virgin bushland and flying saucer mystery



In Melbourne's southwest, about 5 minutes drive from a major industrial centre, is a shining jewel: six and a half hectares of virgin bushland. The Grange Heathland Reserve has never been logged or developed. The result is an inspiring biodiverse ecosystem. 48 bird species and 230 plant species have been recorded, as well as reptiles, frogs and insects.

In the past the Reserve would have been home to a large variety of mammals. Today there are just four species of mammals: brushtail and ringtail possums and two species of bats. An uncomfortable reminder that Australia has the highest mammal extinction rate of any other country in the world.

Bracken

The Reserve sits on the side of an ancient sand dune. The sandy soil means that high up on the dune tree cover is sparse and bracken is the dominant ground cover.  In the middle of the Reserve there are medium sized trees, with low lying shrubs and a dense ground layer. There is also a lower, swampy part, with plants that tolerate water logging.

Eucalyptus cephalocarpa , Silver Leaved Stringybark -  with plastic bags
Acacia oxycedrus,  Spike Wattle
Correa reflexa, Common Correa, Native Fuschia

Australia has more hollow dwelling species than any other country. In the absence of birds like woodpeckers, it takes hundreds of years for a tree to form a hollow. When trees are logged, they never get the opportunity to create hollows.


This strange plant is a Hyacinth Orchid, not yet in flower. It is leafless, and emerges from the dry sand.

Dipodium punctatum, Hyacinth Orchid
As if the marvellous bush habitat wasn't enough of a drawcard, this place is also the site of a UFO mystery that has never been solved. In 1966 teachers and students at the local primary and secondary schools saw what looked like a flying saucer hover above them, before moving off to land on a grassy paddock at the Reserve. The police and army cordoned off a circle of burned and flattened grass, and children were told not to talk about it. This convinced many people that it was a government conspiracy, and a TV documentary was made about the subject. It was called Westall '66: A Suburban UFO Mystery.


This incident is commemorated by the flying saucer in the playground next to the bushland reserve.



Comments

  1. I really like hearing of the unsolved mysteries of UFOs. It does make one wonder if a conspiracy lurks. I enjoyed the visit to the reserve in a place I will never see firsthand. I visit many reserves here, but will never have the fortune of those abroad. Thanks for the tour and story.

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    1. so pleased you enjoyed the post,Donna

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  2. That Hyacinth Orchid is something special--I've never seen anything like that before! And I didn't realize that Australia had the highest mammal extinction rate. That is sad. What a lovely place you've shown us. Thank you!

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    1. Hi Beth, it was a shame the orchid wasn't flowering, I plan to go back and hopefully take a photo of one in flower.

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  3. Thanks for sharing this fabulous spot. What a shame there's only 4 species of mammals that make their home in the reserve these days. We're a country that needs to do something more about preserving habitat for our native wildlife.

    I had never heard of that UFO sighting before. Strange.

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    1. Our native wildlife seems to be a very low priority for this current government. The Grange is administered by the local government area of City of Kingston, and they have done a good job. The road leading to the carpark is being damaged by tree roots. Rather than removing trees, they are moving the road.

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  4. It's so good to find you have some ancient habitat near to you, all these spots need protecting for future generations to enjoy. I loved the story of the UFO and that the children now have one to play in!

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    1. hI Pauline, the flying saucer in the playground is very cute. It is wonderful and unexpected to have ancient habitat in an urban area.

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  5. What's the history? How did that swathe of land escape being developed, or farmed? No mice or rodents? Wonderful to have bits of Long Live the Wilderness Yet!

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    1. In 1980 plans were drawn up to develop the Grange as a housing estate. But locals objected and won when the local council bought the bush block, and have been managing it ever since. It's a real good news story.

      About the rodents: in 1999 a feral proof fence was built around the reserve. Rangers working there keep an eye out for any feral animals, and deal with weeds.

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  6. I watched 2 video clips. Did they ever find Tanya?

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    1. Like the rest of the story, what happened to Tanya remains a mystery. She wasn't mentioned again in the video.

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  7. Why have the mammals become extinct? Is it all from man's activities or are other factors at play? The story of the UFO was fascinating. I also wondered what happened to Tanya!

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    1. A recently released report lays most of the blame for the extinctions onto feral cats - estimated to number between 10 and 20 million all over Australia. The cats were brought here from England by settlers in the 1790s as pets. More details at http://gulfnews.com/news/world/other-world/feral-cats-behind-extinction-of-australia-mammals-1.1343034

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  8. Hope no one steps onto that hyacinth orchid! Re video about the UFO, so many people saw the something... definitely something extraordinary happened... ;-)

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    1. I think it's interesting that the film maker saw it as a kind of abuse to children.

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  9. I just discovered your blog and really enjoyed the post on composting. We have just moved to the country and I finally have room for a vegetable garden. My daughter is a composter and i've been getting tips from her. I can not believe the difference it makes in the soil. For years I have been throwing gold into the trash bin . . . it makes me feel a bit guilty.
    Great blog!!!
    Connie :)

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    1. Thank you so much, Connie, you've made my day. Good luck with your new veggie garden.

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  10. What a great spot to visit with a native fuschia....and a great legend/story...love UFO stories as I have had a bit of experience....wink, wink! :)

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    1. now you've got us all curious ... ?

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  11. What a wonderful reserve. So nice to see things like that protected and much appreciated by you and others. Thanks. JC

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  12. thanks, JC. With so many awful things happening with the environment, it's a relief to be able to present a good news story.

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  13. I don't know what caught my fancy more -- the Hyacinth orchid or the UFO.

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