WIN PIETSCH: An Inspiring Naturalist

A few years ago, when I was talking with Win Pietsch about the rich frog life in part of the Mt William Ck wetlands by our place, she replied: “Oh yes, Thelma and I were there the other night, we’ve been surveying it for years” … This really impressed me! Win’s keen interest in nature, and dedication to scientific research, resonated deeply; I also realised that, although she is still an active member, many current  FOGGies probably don’t  know much about the work of Win and her fellow enthusiasts – ‘citizen scientists’ – who over the years have added so much to our knowledge and understanding of the  nature around us.

This started the germ of an idea: to write this article! What follows is an abbreviated “CV” of an amazing naturalist.

One of the most rewarding aspects about going to FOGG outings is the wealth of shared expertise in the group, and the sharing of knowledge. Whether orchids, shrimps, skinks or bats, it is a voyage of discovery and understanding.

Win is one of those who generously shares their vast knowledge and experience in many types of natural life. She has been involved in extensive studies all her adult life; a lot with formal organisations, but frequently with her friend and fellow enthusiast Thelma Argyll (another very knowledgeable local).

Like many of her generation, Win started collecting the Tynee Tips bird cards, which inspired her to join the Bird Observers’ Club. Encouraged by the enthusiasm of a local Dairy Inspector and a Priest in Yea in the ‘70s she joined Field Nats; a group she continued to follow as she moved around.

With the Stawell Field Nats and Cliff Beauglehole, Win took part in collecting, mounting and labelling a huge number of local indigenous plants and grasses, that were then donated to Parks in Halls Gap. Digitising these would be a valuable project in which FOGGs may well be involved.

 

Win and fellow Nats also worked with:

  • Mammal surveys with Ian McCann; setting traps for squirrel gliders, reptiles, frogs and spiders – counting and naming species.
  • Fungimap, founded by the Royal Botanic Gardens; following Ian McCann’s death in 2003, Win became responsible for collating and sending in the local group’s data.
  • Birds on Farms surveys: in six areas in and around the Grampians.
  • The Wimmera Community Waterwatch Programme, contributing physical and chemical data sheets post-2006 fires – taking records of temperature, phosphate levels, hardness, ph, EC (electrical conductivity) and turbidity;
  • Grampfire – a monitoring programme for Fire Impacted River Ecology – Win only ceased this in her 95th year!
  • Wimmera Catchment Water Authority.

These all involved recording water life, including those frogs at the Lake Lonsdale causeway. There she noticed a decrease in damselfly larvae following dry years, but then, after the 2011 flood, the Lake Lonsdale studies became less interesting with the introduced mosquito fish taking over from native species.

 

She has worked with Noushka in Horsham on the successful reintroduction of the Brilliant Sun-orchid Thelymitra mackibbinii.

Win knows the locations of many species of orchid in and around the Grampians – too many to list here. On one group outing, she stopped the cars from pulling up randomly at a roadside, “Don’t park there! 5 species of orchids grow there!” Sure enough, they found all five … including Elbow and Duck orchids. I think she’s also found the occasional plot of Marihuana!

As part of a study for ensuring the survival of the critically endangered Pimelea spinescens, Win has been responsible for recording plant numbers in a plot which she and Thelma discovered at Deep Lead. She also recognised the Fireweed Senecio macrocarpa, classed as vulnerable in Illawarra, when she headed towards a log to sit down and have a rest ….

Add to Win’s collection of flora studies the Pink flowering Yellow Box, extremely rare and isolated; the Purple Diuris, Diuris punctata var punctata, now protected by fencing at Lake Fyans; and many other species. She continues to work on plant lists in the Three Jacks Reserve.

In other parts of Australia, Win reported the 1st sighting the Painted Firetail Finch at Cameron’s Corner since 1896; she participated in surveys of the Mallee Fowl, the rare and endangered Golden Shouldered Parrot in Queensland, and the critically endangered Orange Bellied Parrot In the Coorong (migrating from Tasmania in the non-breeding winter months, this parrot is one of only 3 species of migrating parrots in Australia).

Thanks to Win’s knowledge of bugs, she was able to tell Denis Crawford she recognized a male Bird of Paradise Fly when it landed beside her; many of us would have thought it was a dandelion head. Look out for it, it is the most delicate and exotic of (male) bugs.

Snails! ….  Win received a delighted letter of thanks from Fred W. Ashton of Mt Gambier, after sending him a bag  of leaf  litter from the Grampians;  she couldn’t see any snail shells, but he found shells from 69 species, size range 0.05-2.0 mm. Snails prefer certain types of eucalypts and other plants, depending on depth of leaf litter, bark type, and shelter – lots to learn about snails!

 

Win’s always been quick to put her hand up and take on many voluntary hours of meticulous work, studies way beyond ‘cut-off’ dates, and documenting her observations in all areas of nature to a high level of expertise. It is her enthusiasm and continued delight in discovering more about nature which are inspirational.

 

Leigh Douglas

Thanks to Judy McPhee for help with all our ‘interviews’ but all mistakes are mine.

 

Grampians Rock Art In The News

EXCERPTS FROM AN ARTICLE IN THE AGE JAN 13

The AGE had a long and chatty article on a fascinating newly discovered art site. It is far too long to copy here, but I do recommend that you read it on line – The Age

Or you can contact me (Margo) and I can send it to you.  It is the need to protect valuable sites like this one that makes it so important to educate rock climbers, and where necessary ban some sites.

‘Now the legendary bunyip has been found – or ancient rock drawings of it at least – in a shallow cave atop a cliff in the Mt Difficult Range. Four bunyips, to be precise, lurking in a sandstone shelter on an outcrop that commands sweeping views of the plains of north-western Victoria.

It was a find that would shine new light on an age-old story – that of a cosmic struggle between creator spirit and his monstrous enemy – purport to explain why mother- and son-in-laws should never mix and forever change the way you see a double rainbow.

The rock art was found in the Mt Difficult Range and tells a story which links the cave to two other sites which can be seen from the clifftop.

It was in May 27, 2016 that park ranger Kyle Hewitt – marking a new track that will form part of the Grampians Peaks Trail – entered the sandstone shelter and brought its bunyips back from oblivion.

Since then the rediscovery has been kept secret. Only a handful of traditional owners, park rangers and archaeologists have been allowed to enter the cave.

Even now, its exact location cannot be revealed.

The cave was the latest and most significant of about 40 rock-art sites to be rediscovered in the last seven years in the Grampians – or Gariwerd as they are called by the people whose ancestors drew those bunyip.

That has taken the tally of rock-art sites in Gariwerd to about 140 – or 90 per cent of all the known such sites in Victoria.

Jake Goodes began his life as a park ranger in Gariwerd hunting goats. Now, 15 years later, he hunts rock art. As Parks Victoria’s Aboriginal Heritage co-ordinator for western Victoria and, at 36, an archaeologist in training, Mr Goodes was among the group that first recorded the bunyip cave.

Goats are one of the primary threats to these ochre bunyips, as they are to all Gariwerd’s rock art. Like people, goats are drawn to these shelters, and like to scratch their coarse and oily hides against the sandstone.

On the hike to the bunyip cave, Mr Goodes points out signs that indicate the bunyips survived another close encounter. It’s there in the blackened stringybark trunks, the thick regrowth of leaves, the fields of white everlasting daisies.

Fire has the potential to destroy the whole site,” he says.

It heats the air within the rock and then it pops the rock like popcorn.”

But people are the ones who do the most damage to any site,” Mr Goodes says. “Which is unfortunate. The rock art of the Grampians is rich in symbols, some of which are found nowhere else and much of which has meanings yet to be relearned.”

The article goes on to tell a story about Bunjil, who is depicted in Bunjil’s cave not far from Stawell. Mr Goodes calls this tale a lore story. Its survival too, is a small miracle. It came to him by way of research done by historian Ian Clarke, who dug up a newspaper article published in 1925 by a reverend, who was told the story by an Aboriginal source he refers to only as “a woman from the Wimmera”.

(Remember that Ian Clarke told us about this in a talk last year.)

Nature Glenelg Trust News

The Upper Wannon River floodplain is adjacent to the Grampians National Park in western Victoria. A large proportion of this floodplain was drained from the 1950s for agriculture and later converted to a Tasmanian Blue Gum plantation forest. Nature Glenelg Trust (NGT) has been progressively working to restore the wetlands of the floodplain across public and private land, with successful permanent works now completed at Brady Swamp and Gooseneck Swamp in the Grampians National Park.

A recently awarded Victorian Government Climate Change Innovation Grant (via DELWP) is funding major on-ground works over the next two years that will see Walker Swamp transformed into a community demonstration site for sustainable floodplain restoration and management; by removing the plantations and reversing artificial drainage across the more than 440 hectares of land now owned by Nature Glenelg Trust.

These activities will restore natural river floodplain function, recreating wetland habitats for threatened and iconic species, like the Growling Grass Frog and Brolga. The works will also buffer the site against climate change, by retaining significantly more water in the landscape in the future.

A minor restoration trial on the deepest part of Walker Swamp has been in place since 2014, giving a taste of what is to come, but the major on-ground works as a result of NGT securing the site – including the backfilling of over 20 kilometres of artificial drains on the floodplain – are due to commence in autumn 2019. So we have an exciting year ahead!

The project is being delivered by NGT in partnership with the Glenelg Hopkins CMA and the Hamilton Field Naturalists Club, with grant funding support from the Victorian Government, and support from the wider community (including FOGGS).

FOGGS will be visiting the site on Saturday 14th September.

Deer Strategy

The Draft Victorian Deer Management Strategy (the draft strategy) has been developed by the Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) and the Department of Economic Development, Jobs, Transport and Resources

The development of a deer management strategy is a key action under the Victorian Government’s Sustainable Hunting Action Plan 2016 – 2020 and recognised under the Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037 Implementation Framework.

The objectives of the draft strategy are to maintain hunting opportunities while managing the impacts of deer on environmental, social, cultural, economic and agricultural assets.

Effective deer management requires a partnership approach between all levels of Government, Traditional Owners, conservation and community groups, Landcare, water authorities, Catchment Management Authorities, hunting organisations, hunters, the deer farming industry, commercial deer harvest industry and the community.

The draft strategy proposes a new way of thinking to guide how deer are managed in our landscape.

Opportunity was given to comment on the strategy, but unfortunately the deadline was 27 October, so it is too late but you can read the strategy on line and I expect still make your submissions.

PDF (6.64 MB)  

Draft Deer Management Strategy

Feral Cat Questionnaire

University of Adelaide Feral Cat Management Project

Our team is looking to recruit residents who live in, manage or own property on Kangaroo Island or in the Grampians region to participate in an online questionnaire about feral cats and feral cat management.

The aim of this project will be to determine how the public feels about feral cat management, and also to inform about the different techniques that may be used in your region, or on your land. This information can then later be used to inform management authorities about what techniques are deemed acceptable by the public.

If you live in, manage or own property on Kangaroo Island or in the Grampians region, and would like further information on this study, or if you would like to participate in the questionnaire please go to http://adelaide.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_7Utb Qk7mP60DaYJ and enter the code T8RM63L when prompted. If you have any questions, please contact Brooke Deak at

 

A New Environmental Plan

DELWP released Victorians Volunteering for Nature: Environmental Volunteering Plan on 24 October.

Many Victorians give their time freely to a wide variety of environmental causes and organisations, including Landcare, Friends, and Coastcare groups. We recognise and value their contributions and collective efforts and want to help volunteers do more for nature when, where, and how it suits them.

The Environmental Volunteering Plan (EVP) provides a welcome focus on the valuable work that Friends groups and other environmental volunteers do. The EVP proposes, among other things: to investigate a longer-term environmental volunteering government grants program and to create a small ‘set-up’ grants fund to offset administration and incorporation costs for new groups.  This Environmental Volunteering Plan will expand and reinvigorate environmental volunteering for all Victorians to get involved.

DELWP say they are setting a new direction based on sustaining, expanding, valuing and understanding volunteering in Victoria. Each area has practical and contemporary ideas to support the environmental volunteering sector, such as improving administration, training volunteers, increasing collaboration and using digital communication tools to engage and share information.

We also want to celebrate the important environmental, social and economic contributions of our environmental volunteers. It is essential that our volunteers feel valued and others see and value their contribution.

To download a copy of Victorians Volunteering for Nature -Environmental Volunteering Plan click here: https://www.environment.vic.gov.au/home/victorians-volunteering-for-nature
For further information on environmental volunteering please email the Environmental Volunteering team at .

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 bushheritage.org.au

Introducing the Nature Glenelg Trust

When I was at the Cavendish Red Gum festival I listened to an exciting presentation on this trust and I believe it will be of great interest to our group.

Nature Glenelg Trust is established as an environmental organisation for the following purposes:

  • To protect and enhance the natural environment, with a particular emphasis on wetland conservation and restoration activities, supported by the Habitat Restoration Fund.
  • To generate and provide high quality scientific information that enhances management of the natural environment.
  • To support and undertake key conservation ecology research.
  • To promote public awareness of nature through education, and involving the community in the activities of the Trust.

How did it all begin?

In 2011 a small group of people, with a range of complementary skills and a passion for practical solutions, got together to develop a new way of getting more environmental work to happen “on the ground” in their local region. A shared passion for nature in our region and a desire to maximise practical action were the motivating factors that brought us together. We recognised that a need exists for an environmental non-government organisation (NGO) to be based in this region, have a regional focus, and work on the issues of greatest local relevance with our local community and partners. Nature Glenelg Trust is our living experiment to fill that gap.

Why Nature Glenelg?

The name of the Trust describes our regional focus, with the Glenelg River situated at the centre of our large regional home; straddling the border between South Australia and Victoria. To enable us to focus our efforts in this region, Nature Glenelg Trust has staff based in regional centres situated between Adelaide and Melbourne. The fact that the Glenelg River is one of this region’s most important waterways, with a catchment that is home to a wide range of wetland habitats, plants and wildlife, makes it an ideal choice. Over the past 6 years, NGT has been especially busy in the Dunkeld area, working with private landholders and Parks Victoria to restore wetlands on public and private land, with great success at places like Brady Swamp, Gooseneck Swamp, Green Swamp and Scale Swamp

Thanks to a new partnership between Nature Glenelg Trust (NGT), Glenelg Hopkins CMA and the Hamilton Field Naturalists Club (HFNC), Stage 1 (500 acres) has now been successfully purchased to become Nature Glenelg Trust’s first wetland reserve in Victoria. On the 2nd of March 2018, the purchase of Stage 1 of Walker Swamp was settled. Over the years ahead Walker Swamp will be restored to its former glory, but first we’re now seeking support to secure Stage 2, and double the eventual project area to 1000 acres. This project expansion will enable us to fully restore the Walker Swamp floodplain and physically link the entire project area with the Wannon River and the Grampians National Park. Adjacent to the Grampians National Park, (a short 15-20 minute drive) this floodplain property retains all the necessary ingredients for successful restoration. 

With the commencement of this new project, NGT has also recruited Dr Greg Kerr to manage the property and the complex process of restoring its environmental values. Greg grew up in the western districts and is now back home, living and working in the Dunkeld community. To get in touch with Greg, you can email or call him on: or 0418 846 993.

You can meet Greg, and also hear NGT’s Manager Mark Bachmann speak about NGT’s past, present and future projects in the Dunkeld area, at a special community presentation evening being held at the Dunkeld Community Centre at 7.00pm on Tuesday 21 August. This is your chance to learn about our local wetlands, ask questions and, if you are interested, find out how to become involved.

For more information about Nature Glenelg Trust, you can visit: www.ngt.org.au.

Feral Cats

News from Mike Stevens

The Victorian Government has indicated it will officially move to declare cats as pest animals on public land in mid-2018 paving the way for feral cat control.

The important next step will involve community engagement to consult on the types of control techniques that will be allowed. Being able to complement large-scale fox 1080 poison baiting with large-scale cat poison baiting could be the next evolution of the Grampians Ark project. Data is indicating that aerial baiting for feral cats is extremely effective during the colder, winter months when natural food resources are scarce and feral cats are under a higher metabolic requirement, thus, less fussy and more willing to eat a bait. It is the type of sophisticated “once-per-year” program the Grampians could deliver, complementing the long-term fox poison baiting efforts.

The Western Quoll reintroduction project in the Flinders Ranges continues to get excellent results – feral cat numbers remain low as a result of large-scale cat baiting and control strategies and quolls are breeding. Imagine if we could return Eastern Quolls, Spot tailed Quolls, Eastern Barred Bandicoots, Eastern Bettongs and more rock-wallabies to the Grampians!