I hope you are all going well. It looks to me like spring is here and we seem to have missed winter. I don’t know about you but our rainfall is non existent and our seasonal creek and wetlands are still dry. What a disaster for our wetland plants, frogs and water birds. I hope we get some rain soon.
Given the lack of rain, today was another glorious sunny day for the Grampians and I took the opportunity to go for a walk. What a profusion of flowers we have at the moment of all colours yellow, mauve, pink, red and white. We all have our favourites. We will miss our FOGG events and the wildflower show this year, so I hope you can catch up on some webinars and zoom meetings instead.
I have certainly been out in the garden a lot planting and weeding. Talking about weeds, the spread of Sallow wattle south along Mt Zero road in the Grampians National Park and the spread of South African weed orchids in both the Victoria and Mt Difficult range looks relentless. In my opinion, without immediate action there will be no controlling these invasive plants.
I hope that the Victorian Government will provide funding for weed control in our national parks along with everything else that we need and don’t have any funding for. We all have our wish list and mine is getting longer!
We are waiting in suspense for the Grampians Landscape Management plan to be released later this year and hope we get the opportunity to provide comment that will be listened to.
I must say that I am very concerned about the Grampians Peak Trail, in particular the extent of new trails formed (over 100km), overengineering of the track, the amount of cleared vegetation for both the trail and campsites, and the bulldozing of tracks to reach these campsites and all in the Grampians National Park. (I have shortened this quite a bit and replaced with My objections can be found in the report of the meeting on ??.)
Enough complaints from me.
Please enjoy reading our newsletter, thank you once again to Margo and other committee members for an amazing effort. If you have the chance please get a copy of the reprint of Ian McCann’s The Grampians in Flower by David Welch. FOGG have some copies.
I wish you all the best and please continue to stay safe.
On Friday 24th I will be attending the Grampians National Park landscape management plan Strategy meeting via teleconference. We have come a long way in a few weeks with telecommunications!
This session will focus on preparation of a Draft Plan for public release and comment. So please watch out for this and to respond with public comments.
We hope that you still have work and that you have been able to spend some time outside during this very difficult time.
We hope that you will enjoy the newsletter and thank you to Margo and Leigh for putting it together.
Thank you also to Bill for providing us an update on shield and clam shrimps and a very interesting article on gnammas.
This is the time of year that Powerful owls are breeding and the other night we heard them at our property in Fyans Creek.
A few days later we were walking under a big old Pinus radiata tree and we heard an angry sounding noise ‘oorh’ and after 10 minutes of scanning the branches we eventually saw not one, but two powerful owls perched high up in the branches. One was asleep and the other one was preening. Exotic trees have their benefits! We don’t think they are breeding on our place. We have been following the construction of nest boxes with interest as they are using 3D printing to make them!
Here are some photos.
On a recent walk around our property we spotted our first flowering orchid for the year; Parsons Band (Eriochilus sp.). It would appear that the flower is produced before the leaves.
Have you noticed all the wattles coming out in flower, we even have correa and hakea flowering at our place.
All the best and we hope we can meet in person again soon.
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.
This is an exciting time of year in Grampians National Park. The wildflowers are stunning with the golden and other wattles flowering, hakea in bloom along the Halls Gap Road and the grevilleas starting to come out. This is one of my favourite times of year. Both greenhoods and helmet orchids are showing their flowers.
While we have had below average rain, at least we have had some rain and now we can hear at least 6 different frogs calling in our wetlands. The ducks are happy and for the first time we have grey teal. We have been noticing the ducks up trees and on looking them up we see that mountain duck, grey teal and black duck all nest in tree hollows!
This is certainly the season for cockatoos and we have been seeing large flocks of long billed corellas grazing on onion weed in our paddocks. The blue wrens are in breeding plumage and scarlet robins and Jacky winters are regularly spotted. Weebills and pardalottes are calling.
FOGG have been active over recent months with a trip to Hollow Mountain in June to look at the rock climbing areas and the Aboriginal rock art site. In July the trip to Hidden Lake was postponed but some members managed to get there and find clam shrimps. More about this from Bill.
In July, on Planet Ark National Tree Day, we had a successful planting on our property of over 1000 tea-trees, melaleuca and slaty sheoak into deer and kangaroo proof enclosures we had built. Thank you to all members involved.
In August, Clive Carlyle gave a presentation of the wildlife we see on trail cameras on our property – southern brown bandicoots, feathertail gliders, brushtail possums, echidnas and sugar gliders, plus many birds, yellow footed antechinus, wallabies and kangaroos. Not to mention 3 sorts of feral deer (fallow, red and Samba) foxes, rabbits, hares and cats!
Parks Victoria have started a 3-year deer and goat control program and we hope that this reduces the numbers of these destructive, introduced and unwanted animals.
We are investigating a sallow wattle project and have been contacted by a landowner near Wartook who has noticed new sallow wattle in the park. We understand that a new ranger has started who is leading the Sallow wattle program and we hope to meet her.
The Grampians Landscape Management plan is up for review and the first meeting of the Strategic Reference Group is on August 21st at Halls Gap. There will be 5 meetings over the coming 12 months to put the plan in place. I will be representing FOGG on this group – so please let me know if you have any issues that you would like discussed.
Parks Victoria are having community meetings throughout September so hopefully everyone will be able to attend. The first meeting in Halls Gap is 5th September from 6.30-8.30pm please register online at engage victoria.
FOGG have been contacted by Annie Hobby of DELWP to be involved with Gardens 4 wildlife program – the idea being to make all our home gardens more wildlife friendly by plantings and encouraging wild areas and ponds etc. They have next meeting on 12th September 10am at Pomonal Hall. If anyone is able to attend or would like to be involved, please let me know.
Park Connect. So far FOGG have been unsuccessful in getting our activities up on this forum. There are at least 4 different levels of approval before events make it to Park Connect and we are finding this frustrating.
In May, we met with our Chief Ranger Rhonda McNeil to work through Park Connect issues and we plan a General Meeting with Rhonda on 20th September at 4.30pm at Brambuk. All welcome.
Climate change; FOGG members attended the screening of The Movie 2040, about Climate Change and Hope in Ararat in July – an excellent and inspiring feature film.
The Victorian Government has put out a Roadmap to Zero for the Grampians Region for comment (survey now closed) and following on from this a forum ‘Decarbonising Victoria: Grampians Roadmap to Zero Emissions’ will be held in Ballarat on Friday 23rd August. The forum will be opened by The Hon Lily D’Ambrosio, Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change and Minister for Solar Homes. Featured guests include Professor Ross Garnaut, Alan Pears, Beyond Zero Emissions as well as industry and community practitioners. Attendees will include representatives from local and state government, community organisations, industry, agriculture, transport, renewable energy developers, not-for-profits and many others. Plus participation in a zero-carbon round-table workshop. We hope to be able to have a report on this in the next newsletter.
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.
As the flowers disappear, the grass yellows off and the wildlife congregates around the shrinking water sources, it becomes obvious that summer is about to hit with a vengeance.
I have been reflecting on this year with my beloved FOGGs, and my last three years as President. We have done some good for our community, participated in shared activities, supported local events and promoted our group and its aims to the community at large, and provided some educational opportunities to the community and ourselves.
We have much to be proud of. And that’s just this year alone.
I have been proud to lead the group for the last three years, but for various personal reasons I need to step down at this years AGM. I feel that over the last 12 months I have not been as effective in the role as I should be. The group also has a policy of not having one person at the helm for too long. This stops the workload from becoming too much for one person, and ensures new ideas and activities are developed to keep things interesting. I reckon I’ve had some good ideas, but its time for some new ones. The enjoyment I have got from the position of president cannot be measured, but is genuine. If the chance arises in the future I may take the roll again if voted in. I have been very proud of the group and its members and always will be. Being part of the committee or an office bearer in a group you enjoy has its own unique rewards and I encourage everyone to give it a try. It will always be a source of pride that for a short time I followed in the footsteps of some truly great warriors for the national park and the environment it protects, especially as I was present at the inaugural meeting at Borough Huts, and saw the work those early leaders did, (my own father included) thinking one day it might be me.
We have had some great activities this quarter that generated untold enthusiasm in our members.
The excitement on Bill’s face as he fulfilled a lifelong dream of reaching the top of Mt Dryden was probably reflected in others too. It was a little sad to spend our birdwatching activity with the Neves who are leaving the state to live closer to family. It was great to share a meal and conversation with two people who have been an inspiration to many members for a long time. I will miss them greatly. Its a pity the birds didn’t want to join us that day!
Our wildflower walk with the involvement of the Hamilton Field Nats was a great success, and many plants were identified. I don’t think we beat last years species total, but we enjoyed the views, great conversation and companionship with like minded people, and surely that is what life is all about.
These activities allow members and guests to learn, to participate and to share their knowledge with others, all essential to the human experience. This is the secret of the longterm success of FOGGs, and will help the group continue into the future.
Winter is truly hitting us, but there doesn’t seem to be much wet, just a double dose of cold. It’s obvious through the park that things are dry, but it still looks verdant and green compared to inland NSW and Qld. So, dry as it is here, we haven’t got the worst of it. Our fungi location at Jimmy’s creek was a little disappointing, but the season just hasn’t been wet enough, and lots of frosts have taken their toll on the fruiting bodies of fungi. We were pleased to have young Dave and Lyn Munroe to share their knowledge. As protégé’s of Ian McCann it is always a pleasure to have their knowledge in the group on our Fungi Frolic. But even with experts present we still saw lots of bums!
I recently indulged in the pleasure of a big road trip through inland NSW and Qld. Beautiful country. Great facilities. Roadside stops with toilets and information boards are regularly spaced ever 25 km or so. It’s an interesting comparison with our park when people have to travel greater distances within the park to find a toilet. Tourists and travellers seem much more welcome than here. Information centres seem to be about information on the local area and less about promoting businesses that pay for the service. I was struck by how much it seemed that sharing their love of their home was more important than making money off tourists. I’m sure there is a flow on from the warm welcoming attitude that translates to spending, but it didn’t feel as though profit was the only reason for communication; pride seemed to be at the forefront.
Working bees at Goltons Gorge have been progressing with a few minor hiccups due to weather conditions, but the work on the new track is looking good. Those participating should be proud of what they have achieved so far.
Vale Sam Speyer. One of the earliest Friends Of the Grampians and a committee member who helped lead the FOGs into the new era of FOGGs. We recently had news that Sam had passed away. Although not attending activities for many years he was an avid reader of our newsletter, and kept up with what the group was doing. He and his late wife Jetti were both involved for many years and carried the load for administrative work and communication. As a child I was fascinated by the passion a couple of European immigrants had for our piece of paradise. I looked up to them and the dedication they showed to their adopted home in Halls Gap. They were big believers in education about the environment, and the benefits of being out in the park to discover, learn and be fascinated. Those benefits aren’t just for the park, but also for the individual, and for our society. Sam you will be remembered fondly and sadly missed by many.
I am also saddened to share that another couple who have been staunch and active FOGG members for many years, Bill and Hennie Neve, are soon to depart our region. The Neves are relocating to Perth to be closer to family. We have a final opportunity to share their joy of Australian birds at our next activity. They are opening their home to us. We can wander their covenant protected property abutting the National Park, looking and listening to the avian visitors they love. We will then gather in their giant bird hide home to share a meal and watch the natural world through their famous picture windows. If you are looking for inspiration you will find it with this couple. Tireless workers for our environment, even into their late 80’s they are pulling weeds and counting bird species.
Now the challenge is to bring younger, active and enthusiastic people into the group to continue on from where these great people have guided us.
It has been a dry time in the park, with only a couple of rain events so far this year. Particularly in the north, a lot of trees are under pressure and new growth after fires is dying in many areas, particularly where the rock layer is not far below the surface. Some hillsides look like autumn colours, until you realise that there are only natives growing, and they are suffering. Our summer has continued a long time but the weather has finally taken on an autumn feel with those beautiful pleasant days and chilly damp nights. Even the odd misty morning. I love this time of year! It also allows struggling vegetation to survive until winter rains arrive. I still worry about lightning strikes and careless fires with the current fuel load of dead vegetation.
Combine this with grazing pressures the vegetation is doing it tough, particularly on the plateaus. Grazing by macropods and introduced cloven hoofed animals is a worry for park management. There are programs set up and in place to deal with this issue, but not enough funding for staff to oversee them. The next round of funding is coming up and Mike Stevens (Acting Head Ranger) is hopeful things can be put into action soon. It saddens me that programs that need to be ongoing are only funded annually, and there is uncertainty every year if they can continue. The deer program is dependent on this cycle, and with rumours of an extra species being deliberately introduced to the park, and high numbers already present from existing species (along with goats) it is important to control their numbers.
There is movement afoot amongst FOGGs with walking tracks. The Volunteer Track Maintenance group are soon to start working on the walking track at Golton’s Gorge, with assistance from some FOGG members. They will not be reinstating the old track, but marking out and creating a new pathway. It will be great to see this site back in use as it is a favourite of locals at the north end of the park, and it’s been missed by many.
Redgum Walk is also on our agenda. We have signage ready to go back into place, and members keen to try and repair the damage fires have done over the years. We are looking at options for fireproof metal stands for the signs to be mounted on, replacing the sign on Glenelg River road, and a general prune and tidy up to make the site more inviting. We insisted it be included in the guide book on walks for the less-abled so we need to make sure it is worthy.
Recently three of our dedicated members participated in the Cavendish Redgum Festival, promoting our long term project in the Victoria
How lucky are we to have experts within our group, and others willing to come to our region? We have had presentations from members and other from regional experts, and more to come. Even if you aren’t up to traipsing through the bush there is much learning to be done at our indoor lecture presentations. PHD presentations from 2 of our committee have been followed by a couple of others. Having Ian Clarke fit us into his busy schedule was great. His work on the history of the rock art and connection of the Bunjil story to the Grampians was great to hear about. Mike doing our annual catchup with park staff and throwing in a visual presentation was great to see too, once the vagaries of the Mural Room AV system were battled and won. This has been a theme of visual presentations in recent years, but it’s been worth persevering as the information given and the photos viewed are most impressive.
The next lecture presentation will be from a herpetologist from the Arthur Ryler Institute. Being a reptile fan I’m really looking forward to this one!
Please feel free to tell me your thoughts, suggestions or ideas for FOGGs in the future.
We are kicking off another year and I hope it can be an impressive one. As always we will be doing a cleanup day this year in March, and I hope we can see some PhD presentations from some of our esteemed membership. A working bee or two, some educational sessions too. A picnic on the mount… no wait wrong song! Our usual mix, sprinkled with some time outdoors enjoying the park.
Online stuff- this may be a year of technology for FOGGs.
Parks Victoria have launched a website called ParkConnect, to help people find and join volunteer groups and organisations. The idea being it will allow people new to an area, or travelling through to find a local group or activity to be part of. Three members of our committee attended a workshop to learn its operation, from the team that developed the site. At that workshop we listed FOGGs on the portal. This may allow people to join us and maybe bring in some new members. They can join the group from the website, but would not be true members until they have attended an event and paid their fees. I would request our existing members who are tech savvy to go to ParkConnect, set up a profile and join the FOGG group on the portal. This will allow us and Parks Vic to keep track of volunteer hours in the park. We do need to add more information to the page, and that will happen in due course, but it is a work in progress. There is opportunity through this profile setup to list all skills and certifications that members have. This means those skills can be recorded and utilised, allowing some activities to be expanded by making use of the member/volunteer skill set.
Some of the committee including those that attended the training session need to log on and finish putting details into our page, but the bare bones are there, allowing us to be found.
An app has been launched by the Victorian State Government Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP) that enables native plant ID and includes a facility to map where species are being observed. I have only played with it briefly, but it seems to be a useful app. It does require mobile service to work, although you can photograph plants and upload the photos at a later date. It provides plant identification assistance, with basic species information. Using your smartphone or other mobile device you can upload photos of observed plants and this will automatically record a location. It will enable a more accurate vegetation map to be generated showing where native species are still hanging on, and even areas they have returned to! Automatic recording of location does concern me a little, we don’t want too much information about locations of rare species to be available, but it is a balance that has to be found.
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 haven’t adopted them and in some ways I feel it is to our detriment. The legitimacy it lends us as an organisation when communicating with government departments, filing grant applications, and press releases etc cannot be underestimated. I know I’m guilty of not trusting emails from an unknown source with a gmail address, I wonder how many others might be the same. We can remove that doubt. As a second advantage, imagine not having to learn new email addresses after each AGM. The email address would be tied to the position, not the person. I feel we should look into setting it up properly, Frank has volunteered to help us set up each office bearer and all will be easy to change to the new office bearer if need be. We will discuss this as a committee and make a decision.
I recently received a bag from a former FOGG president containing unused Red Gum Walk signs. As an organisation in the late 80’s and early 90’s we paid to have interpretive signs made up to install on the longer loop of the walk, which never got off the ground due to park management concerns at the time. I’d like to kick it off again and make Sue McInnes’s vision comes to pass. Several late members, founders of the group and former presidents dedicated them selves to this project. I grew up working on this project, it’s time we got it finished in some fashion.
We may not be able to do the longer loop, but I would like to see the original short loop properly reinstated. It’s irked me for years that we have been slow to do this. In some circles the walk is iconic, it started a nationwide trend of providing access to the environment for the less able to enjoy. It was the first walk in the Grampians that didn’t climb a hill or a mountain. It shouldn’t disappear quite yet! We can honour several people by working towards a new version, using old signs designed by renowned artists who believed in the project.
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!