Bird photography with Geoff Park

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Perfect walking weather!..Almost

A solid group challenged a gloomy morning to take on FOBIF’s April walk into Gough’s Range state forest yesterday. In fact, the dull skies were a fraud, and the morning was fresh but mostly sunny. The forest, after an inch or two of rain, was looking pretty good, and unusually featured flowing water in the gullies–and even a lake! OK, not a lake, but a reasonable patch of water in the old mining valley.

Something you don’t see every day: standing water in Gough’s Range SF.

Wildflowers are rare at this time, but this forest is notable for its large stands of Varnish Wattle, and some impressive spread of Buloke saplings on the Upper Track. Come the wattle flowering season, this forest will be seriously spectacular.

Views from the top of the range are always great, and yesterday was no exception both on the east and western sides.

Our thanks to Harley Parker and Lynette Amaterstein for taking us into this under appreciated corner of the region.

Next month’s walk is centred on the Mount Lofty Natural Features Reserve [On May 21, not May 28!]. Check the timetable for details.

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Barry Golding: Reimagining our land

Newstead Landcare Group is hosting a talk by Barry Golding at the Newstead Community Centre, starting at 7.30 pm next Tuesday April 18. All are welcome to attend. 

The arrival of Europeans on the continent we now call Australia had profound effects on the indigenous peoples and the landscape they cared for. This dramatic impact was greatly accelerated by the gold rushes that swept through Central Victoria. Is the way the landscape once looked now lost to our knowledge, or can historical research help us re-imagine our land as it once was?

Professor Barry Golding of Federation University has spent much time in combing through historical documents to reconstruct a picture of the former natural splendour of the land of the Dja Dja Wurrung peoples of Central Victoria. He will be sharing some of his findings at Newstead Landcare Group’s presentation on Tuesday April 18th.

“We are so excited to have Barry presenting to us on this complex and fascinating story” said Newstead Landcare Secretary Patrick Kavanagh. “Some of the imagery of great fields of Yam Daisies (Myrnong) and Kangaroo Grass with large Casuarinas and Silver Banksias is just breathtaking. And then there are the accounts of the great pools along the course of the Loddon with extraordinary schools of Murray Cod and other native fish” Mr Kavanagh said. “Prof. Golding was booked to present this work at Newstead Landcare’s AGM last October, but floods had cut many roads in the area so it’s great that he’s been able to reschedule the talk.”

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Next two FOBIF walks

Our Goughs Range FOBIF walk will take place next Sunday 16 April. You can contact the leader Harley Parker (0409 135 889) for more information. 

The date for the following month’s walk is Sunday 21 May, not 28 May as previously written in our walk’s program. This Mount Lofty walk will be led by Bernard Slattery (0499 624 160).

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Unintentionally funny…or not so funny

FOBIF has been having another look at the heritage question. As we’ve pointed out before, heritage is a funny business. Sometimes it’s unintentionally funny—as when the national heritage listing for the Diggings Park tells us that the miners had ‘a lifestyle intimately connected to the earth.’ Does this mean they dug holes? We do not wish to denigrate the miners, who were people of their time: but the heritage industry has an apparent obsession with putting a positive spin on things, an obsession which can sometimes seem slightly gaga—as when they use the phrase ‘extensive vegetation modification’ to refer to wholesale environmental destruction, for example.

An example of ‘extensive vegetation modification’ and its consequences. The relentlessly positive language in heritage documents oversimplifies history and might amount to a cover up.

More seriously, check this out, offered as evidence of ‘outstanding heritage value to the nation because of the place’s importance in the course, or pattern, of Australia’s natural or cultural history’:

‘The goldfield, which played a major role in drawing overseas immigrants to the colony, and in raising from the ground so much of the golden wealth which flowed into Australian and overseas markets, played a substantial part in all those changes which gold wrought on Victoria and Australia: increased population, increased wealth, the growth in manufacturing, the improvement in transport, the development of regional centres and townships, the further development of a middle class, democratization of political institutions, reform of land laws, the genesis of an Australian Chinese community, and so forth…’

All true. All very positive. But is there anything missing?

We wonder what might be covered in that harmless phrase, ‘and so forth’. Like, is there anything notable missing from that list of entirely positive stuff about changes in demography?

You might find a clue in this book: Black Gold—Aboriginal people on the goldfields of Victoria, 1850-1870 by Fred Cahir (ANU Press 2012). It’s online, and free here.

The heritage listing comes perilously close to endorsing a terra nullius idea of our history. Maybe it’s time for a revision?

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Tackling some myths

The latest issue of Parkwatch magazine contains a pertinent article attacking a few popular myths about fire. Here’s a sample:

‘Our land managers seem to have been subservient to a litany of inherited myths, and display a puzzling lack of curiosity over recent research.

‘An important element of that research shows that fuel reduction burns will be effective for a few years, but can be followed by a couple of decades of greatly increased growth of flammable shrubs, followed over the long-term by relatively open and less flammable

‘Publication of those important studies has failed to alter fire management in Victoria; it hasn’t even prompted FFMV to implement a monitoring program whereby the changes in forest composition and structure are measured, over time, after management burns are performed.

‘Indeed since the 1930s, when the Victorian Government began formally recording its fuel reduction burns, there has been no program to monitor the results of those burns: no recording of changes in flammability levels over time, no documentation of understorey species changes or, for that matter, no measurement of effective increases in public safety.’ (FOBIF emphasis)

The article goes on to discuss  the relevance of indigenous approach to fire, and recent attempts to use Indigenous fire practices as somehow incompatible with current conservation thinking.

You can find the article here. Have a look.

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Fun facts, not so fun facts

Did you know that some large dragonflies can reach speeds of 70 kilometres an hour?

This intriguing info can be found in the latest issue of Wombat Forestcare magazine.

Australian Emperor (Anax papuensis) in a Norwood Hill dam. Dragonflies are carnivorous and can eat hundreds of mosquitoes in a day.

The issue contains an informative article about dragonflies, as well as some less fun facts about salvage logging in the Wombat-Cobaw area. Here’s a sample:

‘Following several visits to the Cobaws, it is hard not to be cynical when considering the government’s response to the storm damage there. While the removal of logs and dangerous trees on or close to tracks that impede fire mitigation is logical and appropriate, the use of large heavy machinery in sensitive habitats seems totally unwarranted. Once the logs have been removed it is expected that DEECA will conduct fuel reduction burns to reduce the amount of residual bush litter left following the salvage logging.

‘ If other fire affected parts of the Cobaws are anything to go by, this will see an abundant growth of bracken, which virtually excludes other types of understory, which is a very negative outcome in terms of a healthy biodiversity.’

You can read the magazine online here.

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Walk cancelled

We have decided to postpone tomorrow’s early morning walk due to the wet weather. It will now take place next Tuesday (April 4). We will be meeting at Leanganook picnic area near the information signs at 6 am. If you are interested in going please register with Bronwyn Silver (

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Anyone for a dawn walk?

A few FOBIF members are planning an early morning walk on Mount Alexander on Tuesday 28 March. We will be following the route for Walk 20 in the FOBIF Twenty Bushwalks book. If you are interested meet at Leanganook Picnic area near the information boards close to the toilet block at 7 am. The walk will take about an hour. Contact Bronwyn ( if you would like to register for the walk or have any questions and check this website before the walk in case of cancellation due to rain.

A foggy morning on Leanganook

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Down…then up!

A good sized group rocked up for FOBIF’s first walk for the year yesterday. Cool, breezy weather gradually merged to a warmer day as the group negotiated a route into Columbine Creek, a tributary of the Loddon and one of the region’s remoter areas.

Walkers in the valley: trees on the flat are markedly bigger than ones on the ridge, and relic stumps show that they were much bigger in the past.

This route starts with an easy descent over rough tracks, but ends with the sort of climb that reminds you that life wasn’t meant to be that easy. In between, the valley floor contains just enough tall timber to recall what this forest was like in its heyday.

Survivors: FOBIF walkers after a stiff walk up the Irishtown track to Fryers Ridge

Comfort zone: this couch in the Fryers Forest is one of the weirder signs of…er…cultural heritage

Hackelia suaveolens (Sweet Hounds-tongue) Check out for more information.

Our thanks to Jan Hall and Helen Dewhurst for taking us into one of the most intriguing corners of the Fryers forest.

April’s walk is in the Gough’s Range state forest. See the walks page for details.

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