Having postponed this trip from February, our excursion to Big Crystal Creek proved to be worth waiting for and despite concerns that the threat of rain might put people off, it was in fact the rain that stayed away and a good number turned up at our meeting point. Leaving our cars at the Paradise Lagoon picnic area we set off to walk the 2km up the intake road that leads to more swimming holes and rock slides. Early cloud cover helped to keep us cool as there was little breeze and when the sun did emerge the conditions were distinctly sultry.
Nonetheless while some pressed on looking for shade (well, I did anyway), the plant people stoically and meticulously examined fruits, flowers and leaves in order to arrive at identification. The beautiful pink and white buds and flowers of a native hibiscus (we think Hibiscus forsteri) dotted the bush on either side of us. The fully-opened flowers revealed a deep wine-red centre, some hosting grasshoppers and other insects. Trees bearing a mass of creamy-white flower spikes were striking features of the forest on the mountain slopes ahead of us. Too distant for positive identification they were either Buckinghamia celissima (ivory curl tree or spotted silky oak) or Darlingia darlingiana (rose or brown silky oak). Other curious plants were the native dodder (Cassytha sp.) with its edible fruit, the orange-yellow pods of Xanthophyllum octandrum (yellow boxwood) enclosing blue-black seeds, and the soft spiky fruit of Commersonia bartramia (brown currajong). Click on the names for photos.
Birds were plentiful but often elusive as our fairly modest list will show, though there were some special treats. A flash of brilliant red in the trees near the top gate, and their pretty, wheedling song, alerted us to scarlet honeyeaters which were also later seen back at the picnic area. Also near the gate a pair of yellow breasted birds fluttered and perched cheekily close to us – post-trip investigation resolved the question as to whether they were pale yellow robins or lemon-breasted flycatchers (the latter was correct). Beth and Julie came across an excellent birding spot where they saw spectacled monarchs and lovely wrens, among others.
Malcolm once again drew our attention to the invertebrates and it was hard to miss the butterflies that danced around us, most notably the blue triangles (attracted to those of us wearing a matching colour), clearwing swallowtails and a blue argus (Junonia orithya). Do check out Malcolm’s own account of this walk on his Green Path blog - you will find it here, along with more of his wonderful images.
Beyond the gate some of us stopped at the creek crossing, happy to soak up the peace and beauty while thrill-seeking swimmers passed us by in search of the rock slides – scary enough just to watch! This would be an even more enchanting spot a little later in the year when the overhanging bottlebrushes are in flower.
After various explorations it was time to return to Paradise Lagoon for a late lunch and thanks are due here to Sandra and Beth who kindly went back to fetch their cars, enabling us to ride back in cool comfort! The delicious waters of Paradise Lagoon proved irresistible for several of us – what a way to cool down! A final indulgence (for those with time to spare) came via a detour to Frosty Mango for another kind of ‘refreshing’ experience.
You know it has been a good trip when people immediately suggest a return visit or marvel at discovering a place they had not been to before. Thanks to all who came, to those who gave lifts to others, to Malcolm and Denise for photographs (oh, that I could use them all) and to those who yielded to my incessant nagging for plant IDs. Thanks also to Marty McLaughlin of NPRSR who offered us a key to the locked gate. In the event we decided to walk not drive but we much appreciated having the option.
In the bird list below the question mark against the white-throated honeyeater indicates uncertainty. It could have been the near identical white-naped species. More photos below, and don’t forget to click to enlarge any or all of them.
|Bar-shouldered dove||Rainbow bee-eater||Scarlet honeyeater|
|Peaceful dove||Lovely fairy-wren||Lemon-bellied flycatcher|
|Rainbow lorikeet||Noisy friar bird||Little shrike thrush|
|Scaly-breasted lorikeet||Little friarbird||Spectacled monarch|
|Forest kingfisher||White-throated honeyeater?||Varied triller|
|Laughing Kookaburra||Dusky honeyeater||Red-browed firetail|