22 November, 2011

Branching out - a day at the farm

Moorabool River near Russel's Bridge
Today I had the opportunity to visit another part of the Moorabool River - part which I hadn't seen for years, but used to visit as a kid to go fishing. I remember we used to catch redfin, black fish and eels which we would then take home and clean. I can still remember the eels twitching and sliding around in the sink long after they were dead! I can't say I was ever very interested in eating the fish once caught as they had a rather muddy flavour to them, but the catching was fun.
This visit however, was not for fishing, but to do some bird watching, take in the scenery and find some new blog fodder, all of which we managed to achieve. The Moorabool at this point is somewhat different to other parts of either the Barwon or the Moorabool which I have seen so far. Firstly, it is bordered on both sides by privately-owned land. There are no designer walking-trails with weed-controlled verges, no areas of regionally appropriate re-vegetation or strategically-placed seats upon which to sit and enjoy the view.
A few of the flock
This is farm land. On one side, ordered rows of grapevines line the banks. On the other, the grass is chest-high - so are the thistles in places too. The sheep haven't been put in to graze this paddock for a couple of months and growth is rampant with the recent rain. For the moment, the flock is further downstream on the lucerne, but the lambs will soon be put in to control the situation.
Also along the banks of the river are the remnant native trees which have not been cleared for farming. Their twisted roots protrude from the banks, reaching down to water level. There are also a surprising number of dead trees in between the living. They stand upright and bare, or lie across the river from bank to bank, making an informal crossing or weir depending on their height. I am informed that the presence of all this dead wood is integral to the structure of the river, providing a defence against the erosion which comes with flooding, holding the soil of the riverbank in place. Many of them appear to have been there for decades.
Crimson Rosella
Also evident are piles of sticks and dead grass, wedged in the branches of trees - well above head height in some places. They are a clear reminder of the water levels which have been attained during previous flood events, as are the temporary fences which can be removed to a safe distance in case of impending deluge. At the moment, all is quiet and the river is well within its banks. Reassuringly, it is actually flowing. The reservoirs upstream are at or somewhere near capacity, so the balance between rural uses, domestic water supply, industry and nature are somewhat better than they have been in recent years. The fish are there, the platypus have returned and the surrounding land is green, but this hasn't always been the case for the Moorabool of late.
The birds are here as well. I counted nearly twenty species. This is no sanctuary, but there are more nests here in the eucalypts than I have seen on any other part of this river or the Barwon. Many are a mess of sticks high in the branches - belonging to larger birds, possibly magpies. I am told that one nest belonged to an eagle which is no longer present. The muddy cups of the mudlarks are here and there too. There is a koala in the upper story and bees buzz around a hive in a tree hollow.
Bob and Craig
Back at the house, there is a rather surprising convergence between the farm animals and the native fauna. Bob is a working dog and Craig - actually a female of the species - is a magpie, born with a twisted beak and hand-reared from a chick. She receives food at the house as her beak renders her unable to hunt. Her days are spent out and about, possibly visiting relatives in the back paddock, or loudly voicing her opinion of any favourable attention which might be shown to the dog in preference to herself. In the evening she returns to the house.
As will I - and also to the river as there are parts downstream which I have yet to investigate and which I understand may contain some some natural features of interest.

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