Wednesday, October 11, 2009:
Today was Blue Mountains Day. I walked over to the Circular Quay train station early this morning and bought a Blue Mountains Link ticket, which gives free access to their Explorer bus system. The Blue Mountain train leaves from Central, which is opposite Circular Quay on the center city loop. So I took a train to Central, then boarded the Blue Mountain train. There was a half hour wait to leave, but people were already sitting in the train when I arrived.
I got three life birds on the way to the Blue Mountains: Spotted Dove, which I recognized by its landing style (think Eurasian Collared-Dove), and Australian Raven. I managed to ID a New Holland Honeyeater at one of the stations. I also spotted some Eastern Gray Kangaroos in a field. Other birds seen from the train included Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Pied Currawong, Crested Pigeon, Laughing Kookaburra, European Starling, and Common Myna.
Katoomba Cascades to Federal Pass
After arriving at Katoomba, I took the train to the Katoomba Cascades stop. I saw Laughing Kookaburra and Red Wattlebird near the trailhead. A few steps down the trail, I encountered some Brown Thornbirds. These ended up being one of the most common birds today. A couple of Crimson Rosellas were also in the area. After Katoomba Cascades, I took the Prince Henry Cliffwalk to the Furber steps. There are a lot of steps at Katoomba, a lot of steps (the guidebook says 1000 for this particular walk).
|Laughing Kookaburra||Brown Thornbill|
The forest here is amazing. It looks like a subtropical rainforest, complete with tree-ferns. I really enjoyed walking through it. Of course, it's hard to see birds. I was lucky to spot a White-browed Scrubwren. I kept hearing Eastern Whipbird but could not find it. The same was true of some of the other birds. As I was returning along the Reid's Plateau spur trail, a large brown bird crossed the path in front of me—a Superb Lyrebird. The lyrebird didn't seem to notice me at all. It went slighty upslope, and the started probing around in the leaf litter, gradually working its way up.
|Crimson Rosellas||Superb Lyrebird|
I would have liked to take Federal Pass to the Giant Stairway and do the big climb up. However, if I did that, I wouldn't be able to do anything else in the Blue Mountains. Given the limited time I had, I opted to pay the ten bucks and ride Scenic World's Scenic Railway to the top. It was a quick trip up, including a short segment where there is only a narrow slit open above you before you enter a tunnel.
|Katoomba Cascades||Cliffwalk View||Tree Fern|
|Small Cascade||Katoomba Falls (Upper)||Katoomba Falls|
|Three Sisters Wall||Area Map|
Echo Point: The Three Sisters
My next stop was the Echo Point and the Three Sisters. I walked down to the first sister, where there's a platform. On the way I finally caught up with an Eastern Whipbird. Just before I got back to the top I noticed a Gray Shrike-Thrush. By now it was well past time for lunch, so I walked uphill a little to the visitor's center and Blue View Restaurant. Before entering, I noticed some House Sparrows across the street. I've now seen that bird on three continents.
|Three Sisters View||Stairs|
I got back on the bus and travelled to the Leura Cascade trailhead. There was a New Holland Honeyeater and a flock of Silveryes at the trailhead park. A larger bird seemed to be in with the Silveryes (most birds are larger than Silvereyes). It turned out to be a Rufous Whistler.
Leura Cascades to Gordon Falls
I headed down the trail to more viewpoints, and more steps. After visiting the Leura Cascades, I took the Cliff Walk over to the Gordon Falls Viewpoint (more steps). Then I returned to the trailhead park to wait for the final bus of the day. There was bird activity there—Crimson Rosellas, Red Wattlebirds, and a big brown dove that dashed past, apparently a Brown Cuckoo-Dove. Some smaller birds were also active, but I had seen them before, at least until a Gray Fantail made the scence. I got to watch it flip its tail around as it worked through a couple of trees.
|Trailhead Bridge||Leura Cascades|
|Bridal Veil Fall||Knotted Tree|
That was about it. The bus came, and took me back to the Katoomba Station. I caught the train to Sydney, a 2-hour journey. I got back to the hotel around 8pm. At this hour, with a late lunch, I had a snack instead of dinner.
Even though I only had about 6 1/2 hours to wander around, the trip to the Blue Mountains was very enjoyable. I was struck by the diversity of vegetation as one goes up-and-down or around the bend to a different exposure. Most of the birds seen were near the trailheads, as is usually the case. It's usually the area with the sharpest ecotone, and so most birds. Also, visibility on the trails is often limited, and I know only a few of the songs and calls of the Australian birds.
Trip total—38 bird species including 33 lifers; 2 mammal species.
Marriott Sydney Harbour, Sydney