Summary: A cool windy week. Shrubs flowering, including some showy bottlebrushes & tea-trees, but few large trees flowering. Rainforest fruits few, with exception of Muttonwood and Cabbage Tree Palms in Snowy River area. Forests to west of area (Lakes Entrance) continue to be very dry, conditions a little better in far east (Mallacoota). Smilax, Austral Mulberry & Sweet Pittosporum fruit should be ripe within a month or so, but Water Vine fruit is still months away. Wildlife highlights: Good waders seen at Mallacoota, and Topknot Pigeons on the Snowy River. A Mountain Brushtail (Bobuck) at Mallacoota was a bonus.

Best area for frugivores seems to be around the Snowy River at the moment. There is some food for low-foraging nectarivores around Mallacoota.

Dates: 29 November to 5 December 2019

Locations: Lakes Entrance, Buchan, Orbost, Cabbage Tree Creek & Mallacoota, East Gippsland Victoria.

Observers: Janine Duffy & Roger Smith

Tylophora barbata flowers Orbost

Weather:

Mallacoota

Mon 2 Dec min 9.8 max 16.8 rain 2.2mm wind max SW 70 km/h

Tue 3 Dec min 8.6 max 24.2 rain 0.2mm wind max W 54km/h

Wed 4 Dec min 12.3 max 21.1 rain 0mm wind max WSW 57km/h

Thu 5 Dec min 10.7 max 21.0 rain 0mm wind max S 50km/h

Orbost

Fri 29 Nov min 10.1 max 22.8 rain 0mm wind max WSW 30km/h

Sat 30 Nov min 10.7 max ? rain mm wind max SW 30 km/h

Sun 1 Dec min 6.4 max 18.2 rain ? mm wind max ? km/h

Mon 2 Dec min 9.5 max 16.8 rain 1.2mm wind max WSW 63 km/h

Tue 3 Dec min 7.5 max 23.9 rain 0mm wind max WNW 52 km/h

Wed 4 Dec min 11.0 max 21.1 rain ?mm wind max SW 46 km/h

Thu 5 Dec min 9.9 max 22.3 rain 0mm wind max SSW 39 km/h

Bairnsdale

Fri 29 Nov min 8.9 max 22.4 rain 0mm wind max SSE 33 km/h

Sat 30 Nov min 9.5 max 17.2 rain 14.2mm wind max S 41 km/h

Sun 1 Dec min 6.8 max 18.9 rain 0.2mm wind max NNW 46km/h

Mon 2 Dec min 9.3 max17.2 rain 4.2mm wind max WSW 70km/h

 

Habitats

Condition of rivers & wetlands:

Snowy River: shallow, but no worse than usual.

Cabbage Tree Creek: water level fair. Large permanent pools in Cabbage Tree Palms Flora Reserve, and near Cabbage Tree Creek town. Water seems to be clean and in good condition.

Dowell Creek, Croajingolong NP: is the lowest I’ve ever seen. Water not flowing, even near the mouth. Several waterholes along creek in rainforest, but water murky and still.

Condition of mudflats – intertidal zones:

Mallacoota Inlet: extensive mud and sandflat visible from Capt Stevensons Point. Several sandy islands just inland from entrance. Many waders present, sadly being disturbed regularly by off-leash dogs. Inlet is currently open to the sea.

intertidal zone Mallacoota December 2019

Overall condition of forest:

Lakes Entrance area: forest is looking dry and canopy is very thin. Further east is not as bad, but rainforests throughout the region are clearly struggling with the long drought.

Cabbage Tree Creek area: recent road-side clearing on Palm track has left a wide scar all the way to the rainforest. There’s also a big logging coupe just north of the reserve. The rainforest in the reserve is the driest I’ve ever seen it – you can see from the carpark right through the picnic area to the walking track. Usually it is thick with vegetation and ferns to 1m high. The area near the bridge over the creek is in better condition.

..

Flora

Flowering:

Most noticeable were Crimson Bottlebrush Callistemon citrinus at Canni Creek, Buchan and around Mallacoota. A lovely coral-flowered River Bottlebrush Callistemon sieberi flowering along the banks of the Snowy River at Woods Point was a sight. Giant Honey-myrtle Melaleuca armillaris was flowering around Mallacoota, and we watched Yellow-faced Honeyeaters feeding on the flowers.

River Callistemon East Gippsland flora December 2019

Victorian Christmas Bush Prostanthera lasianthos was flowering heavily around Mallacoota. Blue Olive-berry Elaeocarpus reticulatus was also flowering well with lovely pink, scented flowers at Mallacoota, in bud at Palms. Boobialla Myoporum insulare was flowering a little at Mallacoota.

Mock-olive Notelaea venosa was flowering well at Woods Pt and had just past flowering and was in fruit at Mallacoota. Hop Goodenia G. ovata, Dogwood Cassinia C. aculeata or longifolia and Grey Everlasting Ozothamnus obcordatus also flowering at several locations.

Lilly Pilly Syzygium smithii was in bud in most locations, and some already in flower at Kalimna. These will be months off fruiting.

Kangaroo Apple Solanum aviculare? in flower at Kalimna and Dowell Creek.

Wombat Berry East Gippsland flora December 2019

Rainforest vines – most notable was Milk-vine Marsdenia rostrata which was flowering heavily in all locations. The scent was beautiful. These don’t produce fruit for birds, but the flowers would attract insects. Jasmine Morinda Gynochthodes jasminoides also in flower at Cabbage Tree Palms and Dowell Creek, but those flowers less obvious. Wombat berry Eustrephus latifolius flowering and in bud at Woods Point, Snowy River. Most exciting was a flowering Pearl Vine Sarcopetalum harveyanum at Dowell Creek (they only flower for one day!), and a flowering Bearded Tylophora Tylophora barbata at Cabbage Tree Palms FR.

More about the rainforest vines of East Gippsland here.

Pearl Vine flower East Gippsland December 2019

Bearded Tylophora flower December 2019

Water Vine Cissus hypoglauca in bud at Dowell Creek and on Mount Drummer. These normally fruit in winter, based on our records so far.

Sandpaper Fig Ficus coronata at Dowell Creek had many undeveloped flower-fruits on upper branches, as it did last year in November.

Sandpaper Fig East Gippsland flora December 2019

Ficus coronata East Gippsland flora December 2019

Introduced Silky Oaks Grevillea robusta flowering throughout region, and planted red bottlebrushes (C. citrinus or ?) flowering in streets of Mallacoota.

Few eucalypts flowering, and few blossom nomads* seen.

*Blossom nomads: birds that migrate to follow mass flowering including Musk, Rainbow & Little Lorikeets, White-faced, Yellow-faced and Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters.

Fruiting:

Most abundant fruit was on Muttonwood Myrsine howittiana at Woods Point, Snowy River. Also a majority of Cabbage Tree Palms Livistona australis are heavy with ripe black fruit (15 out of 26 noted), some like great bunches of grapes. Another 5 had small undeveloped fruit, so fruiting should continue for some weeks.

Muttonwood East Gippsland flora December 2019

Myrsine howittiana fruit East Gippsland flora December 2019

Very few ripe fruits seen on rainforest vines. A couple of Wombat Berry, and Smilax australis at Mt Drummer only.

Figs present on tree at Kalmina Hotel, at Radley Place Mallacoota, and a few on Sandpaper Fig Ficus coronata at Dowell Creek. A large fig (Moreton Bay?) in the main street of Maffra is worth checking out. Fig at Forest Park Orbost has no fruit.

Unripe fruit present on Smilax australis everywhere (except Mt Drummer as above – some fruit already ripe) and Austral Mulberry Hedycarya angustifolia at Dowell Creek. Sweet Pittosporum Pittosporum undulatum had small green fruit at Mallacoota and Woods Point, probably still weeks off ripening. Another month should see some abundant ripe food for frugivores.

Notable absences: No Cherry Ballart Exocarpos cupressiformis fruit were seen, compared to abundant fruit at same time in 2017, and also some in Nov 2018. Also Water Vine was fruiting heavily on Mt Drummer at Princes Hwy in Nov 2018, but none seen there this year.

Seed:

Mountain Clematis C. aristata with seed at most rainforest locations.

Blackwoods Acacia melanoxylon in seed at Mt Drummer, Alfred NP & Cabbage Tree Palms. Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoos seen feeding in them at Cabbage Tree Palms.

..

Fauna

Mammals:

Echidna (1) seen at Lakes Entrance.

Eastern Grey Kangaroos seen at Raymond Island, and Mallacoota. Largest group was 45 individuals at Mallacoota.

Swamp Wallabies seen at Canni Creek, Woods Point, Dowell Creek. Red-necked Wallaby (1) seen at Mallacoota.

Yellow-bellied Gliders, at least 3 heard at Double Creek Mallacoota.

Bobuck / Mountain Brushtail Trichosurus cunninghamii seen at Double Creek, Mallacoota.

Notable absences: No Grey-headed Flying-foxes seen at Dowell Creek, Croajingolong or Mullet Creek, Mallacoota. Dowell Creek was once a large and reliable colony.

Reptiles:

Though weather was cool and rainy at start of trip, several large Lace Monitors were seen: one at Wallagaraugh, one near Genoa and another crossing the highway near Cann River.

Gippsland Water Dragon (1) was seen at Wallagaraugh. A Yellow-bellied Water Skink was seen at Mallacoota.

Wonga Pigeons Snowy River December 2019

Birds:

Full list here.

Most interesting were Topknot Pigeons at Woods Point, seen on four occasions over four hours, in small groups ranging from 1 to 5 birds. Flights were short, each group flew in a different direction to the last group, and reason to believe they were staying around. The only fruits in the area were on Muttonwood, which are the right colour and size for them, but I can’t find a record of them eating it. All the topknots were seen from the north-facing bank, in the vicinity of heavy-fruiting Muttonwoods. The last pair we saw appeared to be flying down towards Muttonwoods, but flew off and perched high when they saw us, then flew away after a few minutes. https://ebird.org/checklist/S61888366

See tables in APPENDIX below for fruits known to be eaten by rainforest pigeons.

Topknot Pigeon East Gippsland fauna December 2019

Muttonwood fruit Orbost December 2019

Note: Brown Cuckoo-dove are known to eat Muttonwood fruit*. Though we didn’t see any on this trip, the occurrence of BCD at a nearby feeder at Garnets Track Jarrahmond could be related to fruiting Muttonwood.  * See appendix below

Of interest, Margaret & Richard Alcorn recorded a Topknot Pigeon nesting at Cabbage Tree Palms on 2 Dec just after we had left. Other observers saw Topknots at Palms later that day too. The palms are fruiting very well, and Topknots are believed to breed in response to a good food source. Judging from the condition of the fruit there will be Topknot food at the Palms for many weeks yet, and nesting takes over a month to complete, so there’s likely to be Topknots present at this location for some time.
https://ebird.org/checklist/S61916000

livistonia australis fruit december 2019 east gippsland

White-headed Pigeons continue to be seen around Mallacoota. We have found them easiest to find in the early morning and late afternoon, when they perch prominently. One group of 3 were seen perched on powerlines after 5pm on Lakeside Drive https://ebird.org/checklist/S61922013

A pair of Glossy Black-cockatoos near Fairhaven on the northern side of Mallacoota Inlet was a bonus. An Olive Whistler was calling at Dowell Creek, and we recorded the first Scarlet Honeyeater & Australian Pipit at the site. https://ebird.org/checklist/S61946038 and Fairhaven Rd (Glossies): https://ebird.org/checklist/S61945933

The influx of Rufous Songlarks and White-winged Trillers has continued, particularly around Buchan. https://ebird.org/checklist/S61879585

Several Wedge-tailed Eagles were seen at Cann River, Woods Point Snowy River, and a couple of White-bellied Sea-eagles, but overall raptor numbers were low.

Also of interest was a group of 3 Emus in an open paddock bordered by forest just outside Bruthen. https://ebird.org/checklist/S61853926

It was great to see good numbers of waders at Mallacoota: Sanderling, Grey Plover, Pacific Golden Plover, Bar-tailed Godwit in good numbers, Eastern Curlew, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper and Red-capped Plover. Better control of off-leash dogs should be instituted – it is distressing to watch endangered birds being chased off their food; and very disturbing for wildlife tourists. https://ebird.org/checklist/S61921976 and https://ebird.org/checklist/S62082356

..

We visit Mallacoota and Cabbage Tree Palms on our Maximum Wildlife tours.  Contact us for more information about these very special wildlife tours.

APPENDIX:

..

NOTES & REFERENCES:

Rainforest Pigeons in eastern Victoria: https://echidnawalkabout.wordpress.com/2019/05/20/rare-rainforest-pigeons-mallacoota/

Rainforest Vines flowers & fruit: https://www.echidnawalkabout.com.au/east-gippsland-vines-flowers-fruit/

Note: all of this information and photographs are available for use, with credit, by researchers. Please contact me on janine@echidnawalkabout.com.au.