Saturday, June 25, 2011

Egrets Near Trafalgar

While ibis are a common sight in Gippsland, egrets are less often seen and generally appear in small numbers rather than large flocks, as they sometimes do in the north. Four of the five Australian species occur in our region: three are classified just by size (the Little, Intermediate and Great Egrets) and then there is the Cattle Egret, recognizable by the orange plumage on its head and throat during the breeding season in summer. The others are rather difficult to tell apart in the field unless you can get close or see them during the breeding season, when the Little Egret often has a couple of long ‘head-ribbon’ feathers from the back of its head and the Intermediate Egret’s bill turns red. Also the combined length of the Great Egret’s neck and head when outstretched is notably longer than the length of its body. The three smaller species are quite common in eastern Australia and can be found in other countries of the Indian Ocean and Australasian regions. Being water birds they are sure to enjoy our wet winter. These two, which are either the Little or the Intermediate, were on Willow Grove Road near Trafalgar.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Peacock (Pavo Cristatus) at Mossvale Park

Last year I discovered a peacock in Mossvale Park. I have no idea where it came from - Peacocks (also known as Indian or Common Peafowl) were introduced from India and there are no feral populations that I have heard of around South Gippsland, although apparently there are some in south-east Queensland and the Riverina in New South Wales. I guess someone nearby breeds them. Unfortunately it flew into a tree before I could get a good photograph, and I haven't seen it there since.

Lace Goanna (Varanus varius)

Also known as the Lace Monitor, the Lace Goanna is the largest lizard in the regions east and south of the Great Dividing Range and the second largest in Australia. This one was up a tree in the forest that burnt out during last summer's bushfires near Mirboo North.

New Holland Honeyeater (Phylidonyris novahollandiae)

Also known as the Yellow-winged Honeyeater, these birds are distributed throughout coastal southern Australia, except the Nullabor, and in Tasmania. They can be sighted in woodlands, parks, gardens, orchards, heathlands and scrub.

Friday, May 27, 2011


Salmon Gum Mushroom (Phlebopus marginatus)

Horse-dung Fungus (Pisolithus arhizus)

The poet, John Keats, called autumn the “season of mists and mellow fruitfulness”, and while he was writing about England, this is also true of Gippsland. Our wet summer and heavy autumnal rains mean that this will be another fruitful year for fungi. Already a variety of toadstools, mushrooms and other kinds of fungus have appeared in gardens, the forest and alongside roadways. Horse-dung Fungus (Pisolithus arhizus) is easily mistaken at first glance for its name-sake, especially since it often appears in clumps along dirt paths and roadsides. Salmon Gum Mushroom (Phlebopus marginatus) can grow to a huge size and are a breeding ground for fungus flies. There are a few species, like Scotch Bonnet (Marasmius oreades) that were introduced from Europe. Tony Young’s Common Australian Fungi includes information about which species are edible and which are poisonous, although in many cases of native fungi this is unknown. However, unless you’re an expert, it’s wise to avoid foraging and stick to mushrooms from the supermarket (if you like them).


Saturday, April 23, 2011

Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides)

A Tawny Frogmouth (Podargus strigoides) joined the wildlife road toll a few weeks ago near the Recreation Reserve. Fortunately these strange birds, exclusive to Australasia, are not endangered. They can be found all over Australia wherever there are plenty of trees or scrub. Although they are sometimes called the ‘Frogmouth Owl’ or ‘Morepork’, they are not owls and shouldn’t be confused with the Southern Boobook (Ninox novaeseelandiae), also called the ‘Morepork’ or ‘Mopoke’, which can often be heard at night around Mirboo North. The Tawny Frogmouth’s usual call is more like a pulsating ‘oom-oom-oom’. They are also larger than Boobooks and build nests rather than using tree hollows. But like owls, Frogmouths are nocturnal and hunt for food. The one that met this sad fate was an adult male, probably searching for mice and other small prey around the Reserve.