From The Editor

Welcome to the newsletter, whether you are receiving it in the post or by email. Remember that you can also access previous newsletters via our website . http://friendsofgrampiansgariwerd.org.au

First of all I need to let you know that our Ranger in Chief Dave Roberts has resigned from Parks Victoria to work for DELWP in the Otways area. We all want to thank him for his leadership and vision over the last very challenging eight years. At this stage there is no news of who will replace him – or when. His farewell letter can be found here.

Next, an apology and an explanation: We have disappointed some of our members by not sticking firmly to a regular monthly time for activities, which has made it hard for some of you to get to things they would have liked to join in with. We’ve also had a request for some Sunday activities, particularly when we join with other groups, but this in turn inconveniences those of us who are churchgoers. Decisions, decisions. Plus we have been late telling you the dates and putting them up on the website. Some of this has been due to negotiating with outside speakers, such as Dr Nick Clemann, as to when they could come to the Grampians; some where we want to combine with other groups, and some just poor organisation.  Your editor has been over-committed and our webmaster has had a couple of operations. We will try to improve, we promise.

When I was visiting family in England and Germany in July, I visited several nature reserves with Friends Groups. I didn’t actually get to join in any friends’ activities but I’ll put a couple of photos up here if there’s room. Once again there are interesting articles I want to make room for.

Finally, please note that it’s time to renew your membership, via the form here.

Please check if we have your correct email address so we can contact you with late news.

Prez Sez

Winter is truly hitting us, but there doesn’t seem to be much wet, just a double dose of cold. It’s obvious through the park that things are dry, but it still looks verdant and green compared to inland NSW and Qld. So, dry as it is here, we haven’t got the worst of it. Our fungi location at Jimmy’s creek was a little disappointing, but the season just hasn’t been wet enough, and lots of frosts have taken their toll on the fruiting bodies of fungi. We were pleased to have young Dave and Lyn Munroe to share their knowledge. As protégé’s of Ian McCann it is always a pleasure to have their knowledge in the group on our Fungi Frolic. But even with experts present we still saw lots of bums!

I recently indulged in the pleasure of a big road trip through inland NSW and Qld. Beautiful country. Great facilities. Roadside stops with toilets and information boards are regularly spaced ever 25 km or so. It’s an interesting comparison with our park when people have to travel greater distances within the park to find a toilet. Tourists and travellers seem much more welcome than here. Information centres seem to be about information on the local area and less about promoting businesses that pay for the service. I was struck by how much it seemed that sharing their love of their home was more important than making money off tourists. I’m sure there is a flow on from the warm welcoming attitude that translates to spending, but it didn’t feel as though profit was the only reason for communication; pride seemed to be at the forefront.

Working bees at Goltons Gorge have been progressing with a few minor hiccups due to weather conditions, but the work on the new track is looking good. Those participating should be proud of what they have achieved so far.

Vale Sam Speyer. One of the earliest Friends Of the Grampians and a committee member who helped lead the FOGs into the new era of FOGGs. We recently had news that Sam had passed away. Although not attending activities for many years he was an avid reader of our newsletter, and kept up with what the group was doing. He and his late wife Jetti were both involved for many years and carried the load for administrative work and communication. As a child I was fascinated by the passion a couple of European immigrants had for our piece of paradise. I looked up to them and the dedication they showed to their adopted home in Halls Gap. They were big believers in education about the environment, and the benefits of being out in the park to discover, learn and be fascinated. Those benefits aren’t just for the park, but also for the individual, and for our society.  Sam you will be remembered fondly and sadly missed by many.

I am also saddened to share that another couple who have been staunch and active FOGG members for many years, Bill and Hennie Neve, are soon to depart our region. The Neves are relocating to Perth to be closer to family. We have a final opportunity to share their joy of Australian birds at our next activity. They are opening their home to us. We can wander their covenant protected property abutting the National Park, looking and listening to the avian visitors they love. We will then gather in their giant bird hide home to share a meal and watch the natural world through their famous picture windows. If you are looking for inspiration you will find it with this couple. Tireless workers for our environment, even into their late 80’s they are pulling weeds and counting bird species.

Now the challenge is to bring younger, active and enthusiastic people into the group to continue on from where these great people have guided us.

Cheers

Rod

From Dave Roberts – The Next Chapter

It’s been an honour and a privilege to have worked in the Grampians National Park over the past 8 years and with Parks Victoria for over 18. The things I’ve learnt, from the people I’ve met have been brilliant and humbling. Your collective experiences, story-telling, observations and perspectives have ensured that the Grampians Gariwerd landscape is conserved and managed for the future and for the right reasons. Like with all things good, it is often about the people you come across. Just like the Grampians communities, I’ve been very fortunate to have worked alongside and lead an amazing team of people who tirelessly put everything into keeping this place as good as it can be – often under the radar. The Grampians Team have been so generous to me through really challenging times, and are a true example of what being resilient is all about. Through fires, floods, pestilence and the aftermath, these professionals just keep turning up and starting again. Their hearts are in the job and they are invested in the mountains. You have been and will continue to be well served by these fantastic servants.

My next chapter is with DELWP in the Otways, where I’ll buy a new pair of Gum Boots and survey the scenes from a different perspective. But these mountains are magnetic, and I’ll be drawn back to the long views and the glowing escarpments. I look forward to returning as a visitor and look back fondly on all that I was able to achieve with my team of committed people.

Thanks

Dave Roberts

Peaks Trail July Update

Traditional Owners are engaged with Parks Victoria through collaborative governance on the Grampians Peaks Trail. The full delivery of the project has been pushed out to 2020 as a result of a native title claim lodged on 27 May 2016 which extends across the entire Grampians National Park. To enable works to progress, and to ensure native title is maintained under section 238 of the Native Title Act 1993, an Integrated Land Use Agreement was signed by the State of Victoria with the claimants on 5 June 2018.

Construction of Stage Two is well underway and continues with upgrades to approximately 60 km of existing walking tracks that will form part of the trail. Stage Two will be complete in September this year.

Approvals for the new works – approximately 85-100 km of new walking tracks and 10 new hiker camps and one school camp – are nearly complete.

GPT Experiences

There will be a variety of experiences on offer including guiding hikes for day walkers, opportunities for school groups. These experiences offer:
?Greater accessibility and flexibility
? Range of options for all levels of walkers
? Variety of three day/two night walking experiences Family friendly opportunities
? An opportunity to explore the natural and cultural heritage of the Grampians National Park

Current Upgrades

Major Mitchell Plateau
The final section of the Major Mitchell Plateau walk from Mt William Summit to Jimmy Creek campground recently opened after upgrades. The walk now features more elevated boardwalk sections as well as specialised rock steps, flagstone paving, improved drainage and track resurfacing.

Mt Stapylton
Mt Stapylton and Mt Abrupt walking tracks continue to be upgraded with the addition of over 500 new hand-built rock steps, flagstone paving, new drainage, a retaining wall, removal of trip hazards and track resurfacing. The walking tracks remain open while works are being undertaken, and will be completed by the end of September.

Trail alignment and hiker camps
We’re currently working through different trail alignment options. Ongoing minor changes to overall distances between proposed hiker camp locations will continue to occur for the duration of the project as on ground scoping continues.

McGregor Coxall have partnered with Noxon Giffen to design the shelter and toilets for each hiker camp. Local and state bushwalking clubs have provided feedback on the current design which has all been largely positive.

Planning and permit approvals

The permit process is progressing for the removal of vegetation under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act with a Native Vegetation Counterbalance Offset Strategy pending.

Approvals have been received for:

  • Cultural Heritage Management Plan
  • Permission to remove vegetation under the Environmental, Biodiversity and Conservation Act
  • Local Govt Planning Permit from Northern Grampians Shire Council, Southern Grampians Shire Council and Ararat Rural City Council
  • Permission to establish a new walking track within the Major Mitchell remote natural area (National Park Act 1975)
  • Integrated land use agreement with the Gariwerd Native Title Clam Group

What’s next:

Parks Victoria will be in a planning phase until November to scope works for the new tracks

The permit for Mt Christabel building removal is still pending and work is anticipated to commence in spring when it is drier.

Red Gum Walk Working Bee – May 12

A moist but not quite drizzly day saw a group of us doing our annual maintenance work on this track down in the Victoria Valley. The weather meant we could do weeding and pruning quite easily, but replacing worn out signs proved difficult and we had to give up on this planned task. Once we reached the remains of what used to be the huge drive- through tree we decided to see whether we could find where the track used to continue before the 2006 fire. with not too much difficulty we could, and made our way back to our picnic table to discuss what we saw as the future of the walk.

It was extremely useful to have both longterm members and more recent folk there. For longterm members like myself, there is so much sentiment attached to the walk that we see it quite differently to those who don’t know the history. For us oldies, it was one of the earliest of our projects. Sue McInnes loved the Victoria valley and its red gum forests. She saw that all the walking tracks were on the ranges, and so involved climbing and that we could build an interesting flat walk for the disabled which would also highlight this special environment. So we set to work clearing the barbed wire fences remaining from the pastoral leases, we built a track through the huge tree for my husband Kees to ride through in his wheelchair, we designed and erected explanatory signage, Bill Neve constructed  a huge red gum wheelchair accessible picnic table. It was a truly beautiful much loved place.

But then came the fire on the 23 January 2006. It swept through killing almost every tree, most of them fell. Our table survived, only to be stolen soon after. Fire recovery money enabled us to re-open the track as far as the tree, and to put in some fire related interpretive signage, and Bill built us a new picnic table but with the charm gone we have done very little work since then, and it will be many years before the seedlings are fully mature. It is of concern that so far there is little sign of the hakeas and banksias regrowing, probably due to deer, but no shortage of titree.

We were interested in what the newer members thought. The consensus was that we should continue to maintain the track as far as the tree, but not to ask that the longer track be re-opened. There was some thought that it would not be too difficult to make it a bike track for children to explore and learn, as there are still quite a few signs that could interest them.

Rain brought an abrupt end to our discussions. When the forest dries out later in the year, a couple of us plan to return to finish the repairs to the signage.

Declines, denial and disconnect: Victorian reptiles in a time of mass extinction

On a wet and wild Saturday June 16th, a hardy group of people gathered at the Mural room, at parks office Halls Gap, for a passionate and informative talk given by Nick Clemann.

To the editor’s delight, two attendees Bill Gardner and David Steane sent reports from the talk, which I have combined. Many thanks to both of you. An example for others to follow!


Nick works on threatened species of fauna, in particular reptiles and frogs. He also does honorary work at the museum of Victoria, the zoo and university.

We are in the middle of the 6t h extinction period because of the emerging catastrophe of the Anthropocene (age of man). Prior to this the most recent mass extinction event occurred in the Cretaceous when the dinosaurs were lost due to collision with a large meteor. Factors leading to the current rapid rate of species disappearance include:

  1. Climate change
  2. Habitat destruction from introduced herbivores such as horses, deer and pigs. Horses are particularly destructive of alpine streams and wetlands, causing the direct reduction in numbers of frogs and wetland dependent reptiles,
  3. Pollution
  4. Over fishing/hunting
  5. Invasive species
  6. Overpopulation of one species…man (this is rarely mentioned in polite society!)

The current rate of extinction of other species is more than 1000 times the background rate.

Survey work done by Bandow’s expedition in 1856-7 was used to provide a base line point to document extinctions. While most people are aware of large, warm blooded cuddly animals which have disappeared e.g. various mammals, and particularly thylacines, few realise that the attrition in reptiles (29 taxa/120 recorded) and frogs (12 taxa /37) is far greater, just based on these records alone.

            Other species are at risk, for example the striped legless lizard which has lost 95% of its habitat. Conservation and species rescue however is a popularity contest for funding and few people like frogs and reptiles. Only one frog has been funded for study in Victoria, the BawBaw frog. A fungal disease of frogs (Chytridiomycosis) which has multiple strains, is causing rapid extinction across many (most) species.

Solutions?

Habitat retention….should be major goal…destruction continues even when habitat is near to zero

One problem is that developers can argue to undertake mitigation of habitat loss by the use of off sets (ie creating or preservation of new habitat elsewhere). But if there is no more habitat, this is an illogicality. Relocation is not the answer as typically it fails! Translocation has a last ditch role in conservation but cannot be used as a justification for habitat destruction.

            Translocation is not a simple process. In the case of frog disease, captive husbandry and release of tadpoles or adults is possible. There is scope to experiment in captivity eg select for disease resistance. There are many variables which influence the outcome of any attempt to reintroduce a species (eg water quality can sometimes be antifungal, typically a bit salty…has a bad impact on frogs, but an even worse effect on the disease)

Some good news

   A current project studying the venom bank of snakes has found geographic and temporal variation in venom strength; ontogenetic variation in young vs adult. The use for medicinal purposes may drive the funding for more work into awareness of snake species and lead to action preserving their numbers i.e. use /practical benefit to be seen to the public. The old story…a species only has worth if it is of benefit to mankind…but that is the reality of the funding situation.


After Nick’s talk, a dozen or so people went to Halls Gap hotel, for a well-deserved meal and drinks. Thanks Nick for a great talk.

Fungi Frolic

On July 15th a group of 10 Foggies met at Jimmy’s Creek for our Fungi day. Those who arrived early shared a classic FOGGs picnic in the carpark. After all it was actually a beautiful sunny winter’s afternoon.

Historically this site has been a winner for us. This year things are a bit dry compared to past fungi days. The constant frosts in recent weeks have also taken their toll on the fruiting bodies we were searching for. We were pleased to have Dave and Lynn Munroe in attendance as members, offering us their extraordinary knowledge. Over the years they spent much time with the great Ian McCann looking at fungi. And Dave is a Fungi (fun guy) to hang out with! 

The first thing you learn is that many fungi species do not have a common name. Latin is all you get!

We had barely crossed the bridge to hit the track when we found our first fungi. A calsera sp. commonly known as Pretty Horns. They looked like tiny yellow deer antlers and were growing in a miniature garden- like plot along a rotting log. The first of many wood digesters we found. I tried my best to photograph with my phone camera, but sometimes you just can’t do justice out in the field, no matter the camera. We also started to see bums from this point!! If you haven’t been looking at fungi with Dave, bum doesn’t refer to the derrières on view as we bend over to look, it’s a specialised acronym for mushrooms and toadstools that are much harder to differentiate in the field, particularly when age and weather conditions have caused them to become degraded and hard to key out. Brown Ubiquitous Mushroom. BUM.

We wandered along the track for a while finding various fungi. We also found several lichens that seemed to be fruiting well. Lichen is a symbiotic relationship between a fungus and an algae and can be found on rocks, logs and leaf litter. The two work together in a colony and some of the fruiting bodies look like something drawn by Dr Zeus, you just have to get close to see them.

We found White jelly fungus (fusiformis sp.), white punk (laetiporous portentosus), various licaria sp., crepidotus, mycena, Lilac Shelf Fungus (fanitopsis lilacinogilva) and many more. Even the lyrically named omphalina chromacea, the Belly-button fungus.

After an hour and a half of slowly meandering along the path we turned back to see what we could see from the opposite angle. At this point the sun had dropped behind the mountain and it was cold. I think we were all pleased to head back down and out into the sun still shining in the carpark for a coffee, cakes and a debrief.

It was not the long list that we had found in the past, but considering the season it was a good day out.

  • Calocera sp.Gymnopilus sp.
  • Trumella Fusiformis (white jelly)
  • Laetiporus portentosus (white punk)
  • Laccaria sp.
  • Lichen
  • Crepidotus variabilis
  • Mycena sp.
  • Crepidotus sp.
  • Fomitopsis lilacinoglivia
  • Hypholoma sp.
  • Inocybe sp. (silky head)
  • Rameria sp. (coral fungus)
  • Omphalina chromacea. (Bellybutton fungus)
  • Courtinarius sp.

Rodney


Editor’s note:

It is a delight to inform you that Andy McCann has donated FOGGS a box of his late father Ian’s book “Australian Fungi Illustrated”. We will be able to share them around at future fungi frolics. Thank you Andy.

Not able to be taken into the bush but useful at home is http://www.fncv.org.au/fungi-in-australia/

This freely downloadable e-book (PDF format), from the Field Naturalists of Victoria , consists of 9 parts, and is intended to serve as a resource to assist in the identification of some fungi that may be encountered in our native forests. It contains 340 species and over 1700 photographs of fungi, plus references for further study.

Tourism Update

Visitor numbers in the Grampians continue to increase, for better and for worse. 

The number of visitors visiting the Grampians increased in the past year by 15.7 per cent, with 931,000 visitors travelling to the Grampians between March 2017 and March 2018. 

The amount of expenditure in the Grampians has also significantly increased in the past year. 

Visitors spent 2,367,000 nights in the Grampians from March 2017 to March 2018 – a 26.6 per cent increase from 2016 to 2017. 

Grampians Tourism chief executive Marc Sleeman said the growth in tourist numbers and expenditure was ahead of both state and national averages. 

“It’s an amazing result for our region,” he said. 

“Our new multi-tactical marketing campaigns are working to increase visitor numbers, dispersing visitors across our entire region and importantly they are staying longer and spending more.” 

The marketing campaign includes promoting the Grampians region all year, as well as advertising specific areas such as Dunkeld and Halls Gap. 

Feral Cats

I expect you all have heard the good news that feral cats have been declared a pest species in Victoria, which means that shortly our Park staff will be allowed to work to reduce their number. But how to do it most efficiently and reasonably humanely? I came across a most interesting article in the Bush Heritage edition 12 Jun 2018


That Tricksy Felixy

I recently visited Currawinya National Park to learn more about Felixer cat traps from their inventor, cat management expert Dr John Read

It’s well known that cats have a huge and often catastrophic impact on native species and are notoriously difficult to control. We urgently need an effective solution that that can be deployed in diverse landscapes, not just to bring endangered species back from the brink of extinction, but also to prevent other species declining to that point. Felixer traps are a promising candidate.

Feral cats are so hard to control because they are reluctant to take baits or enter traps, particularly when prey such as small native mammals are abundant. John created the Felixer trap after thinking for many years about the problem. His answer was to take advantage of cats’ Achilles’ heel – their fastidiousness in cleaning. The Felixer takes advantage of this behavioural trait, spraying them with a toxin that they then lick off to their detriment. The trap uses a series of inbuilt laser sensors that distinguish cats from all other non-target species, ensuring that only feral cats are sprayed. You can find out more at