Welcome to our Autumn issue. Apologies that it is a bit late and has very short notice of our event next week, and it has no timetable of future activities. We may be doing so well against Covid compared to the rest of the world, but that certainly doesn’t mean smooth progress. Rules, rules. Plus, the pressures on staff with the management plan being due out soon, some illness in our committee and here we are!
In addition to group meetings, we are hoping to help Parks with some individual projects. Some of us have committed to updating some of the visitor information sheets, and we hope to assist in digitising the herbarium samples that were mostly collected by Ian McCann and the Stawell Field Naturalists. If you are one of those who volunteered to do these, how are you going? Do let Hannah know.
We would love to have more of your voices in our newsletter.
Welcome to FOGG’s 1st newsletter for 2021, and to an action-packed year of activities …. except the action has been very slow to start with; post-Covid, health problems within the committee, computer glitches – and as Margo said, time pressure on Parks staff. We apologise for the lateness of notification of events so far, but I am providing a provisional calendar for the rest of the year (see below); although none of these activities have yet been approved by Parks. As soon as this happens, you will all be notified.
We have had two outings so far this year, with our third coming up on Saturday 8th May. After all the Restrictions last year, it has been wonderful to gather together again, see each other, welcome new members, and share our interests and knowledge.
Our February event, finding and looking at reptiles, led by David Steane (who has a fascinating amount of knowledge about them) had to be abandoned due to Covid restrictions.
Hannah (our Parks rep) organised our annual Clean-up-Australia Day on 13th March. Six of us braved the Covid to pick up lots of rubbish at McKenzie Falls, mostly small bits and stuff, with a few of the proverbial but unwelcome nappies around the car park. Thanks to Margo, our numbers were swelled by an enthusiastic visiting school group: we stayed around the tracks at the top, while the youngsters descended & ascended the many steps to the bottom of the Falls. A group of very conservation-aware students who did a very great job. See Geoff’s report later in newsletter.
April 10th saw a gathering of the Clan for an intriguing look/think about some local land formations, led by Graham Parkes and ben Gunn. There was much discussion among members about the possible causes of these (see Graham’s report). This is one of the things I love about FOGG, when members, with their varied fields of interest and expertise, come together and share information. Underlying this is the shared love and treasuring of ‘the bush’, and its conservation.
Six of our members were among the 20 volunteers who took part in the Great Gariwerd Bird Survey around the central Grampians, with another 20 participants from the Dunkeld end doing the southern end. This was a highlight of the year, ten weeks of much learning and excitement, culminating in the Survey on 17/18 April. Many hours of preparation but rewarding ++; we hope it has been just as rewarding for the survey results! Hannah enthusiastically threw herself into the organisation and preparation of it all, helped by other Parks staff at the dinner, and did an amazing job. Greg Kerr’s teaching was amazing too. See Hannah’s and John’s reports.
Our friend this past year has been La Nina; as a result of excellent rains in Spring, the bush in the mountains is bursting with green bushiness, and beautiful to be amongst (as long as you’re not trying to walk through it, paths are so valuable!) Our gardens and native planting are likewise thriving.
We are researching the procurement of the herbicide Phytoclean, for use by members in the Grampians, to help prevent the spread of Phytopthora, which is still killing some of our beloved plants.
Proposed FOGG calendar for the rest of 2021
Details of these are yet to be finalised, with leaders and Parks.
Activities are on 2nd Saturday of each month.
June: Fungi: Leigh, Win.
July: Talk at Brambuk – update on pest management from Parks; may open to public too.
Aug: Walk along part of Peaks trail with Neil Marriott & Andrew Cunningham. Peaks Trail, meeting near Roses Gap.
Sept: Orchid walk: Win, Leigh
October: Working Bee: Removal of African Weed Orchid within Park. Hannah will suggest good locations for this.
November: Bats: Margo is organising
December: Christmas Break-up: Zumsteins with walk to Fish Falls, or, Lake Wartook.
Yours in anticipation of many more exciting adventures in Grampians-Gariwerd,
FROM RHONDA, OUR CHIEF RANGER, UPDATE from the Grampians Team
What a different Easter from last year back to full capacity so a busy time for all our team. One of our growing issues is waste management and this has unfortunately increased we believe over Covid due to the feeling of safety that comes with disposable items. But where to dispose of them. This Easter we placed a skip bin at Plantation Campground as in past years this is the campground where we have had the most rubbish left in bags at trees. Well, it certainly worked as the photo shows with the entire skip bin full and three large tandem trailer loads all around it. What to do is our next question as this is not sustainable with our budget.
Last week saw the departure of Derek Sandow. Derek was acting in the Team Leader Environment position and prior to this was our Grampians Ark Coordinator. Derek will be greatly missed by the team and the park as his work over the last two years to reinvigorate the Grampians Ark program by bringing the resources inhouse rather than contractor delivery and his work on the Brushtailed Rock Wallabies was amazing. Derek and his family are moving to the Yorke Peninsula in South Australia where he will take up a role rewilding the Yorke Peninsula. We are working hard on getting this team leader position filled as it is so vital to many aspects of our work here but there are many pressures on us at the moment regarding resources.
This week concludes the first ever Great Grampians Bird Survey – The GGBS! It has been an almighty 10 weeks delivering the Bird Ecology Course with Greg Kerr and a hugely successful weekend with Volunteers coming home with many beautiful bird stories. Volunteers completed 144 bird surveys this weekend at 36 remote sites across Gariwerd, the same sites from which Deakin University collect mammal data from each year. The data collected from Volunteers was entered into Birddata which is now accessible to the public. The aim of this project is to determine how effective the Grampians Ark project has been at controlling foxes and feral cats. Cat baiting began last year, however before this occurred, we contacted Dr Greg Kerr to collect base line bird data at the 36 mammal sites – which we can now call the mammal and bird sites. Greg returned to the same sites after the baiting had occurred and will be writing a report on his findings. This will be an ongoing project for the park, much like the mammal surveying that occurs each year.
Personally, it has been a great learning opportunity to deliver such a program for Gariwerd. I have been astounded by the passion and commitment each of the 40 Volunteers brought to class each week and their willingness to support an important project for the park. Creating an opportunity like this for the community to connect to this landscape has been the highlight. Volunteers are invaluable at assisting us as land managers to protect, manage and advocate for Gariwerd, I would like to thank each of them for their passion and dedication in assisting us to collect bird data that will contribute to the bigger picture of conservation.
Below are a few details about the program:
Facts & Figures
Volunteer hours for 10 week bird ecology program
Volunteer hours for Autumn survey weekend
Total Volunteer Hours
TOTAL GNP Volunteer hours for 2019-2020 (All volunteer programs contribution)
Work Days Contributed (7.6 hours per day)
Bird Species Surveyed by Greg
Bird Species Surveyed by Volunteers
Total Bird Surveys entered into Birdata at the 36 sites (Not including Greg’s 2020 and 2021 data)
Total Species surveyed (Not including Greg’s 2020 and 2021 data)
This project received grant funding from the Australian Government through the Australian Heritage Grants Program – Nature Glenelg Trust were fortunate to receive $88,000 for this project which allowed us to deliver the 10 week bird ecology course to the 40 volunteers. Gariwerd was in the same bucket of money as Greater Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, Gondwana Rainforests of Australia World Heritage property, Kakadu National Park – just to name a few. This project was funded with the support of the Victorian Governments Weeds and Pests on Public Land program and is helping to ensure that Victoria’s natural environment is healthy, valued and actively cared for.
If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact me.
Han Auld, Community Engagement Ranger – Visitors and Community, Grampians National Park
FOGG first informed members back in March 2020 that Parks Vic were inviting up to 40 volunteers to partake in “The Great Gariwerd Bird Survey”, the beginning of systematic bird surveying in the national park. The survey was to be preceded by a 10-week course conducted by Glenelg Nature Trust’s senior ecologist Dr Greg Kerr.
Covid forced a delayed start, and it was not until early February 2021 that 20 volunteers met in Halls Gap and 20 in Dunkeld. The general format of each weekly course session was: meet at 5pm at various field locations for a spot of bird-watching, then back to the classroom for 2 hours of Greg presenting on various aspects of bird ecology (evolution, plumage, moulting, calls, migration etc.); in the final hour he presented photos of bird species for attendees to identify. Not all species occurred in Gariwerd.
There were many interesting details presented during Greg’s ecology talks. For instance, genetic-based colour pigmentation in plumage is generally confined to black and white and the earthy tones; red, green, yellow and blue are obtained from the bird’s diet. Thus, when you see a male scarlet or flame robin in all their brilliant breeding magnificence, they are indicating to potential mates that they are very good at sourcing food!
The ten weeks were soon over and the survey weekend loomed. It was not immediately apparent why it had to be on a given weekend, and not spread over a month or so to suit volunteers and when conditions were most suited to maximum bird abundance; but then it became clear as the Parks co-ordinator Han Auld doled out walkie-talkies and spot-trackers, which volunteers used to sign-off after each surveying session, and in case of mishap and insurance claims. Being held under Parks Vic auspices made it only practical to hold on a predetermined weekend. A special mention should be made here of the endless enthusiasm and effort Han devoted to the project – she was a very positive force.
The methodology was 20-minute surveys over 2 hectare sites. Volunteers were divided into pairs and assigned two sites per pair. The sites had been previously adopted for mammal surveys by Mike Stevens and now there was a bird overlay on the same locations. Hopefully this will be extended in the future to include other environments, especially Northern Gariwerd.
Forty volunteers surveyed 36 sites Sat & Sun the 17th & 18th of April, once each morning and evening. 69 species were recorded in the Birdlife BirdData app, amongst them Stubble Quail (covey of 5 birds), a Wedge-tailed Eagle landing on a site and a Peregrine Falcon on another, a flock of 92 Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos passing overhead in dribs and drabs, a Swift Parrot, 2 separate sightings of Southern Emu-wrens, a Speckled Warbler, Striated Fieldwrens, Gilbert’s Whistlers, a Crested Shrike-tit, Forest Raven, a Restless Flycatcher, a Flame Robin and a Hooded Robin.
Sunday evening Parks Vic treated the group to an Indian meal in the Halls Gap Hall. Speeches & presentations were made and there was a general feeling of camaraderie and of a job well done. Some had travelled far to be a part of it (Melbourne & Ocean Grove for example, back and forth over 11 weeks!) and the majority will be looking forward to the Spring survey mid-October.
Just in is another message from Nature Glenelg Trust.
An exciting citizen science opportunity in the Grampians awaits You!
NGT is in the early stages of developing a volunteer-based wetland monitoring program to learn more about the ecological responses of two restored wetland systems in the southern Grampians.
The Walker, Gooseneck, and Brady Swamp wetland complex, and Green Swamp, have undergone significant hydrological changes over the past few years, with support and involvement from the community playing a key role. These works, which straddle Parks Victoria reserves and NGT’s wetland restoration reserves, have supported the recovery and conservation of a range of wetland dependent species such as fish, frog and birds, many of which are threatened. Equally, the transformation of these systems has provided new opportunities for the community to enjoy the local flora and fauna.
This citizen science monitoring program will allow community members to connect to these wetlands in a new way, and collectively learn more about their rich ecology. The data collected will complement and build on existing knowledge gained through conventional monitoring methods of fish, frogs and birds.
Remote technologies will be used to record data on key fauna groups: acoustic loggers called AudioMoths will be aimed at recording frogs and birds, while field cameras will focus on recording wading birds. Equipment will be deployed in early May, with data retrieval and downloads occurring each month. This monitoring program will provide new opportunities for people to volunteer, as many activities can be completed from home on a desktop (e.g. sorting through images, identifying birds and frogs). There will however, still be opportunities for people to get out in the field, and assist with the monthly data downloads.
Interested volunteers will be invited to join us in a tour of the wetland sites in mid-May. This will be a chance to see the equipment deployed, learn more about the history of the sites and the monitoring program. For more information and to register, please see flyer below.
We look forward to working with the volunteers and seeing these incredible wetland systems from another lens (literally)!
To register your interest contact .
Email | Postal | PO Box 354, Warrnambool, VIC 3280
This is to inform you of a conservation program in the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park and Black Range State Park between March and October 2021.
Heritage listed for its biodiversity and cultural values, the Grampians landscape is home to more than 800 indigenous plant species, a wide range of wildlife and the majority of Aboriginal rock art sites in south-east Australia.
To help protect this unique landscape, Parks Victoria regularly undertakes conservation programs to control invasive animals, including feral goats.
On a few days each month from 29 March until late October, a crew of qualified and experienced volunteer shooters will target these pest animals in remote sections of the parks.
During the operation, access to some sections of the parks will be temporarily restricted and people may be able to hear gunshots. Key visitor areas will not be affected
Sightings of the endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot have provided further encouragement for Park Rangers about the health of native animal habitat in the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park.
The small species of bandicoot, listed as Endangered in Victoria, was detected on surveillance cameras that were placed in the national park following reports from a member of the public.
It’s the first recorded sighting by Park Rangers in two years and follows recent camera footage that confirmed an increase in the park’s small population of Brush-tailed Rock-wallabies, which are listed as Critically Endangered.
As with other animals in the area, it appears that bandicoots may be benefiting from a combination of recent factors including rainfall levels, a lack of large-scale bushfires and Parks Victoria’s conservation work, such as the Grampians Ark program.
Parks Victoria’s Grampians ark coordinator Derek Sandow said these sightings are really encouraging news for this native animal that faces threats from cleared habitat and introduced predator species.
“Reports of koalas and goannas and other animals not seen for some time in the Grampians give us encouragement about the health of the national park and our conservation efforts,” he said.
The Grampians Ark program targets foxes and feral cats, which can have a devastating impact on birds and small mammals, such as bandicoots.
The program is being funded by the Victorian Government’s $33.67 million Biodiversity Response Planning and Weeds and Pests on Public Land initiative.
The Southern Brown Bandicoot is a ground-dwelling marsupial with a grey-brown coat and a long tapering snout.
Mostly active after dusk, they play an important role in the ecosystem by turning over soil which helps increase the rate of leaf litter decomposition and nutrient cycling.
Excepting the Grampians region, the bandicoot is typically found in southern and lower lying parts of Victoria.
A Southern Brown Bandicoot in the western area of the Grampians (Gariwerd) National Park.
One of Stawell’s natural landmarks is set to change hands after the Northern Grampians Shire Council moved to return the Sisters Rock site to traditional owners at their April meeting on Monday.
The council voted to move and accept the recommendation to transfer the Sisters Rocks site to the Victorian Government, who will then decide the appropriate public body to determine the management arrangements and associated funding for the land.
As part of the process the council also had the assurance that the transfer of ownership will not affect the Western Highway Duplication (Ararat to Stawell) project.
“From the Council’s perspective it would be a powerful act of reconciliation that we can perform on behalf of the community in recognising indigenous culture”.
The land will be returned to the WJJWJ Peoples as part of the Traditional Owners Settlement Act 2010 (Vic) (TOS Act).
Sisters Rocks are a culturally significant site to the Wotjobaluk, Jaadwa, Jadawadjali, Wergaia and Jupagulk Peoples (WJJWJ Peoples), who have been seeking changes to the land’s ownership for some time.
The Barengi Gadjin Land Council (BGLC) is the entity that represents the WJJWJ Peoples and they have expressed their aspiration for the Sisters Rocks site to be returned to the WJJWJ Peoples.
The Sisters Rocks, along the Western Highway are a grouping of granite tors which form a dramatic landmark on the eastern approach to Stawell. The area has been a picnic and tourist destination since settlement in the area. The rocks facing the public access are now heavily covered in graffiti which dates back over most of the 20th century. It is an area of debate whether this is an historical record or ugly disfigurement of the natural beauty of the rocks.
The Victorian Heritage Database lists Sisters Rocks as socially and aesthetically significant at a local level and an important landmark in the area with a level of significance as ‘recommended for Heritage Overlay’ since 2004. The site, comprising of approximately four hectares, is reported to be one of the first successful attempts at nature conservation in Australia. An application for the land was applied for by a local body member under the then Land Act to protect the site from being demolished for building stone. The title was issued and in 1887 transferred to the Borough of Stawell.
The Barengi Gadjin Land Council have expressed their thanks for this decision.
“This is a positive demonstration from council to recognise and encourage the healing of country for our people and the broader community. This decision means a lot to our families. This isn’t about the past, it’s about the future, and it’s important we take the necessary steps to develop a strong relationship and increase the visual presence of our culture across the region.” Dylan Clarke, BGLC Chairperson.
For the Grampians Gariwerd our Clean Up Australia Day occurred six days after the national event but the delay was a sensible choice to avoid crowds of tourists who flood the national park on the Labour Day long weekend.
FOGG members totalling half a dozen plus one community member gathered at Halls Gap with our Parks Vic leader Joy to be briefed on the task for the day. McKenzie Falls was to be our destination and we were most grateful for the youth of Waverly Christian College who also joined the Working Bee. Clearly the youthful legs of year 11 and 12 students were more appropriate to descend and ascend the steps to the bottom of the falls.
After an acknowledgment to the traditional owners of the land of our national park and an OH&S briefing, the short convoy set off for the Falls car park. On arrival there was some discussion of the, weather and a predicted band of rainfall but for the time it was warm and overcast, good. As expected, division of labour saw the enthusiastic students head off with Joy to deal with the track to the bottom of the falls while FOGGs members scoured the car park and picnic areas before the first drops of rain began to fall. Some members opted for the wet weather gear although the rainfall could only be considered light.
In small groups/pairs we traversed the pathways to the falls viewing platform at the Bluff, the Broken Falls and other pathways meandering around the top of the falls.
As expected, the groups collected a selection of aluminium cans, stubbies and plastic water bottles but the general consensus was not the volume of rubbish collected but the number of smaller items left behind. Tissues, lolly wrappers, band aids, cigarette butts etc. were prevalent but it would take a long time to fill a garbage bag with these items. Sadly, we also came across quite a few disposable nappies. The tongs were very welcome as we loaded them into our bags.
With good timing rainfall became a little more intense as we all returned with our loot to the car park and it was agreed we had done well without moving to work on other locations. Perhaps the most satisfying vibe from the day was to hear that the students expressed dismay that people would discard their rubbish in such an environment. For the future it is gratifying to know that there is a generation who may have a stronger ethos to respect our environment.
On the return journey to Halls Gap our ‘pull the pin’ decision became a better one as heavier rainfall spread across the Grampians/Gariwerd. As I pen these notes (later the evening of our working bee) the web tells me that 15mm or more than half inch of rain has fallen at Mt William. Let’s hope this first substantial rain event of the Autumn heralds a good season for the park and its surrounds.
One of our favourite areas in the region is the open forests east of Gariwerd. Over the years Di and I became increasingly intrigued by numerous round earth mounds we were seeing in these magnificent Red Gum forests. Our son, Tom and partner Matilda regularly join us on our walks and have helped us to map and record our observations.
Over the last year we have drawn on the insights of our local archaeologist Ben Gunn, and Jake Goodes from Parks Victoria who have been assisting us to better understand the mounds. Apparently, the “donut” shaped mounds are similar to the remains of Aboriginal dwellings found elsewhere in Victoria.
An invitation from Ben and Leigh provided us with the opportunity to take a stroll in one area of Red Gum forest between Halls Gap and Stawell, with 22 FOGGS members, to talk about the earth structures.
On 10 April our hardy walkers braved the drizzly conditions and looked at a number of mounds that are representative of about sixty in this area. Most of the mounds are about 14 to 18 meters in diameter, consisting of an outer, excavated, round depression ring, an inner raised ring and a central depression. On the edge of each mound there are the remains of a tree or stump. Within some mounds charcoal and timber remains can be seen poking through the soil.
A rough calculation indicates that over 7 cubic meters of soil was excavated from the outer depression to form the inner mound.
Although the hydrology of the area has been changed by the construction of the Wimmera-Mallee channel system, we have noted an old braided stream system nearby.
Ben then gave us a briefing on Aboriginal mounds in the Western District, the Murray and the odd ones near Bendigo, including their locations and variety of uses. Often mounds such as these are located where different ecosystems meet, such as around Gariwerd where the open forests meet the base of the ranges.
Some very interesting discussion followed. In particular, one of the members who is into soils (from Agricultural research) suggested we need to be able to dismiss the mounds as NOT being gilgai formations (naturally occurring mounds developed by soil expansion and contraction), particularly as the mounds appear to be largely confined to one soil type. Gilgai formation may also be responsible for the surrounding trench. He is in discussion with a soil specialist.
Another member thought we had yet to adequately dismiss soil-uprise from very large red gum roots, while another suggested we do soil density probing (a very narrow probe) – something that might be more use than ground penetrating radar and should be investigated further.
Since our walk another suggestion is that the mounds may be the remains of charcoal kilns used for the production of fuel during and following the Second World War and this also warrants further investigation. Representatives of the three Traditional Groups, the Gunditj Mirring, Barengi Gadjin and Eastern Maar, have carried out a field inspection of the area we walked with the FOGGS. All our observations have been provided to Aboriginal Victoria for the State records. My son Tom has done a magnificent mapping job in a form that can be used by Aboriginal Victoria.
We hope that soil and archaeological surveys will provide us with insights into these fascinating mounds. Regardless, we believe that the area requires careful management and protection.