Summer’s end in an Australian forest

The Munghorn Gap Nature Reserve in the central west of New South Wales is a magnet for bird watchers and bushwalkers. I walked there last Sunday with my friends from Mudgee Bushwalking Club. The day began with a treat- an excellent sighting of a male Superb Lyrebird.  With his long, gracefully curved tail feathers, he was strolling across the road, just as we arrived at the starting point of our walk. I’m no bird photographer, so I’ve added the image below from the net, for readers who aren’t familiar with this iconic Australian bird.

lyrebirdMale Superb Lyrebird                                                                                                  (Image: Birdforum.net)

It was an unseasonally hot day, and the forest was still and eerily silent. We saw no birds or animals, as we threaded our way through the slender and closely spaced Black Cypress trees, leafless at our level.

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Black Cypress trunks, covered with orange and grey-green lichen

High above, the tracery of the cypress foliage was vivid against the clear blue sky.

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The wind came up after lunch, bending the topmost branches, with the sound of waves rushing in to shore. At ground level, it remained dead calm. It was fire weather.

Among the cypress grew eucalypts- some gnarled and twisted, some tall and straight- including Eucalyptus rossii, the Inland Scribbly Gum. In my opinion not “garden-worthy”,  it’s in their natural setting that eucalypts can be truly appreciated.

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Inland Scribbly Gum

The striking feature of E. rossii is the insect scribbles that are commonly found on the bark. These are created by the burrowing larvae of a small moth, Ogmograptis scribula. The moth lays eggs between layers of bark and when the larvae hatch they burrow in the bark, making an irregular, scribbly pattern. As last season’s bark is shed, a new pattern of distinctive scribbles are revealed, changing the character of the tree from year to year.

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Early European colonists were perplexed by the Australian eucalypts, seemingly the polar opposite of the trees that grew in their homelands. Eucalypts lose their bark in summer, rather than their leaves in winter.

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Many of the eucalypt trunks at Munghorn were smooth and satiny, having lost all of their outer bark. The fresh, newly exposed bark glowed honey coloured, or displayed dramatic colour patterns.

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Munghorn Gap is one of the most westerly locations where the Superb Lyrebird can be found. And whilst we saw no birds at all in the forest, several times I heard its powerful and distinctive call, close by, but out of sight, as elusive as ever.

3 Comments Add yours

  1. tonytomeo says:

    What species is that black cypress? Callitris endligheri? I have never seen one before.

    1. My Dream Garden says:

      Hi there Tony, yes, according to my research (a terrestrial ecology survey done in the Munghorn area), it’s Callitris endlicheri- so forgiving a typo, probably the one you’re referring to. It is found only in Australia. It’s a lovely tree in our local landscape- we’re on the eastern edge of its range of occurrence. It forms dense forests with dark black bark often covered with vivid orange lichen. Very atmospheric to walk through these forests.

      1. tonytomeo says:

        I have only read about them, but never actually seen one. The cypress here are completely different.

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