Beauty and terror out west

Werribee Gorge State Park would have to be the most underated and under-appreciated piece of wildlife realestate within one hour of Melbourne. My guess it’s partly because its on the arse-end (western) side of the city, just past all those factories and thistle paddocks. For bell-birds, tall mountain-ash forests and fern glades, go east. We western suburbs boys and girls prefer a landscape with guts, no namby pamby waterfall walks with carpark kiosk here.

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But if you love ‘Rugged mountain ranges and droughts with flooding rains’ and ‘Her beauty and her terror’ the you’ll appreciate this place.

The gorge sits on the fault line which demarcates the sinking basin on which Melbourne lies, and the upland plateau of Ballarat etc. It’s the reason Port Phillip Bay exists. The river, which is really only a stream, has over millions of years cut through the rocks and exposed the underlying sandstone which has been compressed and forced into a serpentine buckle by continental plate action in the ancient past. The power which created this feature must have been unimaginable.

The gorge also is the only place I know which shows signs of glaciation, unusual for Australia.

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The ‘plum-pudding’ deposits of mixed striated rocks show they have been transported in ice and dropped into an ancient  sea at time of melt.

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Striated parrallel gouging is proof of ice embedded rock erosion. Its likely that from where I took the photographs there where icebergs melting above my head! But that was in the times of Gondwana.

Werribee gorge is great place for city people to escape for an hour or two of quiet and a chance to see wild species.

greyfantail Rhipidura fuliginosa

Its a place where superb fairy wren families visit your picnic table if you move quietly, grey fantails and whiteplumed honeyeaters abound.

whiteplumed honeyeater

and yellow robins heal your soul by looking into your eyes.

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silvereye

Silver eyes work the eucalypt flowers

striated thornbill

and stiated thornbills call from nearby bushes.

red-browed finch

I also saw a group of red-browed finches

yellow faced honeyeater

and white-faced honeyeaters visiting from Queensland for summer.

lacewing

fat lacewings provide food for thes birds and by their presence tell us the water quality is clean.

very large fat fly

Atriplex, in flower, attracted these very large flies which like huge bumble-bees zoomed through the bushes.

goats

The significance of the gorge was understood over 100 years ago when it was declared a “site for a Public Park” in 1907, but no-one has yet found a way to remove the goats (photographed Feb 2016) which destroy the fragile plants growing in inaccessable places, pity. Goats are also rampant in nearby Lerderderg Gorge.

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Photo: Richard Daintree, 1859 (State Library of Vic)

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1896 Working Men’s College Photographic Club camp

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“Taking a Boobook Owls Nest”, 1890 A.J. Campbell  featured in “Nests and Birds of Australia”. The nest was quickly chopped out and three eggs taken therefrom. We may feel shocked by this portrayal of whitefella history, but we have learned nothing, people STILL burn hollows for ‘pleasure’ see https://open.abc.net.au/explore/57124

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6 thoughts on “Beauty and terror out west”

  1. Fabulous! Thanks Peter. I hiked overnight in Lederderg Gorge many years ago, and was thrilled that such a rugged place was so close to Melbourne. I also loved what you said about the yellow robins. They have some kind of special wisdom and presence, those birds. Cheers, Paula

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  2. Hi Paula, thanks for your kind words. Lerderderg area doesn’t attract the overseas tourists and their dollars, maybe thats why its somewhat neglected. To my mind the biodiversity is richer than in the wetter mountain-ash water catchments east of Melbourne. And yes, yellow robins definitely heal one’s city-beaten soul.

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