Grey Goshawks are a frequent visitor to the area, up until now I’ve not been able to identify or get a good photo of one. Last week I heard the sound of a screeching flock of cockatoos off in the distance, as they got closer the sound got louder. They were swooping and swerving making a huge racket, in front of them was a hawk! It looked like they were chasing it away! A few days later I spotted it sitting in a tree out the back and managed to get these photos.
Grey Goshawks are a medium size bird of prey, local ones have a grey back and upper wings, with a white belly. They have large yellow talons and a yellow, black tipped hooked beak. They prey on mammals like rabbits, possums and bats, also reptiles and insects. Their most common prey is other birds, no wonder the cockies were chasing it away.
The Echidna, such an iconic Australian animal and unique too being one of only two monotremes, the other being the Platypus. We’re lucky enough to have Echidnas in the local area and even venturing into our yard from time to time.
Last week I was looking out the window at home while making lunch and noticed what looked like an unusual rough clump on the ground. I went outside to have a look and it turned out to be a group of four Echidnas huddled together in the sun! They were not moving and appeared to be just relaxing. I’ve only seen lone Echidnas before, four in one place was amazing!
Some online searching confirmed that they are solitary animals but they group up during mating season which is June – September. During this time up to ten males can follow a female around for weeks at a time, she will end up mating with the one that stays following her the longest.
The group I saw wasn’t moving, must have been just a short rest in the sun. I checked again after lunch and they were gone.
There’s no shortage of sandstone in the Sydney area, almost the entire extent of Garigal National Park sits on whats known as the Hawkesbury Sandstone. The Sydney 1:100 000 Geological Sheet classifies it as “Medium to course-grained quartz sandstone, very minor shale and laminite lenses” I wanted to highlight two sandstone formations, both of which are a bit of a mystery as to how they form.
I came across these formations on a trail run on a section of single track in Belrose that runs from the end of Ralston Ave down to the Bare Creek trail next to Bare Creek.
The first formation is called tessellated pavement.
There are a number of different types of tessellated pavement. The type I came across is seen on flat sections of sandstone that have been fractured into 4-6 sided geometric shapes. Some of the blocks are surrounded by deep grooves with rounded edges. It really looks like a man made road or path the way the blocks lock together. It’s not known how this structure forms.
The second formation is even more of a mystery.
It was on the same section of trail near the tessellated pavement. Found on a gently sloping section of sandstone, it had rows of deep grooves all running in the same direction from the top of the slope to the bottom. They looked like they could have been worn over many years by the trickle of water. Above the trail was a minor gully, there wasn’t any visible creek but it looked damp and swampy. In wetter times perhaps water could have drained slowly over the sandstone. This is all guessing, I couldn’t find any information on this type of formation. The closest I came was rillenkarren or rundkarren which is the weathering of similar channels in limestone by the slight acidity of the water dissolving the rock. Rillenkarren has sharper ridges and is thought to form out in the open while rundkarren is more rounded and thought to form under a superficial covering like sandy till, peat or a layer of plants and lichen.
“A small graceful tree to 15m high, but sometimes much taller”NOPS p.38
During the big storms a few weeks ago I was lying in bed at around 11pm just about to ready to go to sleep when a loud and prolonged cracking sound started coming from just outside the bedroom. I knew right away that the large Sydney Peppermint gum in the back yard was falling over! I jumped up and tried to get to the window but it was pitch dark and storming, I couldn’t a thing. As the cracking continued I was terrified it was going to fall on the house, luckily it went the other way and ended up taking out a sizeable swath of bush and other trees as it came down. Phew!
The Sydney Peppermint gum is a small to medium tree of up to 15m but can be much taller in the right conditions. It’s trunk is covered by rough grey bark that detaches from the tree and hangs in strips as it reaches higher up revealing smooth white upper branches. The leaves have a strong peppermint smell especially when crushed. The Sydney Peppermint was the first Australian plant to be used medicinally by Europeans. It’s oil was found by a surgeon on the first fleet to be “more efficacious in removing all cholicky complaints than of the English Peppermint”
As the name suggests Sydney Peppermint gum is found in the Sydney basin, it ranges from the extreme south NSW coast up to the central north coast. Flowering time is early summer.
It was a shame to loose the tree, it was a large feature of the back yard. The pair of kookaburras who used to sit in it came and sat on the toppled tree no doubt wondering what had happened.