Despite the forecast “34-feels-like-41” temperature eleven intrepid souls fronted up for a stroll through the sparsley shaded bush of the Oak Valley nature reserve. We were particularly happy to welcome our newest member, Jennifer, who we hope will join us on many more trips. We promise they won’t all be this hot!
Sachs Creek runs through the reserve and we had hoped summer rains would have had the creek at its best but, as we all know, our brief storms have done little to replenish local streams. Birds were probably as affected by the conditions as we were and remained mostly unobtrusive and quiet. A black cormorant flew over heading for the Ross River Dam, not too many wing-flaps away. In trees near the start of the track scaly-breasted lorikeets were gathered, pale-headed rosellas were also seen and rainbow lorikeets heard. Far above our heads we identified three species of kite – Black, Whistling and at least one Brahminy. Blue-winged kookaburras and dollarbirds made their presence felt with their distinctive calls and two species of cuckoo-shrikes (Little and Black-faced) were busy flying from tree to tree, shuffling their wings on landing, showing us how they got one of their popular names. A brown honeyeater was the only one of this family positively identified and a peaceful dove brought our meagre tally to thirteen. The area’s most famous bird, the endangered black-throated finch, was keeping well hidden.
But it’s not all about birds! Malcolm – our photographer and invertebrate whizz – noted nine species of butterflies and captured three species of wasps and two of spiders on camera. The butterflies were: Chequered swallowtail, Clearwing swallowtail, Blue tiger, Common eggfly, Common crow, Meadow argus, Bush brown, Grass yellow and Plain tiger (aka Lesser Wanderer). For those wanting to learn more about butterflies, you could do worse than to check out Malcolm’s butterfly album on Flickr.
Meanwhile, the plant-lovers were enjoying our walk through the woodland, dominated by poplar gum, swamp mahogany and narrow-leaved ironbark along with melaleuca, grevillea and – along the creek – river she-oaks. Smaller trees and shrubs included the cocky apple (much used by Aboriginal people for food and medicine) and the flowering poison peach, a host plant for butterfly species and food source for many birds. The native rosella pictured above was the stand-out flower of the day, albeit surrounded by introduced snakeweed flowers. A pretty violet-coloured flower was that of Hybanthus sp. (probably H. enneaspermus) or spade flower – and this one’s a native! A cluster of white berries drew attention to the white currant (Flueggea virosa) but there was no fruit to sample on the native grape (Cayratia trifolia).
As the sweat trickled down, we became increasingly anxious to get closer to the creek. A line of casuarinas showed the way to a chest-deep waterhole! Not really flushed out enough to invite swimming but for some it was the chance to saturate our shirts or ourselves, making for a cooler return journey.
One of the pleasures of our trips is being able to introduce people to places they might not otherwise know about. Even if the conditions were not ideal on this particular morning I hope people will take the opportunity to visit it independently. Late afternoon would be a great time to sit by one of the deeper waterholes and see what birds come there to drink – maybe even one those elusive black-throated finches?
Thanks to Malcolm for photos, and Denise and Beth for plant IDs. Some of the plants are listed below, and two more of Malcolm’s photos – you can see more here. Don’t forget to click on all photos to enlarge to full size.
|Corymbia tesselaris Moreton Bay ash
|Grewia retusifolia Emu berry
|Eucalyptus platyphylla Poplar gum
|Trema aspera Poison peach
|E. robusta Swamp mahogany
|Lophostomon grandiflorus Northern swamp box
|E. crebra Narrow-leaved ironbark
|Flueggea virosa White currant
|Millettia pinnata Indian beech
|Casuarina cunninghamiana River she-oak
|Grevillea striata Beefwood
|Taccia leontopetaloides Arrowroot
|Cochlospermum gillivraei Native kapok
|Cayratia trifoliia Native grape
|Melaleuca viridiflora Broad leaved paperbark
|Abelmoschus moschatus ssp tuberosus Native rosella
|Alphitonia excelsa Red ash
|Hybanthus sp. Spade flower
|Planchonia careya Cocky apple
|Clerodendrum floribundum Lollybush