President’s Piece

Welcome to our Petyan edition of our newsletter, and apologies for the late arrival. In fact it feels as if summer is already here and the Grampians, like most of the Wimmera, are scarily dry and the flower season is almost over already.

I hope you all have already sent back the questionnaire we sent by snailmail to get some feedback to help with planning activities. Of course you can also email your thoughts to Wendy or myself.

FOGG has been in existence for 30 years now and quite a few of our members have been with us for much of that time. It is vital that we ensure that we remain relevant to both our longterm members and newcomers. Those of you who get this by post will find a membership form attached. Please use it to recruit someone new to join us.

Actually activities are only part of what FOGG is about. Our Park needs Friends in so many areas. We continue to advocate on behalf of the Park, we give feedback to management, we have sought to educate the public. But there are always new challenges and new opportunities.

As you will read in the report on our AGM, over the last year we have been concerned about quite a few moves which we believe are detrimental to our Park, such as aspects of the Long Distance Walk particularly the possibility of commercial lodges, and we made extensive submissions to the draft plan. The final plan is due any time, probably as an election announcement. Unfortunately both parties in Victoria have said very little positive about environmental policies and we need to get some discussion going.

It is particularly troubling that our Park, and all parks, are so short of funds. Groups like ours are being asked to apply for funds for things PV should be able to fund, such as Zumsteins restoration and Heatherlie interpretation. I suspect that grant writing will be a core role of our group for some years.

It is very encouraging that quite a few of our members give us donations in addition to the membership fee. This has enabled us to support students doing important research in our Park. Thanks to the solid work of local staff Mike Stevens and Ryan Duffy co-operation between the Park and universities is so much better than a few years ago. I see our support for this, both monetary and by publicising it, as one of the most important things we can do for our Park.

Through the Advisory Group we have been looking at some way a tax deductible fund could be set up to support projects in the Park, but it’s far from easy. In the meantime we will continue to use our FOGG funds where we can.

Finally, a big welcome to Caity O’Reilly who has taken over from Catherine Dyson as volunteer co-ordinator. Having this position is so good for both other park staff and for volunteers.

From Our Ranger In Charge – David Roberts

A busy few months in the park as we hit some critical milestones with the fire recovery program, completed some important strategic fuel reduction burns, ramped up the spring fox baiting program and commenced grazer control in the form of removing goats from the Mt Difficult range.

Caitlyn O’Reilly, our conservation volunteer coordinator has hit the ground running and quickly established partnerships and programs in all areas of our business. I can’t overstate how much we value this role and how much potential it has to assist us and communities get good outcomes on park.

The Walking track support group, under the leadership of David Witham have been active with works in and around the Heatherlie Quarry tracks. This site is in store for a spruce up as we invest in new signs and investigate a possible trail realignment.

It is amazing to reflect on the number of groups actively working in and around the park in an effort to improve, explore, add knowledge and contribute. Deakin University continues its small mammal research, Museum Vic have commenced some spring surveys, Australian Native Orchid Society have been busy, bush walking clubs have assisted in scoping out GPT alignments, school group tackling sallow wattle, historical societies assisting us with information, funds and advice.

All in all, it is clear that the community is well involved and contributing significantly to the way the Grampians is managed. As park managers, our role is to develop program’s, support, lead and prioritise in all the areas of our business which can be challenging given the competing demands, limited resources and unlimited interest in the park.

We do however embrace this challenge and have a strong commitment to getting the best outcomes, work with our communities in this amazing place.

Let’s all hope for a quiet summer, but let’s be prepared for what ever is thrown our way.

David Roberts

AGM and Heatherlie Walk

We have had only one activity since our last newsletter, and that was our AGM and walk in the Heatherlie area on September 27. Our August walk had to be cancelled due to low numbers.

The weather for our Heatherlie explore was delightful and the flower display fascinating. We walked through a mix of unburnt and burnt areas. The burnt areas were burnt as part of a backburn lit during the horrid fires of January to stop the fire racing towards Halls Gap. But above us on the ridge we could see the ravaged bare slopes of the extremely hot burn.

Tiny bladderwarts: K.Wakefield
Tiny bladderwarts: K.Wakefield

In the burnt area the grass trees and redbeak orchids were in full flower, along with various other orchids, lilies and more. In the unburnt areas there was a good display of isopogon, tinsel lilies, daisies and spider orchids. Some of us were down on our tummies to photograph the minute flowers in the damp patches. We then moved to the Plantation Campground for our AGM. Our President (Margo), Vice-president (Leigh), Secretary (Wendy), and Treasurer (Mabel) were re-elected, and there were some changes to our committee with two newcomers added.

Orchid admirers
Orchid admirers

Margo gave her presidents report,listing the activities of the past year. In addition to our group activities, Wendy has represented FOGGs on the Round Table and Margo on both the Round Table and Advisory Committee. We have also sent letters to ministers about the burn targets and fees for camping in the park. We submitted comments to the committee on the proposed Grampians Peaks Trail supporting the trail in principal but voicing our concerns about the ‘On-Walk hiker lodges’. Margo also represented FOGGs at a workshop on South African Weed Orchid. We have financially supported two University students doing research in the Park and hope to have them talk to us in 2015.

Mabel presented the treasurers report which was kindly audited by Ron Goudie free of charge.

Election of Office Bearers

Janbert took the chair for the election of office bearers. Janbert thanked the office bearers for their work over the past twelve months.

All position were declared vacant, and all were elected unopposed.

President: Margo Sietsma
Treasurer: Mabel Brouwer
Vice President: Leigh Gunn,
Secretary: Wendy Bedggood
Committee Members: Rodney Thomson (although not present had agreed to going on the committee) JanBert Brouwer, Prue Pyke, Noushka Reiter, John Fisher, Alison Whiting. Ben Gunn, Kay Wakefield.
Webmaster: Frank Van der Peet;
Newsletter Editor: Margo Sietsma

The AGM was closed and we proceeded to a General Meeting.

  • We have $6543.43 in our account. We have had 2000 membership forms reprinted and will work on getting new members.
  • We discussed what activities members want. Wendy will send out a questionnaire to members to get some feedback to help with planning. For the rest of this year we will hold a walk and a social lunch where we will sort out next year’s programme.
  • Grants: we were successful in our application to fence off an area in the Ironbarks state Park near Stawell to protect a very rare orchid, and later, we hope, a site for its reintroduction. We have agreed to apply for a grant for protection and restoration of one of the Zumsteins cottages. (Unsuccessfully, I have just learnt).
  • Mabel suggested that we investigate reprinting the wildflower brochure put out a couple of years back by Grampians tourism.

Subsequent to the meeting we decided by email to make a donation to the VNPA (Victorian National Parks Association) to lobby the major political parties using the VNPAs recent Nature Conservation Review to get them to commit to having a better outcome for the environment if they (whichever party) win  the upcoming election.

Field Naturalist Survey

Searching for the Squirrel Glider

On the Queen’s Birthday weekend, this year, the Fauna Survey Group (FSG) of the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria (FNCV) visited the Grampians to survey for arboreal mammals, in particular the Squirrel Glider. The group carries out fauna surveys on private and public land in accordance with its Department of Environment and Primary Industries research permit.

Eleven members travelled west and camped at the Plantation Camping Ground, where they were hosted by Ryan Duffy and Dave Handscombe from Parks Victoria. By and large the weather was very kind to us. On Sunday we were joined by Margo Sietsma and some of her family for some

Seven survey areas were identified by Parks Victoria – the Dadswell’s Bridge, Golton, Silverband Falls and Heatherlie areas within the Grampians National Park (NP), Deep Lead and Lonsdale Nature Conservation Reserves (NCR) as well as the Ledcourt State Forest (SF). Within the survey areas 16 transects were identified. The surveys at Dadswell’s Bridge and Golton were not completed due to lack of time. There is scope to incorporate these sites in future visits to the park.

We employed spotlighting, remote cameras and hair tubes as our survey techniques. The deployment of cameras and hair-tubes and the spotlighting component of the survey were carried out from 5 to 8 June 2014, with the retrieval of equipment taking place 2 weeks later.

Seventeen cameras were deployed. Fifteen of the cameras were deployed in trees within each transect, at a height generally between three and four metres. All were baited with peanut butter, oats and golden syrup. The other two cameras were deployed at Heatherlie in banksia trees, focussing on the bait as well as the banksia florescences.

The 25 hair tubes were also baited with peanut butter, oats and golden syrup. Fourteen of them were placed in trees near the cameras. They were screwed to the branch with the opening facing downwards. The other eleven were pegged out on the ground.

Each transect was spotlit once.

The success of each survey method at each location is detailed in Table 1 on p 6.

In addition to the arboreal species , a number of bird species were recorded on camera as well as some Grey Kangaroos. The bird species included Australian Magpie, Eastern Rosella, Eastern Spinebill, Laughing Kookaburra, New Holland Honeyeater and White-winged Chough.

The link below gives you access to all the videos that recorded animals (and some that did not).

A relatively short and low-cost effort detected the presence of eight species of arboreal mammal over the five study areas. Two of the species (Brush-tailed Phascogale and Squirrel Glider) are listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988 (FFG) and all three species of Pygmy Possum occurring in Victoria are listed as near threatened on the Advisory List. Although the species of Pygmy Possum encountered during this study was not able to be identified, based on the Victorian distributions of all three species it is most likely to be an Eastern Pygmy Possum.

The Squirrel Glider record from the newly-acquired Heatherlie section of the Grampians NP is significant as according to the VBA this endangered species has not been recorded in the park since July 1984. The Grampians represent the most south-westerly population of this species in all of Australia. This population is isolated from other Squirrel Glider strongholds and requires careful management and monitoring.

Squirrel glider in nesting box ~ R Drury
Squirrel glider in nesting box ~ R Drury

The Brush-tailed Phascogale records are of significance because according to the VBA database, this species has not been previously recorded from Lonsdale NCR or the immediate Grampians NP area. This species has suffered a large range decline is south west Victoria.

Phascogale in nesting box ~ R Drury
Phascogale in nesting box ~ R Drury

Robin Drury
The Field Naturalists Club of Victoria

Biodiversity Seminar

The 17th Wimmera Biodiversity Seminar was held on Thursday the 4th of September in Pomonal. This year’s theme was “Fired Up” – looking at all things to do with fire and biodiversity in our landscape. Quite a few of local FOGG members were able to attend and it was a really excellent day. Unfortunately we do not have space to do justice to all the speakers had to offer.

Speakers this year included:

Bill Gammage – adjunct professor at the Australian National University (ANU) and author of The Biggest Estate on Earth: How Aborigines made Australia. The book describes how Aboriginal Australians were actively using fire to cultivate the Australian landscape prior to European settlement. Bill expanded on his further research and learning, discussing the importance of the totem bond between people and animals, the fact that there were so many different words for “fire” – a different word for each stage of a fire and recovery, and different words for different kinds of fires. He described the burning practices as “planned, precise, local, universal, predictable and frequent.” Fire was an ally, “a scalpel rather than a sword.” “You see the fire in your mind before you light it – where it will go, where and when it will end”.

It was a hard act to follow but Dave Roberts our Grampians Ranger in Charge came next. He spoke of the challenge of balancing the risk to communities and the protection of landscapes, noting that we live in an environment much changed from that of 1778, with memories of Black Saturday and the impacts of climate change. He described the experiments with winter small patch burning in the Wannon area.

Darcy Prior of DEPI introduced us to the Phoenix Fire behaviour computer simulation model which is being developed to assist in predicting where and when a fire will spread.

Next Alan York who leads the Fire and Biodiversity Research Program within the Department of Forest and Ecosystem Science at the University of Melbourne. His research group investigates the interactions between fire, landscape pattern and biodiversity. Alan talked about the research into fire in the buloke forests which support the endangered red-tailed black cockatoos. In order to evaluate the balance between targeting the needs of this iconic bird and the needs of the rest of the plants and animals in the area his team focused on the insects there, in particular the ants, which are so important to the plants (their nests in the soil, their diet of leaves and seeds, their role in fertilisation). They collected 23,000 individual ants from 68 species! Their conclusion was that the needs of plants, insects, small mammals, and birds vary quite widely, but that the focus on this particular bird is not adversely affecting the rest of the environment in this location, but it could well in others. In the forest studied the best balance would appear to be 45% between 11 and 34 years between fires, 18% younger than this, 22% old to very old.

Natasha Schedvin of DEPI next spoke on research by La Trobe and Deakin Universities into fire in the Mallee, looking at the 5% target; the last four years of burning has burnt as much as in the previous 20 yrs. The Mallee was selected because of its biodiversity values and the readily flammable nature of the vegetation leading to typically high intensity fires – thereby presenting considerable risk to species if inappropriate fire regimes are applied. Similarly to the Buloke study they found that different elements (birds, insects, plants) have different fire regime requirements. They also looked at rainfall records to compare wet and dry years, Translating research into action plans for management is difficult but they think that looking at growth stages of plants is probably the best general method of deciding on burns.

Kristin Campbell of Deakin University spoke on her research into small mammal recovery post-fire in a time of climatic extremes. Her study surveyed 36 sites in the park over the last seven years. So three large fire events and one massive rain event. The trapping figures (13 species caught) showed just what a boom and bust cycle small mammals have. There were dramatic shifts in species composition and numbers over the years. Time since fire, prior productivity and rainfall are such important factors. This is why it is so essential to have longitudinal studies. She highlighted the importance of refuge areas especially sheltered damp places for recovery, which is important in a time of climate change.

Samantha Barron of Federation University spoke on her research into Sallow wattle. (I hadn’t realised before that it is a worldwide threat to ecosystems). She looked at sallow wattle in differing densities: from none to low, medium, heavy, collecting soil, looking at seedling emergence, collecting and sorting seeds in the soil. Sallow wattle follows creek lines mainly, it produces a huge seedbank, changes the ecosystem creating a positive feedback for itself, thus perpetuating the invasion process. The greater the infestation, the greater the impact on other vegetation. It was hard to assess what effect it has on the seedbank in the soil of other species. There’s a definite need for more research.

After all those speakers it was time to go out and look at the Park with Dave Handscombe. He showed us where the fire was particularly hot, where the back burns had been during the fire fighting, and where a recent planned burn had not stopped the fire, but had provided a less damaged patch. We also looked at an area of long unburnt forest which is where the newly discovered squirrel gliders were found. Plus he took us to an area covered in young sallow wattle seedlings.

After dinner, local Neil Marriott enthused us to support the proposed Wildlife Art, Museum and Gallery in Halls Gap. The final talk was by Kevin Parkyn – a Senior Meteorologist with the Bureau of Meteorology. Kevin assists emergency management agencies in predicting the behaviour of bushfires and planned burns. Again a fascinating topic and some amazing photos of fires causing wind changes.

So congratulations to the group organising this excellent day. FOGG Members from further afield should think about coming to next year’s seminar, which will be held somewhere different in the Wimmera.

Threatened Species – Hunting Orchids and Pollinators

As mentioned in the report on our AGM, we were successful in our application for a grant to protect an orchid area in the Ironbarks State park. Noushke and I went there in September with ranger Dave Handscombe to plan where the fence should go. The lack of rainfall was so evident; the ground was dusty dry and the usual orchids were so scarce. Scary.

Marking the fence corner
Marking the fence corner

Some of us joined a search with the native Orchid Society in October looking for some rare Prasophyllum, Caladenia and Thelymitra off Harrops Track in the vicinity of Camp Creek. We failed to find the target species but saw many other orchids. Gail and I spent a peaceful hour sitting in the warm sun beside a rare orchid in a pot, with a butterfly net in our hands, hoping to catch a wasp or other pollinator, but alas no success. Nobody at all interested.

Checking if this orchid is surviving.
Checking if this orchid is surviving.

Wildflower Show

The Grampians Wildflower Show in Halls Gap would be impossible to present without the support of FOGG members from outside town. We introduced a lot of changes this year, with very mixed success. The main setting, in the Botanic Garden, looked beautiful, but proved challenging to our older visitors. There was a communication failure re the PV display for the hall, but the banner from the Hamilton Field naturalists was superb. And we didn’t explain well enough our decision to name less of our flowers and encourage folk to look them up in our resources. On the other hand, many visitors welcomed the changes

We still struggle for people with enough time to manage the event, so whether the show continues is still in doubt.

Committee Report – Advisory Group

I was an apology due to illness but here are some items from the minutes.

Grampians Peaks Trail Master Plan

Key discussion points: Summary of consultation process and feedback. Around 90 responses. Major points of issue included: On Park Accommodation, Maintenance/management responsibility, environmental and cultural values.

Discussion: The Advisory Group believes it is critical that the issue of a fully resourced operation is investigated and recommended as a matter of priority, so the Park and PV isn’t left with a liability and therefore the reputation is damaged and the park resources drained. A world class Trail and infrastructure needs world class customer service and management/maintenance.

Question: When, who and how do the AG advocate and lobby for (PV to undertake) a business operations plan?

Action: We will write to Dr Bill Jackson and Minister Ryan Smith to emphasis the need for proper, objective and well researched operations plan for the trail.

Brush-Tail Rock Wallaby

Ryan Duffy provided a recap of the re-introduction program from start to now. Highlighted the purpose of the program, the key partners, the challenges and the realities of the recovery program to date.

Described the current dilemmas facing the program and sought a discussion about where to from here.

Fire Recovery

MacKenzie Falls precinct

  • Limited access to MacKenzie Falls should be achieved by the September 2014 school holidays
  • Kiosk and the house have been cleaned up, however there are still negotiations being had with the lessee about their future plans
  • Walk from Zumsteins to the base of the falls will be open around the same time.
  • The Powerline to the site will be reinstated by Powercor.


  • The Pise` cottages at Zumsteins have been wrapped in plastic to protect them.
  • Burnt Radiata Pine at Zumsteins being removed this week.
  • Ornamental planting will be replanted upon removal of pines.
  • Heritage consultant engaged to formulate plan for Cottages future

Mt Stapylton/Hollow Mtn

  • Contractors are currently doing works at Summerday Valley and Stapylton.
  • Staplyton campground asbestos has been removed. The works will now be programmed to repair fire damage to the site


  • Sallow wattle will need to be monitored in the fire affected ground.
  • Seedlings will need to be at least 12 months old before treating them.
  • Monitoring for small mammals in the fire affected ground.
  • With the rainfall and wind over the last week erosion control may be needed.

Committee Report – Round Table

Margo attended the last Round table on 15th July at Mirranatwa Hall, but Wendy was unable to. This report was supplied by the organisers. A presentation was given on the ‘South Western Bushfire Landscape’ project. Andrew Govanston, Jill Read, Evelyn Nicholson and Steve Balharrie outlined the project. The project came out of the Black Saturday Bushfire Royal Commission and their recommendation that planning to reduce impacts of major bushfires, needed to be more strategic, be landscape-focused, and provide regular opportunities for community involvement and feedback opportunities.

The four key steps of the project were outlined. Step 1; Establish the Environmental Context (Enviro Scan); Step2; Identify Assets and Risk in the landscape; Step 3; Analyse the Risk; Step 4; Monitor implementation of the project and feedback to stakeholders and communities.

Steve informed the group on the Bushfire risk modelling undertaken across the state, and tabled the Victorian Risk profiles, before providing examples of Pheonix computer modelling demonstrating modelled effects of a planned burn.

Andy outlined how the Roundtable could assist the project by providing feedback on the draft Environmental Scan by

  • participating in future workshops to identify Assets and risks
  • selection of strategies
  • opportunities would arise to participate in monitoring and feedback sessions.

Participants then went out into the field to inspect two recently completed fuel reduction burns.

  1. Piccaninny; this burn was designed to reduce threat of wildfire to the Dunkeld community by reducing fuel on the western side of the Serra Range to prevent the fire ramping up the slope and then spotting over the rise into the township. The eastern side of the slope was inspected by delegates and discussion ensued about the low-key nature of the fuel reduction.
  2. The second site visited was at Lynch’s Track Heath, where the small, spot-burning technique has been used to develop a ‘quilt-like’ effect within the landscape to reduce fuels whilst protecting the diverse ground-dwelling mammals such as Bandicoot, Potoroo and Heath Mouse. Mike has written a detailed description of this experimental burn which I hope to summarise next issue.
Mike Stevens explains the small patch winter burning experiment
Mike Stevens explains the small patch winter burning experiment

After lunch, the 2014-15 Fire Operations Plan was presented, and participants were invited to submit their feedback by the end of August. The focus for this year’s FOP will be on a Mount Lubra fuel reduction and the western side of the Serra Range using Ariel Drip torch (ADT) mid-sloped scheduled over a number of years.

In the subsequent discussion, there was a request that next iteration of FOP map have fire-history included.

It was also suggested that African Weed Orchid infestation at Fergusons/Rocklands must be considered in vehicle and plant hygiene preparing and conducting burns in this location.

Participants expressed optimism for the future and the hope that we could look back in 10 years time and see the reduction of fuels without losing species abundance. Overall, people felt it is a good strategy that needs to be continued.

Graham Parkes summarised the day by drawing together information and observations from throughout the day;

  • There is a need for change towards bigger picture strategic planning, and a commitment is needed to implement.
  • The importance of prediction (using tools like Pheonix) and knowledge & history
  • Conversations are needed with our communities and agencies, and must feature local knowledge
  • Every area of the Grampians is different i.e. vegetation, soil, aspect, altitude (highlighted by Don)
  • Today we saw how we have responded to one type of environment.
  • And perhaps most importantly, we need to bring the community along on the journey.(as highlighted by Barry Clugston)