A day out with the boys.

This spring, Greening Australia is teaming with local landholders and Parks Vic. to carry out extensive wetland protection and enhancement work in the salt affected land around Lake Wellington. Greening’s Martin Potts is ready to commence one hundred and forty kilometres of direct seeding on several properties, and I joined Martin and Peter on a reconnaissance outing to plan the bird surveys that are an integral part of the project.

the boys

At our second stop among some old red gums, Tree Martins were flying busily checking out nesting hollows that are in abundance in these priceless gnarled old trees.

red gum


tree martin

And priceless as they are, they sometimes need a hand to enable them to carry the weight of their massive limbs. In Great Britain some of the venerable old trees have had props installed to support limbs in danger of falling, in Australia we do things a little differently.

peter

We weren’t the only ones enjoying the trees on a nice day.

brushtail

The predominant vegetation around the lake is the red gum and the swamp paperbark, and as we walked it was interesting and thought provoking to observe the varied condition of both. Around the lakes system both have suffered greatly from the creeping salinity, in the worst affected areas both species have been largely killed, while in other areas they are in very poor condition. Then however in an affected area one finds a magnificent tree that is still thriving, and you have to wonder why. Could it be that it has an inbuilt salt tolerance, or is it growing in a position relatively free from salt. Just two hundred metres away trees almost as old were on their last legs, like the one with a large Sea Eagles’ nest in the upper forks, the lack of foliage is apparent.

red gum


eagle nest

Adding to the puzzle was a stretch we walked through where the old trees were dead, but there was a dense growth of healthy young saplings. These germinated after intensive cattle grazing ceased, and so far they are looking good. There is good news with the paperbarks too, we passed tracts close to bare salt marsh where they and meadows of tussock grass were healthy and a delight to see.

tussock grass

So, to sum up, all is not yet lost, there are bright spots, and Martin and Greening Australia’s revegetation work is an invaluable factor in the fight to counteract the salinity that has caused so much damage over the last fifty years.

Click to enlarge.

The Whistling Kite.

This bird is the most familiar bird of prey in our area of rivers, lakes, and floodplain, commonly seen soaring high on bowed wings and giving that distinctive call. It is one of the first native birds in my memory, we called it the Whistling Eagle in those early days on the farm. It is a not uncommon sight here at home, and recently one has flown over the garden more than once, just above the tree tops. I’ve taken the odd photograph from time to time, sometimes on the wing, but have not had the opportunity to get close to this wary bird for more detailed shots. That has just changed, on a visit to the local wetland I noticed one in the dead tree in the neighbouring waterhole, and was able to approach using the cover of a stand of swamp paperbark. The bird was preening, it had wet belly feathers so had probably been fishing and was tidying up after its meal.

whistling kite

Then, a few days later at home I put a dead rabbit out in the paddock for the benefit of the pair of Little Ravens. They had a snack occasionally, but a couple of days later I glanced in that direction and was astounded to see a pair of Whistling Kites feeding. This time I was able to use the cover of a garden tree to get to within a reasonable distance for photographs.

kite


kite


kite

One of the problems with photographing birds of prey is the inevitable harassment they suffer from other birds like magpies and ravens. Several times I’ve missed shots of the rarely seen Spotted Harrier because magpies have seen it off. The kites had fed peacefully for some time before a couple of the resident magpies got into the act, and surprisingly forced the kites off the carcass.

kite

Then the ravens joined in, the kites took to the air where they were subjected to repeated attacks until they decided enough was enough and disappeared into the distance. I managed a couple of shots high up into the light of a cold grey sky, far from ideal photographic conditions but they show the action reasonably well.

kite and raven


kite and raven

Click to enlarge.

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