Unfortunately, the walk did not go ahead due to horrible weather, but a couple of us got there later. Bit harder than expected (rock climbing due to a small navigational error!!!!) and very prickly bushbashing…but got there! Back to the cars by 3 after a 10.30 start. Easier coming down the back way.
Clive gave us a very interesting talk on his experiences using wildlife cameras on their property near Mt Dryden. What to look for when purchasing a camera, how and where to set one up, traps to avoid etc. Plus enchanting pictures of the native and non-native animals, some of which they have not seen in the flesh but only on the camera. I hope to have more on this in our next issue.
Two years ago, a new species of clam shrimp was described by Prof Timms endemic to the northern Grampians rockpools or gnammas as they are more correctly known. He returned on 15/16th of August as part of a larger study into the ecology of gnammas in SE Australia, studying macroinvertebrates, zooplankton, and phytoplankton (this latter being undertaken by Dr Luciana Barbosa, a lecturer from the University of Paraiba in Brazil, who accompanied the Prof on this trip). Unfortunately his studies have been somewhat abbreviated due to delays by Parks Victoria in issuing a research permit, a matter on which FOGGs intervened on his behalf.
Eight gnammas on Flat Rock near Mt Zero were identified and surveyed and will be visited several times as the season progresses. In addition, four gnammas at Mt Arapiles were surveyed. Even at this early stage the results are most interesting. The endemic clam shrimp was present at the Mt Zero gnammas (also those at Mt Stapylton and Hollow Mountain…sampled by FOGGs members but not part of the ongoing study) along with an assortment of other creatures such as mosquito larvae, beetle larva and so on. Species diversity was somewhat poor.
The composition of the Mt Arapiles gnammas was strikingly different, despite similar geology and climate. The clam shrimp was absent, but what is most likely a new species of shield shrimp was found, along with pea shrimp, and a type of Ostracod (a seed shrimp…that being its food). As well starwort was seen which did not occur in gnammas of the Northern Grampians, and also Daphnia.
The shield shrimp samples will be lodged with the Museum of Victoria before being shipped to the expert on these things in the USA for detailed description of its morphology, and most likely DNA analysis.
Even at this early stage these results appear to be a text book case of similar habitats resulting in two unique assemblies of invertebrates due to physical separation. Of course, the most famous examples of this are to be found in Galapagos Islands and documented by Charles Darwin. FOGGs members are asked to keep an eye out for any gnammas they may find elsewhere, but especially in the Black Range and Dundas Range which have similar geology by physical separation from the main body of the Grampians.
Thanks are due to Louise Shepherd and Brigitte Muir at Natimuk for helping guide us to the gnammas on Mt Arapiles, and for keeping a eye out for their unique shield shrimp. Prof Timms has provided some posters which will be used to explain to school groups what all this is about.
Welcome to our summer newsletter. Please note that our first activity for the year is on Sunday March 3, We are having our annual cleanup activity followed by a BBQ lunch. See the poster.
We have a mix of familiar and new faces on our committee which is very healthy. A big welcome particularly to our new President Catherine Pye, and thanks to Rodney for his work over the last couple of years.
Some years back our dedicated volunteer webmaster set up a system that allowed us to have email addresses for President, Secretary, Treasurer, Editor etc @friendsofgrampiansgariwerd. We are finally starting to adopt them and as Rodney wrote last year “The legitimacy it lends us as an organisation when communicating with government departments, filing grant applications, and press releases etc is useful. It also is helpful for continuity when people change roles.”
After a quiet few weeks over the Christmas break I am being bombarded with emails and newsletters, and I’ve selected some to share with you. Then, just as I was trying to get the newsletter finished, comes a media storm over planned restrictions on rock climbing in the Grampians. This had been discussed at the Advisory Group meeting last week (see the Advisory Group Report), It was good to see in PV’s response in this statement by the CEO Simon Talbot.
“Our main priority is protecting the natural and cultural values of this precious landscape that is the Grampians National Park. We are working to support climbers and other park users to find alternate locations in the Grampians to climb. We’ll also work with local businesses and Licensed Tour Operators over the coming months to clearly identify where climbing can continue.”
What a great start to the year with the wonderful talk by Neil about our great birds and animals and where to find them locally. Thank you Neil.
Our next event is Sunday March 3rd, ‘Clean up Australia Day’ meeting at 8.30am in the Halls Gap Park opposite Visitor Centre. I look forward to seeing you there. For those who can’t make this please arrange your own community clean up – hopefully the Shires will have their tips open for free that day.
Well we’ve had our first committee meeting and have planned out a year of exciting activities. These can be found in the Calendar.
In July, we invite Friends to our property at Fyans Creek for a plant out to coincide with Planet Ark National Tree Day. Clive and I bought our place about 5 years ago and have slowly been renovating the farm house and undertaking various land care activities on the property. We have a lot of red gum regeneration, but are lacking in understorey so we collected some local tea tree, melaleuca and sheoak seed which we are now growing for the plant out.
In February 2018 we made the exciting discovery of southern brown bandicoots on our property in an area of dense bracken. The bandicoots were seen on our wildlife cameras which we have been putting out regularly to see what animals we have. On subsequent camera monitoring we have recorded bandicoots at 14 locations. The area where they live has a mixed redgum/yellow box overstory with medium to very dense bracken understorey. We would be happy to show you this area and the diggings at the plant out.
Our main item of business was deciding which of the many suggested activities for the year we would choose, and which month was the most suitable. We had decided at our November general meeting that it was a good idea to join with other groups interested in our unique environment, and this has happened on several dates this year.
Another decision was to proceed with reprinting the book by the late Ian McCann “The Grampians in Flower”. Margo is exploring some options, but would love any help that members can contribute.
Other items included
Discussion of what topics we would like to discuss when the committee has a meeting with Parks staff on 20 Feb (just too late for this newsletter. Report next time.)
Discussion of what activities of other groups should be emailed to FOGGs members (decided that three committee members to agree on each case).
Members will be encouraged to sign up and Bill is the person who will edit our site, all activities to be posted through the secretary.
Margo to write a letter/ card to David Handscombe on behalf of FOGG.
Our finances are pretty healthy and we received a surprise gift of $250 from the Australian Field Naturalists Network after a visit to the park, much appreciated. We still have funds earmarked for a seat along the walk from Zumsteins to McKenzie Falls, and of course the Ian McCann book project won’t be cheap.
We have been given two books for our library: “Tree walk in Drouin”, gift of a visitor to our area, and a personal memoir of Chataqua Peak by Marian Colton
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.
A number of road, walking track and park asset redevelopment projects were completed late last year and focus now shifts to completing the following projects:
Nagamadjidj walking track, carpark and art site interpretation signage redevelopment
Stapylton loop walking track repairs
Zumsteins Cottages Pise repair works
Zumsteins heritage site interpretation signage
Coppermine 4X4 bush camp and Group Hikers Camp redevelopment
Longpoint west Hikers camp redevelopment
New Dead Bullock Creek (Barriguwa) campground development. Replacement of Troopers creek.
There have been alignment changes to Briggs Bluff and the Mt Difficult walking tracks. Check for alignment updates at Brambuk prior to venturing out.
Unsealed roads have been upgraded throughout the park as part of flood recovery works. However, dry summer conditions have resulted in many dusty and corrugated sections. Note unsealed roads cannot be graded until there is an increase in soil moisture.
ENVIRONMENT AND HERITAGE
The Grampians team was successful in receiving funding for Biodiversity Response Planning last year. The funding will be used to run research and monitoring projects and on ground management of environmental threats.
New technology is assisting with monitoring of the reintroduced Rock Wallaby population.
Hard rubbish dumping is fast becoming a major issue in our smaller reserves surrounding the Grampians. The team is responding to a number of reports of household and commercial waste being dumped in reserves near surrounding townships.
FIRE AND EMERGENCY
While there have been numerous total fire bans and severe and extreme fire danger days, it has been a relatively quiet summer in the Wimmera and South West Fire Districts. The Halls Gap fire crew have continued with fire line slashing works, burn preparation for the Autumn and Spring program, and have also assisted the wider team with Junior Ranger education programs and a safer together community information stall in Halls Gap.
The summer holiday program has been a fantastic success this year. Our Summer Rangers have delivered a range of Junior Ranger programs to over 200 participants.
To assist with emergency response Parks Victoria has recently installed over 110 emergency markers throughout the National Park. These can be used to quickly locate lost or injured walkers, and reduce response times of emergency services.
The Peaks Trail team send out a community report every few months. The last one was in November so I won’t put it here but can forward it to you if you ask. Or you can learn more by registering on to get it mailed to you.
Just a very brief summary: Though summer weather conditions have been harsh, construction works on the Mt Difficult to Halls Gap section remain on schedule for completion by Sept 2019. Parks Victoria is working to identify Cinnamon Fungus, along the trail alignment. Cinnamon Fungus, a microscopic, soil borne pathogen attacks and destroys plant root systems causing plants to die through lack of water and nutrients. It is found across the Grampians and is commonly spread through the movement of contaminated soil and gravel carried by vehicle or foot traffic.
Dave is probably the ranger FOGGS has had most contact with over the years. Starting on 4th January 1982 with the Forest Commission as a technical assistant with the School of Forestry and Land Management in Creswick, Dave did four and a half years before being seconded to the Alpine Planning Team to work on the proposed Alpine National Park. In 1988 Dave transferred to Mt Buffalo working as a technical assistant (a.k.a. Ranger) focused on campgrounds and patrols including cross country ski patrols. In 1989 Dave got offered the job as the Dunkeld Ranger in the Grampians. ‘Unfortunately’ the job offer was just too late into Winter and the removalist truck couldn’t get into Mt Buffalo because of the snow so he was ‘forced’ to do another snow season on ski patrol. Dave then got offered the Walking Track Ranger position based in Halls Gap and has worked in the Grampians from late 1989 until February 2019.
It is quite hard to conceive what the Parks Victoria Grampians Team will look like now that Dave is retiring after almost thirty years. Thirty years of working to protect the park, thirty years of learning its treasures, especially its plants, thirty years of sharing that knowledge.
Though never actually officially our “contact ranger”, Dave has been one of the rangers FOGGs have seen the most. Working bees at the Red Gum Walk, examining sallow wattle near Beehive Falls back in the 2000’s are just two of our activities where he features in our photos.
Is his nickname still “Horrible”? Apparently he once reprimanded a tourist, I think with a dog, and she complained about “that horrible ranger”. Whereupon his mates called him “Horrible Handscombe” for quite a few years. Within FOGGs he was for a while called “Ranger Dave’ because we at that stage had so many members called Dave that I remember adapting the Dr Seuss poem for our newsletter:
Did I ever tell you that Mrs. McCave
Had twenty-three sons and she named them all Dave?
Well, she did. And that wasn’t a smart thing to do.
You see, when she wants one and calls out, ‘Yoo-Hoo!
Come into the house, Dave!’ she doesn’t get one.
All twenty-three Daves of hers come on the run!
This makes things quite difficult at the McCaves’
As you can imagine, with so many Daves.
So goodbye Dave (and Linda), enjoy your retirement, spend time studying peacock spiders and orchids. Come back regularly, maybe tell us gently what we should be focusing on, and thank you again.