Friday, 28 February 2014

Travelling North

In my first February post (you can revisit by clicking here), I shared some of the day trips I took with a friend visiting from the UK. Because Jayne was in Australia for six weeks, we also had the opportunity to explore some of the east coast of Australia on some longer road trips.

Our first major expedition was to head north. The ultimate attraction was a visit to the Great Barrier Reef, but there was a chance, if our stars aligned, to incorporate two wonderful natural events.

Every year, humpback whales from Antarctica migrate to the waters of the Great Barrier Reef to feed and calve between May and October. The best known place for whale watching in Queensland is Hervey Bay about 300 km north of Brisbane and definitely on the way to our reef visit.

The second great annual event takes place between November to February, when green and loggerhead turtles make their way ashore along the stretch of coast from Town of 1770 to Woodgate to lay their eggs. The beach of Mon Repos, about 15 km east of Bundaberg, is the most well-known site. It has the largest concentration of nesting turtles on the Eastern Australian mainland and is one of the two largest Loggerhead turtle rookeries in the South Pacific Ocean.

With the puppies booked in for a week's luxury accommodation, we set out on our road trip at the tail end of October, reluctantly bypassing Noosa's beaches and national park and Eumundi markets en route in the hope of catching both the whale watching and the early-bird turtles. Unfortunately, it was not to be. The weather was bad when we arrived in Hervey Bay (this was to become a theme during our travels), and the whale-watching cruise was cancelled as a result. Instead, we took the option of a day-trip to Fraser Island.

Fraser Island is the world's largest sand island and a UNESCO World Heritage Site, famed for its beaches, wildlife, forests, and freshwater lakes. It was named after Eliza Fraser, an Scottish woman, who was shipwrecked there and lived with the local Aborigines in the 1830s. These days, it is a favourite camping getaway for Queenslanders.

Heading towards Fraser Island

The barnacle encrusted tiller of the Maheno shipwreck on Seventy-Five Mile Beach

Coloured sand outcrops

Eli Creek, Fraser Island

Native hibiscus Hibiscus tileaceus

Crinum lily

Fraser Island's Lake Mackenzie


Lake Mackenzie, Fraser Island

Lake Mackenzie, Fraser Island

Shags at Lake Mackenzie
After our visit to Fraser Island and speaking to locals, it seemed that the whale migration was drawing to a close. There was no guarantee that we would see whales if we opted to stay on for a few days to wait for better conditions, so we continued north to Town of 1770, which was the jumping point for a trip to Lady Musgrave Island on the Great Barrier Reef.

Town of 1770 takes its name from the year Captain Cook discovered Australia, and it is the site where he first set foot on Queensland on 24 May, 1770. We had great beachside accommodation at the adjoining township of Agnes Water.

The beach at the Town of 1770
Pied Oystercatcher (I seem to see these wherever I travel lately)
Blue-Faced Honeyeater at a café in Agnes Water

One of the local families in Agnes Water

More of the mob of kangaroos

Mangroves at 1770

Approaching storm from 1770's Round Hill

Looking back on the rocky promontory at 1770 as we set sail on a day trip to the reef.

If  you visited my post about my mid-winter visit to Heron Island here (and its birdlife here), you may well experience a sense of deja vu.  Although smaller, Lady Musgrave Island is also part of the Capricorn Bunker group of Great Barrier Reef coral cays. 
Our destination, Lady Musgrave Island

On the pontoon where our ship docked. The colours of the reef fish are amazing.

To prevent damage to the reef, the ship docks at the pontoon. Lunch and snorkelling is based from there, with small groups ferried onto the island for guided walks. 

The expeditionary forces have landed!

The island is part of Capricornia Cays Marine Park

White-capped noddy terns

Noddy tern on typically sad excuse for a nest - a few leaves and bird poo!

All the birds seemed to have chicks but covered them up protectively as we approached. Here you can catch a glimpse of the chick's downy feathers to the right of its mother.

Fifty shades of blue


Bridled tern

Finally, although just as we were a week or two late to catch the whales, we were a week or two early for the turtle laying season. I had thought it began at the start of November, but Mon Repos did not open to viewing until the 9th of November, so we sadly missed that. However, we were lucky enough to catch the event that makes the laying possible. In the lagoon at Lady Musgrave, two green turtles were mating, closely observed by a friend.

Hope you enjoyed our trip north. Next post we head to the southern state of Victoria and investigate some the beautiful scenery and wildlife there.

Saturday, 15 February 2014

Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day February 2014

Here at Casa Bella our thoughts are with all those affected by extreme weather, from the UK's floods and North America's freeze, to the heatwaves and bushfires in South and Western Australia. I am sure gardening is far from many people's minds, but perhaps this update for Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day can provide a temporary distraction.

It has been a relatively mild summer here in Brisbane. The only unusual feature so far has been the late arrival of our wet season. Hopefully it is just late and not bypassing us completely, or it will be a long dry year ahead.

As usual, my summer garden is dominated by the huge poinciana in the front garden. Because of its size, I used to think of it as fully grown and a static presence, but it is becoming clear that it is still spreading. Many of the sun-loving annuals and perennials planted in the front garden are falling under ever-increasing shade, and a few moves will be in order before next season.

Plumeria obtusa with a flowering yucca behind and the red of the Poinciana

White ixora and variegated pineapple

Onslow knows it's all about keeping cool in summer.

I brought my Adenium indoors so I could enjoy the pink and white blooms for a few weeks.

These two bromeliads are Achmea 'Burning Bush' and the spotted foliage of Billbergia 'Hallelujah'

Plumeria pudica

Yucca in bloom

The next two plants are not from my garden, but I spotted them on walks and couldn't resist including them.

Gloriosa lily


Meanwhile, back on my driveway...

Strelitzia or Bird of Paradise

Miniature ginger Globba winitii

Datura and croton

Here's a close up of the croton. I love tropical foliage. It ensures I have colour all year round even when nothing is in flower.

Another foliage favourite, a Neoregelia bromeliad .

Some of the potted caladiums along the side of the carport.

This pale caladium is one of my favourites.

And finally, I am letting Miss B have the last 'word'. She thinks Onslow gets way too much attention in this blog, just because he is an exhibitionist! 

To see what is happening in other gardens around the world this Bloom Day, visit Garden Bloggers' Bloom Day host Carol at May Dreams Gardens.


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