Saturday, September 19, 2009

The Choughs are Re-building.

A few days back I reported on a family of Choughs that were 'testing' an old nest in a Yellow Box in the car-park of the golf course. A day or two later, I was dismayed to see the nest missing and discovered it in pieces on the ground under the tree ...

That's the end of that thinks I. Checking the locality a little later, I found them re-building about fifty metres further on. Here's the start ...

A couple of days later ...

Some project. Determined blighters. I hope something comes of this effort, I'm barracking for them.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

Heyfield Birdwatchers - September

We set off in some ‘acceptable’ weather for a day of birding in the Latrobe Valley. As we got closer to our meeting point in Tyers it began to rain lightly and the light was very poor, not what we’d ordered at all. Still, birders are made of sterner stuff and 6 of us headed for a quick peek at Jean Galbraith’s Memorial Garden in Tyers. The garden is a small plot of well-labelled native species situated just above the Galbraith original homestead.
Jean Galbraith died in 1999, aged 92, ‘the last of a species’.

Just west of Tyers, the Wirilda Environment Park is situated on the Tyers River, south of the Tyers and Moondarra State Parks. It was too wet to explore the area in much detail, but the birds were prolific and the vegetation lush and healthy. Four of us opted to get a little wet and headed along the nearest track, while the two that remained behind in the picnic shelter stayed dry and saw just as many interesting birds as us, (so they say!).

We opted for an early lunch at this point, in an effort to encourage the rain to abate a little. It seemed to work to a degree, so we headed off to Morwell and the Crinigan Rd Reserve. This small bushland reserve right on the edge of town is becoming a favourite of mine. We quickly spotted a variety of birds and we had Val with us who manages to find an orchid almost wherever we venture, and she located several Greenhoods, plenty of interesting leaf, and eventually a few Wax-lips. I noticed her taking some notes a little later and when I enquired she said, “Oh I’m coming back here”!

My plan next was to show the group a reserve in the middle of Traralgon that I suspected none had previously visited – The Traralgon Railway Reservoir Conservation Reserve, (try saying that after a couple of glasses of red!). We stopped in town for a drink – cappuccino – and got to the reserve as the light was fading rapidly. There were plenty of waterbirds here and they were very accommodating, but the daylight was beginning to wane quickly and the cameras were struggling.

We said our goodbyes in the car park and quickly discussed the venue for October’s outing and headed home, all determined to return I think, when conditions were a little better. Val and I headed for Heyfield and very quickly the roads became dry. Yep, that’d be right, we were only half an hour away from home all day and there’d been no rain on the golf course at all. I had to saddle up the quad bike and put the hoses on the greens!

See you in October.

About the only acceptable bird shot I got all day - Eastern yellow Robin.

Wax-lip orchid, Crinigan Rd.

Not the place for a cappuccino.

'It's a car John'!

'What bird is that Val?'

Chestnut Teal - Traralgon.

Monday, September 14, 2009

In Sale Today

What does one do for two hours in Sale while waiting for a mower part to be repaired? I thought you may have guessed....

Brown Falcon on a sign post at Nambrok on the way.

This Pelican sailed quietly by while I had some lunch at the Powder Magazine.

A Red Wattlebird announces Spring.

Great Cormorant.

Eurasian Coot.

Dusky Moorhen looking for scraps.

Blue Wren calling up the family.

Whoops, there goes the two hours. That burst hydraulic hose should be ready by now. I'll just have to come back another day for that rowdy Reed Warbler in the reeds.

Black Shouldered Kite in Bundalaguah, on the way home.

Some days it's almost a pleasure to have a breakdown!

Friday, September 11, 2009

Job With a View

G'day All,
Today DF took me east to show me his 'Boronia Patch'. For some time now he's been promising me a trip to see just about a once in a lifetime, (for me), collection of unusual mountain plants.

Mt Elizabeth Nature Conservation Reserve is situated north-east of Bruthen, about 60 km from Bairnsdale.

When we pulled up at the base of the helipad, there were two workers from a large environmental management group who were about to do the final steep kilometre on foot. The track was a little greasy and four wheel driving the last bit could have been dicey. We all set off more or less together, as Duncan said the first rare plant he wanted to show me, the Outcrop Guinea-flower, only grew right on the top!

We made it and while we were catching our breath, Pat and Jules began recording the rainfall for the last 3 months.

The men began downloading the information from the device while Duncan scouted about for the plant. I just couldn't take my eyes from the view.

Job done, laptop in the backpack, back down to the vehicle and on to the next spot.

I thought I'd better catch up with Duncan and sure enough he'd located the plant. Apparently this helipad is the only place in Victoria that it survives.

The very rare, (in Victoria), Outcrop Guinea-flower.

Wow for the plant! Wow for the view! Some job eh? Thanks for the company and friendly banter Pat and Jules. Hope the rest of your day went well - mine certainly did and some more details will follow shortly. (Keep an eye on DF's Ben Cruachan Blog for more detailed info and quality pics).

Thursday, September 10, 2009

On The Course This Morning

G'day Blog Readers,
I did a quick 'reccy' around the course with the camera this morning and came across a few surprises.

This is the first bower I've come across on the course. It appeared to be pretty fresh and had the obligatory blue items scattered about. This one runs north - south like the two in our garden, but the blue 'toys' in this case are at the northern end whilst it's the other way round in the garden bowers. A couple of nearby golfers were impressed when they asked what I was doing. The bower is just a couple of metres from a tee. The explanation became a bit involved after one of the players suggested it was a pretty public place for the birds to rear their babies!

A little further on I disturbed a Common Bronzewing. I've been hearing them 'ooming' away in this locality for some time now and must make an effort to see if they have nested nearby.

I was just heading out the main gate and a small group of White-winged Choughs flew into a nearby tree top in the car-park. The activity was quite frenzied as it often is with these birds, so I paid closer attention and discovered a nest.

As I watched, about three different birds took turns to settle on the nest one after the other. While one sat, the others waited their turn nearby. One of my favourite birds on the course. They almost seem to run up and greet you if you come across them on the back track.

Here's the final surprise from the walk.

Now, is that bird on the left an Eastern Rosella with a Crimson's body, or a Crimson Rosella with an Eastern's cheek patch? Any suggestions?

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Bug Blitz Explained - Part 1

I am a relative newcomer to the world of birdwatching and nature observing in general. Like many people, I was probably interested in the natural world in earlier days but life seemed to get in the way of actually taking much notice of the wonders about me.

Even in the last 5 or 6 years that I have been taking more interest, it is obvious to me that the natural environment in my small corner of the world is suffering. (You see, I’ve thought about this a little and decided to start with a low and finish on a high, so I urge you to read on).

Strangely, even when it became obvious to me that I seemed to have a genuine interest in things natural, and that suddenly due to retirement I had some time available, I didn’t really know how to go about things or even in which direction to go. So it was very opportunistic to come across Duncan at Ben Cruachan Blog. I found Duncan’s experience, wisdom and enthusiasm for the natural world was, and still is infectious and he continues to be a mentor and an invaluable field guide.

Duncan will at times recount some sightings of birds or plants from earlier years that must have been stunning. Often we will be doing a bird count for a survey and might count 6 or 10 or even 100 of a particular species, and DF will be reminded of a time when he’d seen ten times as many. That information alone tells me the numbers, in general are in decline, but even in my short experience I’ve seen the evidence for myself.
Red Gums at the mouth of the Latrobe River

There are of course numerous factors that might be causing these declining numbers. I think we now must accept that climate change is occurring. Our ever increasing population continues to put huge stresses on the environment with the waste we produce, the cities and all their infrastructure we build, the cars we drive and distances we like to travel, the land we clear and so on. It is accepted that parts of Gippsland have suffered continuing dry conditions for thirteen years. There is no doubt that around here the birds, animals and plants are struggling to survive.

These observations of mine lead me to conclude just how important it is to try and preserve the biodiversity within the environment and even to begin trying to restore some of it to somewhere near its previous healthy level. I also think we need to ‘spread the word’. Enter Bug Blitz, an educational program aimed principally at the primary school age level.

To be continued.

Saturday, September 5, 2009

The Ascent of Hedrick

The Avon-Mt Hedrick Scenic Reserve is just north of here in the foothills of the ranges. The Avon river winds through the reserve and over time has sculpted some wonderful gorges. There are several high peaks, rocky escarpments, sweeping views and a diversity of flora and fauna.

Yesterday while the golf course was full of the Friday event players, I decided to climb Mt Hedrick and see what early spring wildflowers might be out. Hedrick is only about 450m, so it was not too daunting a task.

I recall the first walk I did in this location was with a local walking club, not long after we had moved back to the area. (Both Glen and I were raised in central Gippsland, went away for further schooling, teaching, etc and moved back some twenty or so years later). We thought we’d see some of the places in the area that as kids we had not really known about or explored properly. Well, that was a mistake. It may just have been the particular walking groups we ended up with, but every event seemed to be a race – in some cases literally. It was heads down, backsides up and in to it! No time to explore flowers, birds, scenery, etc on the way. We had to wait until break times to do any of that.

So it was a great joy to meet up with Duncan and re-discover some of these spots through fresh and experienced eyes. Time to look, time to explore, time to photograph, learning all the while. And, most days I can keep up with him – just.

As I started up the track the small bush birds were in profusion. I love the little bush birds, so this was a good omen.

Scarlet Robin

The dry woodland country was awash with wattles in bloom, but for the most part it was wise to avoid them.

Hedge Wattle

I climbed very slowly and took the time to confirm Glen’s theory that the first flowers to show after the wattles seem to mostly be the ‘bluey – purpley ones’. There was plenty of Purple Coral Pea, (Hardenbergia), twining itself over logs and rocks, and the Nodding Blue Lily and Austral Indigo were also in abundance.

Austral Indigo

Nodding Blue Lily

Just short of the summit there is a saddle that offers some great views of the Latrobe Valley to the south-west. The atmosphere was a bit hazy, but it was still worth a picture I thought. That’s Loy Yang Power Station in the background and Lake Glenmaggie in the foreground.

View of the Valley

To the north was a good view of a broody Ben Cruachan, one of Duncan’s favourite stamping grounds.

Ben Cruachan

From this point to the top of the climb, much of the track is across the top of a rocky escarpment. These couple of rocks appear to be teetering on the edge.


Even in the inhospitable dry exposed rocky conditions, some plants still thrive, like the beautiful tiny Heath Myrtle, (I think). This tough little prostrate shrub was well attended by Hover Flies, Bees and Butterflies.

Heath Myrtle?

Just as if to announce my arrival at the summit, a Grey Shrike-thrush called with its beautiful melodic song. I tried imitating some of the notes and it emerged from the scrub to see if this interloper to its territory was going to be a threat. Once satisfied I wasn’t trying to move in, and giving me one brief picture opportunity, it flashed off with its classic undulating flight and disappeared over the edge of the escarpment.


I had a good look about on the top, and explored some of the dense scrub on the much more damp southern face. Under here were some extensive moss beds and some beautiful fungi.


It was time to head back down to base camp (the ute in the car-park). On the way I found a few examples of the Large-leaf Bush-pea just coming in to flower.


Part way down the weather turned a bit and it began to very lightly drizzle. Didn’t have a coat either. I got a quick picture of a rainbow before putting the camera in the back pack and gingerly continued the descent on a slippery track, mindful of not doing a ‘Tim Holding’.

Forgot my coat!

Just before I got back to the ute, the rain stopped and the sun came out, giving a bright finish to a beaut couple of hours. Must do it again soon.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

A Quick Catch Up

This is a brief entry to give an idea of some of the things that have been happening.

1. The Rainbow Lorikeets on the golf course are feeding young already. (Some more pics on my Tabblo site).

2. The other day, I helped out at another Bug Blitz exercise with the local schools at the Heyfield Wetlands - tree planting, bug collecting, nest box erection, birdwatching...

3. Took G to the train again and took the chance to check out a favourite nearby reserve - Tall Greenhoods were up.