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In The Foothills

Foothill forest in autumn, calm and moist after a little overnight rain, raindrops still sparkling in the foliage and falling in small showers as I push through the burgan understory in search of fungi. The ground soft and giving, my footsteps quiet, so different to the harsh dry crackle of the summer months. A sweet smell rising, wet leaf litter breaking down to enrich the soil, aided by the fungi I’m seeking. An Eastern Yellow Robin clings to a tree trunk in typical pose, one of Australia’s few mycophagous birds, I can see where it has been pecking at a fungal fruiting body that is now lying in pieces. At times the quietness is broken by the sweet calls of Golden Whistlers, a small flock of Buff-rumped Thornbills catches my eye but is soon gone, foraging in the low vegetation. Sunshine Wattle, Acacia terminalis coming into full flower lights up the bush, its flower balls off-white, in contrast to the rich yellow of the species further east.

susnshine wattle

Little else is flowering at this time of year, an occasional Erect Violet but then I find some Nodding Blue-lily with a spray of brilliant late blooms.

nodding blue-lily

Autumns of late have been dry with little in the way of fungi, but this year is making amends with a wide variety of species in fruit, the first photographed being some coral fungi, white and and pale orange Ramaria species.

ramaria

Fungal fruiting bodies come in all sizes ranging from large to very small, and several of the latter are photographed on this occasion. The full beauty of this tiny jelly fungus only showed up when enlarged on the computer screen.

jelly fungus

Fungi of more familiar appearance abound in a variety of colours and shapes, many breaking down in the wet conditions but some are fresh and pristine.

fungi

Ants, as we’ve come to expect, successfully forecast the autumn break and worked busily to erect their defences, Nature’s Bureau of Meteorology.

ant nest

To be continued.

Click to enlarge

Of this and that.

We’ve had something of an autumn break, the paddocks are green again and home to many hundreds of Straw-necked Ibis probing the ground with their long curved bills in search of beetle and moth larvae. What a wonderful biological control these birds are; it’s many years now since we had an infestation of christmas beetles decimating the eucalypt foliage, I give ibis the credit for that and you know, they’re a handsome bird with their iridescent plumage. The farmer’s friend.

ibis

At Bellbird Corner reserve we planted a tray of river bottlebrush tube stock last spring. We gave them a good watering in and a second watering when the dry was really biting, we lost a few but the rain has come in good time to keep them going. That was good, but the rain softened the ground and we lost one of our big red gums. It was bound to happen some time as it didn’t appear to have an extensive root system, and the huge weight of the multi trunks and upper foliage brought it down. Quite a job to clear it, still some work to do.

tree

Bird life in the reserve has increased with good numbers of Silvereyes, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, and Grey Shrike-thrushes joining the usual residents. The tree violet shrubs are heavy in fruit, a food source for the first two. Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes are feeding on caterpillars. The flying-foxes are still in residence in their camp by the river, there is another count on this week to try and check their numbers. There was a large influx to the Bairnsdale camp and it could be possible that some of the Maffra camp moved further east. To get some flight shots I went to the camp in the morning while they were still settling down after their night’s food search.


flying-fox


flying-fox


flying-fox

Some have holes in their wing membranes, probably spiked when they come in to land.

flying-fox

The camp has created a lot of interest, and opinions have been mixed, on local radio I heard of one person describing them as disgusting. Nothing could be further from the truth, these fantastic winged mammals are very clean, can fly up to fifty kilometres in a night to feed, and as I mentioned in an earlier post are important pollinators and seed dispersers. Love ‘em.

Click to enlarge.

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