I grew up in the Latrobe Valley, in a small town called Churchill. Just 5 minutes drive out of Churchill is the lovely Morwell National Park. Featuring some wonderful remnant bushland, stunningly tall gums, fernery and a meandering creek, it is an oasis of natural wonder and an example of what at least some of the area would have been like prior to white settlement and mass land-clearing.
A walk in Morwell National Park begins in an oval-shaped carpark, which is constantly damp. The air is fresh, yet heavy and smells strongly of the many eucalyptus growing around you. Occasionally you’ll hear the cry of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos as they move from treetop to treetop high over your head. Cocking your head upwards, you’ll typically see them in pairs; reflecting the mate-for-life they form and sustain.
Above: The author’s son arriving at entry to Morwell National Park and about to commence Foster’s Gully Walk.
As you begin your walk proper into the park, you’ll find it amazing just how much surface area is covered in mosses of all sorts. It’s like a velvety green carpet over almost everything that isn’t moving. The gums above shelter the ground below from much of the Sun, even in summer, allowing the moss free reign, along with mushrooms and toadstools and their fellow decomposers to break down any organic material. It’s a good thing too – if it weren’t for these decomposers, our forests and parks would be endless layers of dead material, constantly accumulating.
Above: The author’s son walking into Morwell National Park.
Eventually you reach a point in the park where it descends close to a running creek. The creek is always running, suggesting it is spring-fed rather than relying purely on local rainfall. It is around this time you may hear something unusual coming from the surrounding bush – sometimes it’s identifiable as a bird call like a whip-bird — welcome to the habitat of the Superb Lyrebird.
The Superb Lyrebird is a native bird to this part of Australia. A dusky-coloured bird, it is easily identified by its enormous and elaborate tail, almost pheasant-like in its complexity. The Lyrebird is important to these sorts of environments – it helps spread seeds and disperse material on the forest floor as part of its almost chicken-like rummaging. Unlike a chicken, the Lyrebird can fly, although it isn’t great at it and at best uses it to reach branches out of the reach of curious walkers like myself!
But what really makes the Superb Lyrebird special is its incredible mimicry. The Lyrebird is often heard before it is seen. It is often heard mimicking the sounds of other animals, other birds, even sounds it’s heard from exposure to humans, as recorded with Lyrebirds kept in captivity.
Note: If you’re interested in bushwalks in native bushland and are ever in the Latrobe Valley region, Morwell National Park is close to the town of Churchill. Another more extensive national park system is south of the town of Traralgon, called Tarra-Bulga National Park.