The Turkey oak after years of dormancy is rocketing along on Footrot Flats. Must be all the rain in late spring and early summer. On the mullock heap, the hakea and callitris are also performing brilliantly – although the hakea is in danger of being overwhelmed by spreading blackwood.
The ironbarks near the clearing are dieing – probably too wet for them.
At the start of spring, we had a planting and labelling day at the ImLal biorich plantation. The day was a success, even if it was only a beginning for our proposed banksia seed orchard, which had been laid out by forester and Ballarat Region Treegrower President, Gary Featherston. The GM of SUVO Minerals, Johann Van Der Merwe, attended and played a hands-on role. He is particularly keen on the banksia seed orchard as his daughter works in the field of banksia research. We planted a plot batch of 40 locally endangered silver banksia tube stock, supplied by the local Moorabool Landcare Network plant nursery.
Dan Frost’s attendance (with wife Amy and kids) from Seeding Victoria was encouraging, as he lives nearby and has said he will monitor the site and help Roger MacRaild, the facilitator from the Moorabool Landcare Network, ensure that we fill out the rest of the 100 spaces in the seed orchard next spring. It will be interesting to see how the banksias handle the clay base on the orchard site right next to the central dam and consisting largely of the original quarry's mullock. Dan says he’s seen banksias flourishing around Creswick on old gold rush era mullock heaps. Roger GPSed the location of the four provenances planted, each planted in groups of 10 in the four rows.
Another activity on the day was staking out labels naming a selection of the 50 or more trees and shrubs within the biorich plantation. Roger’s plant signage that he organised is handsome and a cut above most of the pedestrian fare usually applied for plant ID. Another ‘asset’ adding value to the biorich plantation for visits by students and others interested, such as local Landcare members.
The plantation is filling out the structure of the layers impressively in a number of areas, although roos are causing some damage and we will need to consider filling in spaces next spring. The wattles were providing a glorious burst of yellow.
Four of us enjoyed a barbecue by our drop slab hut in the biorich plantation clearing afterwards and discussed how we might go about strengthening our links to the Landcare network in the future.
Autumn spraying of gorse by BRT on and around the mullock heap. We're trying to keep it at bay where we've planted. In keeping with the Bradley method of weeding – moving from the best areas to the worst. Far too much gorse on the steep west slope – almost over head height.
Team of four this time using two long hoses that Gary has fixed to the BRT 200 litre spraying unit. We also spot sprayed the potential banksia seed orchard area and followed up gorse regrowth on the NW corner of ImLal South.
Hakea and callitris are growing strongly on top of the hill this autumn 2023 after good rains and now a mild,settled autumn.
Forest Systems field trip organiser, Dr Antanas Spokevicius, has brought 30 Melbourne University students back yet again to our unique site in terms of planation models. Only ImLal prioritises biodiversity over economic and social values, he continues to assert.
Johann Van Der Merwe, the new GM of SUVO Minerals for its Victorian operations, welcomed the students at the gate. He is keen for us to look at ways of expanding beyond our 15ha to take up more of the 147ha kaolin mining buffer zone.
Biorich site designer, Steve Murphy, added a dash of animism into his presentation. He even included some role playing where four students were called on to channel the 'wants' of a lizard, pardalote and antechinus, so the students might empathise with the needs of other than humans. The students seemed more engaged than they usually are, so it's a strategy worth pursuing.
Lachie Park had some new props for explaining how he built the drop slab hut.
As we completed our short tour of the site, one student remarked to me that if she was animal, she'd like to live at ImLal. Steve seems to have struck a chord.
A little windy but we still averaged over 30 species – 31 to be exact. Highlights were a sacred kingfisher and a breeding pair of pallid cuckoos. No noisy miners, which must constitute another highlight.
Made an early start of 8am. Very wet underfoot after weeks of incessant rain. Only three of us – Grant Palmer from Federation University, Louise Humble from BirdLife Ballarat and myself from BRT.
Amazing plant growth – particularly noticeable on the banksias as well as the callitris and hakea on top of the hill. Three of the sequoia survive in ImLal North and two of them look like they may outstrip the roo attacks and grow to maturity. The weeds are of course not being left behind. Gorse and blackberries threaten to overwhelm in places.
We had a dozen or so people come to the picnic lunch (really a sausage sizzle) on Sunday 10 April celebrating the drop slab hut’s completion. Gary and architect Geradine Maher were interviewed by freelance journo Genevieve Barlow.The weather was perfect and people seemed to enjoy themselves. A fitting end to the project
Antanas brought 20 students to ImLal as part of his annual Forest Systems Field Trip on 24 February, 2022.
A few weeks later, 'Florry' Florentine from Federation University led his annual trip of land rehab and ecological restoration students to ImLal.
Both remarked on how "unique" our site remains, marrying both conservation and production.
We noted that three of the sequoia are now topping their guards!
Gib Wettenhall is interested in how we carry out large scale landscape restoration that involves the people who live in those landscapes. That, he believes, would build truly resilient landscapes.