Tag Archives: Murray

Workshopping artwork for ecology, Goulburn/Broken/Murray

My residency in Nathalia ended its first week with a sculpture workshop which invited community members to a hands-on cardboard art-making day.

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I thought I had asked too much of my participants initially, but they proved up to the task as the day went on and we had some very promising results by days end.

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Internationally known artist Bill Kelly attended and kindly spent much of his day assisting with any creative problems which occurred, I am indebted to him.

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Fun was had by all and it proves serious subjects can be approached in a light-hearted and friendly manner.

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Getting a 2d material into a 3d shape is often not easy but my workshop participants approached the problems with an enthusiasm, wonderful to see.

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Drying in the intense sun at day’s end were little creature beginnings….

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and their ‘tree’ hollow homes.

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With another week to go who knows what will eventuate? Our collaborative exhibition will take place in June so the heat will soon be on to get some finished work ready for showing.

 

 

No rabbits this Easter!

Small mammals in this country under the 5kg weight range are being decimated by introduced cats and foxes, but how many of us understand this is a part of a global extinction event that is underway?

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Yellow-footed antechinus, recently photographed on Goulburn river bank amongst fallen logs and flood debris. This species is one of the few small marsupials still seen in the wild in Victoria (and can be active in daylight hours). Each year ALL the males die after mating.  

squirrel glider in hand

Squirrel gliders are rarely seen however. This little chap was found in a bad way on a road and brought to the Bohollow Wildlife Centre, Kotupna Vic and was my first chance to see one close up….a truly beautiful creature. These gliders are capable of a 90meter ‘flight’ and are mainly found in non-fragmented dry sclerophyll forest on inland slopes of the great divide. We have all but destroyed such places, hence Petaurus norfolcensis’s increasing rarity.

A human devised technologically based system has replaced the natural system. This pie chart shows how humanity and our domestic animals now dominate the planet’s biomass.

biomass diagram

Fossilized carbon has been used to make this change and has heated our planet.

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Carnaby black cockatoo’s dead from heat stress. This bird has decreased 50% in 45 years! I went to school in Albany WA and these birds were a daily part of my world, I walked through a pine forest on my way to school, they love pine trees.

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Red-tailed black cockatoos in WA (race Naso) are now classed as ‘near threatened’ and only 500-1000 Vic birds (race graptogyne) still exist, and are listed as endangered. 

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It is likely your children and their children will be living in a much reduced biome. So don’t teach your kids about fluffy rabbits and cats, Aussie kids need to know about Aussie warm and fluffies.

Of cukoos and a marsupial mice

A recent trip to Barmah  National Park saw me swagging it on the banks of the Goulburn river for a couple of nights on Philippa and Ian’s property, a tiny remnant of original red-gum forest. Sugar glider sounds woke me in the middle of both nights, eerie but satisfying to my ears. Waking on the second dawn I  watched a very active yellow-footed antechinus hunting for prey.

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Yellow-footed are the only antechinus I know which is active by day (diurnal) and I have seen them climb huge eucalypts to take blossom nectar at 9.30 am. How they manage to avoid crows and other predators amazes me.

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I was in the area to establish details for a 2 week visual arts workshop, talk and exhibition with The Grain Store for April 2015 centered on species loss. Opportunities to meet Yorta Yorta representative Sharon Atkinson and other shakers and movers who work in the Nathalia area was appreciated. Time was spent immersing myself in the locality and I was lucky  to see a superb parrot feeding in roadside box forest.

superb parrot rear view

Polytelis swainsonii

These beautiful 40cm long birds which formerly nested in Victoria have suffered habitat loss for decades and nesting in this state is now very limited and still declining. They require extensive hollows in mature large eucalypts near to or over water courses, located 5 -7km or less from box trees for forage.  Most box forest has been cleared and is now irrigated agricultural land.

From Barmah I travelled to Bendigo where I am in contact with other people intent on changing humanity’s current environmental impacts. I took a couple of hours off in wet weather to walk a small part of Crusoe reserve and was rewarded with close up sightings of what I think were….

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Rufous whistler female adult going by the call…

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Yellow robin, probably a fledgling

 

 

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and below….

 

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a colony of yellow-tufted honeyeaters .

Superb fairy wrens were everywhere. On close inspection I chanced to see a cuckoo which at first I thought was looking for suitable host nests surrounded by wrens, but soon realized I was looking at a fledgling totally intent on filling itself with caterpillars which were feeding on the surrounding Common Woodruff.

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most likely a fan-tailed cukoo Cacomantis flabelliformis 

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Cuckoos, including the ‘cuckoo clock’ European bird are actually birds of the tropics and I’m betting this little specimen was gorging itself in preparation for a long flight to New Guinea or Indonesia

Wildlife images from remote southern Australia, November 2015

I don’t see myself as a photographer, but as a follow up to my Warru experience I have decided to post photos of species I observed and recorded to the Atlas of Living Australia  http://www.ala.org.au/dragon fly mating

Mating dragonflies, Hattah

Great crested crebes Hattah 15

Great crested grebes

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Hattah lake November 2015 with its water allocation

Hattah fish

Not a Murray cod but very large…..you guess

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Pink-eared ducks

regent parrots Hattah Nov 15

Regent parrots, currently listed as endangered

Sulphur crested Hattah

Suphur-crested

White butterfly Hattah oct 15

maybe just a cabbage moth.

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Little corella, thousands of these on the return trip following the wheat harvest

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Mayfly, adult

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Weebill, not sure which one

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Eastern rosella at hollow.

Hattah lakes is a favourite over night stop heading north, its amazing what can be seen in an hour or two. Next camp is in South Australia, back soon with another batch of photos.

 

 

Can we rewild Yorta Yorta country?

My previous post mentioned Yorta Yorta lands. For international readers this country is on the Murray river, Australia’s largest waterway.  Since white settlement the river has been transformed into a channel for irrigators.  Currently almost no river water reaches the sea. Prior to settlement the Murray regularly flooded into an enormous braided river system at snow melt, but would sometimes cease to flow entirely in summer as can be seen here in 1915 drought.

10 River Murray Koondrook 1915 drought

Species which evolved over millenia  to live with this cycle  now has to cope with a regulated flow regime.  Some species like white necked heron  have adapted, but others like white breasted sea eagle are now listed as threatened.

The gorgeous Azure kingfisher alcedo azurea is another  Near Threatened species  (depi advisory list), I felt very fortunate to see these and you’ll hear my amazment looking through the viewfinder. (apology for sound)

It has taken whitefellas several generations to realize our largest rivers are dying. Water is at last being allocated for ‘environmental flows’. This is Hattah WITH its water allocation earlier this year.

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The photo below gives an idea of size, I’m no expert but I’d guess these trees are pushing 1000yrs old, which makes our little lives seem so insignificant.  We have been cutting these ancient woodlands up to make railway sleepers and for firewood. Victorian side of the river  has just ceased this practise in Barmah National Park, however the northern NSW side is still being logged (forestry).

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Tree with man standing, Yorta Yorta lands.

Please share.

 

Yorta Yorta country – Rakali

Hydromys chrysogaster, also known as rakali and in times past, water-rat. It’s Australia’s beautiful large aquatic rodent with webbed feet,  water-proof fur, white-tipped tail and carnivorous appetite. Studies in Sydney hint that this species is able to defend its territory from introduced vermin i.e. they keep rats and mice at bay and probably predate upon them. Rakali may also live in symbiosis with platypus sharing burrows see:  http://www.platypus.asn.au/the_australian_water_rat.html

As a burrowing mammal rakali are considered pests by some irrigators, but paradoxically they may be a major predator of crayfish and yabbies,  known abundant dam and dyke burrowers.

I recently managed to shoot this video clip with help from friend Ian with boat on the Murray River in Yorta Yorta country. Rakali is very active so I have slowed the speed 50% start and end of clip for ease of viewing.

For more species from Yorta Yorta country, keep posted.