Windy today …

Here is the wattle emblem of our land

you can stick it in a bottle

or hold it in your hand.           Bruce (Monty Python).

The driveway on the country estate was lined with wattle trees which gave a splendid display of yellow as winter faded. They are short lived trees and the seasonally gaudy phase of their existence came to an end ten years or so ago.

I replanted with Red Ironbark which are coming along nicely. The wattles were allowed to stand proud but leafless, nice perches and productive of insects. My feathered friends have appreciated them.

It was windy today …

We had a visitor at the time. They discovered the wreckage blocking the drive as they tried to leave.

Soon fixed.

Point Danger …

Not far from Portland, Victoria, there is a major nesting colony of Australasian Gannets safely out of reach of foxes on Lawrence Rocks.

Point Danger and Lawrence Rocks

Whilst the rock is safe from terrestrial predators real estate is at a premium. In 1996 some adventurous Gannets gave it a go on Point Danger. It wasn’t a great success but humanity stepped in, fenced the area and there is now quite a colony, the only colony on the mainland.  It depends for its success on a tall outer and an electric inner fence. Maremma dogs were trialled as guards but were not a great success.

At the weekend I was lucky enough to be invited into the enclosure.

Australasian Gannet colony

You can get a good telescope view of the colony from a viewing platform about 125 metres from the birds and you can get a little closer by following the perimeter fence around to the left. But if you are lucky enough to be granted access you can get to about 25 metres away.

Australasian Gannet

As you can see from the photos it was a great opportunity. And this isn’t the breeding season. That runs from October to February corresponding with the Bonney Upwelling when ocean currents bring nutrients that trigger a boom in the food chain from the bottom up, a good time to be feeding youngsters.

When you get close to a Gannet colony part of the fun is spotting the one that doesn’t belong. When I visited the Lambert’s Bay colony of Cape Gannets the big news was one Australasian Gannet among thousands of the locals. Likewise at Point Danger the visit was all the sweeter for finding a Cape Gannet in the crowd …

Cape Gannet among the Aussies

The Cape Gannet is the one on the right showing off its long gular stripe. On the Australasian Gannet the stripe is much shorter. You can just make it out on the guy on the left also pointing his bill up.

There are some other differences that help distinguish the Cape, it has an all black tail whereas the Aussie has a black centre and white outer tail feathers. Their call is also harsher. There is no substitute for getting up close.

Great Ocean …

… no road.

As beautiful as the Great Ocean Road between Lorne and Peterborough is, it does mean that there are no secluded hideaways along the coast. It’s one of Victoria’s top tourist attractions but I can’t help feeling that an inland road with dead end offshoots would have given the magnificent coastline more of a Cornwall feel. For me the adventure starts where the road stops and this road goes on and on.

But at least there is access. Continue west beyond Peterborough and the highway ducks inland. It hits the coast at Warnambool, very settled and domesticated but a good place to see whales in the winter. You can get to the sea again at Port Fairy, more rugged and way more charming. After that access to the coast is extremely limited until you get to Portland. Tourists can look across privately owned farmland to the distant ocean and wonder what they’re missing.

In fact they’re missing scenery that is the equal of the Great Ocean Road.

From the Crags and from Yambuk Lakes you can see Australia’s only off shore volcano, Lady Julia Percy Island. It’s been fairly quiet for the last 6 million years but you could get lucky. The island is home to Australia’s largest fur seal colony – about 27,000 strong. Sea Lions and Elephant Seals are occasional visitors. A number of different sea birds nest there. It’s the long flat topped one on the horizon …

Ship wrecks are a dime a dozen along Victoria’s coast but plane wrecks are not so common. There is a memorial at the Crags to four airmen who lost their lives in 1944. They were the crew of an Avro Anson thought to be looking for submarines. For reasons unknown it failed to return to its base in Mount Gambier. Wreckage was found on Lady Julia Percy Island and in the sea nearby. The bodies of the crew were not found.

You can visit the island by boat from Port Fairy courtesy of Southern Coast Charters. It’s a great trip.

Griffiths Island …

The early history of the European settlement of the Victorian coast is shrouded in mystery. Most of the early players came across Bass Strait from Van Dieman’s Land to explore and exploit what was then the Port Philip District of New South Wales. By ship it is less than half the distance from Launceston to any part of the Victorian coast than it is from Sydney. Settlement was forbidden and mostly went undocumented.

Port Fairy gets its name from The Fairy, a cutter that visited the Moyne River in search of fresh water in about 1828. Sealers and whalers from Van Dieman’s Land were probably using the area from about that time on.

There were three islands at the mouth of the Moyne. Some characters named Penny and Reiby established a whaling station on the  largest of them.

In 1834 the Henty brothers settled an area about 70 km to the west which would become Portland. They were the first settlers to come to the government’s notice, their presence being discovered by an exploring party commanded by Major Thomas Mitchell. By the time officialdom, in the form of Foster Fyans reached the area in 1839 there was already a settlement at Port Fairy catching whales and growing potatoes. Captain Foster Fyans, magistrate and Commissioner for Crown Lands arrived in Geelong in 1837 charged with the virtually impossible task of overseeing the orderly settlement of all of south west Victoria. Geelong and Portland are 240 km apart. Fyans and his party made the first recorded overland journey between the two.

In 1835 a gentleman named John Griffiths purchased the whaling station at the mouth of the Moyne and the island acquired his name. The station operated until about 1843 by which time Southern Right Whales were too scarce to warrant such an establishment. But as whaling declined the importance of the port increased.

Melbourne was also pioneered by adventurers from Van Dieman’s Land. The founding of a town wasn’t approved until 1837. Until Melbourne eclipsed it Port Fairy was the busiest port in the district. It remained busy until 1960 when the harbour at Portland opened for business. It still is a working port – 30 tonnes of squid were landed during my stay.

Victoria gained its independence from New South Wales in 1851. Van Dieman’s Land became Tasmania in 1856.

A lighthouse was built on Rabbit Island in 1859. Various improvements were made to the mouth of the river which combined with natural build up of sand caused Rabbit, Goat and Griffiths Islands to coalesce into one, still known as Griffiths Island.

Griffiths Island

The lighthouse was manned by two keepers until it was automated in 1954. The keepers’ cottages were demolished soon after but some plants from their garden linger on.

The island is home base for a colony of Short-tailed Shearwaters. They nest in burrows during the summer. They spend the remainder of the year on an extraordinary journey that takes them way into the northern hemisphere.

A stroll around the island takes about 45 minutes. You are quite likely to meet one of these on the way …

Pied Oystercatcher

Port Fairy Again …

In the old joke an Arab goes to Blackpool for his holiday. On his return to the desert he’s asked how it was. He replied “Perfect, it rained every day”

It hasn’t rained at home in the Goldfields for two months, three days in Port Fairy and two cold fronts later has me wondering if the grass will be green by the time I get home. I doubt it but the sea looks even more exciting in a gale …

… and the sun has been out between showers. A bit of bad weather can’t spoil Port Fairy. Stay at Doc’s at the Mill, it’s right on the wharf. You book through Langley’s (03 5568 2899), tell them I sent you and I’ll get a discount next time! A morning walk on East Beach and lunch at Rebecca’s. You can’t beat it.

The mill was built in 1860 and enjoyed a relatively brief career as a steam driven flour mill. It’s right on the wharf and the tallest building in town.

In the evening as the lights come on …

The town is situated where the Moyne River reaches the Southern Ocean. It is one of the oldest settlements in the state of Victoria and was once an important port.

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Bright Yellow …

and utterly stupid.

I just know from an Australian cricket perspective, we hold our heads high and I’d be very disappointed if one of our team members did that …                                        David Warner 2016

It is an enormous honour to represent your country. And that’s exactly what you do, you represent it. If you do well you enhance its reputation. If you cheat you diminish it.

I’m all for holding a trial before the execution. Steve Smith has pleaded guilty which makes that part of it quite easy. He has sought to share the blame as widely as possible but so far I think we only have his word on that, for what a cheat’s word is worth.

I was obviously nervous about it because with hundreds of cameras around that’s always the risk, isn’t it?

Said Bancroft, what a cretin, bright yellow tape – you’d have thought he would have been smart enough to conceal some carborundum in sticky tape on his fingers.

Leadership group? I doubt that we’ll see the minutes of the meeting. It matters little really, it’s more about the responsibility group. Smith as captain is the one who must ensure that sportsmanship prevails. He should be assisted by his vice captain … if he’s not too busy in a bout of fisticuffs. And the whole philosophy of the team is the business of the coach.

It’s time for the three of them to go. And I do mean go. None of them should ever have the honour of representing their country again.