Grass-trees are unusual-looking, characteristically Australian plants with numerous long and narrow stiff leaves at ground level or at the top of a thick trunk-like stem. We have two or three species locally. The small grass-tree is a trunkless species that is flowering in forest both north and south of Ballarat at present. Although flowering is often significantly increased after a bushfire or a burn, a fire is not necessary for flower-spikes to appear. The plants in the photo have not been burnt for many years. They are growing at Mt Beckworth, near their northern limit in the Ballarat district. The small grass-tree is common through the Enfield - Scarsdale - Linton Forests, as well as at Creswick. The larger austral grass-tree has a more restricted range, being found here mostly at Canadian and Lal Lal, as well as further afield north of Beaufort, and in the Brisbane Ranges. This is the species with a trunk, a much longer flower-spike, and a "skirt" of gracefully arching leaves. A third species was reported a few years ago in Woowookarung Regional Park. This one has similarities to the other two local species and is proving difficult to identify positively from them. The flower-heads on the tall stalks of grass-trees are comprised of hundreds of small flowers clustered together in a long vertical flower-head. To a botanist, this arrangement is a "spike", being a group of stalkless flowers on a stem. These scented flowers are attractive to ants, butterflies, bees, beetles and numerous other nectar-attracted insects. Birds and mammals sometimes visit them, too. Grass-trees are slow-growing and long-lived. Despite their slow trunk growth, they resprout more rapidly than most other plants after bushfires and burns. Glossy ibis, red-kneed dotterel and brolga were some of the highlights of a recent bird outing to Clunes. A couple of well-vegetated swamps provide suitable habitat for these and other waterbirds, with species such as purple swamphen, white-faced heron, white-necked heron and black-tailed native-hen being present in larger numbers than are normally encountered in the Ballarat district. Bushbirds seen near Clunes on the same day included yellow-tufted and black-chinned honeyeaters, restless flycatcher, rainbow bee-eater, purple-crowned lorikeet and white-browed babbler, most of which do not occur closer to Ballarat. An impressive total of 72 species was recorded on the day. Large numbers of black-tailed native-hens are also present at Lake Goldsmith. Sharp-tailed sandpipers, red-necked stints and other waterbirds are using this wetland too, with numerous ducks on the water, and herons, spoonbills and egrets around the edges. Among the ducks are chestnut teal, pink-eared duck and Australasian shoveler. I took this photo of a fly that landed on my shed wall. It flew like a slow black blowfly but when it landed with wings out I thought it was a moth. It was about 15mm long. R.H., Ballarat East. This is a charcoal bee-fly, a native insect that is widespread but not common. There are numerous different bee-flies, many of them like yours with dark or partially-dark wings. Others have striped abdomens. Most bee-flies have long wings, often held partially outstretched at rest. Their bodies are stout and hairy, and their legs are longer than those of most other flies. The vary in size from small to large, with the largest Australian species having a wingspan of 70 mm. These flies feed mostly on nectar from flowers, and they hover between short bursts of flight. They do not sting. Their larvae are parasitic on other insects.