Author Archives: Geoff Park

Talking summer in winter … perfect timing

In early March this year, a call went out to Newsteadians to come and join a discussion about our experience of living through drier, hotter summers like the one we had just and how we might manage future ones. “Talking Summer” was an informal gathering providing a forum for people to talk about their fears and ideas for living well in a changed climate. This meeting gave birth to two exciting actions;

Firstly, a submission for the Victorian Government’s Community Climate Change Adaptation fund (3CA) lead by Janet Barker and Kate Tucker on behalf of the Newstead community. In short the grant submission outlines a community-led ‘treescape’ initiative to purchase and plant at least 100 advanced trees to provide cooler and greener canopy for our communal areas around town supported by education, neighbourhood engagement and local expertise. We will not hear back about this results of the grant submission until end of July.

Our beautiful elms may have almost ‘run their race’ … what might we plant in their place and reprise the wisdom of our elders?

Secondly, an offer by Sandon local Ross Uebergang, a Swinburne University Lecture of Landscape Design, for his students to research and design a township treescape plan for Newstead with the aim of giving us more shade and cooler zones around our most active precincts. Their work includes research on Newstead’s historical context, contemporary usage patterns, horticultural and urban landscape best practices.

We are pleased to advise that Swinburne Landscape Design students have completed their class assignment to design a township plan for a cooler, greener Newstead. Hooray!

Now, we would like to invite you come to listen and learn about the fruits of their labour on our behalf. We see the students work as one input, and not the final say on how we might design an improved ‘climate ready treescape’ for the Newstead of 2050 to help us maintain our liveability and mobility in the face of future climate change. We are excited to see how they envisage a cohesive and functional solution for Newstead.

A planted Red Ironbark in Canrobert Street – our current streetscapes are a great mix of native and exotic trees … perhaps a blueprint for the future?

So come along to this interactive session and enjoy the best thinking from these enthusiastic and informed young professionals.

When and where: 1pm -2.30pm, Sunday June 23rd @ the Mechanics Hall, 9 Lyons Street. Newstead light lunch and cuppas provided.

Any queries feel free to contact Kate Tucker (kate@inhereconsulting.com.au) … also RSVP for catering purposes via an email or 0409 996 561.

The Plane tree outside the Old Newstead Courthouse … it has shown increasing signs of stress over recent summers.

Remnant Yellow Gums … they are tough, look terrific and wonderful for wildlife. Looking after these will be just as important as planting new ones.

A Brown Falcon afternoon … sort of!

A journey around the Moolort Plains yesterday threatened to be dominated by Brown Falcons. They are a nice raptor, but not in the same league as a number of rarer plains inhabitatnts.

The first four images below are all Brown Falcons – all different individuals seen as I did a long loop from Cairn Curran, through Baringhup West and then back to Joyce’s Creek via Cotswold.

It was only on the final leg that I got some welcome variety – a pair of White-bellied Sea-eagles over Long Swamp (perhaps shuttling from Cairn Curran to Tullaroop Reservoir), a few Nankeen Kestrels and single Black-shouldered Kite. Finally, just west of Joyce’s Creek a scatter of Crested Pigeons drew my gaze to a Peregrine Falcon hunting along the basalt escarpment above the waterway. The camera just managed to capture a distant image as the bird departed north at ‘peregrine velocity’!

Brown Falcon near Picnic Point, 15th June 2019

Brown Falcon #2 @ Baringhup West

Brown Falcon #3 @ Boundary Gully

Brown Falcon #4 @ Moolort

Peregrine Falcon @ Joyce’s Creek

Eastern Rosella eating charcoal

Birds are known to occasionally eat wood ash and charcoal, materials that are rich in potassium and calcium. The Black Honeyeater, recently observed locally over summer, is renowned for eating charcoal and ash. After a little research I turned up a paper from 1965 (M. Baldwin, Emu 64 (3) p.208) where the observer noted a number of species consuming charcoal; including Fairy Martin, Dusky Woodswallow, Banded Finch and Zebra Finch.

Until yesterday I had never witnessed this behaviour from an Eastern Rosella. The bird pictured below was feeding with its mate on the ground around the remnants of an old fire when it picked up a small piece of charcoal and proceeded to nibble gently as I watched on from nearby.

Eastern Rosella, Clarke Lane Newstead, 10th June 2019

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Loquat and Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Loquats Eriobotrya japonica are an ‘old-fashioned’ fruit tree, often grown in home gardens but, at least in my experience, the fruits are of more interest to birds than people!

A few trees can be found flowering over winter in the gardens around town, the flowers providing a useful source of nectar for honeyeaters. Yellow-faced Honeyeaters are partial to feeding on loquat flowers, adroitly working their way in and around the tight clusters in search of open flowers to sip on.

Yellow-faced Honeyeater & loquat, Wyndham Street Newstead, 9th June 2019

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Winter residents

Every winter the gardens around Newstead are home to a familiar array of resident and migrant species. Red Wattlebirds and White-browed Scrubwrens are resident year round, while Eastern Spinebills are only with us for the cooler months. Yellow-faced Honeyeaters tend to come and go – they are certainly more common over winter but can turn up at any time of year.

Red Wattlebird feeding on ornamental Yellow Gum, Wyndham Street Newstead, 8th June 2019

Whire-browed Scrubwren

Eastern Spinebill

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Yellow-faced Honeyeater

Feasting on winter flowers

I’ve commented many times on the role that exotic trees, especially in town, play in the evolving ecology of our landscapes.

As we move into winter the various types of ash Fraxinus sp. begin to flower, a short lived burst of activity, but important as a source of nutrition for lorikeets.

The church-yard next door is home to a number of Claret and Golden Ash trees and over recent days Musk Lorikeets have been gathering noisily several times each day to feast on the flowers.

Musk Lorikeet, Wyndham Street Newstead, 8th June 2019

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Down south

The country changes is quite a pronounced way as you head directly south of Newstead. Around Yandoit the vegetation blends from typical box-ironbark species, such as Grey Box and Yellow Gum, to a mix of Messmate, Candlebark and peppermint. This transition coincides with some different landscape features, such as the scoria cone of Yandoit Hill … a great spot to observe raptors like the Brown Falcon featured below.

Yandoit Hill with Mount Franklin beyond, 1st June 2019

Brown Falcon, Yandoit Hills, 1st June 2019

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Yandoit Hill with Drooping Sheoak