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I've been a Canberran since moving here from Adelaide on the first day of 1980. I now live in suburban Duffy with my partner Louise Maher, ABC 666 radio and on-line journalist. Among my early memories is following Sleepy Lizards (Shinglebacks) around the paddocks north of Adelaide, guarded by the faithful bull terrier. I have always been passionate about the natural world, trying to understand how it works, how the nature of Australia came to be, and sharing those understandings. My especial passions are birds, orchids and mammals. For much of my life I have been a full-time naturalist, running bush tours, writing books etc, doing consultancies, presenting a regular radio slot on local ABC, chairing a government environment advisory committee and running adult education classes. Recently I have eased back somewhat, but am still writing, teaching, doing some radio work and running overseas tours - as part of my fascination with our Gondwanan origins I've been running tours to South America for the past decade. I was awarded the Australian Plants Society Award in 2001 and the Australian Natural History Medallion in 2006, both for services to education and conservation. In January 2018 I was awarded a Medal of the Order of Australia for 'service to conservation and the environment'.

Thursday, 26 November 2015

Tinderry Temptations

I guess we all know of a place - an alluring road we pass the end of, or a walking track we mean to explore, or a sign to a lookout - with which we're familiar to the extent of promising ourselves we'll go there some time. One such to the south of Canberra is a mountain range passed weekly by probably hundreds of people heading along the Monaro Highway to or from the snow, or the far south coast of New South Wales, or eastern Victoria. The Tinderries are a rugged range east of the highway, accessed from Michelago, some 50km south of Canberra.
The Tinderries from the west. The exposed granitic faces are obvious, and are even more so since
an intense bushfire swept through them in December 2009.
In direct sun or after rain they gleam, catching the attention of cars from the highway some 10km away.
Yes, just 10km, but very few people take the trouble to follow the good-quality all-weather gravel Tinderry Road east from Michelago through the paddocks bearing remnant woodland trees, to climb into the forests of the ranges. You should some time, you know.
Looking back to the west from the Tinderries to the Clear and Booth Ranges in the
southern Australian Capital Territory.
The highway traverses the plain in the middle distance - really not very far!
The granites (and as a non-geologist I'm using the term very loosely, I know) date from vast intrusions of molten material from deep down some 400 million years ago. They dominate the range.
Huge granite slabs like this emerge from the forest.

Mostly however they appear on the hilltops, as huge sheets and tors.

Exposed granitic caps like this have interesting plants and are well worth exploring.
Many are remote and require serious walking; others, including this one, are readily accessible
from the roadside.
The Tinderry Nature Reserve, declared in 1981, has since expanded to 14,000 hectares, all of which is to the north of the Tinderry Road. This road, the only vehicle access to the higher parts of the range, passes through a small extent of Timber Reserve, then private (though currently unfenced) land. To date this land has been managed pretty sympathetically - ie minimally - but on a very recent visit I noticed a couple of For Sale signs by the road (including by the magnificent outcrop in the previous picture), one of my favourite spots in the range. I await developments (hopefully not literally!) with some trepidation. 

The higher parts of the range support the easternmost outliers of sub-alpine forest and woodland vegetation, dominated by Mountain Gums Eucalyptus dalrympleana with Snow Gums E. pauciflora even higher up. (The highest point, Mount Tinderry, is over 1600 metres above sea level - the highest point of the Tinderry Road is 1280 metres.)
Mountain Gums forming a sub-alpine woodland.

Tough! A Mountain Gum seemingly growing out of sheer granite.
Note the wind in the leaves - this is typical of the higher open spaces.
Further down the mountains, the rain shadow to the west produced dry sclerophyll forest of a type widespread in the lower ranges of the region. There is good access to one part of the nature reserve in this section - returning along the Tinderry Road towards Michelago, turn right (north) onto the Burra Road. Some 10km along, in the far north-west of the reserve, there is a parks sign and gate on the right. You'll have to climb through the fence, but at least it's not barbed wire!
Open grassy dry eucalypt forest of Scribbly Gum E. rossii and Red Stringybark E. macrorhynchalow (800 metres asl) in the dry western slopes of Tinderry Nature Reserve.
One of the most significant plants in the range is the wattle Acacia costiniana (named for eminent alpine botanist, ecologist and conservationist Alec Costin, who at 90 is still, as at 2015, going strong). It is limited to the Tinderries (I'm almost certain, though one source has it further afield) where almost none of the population is in the reserve - most is just to the south, especially on granite outcrops including the one featured above.
Acacia costiniana; the phyllodes are very distinctive. It can form dense colonies among the granite.
The range is worth visiting at any time, but spring (which extends well into November at the higher levels) produces an excellent wildflower display. Here is some evidence for this claim! (And this really is just a selection of what I could have offered you.)

Austral Bugle Ajuga australis Family Lamiaceae.
Mountain Boronia B. algida Family Rutaceae.
Several species of boronia are common in the sandstone to the east, but there are very few this far inland.
Common Star-hair Astrotricha ledifolia Family Araliaceae; a large shrub
with many small flowers.
Common Fringe Myrtle Calytrix tetragona Family Myrtaceae.
Another shrub that thrives among the rocks.
Long-leaf Wax Flower Philotheca (Eriostemon) myoporoides Family Rutaceae.
This beautiful shrub is common in gardens, but not so easy to find in the wild.
Another that loves growing among the boulders.
Peas are abundant, here as seemingly everywhere.
Silky Parrot Pea Dillwynia sericea.
Common Shaggy Pea Oxylobium ellipticum.

Heathy Bush Pea Pultenea procumbens.
I'm getting a bit carried away here, so maybe just some herbs to end the floral menu.
Mountain Violet Viola betonicifolia.

Prickly Starwort Stellaria pungens Family Caryophyllaceae - which includes carnations.

Milkwort Comesperma ericinum Family Polygalaceae.
But of course I can't really end without an orchid.
Mountain Golden Moths Diuris lanceolata.
As for animals - well of course, though I don't seem to have many, which may be as well given how long this posting is becoming. Four very different animals to end on.
Spotted Grass Frog Limnodynastes tasmaniensis.This, and some friends, were using a nice cool moist something (I can't now recall what it was!) sunk into the
ground at the edge of the dry forest.

Green Scarab Beetles Diphucephala sp. on Silver Wattle Acacia dealbata.A very common beetle in the mountains regionally.
Magpie Moth Nyctemera amicus; my thanks to Susan for pointing me to an identification for this one (below).
Love the antennae.
Dusky Woodswallow Artamus cyanopterus with chicks.
This nest is in a hollow spout, a typical site for this species.
(And I'm sure she's more interested in her chicks than she appears!)
OK, the Tinderries - if you don't live in Canberra, or visit regularly, this may be of limited interest to you. But if you are one of those who drives regularly by them and wonders what's there - wonder no more! And next time, maybe you can detour...



Susan said...

As ever you make it seem so tempting to visit.

I'd hazard a guess that the moth is a male Magpie Moth Nyctemera amica.

Ian Fraser said...

Many thanks for this Susan - having looked this one up I'm sure you're right. I've amended accordingly above.

Flabmeister said...

A couple more spots to look at.

Just past the high point on the road on the RHS of the road is a small linear swamp with a good collection of less common plants such as Urtricularia and Droseras.

About 2km further down the road, Round Flat fire trail goes down to a rather large swamp and drainage line, again with some interesting plants. If the feral goats haven't eaten them all since I was last there.


Ian Fraser said...

Martin, sorry about the delay in responding - this week has been somewhat fraught. I know and greatly enjoy the RFFT, but not the swamp, which I must visit. I was supposed to be up there with a group on Sunday (when I'd have looked for the swamp) but life and doctors intervened. I'll try again soon.

Girts Ozols said...

Hi Ian, took a drive up there today 2 Dec, I think I missed pretty much all of those flowers, but I did see a black goat run across the road (gone even before I could reach for the camera on my lap), and a white nanny goat with two kids (hers) further up. Wild to me. I got a shot of the white trio on the road, but dont know how to attach my photo as proof :-))

Ian Fraser said...

Hello Girt, good to hear from you. I followed your link (from your pic) and saw your photos - I saw that turtle too! (Or one rather like it...). Note that I didn't take all those flower pics on the same day.

Superimposing said...

Hi Ian,
The Tinderries are a lovely area. Quite a few feral goats in the reserve though. If you are interested I've found cool temperate rainforest nearish in northern Tallaganda State Forest. Black Olive Berry and Southern Sassafras co dominate the largest patch. Leaches are the dominant animal however.

Ian Fraser said...

Thanks for this - I'm very interested in that observation. I know the wet eucalypt forest of the north Tallaganda of course, but not any rainforest.

Superimposing said...

Hi Ian,

I have pics up on my Flickr page (ianlburns). The rainforest patches I have found are in quite a small area, and are indeed within the wet forest in the Lowden area of northern Tallaganda. The largest patch is clearly visible from a major fire trail if you have your eyes open.
I was very excited to find Southern Sassafras but I've struggled to find anyone who cares. I'm glad your interested.

Markus said...

Hi Ian

Not sure if you read comments on older posts like this? Hope so. We also crossed the range earlier this year and noticed the For Sale signs still there. We shared both your concerns and your enthusiasms for the place - and more so having walked much further in (with permission!). So we decided we'd 'fix' the signs :-) They now have a nice Sold sticker, and should be gone soon. I'm sure future management will be very sympathetic, and then some. We would love to meet up with you, hear more about what you've found, share some of what we've found, and I suspect learn a lot. What's a good way to get in touch?


Ian Fraser said...

Hello Markus. I'd almost forgotten this posting. I take it you mean you've bought the block? If so, well done! I'm happy to discuss this further, but I'm off to South America very soon, back late November. You can contact me at calochilus51@internode.on.net

Markus said...

Hi Ian

Indeed, we've bought the block. Thanks for the contact, have emailed you, look forward to future discussions sometime!