Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Kosciuszko in December

I've just realised, with something of a shock, that it is now nearly three years since we last went to Kosciuszko National Park, subsequent to which I wrote a series of three postings on this wonderful mountain park south of Canberra. Rather than repeat myself now, if you're interested in the history, nature and significance of the park, and a map, see here. That visit was in February, towards the end of summer and the flowering season; this time we opted to go earlier in the summer - just last weekend in fact - to catch the earlier flowering. It should no longer be a surprise to see that the flowering in the Snowy Mountains, as in the Brindabellas above Canberra, is noticeably getting earlier. Accordingly the flowers were especially magnificent. This has been a very busy time of year, and our weekend provided a welcome respite. As I foreshadowed in my most recent post I'm starting to run down a bit too, so this will be a low-key posting, comprising basically a photo-record of the flowers and some animals that we enjoyed. I hope you can find time to enjoy them with me.

We did the Main Range walk again, a 13km return walk on a metal walkway - to protect the plants, and keep above the boggy ground - from the top of the Thredbo chairlift to Mt Kosciuszko.
Going down - 600 metres from top to bottom. I'm not a great fan of heights, but this one's worth it.
It's always good to be up there, where the Snowy River rises, and this day was warm (apart from the wind!) and sunny, but it was still early summer up there, and snow drifts persisted.

Headwaters of the Snowy River.
 As I said, the flowers were stunning, as you can see in the background of that photo.
Massed Silver Snow Daisies Celmisia sp., above and below.

Flowers in front of the Ramshead Range.
Daisies provided much - but by no means all - of the spectacle; the Silver Snow Daisies were the stars in terms of dominance, but here are some others. 
Alpine Sunrays Leucochrysum alpinum.This has recently been raised from a subspecies of L. albicans.
Silver Ewartia Ewartia nubigena.Named for Alfred Ewart, Australia's first Professor of Botany as a stand-alone position,
appointed to Melbourne University in 1905.
Cascade Everlasting Ozothamnus secundiflorus.
Dusty Daisy-bush Olearia phlogopappa.
Heaths - formerly Family Epacridaceae in Australia, now mysteriously subsumed in the northern hemisphere Ericaceae - are another important part of the alpine flora; here are just a couple.
Candle Heath Richea continentis, above and below, form massed prickly colonies in swampy ground.

Snow Beard-Heath Leucopogon montanus grows as an erect shrub lower down the mountain,
but above the tree-line it lies flat to the ground or sprawls over rocks.
This mat form is typical of many species in these harsh wind-swept environment.

Alpine Stackhousia Stackhousia alpina.
Sky Lily Herporlirion novae-zelandiae.Of course one shouldn't have favourites, but I can't help it in the case of this delightful ground-hugging
blue-tinged lily, found, as the name suggests, in New Zealand as well as Australian mountains.
Mountain Celery Aciphylla glacialis.Surely one of the most spectacular members of Apiaceae, the celery and carrot family.

Purple Eyebrights Euphrasia collina.
means 'delighting', and it always works for me!
Alpine Mintbush Prostanthera cuneata.A beautiful aromatic shrub which grows close to the rocks, allowing it stand upright.
Alpine Rice-flower Pimelea alpina, a tiny herb.
Bitter-cress Cardamine sp.
Alpine Water-Fern Blechnum penna-marina.I'm always surprised to see ferns growing in a situation where they spend weeks of every year
buried in snow, but these are hardy, and grow among the rocks which provide a heat sink.
Yellow Kunzea Kunzea muelleri.This low-growing shrub can dominate vast areas of hillside - see below.

Another impressively-flowering shrub at the moment - though not nearly as widespread as the kunzea - is Alpine Orites, Orites lancifolia.
Alpine Orites is in the Family Proteaceae, not well-represented at these elevations.
And, far from least, the mighty Snow Gums were flowering too.
Its always seemed a mystery to me that Snow Gums (above and below) are called
Eucalyptus pauciflora - 'sparse-flowering'!
Clearly not named by someone who knew the tree.
This time there were some animals to be seen too, though mostly one has to look. The Alpine Mintbush is a good place to start.
The Alpine Spotted Grasshopper Monistria concinna is regularly found feeding on the mintbush,
despite its aromatic supposedly insect-repelling foliage.
Spotted Alpine Xenica Oreixenica orichora;
thanks for the i.d. Suzi!
Unidentified moth.
And it wasn't until I looked at the moth photo more closely that I noticed
this tiny flower spider lurking with intent.
Vertebrates are much thinner on the ground. Only two birds are regularly seen high on the mountains.
Australasian Pipits Anthus novaeseelandiae work across the ground taking insects from foliage.
Little Raven Corvus mellori enjoying the last light of day in a Snow Gum.
As well as gleaning the mountain insects, they have adapted well to human habitation.
Much rarer is the little Mountain Galaxias Galaxias olidus, now found in the high streams pretty much only where the voracious introduced trout have not ventured.
This little fish is also found at lower altitudes, in waters too warm for the trout.
I hope this has been of some interest or enjoyment, and even more I hope that, if it is possible for you, it encourages you to get up there sometime this summer.

Meantime, I hope that Christmas, if it has significance for you, is a time of happiness and peace - and that you can get out and enjoy nature wherever you are.

Old Snow Gum, Charlottes Pass, with Main Range behind.



Flabmeister said...

I hope that this is read by the Thredbo Owners and Operators Association, and that they give the author of such a tourist-inspiring article a little "something" as a gesture of thanks!

You said " mysteriously subsumed in the northern hemisphere Ericaceae". The mysterious thing is that this is further lumping in the botanical area, while my view is that birds are generally being split. Either way it keeps the tenure-inducing papers flowing.

I had a really hard look at the grasshopper to see how many 'qualifying colours' it possessed. It seemed to be just 2 (yellow/green and red) and thus not an insect of many hues..


Ian Fraser said...

I'm still awaiting our rebate on our accommodation, but there seems to be a delay. Agree re the broad approach being taken by botanists - I prefer the bird path. I hope you're not become obsessed re multi-hued animals; you have form! Have a good one.

Girts Ozols said...

Thanks Ian, you have inspired me to venture out further, havnt been to Kiandra for years, always like it out there, must go soon. A question - Geoff P & I went to Gingera yesterday, only moths we saw were two small groups of dead ones on the ground - where are they all, or did they get burnt out in 2003?

Ian Fraser said...

Hello Girts. I haven't been to the moth sites this year, but I was told they were there (either Gingera or Bimberi) a few weeks ago. They certainly shouldn't have left yet, so I'm puzzled by this. Sorry I can't help further at this stage.