Tag Archives: western

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.

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

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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.

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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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Remote north-western South Australia

Dr John Read and I entered APY Lands in early November 2015. This was a routine trip for him but was a first for me. Very few people in Australia will have been to this part of the country, a permit is required on entry.camel3It didn’t take me long to realize  was in a different country from the one I was used to.  John allowed me to spend some free time wandering across huge ancient boulders of the Musgrave Range. 393A2794

As I neared the top of the range the silence and remoteness seemed almost palpable. The danger of losing direction in unfamiliar country was both clear and frightening.

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Yet the rugged beauty was enticing,  I wanted to see a little more of what lay beyond, but had only two hours and we had work to do.

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Dragon lizards are always present,

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Crested bellbird glimpse, a bird of arid mulga and…

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Splendid Fairy-wren, turquoise form…

vidspotted bowerbird

Western bower-bird, a fig eater with  habitat in north-western SouthAustralia.

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Ubiquitious white-plumed honeyeater, the inland bird seems finer to me and has more yellow on face.

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Rufous whistler and..

singing honeyeater

Singing honeyeater made their presence known with song.

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Desert oak (note the bottle-brush shaped young trees behind)

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and even ferns!

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and lichen! Enormous lichen.This was something I hadn’t expected. It seemed that at every turn I was seeing something new.

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This native with succulent leaves

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turns the plain purple, but I have lost its name. So if you recognize it please inform me.

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Hakea shedding seeds

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Figs which grow on bare hot rock, roots not touching the ground,  a bonsai in a desert with no water. All a bit astounding.

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John was more interested in the termites which ate this patch of grass to the ground. More about this shortly.

 

 

 

 

 

Pink ears

Pink-eared duck Malacorhynchus membranaceus an endemic bird, can be found in anyplace in Australia especially after rain, but they are over-wintering in  Melbourne. Question is why? The small wetland was fenced-off from dogs/humans etc but was full of pacific black ducks and hard-heads. Guesstimate; 1000

How can so many birds find enough forage in such a small an area, is it because things are even more difficult inland? Is this species over-abundant outside the city. Or are city environments attractive in some way?

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“Re-wilding” in Melbourne’s West

I live near Kororoit Creek Altona which was possibly the most polluted stream entering Port Phillip Bay. It was until recently refered to as Kororoit “drain” by the City of Hobsons Bay Council. This stream is bordered by heavy industry, waste “tips”, chemical plants and oil refineries. Over the years the original stream escarpment has been obliterated by in-filling, buildings, roads and weeds. Until very recently the valley has been used as an industrial waste depositary.  An ecologist would call it totally fragmented system.

Call it “re-wilding” or just plain crazy, but some years ago a band of ‘locals’ got together to make a change . Our intrepid leader is Geoff Mitchelmore, now in his seventies. He has driven Council and nearby car makers, oil refineries and factories to fund “Friends of Lower Kororoit Creek, FOLKC, see  http://www.folkc.com.au/

Clearing rubbish, weeding (and I mean enormous boxthorn) planting mulching and watering etc has now proceeded to a stage where first plantings are becoming mature. Trees are flowering and birds have arrived. We are creating a corridor for wild species which cuts through the western suburbs’ industrial minefield.

My photos show species now resident in industrial Melbourne due to efforts of people like Geoff.

KMalurus cyaneus Superb fairy wren
Superb Blue Wren         Malurus cyaneus            winter plumage

KGolden-headed Cisticola 1st view

Golden-headed Cisticola Cisticola exilis

K(spotted) Pardalotus punctatus

Spotted Pardalote Pardalotus punctatus

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Darter             Anhinga ruf
Knew holland
New Holland Honeyeater Phylidonyris novaehollandiaeKRed-necked Avocet 2

Red-necked Avocet Recurvirostra novaehollandiae

KRoyal Spoonbill
Royal Spoonbill          Platalea regia
KWhite Fronted Chat Male
White Fronted Chat Male Ephthianura albifrons
Ksilver eye
Silver eye  Zosterops lateralis
Red Kneed Dotterel Charadrius cinctus
Red Kneed Dotterel Charadrius cinctus

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How the “creek”looked….

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Kororoit creek in 2003

 

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Tree planting 2015 National Tree Day

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How early plantings now look

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It’s people who care who make a difference.

 

 

Dry County Species

In November 2014 I again travelled to AWC Scotia to help with pitfall surveying,  (a scientific recording of species occurrence/change). Monitoring which species actually still exist in this country is done effectively by Australian Wildlife Conservancy. Here’s a couple of little friends who live in arid western NSW. ningaui holdingThis is a Ningaui, a bit stunned by the morning sun, one of our smallest marsupials.

 

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And this is a velvet gecko.

 

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And here’s where they live, burnt out, no water and searingly hot. Amazingly the plants and animals still thrive.

 

 

Feeling down? Need a happy pill? View this video

Looking at what humans are doing to planet earth can make you feel a bit low, so here’s a happy-pill-video (esp for Finnish readers who are going into winter) which I’m certain will cheer you up. 

Now that’s THINKING, and now you’re cheered up I’ll be cheering myself up by getting out of my comfort zone and going to Scotia sanctuary Nov 3rd to count and measure snakes and other reptilians. It will be crispy dry and hot with a chance of meeting a fierce snake (Oxyuranus microlepidotus), also known as the Western Taipan,  its regarded as the most venomous land snake in the  world. (actually, its also endangered)

http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedSpeciesApp/profile.aspx?id=20169 Oh what fun.

If I don’t come home in a box I will be installing 3D work from “Departure Lounge” for Sculpture 14,  Toyota Spirit Gallery, show opens 19th November. Here’s the invitation. ToyotaSculpture14Invite

If Ten Million Cats goes quiet, you know I came to grief…ah the hazards of the art world.