Autumn …

In this neck of the woods the leaves stay green, and for the moment the grass stays brown. Not for us the fall colors that give the American and English photographers fresh inspiration.

Walking in the bushland reserve just across the creek yesterday I saw dozens, perhaps hundreds of Dusky Woodswallows, many of them juveniles with their streaky heads. The reserve supports a couple of pairs that breed there most summers. The large numbers are the result of the previously dispersed population forming flocks and making their way north.

The Reedwarblers, Bushlarks and Sacred Kingfishers seem to have quietly departed already. Time to start looking for Swift Parrots and Flame Robins.

Dusky Woodswallow (juvenile)

The Swamp Wallabies will be sticking around. At the moment they’re eating my grapes. I’m just about ready to pick what ever the birds and wallabies have left for me. Before the one above took off she gave me a moment of her time. Just long enough to grab this portrait of her and her joey against the early morning light.

Wallabia bicolor

Buloke …

I’ve known this tree for about 30 years. It hasn’t changed a bit, half dead when I first saw it, half dead today.

Allocasuarina luehmannii has a broad distribution in the drier parts of southern and eastern Australia often on sandy soils. In Victoria the most fertile part of its range has largely been cleared for wheat growing. So there are far fewer than there used to be.

It is a hard wood. In fact, according to the not always reliable Wikipedia, it has the hardest wood in the world. Black Cockatoos are fond of it, they eat the seeds.

This particular tree sits nicely against the sky. I have photographed it often. This time at sunset.

Sheep Hills …

On the way home from Wail I took a little detour to Sheep Hills for another look at the silo.

It still looks great. It’s the work of Adnate, a Melbourne artist.

The silo art trail stretches from Rupanyup (Remember to say Re-pun-yip) to Patchewollock about 200 km north. It’s classic sheep-wheat country.

You can find the original of this map and more information <HERE>.

My favourite is the first one at Brim with Sheep Hills in second place but they’re all worth a look.

Wail …

The Wimmera River rises on the inland slopes of the Pyranees Ranges near Ararat, western Victoria. It heads in the general direction of the Murray but it doesn’t make it that far. It flows through the towns of Horsham and Dimboola and usually discharges into Lake Hindmarsh. When times are particularly dry Lake Hindmarsh dries up. When times are particularly wet it may overflow and begin to fill a series of usually dry lakes on the fringes of the Big Desert. It is the longest land-locked river in Victoria.

Along the way the river forms the eastern boundary of the Little Desert National Park. It is one of my favourite places. Whether it should be called a desert is a moot point. It is certainly sandy and in places there are well formed dunes, the region is quite arid. On the other hand vegetation cover is pretty good for the most part. The further west you go the more convincing the argument¬† for a desert becomes especially if you bog the wheels in deep sand on a hot summer’s day.

The river margins are quite different. Black soil covers the sand and some quite tall trees, River Red Gums mainly, attract the birds and other creatures. The trouble with national parks though is the prohibition of one of my dearest companions. Wail State Forest is on the eastern bank of the Wimmera River. You can camp on the bank and look into the park. Two hundred metres back from the water you can bog your wheels in deep sand, the same birds fly back and forth and you can take your dog.

I was there last night.

Varanus varius

I was setting up camp around midday when this big lizard decided that he’d be happier up a tree. The day before had been cold (by local standards, everything’s relative). It was a little sluggish. Usually they are quick to get well away from people, this guy was happy to sit in the sun for a while.

I surprised a second one later on and was able to get some closer shots in better light …

The claws are impressive, so too is the tongue …

Monitor Lizards are found in Africa, Asia and Australasia. There are about 50 species in all. The largest of them is the Komodo Dragon Varanus komodoensis in Indonesia. It gets to more than 3 metres in length. Australia has 27 described species but Victoria has only two monitor lizards, the Lace Monitor and Gould’s Goanna. A big Lace Monitor grows to a little over 2 metres whilst Gould’s can only manage about 1.6 metres. The dark and light bands under the lower jaw are diagnostic of the Lace Monitor, V. varius.

They eat birds eggs, nestlings and any other small animal they can catch. They lay their eggs in termite mounds, mum comes back to break the youngsters out when they hatch.