Sunday, October 23, 2016

A man's gotta eat. A man's gotta drink. A man's gotta climb mountains. And a man's gotta laugh.

The word  "POLITICS"  is derived from the word "poly" meaning "many" and the word "ticks" meaning "blood sucking parasites".
Previous funnies posted here have been migrated to

Thursday, March 17, 2016

WildCount Project by NSW NPWS OEH

2016 March: Volunteer for NSW NPWS OEH WildCount project, Australia

NSW NPWS OEH WildCount project

NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service, Office of Environment Heritage, WildCount Project (quite mouthful !) is a fauna monitoring program using motion-sensitive digital cameras. The cameras are set up in 200 remote bush sites across 146 parks and reserves in eastern NSW. They are tied to tree trunks at about hip high, with a lure in front of each one ... see photos #15 and #18 for pictures of the lure. When an animal wanders close to the lure, the motion sensor triggers the camera to take photos of the animal.

Volunteers were recruited to assist field officers to install/retrieve the cameras in the remote bush sites. And so, I was in the NSW Central Coast for 4 days to help Tam, a NPWS field officer, with the retrieval of the cameras that were set up 2 weeks earlier.

We were given GPS coordinates of the cameras. Then it was like geo-caching, to go to locate each one.

The daily routine was for Tam to drive the car supplied by NPWS. Then we bushbashed through the scrub by GPS ... usually I led. Once we were close to a camera, it was Tam who invariably spotted it first. I don't know why, but I was not good at picking out cameras in the bush   :-( 

For a few cameras, retrieving them was not easy. It took us ages to find them after we reached where they should be. Reasons:
    - Another person, not Tam, had set up the cameras 2 weeks ago. Had it been Tam, she would be able to recall which tree she had tied the camera to.
    - GPS coordinates were not 100% spot on.
    - In one case, the bush was dense that we couldn't see far.
And so we kept circling and bushbashing around to find these errant cameras. All due to Tam's dogged tenacity, in the end, we manage to find them all !  Ah, that was part of the fun, hide-and-seek for grown ups  :-)

Day 1 - Weather: Good

Early Morning: I am picked by Tam at Woy Woy Railway Station at 8:00am.

Morning: Pick up 4 cameras in Awabakal Nature Reserve (between Redhead and Dudley).

It was a horror to pick up camera #4 (south-east corner camera), because we need to cross a swamp and thus our boots are completely wet and muddied. For the rest of the week, the boots never dried out  :-(

Tam now says the camera locations were picked by a computer program without regard to its accessibility by humans ... now she tells you while you are in the middle of the swamp !

Lunch: Merewether Surfhouse, Henderson Parade, Merewether, NSW

Night: Bella Villa Motor Inn, 19 Lake St, Forster, NSW 2428

1)  At Awabakal Nature Reserve ~~~
A tiny spider on Tam's hat.

2)  At Awabakal Nature Reserve ~~~
Common Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus)

3)  After retrieving all 4 cameras, we have lunch at Merewether Surfhouse at Merewether. Here is Tam, always smiling :-)

4)  There is an ocean bath (a large pool) by the sea near Merewether Surfhouse.  Below are the scenes from the pool:
- Upper pic: Towards north-east ... The red arrow points to Sheperds Hill, south of Newcastle and just north-east of Bar Rocks.
- Lower pic: Towards south ... The red bar is Awabakal Nature Reserve. We were there this morning to retrieve the cameras.

Day 2 - Weather: Good

Morning: Pick up 4 cameras in Wallamba Nature Reserve (near Nabiac).

Lunch: Neranie Campground, Myall Lakes National Park

Afternoon: Pick up 4 cameras in Myall Lakes National Park (near Seal Rocks).

It takes us ages to find camera #3 (south-east corner camera), for some unknown reason, we just keep miss noticing it even though I swear we pass the tree where the camera is tied, several times !

Night: Bella Villa Motor Inn, 19 Lake St, Forster, NSW 2428

5)  Picking up cameras in Wallamba Nature Reserve ~~~
This is our car, a NPWS 4-wheel drive. Tam is very adept in driving it ... She can drive up and down steep slippery mud tracks with ease. And I feel like in a roller-coaster ... exciting and fun !  It is ok if the car gets bogged down or rolls over as Tam carries a personal locator beacon. And besides, our position is monitored back in the OEH head office by a GPS tracker.

6)  A strange plant in Wallamba Nature Reserve. If you know its name, please let me know.

7)  Lunch is here at Neranie Campground in Myall Lakes National Park ... nice place for a picnic.
The white car is ours.

8)  While having lunch, two lace monitors, Varanus varius, come to check us out.  The below photos belong to one of them. But when I try to photograph it, it scampers away.

Day 3 - Weather: Drizzle patches all day, morning worse, afternoon slightly better

Morning: Pick up 4 cameras in Booti Booti National Park

It takes ages for us to find camera #2 (south-west corner camera), The scrub is too dense !

Lunch: In the car in Ghin-Doo-Ee National Park (near Bulahdelah)

Afternoon: Pick up 4 cameras in Ghin-Doo-Ee National Park

It takes us a long time to bushbash from camera #2 (NW corner) to camera #3 (SW corner) ... difficult terrain.

Night: Bulahdelah Motor Lodge, 67-71 Bulahdelah Way, Bulahdelah, NSW 2423

This is a bad day.  In addition to the drizzle, we are feasted by blood thirsty sucking leeches ... yuk !  But being able to photograph the beautiful Red Triangle Slug (the pic below) is good enough compensation   :-)

9)  Red Triangle Slug (Triboniophorus graeffii), found in Ghin-Doo-Ee National Park

10)  Unusual burr grown on a tree in Ghin-Doo-Ee National Park
(Ken in the Comment Section said it is a fungus.)

Day 4, last day - Weather: Good

Morning: Pick up 4 cameras in Columbey State Conservation Area (east of Paterson)

Lunch: Takeaway on the way back to Woy Woy Railway Station

11)  Marsh Snake (Hemiaspis signata), also known as Black-bellied Swamp Snake, with the two distinctive white lines on its face ... found in Columbey State Conservation Area. It is not highly venomous, but they do bite and victims will suffer pain and localized swelling. (Thanks to Ken who identified the snake.)

12)  Motions sensor camera tied to a tree trunk in Columbey State Conservation Area

13)  Tam with the camera

Photos from NPWS OEH WildCount motion sensor camera

Some of the common NSW wild life caught by the camera ...

14)  Wedge-tailed Eagle ???

15)  Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus)
The thingie in the red oval is a lure to attract the animals. Inside the metal mesh ball, red arrow, is some kind of peanut butter paste mixed with flour.

16)  Red Fox (Vulpes vulpes)
They are tasting the lure.

17)  Australian Brush-turkey (Alectura lathami), also know as Bush Turkey

18)  White-winged Chough (Corcorax melanorhamphos)
The thingie in the red oval is a lure to attract the animals. Inside the metal mesh ball, red arrow, is some kind of peanut butter paste mixed with flour.

19)  Emu (Dromaius novaehollandiae)

20)  Lace Monitor (Varanus varius)

21)  Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus)

22)  Wallaby

23)  Lyre bird

Recognition Certificate

24)  For my effort, I receive this recognition certificate  :-)   Thank you, NPWS !


Yup, it is worthwhile to volunteer in the WildCount Project at least once in your life !

Motel accommodation, the 3 meals and transport are all paid for. And you get to explore the part of the Australian bush where you normally wouldn't go to. In my case, even though I'm a keen bushwalker, this is the first time I have visited:
  - Awabakal Nature Reserve
  - Wallamba Nature Reserve
  - Myall Lakes National Park
  - Booti Booti National Park
  - Ghin-Doo-Ee National Park
  - Columbey State Conservation Area

So, if you volunteer, chances are you will be assigned to bush areas where you've never been before ... all paid for by NSW NPWS OEH !

Friday, March 11, 2016

Dargan Arch and Friday Canyon, Blue Mts, NSW, Australia

2016 March: Dargan Arch and Friday Canyon in Blue Mountains National Park, NSW, Australia


3 of us in today's trip: NC, FM and I

Dargan Arch

Dargan Arch is an arch formed by the collapse of the roof at the rear of a cave many many years ago. The arch is relatively well known to the Blue Mountains bushwalking community. What about Friday Canyon?

Friday Canyon

Never heard of Friday Canyon? Haha ! I'm not surprised, as it is only today that we give it its name - Friday being today that we walk through it !

It is a wet canyon, about 150 meters in length, in an unnamed creek which flows north into the Wollangambe River. The water is not deep, between ankle and knee high.

We've since checked with the heavy weights in the NSW bushwalking community. To the best of their knowledge, no one has passed through it. So we maybe its discoverers. Well, if Michael Keats can give names to all the unnamed places he has visited; and Geoff Fox can give names to all the features in Donkey Mountain; and Peter Cai can name all square rocks as Tofu Ru Rock; we should be entitled to make our mark by naming this canyon "Friday Canyon". It is now done ... documented here in this blog  :-)

The location of the canyon is marked on the map showing our route - scroll forward to see the 2nd map.


LPI 1:100,000 scaled  8931 Wallerawang
LPI 1:25,000   scaled  8931-2S Wollangambe

Below is the relevant part of the 1:25,000 scaled LPI Wollangambe map

GPS tracklog file & Route

The GPX tracklog file of our route can be downloaded from:

Below is our route, red colour, clockwise direction, superimposed on the Wollangambe map:
- The 2 red arrows mark the start and end of Friday Canyon in an unnamed creek which flows north into Wollangambe River.
- The blue arrow near the bottom of the map is the start and end of our walk.
- The small red circle along our route and near the centre of the map is the location of Dargan Arch.

Satellite view of our route, clockwise in red colour:

A summary of our route is:
- Start at a small village called Dargan
- To Dargan Arch
- To unnamed creek which flows north into the Wollangambe River
- Go through Friday Canyon until we reach Wollangambe River
- Return leg is via track back to Dargan

Timeline & Distance

09:54  0.0 km  Start by the side of Sandham Rd near the village called Dargan
10:06  0.3 km  On foot trail to Dargan Arch
10:19  1.0 km  At Dargan Arch

Explore around

10:28  1.1 km  Leave Dargan Arch
10:54  1.6 km  Stop for morning tea

Morning Tea

11:07  1.6 km  Resume walking
12:12  3.5 km  Enter an unnamed creek
12:29  3.7 km  Where the creek becomes Friday canyon
12:39  3.9 km  Where Friday canyon ends ... back to be a creek
12:44  4.0 km  Leave creek
12:48  4.1 km  At Wollangambe River
13:04  4.3 km  Stop for lunch


13:31  4.4 km  Start to return to car
13:57  5.5 km  At highest point of the local pagodas

13:59  5.5 km  Leave highest point of the local pagodas
14:34  7.5 km  End at the village of Dargan


Total:  4 hrs 40 mins
           7.5 km  Distance is from Google Earth
           9.0 km  distance is from Garmin GPS

Pictures - Where our car is parked

1)  We take NC's car which is parked here, a few meters to the side of Sandham Rd at Dargan in Blue Mountains National Park, NSW. In retrospect, we should have parked the car further north-west, at the start of the foot trail we will be walking on soon ... see photo #3. Ah, it is always wise after the event  :-)
Above photo is courtesy of NC.

To Dargan Arch

2)  Then we bushbash towards north-west. NC leading, followed by FM.

3)  Then we hit the foot trail to Dargan Arch. As mentioned already, we should have parked the car at the start of this foot trail. It would save us 12 minutes of unnecessary bushbashing.

Dargan Arch

4)  We reach Dargan Arch. The arch is formed by the collapse of the roof at the rear of a cave many many years ago.

5)  One can walk over the arch as FM is doing now.

6)  One can also go down underneath the arch ... just have to be careful  :-)
Left to right: NC FM

7)  Under the arch

8)  Under the arch

To unnamed creek & Friday Canyon

We now go to an unnamed creek which flows north into the Wollangambe River. Friday Canyon is a section in this creek.

9)  A cave near Dargan Arch

10)  NC bushbashing towards the unnamed creek

11)  Passing by interesting cliffs

12)  Pagoda-like rock formations on the other side of a creek (Note: not the creek we'll be walking on soon)

13)  Zooming onto the cave on the left side of the above pic

14)  Banksias are abound.

15)  We are now descending down to the creek where Friday Canyon is located.
The below pics don't show it ... it is a very steep descent. I was mumbling to myself if the canyon turns out to be impassable, it will be a hard job to climb back up again.

Unnamed creek

16)  We arrive at the unnamed creek without drama.
Left to right: NC FM

17)  Wallking downstream towards Wollangambe River ~~~
The water level varies, but not deep, between ankle and knee high.

18)  FM & NC

19)  Scenery along the creek changes frequently. Sometimes, cliffs are on one side of the creek; sometimes on the other side. In this pic, it is thick vegetation on both sides.

Friday Canyon

20)  After walking along the creek for 17 minutes, 280 meters, we come to a canyon which we name as Friday Canyon. As mentioned already, we maybe the first ones to walk through it !

21)  Walking into the canyon and looking back ... In particular, the left pic is looking back at the scene of the previous photo.

22)  Walking deeper into the canyon ... quite an interesting place.

23)  I need a photo for prosperity  :-)

24)  Left pic - FM is standing at where I was in the previous pic.
Right pic - NC

Out of Friday Canyon

25)  All good thing come to an end ... we are out of Friday Canyon which lasted for 10 minutes, about 150 metres.

Wollangambe River

26)  Soon after, we arrive at Wollangambe River.

27)  Next is to decide where should we go now. FM & NC are pointing in the direction of Gooches Crater.
The river on the left side of the pic is Wollangambe River ... see previous pic.

28)  To go to Gooches Crater, one needs to cross Wollangambe River. It just so happens there is a tree trunk across it. Was the tree fell there on purpose for us hikers?
On second thought, as weather forecast is for thunderstorm and heavy rain in the late afternoon, we decide to call it a day and not proceed to Gooches Crater. So NC un-crosses the tree trunk and we go searching for a sunny spot for lunch.

29)  As we search for a lunch spot, we pass this large white bag surrounded by sticks. Who put it there? And for what purpose? We remember checking its content. But after the trip, none of us can remember what is inside  :-)   Geez, the collective lapse in memory makes us look like a bunch of geriatrics.  :-)

Lunch by the side of Wollangambe River

30)  Found this sunny spot by the side of Wollangambe River, so lunch is on top of these rocks.

31)  The lunch spot has a nice panoramic view of the surrounding countryside.
- This pic is towards the north.
- Plenty of pagoda-like rock formations in that direction. But we won't be going there today  :-(
- Gooches Crater is behind the spur pointed to by the red arrow and can't be seen from here.
- Between here and the above mentioned spur is Wollangambe River.
- The gap in the middle of the photo and to the right of the red arrow, is a creek running south into the Wollangambe River.

32)  FM having a nap ... well it is a nice day and the temperature is perfect for a snooze.

Return to car

33)  Lunch over, return to car is via a foot track.

34)  Found along the foot track - a Flannel Flower, I think it is Actinotus helianthi.

35)  Plenty of burnt out Banksias ... many of the fruiting cones have these weird bright brown patches ... what are they ???

36)  An interesting rock

37)  We are going to pass through these pagoda-like rock formations.

38)  Similar scene as above, but I have no idea why the camera shoots the above pic with a yellow tone and the below one in blue tone. Weird.

Pagoda-like Rock Formations

39)  We are now in the pagoda territory.

40)  Going through the pagodas

41)  Someone's art work with the stones

At highest point of the pagodas

42)  We climb to the highest point of the pagodas.

43)  Photo time (Photograph courtesy of NC)

44)  This photo is the background of the above pic.

45)  Continuation to the right of the previous pic

46)  The view from the highest point is 360-degree panorama, unobstructed in all directions.

47)  Continuation to the right of the previous pic ~~~
FM in this pic and NC in the above pic are are both standing at almost the same spot.

48)  This scene is continuation to the right of the previous pic.

Walking through the rest of the pagodas

49)  Time to leave ~~~
NC and FM are way ahead, they are almost over the pagoda, because ...

50)  ... because I'm busy with taking photos.

51)  Catch up with FM

52)  Passing through these 2 rock formations

53)  More pagodas !

54)  Be careful, it is steep.

55)  Climbing down these fascinating rock formations

56)  The last pagoda, a small one

Return to car

57)  Then it is back on the foot track to NC's car at Dargan.

Our timing is perfect ... by the time we reach the car, it starts to rain. And by the time we are out of the local roads and on the main road, the rain develops into a heavy downpour ... so heavy that we can't see through the water on the windscreen. So NC parks the car by the side of the road for a while until the downpour eases. We are glad we weren't caught out in the open with this rain !

Post Script - Gooches Crater

As we didn't go to Gooches Crater, and so it is still on my list of places to visit. Contact me if you wish to join in for a hike to there.