FOBIF AGM: October 16, 2023

Our guest speaker at this year’s FOBIF Annual General Meeting will be Dr Cassia Read. Cassia is an ecologist, educator and garden designer, working at the intersection of biodiversity conservation and human wellbeing. She is Principal Ecologist and Co-Founder of the Castlemaine Institute and a FOBIF Committee member. She will be speaking on creating garden wildlife habitats.

Cassia in her Castlemaine garden

The urban garden in Box-Ironbark country: Can you have your roses and fairywrens too?

Whatever your gardening style you can nudge your garden in a wildlife friendly direction. By adding habitat elements and designing for alignment between your needs and the needs of wildlife, you can create a stunning landscape that supports the remarkable creatures of Box Ironbark Country. Whether you prefer formal or wild gardens, cottage gardens or bush-blocks, by realising the potential of your garden oases you can be part of creating neighbourhood networks that will support people and biodiversity in a changing climate. This talk will provide you with know-how and inspiration about creating wildlife habitat, whether you’re starting from scratch or adding to an existing garden.

There will be a short formal AGM at 7.30 followed by Cassia’s talk. Supper will be provided and everyone is welcome. If you wish to nominate for the FOBIF committee details can be found here. The meeting will be held in the Ray Bradfield Room,  Victory Park, Castlemaine, with access from the IGA carpark or Mostyn Street. 

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Best in the world?

A strong group rocked up for FOBIF’s September walk in the Fryers Ranges yesterday. The weather was ideal, and the Ridge put on a typically spectacular display of wattles, peas, heath and numerous other species—thirty plus species in flower, by some counts. Highlights were displays of massed Hakea in flower, Broad-Leafed Peppermints in abundant flower, and the rare Sporadic Wattle at the end of its flowering season. The Fryers Ridge has a good month of high quality flowering to go, so now’s the time to get out.

Christine Henderson led the group through a short and relaxed ramble which allowed Plenty of time for checking the details. It did, admittedly, end in an almost epic climb, but that’s the price you pay for wandering in the Fryers Forest, and all participants survived in more or less good shape.

Christine (right) amongst Sporadic Wattle. Photo Jenny Rolland

Our thanks to Christine for showing us a great corner of one of the region’s (and the world’s?) premier wildflower hotspots.

Photos below by Liz Martin.

Next month’s walk is also a wildflower loop in the Fryers Ranges led by Frances Cincotta. Check the website for details.

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Next Sunday’s FOBIF walk (17 September)

We’ll explore the flower gardens in the region of the Fryers Ranges main ridge. A gentle walk of about six km mainly on formed tracks. Plenty of time to photograph and appreciate the array of flowering shrubs and herbs in their spring glory.

We will meet as usual at 9.30 am at the Community House in Templeton Street or in the Taradale main street, opposite the Metro fuel station at 9.45 am. We will then drive in convoy to the main ridge. Car pooling will be necessary as parking space will be limited. For more information ring Christine Henderson 0417529 392. 

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Death on the race

Are we being melodramatic? Maybe. Check this out:

That’s a patch of Hardenbergia, on the side of the maintenance track on the Coliban main channel, south of the Fryers-Taradale road. There’s quite a lot of Hardenbergia on that stretch: in fact, we chose to highlight it in our notes for walk 13 in our 20 Bushwalks guide. There’s also quite a bit of Trailing Shaggy Pea, and Grevillea, and Grey Everlasting, and Bush-Pea. Most of it now looks like this:

Someone with a key to the locked gate has gone along the race, spraying these quite harmless plants, for reasons unknown. We’ve enquired of Coliban Water what might be the rationale for the spraying. They’re looking into it.

This is what Trailing Shaggy-pea looks like when it’s alive:

It flowers from November. There are impressive carpets of it in the area of the Coliban channel…but not along the track, now. We’ll report on the reasons for the current bleak look of the maintenance track when and if we find out.

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The Annual General Meeting of the Friends will be held on Monday October 9 at the Ray Bradfield Rooms, Castlemaine, at 7.30 pm. Committee elections will take place at the meeting.

All members are eligible for election to the committee, and we urge you to consider nominating. There’s no official form: all you need is to be a member,  get a member to nominate you, one to second the nomination, and your acceptance of the nomination. If necessary, we’ll come to your place to pick up the nomination!

The annual reports and elections will be followed by a  a creative and original presentation by Cassia Read on Australia’s most popular outdoors activity: gardening: The urban garden in Box Ironbark Country: Can you have your roses and fairywrens too?

More details to follow.

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Vale Phil Ingamells 1947-2023

Environmentalists around the state are mourning the sudden death of Phil Ingamells, who died suddenly at home last month.

Phil spent a decade in Castlemaine in the nineties, and was active in the local campaign for a Box-Ironbark national park. He was a foundation member of FOBIF, and was a power behind numerous local initiatives, including the Mamunya arts festivals, and promotion of good information about the goldfields. For the last 20 years he has been a campaigner for the Victorian National Parks Association. Here is a statement from the VNPA:

Phil Ingamells with Deirdre Slattery on Mount Alexander 2023: his knowledge of protected areas around the state was unequalled.

‘Philip Clark Ingamells was a legend in conservation circles and a tireless campaigner for parks and nature. We all owe him a great debt of gratitude for his work. Nature in Victoria is better for his efforts, and we are all the wiser. A thoughtful, persuasive writer and eloquent speaker, he played a critical role in protecting Victoria’s natural places and national parks.

‘With his rare skill for clearly explaining complicated (and often dry) policy conundrums, Phil’s pieces in Park Watch transported us to the heart of Victoria’s natural places. He was a warm friend and colleague, a lover of robust conversation and argument – a talent that was not lost on ministers and officials alike.

Phil Ingamells addressing FOBIF’s 25th gathering at Newstead this year. Keynote speaker Alison Pouliot is on the right.

‘With expansive skills and knowledge honed over the past two decades at VNPA and beyond, Phil played a key role in numerous park management plans. He filled his hours advocating for action to protect the incredible wildlife and places he spent so much time in, be that hiking, photographing or surveying.’

Phil never lost his connection with the Mount Alexander region, and was a consistent source of support and inspiration for FOBIF in its campaigns for better management of our bushlands. He is already badly missed.

There will be a public memorial held for Phil at 12pm on Thursday 14 September in Eltham. Please RSVP

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New book for bike riders

This book which has just been published contains nine A4 sized maps, showing 16 road rides. There are detailed route descriptions, elevation profiles and local photographs.

The rides are on surfaced roads, suitable for road bikes, gravel bikes, hybrids or MTBs. All start and finish at Maldon Post Office but they are out-and-back or loop rides, so you can start at other points on the route if you like. Many of the rides are via Castlemaine. 

Rides are of varying distances and difficulty from a short one around the town of Maldon to several about 100 km long. They cover a wide area from Bridgewater to Daylesford and Maryborough to Leanganook (Mount Alexander). 

Sample pages

You can buy the book at Stonemans Bookroom, Castlemaine Visitor Information Centre, Maldon Visitor Information Centre, Maldon Bookshop (formerly The Book Wolf), Maldon Bicycles, Maldon Newsagency, Giant Bike Shop (Hargraves Street, Castlemaine), Herbie’s Café, City Family Hotel (High Street, Bendigo) and Maryborough newsXpress (High Street). The RRP is $15 but price may vary at some some outlets. 

The book has been published by Maldon Cycling, a collective of Maldon bike riders. For enquiries please use Contact Us form at 

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Wattles orchids, and a tunnel transit

Beautiful weather enticed a strong group to join FOBIF’s August walk through the Maldon Historic reserve yesterday. The area is noted for its biodiversity, and though it’s still early in the season, there was plenty to see, including several species of Wattle in flower, numerous Leopard and Greenhood orchids, spectacular Hardenbergia, and fine beds of Juniper moss abundant in red stemmed sporeheads.

The walk traversed the 311 hectare block which DELWP proposes to burn over the next twelve months, a matter of serious concern to local conservationists, especially since we are told that an El Nino warm dry period is coming, something which could affect recovery.

Morning tea. Photo Bronwyn Silver

Our thanks to Nev Cooper and Beth Mellick for taking us along a consistently interesting route. This included an intimate look at 19th century rail engineering via a curious tunnel transit, entry to which vaguely resembled Platform 9¾ at Paddington Station (all emerged safely).

Photos below by Euan Moore

Photos below by Bernard Slattery

Noel Young has sent us a bird and flowering plant list from the walk. 

Next month’s walk is in the Fryers Ranges. Check the program for details.

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Here’s the thing: weeds are beautiful.

Yes, they are–unfortunately. It’s a curious fact that most weeds have spread widely because they’ve been planted for their ornamental appeal. It’s only when they get out of control that they start to lose some of their appeal.

Acacia decurrens (Early Black Wattle), Kalimna Park, August 17. Wattles with fern-like leaves and  flowering now are are either Cootamundras, Early Blacks, or Silver Wattles: and the first two of these are weeds.

The picture above is Acacia decurrens (Early Black, or Sydney Green Wattle). It’s a native of eastern NSW, but has been widely planted around the country and has definite invasive tendencies when outside its natural ecological range. Ern Perkins’ Castlemaine Flora describes it as a ‘bushland weed’, and it has become ‘naturalised’ in almost every state, as well as in many other countries.

An additional problem with Early Blacks is that they’ve been planted by mistake in some revegetation programs: many people–and, apparently, many nurseries–don’t see the difference between Early Black and Late Black Wattles. This latter is a native to our region. The two wattles are superficially similar, but it’s easy to tell them apart, if you look carefully. All you need is FOBIF’s guide to Wattles of the Mount Alexander region!

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Summer is coming: get informed!

Canada? Greece? Canary Islands? Hawaii? Recent and current fires in the northern hemisphere are a sign of the times, and not a very encouraging one…

And we’ve been advised to expect a warm dry summer…We’re not trying to fear monger, or anything, but we thought the map below of Sicily in the last week of July might be of interest.

This is not a fantasy, it’s a fire map of Sicily, July 27: it’s as well to be informed about fire behaviour and risks.(Map from France 2 Television)

So you may be interested in the Bushfire Resilience Inc’s series of webinars on fire safety, which has just started:

‘Dry conditions will increase fire risks next summer, especially grass fires.
Watch the webinars with family and friends and discuss the information and
your plans…Learn how grass fires and bushfires behave and what your
family can do to reduce your risks Viewers can ask questions before or during the webinar, and when you register we’ll also send you a link to videos.’

You can find the full program here, including how to register.

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