of course once the glue dries there are no such thing as ‘undo’s’. Having said that the possibilities Photoshop provides are endless.

The changing of canvas size and addition of text this week was quite straight forward but I did learn something and that is always a positive thing!

sea gull on post surrounded by ocean sea bird on branch kangaroo hopping through water mist on Bellinger river man paddiling blue kayak on river sunrise through clouds on river  pink sunset on river