Echidnas

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We love these funny little animals.  I love the way they waddle about without a care, with their nose upturned, totally ignoring the world around them.

We saw our first echidna at Coolarts Park and since then we seem to see them wherever we go: at the Point Nepean National Park a few times and the Two Bays Walking track both times we’ve travelled along there too.

Echidna - Two Bays Walking Track

Echidna – Two Bays Walking Track

Like the platypus, the echidna is an egg-laying mammal, known as a monotreme.  The echidna is also known as a spiny anteater although they are not related to other anteaters.

Echidna at Point Nepean National Park

Echidna at Point Nepean National Park

The female will lay an egg, then place it into her pouch where it hatches approximately ten days later.    The baby echidna or puggle stays in the pouch for around 45 days feeding on its mother’s milk.  Around 45 days it will start to grow spines at which point the mother will dig a burrow where the baby will stay until it is weaned at seven months.

Echidna at Coolarts

Echidna at Coolarts

Greens Bush to Bushrangers Bay

Greens Bush

Greens Bush

There are two great walks to Bushrangers Bay.  A slightly longer version starts at Cape Schank.  We tried that back in November 2012 and loved it.  It was simply abundant with so many different animals.  We saw a huge echidna, some swamp wallabies, Eastern grey kangaroos, were told of a tiger snake that another walker had seen further along the track (we didn’t see it though), a water dragon and many many birds.

For a bit of variety, we thought we try to walk that starts at Greens Bush.  We thought it would be hard to beat our previous walk which ranked as one of our favourites, but it definitely came close, if not an equal match.  Park at the Greens Bush car park at the side of Boneo Road (between Flinders and Cape Schank).  Round trip to Bushrangers Bay back to the car park is about 5km.

It was a warm summer’s day.  We set off after a light picnic lunch in the picnic area at the start of the walk.  We weren’t expecting to see much to start off as we thought it was probably too warm for the kangaroos to be out and about.  Then I spotted these two along the side of the path.

Mum with Joey

Mum with Joey

Then it was hard not to spot kangaroos.  It seemed like they were around every corner.  We found a lovely mum with joey in pouch.  She had some blood down her front where we suspect she’d got caught on a fence, but she seemed pretty mobile even with her big joey in the pouch so we assumed it was more superficial.

Mum with joey in pouch

Mum with joey in pouch

Just after we’d been so thrilled to see the joeys, we bumped into an echidna.  He seemed totally oblivious to us and just kept rooting around in the dirt for whatever it was he was enjoying.  I could have stayed watching him for ages but the beach was waiting for us.

Echidna - Two Bays Walking Track

Echidna – Two Bays Walking Track

The walk from Cape Schank follows the coast along the cliff top and is pretty spectacular.

Map of Bushrangers Bay

Map of Bushrangers Bay

The Greens Bush route cuts through bushland with countryside views until you near the coast then once again you privileged to see simply sea spectacular views.  The closer you get, the more impressive are the views until you arrive at the top of the steps that lead down to the bay itself.

Bushrangers Bay

Bushrangers Bay

The steps are steep but wide.  Average fitness is needed but you may need to take it easy on the way back up.  The view is just as spectacular from the bay itself.  The water is crystal clear and you get a feeling of what Australia must have been like for the first settlers.  There’s no mobile phone reception, no modern technology is visible, it’s just raw, breathtaking scenery.   Volcanic rocks blend with the silver sand and the crystal water.  When we went we had a cloudless cyan blue sky too and the light was amazing.

Bushrangers Bay

Bushrangers Bay

Walk along the sands, then over the rocks and you’ll discover lots of rockpools.  We sat on the rocks listening to the waves crashing against the rocks while we relaxed with some snacks.  The children wandered around the pools looking for sea stars and anemones and then we took a gentle stroll back along the shore.  The sun was getting low in the sky by now and it was very atmospheric.

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Then we started the somewhat arduous walk back up the steps, paused at the top to catch our breath and once again relive the view.  Then we headed back the way we came.

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The journey back saw once again abundant roos and we heard of another tiger snake sighting but we didn’t see it.  We did catch a glimpse of a very shy wallaby in the bush though.

Once again Bushrangers Bay didn’t fail to deliver.  Lovely walk and would recommend it if you enjoy a bit of a hike with wonderful animals to view along the way.

Bushrangers Bay

Bushrangers Bay

Mornington Peninsula National Park – Highfield

DSC00582Just off the Boneo Road between Cape Schank and Flinders is Highfield, part of the Mornington Peninsula National Park.

Blink and you’ll miss the turning off the road – you do need to be looking for it or you’ll miss it.  Which we quite like as it’s never very busy.

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Highfield

Highfield

If you like kangaroos, this is the best place to come on the Peninsula to view them.  The Mornington Peninsula National Park has the largest population of Eastern Grey Kangaroos on the Peninsula.  And you won’t be disappointed.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Mornington Penisula National Park

Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Mornington Penisula National Park

Walk through the gate, and either take the track to the rangers’ station or head along the bush track.  Don’t visit too early; on hot days the kangaroos will sleep in the bracken to miss the heat of the sun during the day.  Nonetheless, take a jumper as it gets surprisingly cool in the evenings.  And insect repellent!

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Walk quietly and have your camera ready as the further you walk into the park, you’ll start seeing heads pop up through the ferns then another and another.  Then you’ll see one or two hopping away or in front of you.  Perhaps a joey feeding from a mother’s pouch.

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We love it here.  We’ll often stop off on our way home just to see the kangaroos and we get such a lift from seeing these magnificent animals in their natural habitat.

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Port Phillip Bay views from Mt Martha

The Esplanade, Mt Martha, looking towards Dromana

The Esplanade, Mt Martha, looking towards Dromana

 

I take so many of these photos and each time I’m blown away but still can’t help taking another one next I’m passing.  The plants along the cliff face are full of wildlife.  In particular, there’s a black shouldered kite who is often perched on a tree along the side of the road.

The Esplanade, Mt Martha looking towards Portsea

The Esplanade, Mt Martha looking towards Dromana

TThese photos were all taken by Bradford Road, on the Esplanade between Mt Martha and Safety Beach.  Summer 2013.

Dromana, viewed from The Esplanade, Mt Martha

Dromana, viewed from The Esplanade, Mt Martha

Sulphur-crested cockatoos

Naughty cockatoo enjoying a treat

Naughty cockatoo enjoying a treat

These birds just make me laugh.  They are so funny with their loud squawking as they fly overhead calling to each other.  And should you be lucky enough to see a few gathered together, the volume of noise is incredible.  We once counted 15 in the tree opposite our house.

I was walking our dog this evening locally to where we live in Mt Martha and heard the telltale squawking.  It didn’t take long to find him.  One very naughty cockatoo who was enjoying a treat in an apple tree.  He was very pleased with himself and spent a good 5 minutes devouring his titbit.

Enjoying some fruit

An apple a day …

He then followed me down the road to squawk at me further from a telegraph pole.

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Little Wattlebird

Little wattle bird in agapanthus

Little wattlebird in our garden

The little wattlebird may not be the most exotic of birds but they are full of character and we love to watch them in the garden.  On warm mornings, we like to sit outside eating our breakfast and drinking our coffee and the little wattlebird regularly keeps us company, hooting away as he lands on the flowers in the garden.  His favourite is the agapanthus, banksia flowers and even geraniums.  I’ve also seen him swooping through the air during the early evenings, catching the insects with amazing dexterity.

There are 3 wattle birds native to Australia, the little wattlebird, the red wattlebird and the yellow wattlebird.  The little wattlebird is the smallest of the wattle birds and is a medium to large sized honeyeater.  They are found throughout Tasmania, South Eastern and South Western Australia.

They prefer dry, scrubby habitats and can be found in banksia heaths, forests, woodlands and urban parks and gardens.

Little wattlebirds feed on nectar, insects, flowers, berries and seeds.  They have a long, brush tipped tongue that probes deeply into flowers to obtain nectar.

We love their hooting call as they land on our banksia tree or our agapanthus.

Little wattlebird in agapanthus
Little Wattle Bird

Little wattlebird in agapanthus

Emus

Emu at The Briars, Mt Martha

Emu at The Briars, Mt Martha

We love emus.  The first time we came across them, I was a bit wary as they are very big and I’ve seen captive emus in wildlife parks pecking quite viciously when people have been feeding them.  However, I was soon reassured by these beautiful creatures.  We do make sure we’re quiet and don’t alarm them and in return they show a lively curiosity and approach us as though to say hello, check what we’re up to, then go on their way again.  They are now a firm favourite of ours and are guaranteed to make us smile with their funny mannerisms.  I always feel so privileged when we come across them on a walk.

Emus, The Briars

Emus, The Briars

These emus were introduced to The Briars, Mt Martha as chicks towards the end of 2011.

Emu Facts

Standing up to 2 metres high, the Emu is Australia’s largest native bird and is common over most of mainland Australia except heavily populated areas, dense forests and arid areas.

They can travel long distances quite quickly in their search for food, feeding on a variety of plants and insects.  Like other birds, they also ingest stones to grind food in their digestive system.   They drink infrequently but in copious amounts when the opportunity arises. They like water and are known to sit in it and even swim.   They are curious birds who follow and watch other animals and humans.

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The emu’s plumage varies from region to region to match their environment. It also allows the emus to regulate their body temperature effectively and allows them to be active during the midday heat.

Male and female emus look very similar.  They breed in May and June and are not monogamous. The male does most of the incubation with the eggs hatching after around eight weeks.  The the young are nurtured by their fathers.  They reach full size after around six months but can remain with their family until the next breeding season.

Emus life expectancy is between 10 and 20 years in the wild.  They are predated by dingos, eagles and hawks.

The Emu has good eyesight and hearing. Its legs are among the strongest of any animals, powerful enough to tear down metal wire fences.

Emu, The Briars, Mt Martha

Emu, The Briars, Mt Martha

The Briars Park, Homestead and Wetlands in Mt Martha

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The Briars Homestead and Wetlands is managed by the shire of Mornington.  It is situated in Mt Martha, just off the Nepean Highway.   The driveway from the highway is quite long and you quickly forget you were anywhere near a main road.  Cattle wander along the drive amid farming relics of bygone days that litter the fields.  It’s all very picturesque and rather romantic.

Antiques farming from a bygone era

Farming Relics

The Briars’ Homestead

The homestead sits amidst 230 hectares of wonderful bushland, packed full of native flora and fauna.  It is steeped in history.  The homestead was the former family home of the Balcombe family from 1846 until 1976 when the owners donated the homestead to the National Trust while the farm was sold to Mornington Shire who subsequently developed the farm area as a park and native wildlife reserve.

The Briars’ Homestead is famous for its historic links to Napoleon.  Although Napoleon never came to Australia, he did stay at the Balcombe’s estate in St Helena while he was in exile.  This was also called The Briars.  Napoleon was treated like family during his stay and became very close to the Balcombes.   In 1824 the Balcombe family moved to Sydney when William Balcombe was appointed First Colonial Treasurer. William’s son, William, was given a land grant in NSW and he named it The Briars after their St Helena home.  Alexander, another son, lived there for some time before moving to Schnapper Point at Mornington and settling at Tichingorouk whose name he later changed to The Briars.  The Balcombe family has a very interesting family history, more of which can be read here: Balcombe Family History

The Briars Homestead is open to the public between 10am and 4pm. An entry fee applies to enter the homestead.

Walking Tracks at The Briars

Kur-bur-rer Walk

Kur-bur-rer Walk

There are a number of different tracks to choose from.  If you’re lucky, you’ll see a koala or two.  We often see swamp wallabies and occasionally grey kangaroos.  There are also 3 emus roaming around the park, introduced in late 2011 and quite happy for walkers to come across them while they’re strutting through the bush.  Tiger snakes and Lowland copperhead snakes are a part of the landscape so please take care on warmer days.  You may also see a blue tongued lizard or a skink along the dirt track.

Access to the park reserve is free.  The gates are open from 9am and close at 4.30pm.  The park is closed on days of high fire risk.

Emus at The Briars, Mt Martha

Emus at The Briars, Mt Martha

Wetland Walk
Commencing at the gate on the eastern side of the Visitor Centre, this 350 metre boardwalk leads to the Boonoorong and Chechingurk hides. The area, once part of the farm, has been planted with indigenous species and includes several wetlands built on the Balcombe Creek floodplain. This walk connects with the Tichingoroke Link and the Wetlands Viewpoint another 400 metres on. The Viewpoint is not wheelchair or pushchair accessible.

The Wetlands

The Wetlands

Woodland Walk
The Woodland and Kur-Bur-Rer Walks commence at the gate on the western side of the Visitor Centre and lead across Stockleys Creek to the Balcombe Creek ford and bridge. Turn right for the 2 kilometre Woodland Walk. At first the path meanders through high quality Manna and Swamp Gum woodland and then more open country where cattle once grazed.  Koalas can sometimes be spotted in the manna gums and swamp wallabies in the bush.  After approximately 1 kilometre is the Wetlands Viewpoint from which the Tichingoroke Link leads back to the wetlands, hides and Visitor Centre.

Woodland Walk

Woodland Walk

Kur-Bur-Rer Walk
This walk, of approximately 4 kilometres, is named after the Boonoorong name for the Koala. From Balcombe Creek, take the fire trail on the left uphill for a short distance and cross the stile on the left to commence the walk. Koalas are often spotted around K1 and emus are regularly spotted along the fence line.  Eastern Grey Kangaroos hide in the grassy woodlands a bit further along. Upon reaching the fire trail again, cross directly over and the vegetation soon changes again to a dense scrub woodland as you descend to Balcombe Creek. The walk then follows the creek with great views of reed swamps and farmland to the south before reaching the Wetlands Viewpoint. Choose between the Tichingoroke Link and the Woodland Walk to return to the Visitor Centre.

Emu on the Kur-bur-rer Track

Emu on the Kur-bur-rer Track

Balcombe and Harrap Creek Walkways
From the Briars Visitor Centre these walks lead west to Mount Martha Beach and north to Craigie Road respectively. Turn right about 250 metres along the path for the Harrap Creek walkway. The creek has formed a steep-sided valley which is unique on the Mornington Peninsula. It is approximately 850 metres to Craigie Road and you can continue as far as Civic Reserve in Mornington.

The Balcombe Creek walkway takes you under Nepean Highway to the Balcombe Estuary Boardwalk – seven kilometres return. The vegetation along the estuary is mostly Swamp Scrub of paperbark trees. The creek is the last unspoilt waterway entering Port Phillip Bay.

Wetlands
The Boonoorong and Chechingurk Bird Hides can be reached via the boardwalk from the Visitors Centre.  Bring your binoculars and your camera as there’s always interesting birds to spot around the wetlands.  We’ve seen yellow spoonbills, swamp harriers, purple swamp hens, black swans, dotterels, great egret, herons as well as the ubiquitous coots, moorhens and ducks. This walk is suitable for wheelchairs and visitors of all abilities.

Great Egret - Tichingorouk Lake

Great Egret – Tichingorouk Lake

Other things to do:

The visitor centre located by the car park is staffed by very helpful and knowledgeable rangers who will tell you where you are most likely to spot wildlife.  There is a large visual plan of the estate and lots of information on the flora and fauna within the estate.

There are also the gardens to visit, a vineyard,  a nursery specialising in indigenous plants  a picnic area with BBQ facilities, Josephine’s restaurant and a sustainable living and gardening display at the Eco Living Display Centre.

Swamp Wallaby, The Briars

Swamp Wallaby, The Briars