Category Archives: Landscape

Stars of garden and sky

It’s been something of a lean week with photographic opportunities limited.

Clear winter days and nights would have been ideal if other duties hadn’t got in the way. Here’s a selection of what I did manage to capture earlier in the week.

New Holland Honeyeaters, Wyndham Street Newstead, 24th June 2019

Superb Fairy-wren … looking superb!


Starlight over Newstead



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 ( … 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.

Just down the driveway, it’s crane and giant emu time

A clear winter night is a delight for southern hemisphere astronomers as the centre of the Milky Way galaxy is in a perfect position for observing. As I was spending some time at my telescope eyepiece a couple of nights ago, I couldn’t resist getting the camera to capture the spectacle of the galactic centre rising over our driveway. Just down the road really!

The centre of the galaxy rises over Strangways

The Galaxy rises!

The centre of the Milky Way is in the direction of the Arabic-European constellation Sagittarius – the centaur archer. While the bright stars of Sagittarius are all less than 100 light years away, the supermassive black hole at the centre of the galaxy is 25,640 light years from us and the galaxy itself is estimated to be 150,000 light years across. A light year is the distance light travels in a year – about 10,000,000,000,000 kilometres.

Also in this photo are the constellations Scorpius and Grus – the scorpion and the crane. Both of these constellations actually look like the beings the are named after, but the upswept wings of the crane are actually out of the frame at the bottom of the photo.

Gas giant planets Jupiter and Saturn can also be seen in this photo – about 50 and 80 light minutes from us, so very much closer to home.

The dark patches across the Milky Way are lanes of cold gas and dust, from which new stars will one day be born. At the top right hand corner of the frame, between two stars of the Southern Cross (Crux) is a dark gas cloud unpoetically called the Coal Sack by western astronomers. To indigenous Australian astronomers, this was the head of the giant emu, the shape made by the dark clouds along the Milky Way.

The centre of the galaxy rises over Strangways labeled

Many years ago, Newstead Landcare were fortunate to have a night under the stars with John Morieson who had studied the records of the astronomy of the Boorong people of Lake Tyrell in northern Victoria. They called the giant Emu Tchingal and it was a giant who ate people – perhaps the giant carnivorous megafauna emu that once roamed Australia. John told us of the fight between Tchingal and Bunya, the Ring-tailed Possum ancestor, who drops his spear whilst climbing a tree that we see as the Southern Cross. The spear is seen as the pointers – Alpha and Beta Centauri, whilst Bunya’s head is the top star of the cross (Gamma Crucis), his ears are two small stars above the cross and his tail is an arc of stars to the left of the cross.

bunya labeled

Bunya and his spear and tree

I pointed the camera south to capture more of Tchingal’s head in case I needed to stitch a few photos together to catch the emu’s full glory. As I did so, a bright fireball meteor plunged earthward between the Large and Small Magellanic Clouds. These neighbouring dwarf galaxies are 150,000 and 200,000 light years away respectively and consist of 15 billion and 5 billion suns. The Milky Way is 200 billion suns in mass.

Fireball between Magellanic Clouds

A meteor passes between the Magellanic Clouds

Fireball between Magellanic Clouds labeled

To the right of the Southern Cross along the Milky Way is a small bright patch around a small yellowish star, Eta Carinae. It is the seventh brightest star in the constellation Carina, the keel of Jason’s ship Argo. This star is likely to be the largest star in the Milky Way, 150 times the mass of our sun and is 7500 light years away. The fuzzy glow around it is a vast cloud of dust and gas, lit by Eta Carinae and forming numerous clusters of new stars. Eta Carina is very unstable and underwent several convulsions in the 19th century, throwing off clouds of material that are easily seen through amateur telescopes.

Incomprehensible as Eta Carinae may be, the Tarantula Nebula in the Large Magellanic Cloud manages to dwarf it. To the right of the north end of the Cloud’s bar, it appears as a faint, fuzzy round glow to the naked eye under a dark sky. It is the largest star forming region in the Local Group of galaxies and have stars up to 300 times the mass of the sun and the nebula is 930 light years across.

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




Yandoit Hill with Drooping Sheoak

From a trickle to a flow

Following this week’s rain the Loddon has gone from a trickle to a nice, steady flow.

Fingers crossed for follow-up rain over the next little while.

Loddon River @ Newstead, 11th May 2019



Red-browed Finch

Spotted Pardalote

Eastern Yellow Robin


Vestiges of a lost landscape

A lone Drooping Sheoak Allocasuarina verticillata stands in the churchyard next door. This morning a small flock of Crimson Rosellas flew into the sheoak before dropping to the ground to feed on the fallen seeds of summer grasses. While this sheoak was thoughtfully planted there is a fair chance that if we could wind the clock back 200 years a few of its ancestors would have been growing happily in this same spot on the ridge overlooking the Loddon.

Crimson Rosella in Drooping Sheoak, Wyndham Street Newstead, 11th May 2019

Once was a grassy woodland …

The parish plan shown below (dated 1856) has a few notations describing the vegetation on the plains west of Newstead. If you click on the image you’ll see ‘honeysuckles’ are noted on the lot north of the road to Carisbrook – this is a reference to Silver Banksia Banksia marginata, no longer present in the district. Keeping the banksia company back then would have been many Drooping Sheoaks, Buloke and a rich array of plains flora. We are fortunate that at least a few sheoaks remain today, scattered through the box-ironbark country around Newstead.

Parish Plan from 1856 … showing the allotments to the west of Newstead south of the Loddon River

Atypical autumn?

Local memory is that in early autumn many of the local streams start to flow, powered by an upwelling of springs responding to a change in atmospheric pressure. Sadly, this autumn the springs haven’t been able to conjure a flow. As a result some of our waterways, including the Jumcra Creek, have shrunk to a disconnected series of drying and stagnant pools. This water is still a magnet for small birds, such as fairy-wrens, scrub-wrens and finches.

Red-browed Finch, Jumcra Creek, 17th March 2019


White-browed Scrub-wren


Superb Fairy-wren (male in eclipse plumage)


Female Superb fairy-wren

Note: The circumstances around the naming of the Jim Crow Creek are a matter of ongoing discussion and research – see here for more information.