Please note that if you have not renewed your membership your period of grace has expired and this will be your last newsletter.
There are always new challenges and new opportunities and your membership is important in our advocacy role, even if you find it difficult to come to our activities.
A sad piece of news is that we have probably lost all the work that the three RMIT students did on researching the heritage of the Stawell Field Naturalists. The computer and backups were stolen from Sophie’s car, along with her cameras and other valuables. The computer was found but badly damaged. We still are holding out faint hopes that experts may be able to retrieve something, but nothing so far. All that work, not just the student work, but that of the field naturalists and others who gave up their time to talk to them.
And a bit of good news. Congratulations to our member Ben Gunn who can now add the letters Ph.D after his name. The title of his thesis is “Art of the Ancestors” We look forward to hearing more about it from him soon. We have learnt so much from Ben about the Grampians art sites, but much of his work has also been in the north of the country.
This newsletter is becoming so full that I am going to have to omit some interesting pieces I had intended to include. I made a submission to the Inquiry into the control of invasive animals on Crown land and have received the Summary Booklet. It will come up for discussion at the end of the year so I’ll report further then.
Three of us attended a training session by Parks on their new Volunteer site “Park Connect” and it looks as if it could be useful to us. More next time but take a look at it. But it won’t replace having a real live person on the ground. Check it out www.parkconnect.vic.gov.au
Our most recent activity was our AGM and Wendy’s AGM report will come later. The good news is we have some new faces on our committee which is really good. The sad bit is farewelling two hard working members, our treasurer Mabel and our secretary Wendy are both heading for a rest. Hard acts to follow.
I have been doing this role for quite a few years now, and have accepted to continue. I do enjoy it, but would love someone to volunteer to assist and maybe take over slowly. You don’t have to live anywhere close by. I recently discovered that the media person for Wimmera CMA lives in southern NSW. If she can do it, so can one of you city members!
AGM brings me to the end of another year as president. Another busy year with a varied and interesting list of activities as I look back.
Insects with Dennis Crawford, garden lover insect photography expert and local Radio celebrity. He is passionate about his subject and a great macro photographer
Deer with Daryl Panther others have jokingly referred to him as a poacher turned gamekeeper. He was never a poacher but he has great knowledge from years of deer farming and hunting. This is why he is a contractor to Parks Vic. Aiding in hunting and exterminating introduced pest species. And he had some interesting stories to share.
Clam Shrimp investigation with the worlds leading expert Dr Timms, ably organised and coordinated by Bill Gardiner.
Annual Park catchup with Dave Roberts, the area chief ranger. He gave us some amazing facts and figures about visitor numbers, earnings and expenditure within the park.
Mabel’s Plant Out. An amazing thing was accomplished by a dedicated group. We planted, ate, drank many cuppas and even got the watering system up and running! A great arboreal memorial to Janbert, Mabel and the participants. In my head I think of it as Janbert’s Arboretum.
Mount Abrupt and its unexpected events.
Cleanup Day a success as always, with Caity O’Reilly’s efforts much was achieved through the park, with many groups participating, even some European backpackers wading in the creek and cleaning out large quantities of rubbish.
A Sallow Wattle research presentation by Samantha Barron.
Videos presented by the students documenting the history of the Stawell Field Nats. We have learned from this that backups are incredibly important (Unfortunately the only copy of the edited film has now been lost due to car theft), as is the attendance of a parks staff member with keys, and pre testing the film/projector operation. Thank you to Margo for keeping us occupied, Judith for feeding the kids, and the Brambuk cafe for ensuring we didn’t consume too much food, by not preparing it. But we all ate well later as we had our Christmas breakup at the hotel.
We have ordered a newer, lightweight sign through Wimmera Printing and Design. This will be very useful for marking activity gathering points, even in crowded areas.
Fellow FOGGs you get out what you put in. If you have an idea for an activity, feel free to run it by the committee and help organise, or even run the event. Don’t just make suggestions for others to act on. Get involved. Everyone on the committee has a say, can organise activities, write reports etc but you don’t have to be on the committee to do this, any member can take on activity responsibility with committee approval, we would love to see what great activities you can come up with, and what direction the group can take with newer input. As such we are asking for people to volunteer to write activity reports, and represent FOGG at other activities and report back via the newsletter. (Round table attendance? If someone is interested in replacing Wendy please let us know) And I’m sure you would all love to read someone else’s ramblings in this newsletter, without me on my soapbox.
We do still have the option to reprint Ian McCann’s field guide, but we need someone to project manage this. We also need a few dedicated people to aid office bearers in their duties, we need a succession plan in order for the group to survive in times where many volunteer and community groups are struggling. One day Margo may decide she is doing too much, so we’ll need an editor as well as our other office bearers.
I have been doing much thinking, and soul searching since John Clarke passed away at one of our activities. It raised thoughts about how we deal with emergency situations. I feel we need to have a PLB or personal locator beacon at all our activities. Just for piece of mind in case of an emergency on a walking track or somewhere away from the main roads through the park. In years gone by this was a high cost purchase, but currently somewhere less than $400, with a long life battery. By the time the battery runs out (8-10 years) the technology will be so much improved we would be wanting to do an upgrade anyway. This will definitely make us look better to emergency services if an incident occurs, and to potential new members we will look well organised and prepared.
We have had some good promotion of group and activities this last year. Janbert’s efforts began a trend for us getting radio time. I was interviewed twice by Dave Lennon on ABC local radio a couple of times this year, as was Ben prior to his archaeology activity. Previously Margo has also had the pleasure. Its only a short stint in the early morning “What’s on?” segment, but it gets a wide audience, and this seems to bring potential new members to activities. The number of attendees at Daryl’s deer session was proof of this. They may not have been our usual cohort, but their eyes are opened up a little. They now know we don’t hate them for hunting deer, surely its good for people to come into contact with us and change their preconceived views.
I think if Dave and his producer can be convinced, it would be good to make this a regular chat before each FOGG activity to promote us to the region. It also gives us more community recognition, and legitimacy. I must follow up on this, maybe if we can get Dave or his producer to attend some activities it might get even wider appeal. I have no desire to become a radio star, but I do want FOGG to grow and evolve with new, younger members so that our future is secured.
I am once again humbled to be elected as president again, and will continue to do my best to steer the FOGG ship for another year. This time with a new secretary and treasurer. Many thanks from all of us to Wendy and Mabel for their work over the past years. Yes that’s right you are stuck with me again!
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
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.
There were 16 people in attendance, including a few who were interested in learning more for the purpose of hunting, not our usual audience but welcome all the same.
Daryl explained his background and how he has farmed Deer in the past and now being a contractor to Parks Vic. helping with the control of feral animals. He continued by describing the different species of deer found in Victoria.
Rusa Deer are found mainly around Sydney and NSW. They have 3 points on each antler. They will breed with Sambar, but as there are only isolated populations of Rusa in Victoria and we don’t have them in the Grampians they are not an issue.
Sambar Deer are one of the heaviest species of deer. They are found around Mt Cole, in South Australia and also in the Otways, with a few in the Grampians area. They have 3 points on each antler and a bib around their neck. Samba deer don’t mix with red deer so they tend to occur in different parts of the Park to Reds.
Hog Deer are similar to Rusa and Samba but only grow about as big as a lab dog, there are very few around, none in the Grampians. They have established populations mostly in Gippsland.
Chital or Axis Deer are found in Queensland around Charters Towers, there are some isolated populations in Victoria, but not within the Grampians.
Fallow Deer are grazers rather than browsers. They have distinctive palmate antlers, although when young can look like those of Red deer. There are four colour variations, black, red, white and menil, they all have spots throughout adulthood, unlike others that only exhibit spots as juveniles. They are commonly found around Pomonal, but do occur in other areas of the park.
Red deer, along with Fallow, are the most common species found within the park, (although Sambar sightings are expanding).They are a larger animal and have antlers with many points. There is open hunting season on Red and Fallow deer all year round.
Deer have their fawns in December and usually only have one young. The fawns stay with their mothers till April. March, April and May and into June is the rutting season at this time you can call animals in. Daryl demonstrated this mating call. Red deer males look for females while Fallow deer females do the searching. During the rut males hate each other and fight but at other times of the year can be found in bachelor herds. In June males and females congregate into herds. Come November/December they spread out into the bush while the females have their fawns. The males drop their antlers at this time, possibly to prevent them from injuring the young, but mostly it is a response to nutritional needs. It is easier to move through the bush in leaner times searching for food if you don’t have an anchor either side of your head.
Deer were introduced into Australia 160 years ago and were brought to Longeronong and Hamilton where they were released around the 1860’s in order to have animals to hunt in the future. In 1918 they were declared a protected animal.
About ten years ago a study on the deer in the Grampians estimated there were more than 1100. Since then there have been several severe fires, pushing the deer out to the edges of the park for food and some were shot as a result of this. Numbers did drop, however now that the bush has recovered the animals have come back into the shelter of the Park and it is difficult to get an accurate estimate of numbers without doing an extensive survey. Some estimates have them around 550 while others say there are over 1100. Some of our group members think this estimate is too low.
There is currently a program with the sporting shooters association to try to reduce their numbers but so far not many have been shot. This is taking place as ecologists have identified a problem with over grazing in the park, and you cannot begin culling native wildlife while there are introduced species grazing the same areas.
After Daryl’s talk we got a chance to examine some skulls and antlers Daryl had brought with him. Those antlers are HEAVY! We then went for a walk behind Brambuk looking for deer sign. We saw a small group of Reds, along with trees they have rubbed on, scats and footprints. Not surprising really as Daryl estimates there are 50 or more resident in Halls Gap. They are safe from hunters, and have well watered gardens and fields of green grass all year round.
Daryl also shared some stories of his work in pest control for Parks Vic. He showed us radio collars for tracking programs and the judas goat program that allows tracking of feral goat herds to enable removal. He is even having to deal with feral pigs not too far from the park as rogue hunters are trying to introduce populations for their own hunting purposes. There is a possibility this is also being done with deer species too.
This time last year I reported on a presentation to the park Advisory Group by Mike Stevens on the issue of deer in the Park, including the proposal to use the sporting shooters group as had been done in Wilson’sPromontory. You can read it on our website but here is his proposed action list.
Control red deer particularly in high priority herb-rich woodland areas.
Zero tolerance, opportunistic control of Fallow and samba deer to prevent population establishment.
Dennis brought along some brilliant photos he has taken over the years, just a small selection of the ones that have fascinated him the most. With each insect he described, Dennis projected up a larger than life closeup picture to show off the best features. He is very passionate and moved from one to the other very quickly, sharing snippets of information as he went. I have done the best I can to string his information into a report for everyone who missed his brilliant presentation.
Insects occur on every continent in the world, including Antarctica!
Current estimates suggest there are 70,000 insect species in Australia, 20-30 million worldwide. But most are yet to be classified. Of this total less than 1% are pests. Their bad reputation comes because most people only notice them when they are a problem.
3/4 of all species on earth are insects. They have been around for longer than most other species.
Insects are incredibly important to the environment. They are responsible for pollination, seed dispersal, dung burial, recycling and even as food to plants.
If vertebrates disappeared overnight the world would continue on. If insects disappear the ecosystem collapse. They are of incredible importance to our everyday lives!
Meganeura monyi, the forerunner of dragonfly had a wingspan of nearly a metre! This was in the Carboniferous era, an oxygen rich time in which it was far easier to survive with a more primitive respiratory system without lung structures. In fact it was the presence of a diverse range of insects that drove the diversification of flowering plants. They fall into 6 major categories
Orthoptera– grasshoppers katydids locusts. They appeared 300 million years ago. A local example is the Raspy Cricket in the Grampians. It produces silk from its mouth to join leaves, has long antenna and curved ovipositor as a nymph. But after maturity does not have the long ovipositor.
Coleoptera– beetles, these were the first important pollinators. Approximately 30,000 species occur in Australia. 1/3 of these are weevils. Botany Bay weevil is present in the Grampians and endemic to large areas across the rest of Australia. It is so named for the area where it was first identified. Not surprising as it was the first place European biologists saw of Australia.
Lepidoptera– moths and butterflies developed sucking mouthparts and became nectar and pollen feeders. Approximately 20,000 moths (450 of these are butterflies) in Australia. Butterflies fold their wings back behind them, moths lay them flat along their body like a carapace. The Mistletoe moth only feeds on mistletoe, the Crexa moth only feeds on cherry Ballart trees. If these plants are removed from the environment, so are the insects. Is it possible this relationship works the other way? It’s not yet known as there are so many to study, and funding goes towards looking at pest insects mostly.
Neuropteraare the Lacewings. Antlion lacewings myrmeleontidae, create a cone shaped trap in the ground to capture their prey, usually ants. They flick sand at the ants on the side of the trap so they fall down into the centre where they can be eaten. This flick is one of the fastest actions in the natural world.
Isopteraincludes termites and ants/wasps
termites deadwood feeders/recyclers 350 species replace large herbivores in Australia, breaking down plant material. They also replace earthworms in dry northern climates. Termites fly, but discard wings when they land. Some termite soldiers have a “glue gun head” to squirt at ants that enter the mound.
Ants evolved 100 million years ago, with an incredibly complex social structure to their colony. There are 3,000 species identified in Australia. But it could be double that. The workers are sterile females, the highest numbers within the colony. Then there are the breeding male drones, and the smallest number are fertile queens that do all the reproduction. Nuptial flights take place where a complete new colony moves all at once. Males are twice as big as female workers, the queens are twice as big again. Workers don’t fly, but they do get carried sometimes. Ants use a chemical based communication, when they are agitated or injured you can sometimes smell this yourself. A Formic acid smell. They are the first colonisers after bushfires, and a great indicator of environment health. Some ants eat insects, some are herbivores, and some feed on sugars produced by other insects, so they farm them but do not kill them, just consuming their discharge.
Myrmecia species are the bull ants. Scavengers but will also kill other organisms to eat.
Funnel ants build the funnel shaped sand castles on entrance of hole, to prevent water entry.
Inqualine ants live in termite nests and cooperate to gain the benefit of the shelter provided by the mound in a very harsh hot dry climate.
The Flower Wasps are the ultimate romantic. Males have wings but females don’t. (However the ladies do have a bad sting.) They burrow under ground to lay eggs in living beetle larvae. Males are attracted by the female pheromone and they will carry a female to a flower to mate and gorge on nectar. Instead of taking her flowers, they carry her to the florist! But they are competing with the Scorpion fly, which have incredibly dextrous legs. The male will feed other flies to the female during mating!
Diamma bicolour, the Blue Ant is actually a wasp. The female sting is intensely painful. They are parasitic on mole crickets, males are too small to carry the female, so they mate on the ground.
A Spider Hunting Wasp will grip the fangs of a huntsman, hold on tight, and inject a sting to paralyse the spider. It then lays eggs in the living spider in her nest, as a natural nursery with food built in! They are bigger and stronger than huntsman.
Cuckoo wasps have an armour plated schlerotised carapace. They curl up as a defence from the wasps they invade to lay eggs in their nests. Th Cuckoo wasp larvae hatch first and eat the other wasp larvae. The adults are then providing food to raise the cuckoo wasp and not realising it!
Diptera are Flies.
Eucalyptus sawfly species are also known as spitfires. Pergagrapta polita is the common spitfire. The name comes from their defence of vomiting concentrated eucalyptus oil. If this gets into your eyes it creates a strong burning sensation.
Some flies parasitic on spiders, eat them from inside out. Mantispidae, the mantis fly have parasitic larvae that eat spiders. Bladder flies in Grampians do this
Chrysopidae, larvae have a jaw looking device that is actually straws for sucking the fluids from their insect prey. They collect the bodies of their food on their back, along with lichen as camouflage.
Aphids are introduced to Australia. This could be why they have become such a garden pest.
There are even some insects who’s larvae produce potassium cyanide as a defence mechanism.
Ranger Tammy Schoo has sent us a detailed Grampians National Park Community Update and we have more from other staff. Thank you Tammy, Mike and Tracey. Our readers from afar really appreciate learning more about our great Park from those who work in it.
Update from Tammy:
With winter officially over and Spring (or Petyan) finally here, the Grampians National Park is starting to put on its annual wildflower show. Here’s a few finds from the Northern Grampians recently.
Works were recently completed on the Stapylton and Asses Ears Flood Recovery Packages. Cultural heritage inspections and preservation works have been an important part of the process. After final inspections and gate removals, Asses Ears, along with a number of other roads in the north, will open mid-September.
This means that the only roads that will remain closed (pending further culvert and crossing works) are Redman and Mitchell roads and the annual seasonal closures (until Nov long weekend). Four Wheel Drive Victoria and local 4×4 clubs will be assisting with track clearing prior to these seasonal tracks reopening.
The Zumsteins cottage interpretation project is in progress with consultants undertaking background research to gather themes and local stories. Contractors removed a small amount of asbestos from the site which means repair and conservation works will start on ground at the beginning of October.
The Sallow Wattle management program continues in the northern Grampians with the assistance of contractors and volunteer school groups. We’ve seen a fantastic recovery of the Large Leaf Ray Flower in areas where the wattle has been removed.
Environment and Heritage Team
Heathland ‘small patch’ mosaic burning has continued along the Wannon River in the Southern Grampians this winter. Deakin University students are using images captured from the ‘supergrid’ of 170 cameras to monitor habitat and predators of the Long Nosed Potoroo and Southern Brown Bandicoot. It is hoped that over time the mosaic of small burns of varying age classes will support healthy populations that are protected from the impacts of fire in what is a very fiery landscape.
Parks Victoria, Monash University researchers and Traditional Owners met recently to establish a project to undertake a ‘palaeo-environmental’ reconstruction of vegetation and fire history of the Grampians landscape. This research will help inform bushfire history and human use of fire in the Grampians landscape.
Grampians Peaks Trail (GPT)
Spare a thought for the contractors who have been working in freezing conditions on the Major Mitchell Plateau recently. Battling through rain, sleet, sub-zero temperatures and snow falls, the team has moved over one kilometre of locally made steel boardwalk panels and other materials ready for installation over the coming months, as well as completing a huge amount of stone work.
Stage two track upgrades continue at Mt Sturgeon and Lake Wartook and further track upgrades will begin in Spring on the Flat Rock section to the Mt. Staplyton Summit, Mt Difficult Eastern escarpment, Chatauqua Peak near Halls Gap and Mt Abrupt track at Dunkeld.
Parks staff have been working with Gariwerd Traditional Owners to complete cultural heritage assessments along the GPT trail. These assessments have been searching for artefacts and scatter sites along with testing for pathogen spread of Phytophthora cinnamomi.
SPRING SCHOOL HOLIDAY PROGRAM
September is Biodiversity month – come join Park Rangers for some fun and educational Citizen Science activities in the Grampians National Park.
These holidays, Parks Victoria is running ‘BioQuests’ throughout our parks. For gamers that like nature, this activity is for you! Download ‘Questagame’ onto a smartphone, create an identity, join the Parks Victoria Junior Ranger Clan, grab your ’supplies’ and you’ll be on your way… searching for cool plants and animals. Go head to head with park rangers to find the most species in your area and go in the running to win all sorts of cool prizes!!
Did you know the Grampians National Park has its very own Earthwatch Institute Climate Watch Trail? As a citizen scientist you can help us monitor our local species, and the climate over time. The Venus Baths ClimateWatch Trail begins at the Halls Gap Botanic Gardens and makes its way along the Northern side of Stony Creek to Venus Baths. Prior to beginning the walk, visitors are encouraged to download the ClimateWatch app or print off a recording sheet. While on the walk visitors can record the species they see in the app or on the recording sheet. If using the app, the data can be submitted in real-time, and if using the paper-based recording sheet the data can be submitted after your walk on the ClimateWatch website.
Getting out in nature is good for body mind and soul…Recently, in partnership with the Wimmera Regional Sports Authority, Friends of Grampians Gariwerd and Grampians Walking Track Support Group we reproduced the “Grampians All Abilities Walking Guide”. This time round, we have included detailed information on the all-terrain TrailRider and Volunteer Sherpa program in the park; there’s really clear maps and grade descriptions for a variety of accessible walking tracks, including those for prams.
Purchase your copy at Brambuk the National Park and Cultural Centre or download a digital version from our website. Grampians Peak Trail
In her article Tammy said “Spare a thought for the contractors”. Tracey has sent us some photos which show just what it has been like.
The Grampians National Park’s winter heathland burning program aims to provide small patches of diverse, new habitat for some of the parks most threatened small mammals whilst leaving large areas of long unburnt habitat that are important refuges from predators. This program targets heathlands throughout the park with a particular focus on areas of long unburnt heath.
Capitalising on clear, calm and dry winter weather days, for the past five years the Grampians team have been burning small patches bordering the Wannon River stretching from Yarram Gap Road to Lynches Crossing Track. The team is working to provide a mosaic of habitat for the nationally threatened long nosed potoroo and southern brown bandicoot. Using only matches to ignite the fiery grasses, in August this year the team burnt a total of five patches covering 18Ha of the 900ha burn unit; the largest being 11ha and the smallest 1ha.
To complement the burning program, a research partnership has been established with Deakin University to camera monitor small mammal populations, foxes and feral cats. One hundred and seventy camera stations have been set up 400m apart and is colloquially known as the Wannon River “supa-grid” for pre and post-burn monitoring. Deakin have recently completed the second year of monitoring and we are eagerly waiting to receive the results – standby!
FOGGS have a policy of financially supporting students doing research in the Park, and of inviting them to share their knowledge with us and the public. It is so good that this kind of longitudinal study is happening, and that such a good partnership is in place between our rangers and the Universities.
Nothing to report this time as we have not met since the last newsletter. There’s one due soon but I won’t be able to make it and will have to rely on the minutes.
Nothing to report this time as well. The scheduled July meeting was cancelled and not rescheduled.
If there is any member who would be interested in attending these meetings as the FOGGs rep could they please let Rodney or Wendy know as we feel it would be good to keep our presence at these meetings. There are only 2 to 3 a year as well as the annual fire conference.
This year’s ‘Fire conference’ is being held at the Laharum Sports Club at 10 am Wednesday 18th October. The day usually runs till around 3 pm with a catered lunch. For further information and to RSVP contact Danielle Leehane at Any FOGG member interested in attending this day should contact Danielle direct.
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.
‘The towneys watched back’ is a project by artist Fernando do Campo, who has been researching the histories of house sparrow introductions across the USA, Argentina and Australia. Through archival research, colonial language, and site-specific artistic interventions across Ararat, Fernando do Campo explores this local narrative and the house sparrow as a potent symbol of colonisation.
This year marks the 150th anniversary of the ceremonial release of house sparrows from a balcony at the former Bull and Mouth Hotel, Barkly Street, Ararat. As the Advertiser explained in 1867: ‘On Tuesday morning last a cage of English sparrows arrived in Ararat by coach…’ The local community of Ararat rejoiced their release … for hours afterwards wherever one or two could be seen knots of persons gathered to watch their movements…’