On an average week, I will drive through part of the Hartley valley at least a couple of times. When I first began my commute from the mountains through to Lithgow, I’d stuck resolutely to the highway, concerned about kangaroos and wallabies and the like. The seemingly endless procession of roadwork soon led me to take the gap roads which offer a detour through the valley.
So far – touch wood – there have been no encounters with wildlife on the road although there have been some close calls. Drought conditions bring the wildlife closer to towns and farm dams and the like, and it is a common sight to see scores of wallabies and kangaroos feeding close to the roadside.
One constant along a particular stretch of the road is a pair of emus. They are usually along the fence line, and often there will be someone nearby with treats and water, making the most of an unusually close encounter with an emu. The emus are now quite used to people pulling over and I’ve unintentionally taunted them once or twice when I’ve pulled over on a shoulder to take a photo of a cloud or sunset. The deep throat clucking sound they make is unmistakable.
Some mornings there is a deep layer of cloud across the valley. On other days there might be a high cloud formation creeping over the top of the Hassans Walls. It is a beautiful sight from the top of Victoria Pass, a magnificent moment in time before the cloud vapours dissipate.
Over time I’ve learned to drive with a heightened awareness of birds perched on the electrical wires. Most mornings through the valley there are small squadrons of common mynas or flocks of noisy miners. There are smaller groups of magpies and magpie-larks, and occasionally a raven. One afternoon I happened to glimpse a larger than normal bird on a wire. I was able to turn around and take a photo or two of a brown falcon. These are relatively common but it was the first I’d seen in the valley, brown feathers marked with the golden light of the afternoon sun.
Recently I spotted something white in my peripheral vision. I slowed down, thinking it might be a heron as they are a common sight. To my surprise it was a yellow spoonbill, on its own. Across the road there was another delight – small flocks of straw-necked ibis were feeding through the paddocks. You never know just what you might see.
Throughout the seasons there are fresh delights to delight me along a familiar track. Do you keep an eye out for surprises along a well-travelled road?
[Photo: straw-necked ibis feeding in pasture, Hartley Valley]