A walk in winter sunshine

A strong turnout rocked up for FOBIF’s July walk in bracing winter sunshine on Sunday. The walk took in several unnamed ridge tops and hidden valleys in a loop around the Helge Track area. Temperatures during the day were low, but the bush presented well in bright sunshine, and a bit of sweat was generated on a couple of the climbs.


Walkers surrounded by Golden Wattle. Photo by Liz Martin

Four species of wattle were in flower, hillsides were covered in rich moss carpets, and there was plenty of interesting fungi about.

The three photos below were taken by Liz Martin. You can see more photos of the walk on Dominique Lavie’s facebook page.

Next month’s walk will be led by Paul Hampton in the Walmer area. For details check the walks program.

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Fire on the Loddon? Not so much, but…

As we’ve previously reported, draft DELWP fire maps have shown an area along the Loddon River between Vaughan and Glenluce as Zone 2 (bushfire management): this would require management burns to cover 80% of the defined area at uncomfortably regular intervals.

We questioned fire officers at the June meeting of the Castlemaine Field Naturalists about the safety value and ecological impact of such a plan, and  have since been informed not only that the area has now been changed to Zone 3, Landscape Management (a gentler system of fuel management) but that the Department will not deliberately burn River Red Gum zones like this one. FOBIF is extremely wary of any plan to deliberately burn this steep river valley, and will watch the future planning of fire along the valley to see exactly what is intended for this area.

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Fire [2]: that old tree question, again…

Readers will be familiar with our repeated complaint that DELWP’s fuel reduction exercises frequently destroy valuable old hollow bearing trees. This is unintentional, but often seems to us to be plain careless. It isn’t just a local problem: Gippsland research has shown that hollow bearing trees are 22 times more likely to fall down in fuel reduction zones than in unburnt areas.

In response to questions about this, Simon Brown, senior DELWP fire management officer for Murray Goldfields, has informed us that ‘standard operating procedures’ have been adopted to try to avoid such disasters in the future. [The most recent one was in an otherwise mild burn in Kalimna Park in 2015].

Among other things, fire zones will be checked the day after the operation to make sure no large trees are burning at the base. It’s frequently been observed by local residents that DELWP fires smoulder on unattended for days, and we have had assurances before that sites will be more attentively monitored.  We’ll watch this one great interest.

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Pyrenees Highway: an update

Compared to the massacre which they have perpetrated at the Ravenswood interchange of the Calder Freeway, Vicroads’ plans for tree removal along the Pyrenees Highway are pretty small beer.

All the same, FOBIF has opposed the extent of tree removal, and has proposed a set of alternatives, including rumble strips and an 80kph speed restriction [see our post]. We believe that these measures are more important in preserving life than the Vicroads alternative: allowing unsafe speeds, and trying to deal with the consequences. In detailed discussions with engineers, however,  we have been told that these suggestions were not practicable.

We’ve been in this situation before: ten years ago we were told that an 80k limit on the road between Golden Point Road and Elphinstone simply wouldn’t work. Now, guess what? The 80k limit has been imposed. What’s more, the same limit has been imposed on the Midland, between Castlemaine and Harcourt, a vastly more manageable road than the winding, narrow stretch between Green Gully and Newstead with numerous access driveways.

Further, Vicroads accepted a lower speed limit on its parallel project near Rushworth last year. Chief Executive John Merritt was quoted at the time as follows: “It’s essentially around reducing the speed for part of that road as an alternative to just clearing a wider path.”

According to the Midland Express [July 5], the Midland speed reduction has caused some ‘outrage’ in social media, although it is estimated to add only 30 seconds to the trip between Castlemaine and Harcourt. In our opinion, this ‘outrage’ highlights the problem: is it Vicroads’ job to accommodate those who want to drive at maximum speeds at all times, or is it more important for road authorities to engage in a sustained campaign to educate drivers to drive to local conditions?

Continue reading

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Flying high at the AGM

Thirty five people braved bleak winter weather to attend FOBIF’s Annual General Meeting last Monday. They were rewarded with an enormously entertaining and instructive talk by Martin Scuffins on birds of prey. Martin, who runs the Leigh Valley Hawk and Owl Sanctuary, was assisted by his rescued kestrel, Kevvie, who seemed to be a very experienced public performer.

Martin 2 IMG_4257

Martin’s message was that the key to healthy predator populations–and therefore to a healthy environment– was good habitat management, and serious efforts to manage the way increasing human populations interact with the natural world. The Leigh Valley centre plays an important role in educating people on these matters.

Monday’s meeting saw the following members elected or re elected to the committee:

President: Marie Jones

Vice President: Neville Cooper

Treasurer: Lynette Amaterstein

Secretary: Naomi Raftery

Committee members: Jeremy Holland, Frank Panter, Bronwyn Silver, Bernard Slattery.

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Winter School Holiday Program – fun and learning the Dja Dja Wurrung way

Much fun was had listening, cooking, tasting, painting, weaving and playing last week as Aunty Julie McHale lead three great sessions last week for the FOBIF 2016 Winter School Holiday program.

An adopted elder of the Dja Dja Wurrung, Aunty Julie skillfully shared her knowledge and stories with over thirty local children during the course of the week.

The program was run at the Fryerstown School, which with its outdoor fire pit, provided local primary school children, parents and carers with the scene for learning about local indigenous culture.

Each session started with Julie leading an acknowledgement of country and followed by a Teaching of the story of Bunjil which is a story about Creation and is told at the beginning of any cultural activities.

Kids got stuck into some cooking, with damper, originally made with Kangaroo Grass seed, and dried bush fruit and acacia seed mixed through.

Depending on the day and age of the children, next was some weaving with bush materials or painting with natural coloured paint.

Games from the desert were adapted and shared, faces painted in preparation for dancing and then we cracked open our damper to finish.

A big thank-you to Julie and her helpers, volunteer Louise Jiricek and Mount Alexander Shire Council for their support for the program though their 2016-17 Community Grants program.



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Find out about wetland plants

wetland plant id course

Local environment experts, Damien Cook and Elaine Bayes, are running two wetland plant ID courses this year:

This course is aimed at anyone interested in wetland plant identification and ecology. The course will run over 3 days and each day will focus on a different wetland habitat (water’s edge, deep marsh and mudflat) and be timed so as to follow the wetting and drying of the stunning Reedy Lagoon at Gunbower Island or nearby wetland.  Participants can elect to do 1, 2 or all 3 days. (from the website)

You can find out more here.

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A winter stroll on ridges and through valleys

A cool winter day provided pleasant walking conditions for 19 participants on FOBIF’s June walk. Jeremy Holland led the group across some interesting isolated hills and ridges south of Italian Hill, before swinging past Sailor’s Gully and the Tubal Cain mine on a return trip to Vaughan Springs.

Walkers were struck by early appearance of Golden Wattle blossom; the damper gullies provided many terrific fungi sightings; and Sailors Gully featured spectacular carpets of moss. The first photo is by Win Jodell and the rest by Bernard Slattery.

The next FOBIF walk on 17 July will be led by Bernard Slattery. Click here for details.

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Last chance

Our highly successful FOBIF exhibition, Trees of the Mount Alexander Region, is finally finishing this weekend after a month at TOGS Cafe in Castlemaine in March and almost a month now at the Newstead Railway Arts Hub. So if you haven’t managed to catch it yet, take a trip to Newstead between 9 am and 4 pm this Saturday or Sunday. All the details are here. You can also download an online catalogue (14 MG) of the show here . This document includes a thumbnail version of every photo with accompanying notes.

Patrick Kavanagh’s photo here is a good example of the terrific quality and fascinating subject matter of photos in this show.

Patrick Kavanagh

Our trees are hosts to an amazing variety of life forms, and the macro lens can reveal sights barely visible (or effectively invisible) to the naked eye: in this case, what could seem to be an anonymous brown crust on a Grey Box (Eucalyptus microcarpa) leaf turns out to be a beautifully formed ‘shell’: the Shell Lerp (Spondyliaspis bancrofti). We’re not sure what the smaller scattered objects are.

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Want to put your hand up?

Here’s a reminder: the FOBIF Annual General Meeting will be held at the Ray Bradfield Rooms on Monday July 11 at 7.30 p.m.

Our guest speaker will be Martin Scuffins from the Leigh Valley Hawk and Owl sanctuary.

Do you want to play a role on the FOBIF committee? Or nominate someone else to the committee? All that’s needed is a piece of paper signed by the nominee, a nominator and a seconder–all FOBIF members. There’s no need of an official form, but for convenience, here’s a sample:

I nominate_________________________________

for the position of____________________________



I accept the above nomination


Positions on the committee are President, Vice President, Secretary, Treasurer, and two ordinary members.

The FOBIF constitution is the Model Rules of Association provided by Consumer Affairs Victoria. These provide that if the number of nominations received before the AGM equals the number of places, those nominated will be declared elected. If there is an excess of nominees over places, an election will take place at the meeting.

Please note that all FOBIF committee meetings are open to any member to attend and contribute. They are held at the Continuing Education building in Templeton Street Castlemaine on the second Monday of each month from February to December, at 6 pm.

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