FOBIF AGM 12 August: Geoff Park presentation

As mentioned in a previous post Geoff Park will be our guest speaker at the FOBIF AGM on 12 August in the Senior Citizens Centre, Mechanics Lane at 7.30. 

Woodland birds in central Victoria – historical observations, current status and future prospects

Woodland birds are an iconic and special element of the box-ironbark forests and woodlands of central Victoria. The impacts of European settlement, from gold-mining to agricultural intensification, have contributed to a steady decline in species diversity and populations. This decline is now being exacerbated by the clear and present effects of climate change.

 Geoff’s talk will span some historical perspectives on what are now locally extinct or rare woodland bird species, discuss what we think we know about the current situation and consider options and possibilities for future conservation efforts.

Flame Robin (adult male), Rise and Shine Bushland Reserve, 26th June 2024 (Geoff Park,  Natural Newstead)

There are several vacancies on the FOBIF committee and we are encouraging interested people to consider joining. There is a link for nomination forms and more information  here.

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The importance of invisible things

Newstead Landcare presentation by Patrick Kavanagh

Every day, we walk through another world hidden from our naked eye. A tiny world, on a scale of millimetres, best seen through a macrophotographer’s lens.

Join Newstead Landcare for a glimpse into this secret world, in the capable hands of our very own Patrick Kavanagh. Many will know Patrick from his blog posts on Natural Newstead, where he shares close-up photos of invertebrates, tiny plants and fungi, and breathtaking images of the starry night sky.

Patrick’s talks are known as a journey of storytelling, getting to know the critters and moments in time captured through each photo. Understanding more about the intriguing lives of invertebrates and their interactions is a joyful, comedic, and yes sometimes horrifying experience akin to the drama of a soap opera!

Peeking into this micro-world underlines the importance of these tiny forms of life most of us know nothing about, some of which are completely unknown to modern science. They are the foundation food for many of our more visible wildlife that we know and love, such as birds and mammals. Their importance to our ecosystems is sometimes forgotten, due to a lack of knowledge and opportunities to connect. Here is your chance to learn just how charismatic they can be when aided by a macro lens.

Patrick has lived near Newstead in Strangways for over two decades and has been Newstead Landcare’s invaluable secretary for the same duration. Many of his photos are taken right at home on his bush block, showing how much biodiversity can be found in one well cared for patch.

The presentation will be on Tuesday 16 July at 7.30 pm at Newstead Community Centre. All are welcome to attend and gold coin donations would be appreciated.

Mantisfly (Patrick Kavanagh)

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Ever wondered what that orange stuff is?

It’s all over the place. It’s quite attractive too…but what is it?

If you’ve ever asked that question, as we have, the answer is at hand, in the latest edition of Wombat Forestcare’s wonderful newsletter. In a typically informative article, ‘What is that orange stuff?’ John Walter gives us the answer:

On the Fryers Ridge. What is that orange stuff?

‘While it is often thought to be a lichen, it is actually a green alga belonging to the genus Trentepohlia.’ And he naturally follows up with: ‘I can hear the clamour of voices asking, “Why is it orange if it is a green alga?” The orange colour is the result of large quantities of carotenoids which mask the green of the chlorophyll.’ If you want to know more, you can find the newsletter here.

As usual the newsletter is packed with useful info: an enthralling article about native bees, and a distressing account of Vicforests continuing depredations in the Wombat.

Essential reading.

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FOBIF AGM: August 12, 2024

Local bird expert and photographer, Geoff Park will be the guest speaker at this year’s FOBIF Annual General Meeting on August 12. Most of our readers will be familiar with his website, Natural Newstead which he set up in 2010. It has since become one of the top 100 birding sites in the world, a mine of information with brilliant photos and consistently astute observations.

There will be a short formal AGM at 7.30 followed by Geoff’s talk. Supper will be provided and everyone is welcome.

If you wish to nominate for the FOBIF committee the form can be found here. Lynette Amaterstein who has been the FOBIF treasurer for many years will not be standing again. So if you would like to become our next treasurer consider standing for the committee. Lynette is happy to help a new person in this role for as long as necessary. There will be also be several other committee vacancies. Feel free to contact Marie Jones (0407 977 731), Bernard Slattery (0499624160) or Lynette (0409330069) if you would like more information about being on the committee. 

The AGM will be held in the Senior Citizens Centre, Mechanics Lane, Castlemaine (next to the library). 

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Short FOBIF walk in Whiskey Gully


A dozen people enjoyed winter sunshine on Mount Alexander (Leanganook) on Sunday’s short walk. We began at Dog Rocks and strolled down Whiskey Gully before looping back to the start. Recent rains meant there was abundant fungi and once again Joy Clusker’s expert knowledge was a terrific help in identifying the many species. Enthusiastic walkers explored fallen logs and ground cover sometimes lying on wet leaves to get that special photo. Highlights of the walk included the gigantic Mannna Gums which prefer the moister soil on the mountain and Lightwood trees which are common in granite landscapes.  

Thanks to Joy and Liz for organising a fungi walk on Mount Alexander for the second time in 2 years.  Our next walk will be in Drummond North, Fryers Conservation Reserve. See the walks page for more detail. Also check the website before the walk in case there are changes. 

Photo Bronwyn Silver

Walkers taking break. Photo Joy Clusker

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Long FOBIF walk along Boundary Creek

Photo by Kevin Cato

A small group of four completed the longish Boundary Creek loop and enjoyed beautiful winter weather and ideal walking conditions..

This year the creek wasn’t flowing but it still looked really pretty as it meandered between moss-covered rock walls or high grassy banks.

Along the sides beautiful white candlebarks stood out against the blue sky as we slowly made our way downstream criss-crossing to the sides or rock-hopping in the creek bed.

My thanks go out to the three excellent walkers who shared this more adventurous walk with me.

Photos below by Euan Moore

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Long and short FOBIF walks, June 16 2024

Long Walk – Boundary Creek

The long walk this year explores Boundary Creek in the Upper Loddon State Forest. It is an area not frequently visited and the creek and surrounds have a fairly remote feel with attractive bush and an absence of tracks.

With a total distance of 13.4 km of which 8.8 km is off-track it is definitely one for the keener walkers.

To begin we have a long uphill trudge on Ridge Road for 4.6 km before dropping sharply down an untracked spur to meet Boundary Creek.

From here we turn left and follow it all the way back to the Drummond-Vaughan Road, a distance of 8.3 km. Sounds easy enough perhaps: but a degree of agility and concentration is required for the creek section. There is no track and progress is made either rock hopping in the creek bed or following the banks on either side.

It is quite slow going but at the same time very pretty, especially if there is some water flowing which there usually is at this time of year.

We leave the Community House at 9 am, the drive takes about ½ hour each way and the walk should take at least 6 hours with suitable breaks included. Therefore come prepared for a full but hopefully enjoyable day out. Contact Jeremy Holland 0409 933 046 for more information.

Short walk – Mount Alexander (Leanganook)

This slow-paced walk will be led by fungi expert Joy Clusker. Meet at usual time (9.30am) at the Community House or Dog Rocks (9.45am). See the walks page or contact Joy Clusker 0403 828 566 for more information.

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Birds of the Castlemaine region book

In 2018, BirdLife Castlemaine – the newest regional branch of BirdLife Australia – was launched, and has subsequently held regular walks, talks, nature diary days, surveys and other activities.  The geographic extent of the branch overlaps considerably with FOBIFs area of interest – and broadly extends Dunolly to Redesdale as a north boundary, from Redesdale to Woodend in the east, from Woodend to Daylesford in the south, and Daylesford to Dunolly in the west (via Avoca).

To recognise their inaugural year, to sate his curiosity, and to keep himself out of mischief during COVID lockdowns, Chris Timewell has compiled an annotated guide to the 215 bird species documented during the 2018 calendar year from throughout this region.  Coming in at 100 pages, the book summarises relevant information for each of these species including patterns of distribution and seasonality, maximum flock sizes, breeding records, interactions with other species, feeding behaviour and other points of note.  It also has a checklist of all birds known to occur in the local area – including those species not detected during 2018.  As well as being an annual review of the incredible survey effort through this year from hundreds of birdwatchers – both casual and also those citizen scientists contributing to conservation projects – it is a guide to the health status of local birds, and an encouragement to fill in the gaps for future surveys.  Even for those that are not dedicated bird-nerds, wonderful images from local bird photographer Kerrie Jennings are interspersed throughout.

It is offered at a cost recovery price of $20, with an extra $4 for postage if required.

To order your copy, contact Chris at for details on payment and delivery.   And if you mention ‘FOBIF’ in your email, Chris will donate half of the cover price for each sale to FOBIF.

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An expedition through time

A good group braved the chill to walk along Forest Creek yesterday. Led by Marie Jones, the walk started at the Monster Meeting site and walked north along the track to Expedition Pass Reservoir (through Castlemaine Diggings NHP). Pauses were taken along the way to hear about the rich history of the track from Marie, including the mammoth work undertaken by Golden Point Landcare over many years managing weed control and revegetation.

Frances briefs the group on changes to the creek since colonisation. Photo: Asha Bannon

Frances Cincotta shared her knowledge of native plants and spoke of the changes to the area since colonisation. Sightings of hybridised Silver/Cootamundra Wattle sparked conversations on the importance of planting species which are indigenous to the area, so we don’t lose what is unique to our Box-Ironbark Forests.

We were treated to an array of birdlife along the way, including Gray Fantails, Striated and Yellow Thornbills, and Golden and Rufous Whistlers. And one didn’t have to look far off the path to spot fungi – including some growing in a pile of horse manure.

A big thanks to Marie and Frances, as well as to Christine for leading the return walkers back to the Monster Meeting site.

To give an idea of how things have changed, check out the photos below. Here’s the Res in 1878:

Expedition Pass in 1878, ten years after the construction of the reservoir. The stripped land tells a story…

And here’s that hill today:

Walkers on the dam, May 2024. Photo: Joy Clusker


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Coliban channel walk is now a fire zone

Users of FOBIF’s guide to Twenty bushwalks in the Mount Alexander region should be aware that the amenity of Walk 13 has been affected by this year’s Management fire. The section of this walk between Old Coach Road and Dearden Track is mostly through burned bush, not necessarily a pleasant experience, especially since the fire has caused extensive canopy scorch. On the other hand, you might find it an enlightening experience to take the walk, to puzzle over the nature and effectiveness of Department practices. In any case, it’s to be hoped that the zone will green up between now and spring.

From Salt Water track. Canopy scorch has been severe in large sections of this zone.

The fire, CAS 629, centred on Salt Water track, and covering 134 hectares, was lit on April 23. It was categorised as Bushfire Moderation zone, the intention of which is to ‘manage fuel to reduce the speed and intensity of bushfires, and to protect nearby assets, particularly from ember attack.’ This kind of exercise, we are told, is also intended to ‘support ecosystems which require fire to remain healthy.’

As to the fire protection value of these burns, readers might want to check the Post below recording FOBIF’s discussions this year about reduction burning. As to the ‘ecosystems which require fire to remain healthy’, we are sceptical of this claim, for two main reasons.

Fire and ecology

Firstly, unlike traditional owner burns, these fires are too extensive to be sensitive to local ecological variation. In the present case, for example, we noticed several areas where patches of the rare Fryerstown Grevillea had been burned. Is this helping the system to stay healthy? The only way we could know is by seeing monitoring of this plant’s reactions to fire, and we don’t believe such monitoring takes place.

One of many burne patches of the rare Fryerstown Grevillea near Dearden Track. We believe these fires are too extensive for any significant control over ecological effects to be possible. And if they’re not possible, why are they claimed?

Secondly, almost every exercise of this nature which we’ve seen has resulted in the felling of large old trees, and this one is no exception. These trees are rare, and very important as habitat. It is not Department policy to destroy them, but the areas they’re burning are too large for them to be able to control what happens in the burn zone.

Very large eucalypt felled by the fire. Everyone agrees it’s not good that such trees are destroyed…but it keeps happening.

We could add that this area of the forest has some extensive patches of dense and flammable weeds. One such, a large infestation of gorse,  is on the margins of the current burn zone. Maybe an effort to get rid of them would ‘improve ecological health’ and reduce forest flammability?

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