Saturday Evening Post #28 Brightening up the Grey Box Forest

For EE and I it was time for our annual pilgrimage across town  for an evening with friends.
As we pondered the going, there was a moment’s pause while we contemplated “It will be Thursday Evening before the Easter Holiday break, and by about 4:00pm the roads are going to clog up with holiday traffic and the RIng-road will be at a standstill, moan, moan, complain.”

Ah, says she, with a smile, and always full of bright ideas, why don’t we leave after lunch, take a picnic snack, and go early to visit Woodlands Historic Park and look for Robins, then we’ll only have a short drive to our evening destination.

We did, and arrived at the Werroona Carpark in plenty of time.  Then “Dolly” got ready for her maiden trip into the Bandicoot Hilton, also known locally as “The Backpaddock”.

Poor old Grey Box forest is showing the signs of no rain for several months.  Not such a big deal to the venerable Grey Box themselves, they are quite adept at surviving in hostile environments. But the understory, and particularly the moss beds that the Robins depend on over winter are simply dry dust.

As we walked down toward the Backpaddock gate, we mused about the lack of birds, and how in past seasons, there would have been Red-capped Robin activity visible from the roadway. At the height of the best seasons several years ago, we had 15-20 pair of Red-capped Robin territories mapped.  The pair we named “Lockey and Primrose” were always ready to pop out along the road near the cemetery to watch our progress past.  There are quite a few posts on the blog of our interaction with this gracious pair.

When I first started photographing out in the backpaddock, my friend Ray, who taught me so much about the area, and the birds out there, would often stop and chat with me inside the gate.  A male Red-capped Robin, would usually come by, sit on a branch nearby and listen to our conversations.
These days not one of those territories exists. In a strange turn of events since the introduction of the Eastern Bandicoot programme in the backpaddock, the number of Red-caps has been decimated. I’m not suggesting a link, just a co-incidence.

We walked the usual (old) kangaroo pads, through the forest, but did not see or hear any robin activity.  More walking, and then Dolly took a swerve off the path, and we headed into the forest proper. Dolly is not 4WD, so it was not going to be a long journey.  When just in front of me I saw a splash of red on a stump. Heart races, point camera, yes, indeed.
It’s a Flame Robin male.

We were able to work with him for about 20 minutes, hoping all the while that his clan would turn up, but as the light began to fade and our departure for the evening was closing in, it was time to go.

But, we did have a feel that there is life in the old Grey Box forest yet.


7 thoughts on “Saturday Evening Post #28 Brightening up the Grey Box Forest

  1. Lovely to see the Robin, it is a shame that the numbers in the area have declined so much!
    A wise move to travel early on Easter Thursday to miss the traffic and to see this handsome fellow.
    We so desperately need the rain to maintain the vital ecosystems. Speaking of which, the ‘ne’er do wells’ and malcontents managed to burn out quite a section of Glen Orden early Wednesday morning, hopefully new growth will appear soon but some rain would definitely help.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. G,day,
      Hmm, I hadn’t been to Glen Orden for awhile. Was waiting for it to be a wetlands again. 🙂
      I think those grassland flats can deal with fire pretty well, and bounce back, but it does speak volumes of the stupidity of the fb generation


  2. Your experience is akin to ours with the lack of birds due to the drought. Flame Robin made it all worth while, and a beautiful specimen at that. Sure would like to be there when the Red caps are back, they continue to be mt target bird for this year and continue to not see them in the only local spot I know they have been see in the past. I was planning coming your way this month but our work situations changed that so we ended only a short week north, as we have blogged. Like you we have kept off the roads this holiday weekend, went to the Easter Sow yesterday by bus was great to see the woodchop as always. My current work contract expires this week so I will be praying and pondering what’s next. We have been considering a birding B&B in the future, but only considering at this stage. An enjoyable weekend to you both!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Hello AB.
      Woodlands Park, near the cemetery once was a honey-pot for Red-capped Robins, regarded by most as the closest spot to the Melbouren CBD to see them.
      No doubt there are pairs there, but the poor old Grey Box forest is only a shadow of its former self. And the need to administer the feral proof Backpaddock area for the sake of the Eastern Barred Bandicoot programme also means that the numbers of free ranging Eastern Grey Kangaroos are no longer in large enough numbers in there to maintain the forest.
      How so, well, anecdotally, I believe that the same ‘roos due to their layover pads and their droppings maintain an insect population that is the major food source for the Robins. Also the area where they layover is well ‘cultivated’ and provides a rich habitat for certain small saltbush. These have a small red berry that is eaten by insects that ingest the caratone from the berries, and the birds eat the bugs for the caratone, which provides the red colour for the feathers. They are not able to manufacture the caratone, and must ingest it.
      Once the forest used to be cut with large numbers of their tracks, now, because the ‘roos eat the grass the banicoots need for shelter, they are ‘culled’ or relocated on a regular basis.
      I’ve no proof for any of these assertions, but something has changed, and its enough to have altered the Robins behaviour. At the height of the 7 year drought about 10 years back, the forest supported as many as 30 or more pair. And the Flames and Scarlets would come through in large numbers, I had around 70 working in an open moss area one morning.

      Hope the Easter Show was a great hit. What a grand time to have the show with such beaut weather.

      Talk more

      Liked by 1 person

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