Monday, June 30, 2008

'Owlin' Wind Up Owling Creek

Duncan and I checked out 'Owl Creek' today. This little gully in the foothills just north of us, seldom disappoints. We got very concerned after the last lot of fires and then the floods that swept through. A few subsequent visits had allayed our fears somewhat, and today they were definitely erased altogether.

The birds were in good number, despite the strong nor-wester that blew right down to the creek bed at times. The usual bushland birds were there, and we got some good 'ticks' with a Crescent Honeyeater, a Lyrebird, and our old friends, a pair of Powerful Owls.

We'd got these beauties in here several times previously, so it was good to see them still in their territory. (Here's a link to Duncan's Gallery with some much better pictures of this stunning bird).

Not long after we'd started walking, Duncan pointed out an Incense Plant - Calomeria amaranthoides - and declared it a good sight to see a couple these beautifully aromatic plants returning after the fires and the floods.

(Thanks for this pic DF)

As single plants or as small clusters of half a dozen or so, these are dramatic plants in our Aussie bush, but I wasn't prepared for the scene just around the next bend in the track.

For the remainder of the stroll up to the gorge, these giant tobacco like plants were, in places, wall to wall. They are well named, as the fragrance being issued from their leaves as we brushed past them, was indeed very redolent of incense.

We agreed that we must make note to return regularly, to catch the flowering phase, when the tops of the plants become plumes of pink to red infloresences 'with the impact of a fireworks display'. (Here's an interesting fact sheet from the Botanic Gardens Trust).

It was heartening to see the moss beds were still green. I'm always impressed when I see thick mosses and lichens surviving on bare rock surfaces. And here, the moss has converted enough of the bare rock into a layer of soil for some Mosquito Orchids to survive!

A couple of strong wind gusts reminded us that we were nearing the more exposed end of the gully and that perhaps it might be prudent to turn back. Wise decision as it turned out. On the return walk we encountered several large limbs, and, ah, cough, tree trunks across the track that weren't there on the way up.

For lunch and a chat back at the car, we chose a log to sit on that was in a clearing!

Nice morning, thanks DF.


Sunday, June 29, 2008

Giffard Flora Reserve

Phone Call
J & N called from Magnetic Island the other day and asked that while they were away, in sunnier climes, would I mind taking their car for a run now and then. I decided to shoot down, er sorry, drive sedately down to Giffard today.

The birds were a little light on. White-eared Honeyeaters were 'chock - chocking' away, and a good sized colony of Brown Thornbills with their beautiful deep rolling little call were nearby as I pulled up. Way up overhead, a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles soared in lazy circles in the sky - apologies to Rodgers and Hammerstein.
I decided to concentrate on the ground. Last season, this reserve was a favourite site for a range of wildflowers. Things look promising again, as fairly quickly I came across plenty of orchid leaves.

I also stumbled across this beautiful Correa sp amongst the bracken.

On the sandy ridges, there were a few old banksias that were beyond help. However, in many places wonderful old Mother Nature was seeing to it that they would be replaced.
I Do Wonder Why
I hold the Department of Sustainability and Environment, Parks Victoria and others, in high regard for the effort they make to ensure we have remnant bushland like this reserve protected. I'm not so sure about some other individuals though.

Why would you choose such a wonderful spot to dump your car wreck? Don't worry J & N, I got the Calais home safe and sound. The second creek crossing was a bit iffy though!

Wednesday, June 25, 2008


While scruffing around an old pile of timber at the bottom of our yard today, I came across a termite colony.

Although we have something like 300 species of termites in Australia, we don't have any bird species, (that I can think of anyway), that rely largely, or even moderately on a diet of termites.

The Forest Kingfisher and Golden-shouldered Parrot however, are two birds that do build their nests inside termite mounds. Many aviculturists like to give their birds, particularly the Australian finch species a live-food diet that often includes termites.

But, I digress. I cleaned up the timber a little and spread some of the little house wreckers on the woodpile chopping block.

In a very short time a Grey Butcherbird spied them and quickly consumed his fill.

Then a Bowerbird hopped in for its share. These two individuals at least seemed to appreciate a feed of fresh protein. I'll have to burn the rubbish tomorrow. I wonder do they like their termites toasted?

Monday, June 23, 2008

Neath Lowering Sky

Had some time to spend in Sale yesterday. While G and M got their dose of culture in the church hall via the Latrobe Chorale, I of course headed for the wetlands. Birds were scarce, but the landscape was brilliant at times, when the weak low angled sun momentarily peeped through. (Shortest day and all that).

Friday, June 20, 2008

There Goes The Golf Swing....

....for a day or two. I generally find that after an hour or so on the 'banjo', the golf swing, such as it is, suffers for a while.

When the big cat ripped the tree roots, he also got the waterline in a few spots.

One, two and three..

And six...

In the middle of digging them up, I was reminded of Phil Harding on Time Team. Any Time Team fans out there?

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Lesson Learned - I Hope

Yesterday I had the computer mechanic from Ben Crauchan Blog come over - see, you all thought he was just a naturalist. Oh no, there is much more to our Duncan than that.

I'd been having a 'burning' problem and a few jpeg files were building up without being backed up.

Anyway, DF sorted it for me pretty quickly, so I talked him into giving me an ID lesson on some of the eucalypts next door. On this morning's walk
, I decided to get some shots of a 'Bushy Yate'.

This tree fascinates me, and it seems, many bird species too - a subject for a future blog.

While taking the photos, the noise of some Lorikeets high up in the big Box tree behind me was deafening. Turns out it was a small group of Musk Lorikeets, a bird we seem to be seeing more frequently around here.

The musk is a known nomad, but perhaps, like the Rainbow Lorikeet, some populations are becoming relatively residential. This next picture was taken a short while back at the water bowl in the garden.

Here's the lesson learned bit - I think they were in a Red Box.

Did I get it right DF? Hope so, Aussie bloggers should be able to ID their eucalypts, hey?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

There's a Cat on the Course!

I'm sure they're cat tracks.

I'll follow them a bit and see where they lead.

Yep, sure enough, and a big one too!

One of the consequences of having an attractive golf course carved mostly from bushland, is that eventually the tree roots encroach on to the fairways, greens and tees, denying them of large amounts of water. Periodically, the club has to get in a contractor to run a ripper down the sides of the fairways and around the greens and tees. Mostly this does not harm the trees. It is only the surface roots that are cut, and while some individual trees might decline for a while, they soon come back to life. Natural regeneration and some periodic planting efforts ensure good tree cover.

Next problem - we'll have to check how many water lines were severed!

Sunday, June 15, 2008

Bowerbird Action

The Satin Bowerbirds were somewhat active in the garden this morning. There was a lot of churring, whistling and wing flapping coming from the shrubs in the vicinity of one of the bowers. The light was very dull, but I figured I'd try sitting quietly close by with the camera.

The male soon appeared in the nearby Pittosporum and checked things out for a bit.

He decided it was safe enough, and dropped down to tidy up his bower.

It wasn't long before one member of his harem dropped in for a look.

She checked out the bower and he tried impressing her with his range of toys.

When he thought he'd won her over, he lead her into the bower.

It seems she thought he was a bit of alright, and followed him into the bower ...

... just as the camera batteries expired!

I would have had to label this entry 'adult content' if I'd got the next shot.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008


Start one of these on the golf course...

...and pretty soon you have one of these...

...and sometimes also one of these...

...for company.

A short while back, we experienced what the Bureau of Meteorology euphemistically called a 'strong wind event'. The 'bloody big blow' resulted in quite a few trees and limbs down around the course. The ones that fell anywhere near the greens, tees or fairways have been steadily cut up for firewood and the tops burnt.

It doesn't take long for the Grey Butcherbirds and the Kookaburras to appear. As soon as they see the fire or hear the chainsaw, they're waiting in the nearby trees, watching for the various beetles, grubs and spiders to break cover. Good pickings for a keen eyed Butcherbird or Kookaburra.

Despite the Butcherbirds aggressive appearance and carnivorous habits - they often take other small birds and nestlings - their rich melodic calls, often in duet, are an autumn treat. The distinctive and individual call of the Kookaburra, although sometimes heard in jungle movies, is as Australian as eucalyptus.

Sunday, June 8, 2008

All Is Not Lost

Down at the Heart Morass - the new section at the western end - it is inspiring to see the regenerative properties of Mother Nature at work.

This old Red Gum looks well and truly finished, yet in the foreground there is a mini forest of new life springing up.

This block had been overgrazed and neglected for a long time. Recent acquisition by a benevolent foundation, has enabled a new management committee to take control and hopefully restore this wetland area to something of its former glory. The removal of the cattle and some recent natural flooding has already seen a reversal in the decline of this ecosystem.

Perhaps all is not lost!

Friday, June 6, 2008

On The Course At Night

All the action on the golf course next door doesn't always take place in daylight.

The wonderful little Sugar Glider
can often be heard, softly 'yip yipping' away after dark.

If I'm lucky enough to spot one in the light, it's great to watch its agility as it springs from branch to branch or glides to a nearby tree.

Sap, nectar and pollen are probably its favoured foods, but it will happily include fruit, blossom, insects and fungi in its diet. Sugar Gliders are sociable animals and often during the day, up to 6 or 7 family members will share the same leaf lined nest in a tree hollow.

The much larger Brushtail Possum is superbly adapted to climbing, with its clawed toes and powerful tail with a bare skin 'gripping patch'.

Leaves, fruit and blossom are the Brushtail's wild diet, but in suburbia it will eat almost anything. Brushtails can be very noisy as they screech and growl to keep in contact and to warn of predators.

Gliders and Brushtails are marsupials and will pouch rear their young for several months.

I wonder what they're thinking as I slice my drive off the tee and it canons into their hollow tree? I know how I feel about it!

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

The White-winged Chough... one of the iconic bird species in the drier forests of this area.

They are gregarious ground feeders. In groups of normally 5 to 10, but sometimes in much greater number, they amble across the forest floor searching for insects and seed in the litter.

Quite often their presence is first indicated by the beautiful, (to me anyway), mournful but mellow descending whistles.

Choughs build a bowl shaped mud nest and usually all members of the family group help to incubate the eggs and rear the fledglings.

This little group have been scouring the 'rough' between the fairways on the golf course next door for several days now.

Oh, you really only see the white under the wings when they fly.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

First One!


Thought I might start a blog detailing some of the nature events that take place in my little corner of the world - Central Gippsland in Victoria, the south east corner of Australia.

I was exploring the nearby Heyfield Flora Reserve recently, mainly trying to locate some Scarlet Robins that I'd seen in there a day or two before, and this little guy came scurrying out from under some leaf litter...

I'm not too certain of his correct name. There is a local spider with the inglorious name of 'Red and Black Spider', so perhaps that is what he is. Some one out there will be able to set me straight I'm sure.