(Don’t miss Part 1, which I posted last Monday.)
It wasn’t difficult to find birding hotspots to explore. During a visit to the town of Katoomba, I took a short trail leading from Wentworth Falls to the “car park” and turned up an assortment of species, including a Golden Whistler (above, left) and an Eastern Spinebill (above, right).Even if you’re not birding, scenic Wentworth Falls and the Three Sisters rock formation are worthwhile stops in their own right:
Note the blue haze in the background. There’s a reason they’re called the Blue Mountains. Some attribute this to tiny droplets of eucalyptus oil suspended in the atmosphere, while others point out that most mountain ranges appear blue in the distance.
Coming from Colorado, I expected pointy mountains such as we have at home. Instead, the Blue Mountains are comprised of a series of plateaus, ridges, and chasms—some as much as 2,490 feet deep. I was reminded of Arizona’s Grand Canyon, only covered with a dense forest of eucalyptus. All the high cliffs meant that hikes are mostly vertical, and they generally start at the top. I was astonished at what was considered an “easy” hike—some were all stairs, and for every step you went down, you had to come back up.
Looking for something a bit less strenuous, I took an early morning walk along a shaded back road, and added more than a dozen new birds to my growing list. Favorites included Sacred Kingfisher, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Gray Fantail, this gorgeous Spotted Pardalote (left) and this cute little black-and-white Willie Wagtail, who constantly wagged his tail from side to side:
Black-and-white seemed to be a popular color scheme. In addition to the Pied Currawong (see last week’s post) and Willie Wagtail, I also learned to distinguish birds such as Magpie-larks (right), Hooded Robins (left), Pied Butcher-birds, and Australian Magpies (bottom). The latter were similar to the Black-billed Magpies we have at home, and just as common.
We spent one entire day in the Capertee Valley, on the northwestern side of the mountains. It’s a bucolic spot full of green fields, grazing sheep, and tiny towns.
Unfortunately, you can’t pick the weather when you’re on a schedule, and it was very windy. Still, we saw plenty of birds, including my favorite of the day, the Diamond Firetail:
Constantly on the lookout for birds, I found lifers even when I wasn’t officially birding—a Masked Lapwing on a neighbor’s patio, a flock of Australian Brush-turkeys in a strip of dirt next to a motel, and a Superb Lyrebird (below) in a busy parking lot.
I loved birding in the Blue Mountains, but we finally waved good-bye to our friends and began our drive up the coast to Brisbane. More on that in future posts.