A STRONG breeze blew on a fine late spring day as we braved the Wonthaggi Rifle Range Wetlands to sample the wild life. The wind turbines were facing south-west, the blue sky soon clouding over to produce magnificent cloudscapes.
The birdhide wetland was a mosaic of pink, green and white intersected by murky brown water channels, the edges fast receding into drying mud. Swallows hawked over the surface, frogs croaked, a large kangaroo sped southwards along the fenceline and a fox stealthily prowled the western edge. We ventured to the water’s mud frill in high gumboots, only to be bombarded by a vociferous lapwing.
Birdlife included magpie, mudlark, a flock of cattle egrets, thirteen snipe, myna, starling, skylark, black duck, the aggressive masked lapwing, raven, coot, white-faced heron, straw-necked ibis, welcome swallow, little pied cormorant, a raptor harassed by ravens, purple swamphen, grey shrike thrush red wattlebird, superb fairy wren, grey fantail, spotted pardalote and white-eared honeyeater. Three birds – ibis, lapwing and swallow – swooped low overhead to identify the interlopers.
Our aim was to sample the pond life in three locations and we were rewarded with the following:
- Site 1 – shallow water beyond the bird hide. 4 water snails, 100+ water boatmen, 1 riffle beetle, 1 diving beetle, 2 spiders, 5 dragonfly nymphs, 2 millipedes, 1 red worm. This site also had a cavorting eel breaking water.
- Site 2 – a deep channel on western edge of bird hide wetland. Here the flowing water yielded 1 acarina water mite, 2 tadpoles, 1 whirligig beetle, 1 dragonfly nymph, water boatmen, a reddish creature changing to yellow as it fed on a dead dragonfly nymph.
- Site 3 – western end of first wetland. The water was clearer, filtered by dense stands of phragmites. Frogs called, mosquitoes hovered. We found 1 side swimmer, riffle beetle larva, water boatmen, 2 tadpoles, 12+ slaters (white body with black stripes and spots, with black lines on side of body, light brown legs. Where we had to wade, the stench of mud was strong, stirring the mosquitoes.
Vegetation consisted of water ribbons, streaked arrowgrass, pacific azolla, bulrush, small river buttercup, common reed, white purslane, slender knot weed, yellow waterbuttons, pale rush, tall spike rush, floating pondweed and small spike-rush, as well as three weeds: an isolepis, couch grass and dock.
Two hours in the sunshine and fresh air revealed an amazing variety of wildlife living cheek by jowl with us on the edge of town.
Not bad, considering it was a paddock with one tree at this site in 2005.