Spring in Central Victoria.
Lambs are everywhere. Early spring has truly sprung around our district and, I suspect, right across the land. There is lots of paddock feed for the winter born livestock and hopefully, the season looks bright for crop farmers too.
New life is everywhere. In the surrounding bushland, four species of Greenhood orchids are in flower while the distinctive little shiny bright red and green, Climbing and Scented sundews claim their space. Meanwhile, leaves of the Bluebeard orchid show in dark green clumps heralding a good show of flowers in September and October. But the most common of all the orchids is still to emerge. The purple flowers of the Wax-lip orchid will be the dominant flower amongst the ground-cover plants from around late September on to November.
Wildlife is in evidence both in and out of town. The call of foxes seeking a mate can still be heard from the middle of town in the early hours, and beware the speeding night driver who does not heed the dead ‘roos and wallabies beside the road. There are plenty of live ones still able to grace the front of a car or enter, unwanted, through the windscreen.
Animals move around right through the year, but probably more so in late winter and spring. Echidna, that delightful ponderous but forever busy icon of the Australian bush is one of the more vulnerable creatures that everyone will come across as it ambles across a country road. Reduce speed as soon as you spot one for they will not hurry or respond to your car horn.
A young koala was spotted this week close to a bush road not far from the railway line in the Maldon Heritage Reserve and whilst not a common occurrence, local sightings happen throughout the year. Like the echidna, koalas too are slow to cross the road and cannot be urged on with car horns.
Pairs of Crimson Rosellas have argued among themselves (and with the occasional pair of galahs) for the right to set up house in the numerous nesting holes in the Elm trees in Maldon’s main streets. Colourful and cheery, they help bring the countryside into the town.
One of the odd-bods of the bird kingdom is the Lapwing or Plover. You will surely have seen a pair beside the road in both an urban or rural situation. A white and black head and chest with brown wings and back, and with reddish legs, they stand about like they are waiting for a bus, sometimes walking a few paces before walking back to where they were before. Territorial is an understatement and beware the cat or dog (or human) that ventures too close, particularly during the nesting season. Plovers fly around at night doing laps of the block or the town, making a raucous ‘pee-wit’ call. The birds lay their two eggs usually in stones or small rocks that act as camouflage from marauding crows and other nasties. They are odd because they seem not to notice that where they nest is often in a ridiculous spot. Last year I saw where a pair had nested in the large parking area in front of the Castlemaine warehouse from where milk is distributed around the region. Trucks and vans moved over the area constantly and although most drivers did their best to avoid the nesting spot, it was not safe for long. Similarly, Maldon folk who choose to take the rustic route to Castlemaine via Lewis road might have noticed a year or so back, that a pair of Plovers had nested right on the edge of the road. A local landowner had obligingly put up a simple framed sign warning ‘Nesting plovers ahead’.
The less welcome wildlife is also on the move and raising young, most common among them being the domestic pigeon – a recent messy problem for the town – and the murderous Indian Myna or Arial Cane Toad (my name for it), which arrived in Maldon just a couple of years back and now challenges native birds for nesting spots and food as it spreads rapidly across the country.
The earth – or this part of it at least – seems to be in a period when we can experience extreme weather events, most notably drought but also sudden and severe storms. At such times it might be easy to forget the wildlife around us. But we must not forget.