These school holidays come to Camp Out on the Mount

FOBIF has run a Winter School Holiday Program for the last two years and has decided to take a break this year. For those still interested in environmental and Aboriginal cultural heritage education for primary school age children, be they yours or your grandchildren, FOBIF is supporting the Camp Out on the Mount event on the 1-2 April at the Leanganook Campsite on Mount Alexander which is being run by Connecting Country.

The Landcare Camp Out on The Mount was born out of community frustration with seeing introduced pine trees spreading throughout the bush on Mount Alexander. The Camp Out has since evolved to become an event that is also about fostering a love of the local bush by encouraging kids to explore and enjoy the outdoors. Building this connection will hopefully help ensure our local children grow up with an appreciation for the area and a passion for looking after it in the future.

This year there is an exciting array of free activities and camping over the weekend for all age groups including:

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Small group of walkers braved the heat

Despite the unseasonably warm weather a small but select group of nine kicked off the 2017 walks season by visiting Mt Alexander.

Starting from Coopers Lane we climbed to Roxanne Pass, then off track we contoured above Laytons Quarry and up to Harcourt Granite.

Golden Orb and Jewel spiders were out in force and we tried to avoid damaging their webs. There were also lengthy debates trying to identify individual trees, eventually the Eucalyptus Guide was produced and a consensus reached.

Lunch was had in a shady spot on West Spur near the lookout before heading down this very attractive spur and back to the cars.

Lionel and Barb always produce a really good walk and this was no exception.

Noel Young sent us a further report on the walk which includes a list of birds observed: Continue reading

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Connecting Country events for 2017 – It’s going to be big!

FOBIF thought it would be good to share the work of local group Connecting Country who continues to bring informative and inspiring events to our local community this year. In the past their education and engagement program has been a fantastic way for people from across Mount Alexander Shire to hear new ideas, share knowledge and learn how to implement change for gains in biodiversity and sustainability. This year’s events are no exception, with plenty of opportunities to be informed and meet others in the community doing similar work on their land.

FOBIF is proudly supporting the 4th Camp Out on the Mount is on the weekend of 1st –2nd April 2017 at the Leanganook Camping Ground on Mount Alexander. Connecting Country will be working with Harcourt Valley Landcare Group and Parks Victoria to host a fun weekend for families and Landcarers as campers touch base with the natural assets on the mount. With environmental and Aboriginal cultural heritage activities for children and adults and helping with managing feral pine populations in the park this weekend has traditionally been a great way to meet others, learn about the environment and be active in taking care of this beautiful place we call Mount Alexander.To find out more and book for this event please see their website:

2017 Camp Out on the Mount

During late April and early May Connecting Country will be running three workshops about that essential element, water. Titled ‘Water in our Landscape’, this mini program of workshops will cover, habitat creation in dams, ecological thinning and decision making when considering building pool and riffle systems. More information will be available on the Connecting Country website soon about this series.

If you’re interested in birds, (who isn’t?) in late April we will be running a Buloke and Diamond Firetail workshop. Tanya will also be running her monthly birdwatching walks throughout the year, for more information about these walks, please email her at or by phone on 5472 1594.

June will be a busy month as they celebrate the achievements over the last five years of the Connecting Landscapes program on the 6th of June and work with the Little Habitat Heroes Project to hold their community planting day at the old silkworm farm on Mount Alexander on June 17th.

In 2017 Connecting Country will continue to be active in the press and on-line. Their monthly ‘Nature News’ articles in the first week of each month in the Midland Express are something to look out for.   You can also always keep in touch via the Connecting Country Facebook Page  – do ‘like’ them!

The best way to stay informed about this great organisation is via the Connecting Country webpage and our regular emails and blogs, you can subscribe to their webpage here

Alternatively you can contact Naomi for more information about the Education and Engagement program on 5472-1594 or

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An act in need of overhaul

Laws exist to be exploited, right?

Recent events in the political sphere would certainly suggest that loopholes and interpretations of convenience can subvert well meaning regulation. Laws governing the environment are not an exception to these problems. Hence the need for the occasional overhaul.

The Victorian Government is running a review of the 1988 Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act. You can find details on this review here, including a copy of the review consultation paper, and how to make a submission. Closing date for submissions is March 28.

The act is overdue for an overhaul. Conservation groups have called for five key elements to be included in new legislation:

‘- A fair go for threatened species by removing exemptions and special treatments for government departments and some industries.

Ravenswood interchange clearing, May 2016 [it looks much worse now]: Vicroads has no obligation to consider environmental matters where it can argue about public safety. There has got to be a better way of achieving both ends.

‘- Stronger stop and protect powers with clear requirements for the Minister to intervene when important species or habitats are under threat

‘- A nature cop on the beat with stronger enforcement, real penalties and better monitoring

‘- Clear targets and timelines to direct investment and programs for threatened species protection and recovery, across the whole state.

‘- Giving community power to act, including capacity to determine regional plans and ability to initiate legal action to protect threatened species.’

Local conservationists will find the first of these elements particularly relevant, given the spectacular vandalism perpetrated by Vicroads at Ravenswood in the name of highway efficiency.


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Monster meeting: a celebration

Next Saturday March 4 there’ll be a celebration at the Monster Meeting site on Golden Point road Chewton, to mark the purchase of the site by the state government.

The site is on Dja Dja Wurrung land, and its return to the public land estate is of some significance.

The monster meeting, held on 15 December 1851 in Chewton, is believed to be the first mass protest against a government in Australia, predating the Red Ribbon Rebellion and Eureka Stockade. It was a model of peaceful protest, vigorous and clear in its aims, but notably free of threats of violence and weapon display.

FOBIF’s founding president, the late Doug Ralph, was a strong supporter of the memorialisation of the meeting. It was part of his determination to respect the great traditions of the goldfields while remaining clear eyed about the damage wrought by gold, and the need to repair that damage.

The meeting will take place from 11 am to 1 pm. All are welcome. You can

RSVP at or 5430 4685

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Mmmm…not sure about this one

DELWP has been active in Kalimna Park preparing for its proposed Autumn management burn. Works include vegetation clearance on the eastern margins of the tourist road, and the creation of an earth break on the north side of the golf course.

‘Mineral earth break’ on the north side of the town golf course: crude breaks like this can become serious erosion risks.


The earth break in question is designed to isolate from the fire a section of Eltham Copper Butterfly habitat, and populations of Bitter Cryptandra and Casuarina in the same area. [It’s the western ‘bulge’ in the north section of the fire zone–see our map].

FOBIF doesn’t object to reasonable fire protection works, but we’ve had serious reservations in the past about crude breaks which inevitably end up as trail bike tracks and in the short term are serious erosion risks. The break in question is on a significant slope, and at the moment is pulverised dust. A heavy fall of rain would wash it away in minutes. We’ll push for the quick rehabilitation of this break.

The works on the tourist road are also depressing. These are evidently to increase the road’s effectiveness as a fire break. They’re not as bad as 2015’s scalping of the Fryers Ridge road, but they continue the inexorable degradation of this road as an amenity. Any pretensions this bleak track once had to picturesqueness have long faded.

Kalimna Tourist road: it gets wider every year, and recent fire preparations have added to the trend.

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Volunteers needed!

After countless hours of work, residents are making progress towards eradicating Needle Grasses (stipoid weeds) in Castlemaine. Some previously infested areas now appear to be free of them, and many other areas have less than half of the original infestation.

Needle Grasses are introduced weeds that do great harm to natural ecosystems (especially grasslands) and to agricultural land.  If you love nature, eat and wear clothes, this affects you.

As well as Chilean Needle Grass (Nassella neesiana) – a Regionally Controlled noxious weed – 3 other Needle Grasses are in Castlemaine.  One of these, Cane Needle Grass (N. hyalina), is on a National Alert List of 28 Environmental Weeds.

There is an opportunity to help rid Castlemaine of these. Small working bees are held (mainly between October and March) to dig them out of roadsides, parks and a privately owned paddock.  If you volunteer to help, you will be shown how to identify them and to distinguish between different grasses.  Any amount of help, ranging from one hour to many, will be gratefully accepted.

The volunteer work complements paid work which was done with a Council Community Grant to Connecting Country during 2016-17.  FOBIF has applied for another Community Grant to continue this work in 2017-18. 

If you’d like to help, or would like more information, please phone Margaret on 5470 5072 between 7am and 7pm.

Dense infestation of mature Espartillo at the Pony Club in Castlemaine in 2014. Control work has now reduced the infestation to isolated seedlings.

You can find a good photo of Chilean Needle Grass  here and a good drawing and photo of Cane Needle Grass here.

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2017 Alison Pouliot fungi workshops

Fungi expert and photographer, Alison Pouliot, is running her popular fungi workshops from April to June this year.

Most workshops will focus on the ‘curiosities and delights of fungi’. There are also several on  photographing fungi and these would be good for anyone interested in macro photography.

At least one workshop is booked out already so if you are interested book soon. All the information is here.


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FOBIF is successful in funding bid in the Victorian Landcare Grants Program

FOBIF has been successful in our application to the North Central Catchment Management Authority (NCCMA) for a Maintenance/ Start Up Grant through the Victorian Landcare Grants Program for $500. This money will go towards paying for public liability insurance for our group so we can continue to host our activities safely.

Local Landcare groups have shared in more than $204,000 to carry out environmental projects that improve biodiversity and land health across the catchment through this program.

This year, about 20 local groups project grant applications in the  region were successful. “Each year the quality of applicants is impressive, and this year was no exception,” North Central CMA Regional Landcare Coordinator Tess Grieves said.

Minister for Energy, Environment and Climate Change Lily D’Ambrosio congratulated the local groups on their projects. “The Victorian Landcare program is an investment in our future and it’s fantastic to see these local groups receiving grants to support their important environmental projects,” she said.

Thanks to Tess and the team at the NCCMA for their work in making this successful application possible.


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‘Neither slimy nor mouldy’

Tasmanian-based naturalist Sarah Lloyd has recently started a blog on Myxomycetes commonly known as slime moulds. Sarah was the guest speaker at the FOBIF AGM in 2015 where she shared her expertise on these often neglected organisms to a fascinated audience.

Sarah has been collecting and identifying slime moulds on her property in Northern Tasmania since 2010:

In the years since starting my research I have amassed over 1500 collections representing approximately 110 different species. This seems extraordinary given that all specimens have been collected within two kilometers of our house, and only 42 species had hitherto been officially recorded for Tasmania.

On the site and in her two recently published books on slime moulds* and Tasmanian native birds** Sarah uses plain language to draw in the general reader. And she is a terrific photographer. The two photos below from the blog are examples of her beautiful work.

web slime moulds

So to find out everything you always wanted to know about slime moulds, click here and have a look at Sarah’s blog.

*  Where the slime mould creeps: the fascinating world of myxomycetes (2014)
** The feathered tribes of Van Diemen’s Land (2015)

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