Friday, 15 November 2013

Gippsland Lakes


A cicada shell on our caravan wheel this morning- we only pulled in to this park at Lakes Entrance last night.
Rugby Island, a breeding haven for Little Terns.
Yellow Admiral, a bit tattered.
Three pelicans and  a swan, Metung.
Night heron and terns, Metung.

Monday, 21 October 2013

Some Otway orchids

We walked about 200 metres along a track in the forest north of Anglesea on Victoria's south coast but it took a while because we found a few orchids flowering, about ten species in all. Am I repeating myself when I say this area is a marvellous floristic treasure?

Eastern Bronze Caladenia Caladenia transitoria
Large Duck Orchid Caleana major
Plain Fingers Caladenia sp. aff. vulgaris
Spotted Sun Orchid Thelymitra ixioides
Slender Sun Orchid Thelymitra pauciflora
Salmon Sun Orchid Thelymitra rubra
We also saw two species of bearded greenhoods, Pink Fingers and the small duck orchid Caleana minor as well as leaves of several other species. A friend was along the same track a month ago and saw an entirely different suite of orchids and other plants flowering.

Sunday, 8 September 2013

Granite outcrops

Kooyoora State Park and Mt Korong reserve are like islands within the surrounding countryside. They are both granite outcrops with large rocks, rock shelters and caves, rock pools and natural vegetation. Much of the surrounding countryside has been highly modified by alluvial mining that began in the 1850s and agriculture.

Kooyoora incorporates the Melville Caves, a delightful area with full picnic and camping facilities, walks and lookouts. The rock pools were quite amazing because we found tadpoles, water plants, succulents, Early Nancy plants and other natural vegetation thriving in each, depending on the depth of the water.

View from Melville Caves lookout
View from Melville Caves lookout
Rock pools near Eastern Car Park, Melville Caves.
Rock pools near Eastern Car Park, Melville Caves.
Tadpoles in ephemeral rock pool, Melville Caves.
Mt Korong has very basic camp and picnic facilities but we enjoyed the drive that circles the 'mountain' because the rocks are so sculptural and dramatic. We were there at sunset so the colour was marvellous.

Rock formation, Mt Korong
Rock formation, Mt Korong
Rock formation, Mt Korong

Friday, 6 September 2013

Mothing in Wedderburn

This post is just for the record, in case it's something unusual. We pulled in to the lovely caravan park at Wedderburn this afternoon and set about setting up the van, making ourselves comfortable for the next three days and looking forward to exploring the natural environment around here. 

I wasn't intending to do any mothing but this one decided to fly inside to explore our van. I'm hoping that someone will identify it for me as I don't have any references with me. Maybe Duncan, or Marilyn.



Which reminds me. A huge high five for Marilyn Hewish, our resident moth expert, birdo and all-round naturalist. We heard this week that she has been awarded the this year's Natural History Medallion. She's the third member of the Geelong Field Nats to win the medallion and we're very proud of her and excited for her.

Update: MH has identified this as a Noctuidae, an Agrotis species, probably Agrotis munda. She further adds, "As can be said for many groups, Agrotis species in Victoria need a good taxonomic study to sort them out."

Saturday, 24 August 2013

A little about Little Ravens

For the first time in more than twenty years we have the pleasure of Little Ravens nesting in our suburban garden. They've chosen to nest in the Eucalyptus leucoxylon subsp. megalocarpa, a Yellow Gum, that is growing only a few metres from my back deck.

At the moment the adult birds are feeding their young but what is interesting is that if I hadn't noticed the birds actually picking up sticks to build the nest I probably wouldn't even know the nest was there. The birds are so tricky, approaching the nest from a perch on the neighbour's roof after they have checked out the possible dangers. The young birds hardly make a noise and the parents are quiet as well.

It got me thinking about young ravens. We're used to seeing young magpies begging noisily for food but I can't remember ever seeing or hearing a young raven begging. We're used to seeing young magpies dead on the road but I can't remember ever seeing a dead young raven. It will be interesting to see if I manage to see the young ravens when they first leave the nest. I suspect I will miss it because their parents are so intelligent and sneaky, but it would be nice if they could hang around our yard for a while so we can see them.

Thursday, 22 August 2013

Eldorado dredge

Every May, during the school holiday break, mum and dad would pack the van and pack us kids into the Holden station wagon or the Ford Customline and off we'd go. 

I'm talking about the 1950s-1960s. Our van had two double bunks down one end and the table folded down to make a double bed. The car never had seat belts and the front seat was a bench so there were always lively discussions about who would sit where. We were always extremely excited, rushing to get off the school bus and running home to see the van packed ready to go. May was the month because the dairy cows dried off then, leaving mum and dad free from the milking routine for a few weeks.

We didn't go out of the state of Victoria. I remember holidays in the Grampians, Gippsland, central Victoria, the Murray and Bright. On one trip to Bright, I was probably about ten, I remember seeing this huge dredge at Eldorado across the paddock. I don't remember actually getting close to it but last week we did. This time the car is bigger and so is the van but there were only two of us and there were no arguments about not having enough room. We visited the Eldorado area in north-eastern Victoria because some of my ancestors were gold miners there in the 1800s, scratching out a living in the alluvial sands along the valley of the Reedy Creek near where it intersects with the Ovens River. And while we were in Eldorado we drove out a couple of kilometres to see the dredge.

Cock's Dredge, Eldorado
Cock's Dredge at Eldorado was the largest in Australia when it was launched in 1936 and it operated until the early 1950s. Launched is the right word because it floated on its own pontoon in its own pond.




Today it is no longer floating but there is an 800 m walk right around the pond with information boards at various spots, and also on board (in a limited area). It's an impressive piece of industrial machinery ... but. There's a but. Can you imagine the working conditions on board as the huge metal buckets nibbled away the the ground in front, tossing the sands and gravels on board to be sifted and filtered for gold before spewing them out the back to recreate solid land again? Can you imagine the noise? Apparently it could be heard ten kilometres away and they worked three crew shifts so it would have been continuous. Can you imagine the damage done to the environment in the valley as the huge dredge ate its way along, creating its own pond as it went? A local bloke, Ken Greene, has mapped the route of the dredge over the eighteen years it was in operation and it is quite impressive - it did a loop in the creek bed near the town before heading downstream for several kilometres - but, according to the information board, the environment along the creek was already very badly damaged or highly modified because of gold mining operations over the previous fifty years or so.

Apparently there's still a lot of gold in the area but it's not profitable to mine it. My ancestors never struck it rich but it must have provided a living because they stayed in the town.

Wednesday, 21 August 2013

Painted Ladies

We were in Albury last weekend and when you're in Albury you drive up Monument Hill to view the view. And the monument itself is worth looking at as well. It was built in the 1920s to commemorate the WW1 soldiers and has an art deco style.

Dean St, Albury (and beyond), viewed from Monument Hill.
The memorial on Monument Hill
But what really caught my eye was butterflies. I was amazed to see about six or eight Australian Painted Ladies Vanessa kershaw, all males, flying rapidly and low over the vegetation and basking in the sun. There were probably many more because the memorial is in a bushland reserve and we only saw a very small section of it. I presume the butterflies were hilltopping, establishing territories, but I must admit I hadn't expected to see any in mid-August. My first butterflies for the season.

Australian Painted Lady (actually a male), Monument Hill, Albury

Friday, 26 July 2013

Pins in my garden

When I first saw this little bundle on bare dirt in my garden I thought it was a piece of fluff or hair. It's only a few centimetres high and glistens in the sun. Then I thought it must be a slime mould. But it turns out to be a fungus, and an interesting one at that.

Phycomyces blakesleeanus is a relative of black bread mould, or Pin Moulds. Scientists have found it fascinating because it is light sensitive and rotates as it elongates! The pins, or sporangia, turn from yellow to black as they age and will release spores at some stage.

See more information at: prlo.aps.org/story/v27/st14

I'll be keeping an eye on it over the next few days.

Phycomyces blakesleeanus, a fungus
Phycomyces blakesleeanus sporangia darken from yellow to black-brown as they age.


Saturday, 6 April 2013

Bridgewater

When I was a kid our family would occasionally go to see the blowholes and the petrified forest, the limestone cave, the sand dunes, the dune lakes, shelley beach and the swimming beach at Bridgewater. They are all within cooee of each other so it was easy to drive from one to the other, and it was less than an hour from home. I remember once we went there on a school excursion because the geology is interesting and diverse enough for a full day's expedition. And it's beautiful as well so that was a bonus.

Bridgewater Bay and Cape Bridgewater
Over the years we've visited Bridgewater Bay occasionally - there is a Surf Lifesaving Club there so it's a safe beach for kids and surfers and we've walked to see the seal colony on the cape. But it's quite a while since we've been to the blowholes and the petrified forest on the cliffs west of the bay. The cape is clifftop sand dunes over basalt and when you visit the blowholes area you can clearly see the geology, and now there are boardwalks and paths and lookouts and explanatory signs so you can understand what you're looking at. And it's not as dangerous as it was when I was a kid. Our parents were always telling us to stand back from the edge of the cliffs.

Blowholes, Bridgewater
Petrified Forest, Bridgewater
Petrified Forest, Bridgewater
I was busily explaining the geology to the relatives we'd taken to visit the area, telling them that the sand dunes had covered a forest of trees and the calcified remains are now exposed, when we all read the explanatory sign at the same time. Oops! The header on the sign reads 'The petrified forest that isn't'.

The real explanation for the formation of the petrified trees. [Click to enlarge]
One of the dune lakes at Bridgewater
Wind generators, Bridgewater
Bridgewater
Limestone caves, Bridgewater [Google Maps Street View]

Thursday, 17 January 2013

The track

Welcome Swallows and Martins, basking.
There's a track winding back, dividing the farm to provide easy access to the paddocks. On any day in summer, on this particular curve, I can guarantee you a big bunch of swallows and martins just sitting on the gravel, a pair of Blue-winged Parrots and a pair of pipits.

It's a mystery to me because it looks just like every other part of the track.

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