Platypuses are seldom seen, but they occur in several rivers both north and south of Ballarat.
Last weekend, one was spotted during a guided public walk along the Yarrowee River at Garibaldi, in Garibaldi Landcare Group territory. It was swimming at the surface of the swollen muddy river.
This is a common platypus habit in flood time, when there is a better chance of sighting a platypus than when the river is lower. They seem to be attracted to worms, small yabbies and other creatures carried down on the rising waters.
How far does the platypus normally extend upstream in the Yarrowee River? There are earlier reports from Magpie, and even Brown Hill above Ballarat, although the latter report has been dismissed as doubtful, despite the discovery of a dead specimen. There was opinion that it had been released there after being brought in illegally from elsewhere.
Platypuses probably still occur at Smeaton in Birch’s Creek and at Clunes in the Creswick Creek. St Georges Lake at Creswick has had its reports over the years too.
The Mount Emu Creek at Skipton has long been known as a platypus spot. Reports from Skipton have decreased in recent years, but platypuses must surely still occur there.
Moorabool River on the way to Steiglitz is another platypus spot. I am not aware of any in the Woady Yaloak River.
Some reported sightings of platypuses are probably rakalis (water-rats), so care needs to be taken with identification.
I have seen very few platypuses. This is probably because I am seldom at the appropriate spots at dawn and dusk, and I have only in recent years learnt that platypuses are most active after heavy rain, when streams are flowing with disturbed water. This is when daytime sightings – as occurred last weekend – are no surprise. It is also the time when their burrows may be flooded.
Platypuses burrow in creekbanks, with resting burrows mostly about two metres long, often beneath roots of large trees. Several burrows are used.
More reports of local platypuses will be gladly received. They will be kept confidential if requested.
Lake Wendouree’s population of freckled ducks has gone. Heavy rains across eastern Australia have no doubt influenced their departure.
They were seen every month from 2013 until the end of August this year. None could be found in September, despite searches. They have probably moved to breeding areas in inland eastern Australia.
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