Friday, 20 February 2015

Organ Pipes National Park

The small 121 hectare Organ Pipes National Park is located about 20km NW of Melbourne City on the Calder Highway opposite the Calder Raceway. While this park is best known for its geological features - Jacksons Creek has deeply incised the 2.5 – 2.8 million year old New Volcanic Group to expose impressive basalt column structures - the vegetation and associated birdlife is equally attractive.
For more information about the park and its geology and other history check out link:
The Organ Pipes - Jacksons Creek has exposed the basalt columns.
During a morning visit, 17 species of birds were seen on the short walk which descends steeply from the basalt plain and then follows Jacksons Creek in a narrow steep sided valley. The sign posted walk commences at the car park where there is a visitor information centre, picnic and toilet facilities.
The morning was cool and overcast however the birds were active affording a number of photo opportunities, though the low light was not ideal. One draw back to this park is its location just north of Melbourne Airport and being right under the flight path there was a regular stream of large passenger jets with engines roaring as they worked to gain altitude. The birds however showed no sign of being effected by the noise.
Path approaching Jacksons Creek and the Organ Pipes.
The park was created in 1972 based on 65 hectares of donated land, with additional land added the area is now 121 hectares. The degraded landscape has since been restored with removal of weeds and planting of many trees, shrubs and grasses. As a consequence there is an absence of older hollow bearing trees, so many nest boxes have been installed. A number of these were occupied by Common Brushtail Possums.
A scratch on the tree trunk with a stick below the nest box soon brought this possum’s head out to investigate the source of the scratching. Many birds and possums respond in this way, as they have no doubt been conditioned over thousands of years of evolution by predators such as Lace Monitors, which systematically search tree hollows for prey.   

While trying to identify some honeyeaters feeding high in a flowering eucalypt we found the somewhat elusive Crested Shrike-tit lower down in the same tree searching the bark for insects and spiders. This bird specializes in gleaning food from bark.

Crested Shrike-tit foraging for insects and spiders in the curled bark.
A couple of Dusky Woodswallows were busy just short of the Organ Pipes viewing area. The cause of their activity was soon discovered; they were feeding one young bird in an exposed nest located near the track in a dead wattle. On this visit by one of the parents, the young bird was keen to be fed however the adult bird had no food, it was just being protective at my approach. Feeding however did resume shortly after these photos were taken.
Feed me! The Dusky Woodswallow loose tangle nest is usually located in a tree hollow. As hollows are in short supply here this exposed location in a dead wattle had to do.
Sorry, no food this visit!
Some white wash on the basalt cliff above the organ pipes drew my attention as they indicated a possible raptor nest, especially a Peregrine Falcon nest. Scanning the cliff face a lone adult Peregrine was soon spotted resting on a rock ledge.
A perfect Peregrine resting and viewing ledge on cliff above the Organ Pipes and Jacksons Creek.
Lift off. I was lucky to capture the face and talons in focus as this shot was taken from quite some distance in low light with camera set on ISO2000, f/5.6 and shutter speed 1/500.
The Rosette Rock is a striking radial array of basalt columns. 
New Holland Honeyeater
New Holland Honeyeater with white beard showing.
At the viewing area for the Rosette Rock a small group of New Holland Honeyeaters were resting and preening following a bath in the creek. The photos show clearly why this species was once called White-bearded Honeyeater.
As we climbed back up the path to the car park three Rufous Whistlers followed close beside us as they foraged for insects in the dead wattles by the track. The male came close enough for some photos.
This male Rufous Whistler's pose looks like the bird is looking at me, however with eyes on the side of the head it is more likely looking for predators in the sky or for food on the nearby branch.
Perhaps the Whistler is now looking at me?
About 50 Tree Martins were busy hawking above the valley for small insect food and at times they came in close however their fast and erratic flight was beyond my camera’s auto-focus speed in the low light so no flight shots were possible. However one young bird, note the yellow gape, stopped for a rest in a dead tree by the track giving a photo opportunity, albeit against a bright sky background.
Juvenile Tree Martin.
As a nature escape from inner urban Melbourne I will definitely be visiting this small gem of a park again.

1 comment:

  1. It's been on my list of places to visit for some time, but I've not made it there yet, as Woodlands not too far away offers strong competition, but this interesting post will inspire me to try to get there soon.