Capital Weekend

It was decided to have a weekend close to home, so no long road trip, just a couple of outings in between cleaning up my patch in the garden and catching up with friends.

On my drive to work, I often pass birders setting off for an early morning walk through Callum Brae Nature Reserve. The lucky buggers!  So, Saturday morning and I was up at sparrows. There were already a couple of cars parked, at the gate on Mugga Lane when I arrived at 6:00. The circuit of the reserve took about 90 minutes. This is definitely the best time of day, and no snakes.

Birds of note were, Black faced cuckoo-shrike, Wedge Tail Eagle, Straited Thorn-bills nesting, Rufous Whistler and Buff Rumped Thorn-bill. 17 species all up, that I could confidently identify. 
Sunday morning, we finished off the last of the cleanup of spent annuals in the front garden. Time to pack a picnic lunch, load the kayaks onto the trailer and head the 20 minutes down the road south to Tharwa Village on the edge of the Namadgi National Park.

 We are so lucky to have this great area on our doorstep, our destination today was the Tharwa Sandwash and the Gigerline Nature Reserve. We have walked this area a few times, but this was our first paddle in the Murrumbidgee River.

The Sandwash parking area has nice shade trees, with picnic tables. There is easy carry to the river for the kayaks via a  rock stairway. A group had been camping overnight in swags. Fishing is not permitted, I didn’t see any No Camping signs.

We headed up stream towards Angle Crossing. There were plenty of birds visible along the banks, of special note was a Black fronted Dotterel, all on its lonesome and 2 Little Corellas.

Mr P hoisted his sail, and copped some heckling from the campers. He  made good time up stream with the wind. This is still very much a work in progress, so no photos yet. We decided that we needed to adapt a fly proof eating area, before our trip in May. Another use for my large roll of camouflage netting.  

Far South Coast Weekend

After consulting the Bureau of Met. on Friday it was decided that the proposed trip to Bendalong would have to be postponed.  The rain depression along the coast was moving north and the Far South Coast  looked like having more stable weather. We decided to take the Snowy Mountains Highway down the Brown Mountain to Bermagui on Friday afternoon.

We arrived at Bermi (local lingo) around 7 oclock and the southerly was still in full swing. We found a camp near Wallaga Lake and settled in for the night, we were a little closer to the road that we would have usually pulled up. fortunately the rain drummed out any traffic sounds.

Saturday morning and Wallaga Lake was alive with birds, it was too choppy for a paddle so we picked up the SMH and headed to Camel Rock. The rain had now stopped and I set off to walk to around the headland back to the lake via Murana Point. Mr P settled in with the paper and his new Wilbur Smith read.

North of Camel Rock

Mt Dromaderry and Wallaga Lake          

Shell Midden on Murana Point

The headland scrub was alive with superb fairy wrens, whip birds and red browed finches. Birds of note were 2 juvenile sea eagles and a wedge tail eagle hunting around the cliff.

I then spent the rest of the morning checking the 100s of dead Shearwaters on the beach for bands.  Gruesome task, the odds of finding a banded bird are a bit like winning the lottery.

Bird Banding at Charcoal Tank Nature Reserve, NSW

Many thanks go to my gorgeous nephew Lee and Master Bird Bander, Mark Clayton for including me in their latest bird banding trip to Charcoal Tank, NR near West Wyalong.

Friday was going to be a scorcher with an expected 37 degrees forecast for the western plains. I left Canberra around midday and stopped to stock up on supplies in Yass. I wasn’t going to need much in the way of food, the plan was to eat out both nights. My rendezvous point with the banders was the West Wyalong Services Club at 1900 hours.

The wheat harvest is currently in full swing across most of the central west area, local croppers were casting nervous eyes skyward as the cool change and storm clouds rolled in. By the time I had reached Barmedman, the storm had passed and the temperature dropped to 2O dregees, it was still very humid.

Barmedman grain silo

I arrived at the club in WW and watched as car loads of very glamorous looking folk piled inside, definately not birders! More like a night at the Logies, all that was missing was the red carpet. Turns out it was the year 12 formal. Fridays night’s dinner was pretty ordinary, it was decided to try another regular haunt, the Long Hong Chinese restaurant for tommorrow night.

There is no shortage of hotels, motels and restaurants along Main street. The town is at the intesection of 3 highways and half way point between Brisbane and Adelaide. The reason for the trip was not to crtitque restaurants and look at beautiful old federation architecture, but to band birds.

Federation architecture in West Wyalong

Charcoal Tank Nature Reserve has been the site of a very comprehensive banding program for the past 19 years. The reserve conserves a woodland of mugga iron bark and black cypress pine growing on the lower slopes and green, blue and bull mallee on gravelly ridges.

Lee carefully releases a White Plumed Honeyeater 
Mr Red-capped robin is banded

Bird paparazzi

The banding party was made up of members of the Canberra Ornitholigists Group as well as bird banders from Sweden and Canberra.  Any time spent in good company and in the outdoors is always rewarding and I added another 10 birds to my life list.
 I departed the camp at 930hrs on Sunday and headed for the mineral pool at Barmedman; a flushing loo, a shower and a swim in the mineral pool, just what I need after a couple of nights bush camping. I also managed to pick up 3 White Winged Trillers that I missed at CT as well as a new bird for me, a White Browed Woodswalllow. It was soon time to chase the storms back to Canberra and plan for the next adventure.
Mineral Pool at Barmedman

Narooma, swimming, fishing and wooden boats

No work Friday, meant that we headed to the coast early. Mr P took Dusty down  the mountain on Thursday and I hitched a lift with No1 daughter and No1 grandchild on early Friday morning. We made for Batemans Bay, we had a date with family to make our Christmas puddings.

Puddings made and Mr P arrived showing off his fishing spoils from the previous night. We hit the road south at around 2 o’clock for a night of fishing up the river. No joy on the fishing front, it was a perfect night though for dinner around the fire and a bottle of red.  Saturday dawned and I set off for an early morning paddle, at that magic time when the mist  rises off the water, before the breeze comes up. P kept up with the fishing, but apart from being bitten off by a stingwray it was pretty uneventful.
Nice flathead
After a clean up of rubbish from  around the camp site we headed into Narooma for the Wooden Boat Afloat at Fosters Bay. It was a picture perfect day for snappers, Narooma has the most amazing blue water and you need a just the right light to show it off.

Fosters Bay has some really cute boat sheds. After a wander through the sheds set up as art galleries and some lunch we drove over to Bar Beach, to do what everyone does at Bar, sit and chat with mates, swim and more chatting. Fortunately we made the most of the glorious weather before the Southerly hit on Sunday mid morning.

Overnight Campers Steal Prime Real Estate

I have been following the ongoing dispute between grey nomads and local councils over the closure free camps sites and rest areas along the east coast of Australia with interest over the past months. These councils are being lobbied by members of the powerful Caravan Park Owners Association.

These same caravan park owners were not at all concerned when they filled their parks with en-suite cabins and drove many of the local motels and hotels out of business a few years ago. The reasoning behind the closures is usually the high cost to up keep the primitive facilities and the need to provide a sustainable alternative.

The  desicions to close many of the sites is exacerbated by the fact that some backpackers just don’t get that it is not OK to wash your dishes in the public toilet sink or throw your rubbish in the bush if there is no bin. Let alone when you crap in the bush you need to dig a hole and bury it.

How do we educate our visitors to adhere to these simple principles of Leave No Trace?

  • Plan ahead and prepare
  • Travel and camp on durable surfaces
  • Always leave a camp site cleaner that you found it
  • Leave what you find
  • Minimise campfire impacts
  • Respect wildlife
  • Be considerate to landowners and other visitors 
Simple no frills camp sites are part of our easy going way of life that need to be maintained and protected. The other alternative is a lineup of Big4’s in every town. Let me know your opinions.

Swinging Bridge, Wee Jasper, NSW

Saturday morning.

We had an important engagement, on the DC social calendar on Saturday morning, No1 grandchild’s No1 birthday party. This meant that we would not be on the road until after midday. 

Wee Jasper is about 100 klms. from Canberra and after  a stop at the shops in Yass we  arrived around 3 o’clock. There are 4 camping reserves in the area, run by Wee Jasper Reserves. We checked out Billy Grace, Swinging Bridge and Micalong Greek. Billy Grace and Micalong Creek have flush toilets and were well patronised. We chose Swinging Bridge and apart from a couple of fishermen we had it to ourselves. None of us minding the long drop loos. 

 The camp sites are  spread out along the bank of the  Goodradigbee River with of plenty of  shade. Best of all you can have a camp fire (you need to bring your own wood) we did and also scavanged some from the other side of the river. The kayaks came in handy for this. The birding was great especially from the water though it was delinately too cold for more than a quick swim.  I managed to tick off 23 species on my bird list, add to that a number of small birds that were too quick to identify. The new prototype sailing kayak was given a test run more on this in the weeks to come.

Wee Jasper is close enough to Canberra for us to delay our return till  early Monday morning, enabling the un-retired to be in the office by 9 o’clock.

How to find a good camp spot.

I use a list and lots of research to locate a good camp spot. My ideal spot will tick most of these boxes.

  • Camp fires allowed
  • Free or low cost camp site
  • Location, location – waterfrontage
  • Shade
  • Views
  • Toilets
  • Showers

5 ways to find a good  camp site
  1. National Parks Camp site list or post a question on Free Camping Australia’s Facebook page.
  2. Do a search on Flickr this will give you an idea of how the site looks.
  3. Word of mouth, chew the fat with other campers or ask a local at the Tourist Info Centre.
  4. Google Earth is great for finding that elusive spot.
  5. Follow other bloggers who are passionate about camping.

What do you think? What’s your experience. Do leave a comment.

The new addition

After a couple of trips loading the kayaks into the back of the van, it was decided that we needed a trailer. One that would give us some additional secured storage space and not be too heavey. Gumtree was consulted and we came up with this little beauty. The Venter trailer brand is from South Africa and we picked this one up in Sydney 2nd hand.

Shallow Crossing Camping Experience

This post is from a couple of weekends ago, when we took the van to the backwaters of the Clyde River inland from Batemans Bay, for some birdwatching and kayaking. Our trailer was not yet ready and we had to load the kayaks into the back to transport. They fitted, but it was a bit of a pain. Shallow Crossing is where the fresh and salt water meet. The water level is dependant on the flow and the size of the tide, we have a very low clearance so we timed out drive to coincide with low tide.

The  camp site runs along the river bank, it has plenty of shade shelters with picnic tables and you can light a fire. There are hot showers and drop toilets. We did not see Jim the owner while we were there, I presume that he must have been away as the ammenities were never cleaned and it looked like it had been sometime since the rubbbish had been removed.

Having done our share of campsite cleaning it didn’t worry us, but I was tempted to give Jim a few tips should he have appeared to collect the site fees.

Kangaroo Valley October Long Weekend

A weekend away from our haunts along the south coast always takes some research. So after looking up the  NSW National Parks website and some good tips from Loving the South Coast’s Facebook page we decided on Bendeela Campground at Kangaroo Valley for Saturday night. Then we would see how the weekend went.

Bendeela was a big surprise and I love a free campsite. The security man on the gate who took our registration number and licence details said that at 11am when we arrived there were approximately 1,000 people on site. BUSY…. we looked around and everything was very orderly. It is amazing how organised campers can be without heaps of signs and rules and regulations. No fires and no camping along the river bank..simple. By 10pm that night all I could hear was the distant hum of the power station up river.

The water was a bit to chilley for a long swim, we made the most of the glassey conditions on Sunday morning and put the kayaks in. The paddling is great , plenty of bird and animal life and almost no currant.