The fern tree waterfalls walk at Mt Buangor State Park is attractive at any time of the year.
There was sufficient water flowing along the shady gully a week ago to make an appealing sight, with large, fresh-foliaged tree-fern fronds adding to the photogenic scene.
Along the tracks are numerous wildflowers, such as tall bluebells, variable groundsel (yellow daisies), cut-leaf daisies (mauve), forest mint and magenta storksbill. The forest mint is a small plant, growing to 20 or 30cm high. Its flower clusters (pale mauve) will be recognised by herb gardeners as those of a mint, with its aromatic minty leaves adding confirmation.
Special plants here are the ferns. There are at least 10 species, with two attractive large tree-ferns - the soft and the rough - as well as king fern, mother shield-fern, common maidenhair, filmy-fern, fishbone water-fern and more.
Birds are seldom numerous here, but there are always some to be seen and heard.
The Mt Cole forest often seems to have echidnas in its lower parts, and, sure enough, one was seen on the drive to the falls.
Common brown butterflies are living up to their name along the walk.
Most of the tall trees in the area are messmates, with occasional white-trunked Victorian blue gums.
Blackwoods provide a tree understorey, with various shrub species numerous in places.
A scarcer small tree along the creek is austral mulberry, best identified by its serrated leaves.
White flower-clusters of the prickly sweet bursaria shrub are prominent now.
The mountain correa (Correa lawrenciana), white elderberry (Sambucus gaudichaudiana) and native bramble (Rubus parvifolius) are some of the uncommon shrub species.
Rough bush-pea, large-leaf bush-pea and dusty miller are others occurring here.
Two large black hawks soaring over the reeds in the centre of Lake Wendouree are juvenile swamp harriers.
These birds - hatched last spring - are actually rich dark brown, appearing black from a distance.
Swamp harriers are the usual large hawks seen at Lake Wendouree.
The resident pair have obviously nested successfully, no doubt finding plenty of prey at the lake.
Perhaps some of the numerous young ibises feature on their menu.
Like most birds, the lake harriers probably take whatever is easiest to catch.
Rakali (water-rats) are no doubt taken too, given that swamp harriers normally catch more mammals than birds.
NATURE QUERIES ANSWERED
Is this a spider web? M.M., Brown Hill.
The web is caused by gorse spider-mite, a tiny, communal reddish creature that was brought to Victoria as a biological control of gorse. The webbing is very obvious, which is probably why the tiny creature is known as a spider-mite. Thousands of mites shelter under this webbing. Traces of the little reddish creatures can be seen here through the top of the webbing. We can also see that the gorse under the web is not thriving, having lost its healthy green colour.
The abundant gorse spider mites suck the sap from the gorse bushes, weakening them and hindering or preventing flowering and seeding. The mites have the ability to move from one gorse bush to another. Although they rarely kill gorse bushes, they reduce a plant's vigour and its ability to seed.