Become a citizen scientist

Bioblitz is a great opportunity for people to get out in the bush, parks or their gardens and become citizen scientists. It increases understanding and interest in biodiversity and contributes enormously to the scientific databases of thousands of species and their distribution. There is also the exciting possibility of finding a species new to science. You can find out how to be involved here

This year Castlemaine Field Naturalists Club is the host for the Castlemaine region project, comprising Mount Alexander Shire and the eastern half of Hepburn Shire. Local events are shown below. 

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Don’t miss this one

If you haven’t seen it, get along to the Castlemaine Gallery and check out its Stonework exhibition. This exhibition combining geological exhibits and related works of art offers an intriguing set of insights into our landscape. If for no other reason, it’s worth going just to see the amazing 1853 Selwyn geological survey map of this region (see our previous post on this wonder here ).

The exhibition is described as follows:

‘There are many ways of looking at a stone. For First Nations artists with a deep knowledge of their Country, stones and rock formations have a spiritual and cultural energy as well as intrinsic and material qualities of colour, sharpness, hardness, weight.

Section of the 1853 Selwyn map. The late Gerry Gill described it as ‘full of quiet calm, still, beautiful’…but also ‘terrible, disturbing’, because it recorded a landscape in the process of dramatic transformation.

‘A different attitude to stones developed in Europe in the 19th century. Sharp-eyed natural historians turned their attention to mountains and valleys and developed a controversial new discipline – Geology. These quarrelsome thinkers challenged the traditional view, based on the Biblical studies, that the Earth was only 6,000 years old. Many artists had a working knowledge of these dangerous new ideas. And with the discovery of gold in the Castlemaine region in the early 1850s, an obsession with faults and seams, uplift and anticline was almost universal in Central Victoria.

‘With rocks in mind, works by Louis Buvelot, Arthur Streeton, Frederick McCubbin, W. B. McInnes, Elma Roach and Penleigh Boyd show landscapes that are dynamic and alive, constantly weathering, warping, folding, eroding, erupting or sinking.

‘Contemporary artists, sculptors, photographers and jewellers also reveal unexpected aspects of rock and stone: geometry, ritual, even relationships to memory and trauma. Contemporary artists include Stephen Bram, Alvin Darcy Briggs, Pete Curly, Brodie Ellis, Sally Marsland and Felix Wilson.

‘The exhibition also includes historical maps: the work of geologists and cartographers from the Geological Survey of Victoria, who in the 19th century meticulously surveyed and mapped both the visible and the subterranean flows of rock and sediment. While in the 20th century, local amateur enthusiasts returning home with pockets full of stones, have created the rock collections which fill the museum cases. Specimens of minerals and fossils ground the exhibition in the physical world and introduce the viewer to the concept of deep time.’

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More talking on the railway

Forest Fire management proposes to burn 311 hectares of the Maldon Historic Reserve, near the railway reserve. There are a few questions, contradictions and complexities attached to this burn proposal: see our Posts, with a map, here, here and here. The area is a biodiversity hotspot, and environmentalists have concerns about this exercise. They met with fire officers last week to discuss some of them. Local representatives from Maldon, Muckleford and Castlemaine, including FOBIF, were organised by the Friends of the Maldon Historic Reserve.

Grevillea micrantha, Maldon Historic Reserve: it’s critically endangered, and its reaction to fire is uncertain.

Whatever the complexities, fire officers are adamant that this patch of bushland has reached a ‘trigger point’ of fuel accumulation, and needs reduction. The group walked over a section of the zone, near Donkey Farm track, and several ideas were fielded on the challenge of reconciling the apparently contradictory aims in fire management.

Among other ideas raised, Indigenous ranger Trent Nelson described the forest in this area as ‘sick’, and in need of ‘gardening’. The idea of ‘forest gardening’ is new to most people. You can find it explained here. It is quite different from the approaches currently practised by forest managers, including the proposed reduction burns.

One thing all do agree on: the area in question is particularly rich in biodiversity (it’s looking great right now). What no one is confident about is, how fire affects the various species of plants in the area. Of particular interest is the presence of Grevillea micrantha, a critically endangered species. How will it react to fire? It would seem logical that managers would have access to detailed research info on this question, which would enable them to go about their business more effectively. It seems they don’t.

As we’ve emphasised before, management of anything complex should be based on detailed knowledge. This is blindingly obvious when you’re talking, for example, of the maintenance of an Airbus A340. It seems, though, that in the management of an infinitely more complex phenomenon, a native forest, broad brush techniques will have to do: and though fire officers bend over backwards to accommodate biodiversity concerns, fuel reduction overrules other considerations.

The burn will go ahead in autumn. A second thing everyone seems to agree on now: a patchy cool burn is better than a large area hot one, both from a fuel reduction and a biodiversity point of view.

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Roses, Bugs and Blue Wrens

A packed house attended FOBIF’s AGM last Monday to hear Cassia Read’s talk ‘Gardening the Goldfields: you can have your roses and Blue Wrens too?’

Cassia giving her talk. Photo Asha Bannon

A major theme in the info-packed talk was to present the garden as part of the wider environment, as well as an island in it. Of course, gardens meet the aesthetic, practical and emotional needs of the resident-gardener—but they also can provide food, shelter, water and habitat for local native wildlife. Cassia encouraged listeners to see their gardens as links in the neighbourhood to other gardens and to local bushland, critical stopping points for mixed-flocks of bushland birds, that forage across the local urban landscape.

Insects, bugs, and creeping things get a bad press generally, but they were heroes in this vision, signs and sources of health in the garden. Above all, the talk was not prescriptive: Cassia urged gardeners to open mindedly observe what was happening in the garden, to be prepared to try things, to look around the neighbourhood to see how their gardens could complement others.

One of the photos in Cassia’s talk: Julie Hurley’s fledgling garden.

We’re hoping Cassia’s talk will be a preview of a Gardening the Goldfields book FOBIF is looking to publish in…the near future.

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Last FOBIF walk for 2023

On Sunday Frances Cincotta led a large group on a short walk in the Fryers Range State Forest. Despite being cold it turned out to be good walking weather and the rain held off. The spring wildflower display was terrific and walkers loved the fascinating plant commentary by Frances during the approximately two hour hours that it took to complete the 2.7 km loop. She sent us this summary.

A good selection of native peas were in flower:  Common Wedge-pea (blue-grey buds and yellow flowers), and four of the so-called “bacon and eggs” species that have red and yellow within each flower: Dwarf Bush-pea, Matted Bush-pea, Showy Parrot-pea and Grey Parrot-pea.

We sorted out the differences between Hibbertia and Goodenia which both have yellow 5-petaled flowers but in Hibbertia the 5 petals are equally spaced while in Goodenia they are arranged ‘2 up 3 down’ (hence a Goodenia flower has only one axis of symmetry while a Hibbertia flower has many).  We also came up with a mnemonic device for the sepals: H for Hibbertia and H for Hasn’t got sepals attached to backs of petals and G for Goodenia and G for Got sepals ‘Glued’ to backs of petals.

Flowering in the shrub layer were Daphne Heath, Heath Tea-tree and Fairy Wax-flower (all with white flowers), Downy Grevilleas (red flowers), and Rough Mint-bush (purple flowers), all in abundance.

Five types of everlasting daisy were in bloom: Hoary Sunray, and White, Grey, Sticky and Clustered Everlastings. Many of them adorned with “Cuckoo’s spit”. The bubbly foam is produced by the insect sheltering inside which is a  juvenile (or nymph) frog hopper also known as Spittlebugs. (See Liz Martin’s first photo below.)

We saw only a few Chocolate Lilies out in flower, one Bulbine Lily, one Yam Daisy/Myrnong, some Wax-lip Orchids and some Milkmaids out in flower. These wildflower were notably fewer in number and not as tall as seen in years with plenty of rain in the middle of the year. There was quite a variety of eucalypts on the loop walk, but the only species noted in flower was Red Box.

Our thanks to Frances for leading the walk and to Christine Henderson for letting us know about this wonderful corner of the Fryers Forest.

Once again Noel Young has compiled comprehensive field notes which include 17 bird species recognised by calls and 28 flowering plants. Photos below are by Liz Martin. 

Our next walk will be in March 2024. The 2024 walk program will be posted on this site in January. 

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FOBIF committee 2023-4

At the AGM the following members were elected unopposed to the FOBIF committee for the upcoming year:

President: Marie Jones; Vice President: Neville Cooper; Secretary: Bernard Slattery; Treasurer: Lynette Amaterstein; Committee members: Asha Bannon, Frances Cincotta, Christine Henderson, Jeremy Holland, Cassia Read, Bronwyn Silver, Jo Matthews

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Don’t look away

Local papers have recently carried items warning the public that snakes are about. Yes, they are, and the advice offered is good: be careful in areas snakes might frequent, control pets in such areas, be aware of correct procedures in case of a  bite, and so on.

Wheeler Street Castlemaine, September 20: more than five million reptiles are killed on our roads annually.

One piece of advice often missing is: watch out on the road. As we’ve pointed out numerous times, snakes are far more often victims than  aggressors. So, here’s our annual advice: keep an eye out for reptiles when you’re driving. [More than five million reptiles are killed by cars every year: see our Post]

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A Floriferous Walk in the Fryers Ranges State Forest

This Sunday 15th October will be the last FOBIF walk for the year. It’s often quite warm for our October walk so we have planned a short walk of 2.7 km (with some steep sections).

People wanting to join the walk can meet to car pool leaving promptly at 9.30am from the front of the Castlemaine Community House 30 Templeton Street Castlemaine. Or for those living close to Taradale meet on the side of the road opposite the service station in Taradale also at 9.30am.  It’s a 20 minute drive from each gathering point to the start of the walk, midway between Taradale and Fryerstown.

Chrysocephalum baxteri (White Everlasting Daisy) Fryers Range State Forest, October 2018 by Frances Cincotta

On the loop walk we will see many native peas in flower, so bring along your copy of “Native Peas of the Mount Alexander Region” (or they will be available to buy on the day for $15). Other hightlights will be two of the rarer everlasting daisies of this district (Hoary Sunray and White Everlasting), and masses of purple-flowering Rough Mint-bush ovetopped by the white flowers Heath Tea-tree. There are still some orchids flowering including Wax-lips and Leopard Orchids.

As it is a short walk we will only have one stop for morning tea. No need to bring lunch.

Leader Frances Cincotta phone 0491 108 766

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FOBIF AGM: Monday 9 October 2023

The FOBIF AGM is on Monday 9th October not the 16th as was previously posted.

Cassia Read will be the guest speaker: The urban garden in Box Ironbark Country: Can you have your roses and fairywrens too?

You can find all the details for the event here.  

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FOBIF AGM: October 9, 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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