Myrniong: landscape and birds

One of the locations I visited in my recent trip to Victoria and Tassie was Myrniong, about halfway between Melbourne and Ballarat, not far from Bacchus Marsh. Melbourne’s West is drier than its East, and the Myrniong landscape is not unlike that of Sunbury, with bare hills dissected by deep narrow valleys; Lerderderg Gorge, nearby, is just one of the bigger examples.

The property was an outdoor education centre, much used by school groups, and featured an artificial lake near the campus buildings high on the hill above the river.

Looking down on the Werribee River gorge

Continue reading “Myrniong: landscape and birds”

Extended Honeyeater family

What do you think of when you think of an extended family? Cousin Julie, Uncle John, Nanna and the rest? Or a group of related birds or mammals which is broader than a species but narrow enough to be a natural grouping?

Christmas is fresh in my mind as I write, as it may be in yours, but here I’m concerned with the taxonomic extended family, not the rellies. In particular, I have been thinking about  honeyeaters and their next-nearest kin, Continue reading “Extended Honeyeater family”

Extreme mangroves

mangrove creek
Mangroves line Screw Creek where it enters Anderson’s Inlet

I grew up with mangroves as a normal feature of my coastal landscape but never really understood how abnormal that was for a Victorian, which is what I was at the time, until very recently.

It was pure luck, really. I grew up in and near a South Gippsland town half-way between Melbourne and Wilson’s Promontory and our nearest beach was Inverloch, on Anderson’s Inlet; and we stopped at Tooradin, on the northern edge of Westernport Bay, every time we went to Melbourne. I never knew that mangroves were only found along 2% of the Victorian coastline or that the mangroves in Corner Inlet near Wilson’s Prom were the world’s highest-latitude mangroves, at 38 deg. 45′ South. MangroveWatch Australia has all the details if you want more, but there isn’t a lot more to tell: there is only one Victorian species, Avicennia marina, known locally as the White Mangrove (and elsewhere as the Grey Mangrove; be wary of common names!), and even that one struggles to survive except in sheltered spots or to get to any height greater than a metre.

Looking across Sawtell’s Inlet, Tooradin, to the mangroves
leaves and yellow berries
Foliage and fruit of the White Mangrove at Tooradin

Fast forward to 1990 and my arrival in Townsville … mangroves all over the place, and again I took them from granted – because I had grown up with them, of course! But where Victoria had one species and a total area of a mere 60 km2, Queensland has 39 and 4000 km2. They are not all stunted little things, either – some reach 25 metres; once again, MangroveWatch has all the information but this time there is far more of it.

I have often written about them on Green Path, though usually as a background to the wildlife (big or little) they support – butterflies at Cape Hillsborough or Ross Creek, Rainbow Bee-eaters in the city, and so on. This link will take you to all references to them.