Saturday, 31 December 2011

Light and shade

It's been quite a wet year in the far west of Victoria - compared with the decade or so of drought - so all the swamps and waterholes have been full to overflowing. And many still are.

With this in mind I've been on the lookout for Austral Ladies' Tresses along the bush tracks this summer. It likes damp areas, I haven't seen it for years ... and still haven't. I haven't given up yet - we're here for another week or so. Or maybe the thought of snakes will deter me. We've already had a Tiger Snake at the house.

The heathy woodland areas are awash with shades of yellow and cream at the moment. The Woolly Everlastings, Silver Banksias, Mitchell's Wattles and Tree Everlastings are all looking very healthy and in amongst the vegetation there are gems like Dwarf Boronia, Dwarf Wire-lily, Pale Grass-lily, Jersey Cudweed and, in the damp spots, Lesser Joyweed. All have pale flowers.

Mitchell's Wattle Acacia mitchellii

Woolly Everlasting Agentipallium blandowskianum

Jersey Cudweed Pseudognaphalium luteoalbum

Lesser Joyweed Alternanthera denticulata

Pale Grass-lily Caesia parviflora var. parviflora

Thursday, 29 December 2011

A humble beauty

A pretty but common plant can get a bit tiresome when really you want to see something else. Bent Goodenia Goodenia geniculata is brightly coloured and an interesting shape but it's really common and I keep checking to make sure it's not a Spur Velleia Velleia paradoxa or a different Goodenia.

Yay! Success! Today I was walking in a damp heathy woodland and found the beautiful little Swamp Goodenia Goodenia humilis in patches. I've seen it before but it was lovely to see it again.

Wednesday, 28 December 2011

My, what big feet you have

It was a beautiful summer's evening here at Homerton in western Victoria last night - temperature in the low 20s, no wind, no clouds.  The landscape looked stunning in the late afternoon glow. Perfect.

I went to the Darlot Creek to see if anything exciting like bitterns, crakes or rails would show up. They didn't of course, but I enjoyed the company of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, Silvereyes, a Swamp Harrier, Red Wattlebirds, Crimson Rosellas, Grey Fantails and Superb Fairy-wrens exploring the willows the infest the creek's banks, and several Dusky Moorhens and an Eastern Swamphen exploring the reeds. A koala bellowed his presence in a Manna Gum nearby.

And then, just as I was about to leave, two Black Wallabies (Wallabia bicolor) came out of the blue gum plantation to graze on the Calystegia, large bindweed, that is enveloping the creekside vegetation in places. (This particular genus of wallaby is unusual in that it will feed of higher shrubs, and that's exactly what these two were doing.) One of the wallabies looked quite old, the other young.

Tuesday, 27 December 2011

Marbled Xenica

Many Common Brown males fly up from the grassy understory as I walk through the bush, and occasionally the smaller and darker Marbled Xenicas, also males (below). They perch on leaf mulch or exposed soil.

Friday, 9 December 2011

Pelicans and butterflies

It was a muggy and warm day today, with big black clouds blocking the sun and thunder rumbling in the distance. It was all talk though, because there were only a few drops of rain.

At one stage I went to find my binoculars to have a look at a flock of about 30 pelicans circling low in a thermal over my house. Never seen that here before.

And then I got distracted by the hundreds of butterflies fluttering at very high levels. Never seen that before either. They were all dark and flying randomly (i.e. not all flying in the one direction). As my garden has been populated by numbers of male Common Browns in the last week or so I'm assuming the high-flying butterflies were the same species.

Friday, 18 November 2011

A very large slug

We're in the middle of replacing a section of floor in the old farmhouse at Homerton and found this resident beneath the floorboards. I believe it is the large introduced Leopard Snail Limax maximus. I now have the correct identification. It's the introduced nocturnal Yellow Slug Limacus (Limax) flavus. See comments. (Thanks Snail.) This one was about 6 cm long. We used to find slug slime tracks across the carpet so hopefully the new floor will keep this creature outside.

Limax maximus Leopard Slug Yellow Slug Limacus flavus

Monday, 14 November 2011

A plant survey (and more)

I was helping with a plant survey on a private property near Bannockburn, west of Geelong, but I might have been a little distracted by the insect life.

Common Jassid Eurymela fenestrata

Caterpillar of the Senecio Moth (on what's left of a Senecio leaf)

White-banded Grass-dart Taractrocera papyria on Pink Bindweed

We found a few special plants amongst the flowering grasses. Now I have to get the microscope out to try and identify said grasses.

Pussy-tails Ptilotus spathulatus

Curved Rice-flower Pimelea curviflora

Friday, 11 November 2011

Harvey Street

It was a beautiful morning and I was in Anglesea with some spare time. Perfect. The woodland off Harvey Street seemed like a good option and it proved to be a good choice.

The austrostipas, poas and austrodanthonias were flowering and waving in the slight breeze and as always look spectacular when backlit. There were a few plants flowering (pimeleas, peas, lomandras, an orchid or two, fringe-lilies, daisies and even a few violets), there were a few insects on the shrubs (dragonflies, damselflies, wasps, flies, ants, bees, moths and butterflies), there were one or two birds calling (but as it was midday I wasn't expecting too many) and I had the bush track all to myself. It was a delightful hour.

Thysanotus tuberosus subsp. tuberosus, Common Fringe Lily

Caladenia tentaculata Mantis Orchid


Day-flying moth. Family Crambidae, Corynophora lativittalis. Thanks MH.

Male Common Brown Heteronympha merope

Varied Sedge-skipper Hesperilla donnysa.

Metallic Jewel (Shield) Bug Scutiphora pedicellata

PS I'll update the IDs when I've done some homework. Any ideas?
Update: All sorted now. Thanks CT for help on the bug, MH for the moth and VWD and DM for the sedge-skipper butterfly.

Wednesday, 9 November 2011

Little desert wildlife

Well, to be more exact, Little Desert National Park and south through Meereek State Forest.

Granny Moth Dasypodia selenophora

A damselfly caught on the sticky globules of a Drosera peltata.

Stumpy-tail Lizard Tiliqua rugosa

Emus. We saw a lot.

Tuesday, 8 November 2011

Eel obstacle course

Hopkins Falls on the Hopkins River north of Warrnambool. We hadn't been there for years so we went to have a look. It's a lovely spot. I particularly enjoyed the patterns of rock, vegetation and water above the falls.

It wouldn't have been worth going during the drought unless you're interested in the geology - all the basalt rocks would have been exposed as can be seen in this photo. But we missed a spectacular show after rain events in the last year or so as can be seen in this photo.

Every summer the elvers of Short-finned Eels have to climb the 13m falls or the slopes on either side in order to reach the still water in creeks and lakes further upstream. They enter the Hopkins River estuary at Warrnambool after a long trip from the Coral Sea off Queensland and live in the fresh waters for many years before moving back to the Coral Sea to breed and die. You can read more about their story here and here. Apparently they move up the falls under the cover of darkness. It would be wonderful to see.

When I was a child growing up on a dairy farm in Western Victoria we used to go 'eeling' at night in the Darlot Creek. Dad was a genius at skinning an eel (they're very slippery critters) and my mother was a genius at cooking them. We kids loved it all, including the eating. And so did the local Gunditjmara people whose extensive eel traps in the lava swamps now have international protection and recognition. They really knew how to catch and smoke an eel.

Monday, 7 November 2011

A South African visitor

In the Little Desert and Meereek State Forest south of Edenhope we found a plant we didn't want to find.

South African Orchids Disa bracteata were growing beside the road in several places. It's a robust plant that was introduced to Western Australia about 60 years ago and has since spread to South Australia, and Victoria only a decade or so ago. Apparently it seeds very readily and is self-pollinating.

I think it's here to stay unfortunately. And maybe we became vectors by walking around it observing and photographing, getting back into the car and then walking around different areas.

A little about the Little Desert

The plant list for the Little Desert is very impressive and if you're there at the right time it can be spectacular fun searching for gems. We've been there when the floral display has been overwhelming in its beauty but that wasn't the case this weekend.

As we were there to give our cameras a workout it was disappointing but we found plenty of interest there and elsewhere. The heath was a sea of white - kunzeas, teatrees, melaleucas and grasstrees were all flowering. This is Creeping Muntries Kunzea pomifera which, as the name implies, is a ground cover.

We explored a small area of the park where there is an active Malleefowl nest. We didn't see the birds at the large nest, below, or in the bush (of course) but we could see where they've been. Their scats are huge and absolutely full of seed husks.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Pink Bells

Pink Bells or Black-eyed Susan, common names of a small shrub of the heath, Tetratheca ciliata. Usually the flowers are bright lilac-pink but occasionally I see white ones in the Annya forest at Milltown. Whatever their colour they never ever show their faces.

Darlot Creek photopoint

This blog is the next in a series of photos taken from the same photopoint on the Darlot Creek at Homerton. I've posted in previous years here and here. I'm recording changes over time.

When I started the project I wasn't really expecting to see much difference but in the last six years the blue gum plantation was planted and has grown very quickly, the creek flooded, there have been several years of drought and the tree in the middle background seems to be having a second lease of life. The willow on the left is also getting bigger which is a concern.

April 2011

October 2011

Saturday, 22 October 2011


Question. Why do blowflies congregate on tree debris on sunny days? The photos aren't great but in one you can see that there are thirteen in one small area. When I disturb them they buzz about noisily for a few seconds and then land again in the same area.

Yesterday we came down to our farm at Homerton for a few days but I'm a bit wary because today we've seen two Tiger Snakes and a leech has had a good feed of my blood!

The Wiltypolls (hairy sheep) we bought to keep the grass down around the house have pushed through the electrified fence into the farm paddock so the grass is rather long. They are very cute sheep but ... Hmmm. Plan B?

But my bird list is good so far. Forty-one species around the house paddock, including a Swamp Harrier. Haven't seen one of those here for years. And the Blue-winged Parrots are back in the same spot as last summer.

I'm amazed at how many White-necked Herons there are at the moment. There were one or two in nearly every swamp in the 300 kms between here and Geelong. I think that on the way home I'll gps each sighting and atlas them.

Friday, 30 September 2011

Collingwood forever

This might be my first and only blog on a subject that's not true to theme - although, when I think about it, it is about magpies.

My new grandson came home from hospital this morning wrapped in his father's favourite colours! We cat supporters don't stand a chance.

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

A surprise visitor

'There's a baby parrot on the garden path.' So I went to investigate of course. And there he was, eating seeds from the weeds that have overtaken our gravel pathway - short-tailed with brilliant blue wings and head. I'm still wondering what it is when he turns around to show off his bright red chest. A juvenile Red-Chested Parrot. And he has an orange leg band. Definitely an escapee.

We captured him and put him in the empty chook shed while we worked out what we were going to do with him and then took him to the Jirrahlinga wildlife centre at Barwon heads. At least he'll survive there because he would have had no chance in the wild.