01 June, 2011

Sitting by the duck on the bay.

A couple of weeks ago I took off on one of our now customary bike rides with various family members. We were on a mission to investigate a trail we discovered a few weeks earlier. For the sake of directness, we decided not to ride via the river on this occasion, although not having to ride up the hill beside the cement works at Fyansford may also have been a contributing factor. Instead, we headed to the waterfront up what will - when it is finally completed - be the bike lane on Swanston Street joining the river to the bay. Recent complaints in the local media not withstanding, it will be a very handy pathway to have running virtually past our doorstep.
Little Pied Cormorant at Western Beach
After a stop to collect the third member of our expedition we made it as far as Rippleside Park before we felt it was time for a coffee stop. While we were there I spent some time studying the local bird life. I thought it would make an interesting comparison to that on the Barwon. Well, as it turns out, it was not so different as I had imagined - although in the short amount of time available I was not able to see the same variety of species I have seen on the river.
Silver Gulls (Sea Gulls) were in abundance as expected and I even spotted a cormorant or two, a Pacific Gull and a Royal Spoonbill dabbling in the shallows. On shore, the usual array of birds found anywhere in suburbia was also evident. What I was surprised to see were ducks. Lots of ducks. In retrospect I shouldn't have been so surprised and after a quick Google search it all made sense.
I noticed as I was taking taking some shots with the camera that the ducks in question appeared to be Chestnut Teals. I know that these birds are found not only on the inland sections of the Barwon, but also on the lower reaches which as I have noted before are considered quite brackish. It stands to reason therefore that these ducks have a significant tolerance level for salt water and various websites confirm this. None-the-less, it did seem odd seeing so many ducks at the beach.
Royal Spoonbill at Western Beach
From there, we rode around to St. Helen's Park and then, via a series of off-road trails, bike lanes and on-road twists and turns, we made our way around Corio Bay through the industrial part of town, to the shores of Limeburner's Bay (or the Lagoon as we called it at school) opposite the Grammar School. At this point we stopped for lunch and to assess our options. On the lagoon a pelican was taking the opportunity to do likewise. As it happens, we decided we had time and continued our adventure along the Hovell's Creek Nature Trail.
As the name suggests, this trail follows Hovell's Creek from its inlet at Limeburner's Bay (not to be confused with Limeburner's Point on the opposite side of Corio Bay) back along its length as far as the township of Lara. The scenery is open rolling farmland most of the way providing views of the creek and the nearby You Yangs whose name incidentally comes from an Aboriginal term meaning - appropriately enough - "big mountain in the middle of a plain". Hovell's Creek on the other hand, was named for the English explorer William Hovell who with the perhaps more widely known Hamilton Hume, in 1824 explored the area having made the trek overland from Sydney. It was they who heard the local Wathaurong word "Jillong" used to describe the region. Although not the first white men to reach the region, their voyage of exploration was of significant benefit to the fledgling colony.

Limeburner's Bay
Our journey on the other hand was somewhat easier than that of the early explorers, we being provided with a well-maintained bitumen track which we followed as far as the Princes Freeway, under which the track passes. At this point, running short of time and facing an uphill ride for the last stretch into Lara, we decided to call it quits and head back from whence we had come.
Our return journey was made at a somewhat less relaxed pace than the outward journey, stopping only for a couple of brief breaks and (in my case) to investigate a bunch of black birds in a gum tree. As per my previous blog, these were most probably Australian Ravens, in which case the appropriate collective noun for the group is either a murder (as in a murder of crows), an unkindness, a storytelling or - possibly my favourite - a conspiracy of ravens. I wonder then, if conspiracy is the correct term, whether a group of ravens meeting a group of crows is perhaps....a conspiracy to murder...??
Enough! We made it back to town in good time and headed home. Another trail explored and a few more kilometres clocked up on the bikes.

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