Discover the secret wonders of the Yea River and experience the diverse flora and fauna of the associated riverine wetlands.
The above map is a little hard to read. Obtain copies of the original from the Yea Tourist Information Centre, located at the Old Yea Railway Station.
Almost part of the township, the Yea River runs past the town's eastern boundary and often breaks its banks to form wetlands. With its River Red Gums, billabongs and wildlife, the area is a place to appreciate the beauty and solitude of our unique landscape.
This easy walk is 1 km long but shorter paths can be taken. From the John Cummins Reserve, follow the signs and map directions and commence the walk at the Information Board. This gives more detail of the wetlands.
Remember that this area is sometimes flooded, especially in winter-spring, and may not be accessible. Part of the charm of wetlands is their ever changing nature! Although bridges cross lowest areas, be prepared for some damp sections. Sturdy footwear or gumboots might very sensible.
The wild creatures that live here are shy and easily disturbed. Walk quietly and you will see and hear more of them. There may be cattle grazing at times - respect them too!
The first section of the walk takes you past attractive billabongs, Red Gums, the Yea River and its anabranch. To reach the rest of the walk and the following numbered points of interest, there are 3 access points in the form of stiles over the enclosing fence.
Here you overlook the permanent, and often swiftly flowing, Yea River. The explorers Hume and Hovell originally named it Muddy Creek. Platypus can sometimes be seen swimming on the surface. They close their eyes and ears underwater, as they search for food with their sensitive 'duck' bill.
River Red Gums dot this remnant grassy woodland. Notice the highly individual shapes of the old trees. Eucalypts are shaped from birth by insects that nibble, munch and suck on leaves. Common on flood plains, Red Gums are able to withstand months of flooding each year.
Some depressions retain water, often from seepage, throughout the year. In these billabongs, logs are an important feature. Can you see the bird droppings? Here birds such as Darters, Cormorants and Kingfishers can perch and watch for prey. All waterbirds need nearby perches where they can rest, sun themselves and digest their food.
Although much of the original native vegetation has altered, this hardy, fine leafed Common Tussock-grass has remained. But settlement has brought some particularly invasive weeds such as Phalaris flower heads and its liking for damp situations. Controlled cattle grazing, although causing disturbance to the soil, is sometimes necessary to curb the growth of Phalaris and to reduce the risk of fire.
Temporary wetlands may only retain water for a short time but it is enough to start the cycle of renewal. Rotting vegetation is broken down by bacteria and fungi to become food for the invertebrates - and then for the frogs and birds. Herons and Spoonbills like to wade in shallow water looking for prey. Others, such as Ducks, Black Swans, Coots, Swamp Hens and Moorhens can often be seen foraging for plants and seeds on land as well as in the water.
This is a great spot to pause and look around you. Listen for birds and examine the ancient Red Gum nearby. It may be home to many creatures, perhaps even the tiny Feathertail Glider. Only very old trees develop the hollows needed by possums, bats and birds to nest and shelter. How many young saplings are growing to eventually replace the older trees?
Bell Miners, with their distinctive 'tink-tink' call have recently arrived in a stretch of the river. Unusual north of the Divide, they form densely packed exclusive colonies, driving other birds away. They feed on both insects and nectar.
Garden escapees can be horrible pests in the bush! They might look pretty but thick stands of exotic honeysuckle, ivy and willows can swamp other vegetation, altering food sources, habitat and also nutrient levels in the soil and streams. In parts of the Reserve you will see the natural vegetation beginning to recover after the removal of willows.
This stream is called an anabranch. When a river flows over relatively flat ground, overflowing water is often forced out to form other channels, which may rejoin the main stream downstream. The shrub with small leaves on the bank is tea tree or Burgan and has prolific creamy white flowers in summer.
Another tree of wet places is the Swamp Gum with its wide leaves. It has shallow roots and may be dislodged by strong winds if nearby clearing has taken place. The flowers appear from autumn to spring. Eucalypt flowers, and the insects that come to feed on them, are an essential source of food for many birds, possums and gliders.
Listen, as you walk, for the calls of frogs. You might even see one if you watch quietly. The call of each species is different. How many frogs can you hear? A lot of frogs mean healthy wetlands.
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