Thursday, 14 April 2011

Cowies Creek, Part 4

Ring Road downstream to Thompsons Road.
It was a lovely autumn day today so I walked several kilometres of Cowies Creek. I walked from the Ring Road, crossed over Anakie Road and followed the creek to Thompsons Rd - and then walked back again. It was a very pleasant walk.

There is a sealed footpath on the northern bank of the creek and the entire length is very well-maintained and mown  parkland. The creek banks have been planted with a variety of Australian plant species most of which appear to be those that grow locally - Acacia, Bursaria, Lomandra, Poa, Eucalyptus, Goodenia, and Cassinia. The creek bed is very weedy and numerous drains from the surrounding suburbs and industries enter the creek, especially downstream of Anakie Road. I saw a bit of rubbish but on the whole I was surprised by the cleanliness of the creek and the surrounding area.

Thompsons Road

Now for the good news. It was early afternoon but I counted 15 species of birds - the usual introduced species (Common Myna, Starling, Spotted Dove, Sparrow and Blackbird) as well as some nice locals including a White-faced Heron standing in some shallows, New Holland Honeyeaters and White-plumed Honeyeaters, Dusky Moorhens, Magpielarks, Red Wattlebirds and, best of all, a number of Grey Fantails. Dragonflies and damselflies were patrolling and I saw five species of butterflies (Cabbage White, Common Brown, Yellow Admiral, Common Grass-blue and Meadow Argus).

Yellow Admiral

Meadow Argus

Common Grass-blue (attracted by a piece of foil)

Prior to walking this section I had read Aboltins' report on the Growling Grass Frog survey (referenced in the last blog). The frogs and several other species were found in several small dams constructed during the building of the ring road, in the creek upstream from Anakie Road and in a dam near the council depot of Anakie Road. The dams have been planted with water ribbons and other aquatic vegetation.

This section of the creek looks to be in good condition and it was here that I also heard some frogs calling today. There is a weir under the road leading into the depot and Aboltins reports that this prevents the introduced fish, including Eastern Gambusia Gambusia holbrooki, from moving upstream into the dam. The fish are known to predate on tadpoles and must be kept excluded if the frog population is to survive. This is a section of the creek that I will be recommending to the Mid-week Bird Group for their monthly excursion.

Construction dam

Creek near depot dam

Council depot dam

Click on photos to view large. be continued

Tuesday, 12 April 2011

Cowies Creek, Part 3

The Ring Road

Geelong's Ring Road crosses Cowies Creek just west of Bluestone Bridge Road. Marcus Wong's photo on Flickr shows the construction of the double bridge in June 2007. I don't know what it looked like before but the creek itself must have been completely reshaped and lined during the process.

The banks of the creek between the bluestone bridge and the ring road, as well as the area under the bridge, have been landscaped and planted and there is a wide concrete footpath/bicycle path incorporated into the design. The plants are still young but it looks quite attractive - I haven't had a good look yet to see what species have been planted.

Unfortunately there is a scouring problem that will need to be addressed promptly - most of the damage would have been done during the January 2011 flood and maybe in the future the more mature plants will bind the soil more effectively but I'd like to see more aquatic vegetation planted immediately. 

Because of the presence of Growling Grass Frog in the creek downstream Aboltins, in a commissioned report last year, recommended the following:
High quality habitat for the Growling Grass Frog would include the presence of still or slow flowing wetland habitats (e.g. creeks and ponds) with extensive submerged and floating vegetation, as well as emergent and fringing aquatic vegetation...At the Geelong Ring Road bridge, the planting of shade-tolerant aquatic species may also improve frog habitat here. Any revegetation or landscaping works should be undertaken using native species of local provenance with follow up weed control essential. A large number of trees or large shrubs should not be planted within 20 metres of Cowies Creek or nearby water bodies, as the shading of wetlands can render them unsuitable for Growling Grass Frog. The provision of terrestrial habitat around the banks of the creek should also be included. For example, small scattered rock piles and large woody debris (hollow branches/logs) could be provided as terrestrial shelter for frogs. Large rocks could also be added to pools within the creek to provide emergent rock habitats for frogs. Cowies Creek Amphibian Study and Targeted Growling Grass Frog Survey, Summer 2009-2010, Annette Aboltins (Commissioned by City of Greater Geelong)

Click on photos to view large. be continued

Monday, 11 April 2011

Cowies Creek, Part 2

Downstream to Bluestone Bridge Road and Cowies Creek Railway Bridge No. 1 (Victorian Heritage Register H2240).

As referenced in the previous blog, Cowies Creek Part 1, the creek itself was realigned to allow this railway bridge to be built at a convenient angle. The bridge has a heritage classification and was built in 1860 as part of the Geelong-Ballarat line opened in 1863. It spans both the creek and a roadway, Bluestone Bridge Road.

This section of the railway line is being widened too to allow a second line, and there is still a lot of work to be done (see last picture). Hopefully the creek itself will get some attention after that because it's in a terrible state. Weeds everywhere, especially kikuyu grass. Cowies Creek, for a short section downstream of the bridge, was channelled (in 1860) by basalt training walls and a weir to reduce flow velocity but in January this year the road was closed due to flooding and in the next blog I'll show you where the velocity of the water has scoured the creek bed. Landscaping associated with the Geelong Ring Road abuts this area (see image immediately below) and could easily be extended to the bridge area after the rail works are finished.

The view upstream from the bridge is equally depressing. But some native fauna seem to like living there, judging by the sign on a resident's fence, and there are possibly frogs there as well because the endangered Growling Grass Frog has been found about 100 metres downstream (of which more later) and fish (native and introduced) live further downstream as well.

The view west of Bluestone Bridge Road shows that Cowies Creek valley is now quite deep and wide.

Click on photos to enlarge. be continued

Sunday, 10 April 2011

Cowies Creek, Part 1

There's a sad little creek, called Cowies Creek, that runs through the northern suburbs of Geelong. It's only a few kilometres long and runs east from farm land in Moorabool to the industries at North Shore on Corio Bay. When Europeans first settled in the area after 1835 it would have been a lovely little ephemeral stream but that can't be said today. The Ballarat-Geelong train line also runs down much of the creek valley.

It is named after James Cowie, a saddler from Scotland who settled in the area in 1841, amassed a fortune doing business during the gold rush and went on to become Geelong's third mayor and a member of parliament.

Over several blogs I'll be exploring the creek. Yesterday I started at the beginning near Lovely Banks Rd in Moorabool then had a look where Warners Rd and Evans Rd cross the creek further downstream. I've marked the spots on the map above.

Firstly, Lovely Banks Road.
Cowies Creek drains some relatively flat farming land north of Lovely Banks Road and it is at about this point that you could start calling it a creek. It is not fenced off from farm animals and no attempt has been made to revegetate. I could only see weeds and pasture grasses but a proper flora study might yield a few rush or reed species. This is the view south from Lovely Banks Road.

Secondly, Warners Road.
In the photo above you can see the railway embankment just below the horizon. The Geelong-Ballarat line was opened in 1862 and it crosses Cowies Creek several times. At both places the creek was diverted to cross the railway alignment at a more convenient angle for bridge building. We haven't improved much - the same thing happened downstream when the new Geelong Ring Road was constructed several years ago, but I'll discuss that in another blog. The quote is from The Victorian Heritage Register entry for 'Cowies Creek Rail Bridge No. 2', H2241. This pretty bridge crosses the creek at Warners Road and  is significant for several reasons to do with railway history and the people who designed it as well as the architecture and design of the bridge itself. (The arch style is rare, the stonework and detailing elaborate.) If you want to know more you can find it on the web. I'm more interested in the creek underneath.

We drove down Warners Road to get a closer look but couldn't get very close because there was an orange fence around the general area with signs saying that it was an 'rail upgrade site, no go zone'. Again, not much in the way of natural vegetation. The single line is being upgraded to a dual line. They haven't put the extra line in this section yet and I've no idea how they'll manage with a heritage-listed bridge in the way but they've already done a lot of the earth-moving to widen the embankment. The photo below (from shows the widening process in October 2010 and it appears, at this stage, that the creek area is untouched. You can just see the bridge corners half way along.

This is the view of the creek from the bridge at Warners Road looking north. A DSE (Dept of Sustainability and Environment) map for the area shows salinity levels to be high for the entire length of the creek and I'm sure this bit of farm land is salt damaged.

We then drove east to Evans Road that crosses the creek in a dip. The creek has cut itself a valley here because it is still nearly 50 metres above sea level and has only a short distance to run. On the west side of the road the farmer has fenced off both sides to allow the natural vegetation to recover...

...but on the east side grazing cattle are allowed free access. The railway line runs along the side of the valley and some houses on large blocks line up along the northern bank

Click on photos to enlarge.
To be continued.


There was a bookstall at the plant sale I went to yesterday. With remarkable restraint I only bought one book but it's a beauty.

At last we have a field guide to mistletoes - Mistletoes of Southern Australia by David M Watson and beautifully illustrated by Robyn Hulley. Each species has it's own page and there are chapters on cultural significance, biology, ecology and management, all complemented by superb photos.

Every mistletoe in southern Australia is described (46 in all). This leaves scope for the 45 found in northern Australia in a second book (although the Flora of Australia, Volume 22 is an excellent reference in the meantime).

Add it to your shopping list.