Target Species: Glossy Black-Cockatoo
A spontaneous decision saw my partner, Marisha and I on the road at a moment’s notice. We were on our way south to Meroo National Park for a camp. I had little knowledge of what to expect down there and I did not really prep. as I normally do. I generally like to organise my trips a way much more meticulously than most, planning what to do in each hour of the day, each minute, plan B’s in case plan A doesn’t go to plan. “Annoying” is how most people describe it. But this trip was off the cuff and I did fail to do my planning I’ve become accustomed to. I was anxious.
We aimed to camp at Sunburnt Beach, about 20 mins south of Ulladulla. Unfortunately, my low Subaru Impreza deemed the road in too rutted out and bumpy and we were forced to very slowly turn around, much to the disdain of the 4WD trailing us. Instead, we headed toward Meroo Head campground where we were happily greeted by a flat dirt road, free of ruts and deep holes (and angry 4wd-ers). Plan B was not described in pre-trip discussion. Plan B was another off the cuff decision… Argh.
What we drove into was a beautiful campground. It was situated where the lakes met the sea, the lakes being Meroo Lake and Termeil Lake and the sea being the Pacific Ocean. It was just a short walk to beautiful, Termeil Beach, there were spectacular coastal views off Meroo Headland and alluring bushland begging to be explored. The flora in the immediate area is reasonably diverse and of much importance. The campground is surrounded by moist, Spotted Gum Forest with canopy primarily consisting of Spotted Gum (Corymbia maculata) and Blackbutt (Eucalyptus pilularis). The Bangalay-Banksia forests lined the sand dunes with the Southern Mahogany (Eucalyptus botryoides) and Coastal Banksia (Banksia integrifolia) prolific. The lakes are lined with Swamp She-Oak (Casuarina glauca), Swamp Paperbark (Melaleuca ericifolia) and Tantoo (Leptospermum polygalifolium). The magnificent lakes possess their own seagrass, saltmarsh communities with plants including Eel Grass (Zostera capricorni).
But enough with the plants… where are the birds?
The first birds we encountered were a pair of Hooded Plover, a very welcome sight. These birds are considered Critically Endangered in New South Wales due to habitat loss. Their plight is slightly more positive in the rest of Australia as there are about 5000 birds left around the country, but they are still considered vulnerable. They forage at all levels in the sand and roost in the upper zones of the beach at night. They breed between August and March in a narrow strip, just above the high tide mark, but at the base of the larger dunes. They have a low hatching success, at just over 25%. These guys were tagged and are being monitored, presumably by the government agencies, where extensive rehabilitation and restorative activity is being undertaken.
After the beach visit, we ventured to the lakes in search of more wildlife activity. The campsite was inundated by Variegated Fairy-Wren, with several groups chirping around in the low shrub around the sites. The lower canopy was alive with Striated Thornbill and Brown Gerygone and our ears were pulsating with the sound of Sacred Kingfisher. We were even tripped up by a wandering echidna, who strayed across the path, meandering back into the fern without even a stray look in our direction. The cormorants were basking in the afternoon sun around the lakes, with great views of Little Pied Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant and Great Cormorant. The far-reaching bushland around the lake, the rustling reeds in the gentle breeze, the booming and the crashing of the waves on the coastlines all created such calming vibes, you could definitely take a moment and lose your former lives out here.
The next morning we were off early to hike up Pigeon House Mountain, a walking track that, once atop, gives you panoramic views of the Badawang Wilderness. On time and ready to hike, we left our campsite. Unfortunately, we were rudely and irritably interrupted by a pair of Glossy Black-Cockatoo, feeding directly roadside! We pulled over to watched them munching on their favourite shrub, Black She-Oak (Allocasuarina littoralis). What an absolutely gorgeous bird, my only regret was not being able to capture the true beauty of the red tails or the flush of yellow in a photograph. What a treat and start to the morning!
My mind was not fixated on the birds just as it had been as of late, more so on the hike itself, however, my focus was rightfully justified as the bushland was almost silent for a good hour (which I did not mind at all as the walk up the mountain was very steep!) All of a sudden, without warning, a Shining Bronze-Cuckoo shot past and into the tree, about eye height and landed, caterpillar in beak, ready to gulp down. Just as I was ready to take an absolute cracker of a picture, a group of walkers trundled past and scared it higher up the tree. Then from behind us, ANOTHER group waltzed by, scaring it further to another tree! Where’d these people come from? We hadn’t seen anyone for ages! “Just my luck” I thought to myself. I was able to snap a few decent pics, though the one I was GOING to take would have been an absolute cracker! Not to be, just unlucky really, though, who am I to complain, it was fantastic to watch this bird munch on some grub!
After more steep climbing and a series of cumbersome ladders to reach the summit, we made it and the views were truly marvellous; the promises well received. My mind was swept away by the rolling hills and the whispering breeze. I could see the coastline and the vast nothingness of the ranges. I was blown away… Then, all of a sudden, a Rockwarbler sung and showed it’s face, deep from beneath a rock! It flew and without consternation, flew right to the rock right beside me. What an awesome sight!
It would be a shame not to include a couple beautiful orchids we found on our travels. The first was a patch of Tiger Orchid (Diuris sulphuerea) in the woodlands by the lake. The second was a Streaked Rock Orchid (Dockrillia striolata) atop Pigeon House Mountain.
I’ve heard the quote “Plans are an invitation to disappointment”. As I don’t fully agree with this because I love planning, it does have some substance. This trip wasn’t planned at all, yet we made memories. And a life without memories is not a life worth living.