Saturday, 26 September 2009


I enjoy wandering along tracks that I know well. There's always something to look out for as the seasons change - the special plants that flower when you expect them to, the birds that sing when they should, beautiful fungi appearing amongst the mulch and on wood, the joy of finding the minute caterpillars and insects and the hidden treasures that only I know about.

So I was very surprised to see a small shrub with bright pink flowers on one of 'my' tracks in the Annya forest at Milltown. Not only surprised but puzzled. I had no idea what it was. So I took photos and a specimen for my pressed plant collection and had to wait till I got home in Geelong this week to have a look at my Wild Plants of Victoria DVD. This database has fantastic filter options but I was still having trouble pinning it down, and it wasn't until I ticked the weed box that I finally got it. Erica baccans Berry-flower Heath. It's a weed, introduced from South Africa. According to one web page I looked at it's still sold as a garden plant but can become a dominant plant of the understory in bush areas. On the distribution map on the DVD it is mainly found in parts of Gippsland and not in the far west of the state at all so I think I'll have to report the sighting to DSE and Viridans.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

A track winding back

The geology underlying our farm at Homerton is quite interesting. We have limestone under the sandy loam topsoil, a pretty strong clue to the fact that this area was under the sea in recent geological history. And we have sink holes all over the property, areas that have subsided when a limestone cave underneath collapses. Swamps and drainage lines on the surface follow a linear direction to the south-east, resulting in 'waves' in places. You can see this in the photo of a lane that runs alongside our property. When I was five I had to ride my bike to school on a road like this. It has since been levelled and sealed, and the one-teacher school has closed. That's progress I suppose.

A not so golden guinea

Hibbertias, the guinea-flowers, are flowering at the moment. I found these two plants next to each other but I've never seen such a pale form. The top photo is the usual colour. The pale flowers looked very pretty amongst the foliage. I think it's either Hibbertia stricta or Hibbertia riparia.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Spring fungi at Homerton

When I was packing to spend a week on our farm at Homerton I never thought of putting in a fungi reference. I've seen quite a few fungi and can't name them. I've got my orchid books with me but I've only seen two orchids. (That's two plants, and two species!)


Mother shelduck spotted me as I approached the swamp and started to lead her ducklings out of the water onto the bank. This plan was thwarted by the sudden appearance of a fox on the bank! She quickly and noisily turned them around and drew the ducklings to deeper water. The fox moved away into the trees.

I managed to get several bad photos whilst simultaneously moving to hide behind a tree. This image has been cropped because I didn't have the zoom on.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

A fairy's house in the forest

Yesterday we explored part of the Kentbruck Heath area of the Lower Glenelg National Park. (Actually we explored some of the vegetation on a narrow strip either side of Heath Road.) The bush to the west has been burnt in an ecological burn and was only just starting to regenerate but we were very excited to find a patch of morels, a Morchella species of fungi. It's the first time I've seen this species. Apparently they can be abundant after fire and edible. We were very taken by their 'fairy house' appearance.

Sunday, 13 September 2009

Plastic scenery

Yesterday I travelled the highway between Geelong and Melbourne - it's part of our national highway, Highway 1, the Princes Highway. Normally I look for some of interesting raptors that hang out there, or look to see what sort of mood the You Yangs are in, or monitor the non-weeding being done on the garden beds (in other words - watch the weeds growing), or watch planes circling to land at Avalon Airport, or look at the spectacle of clouds over the flat plain or seek out the glimpses of the city skyline. But yesterday I got distracted by plastic bags, hundreds of plastic bags, caught on fences and in the foliage of plants and flapping in the strong west wind. This road is only a short distance from Port Phillip Bay and I pondered on the fact that I was only seeing the bags that had been caught. How many more have ended up in the water?

Saturday, 5 September 2009

Mobile blogging

Just a note about how I blogged while I was away.

Earlier this year I bought a laptop computer and at home I connect to our normal broadband modem with a wireless connection. Several months ago I bought a mobile modem, a little device that plugs in to the usb port and uses the mobile phone network. It's a Telsta model and cost me about $140. Then I pre-paid $30 and activated it when I wanted to start the month's use (It's $30 or 30 days, whichever you use up first).

I used it every day to do my emails, blog (with lower res photos that I usually put up), twitter and put up photos on the Flickr and found that I didn't have to renew before the $30 ran out - in other words it cost me about $1 a day for the seven weeks we've been away (apart from the initial purchase). And I always had access because I was using the Telstra mobile phone coverage. I didn't use it to do web searches, and I turned off the automatic downloads on my laptop. I also checked the emails to make sure that someone hadn't sent me large files, and if they had I went in to webmail first and either moved them into a folder that I'll open when I get home or deleted them.

I must say that I'm pretty happy with the result, and will use it when we go on holidays - it will be worth activating it even when we go away for a fortnight I reckon.


We parked outside the Ardlethan Cemetery to have a cuppa and stayed much longer than we had intended. It's a beautiful, peaceful cemetery surrounded by native callitris and eucalypts and it's a fantastic spot for bird-watching. I saw three species of robin - Red-capped, Yellow and Hooded - as well as Diamond Firetails, Horsfield's Bronze-cuckoo, Rufous Whistler, several parrots and a Peaceful Dove calling peacefully. A Collared Sparrowhawk patrolled just as we were leaving.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Forbes swamp

We passed this swamp on the way north but didn't have the time to do the u-turn thing (it's a pain when you're towing a van). But today we had looped back on to the same road on our way south so we called in. It's a swamp just south of Forbes that is easily accessible, has a good gravel road in and a bird hide.

The photo doesn't show it but there were lots of birds on the lake and in the surrounding bush. A Pink-eared Duck with a family of little ducklings was near the hide, Clamourous Reed-warblers in the reeds singing their beautiful songs, rosellas and parrots in the trees and many other birds out across the water. It was a great spot for a cuppa.

Wednesday, 2 September 2009

Let's have fun and ruin a beach

In Victoria we're not allowed to drive on a beach. But in New South Wales and Queensland it seems that the beach is assumed to be a highway. It's a shocking sight, and cannot be sustained surely.

This is the access to the beach at Lighthouse Beach, Port Macquarie and the second photo shows the damage being done on the beach by 4-wheelers. And who knows what unseen damage is being done to microscopic creatures and nesting birds.

Brown Quail at last

I was watching Rainbow Lorikeets, Scaly-breasted Lorikeets and Spangled Drongos in the vegetation at the caravan park behind the dunes at Emerald Beach. I glanced at the ground, and looked again. I couldn't believe what I was seeing. Seven Brown Quail pecking around near my feet. I'd never seen one before and now I had a feast.

Eventually I remembered that I had a camera in my hand and took a couple of very ordinary photos, but at least it's evidence. When I went back after checking my bird book to confirm my ID I couldn't find any. Sadly we had to pack up and leave but I'm betting they'll be out and about tomorrow morning.

Tuesday, 1 September 2009

A new rainforest

Our friends live on a few acres on the hills west of Ballina. Last year they planted an acre of rainforest plants that originally grew in the area, put up a fence to keep the wallabies out, and look at the result. And they haven't even watered! Later they'll reuse the fencing to establish another planting.