Happy New Year

A young Australasian grebe (left) and its parent, in full breeding plumage.

A young Australasian grebe (left) and its parent, in full breeding plumage.

Happy 2014 to all our readers. A lot has been going on in the wetlands over the Christmas/New Year period.

River Bulrush (Bolboschoenus fluviatilis) has invaded the smaller ponds and parts of the river.

River Bulrush (Bolboschoenus fluviatilis) has invaded the smaller ponds and parts of the river.

Goulburn has experienced an intense hot, dry, windy period that has resulted in the withering of grass and the drying of the wetlands. The water ribbons are now standing well above the water and have formed a dense jungle covering most of the water area. As a result there are only a few pools with relatively deep water so the coots and hardheads have declined to just one bird each last week. The dusky moorhens have increased and added a few new babies as well.

Bird's foot trfoil (Lotus corniculatus) is a small relatively harmless weed that has heavily invaded the sedge meadows.

Bird’s foot trefoil (Lotus corniculatus) is a small relatively harmless weed that has heavily invaded the sedge meadows.

The small wader pool has lost all its water now and is a tract of orange-brown mud being encircled and increasingly invaded by a mixture of river bulrushes and several species of spikerush. The river buttercups are still in flower as are a number of other wetland plants. With its drying up many of the migratory waders have moved on, but there is plenty of evidence of herons and kangaroos using it: the mudflat is criss-crossed by their footprints. As a result what was a pool is now slowly tuning into a sedge-meadow … an island of moist green in a sea of dry yellow grasses.

 

The current small dramas have been provided by a family of Australasian Grebes. The young grebes are very fuzzily striped making them look quite blurry, while their intensely protective parents are in their smartest breeding colours. Click on a photo to enlarge it.

As well as the grebes and moorhens, we have several other breeding successes, including two clutches of black ducks (one more successful than the other), wood ducks, white-faced herons, superb fairy-wrens and black-fronted dotterels. You may recall their well camouflaged eggs from a couple of months ago; well now they’re well camouflaged chicks. Pacific herons and great egrets have shown up recently, both species in full breeding plumage, so maybe we’ll have a few more babies in the weeks or months to come. Some of our juvenile birds are shown below.

As well as some welcome babies, there are some not-so welcome ones. During the human festivities the Christmas beetles were having their own which, unfortunately, meant defoliating the three young cabbage gums. While we could remove the adults, they had laid their eggs and placed grubs in the mulch nearby. Fortunately for the cabbage gums, along came a huge blue flower wasp and placed its babies inside the young Christmas beetles.

A newcomer, the red-kneed dotterel, about twice the size of the black-fronted dotterel, is still dwarfed by the grey teal.

A newcomer, the red-kneed dotterel, about twice the size of the black-fronted dotterel, is still dwarfed by the grey teal.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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