A Winter Bird Walk at Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens with Carol Probets

A visit to the Blue Mountains Botanic Gardens is one of my favourite immersive experiences. I have been there several times over recent years and have enjoyed different aspects of the extensive gardens throughout the seasons. Sometimes I head over for a wander with a specific purpose in mind, such as looking at Australian flora or to enjoy the beautiful autumn colours. At other times I will just go and have a walk and see what I find.

Each season there is the opportunity to join in a bird walk with birding guide Carol Probets. The walk involves an early start (8 am at the garden gates) and provides a rare opportunity to explore parts of the gardens before the usual opening times (9 am on weekdays, 9.30 am on weekends). There are a wide variety of plants and paths throughout the garden to explore, and on a frosty winter morning, there was a lot of bird activity.

New Holland honeyeater

New Holland Honeyeater

Carol led the small group through the Proteaceae section, which was very popular with the honeyeaters. There were quite a few New Holland Honeyeaters flying about and perching atop tall, bare trees to survey the area. There were also quite a few Eastern Spinebills enjoying the nectar, as well as Little and Red Wattlebirds in the area.

Eastern spinebill

Eastern Spinebill

We headed through part of the rock garden and near the bog garden where there were some very busy White-browed Scrubwrens fossicking through the undergrowth. Several Crimson Rosellas were picking through the lawn throughout the Brunet Meadow, and a male and female Satin Bowerbird perched on a table and chair setting before joining the rosellas on the hunt for treats through the grass. A kookaburra looked on from a nearby branch before spotting something and flying off.

Eastern yellow robin

Eastern yellow robin

As we walked towards the conifer species section, we passed by the remnants of a bower with flashes of blue and yellow. The bower wasn’t being maintained as it was not breeding season, but it was protected by hedges. An eastern yellow robin appeared and seemed to pose on lower branches for a spell, then our attention was caught by a mixed flock of birds high up in some gum trees. Carol identified a Golden Whistler along with Lewin’s Honeyeater and a White-throated Treecreeper. There were also Brown and Striated Thornbills flitting about the branches.

White-browed scrubwren

White-browed scrubwren

We returned to the Visitors Centre for morning tea and a general discussion about birdwatching. This included the chance to review some of the bird and field guides along with a discussion of some of the apps that are available to help identify birds and enhance the experience. Guidance was provided on setting up binoculars along with tips on how to spot and identify birds in general. Carol spoke about bird behaviour along with the challenges of identifying birds as their feathers change throughout the year and can also vary in different geographical areas.

Kookaburra

Kookaburra

It was a perfect winter day for enjoying the gardens and the abundant birdlife in the area, and Carol is a generous and very knowledgeable guide. I am looking forward to my next visit to the gardens, and the next, and the next!

[Photo: red-browed finches spotted bouncing around the lawns]

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Proteas at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden

It is impossible to miss the striking blooms of the many varieties of proteas at the Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mount Tomah.

27536064_UnknownThe mixture of altitude (about 1,000 metres above sea level) and the soil conditions combine to create conditions in which these plants thrive, and they are at their best in autumn and winter.

27536016_UnknownWhen most plants seem to be conserving energy for spring, these South African plants are full of colourful energy.

27537136_UnknownThe blooms are popular as cut flowers, and there was a display of them in the visitor centre. The pictures behind the protea feature some of the beautiful bark around the extensive gardens.

27536096_UnknownThe day I visited the garden was one of a clear sky with warm sunshine, with only the chill on the wind as a reminder of winter.

27535968_UnknownProteas are available for sale at the garden, and there is a guide to growing them at home here.

Have you spotted any winter delights in your area?

Mt Tomah Botanical Garden

The Blue Mountains Botanic Garden at Mount Tomah is located 1000 metres above sea level within the Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. The original owners of the land were the Darug people, and ‘Tomah’ is reportedly translated as tree fern. It was originally covered in rainforest, and the fertile soil is attributed to ancient volcanic activity. It is located on the Bell’s Line of Road and the area was initially explored in an attempt to find an alternate crossing to the Blue Mountains.

The site of the botanic gardens has had a varied history, and in the 1930s it was purchased by Alfred and Effie Brunet and used for cut flower production, supplying into the Sydney market. They proposed the transfer of their property to the Royal Botanic Gardens in Sydney, and the park has been open to the public since 1987.

The garden is set out over 252 hectares, and is Australia’s largest botanic garden. It is a cool climate garden with plants grouped according to their geography. There are a number of different gardens for exploration, including a formal garden inspired by traditional garden design, rock garden, bog garden, rhododendrons, conifers and woodlands.

Highlights include a Wollemi pine and giant redwoods, the bright rockery plants and the wide grassed expanses, tempting bare feet and encouraging picnics and relaxation. The majority of plants are signposted, and I wandered through rose and vegetable plots, passed by the lushly lawned picnic areas, traipsed through patches of rhododendrons and azaleas, found the rockery and flannel flowers and the extremely unusual turquoise flowers of a Chilean plant.

You could easily spend all day wandering around the sprawling garden, with something of interest just ahead to encourage you on.  There are various tours on offer, and I was able to get a good grounding of the park on a garden shuttle bus tour. There is a fine restaurant and cafe if you feel a bit peckish or forgot to pack your picnic lunch.

This is a magnificent place, breathtaking in its beauty, with much to offer as the seasons change throughout the year.

Where do you go for a slice of botanical beauty?

[Photo: one of many wonderful vistas from Mt Tomah]