My blog is called From forest to forest and can be found at https://tanyaloos.wordpress.com/
I look forward to seeing you there!
From Weebly to Wordpress - yes I have jumped ship! I am keeping this website for sales and information about Daylesford Nature Dairy, under the excellent patronage of Gib Wettenhall and EmPress Publishing, however I find Wordpress so much easier to use, and for people to subscribe to and comment upon.
My blog is called From forest to forest and can be found at https://tanyaloos.wordpress.com/
I look forward to seeing you there!
The Wedge-tailed Eagle, or wedgie as it is also affectionately called, is a familiar sight in the Hepburn area. But what about the wedgie's closest relative, the aptly named Little Eagle?
Often mistaken for a hawk or a falcon, the Little Eagle is about the size of a raven. I got my best ever views of this stocky 'mini-eagle' in Taradale last week.
Driving slowly along a back country road, I could see up ahead there was a bird of prey perched on a freshly road-killed hare; the hare was right on the road and on the driver's side. As I drove past at walking pace the eagle stared at me, refusing to leave his or her prize. I could tell it was a Little Eagle because, unlike a perched Goshawk or Brown Falcon, the Little Eagle has feathered legs or trousers – both wedgies and Little Eagles have these feathered trousers, and thus they are also known as booted eagles.
Little Eagles come in two colour forms, pale and dark, and this one was a beautiful, light morph eagle; a pale golden tawny colour with brown highlights and fierce amber eyes that were to die for.
As I drove away marvelling at the experience, a young man in a tiny purple car zoomed past me at full speed in the direction of the eagle and hare. Better get that hare off the road! As I got back the Little Eagle was still perched resolutely on the hare. A larger car or truck could sweep the bird into its updrafts, or a careless driver could just mow over the both of them, so I pulled the hare off the road onto the grassy verge while the eagle watched from a nearby tree.
I would have loved to stay to see if the eagle returned to the hare but the neighbours nearby were leaving their houses and I felt there was a bit too much disturbance around already.
Pulling road kill off the road is always a good thing to do – once you have ensured it is safe to do so, of course! It is very sad, and very gory sometimes but well worth it for a few reasons. You ensure no more animals need die unnecessarily – ravens, eagles and other scavenging animals get killed eating road kill. Many bird species show very strong bonds with their mate or young, and will stay on the road around trying to revive their loved one, and getting killed themselves in the process. I have seen this behaviour in two duck species, White-winged Choughs, Galahs, and Long-billed Corellas. It is simply heartbreaking!
Finally, pulling the dead animal off the road allows you to check for surviving young such as joeys who may need medical attention and foster care at your local wildlife shelter.
Back to the Little Eagle – the eagle may have been reluctant to leave his hare as it is the beginning of the egg laying season for these lovely birds. Little Eagles pair for life. They cement their pair bond with beautiful aerial displays that involve synchronised soaring, and diving in special undulating movements – that also include 'talon presentation' where they flip around in mid-air and touch each others' feet. I would like to see that!
So if you hear an excited, loud two or three note whistle call these next few months– take a look up, it could be one of the world's smallest eagles – the Little Eagle.
A female koala who lives in Doctors Gully, Hepburn, has been christened Clancy. Clancy is visible in her favourite tree most days, to the delight of locals and visitors alike.
Female koalas can be distinguished from male koalas by their chests, which are covered in clean white fur. The males have a scent gland in the middle of the chest, a patch of oily skin that is brownish rust in colour.
The male koalas rub their scent glands on tree trunks and branches to mark out the boundaries of their home ranges.
Jo, a Daylesford local, asked me recently why Clancy is always in the same tree. Female koalas typically have home ranges of just one to three hectares. And in this area, they commonly pick just a few favourite trees to spend all their time in.
The tree may be a favoured feed tree – a manna gum is always a favourite. Or it may be a tree that has a particularly secure and “comfy” sleeping fork. There is a messmate down the road from me in the bush that has been used by koalas for at least twelve years – there are always koala scats underneath.
Male koalas have larger home ranges and they travel outside their home ranges a bit more than females. One male koala may mate with a few females in the area, leaving mum to raise the baby koala or joey on her own.
I have had the pleasure of listening to a male koala bellowing near us in Porcupine Ridge, and a sighting of a mother and baby at a friend’s house in the next street. I believe our koalas are doing ok compared to the fate in other parts of the state – with starvation and disease taking a terrible toll. Dear Clancy is likely to have a bright future here in the Wombat Forest: if she can safely stay away from dogs and cars!
The Cape Otway koalas have been in the news a lot of late – for some facts from a koala scientist rather than alarmist news stories – see Desley Whisson’s blog www.otwaykoalas.blogspot.com.au
There are many signs of Autumn in Hepburn; the first changing colours of the European trees to gold and orange, the hideous European Wasps, followed by most welcome rains and then fungi in fantastic forms. But my favourite Autumn happening is the arrival of Golden Whistlers in my bush garden.
The Golden Whistler is a medium-sized bird with very colourful male and soft browny-grey female and young. They have wonderful calls: ‘dee-dee-dee A-WHIT ‘and ‘Tu-whit’ being the most common at this time of year. The golden colour offset by the striking black and white is a site to see – simply magnificent! They are quite shy and not in huge numbers, which is probably why these stunning birds are not as well-known as they should be.
Whistlers spend most of their time high in the canopy of Eucalypts, snatching beetles and stick insects and other large insects off leaves, and they also eat gall insects.
Some birds are around all the time in my Porcupine Ridge garden, such as fairy-wrens and Eastern Spinebills, and others come and go in quite random movements – such as Gang Gang cockatoos and Scarlet Robins. Some are very much a regular seasonal occurrence, arriving here to breed in summer, such as Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike and Sacred Kingfisher.
The Golden Whistlers are known as altitudinal migrants. After breeding in the highlands of the Great Dividing Range, the whistlers head down to the flatlands. I know that soon after I see them in Porcupine Ridge, they will feature on Geoff Park’s blog Natural Newstead! ( The source of the wonderful photo with this article.)
A few days ago, I heard a wonderful enthusiastic piping set of notes coming from a Cherry Ballart – it turned out to be a very plain-coloured immature Golden Whistler, one of this year’s breeding crop, practicing its song skills.
My heart always thrills when I see a Golden Whistler; I hope you see some too in your gardens this Autumn.
Some smells are so pungent and overpowering – and yet indescribable! I had the pleasure of finding out for myself why another name for the Long-necked Turtle is “stinker”.
I was driving along a country road near Kyneton and I saw a turtle with its head and legs all tucked into the shell, right bang on the middle of the white line. I thought to myself that there is no way that turtle is OK – but I will check anyway. So I turned around and parked safely – and in the meantime maybe three Hilux’s passed the turtle.
Like all rescues, I grabbed a towel or sheet to cover the animal and reduce stress – in this case it was a large cotton shawl; and picked up the turtle. By the time I got back to the car there was this strange clear brown fluid coming out in a few places between the turtle’s legs and shell. The fluid had a most distinctive stench. I wound the windows down!
I called Jon at the Hepburn Wildlife Shelter and he told me that the fluid is a defence mechanism, for frightened turtles. I was told to check for shell cracks and other injuries, and happily the turtle appeared unharmed. Its long neck was tucked sideways into its shell, or carapace.
So what brings turtles onto the roads? Shouldn’t they be relaxing and feeding in lakes, dams and other water bodies? Turtles migrate when their homes dry up, during major droughts. They also disperse from where they are born to seek new territories. But the most common reason a turtle is on the road is because it is a pregnant female looking to dig a nest.
Before roads, turtle nests would have been dug into river banks and lake sides. Now, turtles are attracted to the warmth of the road, and the softer soil on the road’s edges, from the water run-off. The females will even dig their nests so that it goes under the bitumen!
Females will lay 6 – 24 eggs in a nest, and may nest up to three times per season.
If you see a turtle on the road, and it appears unharmed, simply put the turtle on one side of the road. Do not drive it to the nearest dam! That dam may not be in this particular turtle’s territory. Like many animals, they have territories and being placed in another turtle’s territory, especially if full of eggs, would be very stressful.
If the turtle is injured, such as cracked shell or blood evident, it needs veterinary assistance. Only an x-ray will determine the extent of the cracking. Even if the female is past saving, her eggs may be removed and raised in an incubator.
My cotton shawl is now stained with a reddish brown pattern, and try as I might, I can’t remember the smell of the stinker.
The best place to see Common Long-necked Turtles locally is Jubilee Lake, Daylesford, where they bask on the submerged branches in convivial little groups.
The walk was back in July and we had a truly magic moment! Towards the end of the family nature walk, after looking at the trees shrubs and ferns of Nolans creek; we saw a gorgeous fuzzy whuzzy super healthy brown cuddly bear of a wombat!!!!! Standing on the other side of the creek. First sighting of a live wombat for me in the wombat forest - in 13 years! It was truly the best, as anyone who has led nature walks knows - sometimes a surprise happens and it is a total delight. Yay nature!!
Someone thought Jen and I had carefully placed a statue of a wombat on the other side of the creek!
Did you know swamp wallabies can wag their tails from side to side in a flicking motion in between a dog and a cat? I didn't, until this time last year. I noticed a male sniffing a female wallaby at the base of here on the neighbour's lawn - flicking his tail around! A wallaby wagging his tail looked so unusual; as I thought their tails were quite stiff. The female moved away and ate more grass - obviously not ready for mating yet.
The males are easy to tell apart from the females as they have a surprisingly hefty musculature including a broad chest and on some of them even have bulging biceps. The females are petite and lack a broad chest.
Swamp wallabies will breed at any time of year, but there are a few young wallabies around at the moment. A young joey who is big enough to hop next to mum but is still suckling is called a young-at-foot. I noticed a mother wallaby and her young-at-foot browsing by my dirt road a few mornings ago. The joey was so small but could hop very fast. Joeys are very vulnerable to dog attack and cars at this age.
I have had the privilege of bottle feeding young wallaby joeys at the Hepburn Wildlife Shelter. They have incredibly long eyelashes, and tiny black paws with long black claws. Swamp wallaby joeys are little acrobats, jumping onto kitchen benches and the tops of couches. Most of them come into car because mum has been hit by a car.
In the wild, swamp wallabies browse leaves, bark, flowers from shrubs and trees, whereas Eastern Grey Kangaroos are mainly grass eaters. Swamp wallabies also forage on many different species of fungi, picking up the mushroom or truffle in their paws and eating it like an apple.
In the past, we had plenty of bettongs and bandicoots to help with supporting our precious fungi ecosystem. Today, swamp wallabies are one of the last surviving mammals in our region who eat fungi and so spread the spores around the forest.
On May 10, nearly fifty kids and adults gathered at Blackwood to head out on a fungi finding expedition. This walk was the first of a series, called Family Nature Walks, that are seasonal walks especially for families. I am so blessed to have the incomparable Jen Bray on board - Jen is doing the admin and promotion, and all I have to do is show up and share my nature knowledge with all the keen punters!
We thought the narrow paths and large number of people could make it tricky, but we used the Wombat Forestcare Fungi guides, and gave the kids stickers to stick by a pic when they spotted a particular species. It worked a treat! We also did a silent walk from the arvo tea break back to the car park, and I think that was a wonderful success! The parents loved it. The idea is that when we do baby birds in True Spring, I want to have some fully trained kids to be able watch nature in silence, like great little field naturalists. All in all a really wonderful afternoon!
Below is the promo shot that Jen took of myself and her kids Dru and Keaton. This went in the advocate the week prior.
Driving home from the 10:30 pm Melbourne train, the car said it was 18 degrees Celsius, and it had been raining– and – just as I suspected – the road was covered in frogs!
Warm, wet nights trigger an enormous response in our local frog population. Frog skins are permeable, and prone to drying out. During dry times, which has been most of this summer, tree frog type frogs shelter in moist vegetation and logs near water, and burrowing frogs like pobblebonks or marsh frogs burrow in soil or piles of rocks.
When it rains, the frogs come out to absorb water through their skin, and to forage for insects. One warm, rainy night a couple of summers ago we had a dozen or so small frogs
(brown tree frogs) hunting insects on our windows. It felt like we were living in Queensland, not freezing Victoria.
The warm night last week though was the night of the pobblebonks. On one of stretch of road near Leitches Creek I could see more than six frogs in my headlights at any one time. Most were large adult frogs, with the characteristic huge head, stout body and short legs of a burrowing frog. And it was also lovely to see many pobblebonk babies – or metamorphlings.
The young frogs were miniature versions of the adults and about the size of my thumb. Pobblebonks have very large tadpoles, and in these cold parts of Victoria, the tadpoles may take fifteen months to go from tadpole to frog. So these little fellas were probably from eggs laid in Spring 2011, after all that incredible rain!
The other night, I drove around most of the frogs, as you can see their pale under-throat shining in the headlights. Their anti-predator response is to freeze, so you can be assured they do not leap into the wheels. On a particularly froggy stretch I got out of the car and moved them off the road; and they were just frozen still as I picked them up and moved them off the road.
Sadly, on warm, wet nights the death rate must be astounding; the next day I counted six road- killed killed frogs on one 200 metre stretch of road. And in case you are wondering, I have worked out that 40km an hour is the safest frog-friendly driving speed. Good thing I was happy to take my time getting home, but completely worth it for these wonderful animals and their crazy ‘bonking’ call. From Hepburn Advocate March 19, 2014
Nature columnist and field naturalist Tanya Loos has lived in the Daylesford area since 2000.