Update on Sunday’s walks

Due to the relaxation in government regulations there is no need to register for the Fobif walks on Sunday. Everyone is welcome. We will be meeting at the Community House at 9.30 on Sunday.

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What can the law do about wildlife?

The state government has set up an enquiry into the state’s Wildlife Act. This Act was passed in 1975. Obviously plenty of things have changed since then, so the Act is probably overdue for a review. You can find its terms of reference and details about the enquiry panel here. Responses are invited to the enquiry, and an Issues Paper, with pertinent questions attached, can be found here. There’s an easy to access comment form here

Or you can email a submission directly to wildlifeact.review@delwp.vic.gov.au Submissions close on June 30.

The 40 page Issues Paper is not an easy read, but it raises some challenging questions. One of them is, What is ‘wildlife’? Under the act, for example, deer, one of our emerging monster pests, is considered as protected wildlife. The paper appears to address this problem: ‘deer proclaimed to be wildlife under the Act can destroy the habitat of indigenous wildlife and therefore undermine the Act’s goals to preserve and conserve indigenous species.’

For this reason alone it would be worth putting a submission into the enquiry: to ask that the protected status of deer be removed. 

Faraday scene: the issues paper cautiously raises the question of ‘overabundant’ indigenous species.

The paper raises other challenging questions. What should be done about ‘overabundant’ indigenous species? Community division on this seems intractable:

‘A recent study by Boulet et al.1, for example, found strongly polarised attitudes among Victorians about using lethal methods to control overabundant wildlife: there was roughly equal support for and against lethal control, and few respondents were neutral. Such strongly held views reflect stakeholders’ ‘self-identifying’ interests (both positive and negative) in, and connections to, particular wildlife species, particular geographical areas or both. This diversity means it can be difficult to reconcile competing interests or desires within the community, for example between conserving and using or managing wildlife.’

Further, the paper raises the crucial question of habitat. How can you protect wildlife while allowing the destruction of habitat?

‘Habitat health and integrity are necessary components of protecting and conserving Victoria’s wildlife. Habitat is an organism-specific term referring to the resources and conditions that allow a species to survive and reproduce, including vegetation, water bodies and the climate. It recognises the link between a species and its environment. The latest Victorian State of Environment Report identifies the clearing, fragmentation and declining quality of habitat as one of six major threats to biodiversity, with native vegetation being lost in Victoria at a rate of 4,000 habitat hectares per year. The destruction and degradation of habitat has flow-on effects on Victoria’s native wildlife, increasing the vulnerability of our ecosystems. The Act addresses conservation by regulating direct threats to wildlife, such as taking wildlife without an authorisation or licence. However, it does not account for indirect threats such as the destruction of wildlife habitat.’ There are ‘integral links’, the paper says, ‘between animal and land management.’

Unfortunately the role of DELWP is outside the terms of reference of this enquiry. All the same, it looks like it will raise all sorts of thorny cultural, social and environmental questions. Can legislation help in solving these? Well, good legislation might help.

We recommend that you put in your oar.

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Registration for June FOBIF walks

Due to government regulations about the number of people allowed to gather outside we need people to register for the FOBIf walks next Sunday (June 20).

If you would like to go on the Mount Alexander walk contact Jeremy on 0409933046. If you would like to go on the Fryers Ridge walk contact Bronwyn on 0448751111 or silverbronwyn6@gmail.com Details of the walks can be found here.

Check this website before the walk in case the situation changes. 

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Fryers Ridge short walk: 20 June

The shorter of the two walks on offer on 20 June will be a 5km loop in Fryers Ridge Nature Conservation Reserve a few kilometers west of Taradale, led by Frances Cincotta and Bronwyn Silver. We will be focusing on the diverse flora: Common Correa will be in full flower and we will see heaths, at least 5 native pea species and 12 wattle species. We will have copies of “Native Peas” and “Wattles of Mount Alexander Region” available for perusal on the walk and to purchase. Bring a hand lens if you want to learn how to tell the difference between some of the trickier pea and wattle species. The walk is all on wide, well-formed tracks with some up and down but nothing steep. Bring morning tea and lunch. We will get back to Castlemaine approx 1.30pm.

More information: Frances Cincotta 0491 108 766 or Bronwyn Silver 0448 751 111.

The photos above were taken last Wednesday in the Reserve where the walk will take place.

Click here to find out about the long Mount Alexander walk on 20 June.

We may need to introduce a registration system for these walks if there are government regulations still in place which restrict the number of people allowed to gather outside. Check this website next week for information.

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Mount Alexander long walk: 20 June

This FOBIF walk will be just under 12km which doesn’t sound very long but the majority is off-track negotiating rocks and other obstacles so is fairly slow going. In addition there is a sustained climb up past Black Wallaby Rocks and a short but steep descent from Langs Lookout, both of which require reasonable balance and fitness.

Walking at a moderate pace and including refreshment breaks we can expect to be out for between 5-6 hours allowing for time to enjoy the experience.

For our Bendigo neighbours we will start from the well known carpark on Harcourt-Sutton Grange Road by the water channel, aiming to arrive there about 9.50 am.

To do this we will need to leave Templeton Street at 9.30 sharp.

To whet the appetite pictures of two of the features, namely the large red gum and Black Wallaby Rocks are included.

For any queries contact Jeremy on 0409 933 046.

Information on the alternative 5km walk in Fryers Ridge on 20 June will be on this website next week.

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Kalimna park consultations are on

The draft Dja Dja Wurrung Kalimna Park Management Plan 2021-2026 has been produced and is available online here.

This important and detailed plan has been was developed by Dja Dja Wurrung Traditional Owners through Djandak and Conservation Management, a consultancy firm based in Tasmania. As our readers will know, the project development has been going on for some time through the Balak kalik manya (Walking Together) process.

Djandak (Country) is the commercial arm of the Dja Dja Wurrung Aboriginal Clans corporation.

Constructive comments on the draft plan have been invited.

Production of the plan is an important stage in the development of Aboriginal co management practices in the region. The vision behind it is clear and convincing:

‘That Kalimna park is a place that is looked after collaboratively by both Djaara and non-Djaara: is celebrated as a shared place; and positively connects the community with nature and culture.’

And ‘that Kalimna Park is a place where: Djaara cultural heritage is protected, created and exhibited; Djaara maintain and teach our culture to future generations; and Djaara plants, animals and waterways are safe and healthy.’

Also part of the Walking Together project, there is a proposal to create visitor facilities at the Fletcher Street entry to the park.

Djandak are organising a listening post for the Castlemaine community to drop in and voice any considerations you may have around the proposed creation of these facilities:

‘After consulting with Djaara and local community members for the Kalimna Park Management Plan, we identified the need for a main visitor entrance and interpretation area for Kalimna Park that can connect people from the Castlemaine town centre to Kalimna Park and surrounding bushland.’

‘Djandak engaged Pollen Studio to develop draft concept designs for construction of a shelter, toilets, carparking, all-ability access into the site, landscaping, gardening, along with signage which will create a new visitation area and trailhead to disembark from.’

The Listening Post will run at 11am on the 20th of May at the Fletcher Street entrance to Kalimna Park, opposite the Campbell street corner.

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May FOBIF walk

A strong group of walkers followed Joy Clusker and Dianne Davies on a route through the Pilcher’s Bridge Nature Conservation Reserve yesterday. This was FOBIF’s first excursion ‘north of the border’ into the City of Greater Bendigo, and guess what? The country was pleasantly familiar and interestingly different! This irregular block of land was radically cleared by the 1930s, and recovery is intriguing, highlights including some impressive pink flowering Ironbarks and promising fungi and moss sightings.

Our thanks to Joy and Di for their stimulating route planning—plenty of participants are already planning a return in the wildflower high season, and a repeat trip next year is on the cards.

Noel Young provided us with this bird list from the walk. Most birds were seen or heard in the first part of the walk, especially near some flowering eucalypts.

Musk Lorikeets
Red Wattlebirds (lots)
Grey Shrike-thrush
White-throated Treecreeper
White-winged Choughs
Grey Fantail
White-naped Honeyeater
White-plumed Honeyeater
Fuscous Honeyeater
Crimson Rosella
Scarlet Robin
Striated Pardalote
Yellow (?) Thornbills

Next month we’re offering a choice: a shortish walk in the Fryers Ridge NCR, or a longish one on Mount Alexander. There will be a detailed post on these walks in the next few weeks. 

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A good reason for doing a local budget submission

Here are some fun facts:

Weeds cost Australia $3.9 billion per year in lower farm incomes and higher food costs. In addition, Commonwealth, State and local government spend at least $116.4 million each year on costs of monitoring, control, management and research on weeds.

‘These costs do not include the loss of services from the natural environment, the impacts of pollen on human health, or the value of the ‘volunteer army’ widely active in weed control around Australia. So they are conservative estimates of the annual costs of weeds.’

Remember this? It’s the seed of Bindii, one of our less pleasant weeds, very good at puncturing bike tyres and the feet of people and pets. It’s been found in parks and roadsides in the region, possibly spread by maintenance machines.

That’s from a 2004 report. And guess what? In the intervening years the cost of weeds has blown out to over $5 billion!

Concern over weeds is not a matter of fussy people fretting over a few naughty plants: it’s engagement with a major economic, social and environmental problem.

That’s one reason why it’s a good idea to make a submission to the Mount Alexander Shire budget process. Weeds don’t just infest farmland and bush, they get into roadsides and parks too—and can spread from there. Local weed control workers have produced the following useful advice on budget submissions:

‘As a result of Council receiving  budget submissions in 2020 requesting more resources for weed removal, an extra $10,000 was allocated.  So far it has largely been spent on getting rid of newer weed infestations (largely in Castlemaine) before they take over, eg Galenia, St Johns Wort, Chinese Boxthorn and Prickly Pear and also on follow up work (eg with patches of Texas Needle grass at Elphinstone and Cape Broom in Castlemaine) where Council paid for some removal work previously but didn’t follow it up.

‘If you could spare the time to do a budget submission this year, that would be very useful.  The submission doesn’t have to be long – just one paragraph would be OK.  Council does statistics of topics people make submissions about, and both short and long ones are counted.  If we don’t tell staff and councillors we think weed removal is important, they won’t know, and are more likely to prioritise squeakier wheels.

‘In case of writer’s block, following are some suggestions for content:

‘- a commitment to ongoing weed removal is important, because if follow-up work isn’t done, many weeds will recolonise from seeds remaining in the soil.

‘- getting rid of weeds in the early stages of invasion is cheaper and more efficient than waiting till they are out of control.

‘- volunteers are pleased to be able to give time to help the environment, but it is unreasonable for Council to rely on volunteers to the extent that insufficient Council resources are allocated to weed removal.

‘- to get rid of big, longstanding infestations, many in areas outside Castlemaine, much more than $10,000 would be needed.

‘This year’s draft budget is available on the council website and to look at at the council offices.  (It’s just a summary and has very little useful detail.  Last year’s budget – on the Council website – may be of more use.)  Submissions, titled 2021/2022 Budget,  are due by 5pm Wed 19 May.  Address to the Chief Executive Officer and email to info@mountalexander.vic.gov.au, indicating if you’d like to speak to councillors at the special council meeting on 25 May at 5.30.  This is worth doing, to help our ideas stand out from the mountains of stuff they get to read.’


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Art most fowl!

Looking for something positive to do on the weekend? Try Art most fowl, an exhibition uniting two artists, Bridget Farmer and Rhyll Plant,at the Newstead Arts Hub, on weekends from 10 to 4, closing on May 30th.

‘Art Most Fowl is a celebration of both printmaking and imagery inspired by the natural world. The appreciation for the ephemeral nature of birds unites two artists exploring, in Bridget’s case drypoint engraving, while Rhyll depicts her subjects as wood engravings and nature prints.’

Both artists express a uniquely interesting engagement with the world of birds. Rhyll, who designed FOBIF’s phascogale logo (see right of this screen), explains her work as follows:

‘Birds have inspired my artworks from the seaside gulls, penguins and shearwaters of my youth to the melodious magpies and raucous parrots of my Central Victorian landscape.

‘I borrow their feathered likeness in my traditionally rendered wood engravings exploring, for example, collective nouns such as ‘Layers of Chooks’ or ‘A Rustle of Crows.’

‘Sometimes I simply print their feathers.’

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A sanctuary at Cairn Curran?

Readers will remember that last year FOBIF supported a letter to the Premier urging the banning of recreational shooting of birds, a practice banned in every eastern state except Victoria.

Regional Victorians Opposed to Duck Shooting (RVOTDS) running a petition urging the immediate banning of shooting at Cairn Curran reservoir. FOBIF supports this initiative. You can sign the petition by going to this link. It’s hoped to have the petition ready by this coming Friday (the 14th)…so make haste!

Banded Stilts and Red-necked Avocets, Cairn Curran Reservoir, 22nd November 2020. (Geoff Park’s Natural Newstead website)

The gist of the petition is as follows:

‘Two years ago, the Mount Alexander Shire Council voted to ban recreational native waterbird shooting in the Shire in favour of safer, more peaceful and beneficial activities. We commend their leadership. However, the Minister for Environment referred Council’s decision to Goulburn Murray Water which has still not acted on Council’s decision to implement the ban. This has now become urgent given duck shooting is set to commence again on May 26.

‘Elsewhere, public waterways have been closed to shooting for safety and public amenity reasons. The same should happen in our Shire.

‘Mount Alexander Shire and Cairn Curran Reservoir specifically, is home to threatened species such as the White-bellied Sea Eagle. Cairn Curran is important for a large range of waterbirds and raptors as well as a feeding ground on the flyways of migratory shore birds –many of which are in significant decline.’

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