Category Archives: Landscape

Our land at contact

The arrival of Europeans in Australia produced profound changes across the continent. It can be hard to know exactly what the landscape looked like before this dramatic upheaval. The documents left by the earliest intruders can give us a few clues. Professor Barry Golding of Federation University has combed through historical records to put together a picture of how the land around Newstead and its environs may have looked prior to contact. From the extensive permanent ponds on the Loddon containing literally tonnes of Murray Cod to the vast meadows of Yam Daisies (Myrnong), some of the descriptions Barry has found give us a glimpse of the extraordinary richness of our neck of the woods. Barry will be presenting some of his findings at Newstead Landcare Group’s AGM on Thursday October 13th. The presentation will start at 7.30pm at Newstead Community Centre. A very brief AGM will follow. All are welcome to attend, gold coin donations appreciated.

Yam Daisy (Myrnong – Microseris lanceolata) by Frances Cincotta
Ancient River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) by Barry Golding

A landscape rehydrated

But a single image today … special nonetheless.

Late yesterday I took a quick ‘spin’ across the plains, interested to see the effects of late winter rain on the country, in particular the Moolort wetlands.

Delighted to see a nice expanse of water in Long Swamp … click on the image to view the full panorama.

Long Swamp – view from the south, 30th August 2022

Click here to read a brief environmental history of the Moolort Plains.

The landscape view

How far can a Peregrine see?

This pair, high up in a massive Grey Box, would certainly have a commanding view of the landscape.

From ground level I can only look on … and wonder.

Peregrine Falcon (female), Newstead area, 28th June 2022

Peregrine Falcon (male)

Grey Kangaroos

Aftermath

After the frustration of watching storm clouds skirt around Newstead on numerous occasions in recent weeks they certainly landed with a vengeance last Friday afternoon … 75mm of rain in 3 hours of mayhem.

The first image was taken at the top of the Mia Mia Creek catchment, just as the most intense storm was passing through. The remaining images were captured the following day as I undertook a ‘mini-tour’ of the Mia Mia catchment.

I am always astounded at the impact of extreme storm events on our landscape that is ostensibly ‘forested’, yet a thousand times removed from its ‘original’ condition.

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Mia Mia Creek at 7pm on Friday 28th January 2022

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… the morning after along Mia Track

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Plains country after the storm

A wet and wintry week put paid to any birding.

The highlight was admiring wonderful views across the Moolort Plains after a storm rolled through on Friday afternoon.

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After the storm, Moolort Plains, 25th June 2021

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Dusk over Baker’s Swamp

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Looking north from near Frogmore Swamp to Gough’s Range

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Looking east towards Bald Hill and the Pyrenees

Super Flower Blood Moon

What a stunning sight last evening, enjoyed by sky gazers across much of Australia and beyond.

Sadly, here in Newstead, a wispy cloud cover appeared just as the full spectacle was about to peak.

No matter, it was a memorable event indeed.

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Super Flower Blood Moon coming up, Newstead, 26th May 2021

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Clear skies about 20 minutes before totality

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Approaching totality … as the cloud starts to mask the spectacle

Read more here in The Conversation

Kites at the swamp

I was fortunate last Friday to spend the day at Long Swamp on the Moolort Plains with folks from the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Clans Corporation. I was one of a number of observers invited to join an Aboriginal Waterways Assessment for the Tullaroop catchment. One of many highlights was a pair of Black-shouldered Kites ‘greeting’ us when we arrived at the swamp under blue skies and warm late autumn sunshine.

The presence of this species, absent from large areas of the plains over the past year or two, is a sign of high quality raptor habitat. Long Swamp is a special place, now in the safe hands of Trust for Nature, and where it is possible to reimagine this country.

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River Red Gum @ Long Swamp, Moolort Plains, 30th April 2021

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Black-shouldered Kite

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Eastern Grey Kangaroo

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Wisdom of the ancients

Absent friends

I’ve been pondering the absence of Black-shouldered Kites from the Moolort Plains.

While Brown Falcons and Nankeen Kestrels have been about in good numbers over the past year, I can only recall a handful of observations of these small kites. They have been totally absent from some spots where in past years you might see a dozen or so on any one trip.

Many readers will appreciate that mice, a favourite prey of the Black-shouldered Kite, are abundant at present. Let’s hope for an influx of kites in coming weeks to help solve this problem.

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Brown Falcon, Moolort Plains, 14th April 2021

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Moolort Plains mullock heap (Keystone Mine)

The joy of autumn rain

While some parts of the continent at present are experiencing almost unprecedented amounts of rain, here in central Victoria we are enjoying the Goldilocks effect … not too little, not too much … but just about right.

This morning I tipped 37mm of rain from the gauge … a perfect autumn break as far as the bush is concerned, which made for some interesting sights yesterday afternoon in the Mia Mia.

I was also pleased to come across some autumn flowering orchids, including Parson’s Bands and what I think is one of the Midge OrchidsCorunastylis sp, but not sure which one.

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Autumn downpour, Mia Mia Track, 21st March 2021

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Midge Orchid – please help with species identification if you can?

This is how it once was …

A visit to the Franklinford and Yandoit Cemetery at this time of year is a window into a landscape that is now sadly much diminished.

Kangaroo Grass Themeda triandra forms an almost pure sward, waist height and swaying in the breeze of a sweltering November afternoon.

The cemetery was established in 1842, just a few short years after the first squatters arrived with their flocks, about a year after Edward Stone Parker established the Loddon Aboriginal Protectorate station a few hundred metres to the east.

From here it’s a short hop to the Jumcra as it flows northwards to join the Loddon River at Newstead. Juvenile Grey Fantails were chasing insects beside the stream, a White-browed Scrub-wren collected spiders for its young as Sacred Kingfishers called from the Candlebarks overhead.

Kangaroo Grass, Franklinford and Yandoit Cemetery, 28th November 2020

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Juvenile Grey Fantail by the Jumcra at Franklinford

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White-browed Scrub-wren and spider