30 December, 2012

Seeing things from a different angle

This week we are holidaying in Torquay which is about 15km west of my usual haunt at Barwon Bluff from which I check out our southern coastline. It is a little too far from the river mouth to claim that the flora and fauna are directly related to the Barwon, but it does provide an angle for some photos which I haven't really noticed before.
Last night after dinner we went to White's Beach for a wander and I took the camera. The view to the west, looking back towards Torquay township and the sunset was of course spectacular.

Sunset view looking towards Torquay and Point Danger
In the opposite direction the view is equally expansive, but would need to be photographed at dawn to achieve the same impact with the light...and let's just say, I'm not a morning person....
Barwon Heads Bluff

White's Beach looking towards Barwon Heads Bluff
The bird life in the area is not so different to that at Barwon Heads with the same mixture of introduced and native species whilst the various man-made lakes which lie behind the dunes and throughout the golf course host the expected water birds.
The view from the opposite direction: looking towards Torquay from Barwon
Heads Bluff
With any luck I'll get a chance to investigate a little more closely over the next few days....

24 December, 2012

A Christmas perennial

With the imminent arrival of Christmas and most of the shopping (if not the cooking) out of the way, I thought it would be timely to write a post with a Christmas theme. The problem was, I was a little short of ideas as to what I should write. As far as I am aware, the Barwon isn't exactly a huge focus of Christmas festivities for the various communities along its length.
A quick Google search provided me with everything I needed to know about booking Christmas accommodation in Barwon Heads, but that was not what I was looking for. I toyed with the idea of featuring some of the many Christmas barbeques and picnics which are held on the banks of the river but thought that perhaps the locals wouldn't be too keen on having their celebrations interrupted by a strange woman with a camera.
So, what was my angle? Last year I went with a mistletoe theme which has been one of my more popular posts, but this year I needed something new. The weather yesterday was - to say the least - rather warm, so after dinner with the family in tow I headed down for a sunset stroll along the river banks. We rambled along towards Breakwater, applying liberal amounts of Aeroguard in a futile attempt to keep the mozzies at bay and then stopped at the bridge while the kids poked around in the water with sticks (my apologies to the fishermen below the breakwater for the noise!).
In no particular hurry - and still with no ideas for my Christmas-themed post - we headed past the golf course and into the stand of sheoaks a few hundred metres before the boat ramp. Then, as we rounded a corner Sarah made an interesting discovery. One of the sheaoks had been decked out in baubles, tinsel and a home-drawn message:
The Jansen's Christmas tree
 The Barwon it seemed now has its very own Christmas tree and I had found my Christmas post for 2012! But who had perpetrated this wilful act of Christmas cheer and why?
Well as it turns out, that was quickly explained. While I snapped a few shots and the boys investigated the baubles, Sarah read the note, whipped out her iPhone (well, opened the Internet browser. The phone itself seems to be firmly enough attached to her hand that it may need surgical removal at some point) and pulled up the blog address provided.
The mystery tree decorators were the Jansen family, the link was to their blog Perennial and it seems that they and the kids had decided some bauble bombing was in order and that the Barwon was the place to do it.
A Christmas message
Rather than repeat the story, I would suggest you go and have a look at the blog for yourself or better still if you're a local, go for a wander and have a look at their tree and then leave a comment on the blog. The kids (Sam and Milly) are dying to hear what people think of their tree!As for us, with the light fading fast and the bats gliding overhead, we completed our loop and headed for home.
I did stop at one point once we had crossed back to our side of the river to take some shots of the possum who lives in the trees near the boat sheds, but it was rather dark by that stage, he was too high up the tree and I discovered that it was very hard to get a clear shot in virtual darkness whilst writhing continually in an attempt to dislodge the dozens of mozzies which had suddenly materialised when I stopped to take my photos.
Moorabool Street at Dusk
Well, the temperature wasn't quite so warm today and I needed a run to offset the impending effects of Christmas. It also occurred to me that there was an extra photo I needed to take, so I plotted my route to finish at the "Christmas tree" and had the support crew meet me there. While they waited for me to drag myself around 12km of scenic river views, they did a little housekeeping, replacing a few fallen baubles and straightening up the tinsel.
Finally, I staggered to my goal and we dragged out the camera.

Sarah, Connor and Fionn under the tree

 Happy Christmas Jansens! From the Mitchells!

12 December, 2012

Oh baby!

Well it is certainly that time of the year and having just hosted two kids' birthday parties I know how the various feathered denizens of the Barwon must feel!
Now that I can actually get back to the river without the need of walking aids, I've been able to cover a bit of ground - although not as far or as fast as I'd hoped during this morning's rather warm run. The most obvious seasonal change I've noticed is the explosion in the bird population which has resulted in a number of rather cute photo opportunities which are the justification for this post.
Firstly I noticed a couple of Dusky Moorhen chicks at Balyang Sanctuary a couple of weeks back, but headed back today to take some clearer shots:
Dusky Moorhen mother and chicks at Balyang Sanctuary
 There were several different pairs of birds, each with up to three chicks.
Next I came across a White-faced Heron chick and a pair of Pied Currawongs nesting not far from Barwon Valley Golf Course (photos of these are on the Birds Nests page).
During a ride last week-end I came across a family of Australian Wood Ducks beside - appropriately enough - the duckpond at Queen's Park.
Australian Wood Duck family
They weren't overly impressed by my arrival and rapidly headed for the opposite side of the pond. A few weeks earlier I saw an older brood who were paddling about opposite the boatsheds, however I haven't seen them of late.

More Australian Wood Ducks
This afternoon I also came across a number of impending parents including a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo and a neighbouring pair of Long-billed Corellas who had each set up home in different branches of the same large eucalypt at Balyang Sanctuary (again, see the Birds Nests page). Actually, I was interested to see the cockatoo was present. During an earlier visit, at which time it was presumably looking to secure some spacious family accommodation, it appeared to be facing some stiff opposition from a scouting party of bees, who indeed may have felt they had some prior claim as this particular hole was used as a hive in a previous season. The cocky didn't seem too perturbed and just shook its head when the bees got too close or perhaps when the buzzing in its ears became too loud. Today there was not a bee in sight.
Not far away a pair Mudlarks was sharing adjacent branches with a couple of Willie Wagtails who predictably spent quite some time trying to convince me that their nest was nowhere nearby.
Willie Wagtail nesting on the Barwon at Balyang Sanctuary
Of course I have both seen and heard various other young birds over the last few weeks and have also seen a number of as yet unidentified nests. With any luck I'll be able to snap a few more pics and find out who's living in those nests!