The Kings of Merrica River

Merrica River Nature Trail is another walk we had wanted to do for a long time and it lies in the northern precinct of Nadgee Nature Reserve, a 20 671 ha wilderness area. In fact, it is the end of the road and car access to this wonderful wilderness area. From Merrica River, it is a 3 to 4 day hike (55 km) around the coast to Mallacoota, Victoria, and is another bucket list camping trip, involving heavy packs and booking ahead. Only 30 hikers are allowed in the reserve at the one time and the cost is $10 per night per person. Permits can be obtained by phoning (02) 6495 5000. I would love to visit it in November to see the masses of moulting swans, resting on Nadgee Lake, while waiting for their new plumage to grow, as well as to run down the enormous sand-dunes at Cape Howe in Croajingalong National Park, also involving a long walk in. There is not that much  information online about Merrica River, but I did read in a bushwalking book that in Spring, the banks of the river were lined with King Orchids Dendrobium speciosum in full bloom, so we resolved to visit it on the last day of  September. We had not envisaged how wonderful the Spring wildflower show would be, so it was a double visual treat in store! blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0498blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0244Because there were so many wildflowers (over 800 species in Nadgee Nature Reserve), this post will be more of a photo essay, in which I will probably just refer to the genus name, unless I am sure of the species name.blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0241blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0208 Here is a much magnified map from the National Parks board of the area:blogmerricariver50reszdimg_0676blogmerricariver75reszdimg_0676-copyTo get there from Eden:

Travel south along the Princes Highway for 22.5km. Turn left on Wonboyn Road and follow it for 8.7 km, just before the fork to Wonboyn Lake. Turn right into the gravel Old Bridge Forest Road and travel for a further 5.6 km, turning left at the fork-it is well signposted.The Merrica River carpark and the start of the track  is located across the Merrica River causeway.blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0108blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0656blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0110The Merrica River Nature Trail is 4 km to the mouth of the Merrica River, where it joins the sea, so it is worth taking a sunhat, drinking water, walking boots and bathers if it is a warm day. The track starts through a tunnel of Coast Banksia Banksia integrifolia.blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0630blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0138 The track crosses a creek, which flows into a small waterfall, then joins the fire trail through a eucalypt forest to the beach…blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0585blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0283blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0290 and the mouth of the Merrica River…blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0295blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0421blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0296 lined with grey lichen-covered rock blocks, with forest right down to the edge of the water.blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0333blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0297blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0303The vegetation in Nadgee Nature Reserve has been almost undisturbed since European settlement and has such an isolated remote feel.blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0398blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0470blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0339 We walked down along the river to see if we could spot a King Orchid, but only found one specimen far on the other side.blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0306blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0311 We did however find a base camp with a kayak and a fireplace under the huge Bracelet Honey-Myrtles, Melaleuca armillaris, which flower later in Summer. What a wonderful spot to camp!blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0327blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0326blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0324 I loved the brown and gold colour of the water, evidence of all the tannins in it!blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0313blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0309 We then turned our attention to Disaster Bay and waded across a shallow knee-high passage, following the cliff line on the right…blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0335blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0363blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0362 where we discovered masses of King Orchids in full bloom on the higher rocks – such a spectacular show and well worth the long walk in!blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0468blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0445blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0374blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0378blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0386 They obviously liked that aspect with full northern sun and even salt spray and wind!blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0387blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0366blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0428 The lower rocks along the shoreline were very attractive with quartz banding and were covered with oysters, as well as being refuge for scurrying crabs!blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0472blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0473blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0481 We saw a Pied Oyster Catcher, a Reef Heron (photo below), and a Black Cormorant searching for food and Gannets diving, but alas, no whales, Ground Parrots, endangered Eastern Bristlebirds, or the pair of resident White-Bellied Sea Eagles!blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0356 We ate lunch out on the rocks facing the ocean and looking straight across Disaster Bay to Green Cape Lighthouse, around the corner from a couple of salmon fisherpeople!blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0410blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0413blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0412 Then, it was time to retrace our steps, taking more wildflower photos and  watching and listening to the many forest birds, including Grey Fantails, Eastern Yellow Robins, Golden Whistler, White Throated Tree Creepers, Lewin Honeyeaters, Satin Bowerbirds, Wonga Pigeons, Grey Thrush, Lorikeets and the migratory Fan-Tailed Cuckoo, who has returned for the Australian Summer. We didn’t see any other animals, as most of them would have been asleep in their tree hollows, but here are some photos of the homes of the resident ants:blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0634blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0635 Finally, here are the wildflower photos, grouped according to colour :

White and Cream:

Forest Clematis Clematis glycinoides;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0187blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0193 Wedding Bush Ricinocarpus pinifolius;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0127blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0633 Daisy Bush Olearia sp;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0254 Apple Berry Billardiera scandens;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0239 Sweet Pittosporum Pittosporum undulatum;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0258blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0257 Pimelea linifolia;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0502blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0129 Beard-Heath Leucopogon sp;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0189 and a Boronia species.blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0177Yellow, Gold and Orange:

A number of different native pea genus: Pultenaea; Dilwynia, Bossiaea – all that is certain is that they all belong to the Family Fabaceae!;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0173blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0684blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0150blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0224blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0596blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0617blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0689blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0690blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0544 Golden Glory Pea Gompholobium latifolium;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0591 Hop Goodenia Goodenia ovata;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0260 Guinea Flower Hibbertia sp;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0131blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0132Toothed Guinea Flower Hibbertia dentata;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0202blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0156blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0155blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0581Fireweed Groundsel Senecio linearifolius;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0264 Pomaderris elliptica;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0140 Stringybark Wattle Acacia linearifolia;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0642 Prickly Moses Acacia ulicifolia;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0683 Melaleuca megacephala;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0618blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0678Pink and Purple:

Native Indigo Indigofera australis;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0568 Hardenbergia violacea;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0563blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0557 Glycine clandestina;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0252Thyme Pink Bells Tetratheca thymifolia;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0597blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0170 Common Heath Epacris impressa;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0671blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0650 and Purple Burr-Daisy Brachyscome spathulata subsp. spathulata.blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0253Red: Dusky Coral Pea Kennedia rubicunda;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0528blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0529blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0530blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0246blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0531Bush Cherry Exocarpos sp;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0545Blue:

Waxlip Orchid Glossodia major;blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0646blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0210blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0211 Native Iris Patersonia sericea;blogiris20reszdimg_0651blogiris20reszdimg_0673 Love Creeper Comesperma volubileblogmerricariver20reszdimg_0553Green: Large Hop Bush Dodonaea triquetrablogmerricariver20reszdimg_0142and the pods of the Sunshine Wattle Acacia terminalis.blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0626There were even some interesting fungi.blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0653blogmerricariver20reszdimg_0248It was a wonderful day out and we were so impressed with the Kings of Merrica River, that we immediately followed up with a visit to Nethercote Falls the next day to see if their King Orchids were also in bloom, as we had missed them last Spring and we were thrilled to discover that they were! Third time lucky! I have added the new photos to the old post: November Falls. See: https://candeloblooms.com/2015/11/19/november-falls/. Next month, we will finish the year with Wonboyn Lake and Bay Cliff, truly the pièce de résistance of the area and a fabulous place to enjoy the Summer! Till then…!

Sapphire Dreaming

The Far South Coast of NSW, from Bermagui to Eden, is known as the Sapphire Coast and it is easy to see why, when you view that blue, blue sea with rolling green farmland running straight down to the beach and discover hidden gems like Hidden Valley, which lies just to the north of Bunga Head and Aragunnu, which I covered in a previous post ‘Summer Dreaming’, and which is also part of Mimosa Rocks National Park.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.24.44This magical stretch of coastline from Goalen Head in the north to Bunga Head in the south, can be accessed via Hergenhans Rd, 2.8 km off the Tathra-Bermagui Rd. We first visited this area last May and were blown away by the spectacular beauty of the place. The track through the paddock leads down to Bunga Beach and a small creek, which leads back to Bunga Lagoon.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.39.36BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.40.49BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8742BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.45.48Across the creek is a large rocky outcrop, which serves as a wonderful vantage point from which to plan your explorations. To the north, Goalen Head (1st and 2nd photo below) and the south, Bunga Head (3rd and 4th photo below).BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.49.54BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.50.14BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.50.43BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.46.19We  started by walking down Bunga Beach South to Hidden Valley and Bunga Head, then returned along an old farm track to Bunga Beach North and Goalen Head.

Bunga Beach South is a sandy beach 1.3km long, and is a breeding site of Hooded Plovers (Thinornis rubricollis). We saw a National Park sign the other day, which said there were less than 50 Hooded Plovers left in NSW! Here are a few photos of our journey down the beach. The rocks and their weathering patterns were amazing!BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.16.34BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.14.04BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.16.10BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.14.41BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.13.38BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.17.01BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.19.41BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.23.54BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.29.40BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.36.32BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.42.07The Southern end of the beach is 370m long and  has a small creek at its northern end, which feeds into Hidden Valley. Bunga Head lies to the south with its hexagonal columns and dramatic cliffs.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.59.00BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.49.11BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.50.09BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.54.59BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 12.51.39Hidden Valley is well-named, as it is tucked in behind the northern side of Bunga Head and can only be accessed on foot via an old farm track through regenerating bushland from the Bunga South car park at the end of Hergenhans Rd or via Bunga Beach South. There is an informal old track (3km) over the 127m high Bunga Head, but it is not easy to find and is not promoted by NPWS, due to cultural sensitivitiesBlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.01.06BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.09.47Hidden Valley was an old farm and its old sheds, toilet and rainwater tank still remain. Past clearing, grazing, fencing and the establishment of exotic pastures, earthen dams and vehicle tracks have destroyed much of the natural ecology and left the area with weeds like Kikuyu, fireweed, blackberries and Arum lilies.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.04.11BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.06.56The 105 ha property was gazetted in 1994 under the Coastal Lands Protection Scheme, which was established by the NSW Government in 1973 to purchase coastal freehold properties with significant cultural or natural heritage values. Gradually, the area is being revegetated by native coastal banksias (photo above) and coast wattles. There are also a few remnant Forest Red Gums (Eucalyptus tereticornis ), which used to cover much of the area originally, and a few Cabbage Palms (Livistona australis), representing this species’ southernmost limit in NSW.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.07.43BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 13.31.11We are really looking forward to camping here in Summer. There is a large grassed area and a wood barbecue and the beach below is 250m wide and protected by both headlands from the southerly and northerly winds. Apparently, you can catch bream, flathead, salmon, mulloway and gummy sharks.

After taking the inland route back to our starting point, we then set out to explore Bunga Beach North and Goalen Head.

Bunga Beach North is 200m long and has a cleared grassy slope behind and a rocky reef in the centre. It too has black rounded volcanic boulders. The small creek, which leads to Bunga Lagoon, is usually blocked at its mouth, unless there has been good rain. Bunga Lagoon is home to many local and visiting birds.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.45.07BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8795Goalen Head is composed of highly folded and faulted sedimentary rocks like slate, siltstone, shale and greywacke laid down during the Ordovician Period (which was 430-490 Million years ago). During this time, volcanic gabbro rock intruded into the sedimentary layers.The aborigines used the gabbro for tool production.BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8747BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.44.12BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8748BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8788Today, this gabbro is covered by deep fertile well-drained chocolate soils on the crests and slopes, well-drained loams near bedrock outcrops and poorly drained black earth in the drainage lines.

The original native vegetation communities are thought to have included :

  • Bega Dry Grass Forest
  • Coastal Scrub
  • Bunga Head Rain Forest
  • Coastal Warm Temperate Rainforest
  • Dune Dry Shrub Forest and
  • Coastal Foothills Dry Shrub Forest.

Sadly, none of these original communities remain, due to extensive clearing and grazing, though there are still some remnant Forest Red Gums (Eucalyptus tereticornis). Regrowth thickets of Coastal Banksia and Coast Wattle are reestablishing along the seaward edge of the headland, but the area is predominantly grassy : dense swards of Themeda Grassland, dominated by Kangaroo Grass (Themeda australis) and introduced Kikuyu Grass (Pennisetum clandenstinum). This grassland is highly disturbed, but still significant, due to the restricted distribution of this community in the region.BlogSapphire dreamg20%Reszd2015-05-05 11.43.50BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8750We have seen many kangaroos grazing (top photo above), but apparently the Eastern Ground Parrot also feeds on the Goalen Head Grasslands, as do rabbits and the odd deer. There are also numerous weeds including fireweed, blackberry, sea spurge and sea rocket.

Goalen Head was also an old property, which was purchased under the Coastal Lands Protection Scheme. The 104 ha farm (Murrah, Goalen Head) was gazetted in 2001 and added a further 3km of coastline to the National Park.BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8786BlogSapphire dreamg20%ReszdIMG_8782From the headland, there are excellent views north to Murrah Beach ( 1st photo above) and south to Bunga Head (2nd photo above). Murrah Beach is 12 km south of Bermagui, but has very difficult access, due to the closure of the road by the owners of the private property, through which it passes. It backs onto Murrah Lagoon, a 110 ha body of shallow water, fed by the Murrah River, and has much bird life and fish, including bream, whiting, flathead, redfin, leatherjackets, mulloway and the odd gummy shark. It sounds like a really interesting spot to explore, but the only access appears to be by walking north along the coast from Goalen Head. We started to attempt this on our second visit to the area, but it is quite a long walk and really requires a whole day itself. Another hidden treasure, another day, another story …!!!

PS. The featured image on this post was a pod of more than 20 dolphins off Goalen Head.BlogBdayblessgs40%ReszdIMG_8771