We recently camped for two consecutive weekends (in July 2016) on a cattle farm at Brooklyn, near Urbenville in Northern NSW, while Joe and Pete took part in a 4WD training course. Most of our photos are taken in national parks, but I thought it might be interesting in this case to see which species were able to survive in the remnants of bushland that surrounded the cleared paddock in which we camped.
Please find the photos from this trip in the gallery below the text.
The first weekend was very windy and we spent most of the first day trying to hold on to our tents to stop them from blowing over and breaking - not at all conducive for photography!
The second weekend was much more productive. Laura and I had nothing much to do all day while we waited for the men to return, so I used the opportunity to take a few photos, while Laura rued the fact that she hadn't brought her camera.
Since we didn't have a vehicle during the day we were confined to the area around the campsite, which was a cleared paddock adjacent to remnants of eucalypt woodland. A ribbon of bottlebrushes overshadowed the creek, providing shelter for populations of small birds. White-browed scrubwrens, brown and striated thornbills, and spotted pardalotes foraged there, along with, joy of joys, a male rose-robin (too shy to allow me take a good photo) and its cousin, the yellow-robin, which spends more time on the ground using a perching and pouncing hunting style.
The Callistemons were not in flower, but a Lewin's honeyeater was spotted looking for winter insects in the trees. A flock of blue-faced honeyeaters flew over and we could hear them in the trees over the creek during the day, along with those sweet-sounding but destructive, iconic Australian birds, the bellbirds.
A grey shrike-thrush also used the trees for shelter, although it spent much of the time foraging on the ground. A small group of the small colourful finches, red-browed firetails, which have probably benefited from the clearing of paddocks for cattle grazing, flew up into the trees for protection although they spent most of their time in the grass looking for seeds.
Grey fantails have to be amongst the least camera-shy of all woodland birds, and are constantly in motion, dancing around on their perches and flitting their tails about, between frequent sudden forays out to catch insects in flight. Their relatives, willie wagtails, also present, are very common in parks and gardens, and are most often seen searching for insects on the ground. Another tail-wagging bird, the jacky winter, we rarely see on our camping trips. There was a pair near the campsite in the paddock near the tents, using tall grass stems as vantage points for spotting insects on the ground before retreating to the shelter of the trees along the creek.
A family of peewees, or magpie larks if you will, strutted around throughout the day, on the mown grass, while a pair of galahs flew in to feed in the unmown grass, kept short by grazing cattle. A pair of crimson rosellas was seen in a tree above the creek in the early morning mist and later in the day, a pair of wedge-tailed eagles soared above, taking advantage of midday thermals.
Mobs of grey kangaroos and an occasional red-necked wallaby came out to forage on the grasslands in the early morning and evening, before retreating to the cover of remnant patches of trees.
But the prize animal spotted over the two weekends (and here I am doing a bit of overt boasting!) was a platypus. I saw it! The creek, which consisted of a series of large-ish ponds, with constantly running water between them, protected by the remnant riparian vegetation, did appear to be suitable platypus habitat (through my human eyes), although the cattle came down there to drink.
I spotted the platypus at about 4 o'clock in the afternoon in the pond on the corner of the creek just after we arrived at the campsite on the second weekend. I didn't have my camera with me and couldn't stop to watch it for very long before going back to help set up our tent. Later, at dusk, I took a little girl over to show her, and the platypus was still active, diving and then surfacing for a breath every few minutes.
Naturally I assumed that it would still be there the next day and I would be able to take photos in better light. Big mistake! I searched all the ponds up and down the creek throughout the following day, without seeing a sign of it. What's more, I learnt from other campers, that rather than being common, no platypus had been seen on the property, even by the owners, in the last twenty years, although they had previously been quite plentiful.
I have since read that when they are not common, platypuses can occupy a home range stretching up to eight kilometres long along a creek. On the other hand, if they are plentiful, several of them can occupy just one large pond (as we saw at Eungella, west of Mackay in QLD). Although I have no proof I am glad to have seen the platypus and I do hope that it will hang around and recolonize the creek.
We have to thank the Brisbane 4WD (Landcruiser) club for the opportunity to camp at Brooklyn and undergo the training, and for the friendliness of the women who remained in the camp during the day and provided us with morning tea. We also have to thank Lorna and Terry who own the property and allowed us to camp there. Many thanks to all involved for an enjoyable couple of weekends (for us - Joe found it to be rather stressful!).
PHOTOS from Brooklyn, near Urbenville
Trucks heading outThe trucks heading out in convoy in the morning, across the cattle paddock where we were camping, for a day of training.
Callistemons along the creekThe ribbon of trees along the creek, mainly Callistemons, ennabled a greater diversity of residual birdlife to survive in the cleared paddocks.
Brown thornbillNote the dark eye and the plainly coloured head that distinguished this species from the striated thornbill.
Striated thornbillThis species has striations on its face with paler coloured stripes above and below the eye, distinguishing it from the brown thornbill.
Blue-faced honeyeatersWe could hear the distinctive short calls of the blue faces in the trees over the creek, but none came close enough for a decent photo. We could also hear bell-birds over the creek - but couldn't photograph them, sorry!
Jacky winterJacky winters also like cleared paddocks, where they perch on high stalks to view the surrounding ground for prey. There was a pair of them near the campsite, unfortunately frightened by another couple of campers out for a walk, before I could get a closer shot.
Peewees (Magpie larks)Strutting around on the mown grass to catch their prey, these birds have benefited from land clearing for stock grazing.
GalahsGalahs are another species that has benefited from clearing to create farmland.
Here a pair search for seeds in the grassland near the campsite.