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 c_timewell@hotmail.com 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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Some less depressing stuff

As we’ve noted before, it’s worth taking a prowl around Department burns, just to observe what happens in the aftermath of a fire. Of course, you need to be careful: as we’ve pointed out, these fires tend to make trees prone to fall over, so it’s worth being super observant.

Fire fungus near Dearden Track. It looks like burning coal, but is smooth and cool to the touch, and is thought to have a repair function in burned ground.

One interesting post fire phenomenon is the outbreak of fire fungus, Pyronema omphalodes. There’s quite a bit near the junction of Dearden Track and the water race. It’s a fascinating life form, and worth brooding over:

In addition: readers may remember that we complained to Coliban Water last year about the spraying of the water race verges, which completely destroyed large areas of several pea species, including Purple Coral Pea and Trailing Shaggy pea. The authority was completely unable to explain this exercise in pointless vandalism. Fortunately some of these plants have made a partial recovery, and we may yet get some good flower displays along the race in spring.

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FOBIF and Forest Fire management: a list of differences

FOBIF and Castlemaine Field Naturalists representatives met with fire officers in the Fryers Forest in February to discuss differences of opinion about fire. The discussion was lengthy and clarified [again] the difference in outlook of the two groups. The following points of contention were discussed:

  1. The question of litter as a dangerous fuel .
  2. The question of tussocks as fuel
  3. The question raised by research: do long unburned forests burn less fiercely in bushfires?
  4. The question of damage caused by canopy scorch.
  5. The destruction of big trees in management burns, both accidental and deliberate
  6. Fire and forest health: what do we know about the long term effect of management burns, both on biodiversity and on flammability?
  7. The consequence of rating public safety as ‘number one’, and environmental health ‘number two’: does this inevitably lead to biodiversity damage in remoter forests?
  8. A subject which didn’t come up: how the zoning system works. In particular, what’s the rationale behind ‘burn exclusion zones’?
  9. Small burns/large burns: what’s the desirability and practicality of these?

Here are some details:


For managers, 75% of the fuel danger lies in surface and near surface fuels—ie, litter. There are two perspectives on litter:

Continue reading

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FOBIF’s May walk: to the Res and back

Our May walk next Sunday starts at the Monster Meeting site on Golden Point Road and follows the Forest Creek Track from Chewton to Expedition Pass Reservoir (Castlemaine Diggings National Heritage Park). We’ll meet at the Community House as usual to car pool, and pick up extra participants at the Chewton Post Office on the way to the starting point. See the program for details!

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Stunning walk along the Loddon

Photo by Dominique Lavie

Walking north along the eastern bank of the Loddon River near Baringhup through stunning redgum trees on a beautiful sunny day, a sizable group heard stories of geology, Indigenous occupation, farming, hydrology, architecture, and natural history. Contributions to these stories were from the local farmers Kerrie and Rob Jennings, cultural historian and geologist, Barry Golding, and naturalist, Frances Cincotta. Sunday’s FOBIF walk was led by Gen Blades, Lisa Hall, Phil Robertson & Lesley Hodgson as part of a larger project of Walking the Loddon. 

Photos by Lisa Hall

Photos by Joy Clusker

Our next FOBIF walk along Forest Creek will be led by Marie Jones. Check our walks page for more information.

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The botanical life of a plant punk, and the story of a seaweed

The guest speaker at the monthly meeting of the Castlemaine Field Naturalists will be Professor Tim Entwisle.

Professor Entwisle is an author, botanist and former director of botanic gardens in Melbourne, Sydney and London. He also lived for a few years at Yapeen and completed his final years of secondary school at Castlemaine High School. His 2022 memoir “Evergreen: the Botanical Life of a Plant Punk” will be the subject of his talk this coming Friday. He will explain why he became a botanist (and phycologist) and some of the highlights of his three decades working in, and visiting, botanic gardens around the world.

Tim will also share with us the story of a seaweed (an alga) called Entwisleia bella, and how this came to be named after him. (He’ll bring some books for sale and signing).

It’s on  this Friday 12th April, 7.30pm, Uniting Church Fellowship Room, Lyttleton St. Castlemaine

All are welcome.

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FOBIF walk, 21 April 2024

Loddon River, Baringhup: walk along stories

Walking along the Loddon River for 8 km, we go north from Baringhup. It is on public and private land with a mix of natural, cultural and historical layers. Traversing farmland and the edge of the Moorlort Plains, it is flat and gently undulating, there will be a few fences to climb and some unformed tracks. 

Meet at 9.30 am outside 30 Templeton Street, Castlemaine (Castlemaine Community House)  or 9.45 am at O’Sullivan-Tilley Memorial Park Baringhup Sturdy shoes, long pants and gaiters if possible, as it will be grassy and uneven with a few fences to climb.

Bring lunch and morning tea.

This is a one-way walk, and we have the Community Bus to shuttle people back to their cars.

For more info call Gen Blades 0431 371 065 or Lisa Hall 0488 102 191.

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