The heathlands of Anglesea

It was a nature walk in search of the Rufous Bristlebird, an inconspicuous bird, but with a loud melodic call. The path took me towards Point Addis, a landmark some eight kilometres east of Anglesea, a little town on Victoria’s west coast.

The sign called it heathlands and raved about its masses of spring wildflowers – alas it was summer, and most of its flowers were long gone.

The rest of the sign, courtesy of the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee said:

“Coastal heathlands are classified as depleted in the Otway region as a result of land clearing for housing and agriculture.

Remnant areas such as this are further threatened by weed invasion and recreational pressures.

Heathland communities contain a vast array of indigenous plants including many rare orchids, and support a variety of native wildlife.”

It also told me that the tough wiry stems and prickly foliage of heathland communities provide protection, food and nesting sites for native wildlife.

These wildlife include the Southern Brown Bandicoot and the White Footed Dunnart – a small nocturnal carnivorous marsupial the size of a mouse. Along with the Rufous Bristlebird, these are all species of State or National significance.

I managed to see a lizard, a grasshopper and a very fast bird, whom was too fast for me to see if it was Rufous. It didn’t sound like him.

It was a rather desolate place this sort of plateau on the edge of crumbling cliffs by the side of the sea. Plants were arched from prevailing winds and must be regularly coated in salt laden spray. These impoverished soils and low summer rainfall contribute to a low growing or stunted landscape.What initially looked quite barren, suddenly was thriving. Sit there for a while, and you see that it is quite alive; and free.

Beyond the heathlands were some low growing gum trees and a rather steep hill. The climb rewarded me with this view to the west. It reminded me how lucky I was to have wandered through this little heathland on this very day; and still that Rufous Bristlebird, remains a mystery to me.

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