We had planned to go to have lunch with my sister today but she reneged because she had to pick up a new cat that was being flown in from interstate. We decided instead that we would go out to an area of rainforest to the north of Melbourne and see if we could find some more fungi to photograph.
It was a miserably cold day with rain and hail. Up in the mountains, the temperature was only 5C and it was raining intermittently. Not to be deterred, we donned our warm clothes and rain jackets and spent a couple of hours dong some photography. Jill is an excellent ‘spotter’ and she found many specimens of fungi that I had overlooked. There wasn’t nearly as much fungi as the last time we visited this area six or seven weeks ago so we concluded that fungi displays are really an autumn event rather than a winter one. Most of the fungi on the forest floor were quite tiny – about 1 or 2 centimetres across. Those growing on the trees where much larger.
As compensation for the lack of fungi, my day was made when I came across a lyrebird that was scratching around in the forest looking for grubs.
Lyrebirds are one of Australia’s species of ground-dwelling birds They have strong legs and feet and short rounded wings. They are very shy – often heard, but not so often seen. They are generally poor fliers and rarely take to the air except for periods of downhill gliding. I followed this female bird very quietly through the forest for a few metres and she stood still just long enough for me to squeeze off a couple of shots under the very dark forest canopy. This is a young bird – they lose the rufous colour on their breast after about four years of age. The male bird has a strikingly beautiful huge tail which it fans out above its body (to resemble the ancient lyre musical instrument) in its courtship display.
These birds are most notable for their superb ability to mimic natural and artificial sounds from their environment. They even seem to develop their own dialect. There is one colony of lyrebirds that live near a camping spot on the top of the Cathedral Range near Buxton called the ‘Farmyard’. It is so called because those birds imitate the sounds of the cattle and sheep in the valley below. Another colony in the mountains to the east of Melbourne imitate the sounds of a timber cutter’s axe and saw even through logging stopped in that area decades ago. No other lyrebirds have learned this sound, but these ones pass it down from one generation to another.
By lunch time, we were pretty cold and wet so we made our way down to Healesville and had lunch at the RACV Country Club again. They currently have a delicious ‘Christmas in July’ lunch with turkey and all the trimmings. It is a very nice tradition to have available on a cold winter’s day like this one. Our last task of the day was to find a carwash and remove all the mud from the mountain dirt roads off the car.