Thursday, December 30, 2010


The end of the day dunked in pale amber light, utter cloudlessness, a stillness only pyramids know, rising/saving coolth, savignon blanc and Melody Gardot's liquid vocals, a Common Koel, high in the pine, asking all gods for another day of life, Eastern Spinebills piping nectar-songs faintly in the shrubbery, the ubiquitous nearby lawn mower's murmur and, a while back, forty minutes with pretty much my favorite Aussie bird, the White-throated Needletail (formerly Spine-tailed Swift), when a loose flock of them arced and fluttered in our great pool of Southern Highland sky like diving-petrels or angels thrilled to be home.

LJ, 7:50pm, December 30 2010.

Monday, December 20, 2010


Two adults and a juvenile Grey Butcherbird were flitting urgently through foliage along Riverview Road late yesterday. One of the adults had snatched a skink from the ground and the juvenile was in hot pursuit, uttering a series of urgent piping notes not dissimilar to a young Noisy Miner's 'I'm bloody starving - give me something right now' racket.

Anyhow, the parent with the skink flew from tree to tree to escape the juvenile, bashing the skink to death on branches various as it went. Two minutes after it had snared its prey, the adult handed it to the youngster, which devoured the creature effortlessly.

I'm wary of anthropomorphism, but it seemed as if the adult Butcherbird deeply cared about the welfare of its offspring, handing the skink over only when it believed the reptile was dead. Perhaps there was a concern the juvenile would either not cope with a living skink or perhaps choke on its food. Regardless, life goes on in a species because of that attention, that compassion.

I've never seen such fastidious food preparation before in the bird world - Matt Moran and Heston Blumenthal would've been proud.

LJ, December 2010.

Sunday, December 19, 2010


The pair of Dollarbirds haunting the corner of Penrose and Quarry Roads now have chicks. Close to 9pm last Wednesday evening, I watched one bird, presumably the male, fly to his nest hollow. On entering the hollow, there was a rapturous clamor from chicks. I'm guessing the female is with her young inside the tree, as I've only seen one bird perched on power lines and hawking above paddocks over the last few days.

LJ, December 19 2010

Saturday, December 11, 2010


Mid-morning today, I saw my first Wedge-tailed Eagle for Bundanoon, beyond Mount Carnarvon, where our world and our hearts surrender to complete wilderness. The bird was flying into mad winds: its huge tail  became a rudder of sorts. Stunning stuff.

LJ, December 11 2010.

Thursday, December 9, 2010


Last Saturday afternoon, I killed the largest Huntsman Spider I've ever seen. It was the "Stone Cold" Steve Austin of Huntsmans. A Kodiak Bear of Huntsmans. Think undiscovered Central American jungles, B-grade horror, Spiderman shaking uncontrollably and ordering another whiskey, Little Miss Muffet in a psychiatric hospital for years...

It was too hard to get the thing out the back door with the careers section from the Sydney Morning Herald, so I had to resort to rolling up much of the paper and whacking the beast. I never feel great about killing spiders, but I was worried about this one snarling and snapping at a family member.


There are heaps of spiders lurking about at the moment - House Spiders between fence palings, Wolf Spiders prowling the concrete, Jumping Spiders waiting in ambush on rose petals, Daddy Longlegs hangin' with dozens of babies, White-tailed Spiders trying to shake off their horrid reputations and a member of genus Dolophones, which is incredibly well camouflaged against the mottled green-grey-white trunks of our backyard blossoms and retreats with the speed of an edgy Sailfish when scared (the effect of this is odd; a section of the tree looks as if it's shifting and one wonders whether one is hallucinating).


(The title quote above is from The Cure's early 90s hit Lullaby).

LJ, December 9 2010

Monday, December 6, 2010


Keen local birders, John and Lynette Desmond, came upon an expansive swamp near the sewage treatment plant and ovals, along Quarry Rd. in Bundanoon, some time ago... It was one of four Bundanoon locations visited on Saturday's Southern Highboca/Southern Highlands Birdwatchers bird count excursion, which took amateur ornithologists everywhere in the Highlands from Bargo River to Lake Alexander at Mittagong. The focus of this outing, which lasted from 4pm Sat to 4pm Sun, was to count as many Highland species as possible in twenty-four hours. The group and I were able to tally ninety-three species, which is a decent result.

The seemingly vast, otherworldly swamp (I imagined I was in the Aussie tropics for a while there, nervy/adrenalised by Saltwater Crocs) has much potential for sought after birds such as Brown and Little Bittern, as well as various ducks and crakes, frogs and more frogs, and perhaps, Tiger Snakes (I've never come across one in the wild - would love to). Scarlet Robin and White-naped Honeyeater have been sighted there at the right times of year.

A pair of Brown-headed Honeyeaters were foraging in the midstorey of the swamp's tangled outskirts when the Highboca crew and I were there. BHHs aren't birds I've studied much in my decades of birding. I hope to find them again and let them sing me their secrets.

LJ, December 6 2010

Thursday, December 2, 2010


I'll be leading a spotlighting bash (think spotlighting without rifles and pig dogs and Bundy Rum and Southern Cross iconography) for active local birding mob Southern HighBoca, in Morton NP, this coming Saturday evening.

If the world's not crying, as it has been for days, the group and I should find a few night birds, microbats, frogs, possums etc. If you're interested in getting involved with Southern HighBoca, email me. Stay tuned for a report.

On another note, those Fairy Bower photos ARE coming soon.

LJ, December 2 2010 


My thanks to Pam Davies for promoting this site in the latest edition of Jordan's Crossing Gazette.

LJ, December 2 2010

Monday, November 29, 2010


Gang-gang Cockatoos are listed as 'vulnerable' by the NSW Government's fauna/flora gurus. They are patchily distributed throughout the Southern Highlands - one sees them infrequently. Last year, I was fortunate/chuffed to see close to twenty birds behind the Sutton Forest Inn - an outstanding tally.

A pair turned up in an acacia opposite my place, early in the evening, yesterday. For an hour and twenty minutes they feasted on seed pods, occasionally omitting their bizarre troubled cat meets hedge trimmer screeches. At one stage, the male got into biffo with a Galah trying to munch pods along the same branch: the Galah, rattled, flew off. Both Gang-gangs used their beaks as a third claw to manoeuvre their way along branches.

The excellent Government website has a wealth of information on Gang-gangs, including eleven points on how to protect the species so it doesn't become endangered in NSW. Clearing, frequent fires and climate change are major issues the bird has to contend with. In Bowral, PCD (Psittacine Cirovirus Disease) has been a great concern.

It's up to all of us to do what we can to look out for the bird, possibly the most beautiful of our cockatoos. If you've seen any Gang-gangs in Bundanoon lately, please send me an email.

LJ, November 29 2010

Monday, November 15, 2010


Early Sunday, I went for my first wander to Fairy Bower Falls. The day was steamy, throbbing, almost suffocating: summer had arrived like a squadron of Black Hawks.

I think Samuel Taylor Coleridge, if he was still amongst us, would love Fairy Bower Falls. He wouldn't have felt incarcerated there, as he did in his famous poem incorporating a lime tree bower, for the place speaks only of liberty. Down there, amongst a multiplicity of ferns, you can reinvent or recapture yourself.

The ecstatic static and sound of applause/breaking surf in cascading water, stalactite-like tree roots hanging over and around the Falls, a cliff face plastered with orange lichen, a purplish flower at chest height (which I'm guessing was some sort of orchid), the sharp ticking of Large-billed Scrubwrens (the Falls are my third spot in the Southern Highlands for this irregularly seen species - Ferny Glen at Fitzroy Falls and Robertson Nature Reserve are the other two), a retreating Swamp Wallaby's thud-thwack paw-cadence then fearful stare at you, a Spotted Pardalote's bobbing as it called above a potential nest hole embankment and, of course, that humbling view across the measureless gullies that harbour Bundanoon Creek and Sooty Owls (hopefully the subject of an upcoming post): so many immaculate things for the person who craves otherness.

Snapshots to follow...

LJ, November 15 2010

Friday, November 12, 2010


An adult male King Parrot turns up in my backyard every few days, for seeds, and possibly company (not that a parrot needs human company - unless it's a bedraggled, schizophrenic parrot kept in the bottom of a rotting hulk in some far-flung, fantastical, pirate-infested corner of the globe, or dead, on a TV, in a British living room).

This morning, two adult males appeared and hung out with me for twenty minutes. I handed them some seeds and fruit. They were flighty, screechy and evasive if my son, dog and I got too close. But then, they'd come back, feed some more. Eventually, some other disturbance beyond our comprehension, involving an hysterical cockatoo, pushed the birds into the air, then memory.

The vermillion on the parrots' heads and chests was dazzling. I used to think the orange-red of an adult male Flame Robin was the most blindingly beautiful colour in Australian nature, now I'm not so sure.

LJ, November 12 2010

Monday, November 8, 2010


Another walk to and from Erith Coal Mine on the weekend produced an Echidna. Serendipity plays a large part in finding them. A naturalist doesn't say, 'Today I will track down an echidna'. The echidna tracks you down.

I love Echidnas for their doggedness, their resolve: they just get through. Up close, they're a colony of sharpened pencils, a conspiracy of minarets, a breathing sea urchin. Their snout is like a dead man's little finger.

This is the fourth or fifth Echidna I've seen in the Highlands.

LJ, November 8 2010.

Thursday, November 4, 2010


Late morning, my son and I were privileged to see two (I'm presuming they were male) Eastern Grey Kangaroos scrapping on the sodden flats between Blue Gum Rd and Birchwood Drive. There was much kickboxing going on. The fight lasted for about ten minutes. I wasn't sure who the victor was - neither animal staggered away dazed and bemused. The pair were part of a mob of about thirteen kangaroos. The females, all nonchalance, weren't paying attention to the males' hullaballoo. I've only witnessed this behavior once before, in a steep north-western stretch of Kangaroo Valley guarded by towering eucalypts.

LJ, November 4 2010.


There are four juvenile Welcome Swallows on their nest outside The Good Yarn. The cupped nest is a sturdy thing of mud, stuck onto brickwork. The nestlings are being fed by both parents.

LJ, November 4 2010.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010


Celebrated poet, Soil Saint and mate, Peter Lach-Newinsky, tends a twenty-acre permaculture farm in Bundanoon. He has a fascinating essay on the minutiae of his property in revered Tasmanian literary mag Island (#121); it is well worth a read for its illumination of Bundanoon's often unseen wild side.

You can check out Peter's writings on permaculture/bioregionalism/animals etc. at and assorted other things at 

Peter's a man who really walks this Earth and understands its spirit.

LJ, November 3 2010.  

Tuesday, November 2, 2010


Following a report of Brown Quail and Origma at/near Erith Coal Mine by Melbourne-based birder Ian Lundy, I  tramped along the track to the Coal Mine in 24 degree heat last Sunday morning. Neither bird showed. I need the latter for my Southern Highlands list.

What I did discover (by myself, and then later, with my son's keen-eyed help) between the almost metaphysical waves of cicada song, grass trees, boronias, irises, eggs and bacon, hakeas, geebungs, banksias, coral ferns, scribbly gums with their polygraph graffiti and eucalypts various, were frogs or toadlets making the noise of distant geese (odd, will have to follow this up), a Jacky Lizard sunbathing (it's been a long time between Jacky Lizards), a minute snail with olive and yellow shell patterning, a centimetre-long red and black spider (I'll have to consult my spider guide), a well-camouflaged brutalist-architecture-grey grasshopper or cricket, Tree Martins arcing beneath the canopy (I've not watched them below the canopy before; I also saw one perched in a tree on my last visit: another first), bull ants ready for biff-o, excitable Striated Thornbills and full-voiced Rufous Whistlers.

The coachwood-blessed wet forest beneath and beyond the entrances to the disused mines, has huge potential for Sooty and Powerful Owls, perhaps a wayward/lost Pink Robin, Green Catbirds, Noisy Pittas, Logrunners, crayfishes, a variety of amphibious things and, if one's lucky, quolls.

The place has seduced me. Naturally, I'll return.

LJ, November 2 2010.

Monday, November 1, 2010


Last night, a Boobook Owl turned up opposite my home and positioned itself high in a pine. For twenty minutes it called incessantly: it would let out its 'mo-poke' every three seconds; once it just uttered a 'mo' without the 'poke'. I was unable to get my torch beam onto the bird due to the pine's dense mass of needles.

A couple of weeks back I was out in Morton NP at about 7pm and heard five Boobooks calling from various areas about the gully that holds Bundanoon Creek. Surely, the Boobook's two-syllable hoot is the quintessential Australian night noise.

LJ, November 1 2010.

Wednesday, October 27, 2010


Yesterday, much to my son's horror, my cocky (read foolhardy and dopey) Cocker Spaniel ate a Yellow Monday whilst it was still alive!

"Why?" you ask.

If only I could answer that question.

We do feed her dog food.

LJ, October 27 2010


Last Saturday afternoon, in awesome summery weather, I happened across a pair of Dollarbirds on the corner of Penrose and Quarry Roads.

Dollarbirds are the only representative of the roller family that visits our shores. With their red bills, deep purples and white, coin-like, underwing markings, they are one of the most striking of Australia's migratory birds. Each Spring they arrive from PNG and islands close to PNG. I was most fortunate to see the male of the pair bob his head, cackle and carry on for a minute, then attempt to copulate with his mate. I've never seen this in over twenty years of birding. The literature I have accessed speaks nothing of a Dollarbird's courtship theatrics/rituals.

At the markets on Saturday, I bumped into local birder Tony Stanton, who informed me he's got Dollarbirds hunting cicadas in his backyard near Morton NP.

It's great to know Bundanoon is a preferred destination for these wandering gems.

LJ, October 27 2010

Tuesday, October 19, 2010


October is mercurial. Serene, warm days wrestle with days that bring ice-winds and darkness and memories of Polanski's Macbeth. It seems an early Summer feel has been shunned yet again. Still, Spring has brought Channel-billed and Fan-tailed Cuckoos, Shining Bronze-cuckoos, Common Koels and Black-faced Monarchs, those migrants I look forward to hearing in Sep-Oct each year. The local male Satin Bowerbird is renovating his north-south aligned bower with blue bottle tops, blue feathers, blue Lego pieces (!) and blue magic, then dancing and whistling to attract a mate.

Last Thursday, the world was bursting with cicada hymns and for the next few days I had cicadas the colour of oil and curry (Yellow Mondays: great name; saves a Monday from being blue or manic or disliked) lying upside down in the middle of roads, dead and eaten by ants, buzzing in trees, staggering from their birth-shells like wounded knights and on my jumper as brooches. My young boy is scared of them. Cicadas are our sun heralds, telling us that heat and a time of winding down is on the way. Our years, and perhaps our Australian identities, would crack without them.

Lorne Johnson, October 2010

Monday, October 18, 2010


Welcome to WILD BUNDANOON, a blog exploring the verdant side of the town of Bundanoon, located in the Southern Highlands of New South Wales, Australia.

Bundanoon is an adored honeymoon destination, place of healing and rejuvenation, mecca for cyclists and the first town in Australia to ban the sale of bottled water. Its homes are known for their sprawling, resplendent gardens. The town sits next to Morton National Park, a wilderness of jagged scarps, almost bottomless valleys, glow worm havens, gum kingdoms and hypnotic creeks.

As a local of Bundanoon, writer/poet, avid birder and nature tragic, I thought the glories of Bundanoon should be celebrated online. Regularly, I will pen observations, comments and musings on all things natural, whether info on Superb Lyrebird calls or the way pines talk to late winter winds. It's all about tracking down and truly inhaling the pure world we often miss, then recording its poetry.

Check out the beautiful quote from Emerson on my profile page - I feel his timeless words define why I wished to start this blog. 

I hope you get something from the passages you find yourself in. Please email me if you'd like to discuss Bundanoon's flora, fauna and wondrous aesthetics, or if you have any specific wildlife questions/info.

Lorne Johnson, October 2010.