Saturday, 30 August 2008

Spring at Anglesea

The heath at Anglesea is on the verge of breaking out into its usual spectacular spring display. We've had a little more rain this year so it should be great. There were enough spots of colour to give us a taste of things to come.

My daughter in WA told me last night that they're having the best wildflower season in 12 years over there. I knew I should have booked a ticket. But right here is pretty good.

Here are some of the plants we found flowering. I'm happy to be corrected on any of the names.

Hibbertia riparia Erect Guinea-flower

Leucopogon ericoides Pink Beard-heath

Pultenaea dentata Clustered Bush-pea

Billardiera scandens Common Apple-berry

and, I had to add an orchid of course.

Cyrtostylis reniformis Gnat Orchid

Friday, 29 August 2008

Point Addis

My toes start to curl and my stomach 'churns' - I'm on the edge of a cliff, any cliff, any edge, even in my dreams. But the best views are from the edge, so that's where I go - but not too close thank you.

This week I took my visitor to Point Addis near Anglesea on the Great Ocean Road. If you ever head down that way, don't drive past the signpost to the point. There are several walks from the carpark that make the diversion worthwhile. The views are spectacular and the heath wonderful.

The photo below is of the point from a spot on one of the walks, and shows the road leading to the point and the steps that take you down to the little beach. The second photo shows you one of the reasons why I don't like to get too close to the edge. It's so easy to forget that these cliffs look the way they do because they've eroded. That means that chunks fall into the water. That means I don't want to be there when that happens.

I'll give you another really good reason to visit Point Addis. The elusive Rufous Bristlebird can be seen there if you are prepared to just sit and wait. They regularly run around the carpark and nearby open spaces, and sit on top of the short bushes to sing. These two photos were taken by my friend Sigrid with her fantastic SLR.

Sunday, 24 August 2008

Trim beauty

A colony of the beautiful little Trim Greenhood Pterostylis concinna is flowering in a bush block near Drysdale on the Bellarine Peninsula. How do I know it's a Trim and not a Striped (or Striated)? It's got a very distinctive v-notch in the apex of the labellum.

Point Lonsdale surprise

How did I miss this? There are two large blocks, next door to each other, right in the middle of Point Lonsdale. And I didn't know they were there.
One, called 'Ballara', belonged to Deakin (the Prime Minister) and the other, called 'Arilpa', to his son-in-law Bookes. The vegetation is remarkably intact, and the Swan Bay Environment Association has been given permission to collect seed there and survey for orchids (about 12 species I think).
Is it possible that both blocks will be preserved intact in the future? They must be worth squillions.

Friday, 22 August 2008

A Rail Trail

In 1879 they opened a new railway line extending from Geelong to the seaside town of Queenscliff - for passengers and to service the military fort there. The line wandered through the Bellarine Peninsula for about 34 kilometres. In 1976 it closed.

About ten years earlier, the railway at the Cement Works at Fyansford had closed and two steam engines had been donated to the Geelong branch of the Australian Railway Historical Society. When the Geelong-Queenscliff line closed in 1976 the steam engines were moved to Queenscliff, and about three years later weekly tourist trips started on the Drysdale-Queenscliff section of the line. They still operate every Sunday, and more often in the school holidays. The Blues Train is very popular - meals and drinks with live music - and run over the summer.

Of particular interest to environmentalists however, is the Rail Trail that has been established on the old railway line from Geelong to Drysdale, and beside the railway line from there to Queenscliff. There is a lot of interesting remnant vegetation along the trail, there is a Friends Group replanting and weeding and installing seating and local schools are also involved. It's now a popular bike and walking track through the rural areas on the peninsula, and well worth exploring.

The photo was taken near the start of the Rail Trail at South Geelong near the Showgrounds. It's hard to miss - I counted five signs.

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

Great ball-handling skills

Here's an aerial shot of mudflats on Conway Beach in Queensland. I'm fibbing - it's a close-up shot on the beach with the late-afternoon light reflecting off the little puddles left in the sand by the retreating tide.

After the tide goes out the crabs come out to feed. In the top left corner of the photo above you might be able to see some darker dots. They're the perfect round balls moulded by the little Soldier Crabs Mictyris platycheles. Each crab picks up a lump of sand and sifts through it to get the bacteria and algae that film the sand grains, and then rolls the sand grains into a ball before putting it back on the sandflat. The accidental patterns made by the crabs as they work their way across the surface are beautifully artistic.

The crabs themselves are hard to see because as you walk up to them they spiral very quickly below the surface - good fun for children (and adults).

Sunday, 17 August 2008


You've seen the Olympic athletes raise their hands in the air when they win an event. Well, yesterday I had my own "hands-in-the-air" event. I've finally photographed a Drosera whittakeri Scented Sundew.
Actually I've photographed them dozens of times but never successfully. They are very white, small, low to the ground and I've had trouble getting the exposure right or the depth of field right. And they flower best after a fire so normally the background is very dark so getting a metre reading can be tricky. Absolutely beautiful but very frustrating.
We found a small area in the forest near Anglesea that had been burnt recently and the black ground between the grasstrees was covered in the white-flowering sundews. I'd forgotten that their common name is Scented Sundew and didn't get down that low to smell them but I was on my hands and knees to photograph them. The light was good because it was an overcast day and I played around with the + and - settings to get a good depth of field. At home I was able to photoshop the shadows to lighten them a little. As you can see the leaves on this species of sundew are red and covered in dewy glands to trap insects.

And here are a couple more moss species that I found as well. Because it was a wet day the raindrops add a special beauty.

Gum Flat Road

A bunch of us went to the bush area behind Anglesea on the Great Ocean Road, to explore the heath and forest. It rained most of the day but we were able to find lots of evidence that spring is just around the corner. Many shrubs were just starting to flower or were in bud, orchid leaves everywhere and a few flowering. The Ironbarks were still flowering well and many had a mass of their flowers on the ground below because they'd been visited by parrots. Anglesea is one of my favourite places in this area - or maybe in the whole world actually.

We went to Gum Flat Road first and then via Bald Hills Road to the Distillery Picnic Ground. Unfortunately I had to leave after lunch so I couldn't visit the nearby Ironbark Gorge with the rest of the group.

There were a few reminders that it's still winter - fungi, mosses and liverworts.

Friday, 15 August 2008

Desert-loving emu-bushes

For the whole week I've been ensconced in the built environment, eyeing the natural environment on the other side of the glass. Thankfully I don't have to work next week, or indeed for a few weeks, so I should be able to get out and about again.

In the meantime I had to settle on enjoying what is happening in my garden at the moment. Lots of things are starting to flower - even though it's been a very cold week - including the Eremophilas. The common name for this group of plants is Emu Bush (I don't know why) and their scientific name means 'desert-loving'. I have about eight growing in my garden, and plan to put in some more. With the drier conditions in our area they grow very well. And the flowers are stunning, with small and beautiful long tubes that narrow to the base. Many have spots inside.

With the Boobiallas they belong to the Myoporaceae family (which means they have the ability to close the pores on their leaves and therefore increase their chance of surviving dry periods). At least, that's where they are in the latest A Census of the Vascular Plants of Victoria. I also have the latest Wild Plants of Victoria and they sit in the Scrophulariaceae there. I prefer the former because the latter refers to the purported healing qualities of certain plants in the family for scrofula, a skin disease. Plant systematics is a very confusing area.

Never mind, they are a joy to have in my garden, and I can't wait to get back to the Arid Garden at Port Augusta where there is a huge collection of Eremophila plants from all over Australia. The last time I was there it was extremely windy, and it was in pre-digital camera days. It was even too windy to do any bird watching, a disappointment because the bird list for the Arid Garden is very impressive (by which I mean there birds on the list that I haven't met yet).

Here are some of the Eremophilas flowering in my garden today.

Wednesday, 6 August 2008

You can't see me

Some of the bird books state that the Bush Stone-curlew can be seen around resorts in Queensland, when ordinarily it is a shy, nocturnal bird. I commented several weeks ago about a pair that we were shown in Airlie Beach township.

My son-in-law Adam, at Airlie Beach, has sent me a photo of some that he saw this week in the middle of the construction works associated with the new marina at Airlie Beach. He commented, "It was amazing - they were in the middle of our job site with people walking past them and no one noticed them, they just stood really still and they blended into the background." There are three in this photo.

Tuesday, 5 August 2008

Look what they've done to the hills

Around here we refer to The Hills, meaning the Barrabool Hills west of Geelong. If you drive to Hamilton on the Mortlake Road the high, rolling hills are on your left. There is only one township on the hills, a little historical place called Ceres that doesn't even boast a shop.

And now they're building a ring road between Geelong and Ceres, cutting a giant swathe through the landscape so that people from Melbourne wanting to get down to their holiday cottage on the Great Ocean Road can get there a bit quicker and we residents down have to put up with them. OK, I may be exaggerating, there may be a few more reasons that that, and they may be important reasons, but the ring road that we thought we wanted is certainly making a statement.

The discerning reader might notice that the clouds in the two photos are the same - I drove to a less busy spot away from powerlines for the second one.

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Lake Connewarre

This morning I did a Land for Wildlife assessment, on a property on the Bellarine Peninsula overlooking Lake Connewarre. The Lake is another hidden treasure on Geelong's outskirts, a large lake almost invisible because there are no major roads nearby. It's a tidal lake, with the Barwon River running in one end and out the other before it gets to the estuary at Ocean Grove. Swans, pelicans, spoonbills, ducks and small waders are prolific.

The landowners on the property we assessed have fenced off the saltmarsh on the edge of the lake, beautiful low-growing saltmash that only shows its beauty when you get down close to have a good look. This area gets covered when the Barwon is in flood, or at a very high tide when the lake is full. We saw several types of glasswort plants, but I wouldn't be confidant about identifying to species level. The red colouring of the beads is spectacular. A hand-lens reveals even more beauty. This area has been a favourite with the endangered Orange-bellied Parrot - they love glasswort seeds - but they haven't been seen this winter unfortunately.