Sunday, April 27, 2014

Rokeby Flora and Fauna Reserve

The old closed railway line from Warragul to Noojee, (some good historical pics here), provides excellent opportunities for local groups to set up walking trails, flora and fauna reserves, etc. One group very active in this regard it seems is the Rokeby and Crossover Friends Group.

Today I explored a small section of the Rokeby – Crossover Rail Trail at the Rokeby end – the Rokeby Flora and Fauna Reserve. There was some sunshine but late in the day the temperature wasn’t much above 12 degrees particularly in the deep shady parts of the track.

After moving out into one patch of sunlight however, I came across a Tiger Snake warming itself in the last rays of the day. I moved as slow as I could to get past without disturbing it but eventually it sensed me and slithered slowly into a nearby crack in the ground – sorry mate!

I don’t think the fungi season is quite in full swing here yet. A few attractive examples here and there but considering the habitat I feel the quantity and variety is a bit light on. We’ll see what happens as the temperature drops.

The birds were quiet too. Certainly not a lot of bird song – of course it is completely out of season for many species. However, despite the deep, deep shade I couldn’t resist raising the camera for this very common Eastern Yellow Robin.

My EYRobin jpg file is overflowing!

Saturday, April 19, 2014

Western Treatment Plant 16/04/2014

A fine day was forecast so another opportunity to explore a small portion of the Western Treatment Plant at Werribee was quickly taken up. With my new location in West Gippsland, the trip to ‘the other side of the city’ is a mere 90 minute drive – sans peakhour! This time it took two and a half hours to get there after experiencing the parking lot laughingly referred to as the Monash Freeway. Earlier departure next time!

I was intent on slowly exploring just a small portion of the ponds and chose probably the easiest and smallest section to begin with – T Section Lagoon and Western Lagoon. I registered my trip with Melbourne Water and after a brief diversion to catch up with some Zebra Finches, I headed for the first gate.

The first pond to the right was loaded with bird life – Black Swans, Hoary-headed Grebes, various ducks and the like, but I had difficulty getting clear views looking into a brightly lit background and my little camera always struggles with difficult light conditions.

Just on a little further and with the light behind me, a small mob of Black-winged Stilts provided some nice views for a time. They always look so ‘dressed up’ in their black and white livery.

On a nearby pond a small flock of Curlew Sandpipers was working the shallows. These common long distance fliers should be about to head back, (to Siberia?), unless they have decided to overwinter here. I was interested to see that these waders are not averse to putting their heads below the surface of the water to reach their favourite marine invertebrate in the mud below.

After a brief late snack for lunch I moved a little further east on to Western Lagoon. Australasian Shovelers, Shelducks, Teal etc were all present here along with Spoonbills and more waders I wasn’t yet ready to identify and it was getting close to time to head home.

As I scanned the far shoreline I caught a glimpse of a pair of Brolgas. They were feeding as they slowly walked along, too far for a decent picture. Just as I got back into the ute, they took off and with their long legs trailing flew to a nearby lagoon that offered a better chance for me to get a little closer. Oh well, what the heck if I have to face that crawl on the freeway again.

Finally I headed out into the traffic and turned my head for home. Surprisingly I must have missed the peak - it only took an hour and a half this time.


Saturday, April 12, 2014

Parson's Bands

The common and tiny Parson’s Bands Orchid is one of the first terrestrial orchids to appear in Autumn/Winter.

I got a ‘heads up’ on their appearance in some bush near Labertouche recently and I didn’t need my arm twisted to try and find the location – an old quarry site, (thanks Shirley).

I have ticked this little orchid before, but I don’t recall seeing it in good numbers at one site as was the case this time. In one patch there were at least twenty individual plants.

To top off a good mornings work I managed to have a couple of favourite bush birds visit while I was grovelling on the ground, an Eastern Spinebill …

… and a Scarlet Robin.

Luckily there were sufficient periods of sunshine between the clouds and showers to get some satisfactory shots.

And from where does Eriochilus cucullatus get its common name? You might like to explore this link.


Thursday, April 3, 2014

Rose Robin

With summer days just about on their last legs – surely – I took advantage of a warmish forecast and dropped into Nangara Reserve at Jindivick once more. Why not? It’s close to home and I seem to tick something new every other visit! I have to get out more.

Things were pretty quiet. I wasn’t in the mood for serious stalking anyway so I made my way to a favourite seat and drank in the solitude of the bush. After a short time I started tuning in to various happenings – the last of the dragonfly’s for the season snatching an insect on the wing then alighting nearby to devour it, blue wrens snapping up prey on the track, Lewin’s Honeyeater machine gun call in the distance, a Crimson Rosella eyeing me from a low branch on the side of the track….

Fully sated I ambled back to the ute at the gate and as often is the case this is where all the action started. Eastern Yellow Robins galore. I tried and tried to get one to perch on the ‘Nangara Reserve’ sign long enough for a photograph – no joy. More wrens, thornbills, etc, then in flew a couple of Rose Robins.

 I was lucky to have them drop down into some lower trees and shrubs as they more frequently inhabit the upper canopy. I’m not sure why they were here. Supposedly all Victorian birds go north at this time. Perhaps they are on their way – the Rufous Fantails have departed and I haven’t spotted the Black-faced Monarch again. Or, perhaps they have come down from the higher ranges to over-winter on the lower country. Whatever, I enjoyed their presence. Didn’t really do them justice with the camera but I don’t think they will mind.

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

More Firsts For Me

A small band of Heyfield Birdwatchers were very kindly hosted by Bellarine Birdlife to the Western Treatment Plant at Werribee. The claim that this location is one of Victoria’s best birding locations is not at all false. The place is brilliant.
Now, which way do I look?
The Western Treatment Plant is huge, over 100 square kilometers. It is located between Werribee and Avalon, south of the Geelong freeway on the shores of Port Phillip Bay. 

Shelducks in flight, (thanks Jim).

The number of birds and variety of species was almost overwhelming for me. I’m not a shorebirds aficionado by any means but a few visits to this place might easily change that.
Not many advantage points available for the large number of raptors.
In what was really an introductory tour for me – to learn the where and what of the place – we ticked over 90 species.
"Forget those shorebirds for a moment, what about me?"
Some of the more interesting species included – Blue-billed, Musk, Freckled and Pink-eared, (flocks of hundreds), Ducks, Great-crested Grebe, Black Kite, Spotted Harrier, Brolga, Zebra Finch, Striated Fieldwren, etc.
The Brolgas are being closely monitored.
Did I forget something? Oh yes, among the more than 20 species of shorebirds we ticked we saw Marsh Sandpiper, Red Knot, Red-necked Avocet, Double-banded Plover, Banded Lapwing, Curlew Sandpiper, White-winged Black Tern, Ruff/Reeve, etc. And, as was pointed out, this was a quiet time!

About 10% of the flock - just on this pond!

Like I said, nearly overwhelming for this novice. I didn’t know which way to point my binoculars or indeed what it was I was looking at most of the time! I think I need some follow up visits and just take one or two ponds at a time with either a shorebirds expert at my shoulder or a very good field guide at the very least.
The 'where's Wally' pic of the day, (thanks Jim).
Now, what did PeterB say about getting a permit?