This week, we visited Nethercote Falls, but because we will be revisiting this amazing area in late October to photograph the blooms of Rock Orchids on the cliffs, I will delay this particular post and introduce you to another of our favourite coastal beauty spots : Aragunnu and Bunga Head.Aragunnu and Bunga Head are both part of Mimosa Rocks National Park and are accessed off the coastal road half way between Tathra and Bermagui. It is a stunningly beautiful area with much variety and interest for the natural history enthusiast, as well as being popular with fishermen, divers and campers.
These photos are of the National Park boards on site.
The Mimosa Rocks National Park Management Plan can be found here : http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/resources/planmanagement/final/20110246MimosaRocksNPfinal.pdf, but for now, here is a brief description :The geology underlying Mimosa Rocks National Park is very old. Sedimentary rocks like slate, siltstone, shale and greywacke were laid down during the Ordovician Period (430-490 Million years ago), then later subjected to much folding and faulting, during which time they metamorphosed. These old sedimentary layers have been exposed by wave action and can be seen on the flat rock platforms jutting out into the sea.
More sediments were laid down during the Devonian period (355-410 Million years ago) and at low tide, Devonian fish fossils can be seen in the black mudrock, including some of the earliest known shark fossils. The fossil record also includes some of the earliest known club mosses and other rainforest flora. Unfortunately, I don’t have photos for these fossils, but here is some of the amazing rock !!!
During this time, rhyolite ( a viscous sticky form of lava, which flows very slowly ) was extruded over the old sedimentary rocks to a depth of over 140m to produce the columnar (hexagonal) jointing of Bunga Head and the volcanic sea stack castles of Mimosa Rocks.
Poorly consolidated sediments like gravels, sands and clays were also deposited during the Tertiary and Quaternary periods (the last 65 Million years). Wave action has undercut them to produce gravel beds of water-worn round pebbles of quartz and quartzite. The ‘coffee rock’ found at Aragunnu is such an example and is an eroded podzol which has been hardened by humic groundwater.The sandy beach at Aragunnu provides a complete contrast to the pebbly beaches and rocky cliffs of Bunga Head. Behind the sand dunes of Aragunnu, Dune Dry Shrub Forest, dominated by Bangalay (E. botryoides), also contains :
• Coast Banksia (Banksia integrifolia),
• Saw Banksia (Banksia serrata)
• Tree Broom-Heath (Monotoca elliptica),
• Pine Heath(Astroloma pinifolium)
• Burrawangs (Macrozamia communis), and
• a groundcover of Bracken (Pteridium esculentum), grasses, sedges and forbs. The Bunga Head Littoral Rainforest (7Ha) contains a low canopy (less than 10m tall) of:
• Lilly pilly (Acmena smithii),
• Rusty Fig (Ficus rubiginosa),
• Sweet Pittosporum (Pittosporum undulatum) and
• Kurrajong (Brachychiton populneus), as well as
• Bangalay (Eucalyptus botryoides).
The rainforest understorey includes large shrubs of Beyeria lasiocarpa, copper laurel (Eupomatia laurina) and large mock-olive (Notelaea longifolia), and a diverse range of vines, sedges and grasses. The top photo shows a Birds Nest Fern on the left and Burrawangs on the right. The bottom photo is of an Elkhorn Fern. Both the Elkhorn Fern and Birds Nest Fern are at their southernmost geographical limit.
The rhyolite ridges of Bunga Head support 30m tall messmates and silvertop ash, as well as populations of the vulnerable Chef’s Hat Correa (Correa baeuerlenii), the rare plant Myoporum bateae, the uncommon yellow wood (Acronychia oblongifolia) and Zieria sp, and an unusual community of Port Jackson Pines (Callitris rhomboidea) and melaleucas, mixed with orchids. These photos show the Chef’s Hat Correa at the top and a Rock Orchid below.Mimosa Rocks National Park is in a climatic transition zone between Subtropical and Warm and Cool Temperate floras. Bunga Head and Aragunnu are the southernmost limit of many remnant rainforest species, including :
• Sassafras (Doryphora sassafras),
• Small-Leaved Fig (Ficus obliqua),
• Scentless rosewood (Synoum glandulosum),
• Koda (Ehretia acuminata),
• Brittlewood(Claoxylon australe),
• Pointed Boobialla (Myoporum acuminatum),
• Large Mock Olive (Notelaea longifolia),
• Orange Thorn (Citriobatus pauciflora),
• Sweet Sarsaparilla (Smilaxglyciphylla),
• Elk Horn (Platycerium bifurcatum),
• Birds Nest Fern (Asplenium australasicum) and
• Climbing Fishbone Fern (Nephrolepis sp).I loved the tangled roots and vines in this Fig forest out on one of the rocky headlands.
The wide range of vegetation types provide habitats for :
• 39 species of mammals
• 115 bird species
• 21 reptile species and
• 12 amphibian speciesIt is worth consulting the Management Plan, especially Appendix 2 : Threatened Animal Species for a complete listing. There are 3 endangered animal species :
• Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor)
• Hooded Plover (Thinornis rubricollis)
• Little Tern (Sterna albifrons)
The top photo is of two delightful little Hooded Plovers on Aragunnu Beach, where they breed from August to March. The bottom photo is of Crested Terns and a Silver Gull.
There are also 20 vulnerable species including :
• Pied Oystercatcher (Haematopus longirostris)
• Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua),
• Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae),
• Sooty Owl (Tyto tenebricosa),
• Square-tailed Kite (Lophoictinia isura),
• Osprey (Pandion haliaetus),
• Gang Gang Cockatoo (Callocephalon fimbriatum),
• Glossy Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami) and
• Brown Treecreeper (Climacteris picumnus)
The first photo shows a pair of Pied Oyster Catchers with a pair of Hooded Plovers, both Threatened Animal Species, which breed at Aragunnu Beach. I love the bottom image of a pair of Pied Oyster Catchers. They are monogamous birds, which lay their eggs from Spring to Early Summer.Mimosa Rocks National Park is also the southernmost limit for :
• Topknot Pigeon (Lopholaimus antarcticus),
• Brown Pigeon (Macrophygia amboinensis)
• Yellow-throated Scrubwren (Sericornis citreogularis) and
• Variegated Wren (Malurus assimimis).
Before the arrival of Europeans in 1788, the area was occupied by the Dhurga-speaking Djiringanj tribe, one of the 3 groups of the Yuin people, who lived between the Shoalhaven River and Cape Howe, on the Victorian border, for the last 20,000 years. The Djiringang occupied the area from Narooma, south to Bega and west to the top of the range. Food was plentiful and included : fish, shellfish, stranded whales, dolphins, seals, crabs, freshwater eels, birds and their eggs, fruits, seeds, tubers, honey, mammals, lizards and grubs. Cycad (Burrawang) nuts were soaked to remove their toxins, then ground into a starchy flour, which was made into damper. These photos show the huge Cycad cones, which break open to reveal these stunning bright red seeds.The rhyolite pebble and veins of quartz provided stone for tool production and the forests had plenty of material for weapons, utensils, shelters, decoration and ceremonial purposes. The photos below show a huge aboriginal midden in the foreground. Not a bad view for a feast !!The Yuin had rich social and ceremonial lives. Groups traveled through the Far South Coast and inland over the Monaro Tableland following ancient songlines. There is an old track over Bunga Head north to Hidden Valley, another little gem. They had sophisticated exchange patterns and large ceremonial gatherings. The park has a number of important ceremonial and mythological sites of spiritual value to the local aboriginals, including middens and artifact scatters, most of which are date to 6000 years old after the last rise in sea levels.
I loved the artistic work on these interpretive boards provided by National Parks.
Aragunnu was an important spiritual place for aboriginal women , who used it as a place to give birth. It is easy to imagine aboriginal children playing in among the rocks and the shallows at the end of this beautiful beach. While we were visiting, a raven flew down to check on us and I like to think that it might carry the spirit of some former aboriginal woman.
European settlement started in the 1830s with the arrival of timber loggers, then farmers and graziers. There were no roads and most travel was by coastal steamer from the 1850s on. Spotted gum and stringybark logged in the 1950s and 1960s were a mainstay of the Sydney boat building industry, as well as being used to build bridges and wharves in Fiji and India. With increasing shipping came the increased risk of shipwreck and in 1863, a paddle steamer called ‘Mimosa Rocks’, which was traveling from Twofold Bay to Sydney, hit uncharted rocks off Bunga Head and sank. It has been commemorated, not only with the name of the rocks themselves, but also the name of the entire National Park, which was gazetted in 1973. The photos below show the site of the shipwreck and some old wreakage off Aragunnu Beach.The area has 50 campsites and we are looking forward to the warmer weather , so we can spend a few days there. We have visited the area on three day-trips now and each time we discover new treasures including these amazing pagoda formations, shown below ! Whether they are a reflection of the spiritual nature of the area, a form of artistic expression or merely a need to record a visit, their layout is constantly changing due to the action of waves and weathering. Its fun finding them all!