Looking back to 1770 and beyond…

The beetle below is quite famous, and worth considering for a few reasons. One is that it’s a handsome creature. Another is that it’s played a modest role in the history of science. It’s a Botany Bay Weevil [aka Diamond Weevil, aka Diamond Beetle]: this was the first Australian insect named for European Science, from a specimen collected by Joseph Banks and Daniel Solander on Cook’s 1770 voyage along the east coast. For that reason alone it’s a link to a very different Australia from the one we live in now.

The species lives in a variety of wattles. The specimen below was found on a wattle planted by Castlemaine Landcare along Forest Creek—and that’s a third reason to celebrate the beetle: the gold rushes stripped the creek bare, and Landcare revegetation has brought back a link to that distant past.

Diamond Weevil on a Wirilda branch, Forest Creek, December 29 2016: a creature which is a link to a distant, and not so distant past.

Diamond Weevil [Chrysolopus spectabilis] on a branch of a Wirilda wattle [Acacia retinodes], Forest Creek, December 29 2016: a creature which is a link to a distant, and not so distant past. It’s found widely in south eastern Australia, from SA to central north Queensland.

Crudely speaking, a weevil is a beetle with an extended snout. Beetles account for about 40% of  known insects, and more than a quarter of all animal life. Oh: and they’ve been around for about 300 million years…which puts 1770 into some perspective.

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Saint John on the Mount: an update

FOBIF has received a few clarifying details from Parks Victoria on the infestations by St John’s Wort and other weeds on Mount Alexander [see our Post]. Essentially they confirm our impression: that weed control programs are intermittent and dependent on unreliable funding [currently limited]. Biological controls on St Johns Wort are only partially effective, and in the recent good spring the weed has become more rampant than ever.

We have written to Coliban Water about their supposed program to control environmental weeds on the Coliban Race reserve, but have had no reply. The reserve is currently infested with a wide range of weeds, including the picturesque but diabolical Patersons Curse, which has been kept under reasonable control by Parks on the eastern side of the Mount. There doesn’t seem to be any co ordination of weed control efforts between the two authorities: a pity, because it means [for example] that any effort by Parks Victoria to control a weed in the park is doomed because of the certainty of re infestation from the adjacent race reserve.

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Kalimna burn plans

The map below shows DELWP’s intention to burn a significant section of Kalimna Park on the town side of the tourist road this autumn. The lower red section is bordered on the south by Doveton street track. The small white circle is the Hunter Street water tank. The golf course lies between the two red sections.

* In red is where planned burning will take place this Autumn 2017.
* The orange and pink circles will be target by mulching (either Gorse or Broom bush) and
* Tourist Park Rd and the track around Parker St may have mulching applied to assist in track/access maintenance.
No burning will occur to the eastern [Happy Valley] side of Tourist park drive. DELWP  is working through removing the Pines near the rotunda.1TS00AT-20161204160225

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Vicroads and speed: some questions

FOBIF has written to Vicroads regarding its September update on the Pyrenees highway project. Part of this update reads: ‘A reduction of the speed zone would not lead to a decrease in the amount of barrier treatments used in this instance. The impact of an errant vehicle with a roadside hazard (tree, power pole) at 80 kmh can still lead to a serious injury or fatality. The Installation of safety barriers provides the safest option.’

Pyrenees Highway between Newstead and Green Gully: is this stretch of road safer at speed than the Midland?

Pyrenees Highway between Newstead and Green Gully: is this stretch of road safer at speed than the Midland?

Our questions are:

  1. Does this statement imply that there is no difference in the likelihood or nature of a run off road accident at 80 kph, compared to 100 kph? If so, it would seem to contradict campaigns like the ‘wipe off five’ campaign.
  1. We understand that recent limit reductions on the Midland Highway between Castlemaine and Harcourt and on the Pyrenees between Chewton and Tunnel Hill were made for safety reasons. Does Vicroads believe that the stretch of road between Green Gully and Newstead is more manageable at speed than those two stretches of road?
  1. Are we to understand from this document that plans for vegetation management are the same as originally proposed?

We’ll publish Vicroads reply when it comes.

 

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‘Free ranging adventure for kids and dads’

Fathers interested in taking their children for bushwalks this year might be interested in the Bendigo Dads Walking Group. The group goes out on a ‘Walk-Explore-Share-Play-Discover-Talk-Connect on a weekly kid’s adventure’. There are about 30 walks a year, on Sundays from 9.30 to 12.30, and many of the routes are in the Castlemaine region. For more details click here…Or email bendigodadswalkinggroup@gmail.com

FOBIF’s 2017 walks program will be mailed to members around the end of this month. Walks start on the third Sunday in March.

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Have a good Christmas

The FOBIF committee wishes all members and supporters a happy Christmas and a great summer.

This will be the last post on this site for a few weeks, barring unforeseen matters needing comment. Members will receive a letter in the mail around the start of February next year with the 2017 walks program on it.

It will also carry a reminder that membership subscriptions for 2017 are falling due. At $10 a head or $15 a family it’s one of history’s great bargains, so don’t hold back!

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Wetland ecologist Damien Cook and two of the 20 people who came along to the FOBIF’s end of the year Bells Swamp walk and lunch last Saturday. During the morning Damien identified over 20 plants and covered the environmental history and ecological significance of the area. Everyone appreciated his knowledgable and engaging commentary. Photo: Bronwyn Silver

More photos from the walk taken by Harley Parker. Continue reading

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Luvverly, but…

There are two basic truths about weeds. First, they’re often pretty [and maybe even useful in some way], and second, they’re bullies that shoulder aside other plant species to create boring monocultures.

Both things are true of St John’s Wort, introduced into Australia in the 1870s as a garden plant, and already a problem by the end of the 19th century. The plant infests thousands of hectares in south  eastern Australia, both farmland and bush.

St John's Wort, Mount Alexander, December 14 2016: like all weeds, it has a sinister prettiness.

St John’s Wort near Aqueduct Creek, Mount Alexander, December 14 2016: like all weeds, it has a sinister prettiness.

 

The weed is currently in spectacular flower on Mount Alexander. It’s pretty clear that the only effective method of control is going to be biological. Many attempts at this have been made since the 1930s in Australia [including one on Mount Alexander], but the plant still flourishes. As far as we know there is no control program on the Mount at the moment.

A case for more research and active attack on  this and other weeds is pretty obvious. Curiously, every time we’ve been informed of cutbacks to land management agencies in the last ten years, we’ve been assured that no ‘front line’ staff are affected. The supposedly unimportant staff disposed of are often doing important research work which would eventually save ‘front line’ staff a lot of trouble. The result, in the reduced capacity of agencies to tackle the large problems, is clear from the photo above.

Environmental weeds cost Australia about $4 billion a year in lost production and control costs.

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News from the neighbours

The Wombat Forest is our southern neighbour, but a very different environment from the drier forests and woodlands of our region. If you want to keep informed about the great qualities of the Wombat, you should check out the Wombat Forestcare Newsletter.

The latest issue contains a beginners guide to that frustrating subject, egg-and-bacon plants, great items on bird life and a terrifically interesting argument, ‘Reconsidering commonness’. This article persuasively hammers the point that our concern for rare and endangered species shouldn’t make us indifferent to the fate of common species: ‘Common species often represent the more hardy or adaptable species in an ecosystem so when they start to dramatically decline, it might indicate that something is seriously wrong. While common species often comprise a relatively small proportion of overall species richness, they usually contribute greatly to the structure, biomass and dynamics of ecosystems. Moreover, when habitats are burnt, fragmented, degraded or otherwise damaged or lost, it is common species that often suffer most.’

Check it out online here.

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Bells Swamp excursion this Saturday

The end of the year FOBIF excursion to Bells Swamp is this Saturday (17 December).

Wetland experts, Damien Cook and Elaine Bayes, will be leading the group. You can find out more here.

We will be meeting at 9.30 at Continuing Ed in Templeton Street and travelling in convoy to the area which is half an hour from Castlemaine. Bring some food to share for lunch, and your gumboots! Contact Bronwyn Silver on 54751089 for further information. Everyone is welcome.

Myriophyllum papillosum

Myriophyllum papillosum

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The impossible dream: we can have public safety without trashing the bush

Here are a few conclusions we can draw from recent meetings with DELWP fire managers in the last two weeks:

  1. The proposal to frequently burn Expedition Pass and surrounds is definitely off. It was a mapping error, and we’ll pass over it with a shudder.
  2. The government aims at a ‘coordinated approach to managing bushfire risk across all land tenures by 2020.’ That is, we should soon be able to see a coherent approach to fuel management on private land, integrated with treatment of public land. How soon? We don’t know.
  3. Fire hazard reduction in sensitive areas like the Vaughan area and the margins of Kalimna Park will be achieved mechanically rather than through burn offs. The Loddon river valley won’t be burned.
  4. There are no plans in the immediate future for operations on the eastern [Happy Valley] side of Kalimna Park. However, if residential developments proceed in the valley, then Kalimna will definitely have to be more severely treated.
Near Hunters Track, Castlemaine Diggings NHP: the bush in this area is more open than in regrowth forest nearby, and has numerous interesting cultural features.

Near Hunters Track, Castlemaine Diggings NHP: the bush in this area is more open than regrowth forest nearby, and has numerous interesting cultural features. It has recently been rezoned and is now open to more severe fuel reduction treatment.

 

The above are conclusions after two meetings in the last three weeks.

Representatives of FOBIF and the Friends of Kalimna Park met with DELWP managers in Castlemaine on November 23, and representatives of FOBIF and the Talking Fire group met with the DELWP West Central Bushfire Risk Landscape team in Daylesford on December 1.

Under discussion were the revised fuel management plans for the region. The intent of both meetings was to aim at a fuel management program which achieves public safety while respecting the natural values of local public land.

Several other matters were discussed:

In response to questions about poor track management, officers repeated a rationale we’ve heard before: that ‘road access is required for fire suppression’ etc. This is a disappointing response, as we’ve never questioned the need for such access: what we’ve questioned is crude and careless track management, and lack of care [and possibly even understanding] of roadside vegetation.

Continue reading

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