Tangled Lignum Muehlenbeckia florulenta is a wonder plant.
For much of its life this incredibly drought tolerant shrub looks lifeless and drab, but add water and it becomes one of the keystone species on wetlands and floodplains throughout many parts of Australia. It has a very deep root system which allows it to access moisture during successive dry years.
Of all the wetlands on the Moolort Plains, Lignum Swamp is perhaps my favourite, because as the lignum comes to life it becomes a magnet for an assortment of fascinating birds. Sadly, after wonderful winter and spring rains the swamp is now drying out quickly, but it is in this drying phase that the variety of bird life is greatest.
Little Grassbirds Megalurus gramineus arrived months ago when the wetland filled and their calls can now be heard throughout the clumps of lignum where they have nested and are now raising young. For much of the time this species can be found in reed-beds along the Loddon River but they absolutely love lignum wetlands!
Another fan of lignum is the Australian Spotted Crake Porzana fluminea. This small rail appears, apparently from nowhere, when conditions are suitable. Until last evening I hadn’t seen any this season although hearing their staccato chattering was a feature of most visits. They are a handsome and striking bird but their cryptic nature means that observations are usually brief. The best time to see them is in the early morning as they emerge from amongst the lignum to feed on the drying mud surrounding the plants.