For my May Field Trip I decided to go somewhere that I haven’t been before – Matong State Forest.
Matong is a small village of less than 200 people, and the state forest area is nestled within the surrounding farmland. It turned out to be bigger than I had expected, although I’m not sure what the actual size of the forest is.
The little patches of state forest dotted around the region make me curious about what the landscape was like before it was cleared for agriculture. By local standards these forest areas are quite densely vegetated, and as you’ll see in some of my photos later, the surrounding farmland is often quite tree-less. My understanding is that the state forest reserves were (maybe still are?) managed for timber production, so it’s possible that the density of the timber is a result of the management regimes. This may be the reason why so many of them are dominated by cypress pine as well, but I really don’t know enough about it. Was the surrounding farmland once as thickly treed as the remaining pockets of cypress pine forest, or are they both the result of human management within the past 150 years, and the original vegetation density across the landscape was somewhere between? (And on that note, was the pre-European vegetation density also the result of human management? I’m guessing yes, but to what extent? I need to do more reading on this subject.)
In any case, there was ample evidence that the cypress pines in this particular patch of forest are readily regenerating from seed, with many young plants and emerging saplings present.
There were a few eucalypts and casuarinas scattered throughout, some of them quite large, and the occasional wattles and hop bushes here and there, but the site was largely dominated by cypress pines, so the early part of my excursion turned into an investigation of the development of cypress pine flowers and cones.
I also got a few nice detail shots of:
Acacia phyllodes and developing flower buds (note the pronounced oil glands on the phyllodes)
Hop bush leaves and emerging flowers (I think these are female flowers)
I followed this unidentified bird around for a while, but didn’t manage to get either a good view or a good photo – at least, nothing that could help me identify it.
I then made a very fun discovery. Apparently a group of kangaroos had passed along the track while it was sticky from a recent light rain shower.
Just look at the detail that was captured by the clay – the junction between toe and nail, the very texture of the skin on the bottoms of the feet. I spent a good while checking out these footprints.
Near the prints I also saw a mud nest (possibly either choughs or apostlebirds, I saw both onsite although not near the nest, but it might have belonged to someone else). This was an interesting contrast to the mud nests I more frequently see, such as those in Narrandera Common, which are made of the grey clay found in those locations, whilst this site has red clay, and thus red nests.
I also chanced upon some dramatically contrasting cypress pine foliage on some saplings. At a guess these are different species, but I’m having trouble finding information that isn’t about timber quality.
Shortly afterward I came across a group of what I’m pretty sure were grey-crowned babblers, but I lost them when I stopped to take a photo of this stick nest (possibly their own nest). Don’t ask me about the logic of stopping to take a photo of a nest that wasn’t going anywhere while trying to follow a group of very mobile birds, these are things that only ever seem to occur to me retrospectively.
By this time I had very little idea of where I was relative to the gate I’d come in by, so I decided to find my way out by following the boundary fence. This tactic more-or-less worked, I did find a gate, but it wasn’t the one I’d entered by, and it was on an entirely different road. So now I’m a bit more familiar with the backroads near Matong.
While following the boundary fence I came across this red-capped robin and willie wagtail hanging out on the fence.
The robin stuck around for a while, and I got a few photos of him.
This little brown bird also showed up on the same stretch of fence, and I’m guessing she’s a female red-capped robin, but I didn’t get a good enough look or photo to be sure.
Sadly, a bit further down the fenceline I came across the remains of some kangaroos that were caught up on the top wires by their feet, and must have died like that. Wildlife-friendly fencing is something that I wish more people would adopt, because that’s such a terrible way for anything to die. I also saw what was either a dog with a very fluffy tail, or a very large fox running into the trees. So that was a bit of a down-note to end my trip on.
See you next month.