The Archdale Bridge …

Out on the boundary of the Central Goldfields Shire there is a spot on the map labelled Archdale. Oddly it’s easier to find on Facebook than it is on the ground. And you learn from Facebook that there is no recommended place eat, no recommended place to stay, no recommended place to drink and nothing to see. The reason is very simple. Apart from the odd farm-house there are no buildings. You wonder why they bothered to give the place a name.

I drove through the area some time ago. I was on my way to check out the Dalynong Flora and Fauna Reserve which I had heard was a good chunk of not too badly disturbed woodland habitat. I noticed an old wooden bridge and made a note to come back and photograph it one day.

It’s not an easy spot to photograph, there is a new bridge parallel to it and it is surrounded by River Red Gum woodland. From most angles you either can’t see it or you have a modern concrete structure intruding on the ambience. It’s just a sad old bridge crumbling slowly into the Avoca River. There are no sign posts leading you there. Facebook doesn’t love it.

I wanted to catch it in the evening light so I spent some time poking around. I was rewarded by a pair of Rakali chasing each other’s tails in the water.

Rakali, Hydromys chrysogaster

The bridge was built in 1863 and is the oldest wooden bridge in the State of Victoria and one of only two to survive the great floods of 1870. It is heritage listed and from the statement of significance we learn that …

Archdale Bridge is technically significant for its humped timber deck, designed to permit the ready flow of flood waters. Humped bridges were not uncommon in an era of horse-drawn vehicles, but were impractical with motorized vehicles; very few survive.
Archdale bridge is one of very few timber river bridges surviving in Victoria to possess large squared-timber pier ‘caps’, combining with squared and shaped corbels. Those heavy caps, over ten metres long, are cantilevered beyond the outer piles and fixed to the pile tops by mortis-and-tenon construction. They represent very rare examples of early bridge-carpentering traditions.

I think Facebook is wrong. There’s plenty to see in Archdale. This bridge is beautiful and deserves a bit of love.

More Large Marsupials …

Kangaroos tend to lay up during the day, often in a wooded area, and move to their grazing area late in the afternoon. Evening and early morning are the times when drivers have to be particularly careful. The road sense of a kangaroo is fairly minimal although natural selection is working on it.

A mob of about a dozen adults plus pouch young came across my little farm the other evening. They were grazing as they came. I was accurate in my prediction of the route they would take. I hid in a large bush and they slowly made their way up to me.

 

 

They are shy. They compete directly with the local sheep for the currently scanty grass – they have no friends among the farming community.

This one discovered me …

and they were gone in an instant.

Crested Pigeon …

Crested Pigeon

Back in the 1840s John Gould, who was so important in the early cataloguing of Australia’s birds, described  the Crested Pigeon as one of the “loveliest in its tribe … not surpassed in beauty by any other form from any part of the world”. This could be overstating it a bit.

But rare birds do tend to be admired more than the common ones and in those days he said that it could only be seen by “enterprising countrymen … prepared to leave the haunts of civilised man and wander in the wilds of the distant interior”. And the best parts of that distant interior were the marshes and ephemeral lakes of the Murray-Darling and Eyre Basins where they followed a nomadic lifestyle to cope with the frequent droughts.

Its range began to increase in the 1920s and since then it has arrived in most of the major cities of Australia and is now a fairly common bird in areas where it was formerly unrecorded. The reasons for this success have been much discussed. Climate change has got a good run and since the temperature has been slowly rising since the Little Ice Age it may have played a part. Other more major changes have occurred however. The reduction of tree cover, creation of permanent watering places and the introduction of exotic weeds all associated with pastoral activity have greatly changed the environment in its favour.

The Crested Pigeon showed great flexibility in its food requirements, consuming seeds and some leaves of many pastoral plants and weeds, notably Paterson’s Curse/Salvation Jane, Echium plantagineum, and with native plants of little importance in its diet. See Andrew Black

I came across a pair the other day that were quite confiding. This is unusual in pigeons because, as a rule, they make good eating. Perhaps they recognised me as a well educated human likely to have read the verdict of Charles Sturt, one of Australia’s great explorers, that their flesh is neither tender nor well flavoured.

Crested Pigeon
Crested Pigeon

 

Mind Where You Stand …

and close your mouth while you’re looking up.

Bendigo was a boom town in the gold rush days developing rapidly and rather splendidly after 1850. It is the fourth largest town in Victoria with a population of more than 95,000 people. Last time I was there I arrived late in the afternoon with the intention of some night-time photography (see The Bright Lights of Bendigo). As I scouted around I was surprised to find a colony of Grey-headed Flying Foxes in Rosalind Park in the city centre. I made a mental note to return and get some photographs.

Grey-headed Flying Fox

Bats are the only mammals capable of sustained flight. They are a very successful group with more than 12,000 species forming the order Chiroptera (from the Greek χείρcheir, hand and πτερόν – pteron, wing). They are the second largest order (behind the Rodentia).

They can be divided into two groups. The microbats are typically insectivorous and use echolocation. They have a near universal distribution being found on all continents except Antarctica. Flying Foxes and their allies are large and restricted to the warm parts of the world. They don’t use echolocation. Their diet consists of succulent fruit, nectar and pollen. The fruit is crushed in the mouth, the juice swallowed and the pulp rejected.

The taxonomy has, of course, been much disputed. That Flying Foxes and microbats have different origins and developed flight independently was once a popular theory. The evidence now seems to support evolution from a single ancestral population that had taken to the air in pursuit of insects.

Flight has the great advantage of mobility at the expense of high energy requirements. Bats solved the problem of flight differently than birds making them even more maneuverable in the air and far less capable on the ground.The wing has a leading edge from the shoulder to the hand and then extends as a membrane that extends to the hind leg and may include the tail. The hind leg has also assumed the duty of hanging the animal from a perch.

Because their hindleg is somewhat tethered bats as a rule cannot take of from the ground (Vampires and the New Zealand Short-tailed Bat may be the exception). However they climb quite nimbly, head first, and once a few feet off the ground can take off losing a little height initially.

Australia has four species of Flying Fox and four more close allies. They are restricted to the northern and eastern forests. The Grey-headed Flying Fox Pteropus poliocephalus is the largest of them (typically 600 – 800 grams but a few as much as a kilogram) and the only one to form permanent colonies in Victoria.

They choose humid shady places for their communal daytime roost and fly out as much as 50km at night to feed. Presumably they have been summer visitors to Victoria for centuries. Europeans have planted ornamental figs and orchards of fruit trees that have induced them to stay. From 1986 there has been a permanent colony in the Botanical Gardens in Melbourne and since then a few colonies have formed at other sites. The Bendigo colony began in 2010 where there are about 2000 bats in summer with about 200 staying over winter.

Grey-headed Flying Fox

 

 

 

Hello Possums …

Words immortalised by Dame Edna Everidge.

My sojourn at the seaside basking in the cool weather was over. Back at the farm it had continued hot. The list of visitors to the water point continued to grow in my absence.

We once had a Brushtail Possum come down the chimney. We could hear it stuck in the flue and summoned the chimney sweep to push it down into the wood stove which I hasten to add was not alight. My reward for rescuing it was a bite on the finger.

They’re not all bad news though. At least they save me from eating any of the fruit we grow. And fortunately they don’t eat the grapes. It’s the birds do that.

What a poser …

Brushtail Possum

 

Camera Trap …

The water trough, originally for a pony that I inherited, has been quite busy. Not surprising since day time temperatures have been in the mid 30’s.

The camera trap was out three days and nights. Apart from more than 2000 images devoid of an animal it took photographs of nine species of bird and three species of mammal.

The birds have all been daytime visitors. The cast in order of appearance …

  • Willy Wagtail
  • Striated Pardalote
  • Raven sp (probably Little)
  • Crested Pigeon
  • House Sparrow
  • White-winged Chough
  • Superb Fairywren
  • Long-billed Corella
  • Australian Magpie

So nothing out of the ordinary and a subset of the many species that I’ve seen having a drink there over the years.

Mammals have mostly been Eastern Grey Kangaroos, several every night. A Hare made a couple of day time visits. And there has been one visitor I would rather not have seen …

Feral cats threaten the survival of over 100 native species in Australia. They have caused the extinction of some ground-dwelling birds and small to medium-sized mammals. They are a major cause of decline for many land-based endangered animals such as the bilby, bandicoot, bettong and numbat.

Department of Environment and Energy

Infra-roo …

I’ve resurrected an old trail camera. Last night I set it near a water point on the farm and captured some images of Eastern Grey Kangaroos coming to drink. The images are very low resolution which can be forgiven to some extent for infra-red images at night. Sadly the day time images are even worse. I may have to invest in a new camera.

This is a composite of three images of one roo.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo