Spring and critters in the NSW goldfields (PICS)

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Spring and critters in the NSW goldfields (PICS)

Post  nero_design on Tue Oct 31, 2017 10:27 pm


Sunrise from the Bellbird Lookout on Bell's Line Of Road at Kurrajong Heights.


Fairly thick bushland - quite dry at this time as well.

Heading out to the local goldfields the other day, I noticed it's very dry out there at the moment.  We haven't seen much rain here in the last couple of years and there's not nearly as much vibrancy out there in the grasses and the trees. I was actually out to relocate a spot that I'd marked on my GPS back in 2009 where I had found several items of interest but ran out of time because I was filling in holes left by other prospectors in the area and exhausted myself after several hours.  I had a lot of problems with my GPS this time around and it seemed to lead us in the wrong direction several times.

We were treated to yet another glorious sunrise on the way out there.  The Bathurst area and surrounding gold districts are in all directions but I wanted to stop by Sofala for lunch with cold drinks and then by the Hill End historical site to another ore sample in an area I've slowly been assessing over the years.  i left my DSLR camera at home because I knew I'd be carrying some gear that might scratch it up - and so I just brought my little mirrorless instead.


Here's the skink - still trapped in the oldtimer's prospecting hole.  He couldn't climb out because the entire rim was overhanging.


Shingleback (aka Bobtail Lizard) - [Tiliqua rugosa]


Such a beautiful lizard


Last picture taken just as I let him go.

Each time I head out to the goldfields we end up saving some critter from a certain demise.  This trip I spotted a motionless Shingleback lizard trapped in the collapsed remnants of a old Gold Miner's digging.  It was quite deep in thick bushland and the lizard had no way to climb out again.  I climbed into the crater and my friends helped me out again with the lizard in one hand.  I have it some water and then we let it go again near a small body of water.  It was gentle-natured and I only hope that its mate doesn't end up following its scent down into the same prospector's hole.

Lifting a large, flat rock I found it occupied with a Blind Snake, a Marbled Scorpion, two frogs, a large Redback Spider and a small House Centipede.  We reburied the frogs and took the snake and the scorpion out to photograph them.  The Blind Snakes rarely grow to the lengths of this one and I was in the middle of taking pictures of it when it attempted to take off when I placed it near some moss.  I've never seen them move this fast before either.  But when i grabbed it, the snake released a chemical defense that works very well to repel predators.  An oily substance was emitted from the body of the snake and it then tied itself in knots, which of course covered itself in the oily, smelly substance.  I've handled quite a few species of Blind Snakes but I've never had one do this before.  The smell was particularly foul.  It was like a combination of rotting garbage and sewage... with just a hint of dead body.  The smell ended up on both my hands and then the rubber grip of my camera. Fortunately I was carrying KFC alcohol wipes. After wiping my hands and camera, I found that this produced an entirely new (and equally repulsive) smell.  We took the scorpion with us to lunch at the gold town of Sofala and eventually released her elsewhere.


Exploring a chunk of unprocessed creek conglomerate


Blind Snake - [Anilios proximus?]


The "sting" on the tip of the Blind Snake is really just a modified scale to anchor them to the ground for leverage.  It's sharp but harmless.


The 'Old Sofala Jail Cafe & Museum - from the inside.  Quite a bit of history here.

The Old Sofala Jail is open again for lunch.  It was closed every other time I'd passed through.  The food was generic but affordable and I actually enjoyed the fish & chips.  Normally I wouldn't order fish this far from the ocean but it was good. Their frosty milkshakes were greatly appreciated and delicious.  

Before I could eat, I had to wash my hands from the snake's defensive scent.  A gigantic and freshly built mud-wasp nest in the men's toilet was a rather chilling surprise.  Fortunately they're docile and the cells appeared to be freshly sealed up.  Looking around I found another 5 nests around the toilet and decided I'd take my chances washing off the stinky snake scent with the Camomile liquid soap by the sink.  It took three separate trips and in the end I ate my fish and chips with a fork because the stink from the snake made me retch whenever my hands came near my face.

We had a look around the cafe (which doubles as a museum) and they had some interesting finds on display that were found locally, many found by Prospectors and Fossickers in the town.


The Cafe at the old Sofala Jail is open again for lunch now that the weather is warming up again...


Passing the rock ledge in the way to Hill End from Sofala.


One of the old Bakery stores on Clarke Street is now a General Store... selling gold pans, camping gear and nuggets these days.


The crystalline nuggets might be worthy of slightly higher prices.

The old Bakery at Hill End now sells camping accessories, gold pans and samples of locally found gold in the form of panned alluvial in vials as well as nuggets found locally.  I was surprised to see how expensive some of them were - as most of them were far above the $53 per gram that refined 999.9 gold presently brings.  Clearly these are tourist prices and since they were all under 5 grams I thought the prices were still a bit steep.  The store was still rather busy and the Sunday crowd was crammed in there looking for equipment and considering specimens.  There were a few crystalline gold specimens but these were all rather small.  The house next door to the old Bakery had a great big kangaroo laying in the shade under the eaves. Nobody else appeared to noticed it.


The 'tourist prices' for the gold nuggets for sale at the General store.


Old 'Clarke Street' at Hill End (NSW) ... almost across the road from the Hotel

The scorpion was VERY fast and hard to photograph without a risk of getting stung.  Blowing air on it made it freeze since it thought the air was from an approaching wasp.  So I'd blow air on it to make it freeze, take a picture, and then it would take off again.  We let it go again in a suitable spot and I think she was gravid with eggs. This species is VERY common in the Bathurst area and I've found them all the way from Lithgow to Portland, Peel, Wattle Flat, Sofala, Hill End, Mudgee, Stuart Town and Pyramul.  Sometimes I find more than one under the same rock. They're not considered dangerous but the sting is comparable to a wasp or hornet.  Not worth the misery.  At least they don't fly or jump like some of the ants out this way.


Marbled Scorpion - [Lychas marmoreus] - about 3cm long.


Marbled Scorpion - [Lychas marmoreus] - So tiny that he was hard to get completely into focus.


The big arch at Hill End's 'golden-gully' is still up and standing.  I expect it to be gone each time I pass by.

One of us spotted a small paper-wasp nest attached to a blackberry vine and I was glad someone else spotted it before I bumped into it with the sun in my eyes.  I imagined what would have happened if I'd gotten caught on the thorns on the vine that the nest was situated on.  Some seemingly great specimen samples produced no discernible gold but there wasn't any water to pan out the material with so we ended up stopping at the river crossing over the Turon river to pan the samples in the last few minutes of daylight.  There were a few kangaroos out but most of our near-misses were in the early morning before 10am. We had three close calls in the span of 10 minutes on the old Limekilns Road before breakfast.


Native Paper Wasp [Ropalidia revolutionalis] nest


Exploring a modern drive.  I think someone's been living in this little dugout.

One of the samples I took earlier in the day looked very promising and it even had a quartz vein running through it. It was sourced in a spot that gave up a lot of gold in the 1860s so I felt confident in extracting a bit of gold from it.  In fact I'd taken a sample from the same district about 10 years ago and it gave up some bright pieces of gold from the fine quartz crystals that were removed from a thin reef among the diggings.  Despite crushing this new sample right down into an orange powder, and panning the entire lot when I got back home, I didn't get a single speck of gold.  I don't think I've been skunked like that in years.  Very disappointing considering the effort expended.


Crushing some of the ore samples in a cast-iron mortar.  I ended up crushing about 7 kilos of material.


Surprisingly fine results... quartz and all.  Sadly, no gold from this sample.

I'd traded a small piece of gold for some gemstones a little while ago and whilst I'd forgotten to test my UV flashlight on the scorpion for the camera (almost all scorpions fluoresce under UV light), I thought I'd test the light with the Ruby since all rubies fluoresce under UV light... this includes both natural and lab-grown rubies.  This was a pretty small stone and being candy-pink in color you could argue that it's simply a pink sapphire. Either way, it glowed a blood red under the UV light and the same with a UV laser.  I'm going to have to try to photograph one of those Marbled Scorpions under UV light just to see if this species glows like all the others. The color and inclusions of this ruby suggested strongly it really was sourced from Burma or nearby.


A candy-pink Ruby specimen (top image) that I traded for a small piece of gold. Like all Rubies, it fluoresces very brightly under UV light (bottom image).

So I didn't find any gold although i was only on the ground for a few hours poking around - and spend much of that time playing with the critters.  Better luck next time but I think I might need to make some more solo trips so i don't feel too guilty dragging my companions into remote locations.  I had kept my eyes out for venomous snakes but saw none.  Perhaps it was too cool that day (20°C) for them to start coming out but I think the recent increases in temperature over this last week out to make a difference.


This dark variant of the Shingle-back lizard is unique to the Bathurst area. Some are virtually all black.
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Re: Spring and critters in the NSW goldfields (PICS)

Post  deutran on Wed Nov 01, 2017 1:27 am

Superb post and just amazing shots you have there,thanks for the effort to post.
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Re: Spring and critters in the NSW goldfields (PICS)

Post  granite2 on Wed Nov 01, 2017 9:19 am

Great stuff. One of the best posts I have seen on here. Cheers, Jim
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Re: Spring and critters in the NSW goldfields (PICS)

Post  Ash100456 on Wed Nov 01, 2017 9:33 am

Wow ! Great story to go with great photo's. Gotta go see that country, Maybe early next year.

Cheers
Ashley
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Re: Spring and critters in the NSW goldfields (PICS)

Post  Magilla on Wed Nov 01, 2017 11:27 am

Nice post mate, you don't need to find gold to have a great trip, sometimes the company and the scenery are gold in themselves.

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Re: Spring and critters in the NSW goldfields (PICS)

Post  Kon61gold on Wed Nov 01, 2017 11:42 am

Once again, It is quite evident, that you take great pride in your work Nero. Top posts, brilliant photography. Thank you for sharing it with us. cheers

Cheers Kon. T25

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Out & about

Post  ttrash on Wed Nov 01, 2017 1:33 pm

As everyone else has said

Great post about life & surrounds around the NSW Goldfields

Thanks for taking the time
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Re: Spring and critters in the NSW goldfields (PICS)

Post  Willo on Wed Nov 01, 2017 8:48 pm

Nero loved your post and photography thanks very much for posting! Ian
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Re: Spring and critters in the NSW goldfields (PICS)

Post  Gold Miner on Wed Nov 01, 2017 10:01 pm

Great post and story, fantastic photos too!

(I do admit though it looks like you are taking a pee in the old drive!!!!;-))
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Re: Spring and critters in the NSW goldfields (PICS)

Post  4rd on Wed Nov 01, 2017 10:08 pm

Great post as usual Nero, that first photo of the shingle back with its vivid blue tongue and nice bokeh looks almost 3D and really impressed that you spent all that time backfilling holes left by thoughtless and inconsiderate 'others'...  fast forward several years later and hopefully they've given up the game long ago.  Good luck with your back-tracking and hope you find more of those "items of interest"...
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Re: Spring and critters in the NSW goldfields (PICS)

Post  nero_design on Wed Nov 01, 2017 11:08 pm

Thanks for the comments.  I used to get a little disappointed whenever I went out and found nothing but I wasn't spending much time digging so I shouldn't be surprised.  Many of the other members on here tend to spend days or even weeks in the bush and that's why they tend to find to good stuff.  I think we dug a few boring artifacts like a large file (that was presumably used to sharpen a Miner's pick) and plenty of nails etc.  I often get inspired by other member's photographs to want to get out there and go fossicking ASAP.  In figure it's not going to get any easier as the years go by.  

I was using fairly small camera + lens for the pictures in the post above.  Just a compact mirrorless with a 28mm Macro lens that even has a plastic mount.  I had it clipped to my hip most of the time so I was very surprised to find no scratches on the camera or lens when I got home... even after hauling rocks and having a detector over my shoulder for much of the day.  The three shots taken indoors were from my iPhone since it draws less attention and makes less noise to operate it.  I regret that my wife wasn't able to come out with us but she can't handle the Australian summer heat any more and I think she's sick of coming out with me (the last time she went she got attacked and stung by wild Bees on the Turon).

I try to take pictures when I'm out on the goldfields because many times I come home and see something in the pictures that inspires me to return to that spot for further investigation.  I was debating heading out by myself this weekend and had to remind myself that a short trip lasting several hours there and back again used to take the early explorers many days and sometimes weeks at considerable expense to achieve. We really do take it for granted in the 21st Century.
.


Looking up Victoria Pass (NSW) circa 1880. Note that a fence has been built after a terrible carriage fatality.
All the prospectors from Sydney made this journey at one time or another in the 1800s.


I like the history still evident in our Goldfield towns and on the roads that connect the cities to them.  There's an amazing amount antique relics scattered around these old towns - the sort of things that fossickers in the goldfields themselves would have long since dug up.  But the gold itself is still quite a beacon to modern prospectors.

I think that anyone with a camera should capture as much as they can whenever they're out there because it'll make a great selection of images for the next generation to look at.  I'm of the belief that many of these goldfields, reserves and forests will eventually get overrun by various government agencies and within another 40 years there won't be much ground to access at all in the East... assuming the Green groups don't lock it all up by then.  Let's hope that doesn't happen.  But there's times when I simply can't get out for weeks due to other factors and I always enjoy reading about the experiences of other members and seeing any pictures they might have taken.

Some replies to the replies....

4rd:
I was exhaused that day when I was backfilling other people's holes. I finsihed all the ones on the flat that I was on and then, when I came around a bend in the trail, there was this lunar landscape of dozens and dozens more craters.  I just couldn't fill them all in. I checked them for critters because the sides were very steep and I did find a tiny bit of gold left behind (a few wheat-grain sized nuggets) in the bottom of one of the holes.  I saw no unfilled holes at all this time around.


Gold Miner:

Aw that's not me.  That's a good friend who I sent ahead to see what was in the hole.  Don't worry, from the smell, it seems someone else had used it for a latrine and there was still some wads of toilet paper in there. Not particularly pleasant but there was evidence of bats and there were three entrances to this digging. One came out right next to the road!

Kon61gold:
My goal of the day was to photograph a Marbled Scorpion before we found one... and to locate a rock-wall I'd previously marked on my GPS (but couldn't find).  With the scorpion, I tried to get him all in focus but had some trouble with that due to the nature of the lens I was using.  I don't think any of my shots managed to capture its Pincers in focus.  I tired but it wouldn't sit still enough for me for more than about three seconds at a time.  I've always liked our critters but instead of catching them I'm usually just happy to take a picture. Years ago I would have caught any venomous snakes but today I'm not prepared to risk it and I'd rather remember the encounter with a photograph.  I don't think I'd sustain a serious bite these days without complications.

One of the photographs that I took (on the Turon river last year) was identified by another member here as Opium Poppy flowers (see pic below).  Clearly a living relic from the Chinese prospectors on our local goldfields in the 1850s.  I didn't even realize it until someone else pointed out to me what it was and it was nestled is a cluster of old diggings.


Opium Poppies - growing alongside the old gold diggings in NSW.

I'd love to encourage others to keep posting their pictures of what they encountered in the goldfields.  Some recent shots of Tiger snakes posted here showed just how well they manage to hide themselves on a leaf-strewn ground.  I had those very images in my mind as I was detecting on my last trip.

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Re: Spring and critters in the NSW goldfields (PICS)

Post  AnnieL on Thu Nov 02, 2017 12:43 am

Nero, enjoyed your photographs and commentary very much.  Thanks for posting. cheers
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Re: Spring and critters in the NSW goldfields (PICS)

Post  kevlorraine2 on Thu Nov 02, 2017 9:37 am

top stuff nero. you are one - turned on - person, and with a camera, we get the benefits. much appreciated ... kev

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Re: Spring and critters in the NSW goldfields (PICS)

Post  4rd on Thu Nov 02, 2017 11:18 pm

Not sure if these are some of the pics you were referring to Nero, hard to see the "tiger" until you get a little closer...


                                                                                                               
                                                                                                       

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Re: Spring and critters in the NSW goldfields (PICS)

Post  nero_design on Fri Nov 03, 2017 12:54 am

4rd wrote:Not sure if these are some of the pics you were referring to Nero, hard to see the "tiger" until you get a little closer...

Those are the very ones I was thinking of !!!

The staff at the Reptile Park were stating that their reptile handlers would prefer the pain associated with a Tiger Snake bite over a Platypus envenomation... so I'm guessing they have some experience comparing the two. The local rangers (NSW) told me they had to wear waders in the long grass because they said the Tiger Snakes would often strike above the knees. They're an angry looking snake, aren't they?
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