Grant Palmer from Federation University has taken over leading our bimonthly bird surveys. Tanya is pictured with Grant as she showed him the ropes and the transect we follow at our bird survey in August.
Grant's involvement will further cement our partnership with Federation University. He is a research fellow in the Centre for Environmental Management.
Ornothologist Tanya Loos is hanging up her binoculars after leading bi-monthly bird surveys on the ImLal site since the first planting in spring 2010.
Her sharp eyes and professionalism will be missed. She is retiring because of neck strain, which is being exacerbated by peering upwards through binoculars. Something of a tragedy for her and a great loss to us.
The bird surveys are an essential part of monitoring the site's contribution to biodiversity, as well as introducing visitors to the site. For BRT members and ImLal project partners it's become an important vector for on-site inspection and discussion about what silvicultural management is required. We are looking for a knowledgeable survey leader to replace Tanya. Any ideas?
Species resilience in the south and north sites is a case in point on the importance of regularly getting feet on the ground talking a walk through the plantation. Spotted gum and sugar gum plots that last year appeared well and truly dead have both put forward new shoots since the autumn break. Wilting native hempbush has recovered. Direct seeding that we thought had failed is increasingly poking up above the long grass - particularly the Acacia. Bare patches in the north are showing encouraging signs of recovery. The redwood (about 20-30% of the 50 planted) in the north site struggle on despite a very dry summer and kangaroo predation.
Volunteer plants are invading the site in increasing numbers, such as swamp gum, manna gum and blackwood. One problem we have created is planting silver wattle between the forestry plots in the south site. They are suckering and competing with the forestry plots. We can't spray them so they will need some form of labour-intensive management.
One moment of excitement on this last bird survey was spotting two Boobook owls in a mature radiata pine fringing the ImLal South forestry plots. It's only the second time we've seen them.
Visitors on this survey included science student Tarquin Netherway (on right) and Geoff Rootes (left) and Linda Zibell from Friends of Canadian Forest Park. Geoff and Linda are looking at introducing the biorich concept into their proposal for the proposed 300ha multi-use forest park.
Our youngest partipant was Oscar Haywood, the son of Imerys Environment Manager Brad Haywood. He is pictured on left with his father. He had a good long look at the Boobook.
Visitors are always welcome on the two hour long bird surveys, which are held on a Sunday morning. If you are interested, contact Gib Wettenhall via the Contact Us page – click here
A large group of Federation University (formerly Ballarat Uni) students visited the ImLal site to, once again, monitor plant growth and mortality within 16 plots established by the uni some three and a half years ago.
Associate Professor Singarayer Florentine has rebranded his 'ecological restoration' course as 'Landscape restoration and mine rehabilitation.' By making the course more practically oriented, student numbers this year have more than doubled from 13 to over 30. For the first time, engineers, geologists and people working with water authorities have joined the course.
The future for farm forestry would, indeed, seem to lie in integrating conservation and production, so that farm foresters and land managers can in turn rebrand themselves as custodians of the land.
Results from the uni's first plot monitoring exercise can be read on the Plot Monitoring page of this website. Plot designer Tim Simpson is pictured with course leader Singarayer Florentine on the left.
The student group who came to ImLal to undertake plot monitoring are pictured below.
At last a warm day without any wind for a bird survey!
Brown thornbills and fairy wrens were observed within the plantation, which is thickening up nicely on the south site. Pairs of sacred kingfishers and rufous whistlers gave prominent displays, with the latter being bombed by yellow-faced honeyeaters. Only one noisy miner was heard calling on the western edge of the north site.
After a wet spring, flowering is prolific – spear grass and wooly tea tree are pictured. Weeds were not overly prominent on the south site, though scotch thistle blanketed the north site.
The bird survey was led as usual by ornithologist Tanya Loos. Other participants were Steve Murphy, Phil Kinghorn and myself. Two hour bird surveys following the same transect have now been regularly conducted every two months for over three years. This is the 2nd survey when we have seen birds using the plantation – the other being in June 2013.
Next year (2014) we will publish our schedule of bird surveys, which you will be able to join if interested.
A warm still morning where we saw five new species and large numbers of birds flocking. The most spectacular sight was to see seven whistling kites spiralling high above, who made themselves scarce when a lone wedge tailed eagle muscled into their space.
The dam was bustling with activity. Pacific herons around the edge, cormorants, lapwing, a flotilla of mountain duck and eurasian coots - the latter two species both firsts for ImLal. In the small pocket of gorse left next to the dam were the usual superb fairy wrens, along with our first sighting of white fronted chats in their distinctive 'dinner suits.'
Noisy miner numbers were down with none sighted in the remnant directly north of the dam. Only two for the day along the channel adjacent to ImLal North.
Despite last spring's replanting, ImLal North plant coverage is still looking sparse compared with the south site.
Tim Simpson from Ballarat Uni and his wife Andrea joined Tanya and me for the two hour long transect.
Even though we missed out in this round of Communities for Nature (CFN) grants, we will continue monitoring – both of plant growth via Ballarat Uni and through bird surveys with Tanya Loos. At our last bird survey last Sunday, the group saw three new species – migratory rather than living within the plantation, I hasten to add.
CfN grants seem mainly focused on expanding revegetation areas, rather than the mundane matters of management. We were pleased to see that the Regent Honeyeater project in NE Victoria was a major recipient. It's a shining example of a community of landholders creating connected habitat in the Lurg Hills near Benalla to bring back an essential 'food stop' for an endangered migratory bird species. We went on a field trip there last spring, which Steve Murphy wrote up and was published in Australian Forest Grower magazine last summer (Vol 34/4).
BRT members met with lecturer Singarayer Florentine and his restoration ecology students from Ballarat University at the end of March. They will continue the plot monitoring work of graduate student Tim Simpson (described in the Plot Monitoring menu).
We are waiting on an announcement this month as to whether of or not we get a Communities for Nature grant, so we can continue monitoring plant growth rates/mortality as well as the bimonthly bird surveys with ornithologist Tanya Loos.
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.