You do not have to go to the west of Australia (I wonder when they will let us back there anyway!!) to see some stunning evening colours, as Cape Paterson can serve it up every now and then. Last week we had some beautiful evening colours brightening up the sky with swirls of gold, magenta, orange, blues … absolutely beautiful. An Aroura Australis was about as well but the clouds dampened that expectation a little. Drop in some good spring rain and it’s all happening here, and nature is loving it.
For residents or visitors to The Cape, there is a small swale running alongside the 2nd Surf exit track near the off-leash dog park. It looks a pretty innocuous drain, but it is turning up some wonderful delights from the plant world– the most recent discovery being the amazing super plant Azolla. Last year it was the carnivorous Fairies Aprons (Utricularian) on show. The swale takes water from the eastern side of the ancient sand dune ridge that runs north-south alongside Sunlight Blvd, feeding a small constructed wetland along the way and finally filtering into a drainage line in the southeast sector of the estate where a fantastic natural wetland amongst retained habitat is evolving—a favoured spot of the vulnerable Latham’s Snipe which migrates from northern Japan. Are you following me … just like the water!! And just to top it off, the shy and threatened little waterfowl, the Lewin’s Rail, has been heard and recorded calling from that nearby small constructed wetland, having previously been recorded in the south east natural wetland a month ago. Further proof that biodiversity sensitive urban design and ecological restoration is working at The Cape.
We are nearing the end of the first month of spring and there certainly is a hint of winter still in the air. Some pretty average weather, strong coastal winds and the occasional Cape Paterson squall (with some hail) has certainly curtailed photo expeditions, but there has still been lots to observe … and ponder. Oh, and throw an earthquake into the mix as well! Early season nesting has begun both with land based birds and those very hardy ones down on the exposed surf beaches and rocky platforms, but the weather may have interrupted some start-ups.
The last issue of Cape Chatter focused on some of the work being done by the Development Team and The Cape community in making a positive contribution to the natural world within the estate through bio-diverse sensitive urban design and citizen science projects. Last Saturday, just over 30 owners and residents gathered throughout the day (in accordance with COVID restrictions) to complete the first phase of Project KOALA with 600 plantings in 12 plots toward habitat restoration. And, right on cue, today, the first reported koala sighting in The Cape occurred with a healthy and beautiful looking animal on the roam in some Coastal Banksia trees in the north east corner of the estate. Makes all those sore joints and achy muscles worthwhile—we just need this Koala to head toward the habitat areas!
When I first devised the idea of the Cape Chatter website and blog over a year ago, my aim, along with like-minded fellow residents, was to observe and record The Cape’s growing diversity of fauna and flora over time. Starting with a blank canvas, by sharing stories and pictures, I hoped to raise awareness and understanding, contribute to restoring the environment, for residents and visitors to better appreciate what is around us, and enjoy living harmoniously with this special part of the natural world. Using bio-diverse sensitive urban design principles, extensive areas of The Cape estate area have been set aside to re-establish native fauna and indigenous flora habitat on once degraded farmland co-existing with housing and community infrastructure. This issue of Cape Chatter looks at some of the fantastic work that has been achieved in bringing together the restoration of landscapes, the benefits of connecting with nature and some wonderful citizen science projects helping us as a community and our relationship with the natural world.
Well, you can tell spring is in the air. While the frenetic bird activity has not quite hit a peak yet, there are plenty of indications spring is around the corner. Over the past week, some of our local mammals have started to emerge in larger numbers. On dusk, wombats can be seen coming out of the coastal bush to feed, echidna have been sighted moving about, and the Eastern Grey Kangaroo mob appears to have sprung into life and becoming more present in their favoured haunts. On the bird front, the Eastern Rosellas have begun investigating the nesting boxes in the creek line, the local honeyeaters are becoming much more active and territorial, the male Superb Fairy-wrens have coloured up in their blue livery … and my old mate, Darcy the Australian Magpie, has begun swooping me!! The numbers are down on last year, but there are still a few Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos wandering through The Cape on occasions—absolutely stunning birds. While we all love to see the positive sides of nature, sometimes we come face to face with the downside, and these past couple of weeks we have seen the effect bad weather can have on small seabirds in the wild Bass Strait, and the devastating impact mange can have on our wombats.
Since arriving at The Cape two years ago, I have always hoped there would be some rarely seen and secretive waterbirds residing in the wet, swamp paperbark areas of our retained habitat and adjoining coastal park. Well you can imagine my excitement when I thought I heard some unusual calls on one of my recent photographic strolls in the south of the estate. Knowing the camera would be of no use in this situation, I grabbed out my trusty old i-phone and managed to record the call of a Lewin’s Rail which has been verified by fellow resident Joe Spano. What a great find, and just shows how wonderful our sensitive habitat areas are working in housing our fragile native wildlife. The Kangaroo mob are appearing in rising numbers and becoming increasingly active. I managed to have a nice engagement with a young male who was inside the central wetland fence and was quite unperturbed with my presence and the camera clicking before ‘hopping’ off slowly. And to top it all off, another highlight was a Black-shouldered Kite devouring a very tasty mouse on a stag in the creek line. More proof not to use rodenticides to control rodents!
There is a hint of seasonal change in the air. Several days of prevailing north westerly winds also brought a couple of surprising sightings high up in the sky. Resident Joe Spano reported the first seasonal calls of the stunning songster, the Olive Whistler in the area and I heard the calls of Pied Currawong on the eastern edge of The Cape—an uncommon observation. Joe also saw a small flock of about a dozen of these Currawongs in established Cape Paterson. And a couple of days ago with a strong wind blowing, a flock of about 10 Pacific Gulls was seen flying over The Cape—single birds are seen occasionally—and another uncommon sighting (despite us living on the coast) of an Australian Pelican high overhead. There is also indications of nest building—a pair of Eastern Rosella were seen checking out the northern nesting box in the creek line and Australian Magpies have been seen gathering materials at either end of the creek line. Be warned!
Cape Chatter 50 comes to you as us Victorians endure COVID Lockdown 5.0. The lockdown has coincided with some pretty average weather so opportunities to get out and undertake some exercise with the camera has been limited. So again, nature in the home garden habitat has kept me engaged. I did manage one decent stroll with the camera and came away with a few snaps of some of our resident small birds, and living near the wetlands and creek line has allowed me to keep an eye on the comings and goings amongst our freshwater birds. Fellow resident Joe Spano has also been fine-tuning his photographic skills in The Cape garden habitats, and passed on to me for inclusion in this Chatter some lovely shots of the territorial Little Wattlebird among some grevillea.
Well, we are pretty much in the dead of winter here at The Cape and bird observations have been limited … as has the photography opportunities given the wind and showery weather. It is really only those hardy souls of the avian world that are about … our permanent dwellers so to speak … with the occasional visitor re-appearing. Since last Chatter, there are signs of a pick up in activity with some “duck-after-duck activity’ going on, some Grey Fantails returning, and just to prove me wrong, ‘Gabi’s Grebe’ moved back to the big central wetland despite the presence of the waterfowl. There goes my theory! One highlight of the past week was another sighting of a beautiful pair of Black-shouldered Kite, on the stags in the creek line, this time juveniles. And to top it all off, thanks to an alert by resident Richard Keech, an uncommon sighting of a Southern Right Whale lounging just off Cape Paterson for an hour or so.