The shrub known as woolly wattle occurs locally in two quite different forms.
South of Ballarat - around Ross Ck, Scarsdale and Linton, for example - the foliage is bright green and the flowers are bright yellow. The plants are rather upright.
Northward - around Werona and Basalt - the leaves are duller and more pointed, the flowers are creamy-yellow, and the plants are more spreading, making the plant so different from the southern specimens that it appears to be another species.
A book on local wattles assists in identifying the "different" northern form, which is shown in the picture today.
There are officially three varieties of woolly wattle in Victoria, each with slight botanical differences. However, both our local forms - despite their rather strong differences - apparently belong to the same botanical variety. The full name of our local specimens is Acacia lanigera var. whanii. The other varieties are found only in far eastern and north-eastern Victoria.
The differences between the two local forms are probably worthy of further study. Flower colour, however, is not a strong reason for separation of a further variety.
The woolly wattle gets its name from the short woolly covering on its new stems, but this feature is difficult to notice in local plants. It is more readily seen in the north-eastern variety, which is said to have a dense covering of spreading hairs on its branchlets.
Now just past its peak flowering time, the woolly wattle has a couple of useful identification features, present in both local forms. The flowers are on short stalks close to the stems, and the leaves (phyllodes) have three or more main veins.
A report last month of more than 50 common mynas (Indian mynas) at Broomfield is of concern. This is by far the largest concentration of these invasive feral birds in the Ballarat district.
Local information reveals that mynas have been present at this particular site for some years, but never in such numbers.
"This is by far the largest congregation I have seen in the area and it is a worry", a local resident says.
Common mynas are gradually increasing in the Ballarat region, but they are so far resident at only a few places, despite not being unexpected from Newstead, Campbelltown, Clunes, Allendale and Ascot areas. There are also occasional reports around Cardigan.
Most sightings involve only a few birds at a time.
They can be aggressive towards other birds, and they take nest-holes that are better used by parrots, kookaburras and other native species.
NATURE QUERIES ANSWERED
Is the white-necked heron a migrant? A lot of them have arrived in recent weeks.
The white-necked heron is a nomadic waterbird that turns up when conditions are suitable. There are hundreds in the district at present because of all the flooded paddocks and swamps.
Their arrival is not true migration, although they have co-incidentally arrived at the same time as some of the migratory birds. They are simply taking advantage of the frogs and other creatures found in the abundant and widespread shallow water.
The smaller white-faced heron is with us 12 months of the year and has not increased in numbers at all.
White-necked herons rarely stay to nest in the Ballarat district, so there could be a reduction in their numbers as nesting time nears. On the other hand, younger, non-breeding birds might remain here until the water dries up.
- Questions and photos are welcome. Send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353, or email to firstname.lastname@example.org