Up the creek

After our recent generous fall of rain, Joyce’s Creek near its inflow to Lake Cairn Curran has become a beautiful expanse of calm water. What could be better than to paddle upstream from the bridge at the Pyrenees Highway with binoculars and a camera?

Heading upstream from the bridge, the old River Red Gums killed by the flooding of the dam show the old creek line on the right. Younger Red Gums germinated after more recent floods can be seen on the left.

The old River Red Gums are full of hollows and provide nesting sites highly valued by hollow dependent species. A favourite spot for Long-billed Corellas (Cacatua tenuirostris)

Long-billed Corella coming in to land on a dead tree

White-faced Herons (Egretta novaehollandiae) also spend a fair bit of time perched on the old trees, keeping a close eye on the boat below.

White-faced Heron

Fallen trees and logs are also important habitat. Lots of Chestnut Teals (Anas castanea) are enjoying the creek at the moment. A male in non-breeding plumage watches us slip quietly past, surrounded by the tops of paddock weeds now drowned by the high waters.

Chestnut Teal

Heading upstream, the channel narrows to the old stream, sentinels from past centuries line the banks.

We saw Chestnut Teals all the way along the creek, quite a few with young.

Chestnut Teals prefer to nest in hollows 6m or more above the water, so the old trees along the creek provide great hollows for nesting. Some females will dump their eggs in the nests of other females, which explains why we sometimes see mothers with flocks of up to 17 chicks following them around. I use the plural Teals rather than Teal as apparently the use of plurals without an s is for game species. I dread to think of our beautiful birds being shot, so can’t bring myself to call them Teal.

A kayak is a beautifully intimate way to explore the landscape – photo by Lee Shelden

I was pleased to discover some Fairy Martin nests under the branch of one of the old trees. I usually see these wonderful structures mounted on a human made surface, so it was great to see them on a natural one. From the rings of mud on the tree, it looks like it’s been used for nests for a long time.

Fairy Martin nests on an old Red Gum

The old trees are also favoured perches for Australian Pelicans (Pelicanus conspicullatus) and Australian White Ibises (Threskiornis molucca)

An Australian Pelican, curious about the intruders.
An Australian White Ibis moves to a higher perch as we pass.
As we head back downstream, we get a good view of the many Fairy Martin nests underneath the bridge on the Pyrenees Highway. When no longer used by Martins, other hollow dependent birds like Pardalotes can use these fabulous homes.

10 responses to “Up the creek

  1. A wonderful post Patrick. Would you mind if I shared it to the BirdLife Castlemaine District Branch Facebook page and included it in the next BCD eNews? Judy Hopley, Secretary, BCD.

  2. Patrick Kavanagh

    Thanks Judy, that would be great.

  3. Superb photos Patrick. I remember paddling on the Yarra and the view into the world of nature is so immediate, as your photos beautifully depict. It seems retirement is serving you well. Kind regards Julie

    • Patrick Kavanagh

      Thanks Julie. Retirement suits me very well I have to say and swanning around on a kayak is just one of its many delights! We will put the Yarra on the list!

  4. It’s good to see the Fairy Martin Nests I was interested to see the Pardalotes also use them. I was out along the Coopers Creek years ago and all the nests built under the overhanging trees were occupied by Budgies >

  5. Wow amazing photos.. isn’t mother nature amazing

  6. An amazing bird is the pelican,
    Its beak can hold more than its belly can.
    It can hold in its beak
    enough food for a week.
    But I’m damned if I know how the hell it can

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