Activity Reports

AGM and picnic in the Halls Gap Botanic Garden November 30, 2018

It was a perfect evening for our AGM, which is reported elsewhere. Some of us cooked on the barbecue, to the appreciation of the local kookaburras, at least one of whom managed to grab a sausage from the unwary. Then we walked around the garden to look at the collection of Gariwerd plants, and appreciate the work of the volunteers who have been providing names for many of the plants, and for the work done to make the garden attractive to children.

Bird Walk and Talk Saturday 2 February, 2019

Such a hot day! Would there be any birds to be seen in the dry surrounds of Brambuk? Our secretary had done a good job of advertising the event on ABC radio, and Alison had it in Halls Gap’s monthly newsletter. So around 30 of us assembled at 4 pm, and some joined us later. FOGG member and bird expert Neil Macumber led us to a spot where we were under tall eucalypts and on a bank high above the almost dry creek. And we did manage to see quite a few of the more common birds including kookaburra, blue wren, scrub wren, tree creeper, finches

Then we moved inside to look at some of Neil’s superb photographs and learn about our resident birds and our visitors. There were so many! Birds from the bush, the plains, the lakes. Large ones, like brolga, emu, wedgetail eagle, little ones like wrens, finches and mistletoe birds.

Neil also showed us animals of the Grampians, this time not all his own photos but most were. Again, so much to learn.

Afterwards about 20 of us adjourned to the local hotel for dinner together and more discussion of birds and possible FOGG projects. An excellent way to start the year.

Birdwatching and farewell to Bill and Hennie Neve – Saturday August 18th

It so happened that it was one of the rare days this winter that it really rained, so birdwatching ended up a very minor part of the day. Not that anyone would complain about rain this year. Some of us took the opportunity to explore the nearby Trust for Nature reserve to observe the very slow recovery of the red gum forest which was burnt heavily in 2014. Bill reports that the bird life in the area has also not recovered to the pre-fire levels.

But we all enjoyed our last opportunity to enjoy their amazing and beautiful home and chat with them both and each other. We will miss them, and wish them well as they move closer to family in WA. One of the things we discussed was the most valuable work the Nature Glenelg Trust is doing to restore the wetlands (see last newsletter). We decided we would contribute $1000 towards the purchase of more land at the Walker Swamp. Although these wetlands are outside the National Park, they are very much a part of the ecosystem of the Park.

Mt Dryden Excursion – 23rd September 2018

Mt Dryden was the target of this excursion, with three objectives in mind: enjoy the view, look at the rocks, and look at the vegetation.

Mt Dryden is a greenstone outcrop, being volcanic material from the Cambrian era, the oldest rocks in Victoria. It is a particular igneous type with high magnesium, low silica content, with derived minerals including actinolyte which was prized as axe material by aboriginals.

Landholder Graeme Maher met us, and along with Geoff McPhee (previous owner) escorted us to near the summit where the views were quite spectacular. Those with a rock interest collected various specimens, and a good ramble round the peak was enjoyed. We then repaired to the shearing shed for lunch and examined specimens of greenstone axes (and other rocks) found over the years in parts of the Wimmera. Graeme told us about some of the local history including Chinese gardens watered by springs, and how the mountain was now very productive agriculturally with a dense phalaris/ clover pasture supporting prime lambs well-muscled from clambering round the peak.

After lunch, we travelled via the Bolte highway and the Heatherlie-Ledcourt track to a section of the National Park known for having  greenstone geology. This was confirmed by finding specimens of greenstone and a volcanic rock (tuff) in that area (Map 351, 501010N, 63036W)

The idea had been advanced that ecology on soils from greenstone rocks (serpentine) is typically different and often contains endemic species to those particular chemical signals (high magnesium/ calcium ratio, possibly toxic chromium and nickel levels.)

The trees were mainly redgum on the low lying parts, changing to yellow box on the rises. The most noticeable feature was the lack of a shrub layer, it generally having an open appearance. Logging had occurred, and probably grazing, and similar landscapes exist elsewhere so the serpentine ecology is only one possibility. However similar soil types in the Black range also seem to be devoid of a shrub layer, so it still looks promising.

The only shrubs present were Banksia marginata (quite large specimens), a long leaved wattle, and Xanthorrhoea. Orchids were thriving in the shelter of the Xanthorrhoeas.

The herb layer was dominated by a prostrate creeping stinking pennywort (Hydrocotyle laxiflora), plus orchids, lilies and stunted grasses.

Orchids noted were:

Slaty helmet, trim greenhood, tall greenhood, wax lip, pink fingers, spiders, gnats, and Diuris pallustris, (swamp diuris or little donkey ). This ? proliferation only occurs where fire has been absent for long periods, and the skirts on the Xanthorrhoea lend support as does the unburnt tops of logged trees . It may be that the absence of a shrub layer helps prevent fierce fires in this ecosystem, leading to the proliferation of orchid species.

Other herb layer plants noted were wall flowers, milkmaids, buttercup, yellow and blue star, brunonia (budding not in flower) and flame heath.

 

Bill Gardner.

Editor’s note: Many thanks also to Bill for the extensive geology notes he sent everyone enrolled for the day.

 

Annual Biodiversity Seminar at Nhill

There was a good representation of local FOGG members once again at this most interesting day. We learnt so much.

A very quick summary:

  • The first speaker was Professor Libby Robin from Canberra who gave us a very interesting talk on how the Little Desert National Park came into being 50 years ago. Clive Crouch who was integral to the campaign followed her. One thing that struck me was how the campaign was headed by locals, not Melbourne activists.
  • Next came Peter Monkhorst from the Arthur Rylah Institute (he also was originally a local Nhill resident). Peter talked on mammal and bird treasures of the southern Lowan Mallee.
  • Next came Ben Holmes, from the Conservation Volunteers property adjoining the Little Desert Park, who talked about the ambitious rewilding programme on their predator proof properties. ( Some of us will remember Ben from his time as a ranger in our Park, particularly his work with the brushtailed rock wallabies.)
  • Next Joanne Sharley on environmental flows in Wimmera River tributaries (including McKenzie Creek and Mt William Creek).
  • Dr Liz Reed from Adelaide University followed with an absolutely fascinating and unexpected talk on the fossils and bone piles in the Naracoorte caves. I have long been fascinated by the very old fossils of long extinct dinosaur related animals, but she went on to explain how useful the more recent bones are in learning about the changes since Europeans arrived in the district. What animals fell into the caves 300 years ago? Which ones don’t we see any more?
  • The last lecture was from Craig Whiteford, talking about how zoos are working in biodiversity conservation and sustainability. So breeding programmes, partnerships, and to my delight, responsible pet ownership, particularly cats.
  • Dy lan Clarke of the Barengi Gadjin Land Council closed the talkfest part of the day, lunch was provided by the Karen refugee catering group who are now an important part of the community, and we headed out to look at one of the beautiful reserves in the Little Desert at Kiata.

Unfortunately, I didn’t stay for the evening session where again participants had the opportunity to be fed and entertained by the Karen folk, and by all accounts that was a poor decision.

So from all the FOGGIES that attended, thanks for a most interesting and enjoyable day. The 22nd seminar is planned for the 1st weekend in September 2019, place yet to be decided.

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.

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.

Clean Up Australia Day – 3 March 2018

FOGG has been involved with cleaning up around the Grampians for over 30 years.

On Saturday, the 24th of March, seven FOGG members met with Parks Victoria staff in the Halls Gap picnic area. We were provided with gloves, rubbish bags and rubbish grabbers, and allocated two target areas to clean; Silverband Falls and the picnic grounds adjacent to Lake Bellfield.

There was very little rubbish found at Silverband Falls, however we did collect a number of bags of Scotch Thistle from the creek banks, most not far off seeding. We found quite a lot of rubbish at the picnic grounds next to Lake Bellfield including litter, rusted posts and bits of metal, and bird wire. All up, we collected more than 15 bags of rubbish weighing approximately 60kg. Overall, it was a very successful day.

Our thanks to Parks Victoria staff for providing our gear, and more importantly, a bbq lunch. Thanks also to Rodney and Judith for having lunch cooked and ready for us.

Grasses Day

Leigh Douglas

SEDGES HAVE EDGES
RUSHES ARE ROUND
GRASSES HAVE KNEES (nodes) THAT POINT TO THE GROUND

Grasses Day

Amphibromus, Lachnagrostis, Austrostipa, Chloris, Themeda, Neurachne ….. or, Wallaby Grass, Blown Grass, Spear Grass, Windmill Grass, Kangaroo Grass, Fox-tailed Mulga Grass – just some of the native grasses identified by Alan Bedggood at our home near Lake Lonsdale, as he led about 20 of us on a fascinating tour of discovery on our November activity. Ask Alan if you think I’ve got some names wrong …. because it’s quite likely ….. a new learning curve, and definitely a new passion.

Alan brought along samples of grass for us to handle and look at closely, with and without using little powerful illuminated magnifiers for studying the finer points of grasses, such as their awns, lemmas, and glumes, the only way in which to speciate many grasses; the more closely we could look, the more interesting it all became (and becomes).

Out on the grasslands

A great memory tool Alan suggested was the use of comparative imagery: e.g., a wallaby grass floret looks like a unicorn’s head; some have moustaches, beards and fringes ….. Ask Alan …..

It’s amazing how knowing more about the grasses has deepened our understanding of ecosystems and habitats around the area. [Being at our place made it doubly beneficial to us]. It was a great relief to me to find that my favourite grass at home is native, Swamp Wallaby Grass, and not an introduced feral. It makes a beautiful sight, tall and graceful in winter-wet areas.

Wallaby Grass

It was not only native grasses, however, so I’d better mention that there were a lot of weeds he identified here too! In addition to identifying weeds, Alan and Wendy discussed different ways to control them, and the pros and cons of each; also valuable was learning more about the degrees of threat posed by different species: e.g. African Veldt Grass is pretty scary, rampant along roadsides since the 2006 fires.

We helped Judith Thompson celebrate a very special birthday (Happy Birthday Judith!) over lunch, which we had under the verandah to keep us out of the sun…although the sun was more than welcome after our prolonged cold weather. Thank you Alan ….. both for the weather ….. and for sharing your passion.

Mt Difficult Drive and Walk (14 Oct 2017)

Geoff Stratford

As members gathered at the Boroka Lookout mid-morning in mid-October the lookout was shrouded in cloud giving very limited possibility of catching a glimpse of a view. No matter to FOGG’s, a dozen of us pooled vehicles to tackle the gravel road which had claimed a Parks vehicle, bogged, earlier in the week.

With some hastily arranged road repairs by Parks Vic our group encountered no hint of a problem. In fact the amount of interesting plants and interactions between those present meant we travelled only a small distance compared to that which had potentially been planned. Rodney and Margo had mapped out perhaps five to seven locations which we might stop and observe the flora and environment.

Our first stop seemed less than two kilometres along the Mt Difficult track and it became obvious that we were blessed to have the company of Neil Marriot for this day. While many in the group have great knowledge of the plants of the Grampians, Neil was just so spontaneous in his identification of species and forth coming with extra information he could share with us. ‘this specimen differs from the described species and is pending reclassification and naming as a new variety/species’ he explained to us on a couple of occasions. The range of plants observed and flowering at the time was so extensive and discussion so keen it became obvious that the number of stops was going to have to be limited. The sun was also breaking through making it a classic day to be in the Gramps!

Finally back into vehicles and a kilometre or so further on and it was coffee time before another look through vegetation at the side of the track. Large dense patches of Boronia in flower caught the attention of all of us.

Rodney and his flock

Again the detail of observations and discussions led by Neil captured us all. We also ventured onto some rocky ledges which hosted some different plants but also exposed us to the resting places of a range of animals. Speculation, via scats, was that wallabies and possums frequented these ledges but disappointingly goats probably camped here as well.

Acacia aculeatissima hybridising

This confirmed some observations we had made of preferential grazing of some species by most likely the goats and possibly deer. Along with us humans these ferals pose a threat to our special place.
With time passing rapidly we resolved to head for the start of the Wartook Lookout track and have lunch. The view to the east from the roadside was spectacular to observe while we ate and the plants no less diverse than our previous stops. To our benefit the day had turned into a classic bright sunny one with a cooling southerly breeze to maximise our experience.

Mabel and Neil

Before we set off up the lookout track it was explained that it was being upgraded with rock from the immediate surrounds so that it would not suffer damage or start washaways with the expected increase of foot traffic when the peaks trail passes close by. While not completed, the path was of a very high standard and the walk was well defined and quite easy. More new plants observed along the way as well, which slowed our progress.

Two forms of Epacris impressa

Nearing the top it became obvious why this is such a special location. Lakes Bellfield, Fyans, Lonsdale and Wartook are all in the vista, in fact a unique view of Wartook. Because you are higher than Boroka the scope of the Pyrenees to the east and the plains to the north are more striking. We could also see past Mt Difficult in places to the plains of the west. And of course the ranges to the south basked in the sunshine. To me it was a location that gave me the best impression of the extent of the Grampians that I have observed. Maybe only an aeroplane flight could be more complete.

Check the view

By the time we returned to our vehicles it was agreed we had packed so much into a couple of stops and we were well satisfied to turn for home. A quick count of the species recording list showed more than seventy species had been observed without including the trees and larger shrubs and perhaps some of the smaller ones that were not in flower.

Sharing a laugh

It was most appropriate as we departed that a wedge tailed eagle did some circles overhead to just check we had left his/her place as we found it.

Here is Wendy’s list of plants seen:

  • Acacia acinacea
  • Acacia aculeatissima
  • Acacia obliquinerva
  • Acacia oxycedrus
  • Acacia verniciflua
  • Amperea xiphoclada
  • Banksia saxicola
  • Boronia nana
  • Boronia pilosa
  • Caladenia fuscata
  • Calytrix sullivanii
  • Chrysocephalum baxteri
  • Conospermum mitchellii
  • Coronidium scorpioides
  • Correa aemula
  • Correa reflexa
  • Crassula decumbens
  • Crassula sieberiana
  • Dillwynia sericea
  • Dodonaea viscosa
  • Drosera aberrans
  • Epacris grandiflora
  • Epacris impressa
  • Eucalyptus
  • Gahnia radula
  • Glossodia major
  • Gonocarpus sp
  • Goodenia geniculata
  • Grevillea aquifolium
  • Hibbertia cistiflora
  • Hibbertia fasciculata
  • Hibbertia humifusa
  • Hydrocotyle laxiflora
  • Hydrocotyle sp
  • Hypochaeris radicata*
  • Leptospermum scoparium
  • Leptospermum turbinatum
  • Leucopogon ericoides
  • Leucopogon glacialis
  • Leucopogon rufus
  • Leucopogon thymifolius
  • Lindsaea linearis
  • Lomandra filiformis
  • Luzula meridionalis
  • Melaleuca decussate
  • Olearia myrsinoides
  • Ozothamnus obcordatus
  • Pelargonium rodneyanum
  • Phebalium sp aff bilobum
  • Philotheca verrucosa
  • Phyllanthus hirtellus
  • Pimelea flava
  • Pimelea linifolia
  • Platysace lanceolata
  • Pultenaea mollis
  • Pultenaea scabra
  • Rhytidosporum procumbens
  • Senecio hispidulus
  • Spyridium parvifolium
  • Stellaria pungens
  • Stypandra glauca
  • Styphelia adscendens
  • Tetratheca ciliata
  • Thelionema caespitosum
  • Thryptomene calycina
  • Viola cleistogamoides
  • Xanthosia

Annual General Meeting

We were lucky to have nice weather for our AGM on Saturday 16th September.

Thirteen members attended and we covered all the usual business, the president gave his report and it is covered elsewhere in this bulletin.

Our committee for the next twelve months was elected and is:

  • President – Rodney Thompson
  • Vice President – Leigh Douglas
  • Secretary – jointly Bill and Judy Gardner
  • Treasurer – Judith Thompson
  • Committee Members:
    • David Steane
    • Mabel Brouwer
    • Charles Kerr
    • Wendy Bedggood
  • Newsletter Editor – Margo Sietsm

Activities for the coming year were discussed and the new committee will work towards organising many of the good suggestions.

We had lunch then went for a walk to Fish Falls, along the way we checked out some potential spots to install a seat. Some time ago it was decided to have a seat installed along the walk to recognise the Friends of Zumsteins who folded some years ago but passed their remaining finances to FOGGs. Having decided on a couple of suitable spots these have been given to Parks and the process of getting a seat installed can now happen.

We had hoped to see more wild flowers on our walk but this cold weather has made them late, although the sunny day and splashes of yellow from the wattle made us all feel like spring has arrived.