Tuesday, 27 October 2009

Another cemetery visit

Four types of grevillea can be found in the Brisbane Ranges, some more readily than others. One is the endemic Grevillea steiglitziana Brisbane Ranges Grevillea. Another is the Golden Grevillea Grevillea chrysophaea and it can be found fairly easily in heathy woodland near the old gold-mining town of Steiglitz. I found it easily at the Steiglitz cemetery where it grows between the headstones and reaches a height of several metres. A New Holland Honeyeater was taking advantage of the nectar when I was there. The flowers are a stunning golden yellow.

This plant is endemic to Victoria and grows in the east of the state except for the population in the Brisbane Ranges. I've never gone looking for the other two types of grevillea - another thing to put on my 'to do' list.

PS This cemetery is a good spot for orchids too.

Sunday, 25 October 2009

More of the plains

The Little River carves through the landscape and has rocky banks and cliffs. It is in this harsh environment that an aged Hop-bush Dodonaea viscosa survives despite a decade of low rainfall. The bushes we saw were covered in red seed cases.

We found the the nationally vulnerable Large-fruit Groundsel Senecio macrocarpus in the grassland ,and the beautiful Blue Devil Eryngium ovinium - hard to believe it's in the Apiaceae family.

Also hidden in the grassland was a baby Singing Bushlark. The adults were quite agitated until we moved on.

Plains wandering

Grasslands look uninteresting from a distance but up close are spectacular. We explored some grassland reserves on today's guided walk at Little River near the You Yangs. We had to walk very slowly in order not to miss little herbs hiding. There were several daisies, dianellas, bluebells, convolvulus, lomandras, blue devils, fringe-lilies, pimeleas, pelagoniums and grass-lilies as well as a variety of indigenous grasses. The yellow flowers of Clustered Everlastings dominated the scene.

One of the little herbs was a Plantain Plantago. I thought it was P. gaudichaudi, but it has hairy leaves so maybe it's P. varia.

Thursday, 22 October 2009

Little treasures in the Long Forest

Bull Mallee is the star of Long Forest but we found some of the other players today.

Vittadinia gracilis New Holland Daisy

Wahlenbergia luteola Golden Bluebell

Eremophila deserti Turkey-bush

Long Forest

The birdos visited Long Forest today. This remarkable area near Bacchus Marsh, not far from Melbourne, is the only patch of mallee south of the Great Divide. It's a unique remnant from drier times about 8000 years ago and the particular mallee tree here is Bull Mallee Eucalyptus behriana. Other trees present are Grey Box, Red Box, Blue Box, Long-leaved Box, Yellow Gum, Manna Gum and Yellow Box.

The leader of our excursion was Marilyn Hewish author of Birds of the Long Forest, 1889-2005. (This book is a model of how to put together a study of a particular area.) Marilyn has spent countless hours in the Long Forest and is a very entertaining guide. We had a great day.

Oh, and the birds? Nothing out of the ordinary but the ordinary birds are delightful. We heard a Speckled Warbler but even Marilyn's magic couldn't entice it to make an appearance. She found them nesting there this year - that's like saying you've found the Holy Grail. Today we saw a thornbill pinching feathers from the Speckled Warbler's nest (it's OK, they've finished with it) to line its own nest.

And, I got to try out my new binoculars. They're good, but I still haven't seen a Speckled Warbler.

Tuesday, 20 October 2009


One of the orchids we found at Anglesea on Sunday was Caladenia tentaculata, the Mantis Orchid (or Large Green-comb). There were quite a few, tucked away in the heath, looking very beautiful.

But there were two that have me confused. I can't decide what they are. The combs of C. tentaculata extend above the tip of the anther whereas those of the one below are quite short. The bottom photo may just be a Mantis Orchid past its prime, but the one immediately below is different. It could be C. phaeoclavia or C. dilatata. And I've just noticed the lack of wings on the column of the flower above. Now I'm really confused. Maybe it is C. dilatata. I think I'll take up a different hobby :(

Sunday, 18 October 2009

Birds of a different kind

Yesterday we wandered at field nats' pace through trees on the property east of Anglesea so I don't think we missed much. We saw quite a few species of orchid including a big patch of the Common Bird Orchid Chiloglottis valida. They're called 'bird' orchids' because the flowers look like young birds opening their beaks. 'Valida' means strong, and they certainly are a robust looking orchid, especially the leaves. We saw the paired leaves first - they can be up to 10 cm long - and then hunted for the flowers. There were a few fully open. This genus of orchid spreads vegetatively, producing clones of itself from tubers, so you often find it in large numbers in one area. (It also produces seed but very little of it germinates.) It's pollinated by sexually-deceived male wasps apparently. I'd like to see that.

Hiding its face

It's a bit like reading a word for years but never hearing it said so it's a big surprise when you hear it pronounced properly. That's how it was for me today when Polly found a Hidden Violet Viola cleistogamoides. I've seen photos and read descriptions but never would have recognised this little beauty if I'd been by myself. It's a tiny plant, the flowers face downwards and it's the leaves you notice first. My highlight of the club excursion to a private property near Anglesea - although it was hard to beat the killer view of an Australian Owlet-nightjar sitting on a low branch.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

Bush-peas, Parrot-peas and the like

I mentioned in the last blog that the peas were flowering the Brisbane Ranges at the moment. OK, I found them, I photographed them .... then I tried to identify them. Oh dear. The Fabaceae family is so confusing.

These are some I found. I think they are, from top to bottom, Narrow-leaf Bitter-pea Daviesia leptophylla; Leafless Globe-pea Sphaerolobium minus; Golden Bush-pea Pultenaea gunnii; Dwarf Bush-pea Pultenaea humilis; Parrot-pea Dillwynia sp. I'm happy to be corrected.

Finally, a day in the bush

Some weeks I just can't get out into the bush, and I begin to feel starved, and it feels worse if it happens in spring. I've been indoors for a fortnight and was getting desperate.

But today was the annual wildflower show put on by the Friends of the Brisbane Ranges, the weather was perfect and I was unencumbered by duties and tasks (if you don't count housework) so off I went. The displays were excellent and the food provided by the Anakie school parents tasty. There were some organised lectures and bus tours that were heavily booked - I gave those a miss this year and explored some favourite spots by myself. The Brisbane Ranges is a fantastic place to visit at any time of the year but spring is best and today there was colour everywhere. Most of the ranges were burnt badly several years ago so it was interesting to see the plants recovering in the burnt areas and compare with those in the unburnt patches.

The Bert Boardman Reserve at Steiglitz is a great spot for lunch and today I walked the tracks behind the reserve. There were a few orchids flowering there, including some delightful patches of Rabbit-ears Thelymitra antennifera. And I found one Small Spider-orchid Caladenia parva. It really is small. The one I found was about 5 cm tall. There were also lots of peas and daisies flowering, but that's another story.

Monday, 5 October 2009

A reptilian resident

Blue-tongues don't seem to mind life life in the 'burbs. In fact they thrive and we Aussies have become very fond of them. They're large, move slowly on their short legs and are not agressive.

We saw one in our garden a few years ago and not since. So we were delighted when our brother-in-law heard one moving about in a pigface groundcover yesterday. I sat and waited, with my camera, and was rewarded when the reptile came out to sit in a sunny spot. It's an Eastern Blue-tongue Tiliqua scincoides. I wonder how long it's been in residence without being noticed.

Our block is plenty big enough to support a blue-tongue family I reckon. We want a partner to arrive so we can get started.