Sunday, 23 January 2011

Summer bird count

Grace and I were directed to count waders today at Begola Wetlands in suburban Ocean Grove and Freshwater Lake near Point Lonsdale. So we went, but without success because the water levels are too high following the recent rains. Not a wader in sight.

Both places are well worth a visit though. We saw some lovely birds at Begola Wetland, including Little Wattlebirds (not often seen this far east) and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters, and Clamourous Reed-warblers serenaded us all the way around.

At Freshwater Lake we waded through the shallows towards the one roosting area but the most reward was in the journey because there were no waders roosting. There were hundreds and hundreds of damselflies and dragonflies on the vegetation, flying up in clouds before us as we walked. There were many dead ones in the floating detritus and a lot of discarded exoskeletons still clinging to the reeds. I managed to grab a few photos (I was meant to be bird-counting remember?) but I should go back and spend more time there to get a better record of it all.

Many of the reeds and other vegetation had snails on them as well. This one had a bonus spider. If it can't swim it's there until the water levels drop.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Alpine flora

At Falls Creek we were able to search for alpine plants in various communities - bogs, pasture, under snow gums and lower down the mountain in a mixed forest. In the alps spring arrives in summer so most of the plants were flowering. It was all looking beautiful.

Alpine Orites Orites lancifolia

Mueller's Snow-Gentian Chionogentias muelleriana ssp. muelleriana

Sky Lily Herpolirion novae-zelandiae

Alpine Leek Orchid Prasophyllum tadgellianum

Silver Ewartia Ewartia nubigena
Stiff Dislaspis Dislaspis hydrocotyle

Carpet Heath Pentachondra pumila

 Flax Linum marginale

 Common Billy Buttons Craspedia sp.

Monday, 17 January 2011

Insects of the high country

These are a few of the insects and spiders we found in the alpine pastures around Falls Creek last weekend. Identification pending at the moment, except for the brilliant Spotted Mountain Grasshopper Monistria concinna.

High country

With damaging floods in Queensland and northern New South Wales, and the forecast of very high rainfall in west and central Victoria we decided to head for the high country.

No, the truth is the Geelong Field Nats' camp at Falls Creek in the alps had been organised weeks beforehand. We drove up to the ski lodge on Thursday, an extremely humid day, and on Friday it rained continuously so we couldn't get out into the field at all. It's the first time I've played board games at a camp!

Saturday and Sunday were perfect. The Snow Gums are recovering from the fires that went through several years ago but the sculptural beauty of their skeletons was breathtaking. We thoroughly enjoyed looking for plants and insects we never see in our patch.

Sky Lily Herpoliron novae-zelandiae 

Yellow Kunzea Kunzea muelleri

Alpine Trachymene Trachymene humilis

To be continued...

Tuesday, 11 January 2011

Weather forecasters

1. What do the earth worms know that I don't. Yesterday morning we discovered that they've moved up inside our compost bin in numbers  - sitting above the compost on the wall of the bin and up to where the lid sits on the rim. We've never seen them do that before. And yesterday and today we experienced a heavy rain event with associated high humidity. It rained (not showered) steadily all day. The clouds are moving from north-west to the south-east instead of the more normal south-west to north-east and we usually get heavy rain when that happens.

2. Last week my father, an amateur beekeeper, noticed some bees going into a hole in the top of an old disused hive he had stored in his shed. He kept an eye on it and the activity continued. That evening he expected to see, and did see, increased activity. There were a large number of bees flying about in his suburban back yard and they settled in the old hive (presumably the queen was with them). Next day he moved the hive out to a better spot in the garden and set it up properly and the bees are now busily constructing new honeycomb. The mystery is how the exploring bees found the hive in the first place.

Monday, 3 January 2011

Watching a wasp

Last year a new limestone track for the dairy cows was formed on our farm and it hasn't totally compacted as yet. The wasps know it. There were quite a few digger wasps flying low over the track and the surrounding pasture, some digging test holes, some digging real holes.

The wasp buzzes very noisily whilst in the hole then backs out quickly and deposits the excavated soil a short distance from the hole. This one had several paralysed caterpillars stashed on grass clumps close to the hole, ready to bury when the digging is complete.

Unfortunately I didn't have the time to stay and observe the end of this particular event - we had to pack up to go back to Geelong.

Sunday, 2 January 2011


Our holiday/farm house has always been a popular spot for our city-based extended family and some Christmas holidays we've accommodated up to 25.

One Christmas, twenty years ago, all eleven cousins from one side of our family were there, all under 13 years old. They decided to bury a time capsule. Each child contributed a drawing, three of them co-authored a poem and the papers were then rolled up and placed in a Fowler preserving jar which was covered in a plastic supermarket bag. They capsule was buried near the house fence in front of the verandah and they marked the spot with a rock.

This Christmas eight of the cousins, including our son on a visit home from Switzerland, were at the farm again - all adults now. They decided to dig up the capsule.

Just one small problem. Where was it??? The fence had been pulled down, the rock moved by a mowing contractor and each cousin had a different memory about where they'd buried it. They probed the ground for a while without success and then started digging. Several square metres later the capsule was found, opened and the contents viewed with much amusement. The lengthy poem in particular was a delight. Here's an extract.
One by one all the kids came out and saw the presents, with a shout,
but the presents couldn't be opened because Kay and Det
hadn't arrived yet.
Kay and Det did arrive
in their excellent 4 wheel drive.
We could finally open the presents we were anticipating.

For a few days our grandson Geoff had a great time in the hole and on the mound of dirt before it was filled in.

Now, dear readers, I haven't forgotten that this is a nature blog. I tell this tale to let you know that the contents of the time capsule had survived in perfect condition for twenty years because the plastic bag had not deteriorated at all. Doesn't that speak volumes?