Spiders in the Grampians

Did you see the articles in the Age and on ABC on new spider finds in the Grampians? With the exquisite photos by our ranger Dave Handscombe? Here’s part of The Age article…

Peacock spiders, which are only a few millimetres long, have captured the public imagination recently due to their colour and ceremony.
And thanks to a recent discovery, Victorian spider enthusiasts no longer have to go far to find them.

Five species have been discovered in the Grampians, one of which had never been observed in Victoria and one that had never been observed outside Tasmania, making the find quite a coup.

“These spiders, they’ve got to put on a really good display – because if they are not happy with it, the females will go and eat them,” says Grampians park ranger Dave Handscombe, who found the species in October.

Mr Handscombe has worked as a ranger for more than 30 years, “and I’m looking forward to retirement”, he says.

Mr Handscombe decided to see if he could find one in his ranges. He and two friends picked a few likely spots in the Grampians National Park – places where the vegetation wasn’t too thick and where there had been no recent bushfires – and went spider hunting.

“What you’ve got to do, is really concentrate on the ground,” he says. “The trick is moving your foot and trying to detect any movement on the ground. And because they are jumping spiders, they tend to jump out of the way of your boot.”

Only a single species of Maratus had ever been spotted in the Grampians, Mr Handscombe says. But as soon as his team started looking, they found dozens of the creatures. “They are not rare, but they are tiny – three to five millimetres in size – and so most people don’t notice them. You can find them pretty well anywhere in the Grampians.”

Other than boot-detecting, the best way to find Maratus is to look for long strands of web attached to plants. The spider is a bungee-jump hunter; it uses silk to attach a safety line to a tree before leaping at moving prey, catching unlucky victims mid-air.

Mr Handscombe advises anyone hoping to see the spider to head to the Grampians between September and December, when the spiders moult and the males reveal their colourful plumages.

Red Gum Festival


The Cavendish Community are very excited to be hosting the inaugural Red Gum Festival from the 13th -15th April 2018. As part of the event, they are aiming to provide the local community and visitors with a broad range of red gum and environmental related information, advice, opportunities and the chance to connect with relevant groups and organisations.

They have invited FOGG to participate and we will be contributing something about the history of our Red Gum Walk.

Changes Coming to Halls Gap

The Northern Grampians Shire Council has adopted the Halls Gap Master Plan “to help lift the tourist town into world class tourist village status and to ensure Halls Gap was prepared for the completion of the Grampians Peaks Trail”.

The plan will also ensure that the best location for the Grampians Peak Trail head is chosen and will address car parking needs associated with the GPT.

The Halls Gap Action Plan also recommended improvements to the Stoney Creek Boardwalk, the Central Park Raised Pedestrian Crossing, the Gateway Enhancement project and improvements to School Road.

Visitor numbers reached a 10-year high this year. Expenditure in the region more than doubled from last year, with overnight tourists spending $270 million – up 58.8 per cent from $170 million in 2016

Update from Grampians National Park Walking Track Support Group

Who we are

The Grampians Walking Track Support Group was formed by our convenor, David Witham, in 2003 to attract and coordinate volunteer interest in maintaining and improving walking tracks within the Grampians National Park.

We operate under the broad umbrella of the Community Association of Halls Gap which also undertakes other activities such as the Wildflower Show and Halls Gap Botanic Garden and provides support for Run the Gap, Halls Gap Landcare Group and the Jazz Festival.

What do we do?

In partnership with Parks Victoria, we carry out vital maintenance on popular walking tracks, such as trimming vegetation, cleaning water runoffs and clearing fallen timber.

Most of our works are carried out through the efforts of walking clubs:

  • Grampians Bushwalking Club – Heatherlie and Beehive Falls Walking Tracks
  • Warrnambool Bushwalking Club – Mount Abrupt and Chimney Pots Walking Tracks
  • Melbourne Bushwalkers – various tracks
  • Victorian Mountain Tramping Club – various tracks

Over the last two years these clubs have contributed 61 person days to our program.

Recently the Wimmera Bushwalking Club has joined our program and will undertake works on the Mount Zero and Mackenzie River Walking Tracks over the next few months.

It is a simple model and works extremely well.

Caladenia audasii Update

The Caladenia audasii near Stawell is well protected with a fence which was erected with a Communities for Nature Grant we got back in 2015.

This plant was pollinated and some seed was obtained last spring. Also last Spring another plant was found in the Ararat area and so another Grant application has been submitted to get funding to protect this plant. It is also hoped the grant will allow seed to be collected from these plants which will allow propagation of this plant at Cranbourne Botanic Gardens with the intent of planting them back into protected areas.

There are currently only around ten wild plants known in Victoria. The population in central Victoria was able to be hand pollinated several years ago and plants propagated from these plants have been successfully re-introduced back into the wild. It is hoped we can do the same with our local Stawell/ Ararat plants to insure its existence into the future.

Red Gum Festival in Cavendish

We were recently contacted  by the committee organising a red gum festival  in Cavendish next year. FOGGS of course have the red gum walk in the Victoria valley, and many of us have a love affair with this iconic tree.

Following a couple of very successful community meetings where the festival concept was enthusiastically explored, the township of Cavendish, a small community in Victoria’s Western District, nestled on the Wannon River in the heart of the Red Gum Country, undertook to host an inaugural celebration.

The Red Gum Festival Development Group are currently working toward a unique festival in 2018, and would be delighted to hear from any individuals, groups, clubs or organisations
who are potentially interested in participating.

Please contact the Secretary, Nathan Bastock, via email,

The festival is but one of a number of exciting proposals within the ‘Celebrating Red Gums’ initiative. Community members have put forward some wonderfully creative ideas, including the  establishment of a ‘Friends of the Red Gums’ Group.

They publish a newsletter with articles by Neil Murray, Rob Youl and our own Neil Marriott, and also have a facebook page.  https://www.facebook.com/CelebratingRedGums/

I enjoyed this quote of theirs from Murray Bail – Eucalyptus (1998)  :

Over time the River Red Gum (E. camaldulensis) has become barnacled with legends… there’s always a bulky Red Gum here or somewhere else in the wide world, muscling into the eye, as it were: and by following the course of rivers in our particular continent they don’t merely imprint their fuzzy shape but actually worm their way greenly into the mind, giving some hope against the collective crow-croaking dryness. And if that’s not enough the massive individual squatness of these trees, ancient, stained and warty, has a grandfatherly aspect; that is, a long life of incidents, seasons, stories.

Grasslands Seed Project

WAMA and Jallukar Landcare  have joined together to create a seed bank for restoring grasslands on the edge of the Grampians. Recently over 20 volunteers from WAMA, Grampians Australian Plant Society and staff from Greening Australia met in Pomonal. Our task was to sort, classify and plant seed collected over the past 6 months as part of the Grasslands Seed Project.

Expertise and knowledge was shared by local horticulturist Phil Williams, Botanist Neil Marriott and Ecologist Jess Gardner. Under their guidance, we learned how to de-construct the pods, locate the seed and place into labelled bags, weighed and ready for planting.  As part of this exercise we also had the opportunity to take a close up look at each seed pod with the aid of a macro lens.  How exciting this was to see the beauty and intricacies of nature – the patterns and symmetry unfolding under a macro lens – wonderful detail not visible to our human eye.

The plan is to grow these seeds “in captivity” for some years so as to build up the numbers before using them in restoration projects.

Some websites you may enjoy exploring:

A collection of photographs of plants and habitats, mostly from southern Victoria.

Canberra’s National Botanic Garden has been building up a collection of photographs and illustrations of Australian native plants for many years, which they are now working on digitising. They are also asking serious photographers to contribute reliable identified photographs to the index.

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.

Update On The WAMA Project

Wildlife Art Museum Australia

Recent good news about the WAMA project is very welcome with a second independent study confirming its potential to bring jobs and tourism to the region. WAMA is a project to establish a wildlife and art precinct in the Halls Gap area, with a gallery, artists’ workshops, educational facilities, botanical gardens and wetlands all celebrating the relationship between art science and nature.

Planning is well underway on the 16 hectare WAMA site. Local botanical expert (and FOGG member), Neil Marriott, is WAMA’s Site Development Team Leader and has been charged with the exciting challenge of establishing the gardens as an international showpiece.

When asked why flora is such an important part of the WAMA proposal, Mr Marriott explained, “the Grampians is the richest area for flora in Victoria, having over a third of species that occur in the state. Our flora is unique and iconic and has long been a subject of artists, nature lovers and scientists alike. People come to the Grampians to see the spectacular indigenous plants and wildflowers and at WAMA we will have them all, named and displayed in one spot”.

The vision is to meld the experience of seeing the wildlife art displayed in the gallery with seeing native wildlife, plants and animals, out in the landscape.

WAMA’s plans include a woodland area which will display all the beautiful local plants that naturally occur in the Pomonal-Halls Gap area. A separate wetland area will display the diversity of the beautiful, indigenous Grampians flora in distinct garden beds on rocky hills, moist gullies and grassy woodlands. Many of these species are endemic to the region.

While the WAMA Project is best known for its plan to build a world class wildlife art gallery to showcase wildlife art, reintroduction of endangered wildlife is also an important part of the project.

The vision is to meld the experience of seeing the wildlife art displayed in the gallery with seeing native wildlife, plants and animals, out in the landscape.

WAMA’s newest Board Member, Mike Stevens has been brought on to strengthen WAMA’s capacity to contribute to the conservation of threatened animal species in the Grampians region.

Mike brings his life-long commitment to conservation and land management to the WAMA team.

The first reintroduction planned for WAMA will target the southern brown bandicoot which is nationally endangered and the long nose potoroo which is at risk of extinction in the Grampians and listed as nationally vulnerable.

According to Mike, “In the past, these animals were part of the Australian landscape, but are now so rare, most Australians would not be able to identify them or know they play a critical missing role turning over soil to maintain many ecosystems”.

The more supporters WAMA can demonstrate, the greater impact their applications for support will be. To become a WAMA 2020 Supporter, please email your name and address, either email or postal, to

Kookaburra Awards

FOGGs were represented at the bi-ennial awards presented by Parks Victoria for the western half  of the state.

It was good to see recognition for outstanding work by several more or less local folk.

  • The late Bernie Fox received a lifetime achievement award for a huge amount of work, including Mallee Fowl protection activities in the Little Desert area;
  • Dr  David Stratton for the Trailrider and Sherpa programme to help disabled people get out into the parks; and,
  • Advisory Group member Tracey Skinner for her years of work at Arapiles.