Autumn leaves

Image

Roadblock – the Tamborine Birdos give way to nothing in their determination to see a bird – in this case a Flame Robin.

The intrepid Tamborine Bird Group headed for the high country last week to admire the autumn colours and – of course – to see a few birds different to those we find in our part of Oz.

This involved a seven hour (allowing two half hour stops) to Armidale in the New England region of New South Wales, home, among other things, of my alma mater the University of New England.  There are several ways of doing this journey though all involve finishing it on the New England Highway between Tenterfield and Armidale – some of the highest (and coldest!) country in Australia.

Bob and I chose to go the more scenic route, down the Mt Lindsay Highway and the Clarence Way, winding through the border ranges here the Bellbirds call from the deeply-forested gullies, then through open farmland on pretty, narrow and reasonably good country backroads.  And then up the steep and winding Bruxner Highway through the Great Dividing Range to the tablelands.  Always one of our favourite drives.  The exotic northern-hemisphere trees – maples, pistachias, liquidambars, elms, pin oaks, beeches and others – even a few silver birches – were in full red and gold autumn display which makes a nice contrast with the lush rainforests and coastal plains of our own country.

Armidale was, as expected, chilly but sunny.  The little university town, with its old churches and tree-lined streets, looked very appealing (pity about the hideous new shopping mall!). Our group of 12 stayed at the Tourist Park where there are cabins as well as caravan sites, so that those of us still hardy enough to camp or caravan could so so while those of us who like a bit more ease and space can frolic in the cabins.  Bob and I took a two room cabin which gave us lots of space.

The mornings were down to zero with a thick mist so the 7am leaving time (which meant getting up at 5.30-6) was a bit of a stretch for some.  Not me – I love the rare chance to put on my beanie and scarf and mittens!  Once the sun came up and burned off the mist the days were very pleasant – up to about 16 degrees Celsius.

We saw some splendid scenery – there is just so much lovely gorge country around Armidale – and more birds than we expected including many of the pretty red and pink-breasted robins that you find west of the Divide.  We visited Susan and Raymond’s new home and while we still miss Susan from our bird group and can’t quite forgive her for leaving Tamborine, we did very much ooh and aah over her new garden with its cold climate trees and feeling of space.  The two of them led each daily expedition admirably and showed us places we’d not have found for ourselves.  As always, the days were filled with fun and the evenings with lively discussions (and a few bottles of red) in the camp kitchen.  Also as always, the photos can tell the story:

Breakfast stop at Urbenville, just over the border, and the first hint of autumn colours

Breakfast stop at Urbenville, just over the border, and the first hint of autumn colours

Young trees showing autumn colours in Armidale

Young trees showing autumn colours in Armidale

Our first lookout and gorge - and Jeff has his camera ready as usual

Our first lookout and gorge – and Jeff has his camera ready as usual

Some of the gorge country south-east of Armidale - a true wilderness with almost no human habitation

Some of the gorge country south-east of Armidale – a true wilderness with almost no human habitation

Far horizons

And of course we all have to have our piccy taken - that's me lurking at the back

And of course we all have to have our piccy taken – that’s me lurking at the back

Now we enter an enchanted forest in the ranges east of Armidal - the New England National Park

Now we enter an enchanted forest in the ranges east of Armidal – the New England National Park

Wonderfully mossy rocks in the Enchanted Forest...

Wonderfully mossy rocks in the Enchanted Forest…

...gardens of fern and lichen and moss

…gardens of fern and lichen and moss

Interesting-shaped trees...

Interesting-shaped trees…

...and because this is a temperate rainforest full of lovely antarctic beeches, the ground is covered with a rich russet carpet of beech leaves...

…and because this is a temperate rainforest full of lovely antarctic beeches, the ground is covered with a rich russet carpet of beech leaves…

...with some very edible-looking fungus growing amongst it...

…with some very edible-looking fungus growing amongst it…

...we even find a few hobbits in this forest!

…we even find a few hobbits in this forest!

Lunch2

Jim as usual gets the fire going, with a bit of help from others...

Jim as usual gets the fire going, with a bit of help from others…

...and Susan warms her hands at it...

…and Susan warms her hands at it…

...while the rest of us get on with the occupation that comes only just second to birding - eating!

…while the rest of us get on with the occupation that comes only just second to birding – eating!

Lunch3

...we move into very different habitat now...the swamp and open forest near Castle Rock...

…we move into very different habitat now…the swamp and open forest near Castle Rock…

...before taking a look at Ebor Falls - this is the lower Falls because you can't get the whole lot in one shot...

…before taking a look at Ebor Falls – this is the lower Falls because you can’t get the whole lot in one shot…

Another look at the lower Falls...and a surprising amount of water considering the long drought

Another look at the lower Falls…and a surprising amount of water considering the long drought

The upper Falls in evening light

The upper Falls in evening light

Off again next morning and Dawn wonders if we could find somewhere a bit warmer....!

Off again next morning and Dawn wonders if we could find somewhere a bit warmer….!

Even I'm well rugged-up against the drizzly mist and cold...

Even I’m well rugged-up against the drizzly mist and cold…

At this brief stop there are no birds but we do find the Phantom Firewood Stealer in action!  Apparently they go in for this sort of thing around Armidale and even in this deserted rural spot there was supposedly a security camera to catch  firewood thieves - we didn't find it and indeed doubted its existence - but the idea amused us greatly!

At this brief stop there are no birds but we do find the Phantom Firewood Stealer in action! Apparently they go in for this sort of thing around Armidale and even in this deserted rural spot there was supposedly a security camera to catch firewood thieves – we didn’t find it and indeed doubted its existence – but the idea amused us greatly!

We move on to the banks of the lovely Gwydir River where we see lots of good birds...

We move on to the banks of the lovely Gwydir River where we see lots of good birds…

Though the river is low this time, there is evidence of what happens when it rains heavily...

Though the river is low this time, there is evidence of what happens when it rains heavily…

We enjoy a pleasant smoko by the river

We enjoy a pleasant smoko by the river

...but good birdos like Marg always have their eye on the sky...

…but good birdos like Marg always have their eye on the sky…

...and so does Delle...

…and so does Delle…

...though Susan (for once!) seems more keen on eating

…though Susan (for once!) seems more keen on eating

Gail, of course, is more interested in taking photos...

Gail, of course, is more interested in taking photos…

...and there is always so much to photograph - when the birds aren't about we can focus on the wildflowers such as this lovely Epacris

…and there is always so much to photograph – when the birds aren’t about we can focus on the wildflowers such as this lovely Epacris

Little Llangothlin

Then we paid a brief visit to a cave used by the bushranger Thunderbolt, back in the day

Then we paid a brief visit to a cave used by the bushranger Thunderbolt, back in the day

It would be easy to take our Jim for the ghost of this most gallant of bushrangers, though the binoculars are a bit of a giveaway!

It would be easy to take our Jim for the ghost of this most gallant of bushrangers, though the binoculars are a bit of a giveaway!

Jim is just as gallant, though, lending Dawn a hand up the steep and rocky track

Jim is just as gallant, though, lending Dawn a hand up the steep and rocky track

Third and last birding day and we visit the pretty Gara River

Third and last birding day and we visit the pretty Gara River

One of the many deep pools in the Gara River which has some really large and lovely pools and is a favourite summer swimming spot for Armidale people

One of the many deep pools in the Gara River which has some really large and lovely pools and is a favourite summer swimming spot for Armidale people

We lunch in Susan and Raymond's new garden just outside Armidale, enjoying the view and the crisp, sunny Autumn weather

We lunch in Susan and Raymond’s new garden just outside Armidale, enjoying the view and the crisp, sunny Autumn weather

Some people just can't help larking about...

Some people just can’t help larking about…

This big

We wouldn't have had such a great time without Susan, our fearless leader, who put so much work into finding all the right places - and birds.

We wouldn’t have had such a great time without Susan, our fearless leader, who put so much work into finding all the right places – and birds.

Some of our group admiring the grandeur of the Antarctic Beeches in the "Enchanted Forest" in this section of the New England National Park

Some of our group admiring the grandeur of the Antarctic Beeches in the “Enchanted Forest” in this section of the New England National Park

Only now does it occur to me that I forgot to take any photos of the autumn foliage, especially the avenues of mighty elms in their autumn dress that grace so many of the little otherwise undistinguished New England towns

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About Tamborine Dreamer

I am a horticulturist, writer and photographer who lives on Tamborine Mountain, one of the world's beautiful places to live with plenty of sunshine, good rainfall, moderate temperatures, lush rainforest, splendid views of both the ocean to the east and the mountains to the west. I love writing about the place in which I live, in all its moods and seasons. Besides gardening I love good literature and poetry, bushwalking, birdwatching, history, Japanese language and culture, and music of several kinds.
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