Golton Gorge

The Walking Track Support Group have now finished their work on the Golton Gorge track. It was to have had an official opening, but it was cancelled due to it being a total fire ban that day. Another opening was planned, but then the virus restrictions came in. But when the Park is reopened that walk will also be open. Several FOGG members have worked with the Walking Track Support Group.

From the Editor

Welcome to our late summer bulletin. And apologies for the long break between newsletters. It has been such an incredible summer and although we have had no serious fires here, many of us have been affected. I myself got caught up in Kosciusko National Park, evacuated in plenty of time, but ended up spending much longer in Canberra than I had planned.

Our Park staff have been, and still are, flat out. They are in turns working in the fire affected areas, which means those left in the office are taking their roles as well as their own. So you will understand that there is nothing from either Rhonda or Hannah this time. We need to give them some time to relax, as there are still some difficult months ahead with the ongoing rock climbing issues and the Peaks Trail nearing completion. However we do have the general community update from the team and will be incorporating some of that into this newsletter.

I have a problem. I have far too many photos to use in this newsletter, I will send more to our patient website manager Frank van der Peet, but we do also have a barely updated Facebook page. I am currently the person supposed to be doing that, but it would be great if I could hand that over to someone else.

Prez Sez

Welcome to Friends of the Grampians Gariwerd newsletter.

As I write this, we have had nearly 30mm of rain and it is still coming down. No longer can I see the hills beyond the paddocks. I hope you have all had some relief from this hot and dry summer.

As I look outside on the dry brown grass, I see the red necked wallabies browsing on our lavender bushes…it can’t taste that good or can it? Last year’s joey is still hanging around and still has a drink every so often from mum’s pouch.

In November 2019 Grampians Parks Victoria staff met with local volunteer groups and we went through the process of planning our year and how to get approval for our activities on Park Connect. Following this Rhonda and Hannah have met with FOGG committee members to discuss our monthly activities plus Hannah and Rodney have been out to see Redgum Walk to work out what needs to be done for our yearly working bee in May.

I was very pleased to see that our first activity the Ptilotus monitoring was approved on Park Connect and Hannah and a new ranger came along to say hello and see how we were going.  This is a great start to the year and we look forward to working closely with Rhonda, Tammy and Hannah this year.

There are many challenges ahead for our National Park and we hope that you can join us this year for some fun and learning about the animals, plants and place that we love.

Kind regards, Catherine Pye

Walker Swamp Wetlands Tour with Glenelg Nature Trust

14 September, 2019

An absolutely fascinating day looking at the work this group is doing to restore wetlands on the edge of the Grampians, followed by a visit to a redgum forest inside the National Park. You will remember that last year FOGG gave them some money towards buying these properties so as to restore these precious environments. You can subscribe to their newsletter.

AGM and some gardening work in the Halls Gap Botanic Garden

9 November, 2019

At our AGM we chose the committee for 2020:

  • President: Catherine Pye
  • Vice President: Leigh Douglas
  • Secretary: Bill and Judy Gardner
  • Treasurer: Judith Thompson
  • Committee : Geoff Stratford, Andrew Cunningham, Rodney Thompson, Neil Macumber  A vote of thanks was made to retiring members (Mabel Brouwer and David Steane).
  • Newsletter Editor…Margo helped by Ben

We then did some some gardening work in the Halls Gap Botanic Garden, followed by a talk at the Mural Room on Wildlife Health Surveillance Victoria by Pam Whiteley.

Pam is the coordinator of Wildlife Health Victoria and is highly qualified and experienced Vet in the Faculty of Vet and Agricultural Sciences at University of Melbourne. She had previously worked at Healesville Sanctuary, spent 3 years working in the National Wildlife Health Center (American spelling !)  USA, CSIRO animal health laboratory in Geelong and Vic State Vet Laboratory.

Her fascinating talk gave examples of diseases that our wildlife can have and how this can occasionally be passed to humans ( Zoonoses). Clearly she has a fascinating profession with many times needing to investigate why native animals are sick or dead. It makes her a real detective but apparently the investigations can be very complex and expensive with need to detect poisons and many forms of infections. Pam did mention that it cost $1000 for full toxicology testing!

She emphasised the importance of sending to her the bodies of animals as soon as possible after death as possible to give the best chance to find a cause. She told us to avoid direct contact with the dead animals by ideally using gloves and certainly 2 plastic bags at least and putting this onto ice before posting.

She does get some important specimens from local vets but sadly it seems not all vets know about her work. Without the specimens , her investigation cannot proceed.

As an example of a mystery human illness known as Mycobacterium Ulcerans in which we humans can get a nasty skin ulcer. It seems this maybe contracted from mosquito bites which have contact with certain possums. It is currently being found in people in the Mornington Peninsula and no longer in Bairnsdale where it was first recognised decades ago. Clearly it still is needing more scientific research to get all the answers!

Another example of an infection spread from one  creature to another, Pam cited bacterial infections contracted by Eastern Grey Kangaroos from cattle and sheep.

She also discussed the disease that young kangaroos can get by eating the pasture filaris at certain times. This is well known to sheep farmers also.

She also mentioned the importance of surveillance of the wildlife because of potential dangers to humans or our stock.

Pam also discussed the contracting of serious mites by koalas and wombats contracted possibly from foxes.

Another curious observation was the death of 100 ringtail possums found dead on beaches after a long hot dry summer, thought to be due to dehydration as infections and poisons were excluded. This could be a future risk for possums and koalas with climate change.

Yet another curiosity her team managed to elucidate were of cockatoos with feather loss and weak beaks found to be due to a viral illness.

Pam also discussed multiple deaths of king parrots that were found to be due to their getting an intestinal protozoa from contaminated bird feeders due to faecal contamination.

She also discussed the deaths of many frogs thought to be due to aluminium poisoning from disturbed soil after heavy rain.

Yet another mystery epidemic of deaths, this time of raptors was thought to be due to their consuming rodents who had been poisoned with Rodenticides and this moved onto discussion regarding the problem farmers have of controlling rodents but not harming wildlife. This clearly is a fine line to tread on occasions.

Another fascinating example of mysterious illnesses and deaths were of Dolphins dying of Toxoplasmosis, believed to be due the infection being washed into the ocean from cats! She mentioned a particularly severe death toll in the waters off California.

Currently she is investigating the large number of deaths of shearwaters in Port Fairy and how this maybe linked to deaths of many migratory birds in the Northern Hemisphere this year.

Pam mentioned how few reptiles are sent into her so her knowledge of their diseases is lacking.

She again mentioned the importance that people like us in the public be aware of her department’s existence and their keenness to receive animals for investigation as soon as possible and encouraged us to “spread the word”.

Christmas on Mt William

December 14, 2019

We had a very enjoyable evening picnic on Mt William. Parks had given us permission for two cars to drive up with our chairs and provisions while most of us walked both ways. It was beautiful weather and this time we were prepared for the cold as the sun set. We revisited the marine fossils in the rock near the very top, and Neil showed us the Mt William Snow Gum (rare and only found on Mt William and Major Mitchell Plateau).

Visit to Cooinda Burrong

January 11, 2020

For our first activity for 2020 a dozen members gathered at the scout camp to revisit the ptilotus erubescens study that we assisted with during Stan Parfitt’s time.

The exclusion plots are long gone. Due to fire damage the remaining fencing material was removed for the safety of those using the scout camp. Quinn (the current camp manager) has tried to keep the signs in place since the fencing was removed. This did enable us to find the study areas. Unfortunately most were bare of ptilotus, or any grasses for that matter. The impact of fires, and the tough conditions and grazing since have had their effects.

One area was still showing both the Ptilotus erubescens (Hairy Tails) and the larger and more common ptilotus macrocephalus, commonly known as Featherheads. Many seed heads had been grazed off. I believe our final count was 40 plants and 60 flower heads. But there was some dispute about this figure amongst those present.

It was heartening to see that even with fire, and the destruction of the exclusion fences, that nature had found a way and the erubescens were still alive and appeared to be spreading wider, even if their numbers were not increasing yet.

At Quinn’s suggestion we went for a walk to examine another exclusion plot that was set up for a different purpose. There was not much to see, it appeared to have fallen into disrepair. Quinn was also keen to learn more about what was a weed and what was native. Especially concerning the SA weed orchid, and the sallow wattles. Now that he has some knowledge he will set the Scouts to work helping to control and remove the weeds. He will also ensure the ptilotus plants are unmolested as much as possible.

We sat down as a group to eat a picnic lunch, and were joined by 2 of our Rangers for a chat and to talk about upcoming activities. It was nice to see both Hannah and Kailee at a Foggs activity. I think they enjoyed the opportunity to talk to the group and get to know us a bit better, as did we.

We then went for a walk along the Bunnah trail, and up one of the ridges to look at the granite outcrops. While walking we did use a GPS unit to log any weed species we observed, that may become a project at a later date.

I don’t know that the study is worth continuing, unless it becomes a priority for Parks. The erubescens is no longer classified as threatened, so I doubt the project will be at the top of the list now.

Cheers, Rod Thompson

Catherine adds  “Bird species seen include red wattle bird, white throated tree creeper, magpie, sulphur crested cockatoo, yellow faced honeyeater, superb blue wren, Australian raven, kookaburra, brown thornbill, weebill, crimson rosella, yellow tufted honeyeater, yellow tailed black cockatoo and some type of Quail.”

Insect Talk

February 7, 2020

It was very good to see over 20 people come to hear Denis Crawford speak on the importance of insects, and to enjoy his amazing photography of “creepy crawlies and bloodsuckers”.

Did you know that the world has 5,500 species of mammals, 10,000 of birds, 40,000 vertebrates and 1.25 million invertebrates, of which 1 million are insects?  Understandably we didn’t hear about all 1 million species but looked at some moths, bees and ants. Lots of fascinating snippets: I never knew that there was a moth that only feeds on dead grass trees. How specialised is that? What do insects contribute to the environment? They pollinate flowers, recycle and bury dung, eat or parasite other insects, provide food for other animals, disperse seed (and in various intriguing ways), aerate the soil. A reduction in insects would massively impact on flowering plants, lessen the food available for fish, bats, mammals and birds, there would be much more dung lying around, and carcasses and other organic waste, we’d have  no silk, honey, cochineal …. Where would our agriculture and horticulture be? There was some discussion of bushfires and insects, the loss of so many bees, both commercial and native, the fact that ants are the first colonisers after a fire.

Denis  has a blog and a Facebook page and a YouTube channel. Look for his name or “one minute bugs”

After his talk most of us retired to the Halls Gap pub for a meal and further discussion. Thank you Denis.

 

Advisory Group Report

There have been two meetings since our last newsletter. I missed the November one but have the minutes.

A tour of the new Troopers Creek Campground was undertaken . It is the last of the major infrastructure project from the fire recovery program. The team discussed the finalisation of the fire recovery program, Grampians Peaks Trail operations and the biodiversity response program with the Advisory group members.

The February meeting was held last week. The first item was an update on what had happened since our last meeting, particularly the two fires in the park (Mt Lang and Mt William }. Due to the conditions here and the emergencies elsewhere in the state, an enormous effort went into getting them out as soon as possible. Lots of people, lots of equipment. Even on Christmas day 65 people were at the fire. An interesting point was made that as firefighting equipment gets heavier, access tracks such as Harrop’s track have to be upgraded.

The new walking track at Golton Gorge is now open to the public and is a great example of volunteer work.

The next topic was an update on the management plan. So far the stakeholder meetings have been mainly Parks informing people, but now there will be a greater emphasis on listening to comments and questions. Those of us on the AG are requested to consider what are our key concerns. Several were given at the meeting, more will come. The next meeting will be in March. (FOGG are part of the stakeholder group).

Grampians Peaks Trails update: Alisa Redsell, GPT Coordinator, presented  a detailed update, including outcomes from community engagement sessions prior to Christmas, transiting GPT into park operations and signature experience opportunities (indigenous). Parks are hoping that all the camp sites will have indigenous names. Quite a bit of the trail is almost complete but we are asked not to use it until signs and safety stuff are completed. The camp site at Mt Abrupt may need to be moved. Progress has been slower than hoped and money is a bit tight, so they are looking at simplifying tracks and campsites without compromising standards. The team have been reminding the board of Parks Vic that the maintenance costs for the trail will be huge. An example of this is that when the existing toilet at Wannon Creek on the Major Mitchell Plateau had to be emptied by helicopter, the weather cancelled the first two attempts, so the bill was for three helicopter flights!

The maintenance cost of the trail is a subject the AG has had concerns with from the very start, so it is good to see the team sharing it.

Parks were disappointed how few people came to the four sessions across the local towns (Halls Gap only had 3!) but hope for more at the sessions coming shortly.

I can send more information to anyone interested. Current date for completion of construction is Dec 2020. It will be a big year. 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.

Other Park News

Parks staff produce a community newsletter,and here are some pieces from the recent Kooyang one.

Summer Education and Interpretation Program

During January a successful program of education and interpretation activities was delivered to almost 150 kids and adults by the parks Seasonal Rangers. Two guided walks for adults and families were also undertaken. Education and interpretation programs are run in Grampians National Park and surrounding reserves every Summer, Autumn and Spring School Holidays.

Brush-tailed Rock Wallabies

Recent scat analysis from areas around the main Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby population has revealed that four of the colonies offspring have ‘grown-up’ and moved into their own territories. Additionally, two new males have been introduced into the colony to diversify the breeding gene pool. This exciting news provides clarification that young are surviving and predator control is being effective.

Increase in Graffiti

Unfortunately, there has been a steep rise in paint and scratch graffiti within the park. In response, rangers have been removing graffiti and compiling information for follow up compliance. Please report any people undertaking graffiti to Brambuk on (03) 8427 2258.

Report an Issue:  Noticed an issue such as fallen tree, damaged road or sign? Report it to Parks Victoria via the Snap Send Solve phone app.

Visit https://www.snapsendsolve.com/ to find out more and download it to your phone.

Deer control

From the 29th February – 5th March, Parks Victoria is working with professional contractors to control populations of deer in some sections of the Grampians National Park. Deer are impacting the park by rubbing, trampling and eating saplings, ringbarking trees, and wallowing in wetland areas, impacting ecosystems and competing for food against native animals. Deer can also degrade water and soil quality, and carry diseases.

Signage will be in place in the areas of control to notify the public and operations will occur overnight.  Given the locations of these operations, there is not expected to be any impact on park access, although park visitors may hear gunshots. Major visitor sites in the Grampians will also not be impacted.