Sarah Lloyd to speak at upcoming FOBIF AGM

The FOBIF AGM will be held on Monday July 27 at 7.30 pm at the Ray Bradfield Rooms, beside Victory Park, Castlemaine. Nominations for the FOBIF committee will be accepted before the meeting. Nominations should be signed by the nominee and two other financial members.

The guest speaker will be Sarah Lloyd, author of the remarkable book, Where the slime mould creeps. See our earlier post for a review of her book.

white gum tk 17 11 14 046 (560x800)Sarah Lloyd is a Tasmanian naturalist, writer and photographer whose passion for natural history began in early childhood with a love of birds. In 2008 Sarah initiated ‘A Sound Idea’, a project to monitor bush birds using digital sound recorders and numerous volunteers who have made (and continue to make) recordings from Tasman Island to King Island and about 100 locations in between. Her interests have broadened in recent decades to include plants, fungi, invertebrates and bryophytes.

In 2010 Sarah started exploring the little-known world of myxomycetes (also known as plasmodial or acellular slime moulds) in the wet eucalypt forest that surrounds her home at Birralee in Northern Tasmania.

Myxomycetes are unlike any other organisms. They have two animal-like stages that move about and feed, followed by a spore-bearing stage of exquisite beauty.

Sarah will talk about her work and show photographs of some common, rare and ‘new’ species (one of which has been named in her honour) and the various stages in the lives of these truly remarkable organisms.

Some of Sarah’s beautiful photos are included here. Click on each image to enlarge.

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Is this the saddest sign in our region?

Well, we think it could be a credible nomination, anyway: an eloquent testament to past abuse of the land, painfully slow recovery, and perhaps the under resourcing of our land management bodies.

Near Perkins reef in the Maldon Historic Reserve. The sign speaks volumes about the under resourcing of public land management in Victoria.

Near Perkins Reef in the Maldon Historic Reserve: the sign speaks volumes about environmental history, and the painfully slow rate of recovery from land degradation.


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Fire’s off…and on

Several more substantial proposed burns have been removed from the current DELWP Fire Operations Plan. Apart from the Amanda’s Track proposal, which we have previously reported, these include:

Donkey Farm Track [in the Maldon Historic Reserve], Chewton Railway Dam [in the Fryers Forest], Pepper Tree Track [in the Tarilta catchment], and  Zig Zag track [in the Sandon State forest].

Sandon State Forest: the 491 ha management fire in this zone has been deleted from the fire operations plan.

Sandon State Forest: the 491 ha management fire in this zone has been deleted from the fire operations plan. This forest was ‘almost completely denuded of useful timber’ by 1870.


All of these were substantial burns for our area, and we had expressed reservations about them for one reason or another in our submissions to the Fire Operations Plan.

Withdrawal of these burns has been  ‘based on a review of the risk, feedback from community groups and an operational assessment’, according to Andrew Koren, DELWP’s local program manager for planned burning, in a detailed response to FOBIF’s submission to the FOP, received last week.

The Department will proceed with its plans to burn Mount Tarrengower, though how this will be done is still under consideration. The southern slope of the Mountain, around Perkins Reef, was recently burned. Additionally, a new burn is proposed for Fryers Ridge, around the Old Tower Track. Crude track upgrades in this area were done over the last couple of years.

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Fire risks in the Mount Alexander region: public and private responsibilities

In his response to FOBIF’s fire submission [see above], Andrew Koren made the following observations about fire danger in our region:

‘Communities in Castlemaine, Chewton and surrounds are considered to be at extreme property impact risk from bushfires on days like Black Saturday; based on Phoenix Rapid-fire bushfire simulation. Extreme property impact risk is where many properties in a community  are in the path of numerous simulated bushfires. In these areas, impact by a potentially high-consequence bushfire at some time is almost certain.

‘The simulated property impact risk across the West Central Bushfire Risk Landscape is shown on Map 6 in the West Central Strategic Bushfire Management Plan.

‘As these communities have always been considered at high bushfire risk, DELWP’s fuel management program has not altered in this area. The program continues to build on planned burning from previous years, with planned burns close to both Castlemaine and Chewton for asset protection purposes.

‘With modelling showing that bushfires from up to 50km away can impact on Castlemaine and surrounds under extreme bushfire conditions, proposed planned burning in the Maldon area also provides protection these communities through mitigation of bushfire behaviour.’

FOBIF does not dispute with DELWP on fire behaviour. We are still, however, not at all clear about the management of fire risk on private, as opposed to public land. The risk document quoted above shows ‘priority fuel management areas’ in our region as being largely on private land, as we pointed out in our account of this document last year [see the map in that report]. Andrew Koren says of this:

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Fire: business as usual, for the moment

The State Government is still considering the recommendation by the Inspector General of Emergency Management that the ‘five per cent target’ be replaced by a risk management system. In his response to FOBIF’s fire submission [see above] Andrew Koren made it clear that until the Government makes a decision on the matter, DELWP is running business as usual:

‘The review conducted by Inspector General of Emergency Management ( IGEM) could result in possible changes to DELWP’s fuel management targets and delivery of the program. Any changes that result from IGEM will not be decided upon until later this year. Prior to this, DELWP will continue its operational planning for the 2015/16 financial year under the current target and program. Any changes to the fuel management policy, and targets and resulting operational changes won’t be reflected in the FOPs until 2016/17.

‘Each year of the 2015/16 – 2017/2018 plan contains a planned area of at least 300,000 hectares. This is in excess of the 2015/16 delivery target of 275,000 hectares. This is to allow DELWP flexibility across the state for seasonal weather and fuel conditions. The Murray-Goldfields target for the three years of the FOP is 11,285 hectares. This is a reduction from our previous target of 14,000 hectares.’

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FOBIF Winter School Holiday Program warms the heart and fires the imagination of our local children

Over fifty children attended events at the Castlemaine Botanical Gardens this week as part of the FOBIF Winter School Holiday Program. Three events were held as part of the program, which aimed to give our local families an opportunity to learn about the Box Ironbark Forests and the wonderful world of books and nature studies.

The first event featured a live animal display with Jamie from Jamie and Kim’s mobile Zoo where kids and adults heard about, touched and fell in love with some of our most threatened Australian animals. This engaging presentation was followed by a treasure hunt for elements of our local forests in the largely unnoticed, but beautiful local bush part of the gardens.

The second event, ‘Habitat Stories’ was held in partnership with the Goldfields Library. Local story time hero Jess Saunders held the early primary school age children in awe with her reading of books about birds and habitat more generally with obligatory bubbles also. After lunch kids were introduced to another local, the White-winged Chough, and this bird’s mud brick nest building ability. Kids then followed on to make their own nest complete with furnishing from Barkers Creek, eggs and in one nest, “acorns, for toys”.

Judy Laycock and Alice Steel expertly ran the final event, which introduced botanical drawing to an engaged and diligent group of early primary school age children. Together the group learned about method, observation, recording and creativity by producing their own book of botanical drawings. Plenty of time was spent in the field capturing observations from the bark and various structural elements of the bush. A quick rundown on how to use watercolour and kids were away at adding colour to their drawings with beautiful results.

A massive well done and thank-you to all of the presenters and volunteers who have made the first FOBIF Winter School Holiday Program such a success. Thanks also to MASC for their support through their Strenghthening our Community funding. For further reading about why we love to do these things please see George Monbiot’s great article from The Guardian.

Photos of the three days can be viewed below. Click on photo to enlarge.

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Over the range and far away

Large Striped Greenhood, Pterostylis robusta, Goughs Range, 21-June. 2015

Large Striped Greenhood (Pterosylis robusta)

It’s not the Himalayas, but FOBIF walkers found the ascent of Gough’s Range satisfying enough in glorious winter weather on Sunday. Greenhood orchids were on display, and a surprising stand of regenerating Casuarinas was an encouraging feature of a forest which is still recovering from past abuse.

From the top of the Range you can get great views to the east as far as Mount Alexander, and to the west to the Pyrenees, and this tiny forest offers an unexpected feeling of isolation from the outside world.

More photos below.

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Youth walk on Mount Alexander

Nioka Mellick-Cooper was the main organiser of this walk and she wrote the following post:

The first 2015 youth bush walk took place on the Mount Alexander (Leanganook) and was a great day. There were 28 people that came bright and early to do the scramble.


On top of Mount Alexander

We all met and wrote our names in the book at the Continuing Ed building, and then got on the buses and drove up to the starting place.

The walk was roughly 2 hours long (around 4km) and was a very enjoyable experience.

As we walked we saw many things including kangaroos browsing, and stopped at Dog Rocks for some morning tea. Here we heard a story told by Max from Connecting Country who kindly came on the walk with us, which had everyone entertained.

Max Schlachter

Max Schlachter talking to the group on Dog Rocks.

When we returned from the walk, lunch was provided, with a chance to refresh ourselves, and have a chat before we got back on the buses to return to Castlemaine.

The day was a success and we’re ready for the next one.

The Youth Bush Walk program is funded by the Mount Alexander Shire Council Youth Grants Program.


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Seen any good flowering Ironbarks lately?

Ironbarks are flowering attractively along the Pyrenees Highway between Castlemaine and Chewton, but they aren’t what we’re looking for. These beautiful trees are Eucalyptus sideroxylon, Ironbarks native to country from northern Victoria through to Queensland. We believe they were planted along the highway some years ago by  Castlemaine Rotarians.

Eucalyptus tricarpa in the Muckleford Forest: a noble and characterful tree, but not an easy one to photograph

Eucalyptus tricarpa in the Muckleford Forest: a noble and characterful tree, but not an easy one to photograph

What we’re looking for are locally indigenous Ironbarks –Eucalyptus tricarpa—which are also supposed to be flowering now, but are a bit hard to find in that state…especially because we want trees with flowering branches conveniently drooping close to the ground. It’s not the flowers we’re mainly interested in, but the buds and fruits. We want to take photos of these features of the tree, to use in our ongoing project to produce a guide to local Eucalypts–and unfortunately for us, this particular tree has the noble habit of standing up very straight, making it hard for photographers to get close to its foliage.

Our Eucalypt project is aimed at producing a guide which will be accessible to absolute beginners in what can be a very confusing field. It will cover Eucalypts native to the Mount Alexander region.

FOBIF was recently pleased to receive a grant via the Norman Wettenhall Foundation to finance this project. This, together with support from Connecting Country and the Castlemaine Field Naturalists, will enable us to produce a guide which will, we hope, be helpful even to complete beginners on the subject.

Any tips? Send us an email to As a rough indicator, local Ironbarks have cream flowers, usually in groups of three.

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FOBIF school holiday program

FOBIF is running three nature-based events for primary school children in the upcoming school holidays.  Places are limited and booking is essential. Information about the program can be found on this FOBIF page.

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