Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Gift on Boxing Day

I cannot tell you how many times I have gone out walking at different times of day (often dusk) and after more than six years, never seen a wombat. I've seen plenty of evidence - scratchings, droppings, holes under the fence - but apart from a distant sighting of a wombat scurrying up the side of a hill (and I didn't have my glasses on), it has been a whole lot of nothing.

But yesterday, I went for a walk and decided to head up the other side of the creek. This is a dry creek (has had running water in it once in six years) and I often don't bother to cross it. There is no west boundary fence so who knows where our property ends? However, this day I decided to walk that way for a change, and followed a fairly well-worn path made by animals. As I came down the side of the slope towards the creek, I scared a swamp wallaby down in the reed that took off away from me. I stopped to get some grass seeds out of my sock, and then headed back.

Another thump and scurry - swamp wallaby again? No. I froze and waited. (After a while, you realise that's the only way to see animals - stop and don't move.) And there, about 12 feet away, was a wombat. At two in the afternoon. In broad daylight. It froze too. I took some photos, in case it bolted, but they were mostly of a grey mass in the bracken. I edged around to get a better view, and froze again. There he/she was, facing me, sniffing the air.

Luckily, the breeze was blowing towards me. I edged around a little more and sat. The wombat waited. I waited. I took lots more photos. I wondered if it was a male or female. (How do you tell without tipping them upside down? As if that's going to be possible.) Then a small branch fell from a gum tree behind me and the wombat thundered away, down into its hole. The hole was actually only about a metre from where it was standing, so why it didn't head down there straight away was a mystery. Never mind. My six years of waiting and looking was finally rewarded. I am one very happy wombat watcher!

Saturday, December 6, 2008

Spring Flowers December

It's so lovely to walk around at this time of year and see all the wildflowers blooming. Some have already been and gone, but some are just now coming into their best shows. This (above) is new to me. I'm not entirely sure what it is, and it is only blooming in one spot that I've found. My best guess from the book I have is Grass Trigger-plant. Am I right?
These are my favourites - Fringe Lilies. I could have posted three photos but hopefully this is the best!
Along the north side of our property, where the sun gets through more, there are dozens of Blue Pincushions. It's not until you get up close that you can see the pins! I noticed today that there are hundreds of bluebells growing all over the place. I've not seen them in such numbers before. Is this because we've had more winter rain? Will this mean more butterflies this summer? Time will tell.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Spider in Hiding

He started in his web - a few strings near the water tank - then moved to the side of the shed.
But when people started getting too close and being annoying, he tried to hide. It's intriguing that, although it's not terribly clear on these photos, that his abdomen has markings that look just like a face!

Sunday, October 26, 2008

Spring Violets

Native violets, also known as Viola hederacea. When I looked this up on the net, I got mostly gardening sites that talked about native violets as weeds that can take over your garden. But they apparently like damp conditions, which is why I'm seeing so many right now. We had a reasonably wet winter up on the property. This is the one everyone talks about - lilac and white. And these are tiny. I had to get down on my hands and knees to look properly and photograph, and even then, the flowers are slightly out of focus.

But there is another kind of native violet growing on the property, which my trusty Trigg guide tells me is Showy Violet (Viola betonicicfolia). This one has no white in it at all. All small, all delicately beautiful.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

Kookaburra Pair

First they were hanging out together, having a chat and a laugh or two...
... then it was just one.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

Early Spring Flowers

Not much out yet, as you would expect. We've had some sunny, warm days but plenty of cold ones too. Of course, one of the first out has to be Early Nancy!
My trusty reference book, Wildflowers of the Brisbane Ranges, tells me that this plant - Creeping Bossiaea - grows in open moist forest. I mostly find it up the top end of the property near the track and fenceline where it gets more light. The extra rain up there this winter has meant this has spread quite a bit, making a great display of yellow and burnt orange.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Winter Moss

There has been a fair bit of rain up our way, much more than in Melbourne itself, so there is plenty of moss around (although not much fungi on trees this year). This yellow stuff only grows in one part of the property, where it is more open and with more sunlight.
Does this mean it's not really moss?!
Whereas down in the creek bed, which is dry (no running water, just some damp), this moss is growing well on the base of an old pussy willow tree. This tree is the only one of its kind on the whole property, so I'm curious as to how it got to grow in the creek.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Bobbing Along

One thing about trees having no leaves at this time of year - you can manage the occasional bird photo. This was not taken with my camera (it has a poor zoom) - the scarlet robin (male) stayed in one place for quite some time. No mate in sight, but his red chest was so stunning among the winter grey trees that she may just have been overshadowed.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Winter and Spring

After more rain, there is some amazing lichen and moss around. The moss is a brilliant green, the lichen very beautiful up close.
And the first flowers emerge.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

What Is This?

I know what these are!

It's this that I am curious about, This white stuff was about five inches across, and felt quite thick and spongy.
Is it a fungus of some kind?

Saturday, July 12, 2008

Fungi Again

Fungi might look delicate, but they are determined to push their way through anything to get up and out there.
And they like company!

More Fun Fungi

Sunday, June 22, 2008

June and some rain

There has been a surprising amount of rain up our way - I say surprising because we haven't had it in the city, but then our bit of land is around 500 metres above sea level, which makes a difference. So the moss and fungi are sprouting. The plant above was on the side of a huge granite rock - two growing together. I can't identity either, but they look to me like either sphagnum moss or lichen of some kind.

I love the way these grow anywhere, and often out of cracks in trees. This was a dead tree on the ground, but I've also seen neat rows of fungi in tree stumps and in live trees.

Friday, May 30, 2008

Mt Samaria

Although this is a blog about our bit of bush just out of Melbourne, I couldn't help posting these photos from Mt Samaria. We went up there recently (I was researching for a kid's book I'm writing) and I was struck by the different vegetation that grew at the top of the mountain. Not to mention some of the other "growths" such as this huge termite mound. It was about 1.8 metres high (6 feet). Mt Samaria is actually a state park, and the top of the mountain is 953 metres above sea level, hence the dampness and cold.
Whereas I won't see any fungi at Lancefield for a while yet, unless it rains a lot more, these were happily growing near where we parked our car, just off the road.

Higher up, many of the rocks had lichen and moss on them, and there were plants obviously thriving in the cold, wet climate up there. We walked down one track towards Wild Dog Creek, and I tried another towards the summit. Lots of gum trees but a fair range of other kinds of trees as well, which made a nice change!
Down below, the vegetation was similar to Lancefield with mostly gums, some bracken and a lot of plants that looked like kangaroo paw, or something similar. It was a very interesting afternoon, which also included vast amounts of wombat poo and scratchings, but I never got to see a wombat. They must know I'm around!

Monday, April 14, 2008

At last, a bird

This is the first photo I've been able to take of a bird. Why? Because my camera zoom is totally inadequate, and the birds are usually too far away (or too fast for me). So this one was taken with a borrowed camera, and I got it because the bird happened to be on the tree right next to the shed, and obligingly stayed there for a while.
Now, identification. My bird book has a million options, but I think this is a White-throated Treecreeper - I know the treecreeper bit is right by the way they move up and down the tree trunks (I'd called it a brisk trot rather than a creep!).

Monday, April 7, 2008

From Out of the Earth

We found two of these last weekend - one on the ground next to its hole and one half out. Of course the casings were empty, and we guessed that they had been the pupa of something large, as they were around three inches long.
Friend Snail came to the rescue and told me they were very likely to be goat moths - or were goat moth pupa before the moth came out and flew away. That sent me Googling to discover that the larva is from the witchety grub family (of edibles!). I can see why a few of these would make a good meal. If you could eat them raw, as the Aborigines do.
Apparently the goat moth larvae like wattles - or acacias - and the larva burrows deeply into the trunk of the tree. When it's ready for the next stage, it burrows down into the ground where it stays until "hatching". Often it doesn't come completely out of the ground, but leaves the casing behind (as in the photo above).
I imagine these are big moths, although I couldn't find anything that told me their average wingspan, but we'll be keeping a lookout for them at dusk.
This might also explain why so many wattle trees up there tend to fall over!

Saturday, March 29, 2008


Lately, I've been using my binoculars more and checking out the bird life. On the weekend, I saw three king parrots, but other birds were harder to identify. I need to take my bird book with me and do it on the spot!

In the past four weeks, I've seen the echidna again, but also we finally spotted the wombat at dusk. He was a fair way off, heading up the hill, so no photos as he had disappeared by the time we got up there (he was probably wondering who the mad people were thrashing through the bracken behind him!). Consequently, I'm posting a photo instead of one of his many holes.

The other sighting was of a koala. This is only the second time we've seen one on our property, so it was pretty exciting (well, it was for my husband, as when I went up past the rocks, I couldn't find it). There is plenty of evidence though - gum trees with lots of scratches and shredded trunks. I have borrowed a copy of "Tracks, Scats and Other Traces" by Barbara Triggs from the library so that will come in handy.

Sunday, March 16, 2008

More Trees

It doesn't seem to take much for a tree, especially a gum tree, to start up again. Maybe that's because of bush fires, because you will often see a burnt out area with blackened gums where the trunks are literally blooming with new growth. This tree has been down for nearly a year, but with a couple of decent rainfalls recently, we're seeing quite a bit of this new growth from broken trunks here and there.
We talked to a local man recently who told us that our property (and adjacent forest) was totally burned out in 1951. This explains why a lot of our trees are not very big and old, of a similar height and girth, and all look like they sprinted upwards at once to grab the light.
This means that we don't have many old trees with holes which is, of course, where wildlife such as owls and possums live. However, I spotted these down the southern end, and have since found more to the west.
I'm also finding a lot of things on the ground that someone once told me was 'owl vomit' - in other words, what the owl spits out after eating small animals. However, what I'm finding are things that are full of insect casings. They don't look like scats. Any clues, anyone?
My guess is that this is one of the original old trees from 1951. Its insides are mostly burned, and the rest of the tree is dead, but it's still standing, as are several others nearby. They are all large trees, which makes me wonder what kind of forest was there before the 51 fire. Very sad if it was largely trees this size, but it's also possible that it was only the biggest ones that stayed standing and the small ones that went.

Friday, March 7, 2008

By Gum!

The gum trees (eucalypts) on our property are many! And often hard to identify as my only book that covers trees has no photos and some minimal descriptions of leaves. This is, I believe, a ghost gum. Its white trunk and branches are so vivid against the rest of the green and brown that it is outstanding to see. This one was highlighted by sunshine, but at night in the moonlight I can see why this is their common name.
I think this is a candlebark gum. I've read that these were given their name by early settlers because in bushfires the curled bark (that hangs down in long strips) looks like candles when it burns.
Stringybark - again named for how it looks, I would say. The younger stringybarks are not as rough but this one is older and wiser.
We also have peppermint gums and ironbarks, plus a few other varieties that I can't yet identify. One day I'll find a decent book!

Tuesday, January 29, 2008

Summer Heat

As it gets hotter and drier, there's not much happening flower-wise. At the end of December I found this - a Sticky Everlasting - and a few more Hyacinth Orchids. There has been more rain this year than we've had for a while, so the bracken is not dying off as it has done before.
We've spent the past two weekends putting a culvert in at the bottom gate, so no time for walking and photos, unfortunately.
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