Editor’s and President’s Piece

Welcome to our Petyan edition of our newsletter. My apologies for a late and rather brief newsletter. Time has run away from me yet again and you need to get it in time. Between going to England for my son’s wedding , having the newlyweds here on a visit and preparing for the Wildflower Walkabout in Halls gap this weekend this newsletter has had little priority. Better luck next time.

We have had three group activities since the last newsletter, and the committee made a submission to Ararat Council on an application for a commercial helipad in Pomonal.

Our next activity is coming up very soon, October 17 is our AGM. Details are on the calendar page, but I do want to reiterate the importance of electing officebearers, mixing newcomers with the longer term members. FOGG has been in existence for 30 years by now and some of our committee members have been with us for much of that time. It has been good to have new members, but we could do with more. It is vital that we ensure that we remain relevant to both our longterm members and newcomers.

Please note that if you have not renewed your membership your period of grace has expired and this will be your last newsletter. Our Park needs Friends in so many areas. We always have advocated on behalf of the Park, we have given feedback to management, we have sought to educate the public. But there are always new challenges and new opportunities and your membership is important in our advocacy role.

From Our Ranger In Charge

Spring has sprung in the Grampians following a cold but surprising dry period. The Parks Staff have been steadily working on a number of initiatives that are worth updating you on:

  1. Fire recovery projects continue to be rolled out, with works complete and openings occurring at Smiths Mill camp ground and the day visitor site at Hollow Mountain. Both sites bore the full brunt of the Northern Grampians fire in January 2014 and following a period of asset renewal and environmental recovery, the areas are now accessible to visitors once again.
  1. Goat Control. The environmental team have been placing some priority on targeting goats along the Mt Difficult Range, Mt William Range and Black Range State Park. Remote cameras have been deployed along with increased surveillance which targets the shooting program and creates efficiency. The program will continue for the next 4 months.
  1. Asset improvement program. Capital upgrades to Lakeview and Sundial lookouts along with major upgrades in the Grand Canyon are nearing completion with an improved and long term outcome in place. The use of Stone has dominated all works complimented by stainless steel barriers at the Lookouts. It is great that we can get these jobs completed predominately using local skilled contractors and construction firms.
  1. Conservation Volunteers successfully managed the Grampians GreenArmy project finishing up in early September. The team of 10 young people capably worked throughout the Winter controlling Sallow Wattle, Boneseed and assisting in other Land Management activities over 22 weeks.

The Grampians National Park continues to provide plenty of challenges and rewards. We once again have a bigger than ever program which we will look to achieve with our committed team and passionate volunteer groups.

We welcome John Nankervis to the area as District Manager, replacing Graham Parkes after his retirement in February. John has 20+ years of Park management experience and is quickly getting to know the district, staff and stakeholders.

Regards,
David Roberts.

 

Orchid Protection

You may remember that this time last year we were successful in our application for a grant to fence off an area in the Ironbarks state Park near Stawell to protect a very rare orchid, and later, we hope, a reintroduction of this orchid.

With Parks help we engaged a contractor, but the very dry weather that Stawell has endured this past year means that it is only now that the fence is going up. The soil has been iron hard.

Dead Bullock Falls Walk (August 22)

Dead bullock falls 1

Six FOGGs members met at the Dead Bullock Falls camping ground on Roses Gap Road. Present were Will and Proo, Alison, Rodney and Jan-Bert and Mabel. We followed the very pretty creek with numerous small waterfalls until we reached the first escarpment where a large waterfall dropped into a sandy pond. From here we followed the southern branch of the stream up two further escarpments and passed two more very beautiful high waterfalls. From the third escarpment we could have walked to Mount Difficult to the south, however we chose to walk to the north and climbed further to reach a lovely little cave perched above a spectacular rock wall. We ate our lunch here before returning to the cars following the northern arm of the creek back past further water falls.
Dead bullock falls 2
Unfortunately the area had been very badly burnt during the fire but it was lovely to see the large variety of small plants which were re-establishing themselves. Early in the walk the ground was covered with a mat of ‘running postman’ which was just starting to come into flower.

We were all pleased that it seems the Parks are thinking of opening this walk up for the general public, and believe it will become a very popular walk in the northern Grampians. It provides a new way to access both Mount Difficult and Briggs Bluff or simply as a shorter walk to enjoy the numerous waterfalls, rock formations and vegetation.

Proo

Camping and Fishing at Jimmy’s Creek – 1939

I received a most interesting article from one of the long term members of Stawell Field Naturalists.

“Black Friday”, the 13th January 1939, saw the Grampians burnt  from the northern end to the southern end. Although there was utter devastation, one bright side as far as my family was concerned was that now the Wannon river at Jimmy’s creek was now accessible from the Dunkeld Rd without having to bash through the thick undergrowth of bracken fern, titree etc.

In those days the Grampians were far different from today. Most people didn’t have a car and so very few of the visitors to the Grampians went further south than Myrtlebank on Dairy Creek. About the only people to frequent the area south of Myrtlebank were the forest workers/ sawmillers and those who had grazing rights. It was virtually an isolated area of peace and beauty.

Late summer 1939 Dad decided to take the family to Jimmy’s  creek for a weekend fishing. This was a real treat for us as we had never had the luxury of Holidays.  Mum and dad were too busy working hard to feed and clothe the family. You can imagine our excitement to be going camping for a weekend. No luxuries, not even a tent. We slept under the stars – Beautiful! I can remember making a hammock by opening up the sides of a wheat bag, plaiting ropes to each end to tie it to  trees. Then at Jimmy’s creek finding two trees close enough together to tie the hammock to! Sometimes a rope would break or come undone and one would end up on the ground. As far as I can remember our camping equipment was very basic – a blanket, billy, shovel, matches, dish, frying pan and dad’s Coleman lantern (its strong light lit up a vast area). No tents, stretchers, swags, sleeping bags or torches. We had never even heard of torches then -they didn’t come on the scene until well after world war 2. No luxuries such as showers and toilets like at the present day Jimmy’s ck camping ground. There was cold running water to wash in – the river.

Thursday after school I helped dad dig and collect worms for bait – dad digging and me collecting. Friday night when we arrived home from school the gear was loaded onto our A model Ford ute and off we went. I can recall stopping once on the way down to walk in from the road to see a burntout sawmill (Sandersons, I think). About all that remained was the steam boiler. When we crossed  Jimmy’s creek we drove in off the coast road through the trees and there were no tracks except the ones we were making. A camp was selected with Jimmy’s ck on the north and the Wannon creek on the west. Hammocks were attached to trees,  firewood collected and then off fishing.  Our rods were either a length of bamboo or a stick of titree just long enough to drop the hook and  sinker under a cork float into the little stream. It didn’t take long to catch enough black fish for our tea. The largest of the fish were about 20 cm long. The fish were gutted, rolled in flour and into the frying pan. When they were cooked the flesh came off the backbone, the other bones were so small and fine they were just eaten,-there was no way they would stick in your throat. The fish were accompanied by spuds baked in the ashes – no alfoil wrapping – a bit of ash or charcoal never hurt anyone.

I can remember my first night under the stars. There were many strange sounds and things that “went bump in the night”. It was the sounds of the roos and other animals as they moved around – not a big bad bogeyman!

All day Saturday and Sunday morning were spent up and down the river fishing. We mainly fished in the Wannon. Apart from the black fish there were the menacing little “mountain trout” which used to sneakily suck the worms off the hook without you knowing. These were a very small fish about 6cm long fully grown.  Then there were “prickly backs”. These were like a yabby, up to about 15cm or so, but “prickly” like a lobster. We learnt by watching the float you could tell what was taking the bait. If it was a mountain trout there was a very slight movement of the float. Prickly backs tended to drag the bait and float away, whilst black fish pulled the float down. If it was a mountain trout or a If it was a mountain trout or prickly back at your bait you moved to another spot. Once Mum thought a prickly back would be a change from black fish for her tea so she cooked one but alas there was practically no flesh inside the shell – so no more prickly backs.

It was real fun stumbling along the river bank and over fallen logs particularly after dark when following Dad and being blinded by his Coleman. I doubt if Mum thought it was so much fun – firstly she didn’t like fishing (it was OK eating them) and secondly she had to wash our clothes when we got home. Our clothes were always fairly black after a weekend on burnt ground and pushing through burnt ti tree etc. Sadly our weekends at Jimmy’s  Creek came to an end when petrol was rationed in World War II.

I often wonder whether there are still black fish, mountain trout and prickly backs at Jimmy’s Creek. Also wouldn’t it be nice to enjoy those quiet, peaceful and relaxed times again in the Grampians away from the hustle, bustle, cars and hordes of people in a hurry who now over run the area and dash around as if there was no tomorrow without time to “smell the roses”?

Lesley Bennett

Tree Clearing

Most VNPA members will be aware of the recent appalling loss of around 880 large old eucalypts as part of the duplication of the Western highway between Ballarat and Stawell. The trees were felled in the section between Beaufort and Ararat. Many of the trees had hollows used by birds and other animals.

VicRoads had approval only for the removal of the 221 trees they estimated would need to be cleared. But this did not include many more ‘scattered’ trees in the path of the road, which were felled for debatable safety reasons. Pressure from a local group, Western Highway Alternative Mindsets (WHAM), forced VicRoads to admit the mistake and revise plans for the next section to be widened, between Buangor and Ararat. The VNPA applauds WHAM members’ energy and persistence in the face of a powerful bureaucracy. The revised plans include using concrete and wire rope barriers to stop vehicles running off the road and hitting a tree, rather than removing the trees themselves, and so narrowing the area to be cleared. These design improvements are positive, but won’t do much to reduce the impact of the road through hilly land. The best option is to minimise road widening as far as possible, and focus on behavioural change to increase

safety. …. The power and speed of modern cars, and the increased traffic from a growing population, as well as a ‘safety at any cost’ policy, are related issues. Another major problem is that VicRoads was exempted (in an unfortunate move by the former Brumby government) from having to gain permits for removing native vegetation. Yet in many parts of Victoria, roadsides often have the best, or sometimes the only, native vegetation remaining. The VNPA believes that, like anyone else, public authorities such as VicRoads should have to obtain permits for clearing native vegetation, and that VicRoads must give the protection of existing native vegetation a much higher priority.

We are in grave danger of losing the ecological and habitat value of our roadsides, as well as their variety, character and beauty – not to mention their importance for carbon capture and storage.

[From Park Watch Magazine – VNPA]

Technology Supports Data Collection

Graeme Johanson reports on new ways of Collecting and sharing information about Nature.

Two new portable technologies – the digital camera and the smart phone – have changed the way in which volunteers can collect data in the field. Both technologies are used regularly by Dr Russell Best of the Australian Plants Society Victoria (APSV). When interviewed for our research project, he said that the digital camera had made a huge difference. He went on: “The other big technical

change has been the iPhone. The amount of information you can collect is phenomenal.” The phone also gives him a GPS location. More and more digital repositories collect data about nature for public use via the internet. A large group of people can collect and collate much more information than a single dedicated group of employed specialists. Every year the ‘Birds in Backyards’ survey collects data for the Birdlife Australia website – see www.birdlife.org.au The main Australian database is the Atlas of Living Australia (www.ala.org.au), funded by the federal government.

BowerBird, begun in 2013 and hosted by Museum Victoria, contains masses of Victorian flora and fauna data, and brilliant photographs sent in by nature lovers. A visit to its website (www.bowerbird.org.au) is a visual treat. NatureShare (www.natureshare.org.au) is two years older, and primarily the work of Russell Best. Members can help each other to identify specimens loaded on to the growing database. These repositories are still developing as they become better known.

……………………An aim of future research is to describe the relationship between citizen and professional scientists, and explore the ramifications of trust between them. To make full use of each individual and group contribution to big data, trusting collaborations are essential. The citizen science community is very interested in our research. We have applied for further funding, alongside Museum Victoria and the Atlas of Living Australia. If readers are interested and would like to see our published papers about the project, please contact

[Courtesy Park Watch Magazine – VNPA]