Teaching a new generation to interpret the environment
Mid-September 2018 saw the Network play host to Donald High School Year 9 students for two days of outdoor environment and conservation-related activities during the School’s ‘Green Week’.
Held in the Kara Kara National Park and nearby Stuart Mill and Dalyenong Nature Conservation Reserves, the activities were associated with a series of education modules developed by the Network to help students of all ages better understand the natural environment and how it’s organised.
Growing up in rural Australia, it can be easy to take our native woodlands for granted; to see them as just patches of vegetation and ‘scrub’, when in reality, they are complex ecosystems full of intricate and fascinating species interactions. The education modules were developed to help students learn about these interactions first-hand and in a fun way, outside of the usual classroom setting.
Over the two days, students worked in teams and competed for points as they identified the biological, physical and chemical features within the landscape, explored food webs, examined species’ relationships and undertook habitat assessment exercises using some basic scientific monitoring techniques.
A particular highlight was assisting visiting native orchid ecologist, Julie Radford, undertake a survey of native heathland to seek out some of the region’s rare and endangered spider orchids.
Judging from student feedback, the program was a great success. Special thanks to all of the Year 9 students and teachers who took part and we look forward to welcoming a new group of students next year.
Above: Joint Facilitator, Deb Saxon-Campbell (centre), leads a discussion about how the environment is organised and ways in which species interact. (Photo: H Yuille)
Above: Ecologist, Julie Radford (centre), explains how to identify some of our region’s rare and endangered native orchids. (Photo: H Yuille)
Autumn/winter plantings underway
The cooler weather of Autumn and some welcome rainfall saw the Kara Kara CMN undertake its 2018 revegetation program, with plantings occurring across three days in June and July on private properties to the east and west of the St Arnaud Range.
The first planting day at Paradise, which is about 30km south-west of St Arnaud, saw Network volunteers joined by a group of Cert 4 Horticulture students from Bendigo TAFE. The day’s objective was to plant a mix of just under 1,000 trees and understorey plants within an existing bio-link to help improve habitat connections between large blocks of remnant native woodland on the western side of the Range. With a magnificent view to the Grampians as a backdrop, our volunteers succeeded in getting most plants into the ground. Special thanks to the Bendigo TAFE, St Arnaud Rotary Club for feeding the hungry workers, the landholders for inviting us to work on their spectacular property and of course, our Kara Kara CMN volunteers.
Autumn plantings signal a change of approach for the Network, with revegetation works in previous years usually undertaken in Spring. However, the increasingly hot and dry Spring conditions experienced in north-central Victoria in recent years prompted the Kara Kara CMN Committee to bring the Network’s planting schedule forward to Autumn and early Winter to give seedlings a better chance of becoming established before the onset of Summer heat.
If you’d like to participate in our annual revegetation program, consider joining our growing list of Network volunteers.
Pictured at right (from top): Bendigo TAFE students, Kara Kara CMN volunteers and a happy Paradise landholder reflect on a satisfying day; and TAFE students water newly planted seedlings along a gap in the biolink. Images by D Saxon-Campbell and B Proctor.
RBGC tour a fitting end to 'habitat for wildlife' seminar series
A sunny Sunday at the end of May saw the Network host a day tour to the Australian Garden at the Royal Botanic Gardens in Cranbourne.
Located about 45 kilometres south-west of Melbourne and covering approximately 15 hectares, the Garden replicates some of the many habitats in the Australian landscape; from eucalypt woodlands to coastal fringe and riparian habitats, and inland deserts. One of the first things you’ll notice as a visitor to the Garden is that it is alive with nectar-feeding birds. Sightings of resident small native mammals such as Bush Rats and Southern Brown Bandicoots are also common, showing how successfully Australian plants, when combined with structural elements such as rocks, logs and water features, can be used to create wildlife habitat in a home garden setting.
Other highlights included a behind-the-scenes tour with ecologist, Dr Terry Coates, to the site’s bushland conservation area to see how the RBGC helps to monitor and protect the local Southern Brown Bandicoot population. Attendees also had the opportunity to chat with native orchid expert, Julie Whitfield, on the work the important role RBGC plays in propagating threatened native orchid species, many of which are translocated back into isolated wild populations in woodlands around St Arnaud.
A tiring but rewarding day and a great finish to the Kara Kara CMN’s ‘habitat for wildlife’ series of seminars and field trips.
Pictured clockwise from top right: (i) Banksia spinulosa; (ii) A rock feature creates habitat for small creatures; (iii) The RBGC's 'Eucalypt Walk'; (iv) RBGC ecologist, Dr Terry Coates, tells visitors how he detects overnight visits to the Australian Garden by Southern Brown Bandicoots; (v) Looking across to the RBGC's iconic 'Red Sand Garden'; and (vi) Magnificent Australian Grass Tree specimens. Images by D Saxon-Campbell.
Seminar success at Tottington
A windy Sunday in March saw a good turnout of farmers and other landholders at historic Tottington woolshed near St Arnaud for the Kara Kara CMN’s ‘Farms for Wildlife’ seminar.
A mix of science and practical experiences, the program focussed on the benefits of creating habitat for native wildlife, particularly on farms but also on lifestyle blocks. Ecologists, Jim Radford and Simon Verdon, kicked off the program by identifying the key elements that make up wildlife habitat as well as the economic benefits to be had from improving farm biodiversity, with revegetation works providing shelter for stock, and helping to improve yields and property values.
BirdLife Australia representative, Chris Timewell, then invited audience members to participate in BLA’s Birds on Farms project, an initiative that involves the regular monitoring of bird life in survey plots established across a range of bird habitats on private rural properties across Victoria. Landholders who participated in the project could either undertake bird surveys themselves or, if they are less experienced in bird identification, receive help from a ‘birding mentor’.
West-Wimmera farmer, Ross McDonald, concluded the program by relating his practical experiences in sustainable farming, including what’s worked, what hasn’t and lessons learnt. He also spoke of the benefits to personal wellbeing and mental health that a biodiverse farm brings, particularly during the hard times.
For our native wildlife, including threatened species, revegetation works and scattered farm trees help create corridors to facilitate species movement through the landscape, while the addition of structural habitat elements such as nest-boxes, hollow logs and rocks provide shelter, food and places to breed.
Every way you look at it, creating a good farm for wildlife is a win-win for both landholders and our native wildlife!
If you missed this event, some of the speakers' presentations are available on our 'Events and Resources' page.
Above: A good turnout of landholders and others attended the seminar.
Below: Historic Tottington Woolshed, the seminar venue and an important part of Victoria's pastoral history.
Images by H Yuille.
A feast of information for wildlife-loving gardeners
If you couldn’t make it to St Arnaud for our recent ‘Gardening for Wildlife’ seminar, you missed a real treat.
Ecologist, Damien Cook, kicked off the program with a look at what comprises ‘habitat’ and how habitat needs differ between various species of native wildlife. Plant ecologist and landscape designer, Cassia Cook, continued the theme with a discussion about various garden styles and the structural elements that can be added to both new and existing gardens to create habitat for a range of wildlife. Australian native plant specialist, Neil Marriott, capped off our informative program with a look at which species are best for attracting wildlife to the home garden; from birds, small mammals and lizards to butterflies, native bees and other beneficial insects.
Armed with the know-how and inspiration, gardeners were then treated to a free native plant courtesy of the Network to get them started along their gardening-for-wildlife journey.
Special thanks to all of our speakers, volunteers and everyone who came along and helped make the day so special.
If you missed out or would like a recap of the information presented, check out the speakers’ presentations and links on our ‘Events and Resources’ page.
Page last reviewed: 25/9/2018