Friday, August 28, 2009

Windy

The wind one morning sprang up from sleep,
Saying, “Now for a frolic! now for a leap!
Now for a madcap, galloping chase!
I’ll make a commotion in every place!”

(William Howitt, 18 December 1792 – 3 March 1879)

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G’day,

We have had westerly gales blowing for several days down here. On Wednesday the ladies had to mark their ball quickly once it was on the green, otherwise it was likely to blow off. When I watered some of the dry greens the other night, I had to position some of the sprinklers 5 or 6 metres upwind of the green.
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The couple of mm of rain has been enough to cause some of the Horse-dung Fungi, (Pisolithus sp), to ‘sprout’. This stuff always amazes me. It seems to prefer such tough conditions. I’ve seen it growing in the middle of a vehicle wheel track on a bush road. On the golf course it comes up in bare hard ground on the sides of fairways and in the rough where nothing else can survive. Cutting a young specimen open yields another surprise - the interior is made of gold and black 'cells' - quite unlike other fungi apparently.

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We were despairing for the greenhoods this year. The usual sites have yielded a little leaf but no flowers. Yesterday I stumbled across a small colony of Nodding Greenhoods, (Pterostylis nutans), and a few Maroonhoods, (Pterostylis pedunculata).

Regards,

Gouldiae.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Signs of Spring

G'day All,
There has been a bit of action on the course that seems to indicate we might get a Spring after all. I was beginning to wonder.

Suddenly the Finger Orchids have appeared. There is a nice little colony of blues, pinks and whites directly in front of the ladies 17th tee. They appear in this spot each year despite the regular mowing by the rough-cutter and that the ground is like concrete.
One of the Cyaniculas even had a Flower Wasp, (I think), in attendance.
(Note: Common Hover Fly - Melangyna viridiceps. Thanks Denis and John)

There was a cacophany of Rainbow Lorikeet squabbling coming from high up in one of the big box trees near the 5th green. I didn't think there was a lot of flower on these trees and on checking it out, they were arguing over a nest hollow.
I often bemoan the fact we don't get many small birds on the course, and yet lately we haven't done too bad - Robins, Sitellas, the odd Pardalote. I was mowing some surrounds today and a quick brown flash down low in some scrub caught my eye. On investigation I came across a small colony of Brown Thornbills. A wonderful first for some time. I hope they stick around despite the best efforts of the resident bully boy Noisy Miners. (Just happened to have the camera with me too - hah!).All is not lost.
Regards,
Gouldiae.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Two Recent Excursions

G'day,
In the last couple of days I've had the opportunity to briefly visit two localities that I haven't checked out for some time.

Yesterday I drove a few kilometres up the Licola Rd to a small gully that has held some promise in previous visits. On the way I sprung several Wedge-tailed Eagles attending to some road-kill on the side of the road. They were pretty wary and only let me get a shot of them soaring in the distance. Massive birds.

Around here, we have almost forgotten what 'green and moist' is like, yet this little gully less than 30km away was just that. I was greeted by a decent flock of King Parrots, heaps of Bowerbirds and quite a few Crimson Rosellas.

Nice to see the crimsons in number, as around home they are definitely in decline. While we get King Parrots visiting the garden and golf course it is always a pleasure to see them in their more natural environment.

The old 4 wheel drive track on the side of the gully was starting to come alive with wildflowers too. Austral Indigo was beginning to flower, plenty of Twining Glycine on show and even a few greenhoods were in flower including the Blunt Greenhood.
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I took G to the train in Traralgon the other day and took the opportunity to look in at the Crinigan Road Reserve at Morwell. The Heyfield Birdwatchers will be visiting the area next month. One of the car-parks is surrounded with a variety of flowering grevilleas and the New Holland Honeyeaters and Eastern Spinebills were furiously working them over.
As I enter this blog, there is some light rain on the roof and the radar doesn't look too bad. Probably only skitty, (see, I cleaned that up), showery stuff, but it all helps.
Regards,
Gouldiae.








Saturday, August 22, 2009

That Snake Story

G'day Everyone,
I promised to relate the story about the Tiger Snake and the Bug Blitz kids.

As the schools arrived, the children were addressed by several people regarding the procedures for the day. Basically each school was split into 6 groups and given a timetable to follow so that they moved around the site and attended each of the 6 activities - Frogs of Victoria, Water Testing, Mystery Science Object, Discovery Nature Walk, Reptiles of the Region and Regeneration (tree planting).

Sean the reptile man advised all the children that snakes would be around. That it was the ideal time, early in the season and the weather was warm, and this was prime Tiger Snake country. He gave them some advice on what to do if they saw one.

On the nature walk with our second group, Ron and I were summoned urgently by two boys who had spotted a snake just off the track. They did exactly as told - remained still and called for an adult.

The whole group got nice views of a large tiger warming up in the sun beside his log. We got a picture or two and summoned Sean.

Sean carefully took one step off the track, picked up the snake which objected a little to having its sunbaking session interrupted, then popped it into his bag. He did it so quickly and expertly, I didn't get a picture.

We then discussed what to do with it. Sean could relocate it straight away, or hold it for the three days and release it when the exercise was all over. He gave us another alternative which we opted for. He knew of a venom extracting program at the Australian Reptile Park in NSW. They collect venom from as diverse a range of snakes as possible, and make it available to research laboratories and for the production of anti venom.

The kids were impressed that THEIR snake was going to be given the royal treatment for the rest of its life, and perhaps contribute to some future scientific breakthrough. Ron and I 'dined out' on the story with all the following groups, and it helped to keep them ON the track.
Regards,
Gouldiae.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Bug Blitz at The Heart Morass

G'day All,
Just a quick look at the first couple of days with the kids from the local Primary Schools involved in the Bug Blitz program at The Heart. I'll post something with more details about 'Bug Blitz' shortly.

"We're going for a walk along this bushy and swampy track. We want you to stay on the track and behind me, because..."

Tiger Snake beside the track, (story later).


"Sean the snake handler has got some native animals that he will show you and let you handle gently."

Bearded Dragon

"Did you all hear that bird call beside the track? Wasn't that beautiful? Let's see if we can spot the bird."

Grey Shrike-thrush that 'performed' for all the groups.

"Peter, a little bird is calling from those reeds."
"That sounds like a Brown Thornbill, I'll try to take his picture later."

Brown Thornbill

"What have you found there under that bit of bark? Well, you tell me if it's an insect, a spider or a crustacean. See if you can count its legs. Why is it under the bark? Could any other animal or bird get at it?"

Ron having flashbacks

"How old do you think this Red Gum tree is? I'll give you a clue, it's older than me. Why are old trees with hollows important?"

Rainbow Lorikeet popped out from its hollow for every group

I'm having great fun - and sleeping well. The kids had 5 other activities to do besides Ron's 'nature and biodiversity walk'. I'm guessing many of them slept well too. One day to go - can't wait.
Regards,
Gouldiae.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Striated Thornbill

G'day Blogworld,
I'm helping out with the Bug Blitz program at The Heart Morass tomorrow, Wednesday and Thursday. I'll probably post something about it later - basically it is a nature based program for primary students and it's good stuff. (After that sentence I reckon I could probably do with some primary education myself).

Anyway, today I ducked over to the site near Sale to check out the possibilities of things to see and point out to the kids. The swamp is dry at present and you can walk amongst reed beds that are normally surrounded by water so we might not have to stick to the walking track. Might be good.

It was windy today and I didn't hold out much hope of any exciting sightings or decent images. However, one effect of the wind was to force a small colony of Striated Thornbills down to just a few metres above ground. These little LBJ's are normally flitting about in the very upper reaches of the huge Red Gums that line the morass and river banks and their size, constant movement and height above ground can make identification and photography a real challenge.



Some days you just get lucky.
Regards,
Gouldiae.

Making a Splash

G'day All,
Neil at Out And About In Cooloola has just posted a beaut entry on the Grey Crowned Babblers that entertain him around their water bowl, and Mick's latest on Rainbow Lorikeets at Sandy Straits And Beyond, reminded me of some action that took place here the other day too.

"It's nice in today dear".
"Yes, sure is, and nice to have the place to ourselves".


"Uh oh, I spoke too soon".


Once the rainbows got out of the way, a couple of musks decided to check out what the fuss was about.


And after a dip, time for a scratch.
Regards,
Gouldiae.





Saturday, August 15, 2009

Mitchell River National Park

G'day,
The Mitchell River just east of us here, is often described as one of the last 'wild' rivers in Victoria. Even the lower reaches where I had a wander yesterday, are a joy to visit.

The area is not a drawcard to just birdwatchers. While I was there, several groups of rafters went by. (Note for Ros: It was OEG).

There are those who want to dam the Mitchell and turn it into another Gippsland drain - but don't start me. I think the four people in the above image would be on my side.

The birds were quiet, which seems to be situation normal around here at present. A pair of Brown Thornbills nesting, Peregrine Falcons being faithful to an area where we have seen them before, Lewin's Honeyeater, Eastern Yellow Robin, Golden Whistlers, were probably the highlights, none of which cooperated for the camera.

A couple of Superb Fairy-wrens did pose for a moment though.


I also managed an acceptable shot of one of my favourites, the little Red-browed Finch.

Despite the lack of birds, it was very pleasant to wander through some wonderful scenery. I also located a couple of tracks and gullies that will be worth a return visit to check out more thouroughly - funny that!
Regards,
Gouldiae.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Odds and Ends

G'day Bloggers,
Here's three events that have taken place on the golf course in the last couple of days...

Musk Lorikeets:
There was a tree full of musks kicking up a considerable din in the rain on Monday. When I went to investigate I found they were relishing the precipitation and having a right old spring clean of the plumage. The light was terrible, but if you click and open this image, you'll see what I mean.

Gang Gang Cockatoos:
A pair of gang-gangs were feasting in a Bushy Yate. While the female lacks the striking flame coloured crest of the male, I love the tan barring on her belly. Gang-gangs seem to always cooperate for the camera.

Darter:This guy has been about for a week or so now. The stump he is standing on is in a direct line between the 18th tee and green. If you fluff your tee shot the ball will invariably end up in the water near the stump. I haven't seen the bird dodge any mishit shots yet, but I'm guessing he's seen a few splashes. He has a mechanical clicking alarm note that sounds a bit like 'tch tch'. (Quite appropriate for some of my tee shots).
Regards,
Gouldiae.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Golden Whistler

G’day,
Today it is cold and wet around here, (yippee!). An ideal time to go through and sort a few picture galleries. I came across some shots I’d taken recently of a pair of Golden Whistlers on the golf course.


While the female Golden Whistler, pachycephala pectoralis, seems to have missed out a bit in the beauty stakes, (although I love her shape), and pachycephala means ‘thick head’, the male’s plumage and beautiful song make this bird a favourite of mine.


Around here we’d probably class the Golden Whistler as locally nomadic with some altitudinal migration happening as well.

This pair, (I’m assuming it is the same pair), seem to faithfully return to a small patch of bush on the course every few days. They are not there every day and I’m guessing the Noisy Miners have a little to do with that.
Regards,
Gouldiae.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Heyfield Birdwatchers - August Excursion

G'day Birdwatchers,
This morning, the Heyfield Birdwatchers enjoyed some beautiful weather and wonderful birds right on our doorstep at Bellbird Corner Reserve, Maffra. While the list didn’t include much out of the ordinary, (and it looks as though the Red-capped Robin has moved on from the area), we saw a big variety of local species.

We saw plenty of evidence of birds contemplating their nesting locations for the coming breeding season, including Rainbow Lorikeets, Eastern Rosellas and Australian Shellducks. We wish them luck.
Rainbow Lorikeets at a hollow, Macalister River Park, Maffra.

Australian Shellduck near a hollow just outside Heyfield.

Golden Whistlers, Yellow Thornbills, White-browed Scrubwrens, Eastern Spinebills, Whistling Kites were among some of the best views we got, but there were plenty more.

Yellow Thornbill Macalister River Park, Maffra.


White-browed Scrubwren, Bellbird Cnr reserve, Maffra.

And, on the way home there was a pair of Crested Pigeons on the side of the road, a bird that although it has widespread distribution, is meant to be largely absent from this corner of Victoria. Sightings do seem to be on the increase around here.

Crested Pigeon. Out of it's range? Heyfield.

Yet another enjoyable and memorable birding day.

Regards,
Gouldiae.

Saturday, August 8, 2009

UFO!

G'day All,
Just before Glen and I headed off to Frankston this morning for a day with the grandchildren, (oh, and the daughters and sons-in-law), there was a small job to be done on the course. When I was picking up some sprinklers, my gaze began to focus on some nearby tree tops - something I tend to be a guilty of. As I did so, this odd shaped cloud was sitting just above the trees.


I haven't researched the type yet, so if anyone out there would like to enlighten me I would be very appreciative. It was the only cloud in the sky at the time.


While I'm on the topic of the firmament, the moon last night was full and very bright.

What a wonderful planet we occupy!
Regards,
Gouldiae.
PS: Thanks Bronwen, (see comments). It's a lenticular cloud. Seemed fairly low to me, so probably a 'strato cumulus standing lenticular formation'. There is an interesting article here, in Wikipedia. Great stuff!

Thursday, August 6, 2009

A Study In Heron

G'day Blog Followers,
Yesterday I managed to squeeze in a brief visit to the local wetlands, just before an appointment in town. There wasn't a lot about. Chestnut and Grey Teal, Coots, Swamphens etc of course, and, I managed some beaut shots of empty tree branches, nice and sharply in focus, where just several milliseconds before a Weebill had been sitting. One day!

This White-faced Heron was fairly accommodating though.


Regards,
Gouldiae.