Appearing rather suddenly in part of the North Gardens Wetlands in Ballarat is a plant known as red water-milfoil, named for the pink or red tinge clearly visible in the new summer growth.
It was not noticed there last summer, but it is abundant and very evident now.
The water-milfoil part of its name indicates its close relationship to lakeweed, which is correctly known as lake water-milfoil.
The underwater leaves of both species are very similar, but the leaves that emerge from the water in summer are different.
Both species are fast-growing and can be invasive, as is evident in the abundance of red water-milfoil in one of the North Gardens Wetlands lagoons.
Both species are native to Victoria and the Ballarat region.
Red water-milfoil is a smelly plant. A handful of it has a distinctly fishy odour.
This smell is sometimes evident even from the pathways around the North Gardens Wetlands.
Some reports mention the "tainted water" caused by large amounts of the plant, but it is having no affect on the North Gardens Wetlands birdlife.
Indeed, a swan pair has recently built an out-of-season nest not far from the site of the photo accompanying this article.
The plant is known to be aggressively invasive in some places, although its density is said to often reduce after a few years.
It can grow in water to two metres deep, and it appears to spread mostly by broken stem pieces.
Sometimes - probably when growing on mud or in very shallow water - the tip growth is silvery-blue (glaucous).
Each of the leaflets above the water is finely toothed, unlike the emergent leaves of lake water-milfoil, which are flat and without toothed edges.
The origin of the name goshawk comes from the English "goose-hawk".
Despite that name, the European goshawk rarely kills geese, but prefers much smaller birds.
The Australian version of the European goshawk is the brown goshawk, a slightly smaller species. Its main food in the Ballarat district is young rabbits and small birds such as starlings.
However, almost any bird may be taken, up to the size of a magpie or sometimes more.
Domestic poultry are occasionally caught, usually by younger inexperienced birds.
The female brown goshawk is noticeably larger than the male.
She takes prey up to 2kg in weight, while the smaller male takes up to 750g.
Snakes, lizards, grasshoppers and beetles are also goshawk prey.
As might be expected from the origin of the name, the word goshawk is pronounced "gos-hawk" rather than "gosh-awk".
NATURE QUERIES ANSWERED
I had this large ant inside, on my wall all day. It is nearly an inch long. It appears to have a tiny white something protruding from its back, above it's mid set of legs. Do ant queens grow large and have wings?
O., Ballarat East.
This is a queen sugar ant, identified by the orange front of its abdomen and orange legs.
Queen ants are always much larger than the common workers.
Your ant probably flew in a mating flight the previous evening, and for some reason came inside that night.
She should have stayed outside to dig a hole to start a new colony.
Other queens were seen outside in other places at about the same time as yours (first half of March).
A close look at the photo shows broken wing-bases in her mid-section, where she has cut her redundant wings.
- Questions and photos are welcome. Email to firstname.lastname@example.org, or send to Roger Thomas at The Courier, PO Box 21, Ballarat, 3353.