Saturday, February 28, 2009

The Eucalypt

G'day All,
You may be interested in listening to a discussion on the role of the eucalypt.

This discussion was conducted by Phillip Adams on his Late Night Live program on Radio National on 26th February. Once you have opened the link, you can listen immediately or download and save to MP3 or whatever. The entire 1 hour program was devoted to the subject.

I feel certain many of you out there would find much of this fascinating.


Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Heyfield Birdwatchers -February 2009

G'day All,
On Monday, I journeyed up to the Moroka River with a small group of the Heyfield Birdwatchers. Here is a link to an excellent article on the history of the area written by an old friend, well known to us all.

Our first stop was at Peach Flat on the Marathon Rd, where, after a short look around this wonderful private project, Michele and Rod joined us for the trip up the mountain.

Apart from not swallowing the dust, being in the lead vehicle has the advantage of seeing the wildlife first, and the Landrover crew got some views of a male Lyrebird – sorry about that Subaru crew. (You were first down the mountain though, I hope you spotted something of interest.)

We had a cuppa before heading off for the short walk into the Moroka Hut, situated on a small grassy plain on a bend in the river. This little walk probably provided us with the best birding of the day, Rufous Whistler, Rufous Fantail, Flame Robin and Satin Flycatcher being the stand out species. I thought at times I could hear the mournful call of the Crested Shrike Tit in the vicinity, but I wasn’t able to pin point the bird at any stage, so it doesn’t get a ‘tick’ unfortunately.

Most of the group had not seen the hut, so we had a good browse of the area.

We then drove a little further along the Moroka Rd to the Horseyard Flats for lunch. The river is a little more substantial here and trout were quite visible at times in some of the pools. During lunch we were serenaded with the quintessential and beautiful Aussie bush bird call of the Grey Shrike Thrush. All the time, a sizeable group of Pardalotes was persistently piping from the tops of the tall eucalypts.

The day had warmed up a bit by now and there was some smoke haze on the mountain tops, so we didn’t spend too much time on the Gorge Track. We walked across the spanking new bridge to the site of the first moss beds, only to be disappointed at how dry the conditions were.

We said our goodbyes, and headed back down the mountain to the hot and windy flat country, and then for me it was on to the motorbike and out with the hoses on the golf course for a few hours. From many spots on the course I could look up at the Moroka country and recall some of the images from the day – sigh!

Saturday, February 21, 2009

A Struttin' ...

... down the fairway.

G’day All,
We’ve had half a dozen Straw-necked Ibis on the fairways the last few days.

They strut along and keep just out of good photography range – like so many birds I try to capture! I probably get closer to them on the mower and the motor bike actually.

We seldom get the Australian White Ibis, (Sacred Ibis), on the course. They seem to prefer the wetter irrigated farm paddocks.
I rather like the Straw-necks. Along with the Whites, they are sometimes called the farmer's friend for their habit of consuming numerous and various pest species like grubs, caterpillars, grasshoppers and the like.
When the light is just right, the plumage on their backs and sides is an iridescent black, bronze, blue and green.

I rename them – Greenkeeper's Friend!

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Colour On The Course

G'day Blogworld,
We have some 'flowering gums' in full bloom at present. At various times through the day you can hear them in full flower - bees humming, lorikeets squabbling and the odd golfer cursing as their ball rolls underneath!

Some of the trees have quite pale blossom, but there is a couple that have almost scarlet flowers.

I caught a glimpse of a pair of Gang-gangs in a Bushy Yate yesterday as I roared past, and there are several Straw-necked Ibis with very iridescent sides strutting the fairways at present. I'll try for a picture later today hopefully.

Anyway, daylight has arrived, better go. Just before I put the boots on, number two daughter presented us with grand child number three yesterday - Charley Rose, a sister for Matthew - both well. I'll be checking her out on Friday.

Oh, and I've just become a centenarian - my 100th blog!

Sunday, February 15, 2009

At Last...

... a day out with DF and some birds!

G'day Dear Readers,
After checking out Lake Reeve from Seaspray to Loch Sport for waders yesterday, Duncan and I called in to Lake Guyatt at Sale on the way home. This small artificial lake virtually surrounded by the town, seems to produce something of interest almost every visit.

This small flock contained Lapwings, Snipe, Pelicans, Spoonbills, Gulls, Egrets, Ducks ...

I thought I might include a further two shots that tell a small story...

Back at the car park I was engaged with a Raven...

It was wonderful to be out and about after the recent nasty weather event.


Friday, February 13, 2009

Braeside Park

G'day Bloggers,
While I was in Melbourne the other day, I spent some time in Braeside Park. These introductory notes from the Parks Victoria website are a good summary of the place...

Braeside Park is a large, natural area in a suburban sandbelt. Nestled amongst golf courses, urban development and busy roads, it has the quality of an oasis. The park offers easy walking and cycling trails that meander through three very distinct environments - wetlands, heathland and red gum woodland. The 312 hectares offer a peaceful interlude with picturesque views.

Like most other places around this corner of the world at present, the place was dry. In some of the wetland ponds, the water was replaced with dried and cracked mud.

There were plenty of rabbits chewing down the grasslands and leaving their calling cards around the tracks.

Disappointingly, these were not the only 'ferals' I came across. The following pic was taken from the wetland bird hide...

Enough of the bad news.

I got to see a couple of bird species we don't see often in Gippsland. The Red-rumped Parrot is meant to be fairly widespread in the south-east corner of the country, but I don't recall seeing one around here.

When you look at the distribution map for the Crested Pigeon, they're nearly everywhere else except around here, so this is probably a pretty common sight to most of you readers. Reported sightings in this area are getting a little more frequent, so no doubt I'll be more accustomed to seeing this bird as time goes by.

Like the water, the water birds were a little scarce. I did manage to spot a small group of Pelicans as they swam and flew away from those foxes.

Just as an aside -
Almost at the end of my walk, I came across 4 elderly gentlemen standing right beside a DO NOT FEED THE DUCKS sign, feeding bread to some ducks.
Me: "Excuse me, can't you read the sign?"
One Smart Elderly Gent: "Yeah, we can read it, would you like some help to read it too?"
Me, taken aback: "Doesn't seem you can read it. Either that or you're all ignorant, which is it?"
(I'd summed the situation up in my mind at this stage - I reckoned I could outrun any of them.)
Elderly Gent(s): "Hrmph...", and they just carried on throwing bread to the ducks!
I slunk off, there wasn't much else to do.

Oh, and another thing -
I met heaps of walkers around the tracks, and one actually spoke to me, (apart from the duck feeders). Everyone else avoided my eyes or were listening to Ipods etc, or talking on their mobile phones!

Still, I ticked a Red-rumped Parrot.

Tuesday, February 10, 2009

Sad Times

G’day Blogworld,
Today I journeyed to Melbourne for some golf course machinery maintenance. I killed some time at Braeside Park – more of that later.

I tuned in to the ABC radio’s Bushfire Service for much of the trip to the (other), ‘big smoke’. Some of the stories from survivors were horrendous. Many of the interviews with volunteers were uplifting.

At lunch I perused the papers which of course you are aware, are filled with reports and images. The pictures of distraught couples in front of their burnt out properties were appalling. One image however, did the trick for me and produced some welling in the eyes. This photograph was on the front page of The Herald-Sun and inside The Australian…

People are not helpless, by and large. Some might be hopeless of course. Wildlife on the other hand is another story, a story I’d been wondering about for some time, and that picture just struck a chord. I’m afraid I ache every time I look at it.

On the way back home, I deviated slightly near Morwell, to a bit of elevated land I knew, that might give me some perspective of the fire that started near Churchill, the one I mentioned in an earlier blog entry. These innocuous puffs of smoke in front of the burnt hillsides was the only evidence I could see of what on Saturday, must have been an inferno…

Doesn’t look much does it? In case you are not aware, some statistics from just the Churchill fire –
More than 40 000 hectares,
Over 70 homes destroyed,

21 people killed, AT THIS STAGE – parts of this fire have flared again, and not all properties have been searched completely for victims.

I suspect you know what I’m going to finish with -

Authorities seem certain this was arson!

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Follow Up

G'day Again,
Here's a bit of a postscript to the previous entry.

Earlier in the day, the signs were there. The queuing at the water bowls was a good measure of what was to come.

(Wouldn't be too hard to caption this one, Tony)

The humidity was extremely low and it was obvious then, the fire index was skyrocketing.

I decided to add some supplementary water bowls and pretty soon these were occupied too.

Halfway through the afternoon, the sun began to disappear - time to put the camera away and get busy.

This morning, the sky is still very smoky. The cool southerly wind is pushing smoke from the Churchill fire over us. Just a gentle reminder that it's not all over, particularly for other poor individuals.

The golf course came through last night's wind storm very well. I'm amazed that there are no large trees or limbs down. Plenty of debris on the greens to make putting a bit tricky.

The black bits in the above picture are scorched leaves from probably several of the fires.

Gotta go. Haven't checked the news sites for a while. Better check local radio too, to see how they are getting on down Churchill way.

Saturday, 7th February, 2009


Glen was in Melbourne. She was with Ros and Nick, helping with the imminent birth of our next grand daughter.

I met Nick and Glen at Helimed in the Latrobe Valley at 2pm. The temperature was above 40 degrees and the dreaded hot northerly winds had started. The three of us were very ill at ease at the sight of billowing smoke from the nearby Churchill area. At this stage, it seemed to be coming from quite a small source – we were wondering about the open cut coal mine at Morwell.

Once upon a time we’d lived just south of Churchill. That’s where both our girls were born. We have many friends still in the area. Two old friends had just survived the recent Boolarra fires, a little more south and west from Churchill.

Whilst our drive back home was basically north, away from the direction the fire was moving, at various places looking left and right, we could see its progress up the side of the Strzelecki hills. The rapidity at which it grew was astonishing.

At the same time the north western sky was full of smoke from the huge Bunyip fire. I just wanted to get home. I’d semi prepared for the forecasted disastrous day, but I wanted to start wetting down around the house.

We are fortunate enough to have a ‘garden’ dam on our property. All our pumps are electrical – we are on tank water, so continuous power supply is a pretty essential requirement. Thankfully, three days earlier when I took Glen to the train in Traralgon, I invested in a half decent petrol generator. I blocked the roof gutters and filled them, filled the water drums around the house and we started to ‘wet down’.

With the relatively green golf course on one side of us and grazing paddocks on the other three sides, it was only going to be a grass fire that we needed to contend with. Our strategy was to remain at the house and extinguish any embers that might land on us.

Around 4pm, the sun disappeared. This had happened on previous occasions and for me it is the trigger point to be extra diligent and alert. Ash was starting to land around us and the smoke was getting more dense by the minute. There were no embers thankfully.

With the wetting down basically done we went inside for a cuppa and a listen to the local radio. The enormity of what was happening around Victoria then became evident. In those short several hours, the Churchill fire had crossed the Strzeleckis and was threatening Woodside and Yarram down on the coast! The Bunyip fire had crossed the now closed Princes Freeway, and numerous other fires had commenced in all directions.

Now it was dark and I kept climbing the ladder onto the roof to check for nearby ‘glows’. Radio reports were giving us a horrific picture. The wind was terrible. It was very strong and loaded with ash. Our clothes and eyes were full of it. I imagine with daylight, the place will be a mess.

At around 10pm it started to rain. Very lightly mind you, but anything was a help. We relaxed a little. Another cuppa, some more monitoring of the radio – nearby towns of Glengarry, Cowwarr and Toongabbie were on high alert – but we felt the worst was over.

The roof gutters started overflowing of course, so they had to be unblocked. I had to just let the water flow away, as it was too filthy to go into the tank. Finally we felt sleepy but we were both a bit too edgy to relax that much. I kept wandering around outside, checking for tell tale glows in the distance. The wind has dropped completely and it’s now just daylight. Time to have another wander and some rumination.

An uncomfortable night for us. Oh God, what a night it must have been for some others. The headlines today will be enlightening. If you don’t mind DF, we’ll cancel the Wader survey today.


Friday, February 6, 2009


G'day Blogworld,
Over at Sandy Straits, Mick has a beaut entry on the Sulphur Crested Cockatoo and she mentions the damage they can do in her garden. 'Cockies' don't rate too highly around here at times either.

Sweet aren't they?

As I commented in Mick's blog, they can damage the greens here on the golf course, and not by dropping debris. Oh noooo, this is what they can do....

This happens once or twice a year. No one seems to know what they are after, but it takes hours to repair the greens. It then takes several weeks for the grass to recover.

I probably shouldn't have published this entry - we haven't been attacked for some time now.


Wednesday, February 4, 2009

I'm Easily Fooled.

G'day All,
Just a short note to explain that I was fooled for the umpteenth time by the old injured bird trick the other day.

While moving some hoses, a Wood Duck shot out of the grass and stumbled away from me with one wing dragging. As there are a few people who walk their dogs on the course from time to time, I felt she might be pretty vulnerable, so I decided to follow her and try to ascertain just what was wrong - could I help, was euthanasia warranted?

Just as I was about to follow, she turned and came toward me and veered off slightly. I thought this will be easy, I could probably catch her quickly.

Then the penny dropped. I turned around in time to see half a dozen babies hot footing it for some better cover. When I scanned the ground ahead of me I noticed another four lying doggo in the grass.

I retreated and allowed her to shepherd the last lot into the better cover with the others. I headed off to move more sprinklers, trying to remember just how many other times this had happened to me. Just a slow learner I guess.