In a way, Boxing Day ended up being our real Christmas. Christmas Eve brought the presents, Christmas Day the lovely food, but Boxing Day was the day we found peace and enjoyment in the Australian bush. The heat was intense. It had an effect similar to the icy cold of my childhood Christmases. The extremes of temperature seem to turn nature serene and calm. I love the intense scent of a eucalyptus forest in dry blistering heat.
The air was filled with an orchestra of birds competing with the pervasive humming of zicadas. Beetles and butterflies hovered around the many tiny flowers on bushes and on the ground. We saw plenty of evidence to suggest the presence of kangaroos and wombats, and we even saw an echidna.
Unfortunately, I was not fast enough to take a picture, but for my international readers I include this picture from wikipedia. (All other pictures in this entry were taken by me on the day).
I particularly like this small piece of bush. It is in a travelling stock reserve, access is from a side road through a badly maintained and partially overgrown muddy path. As a result, there usually is nobody else there. There is some evidence that there once was a homestead or cottage of some sort, although nothing much is left, apart from a few strewn pieces of rusty wire, an old fence post and a small stand of neglected plum trees.
The reserve contains a number of unusually grown trees, such as this one which is regrowing multiple trunks out of a fallen branch.
Overall, the area seems in excellent condition. None of the pervasive weeds such as Patterson's Curse nor St John's Wort are anywhere to be seen, and there are also no fields of thistles as is common in nearby paddocks. Instead, there is a plethora of different grass species and a range of bush flowers.
A couple of years ago I started getting interested in native grasslands and I even joined the Grassland Society of NSW. It is amazing how many grass species you notice when you actually start looking, even in our own backyard paddock I was able to find at least ten different species in a small area alone. However, I suspect that most of those are introduced rather than native grasses.
Until I joined the Grassland Society, I had not realised how important native grasslands are for the ecosystem in our region. According to the Australian Department of the Environment, Water, Heritage and the Arts, temperate grasslands in the ACT and NSW are now an endangered species:
"In the Southern Tablelands of NSW it is estimated that 450 000 ha of natural temperate grassland occurred prior to European settlement (Benson 1994). About 2400 ha (0.6%) containing the ecological community in moderate to good condition on public lands and some private lands has been surveyed (Rehwinkel 1997). Possibly the same amount again occurs on private lands not as yet surveyed (Rehwinkel pers. comm.). This gives an estimated total of up to 1.5% of the pre-European distribution of this community remaining in moderate to good condition in NSW Southern Tablelands, and possibly another 5% in poorer condition (native pastures of relatively lower forb diversity and high exotic content)."
Unfortunately, I am still not confident I can identify corrrectly what is a native grass and what isn't. So it is possible that some of the grasses I liked so much during our walk were not actually native grass species. Nevertheless, we walked around with open eyes, and our boys were just as interested as I was in the beauty of our natural heritage which I tried to capture in these photos.