Friday, May 25, 2012

A Couple of Winter Orchids

G’day Nature Lovers,
Earlier this week a small band of Heyfield Birdwatchers scanned the canopy of the Stockdale Forest as part of the survey for Swift Parrots and Regent Honeyeaters. The survey was for the Woodlands Birds for Biodiversity project, (link), conducted by Birdlife Australia. (An 8 page pdf document containing an update can be downloaded from the link I’ve given).

To shorten a long story, we didn’t see any of either species. Lots of other honeyeaters and sundry bush birds, but no regents or swifts.

We did have some nice sightings of autumn/winter orchids however and today I ducked back to explore in a bit more detail.

In the adjacent pine plantation there were quite a number of Fly Agaric fungi. This formerly northern hemisphere fungus has become well established here, mainly associated with introduced trees, but apparently is beginning to displace some indigenous fungi associated with native trees!


Although the literature describes this species as poisonous, there is evidence of tinctures made from this fruiting body being used as a herbal remedy for various ailments, from down through the ages to this day. Hmmm, dunno?

We found some nice colonies of Fringed Helmet-orchids too. In Victoria, these weird looking orchids are thought to be confined to the south-east of the state, where they like damp shady places in healthy woodlands, heathlands and scrub.



The Cobra Greenhood is another winter orchid that, in Victoria, is confined mostly to the south-east. Earlier in the week we saw just one or two of these beautiful greenhoods, but this morning I came across several colonies, one consisting of around 50 plants.



Glad I went up there this morning. Found some nice subjects for the camera, and now back at home the rain is pelting down!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Of carefullness and courage ...

G’day Readers,
The Heyfield Flora Reserve is an uninviting, (to most people), block of scrub and eucalypts just down the road from home. I check it out several times a year. It’s a great spot for some unusual plants – Eastern Scentbarks, Golden Grevilleas and the Fairy Wax-flower, (or Bendigo Wax).

As Denis has told me, the plants tend not to read the field guide literature and yesterday the Fairy Wax-flower was starting to flower, (Aug – Nov?). This plant is also yet another that has undergone an official name change. Anyway, this locality is one of the very few for this plant east of Melbourne and it was delightful to see it coming into flower …



Previously I have ticked Buff-rumped Thornbills here too. This uncommon little bird, thought to be in decline due mostly to loss of habitat, prefers open scrubby woodlands with lots of logs and stumps on the ground. Being a sedentary species I was keen to discover if the population was still in residence. Yep, another delight …



Unfortunately there’s a minus to the day. As I was leaving I heard a chainsaw operating in the distance. I thought I would approach the person and suggest he was not allowed to gather firewood here but I ceded to the idiom ‘discretion is the better part of valour’ when I saw that he had a large German Shepherd with him. His number plate might do – the binoculars were handy!


Thursday, May 17, 2012

The Mullungdung Heathwren

G’day Readers,
Yesterday I squeezed in a half day ramble through a favourite patch of the Mullungdung Forest south of Rosedale. This bit of country is a mixture of eucalypt and banksia trees with tracts of understory scrub and heath.

The birds were quiet but I got some views of the usual Eastern Yellow Robins, blue wrens, Brown Thornbills and the odd honeyeater, etc.  To compensate for the lack of avian life, some of the understory shrubs were starting to show off, so there was plenty to look at.

Bushy Needlewood Hakea?

Bushy Needlewood?

Common Heath

Common Heath

Common Correa

While lying prone for some shots of the correa, a small bird flitted past and landed a short distance away to watch me. I rolled to one side and untangled the binoculars to discover it was a Chestnut-rumped Heathwren. I’d seen this uncommon little bird several times before in this spot but not been able to get a decent picture. By the time I got to my knees and changed camera settings, the bird had moved away back into the scrub, but a quiet search revealed it again briefly in the distance. I got one shot.


I’ll just have to return.

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Heyfield Birdwatchers

G’day Everyone,
Nine hardy, well rugged souls departed Sale on Sunday morning and headed south to Giffard. With the thermometer soaring into the very low teens, (that’s Celsius Dave – cold enough for us!), we dodged some showers and in the sunny patches between managed to spot a few birds. The worst feature of the weather was the wind really.


It turned out to be a day for the raptors, with Whistling Kites, Brown Falcons, Black-shouldered Kites, Swamp Harriers and LOADS of Wedged-tailed Eagles all being ticked. One side of the Longford swamp was covered in Purple Swamphens with the occasional Spoonbill, Black Swan, Great Egret, etc scattered among them.

At the Giffard reserve I think the birds were hunkered down out of the wind, but it could have been the huge wedgy that departed the area just as we pulled up that might have caused the hunkering down. Despite this, some diligent searching resulted in Eastern Yellow Robins, blue wrens, Grey Fantails, White-eared Honeyeaters, White-throated Treecreepers, Brown Thornbills etc, all being added to the list. The wind made trying to see anything in the swaying tree canopy nearly impossible.

After a cuppa I convinced the group we’d see some Flame Robins at McGaurans Beach. On the drive down it became apparent that we were seeing heaps of Wedge-tailed Eagles no doubt in part due to the number of new born lambs in the paddocks.

The beach and ocean at McGaurans seemed to sum up the day …


No flames either! A short walk behind the dunes produced Little and Red Wattlebirds, and a few other honeyeaters and the occasional Pacific Gull would ride the wind gusts.


It was our turn to hunker down – behind some low bushes for lunch. A distant ridge was the selected lunch spot for more wedgys as they rose above and dropped below the horizon feeding we think on some carrion on the ground.

On the way out I slowed the convoy down at the corner where I regularly see Flame Robins and eventually we all spotted some. They wouldn’t oblige by sitting on a fence wire, probably too windy – anyway we got to tick them.

Back to Sale for afternoon tea and a chat to wind up a pretty good day – considering.

Sunday, May 6, 2012


G'day All,
On my way to work the other morning I was struck by the beauty of some of the cloud shapes above the first fairway. This one is a lenticular cloud - lens shaped - and is relatively common for us here south west of the Great Dividing Range.

Not so common is this 'sharkticular' one that was swimming nearby!

Now you didn't think I was going to do a post without a bird pic did you? After mowing a couple of fairways I took the camera into a bit of the bush up the back and came across the resident Scarlet Robin - always a delight.

Such a pleasure to go to work some days - so long as their are no breakdowns!

Thursday, May 3, 2012

Tough nut to crack ...

... easy work for the gang!

Being a bit hamstrung for the moment I can’t travel too far to see the wonderful work of Mother Nature. Not to worry – plenty going on in the garden.

The ground below both of the Bushy Yates is littered with the remains of their seed pods …



Always a good indicator of the presence of an old favourite …


Two young Gang-gangs were busy cracking those tough nuts and leaving their mess for someone with a hamstring strain to trip up on – if he’s not careful!