In early November 2013, we undertook another survey of Hidden Valley, this time focusing heavily on plants. For this, we invited along noted botanist-ecologist Doug Frood. Doug is a first-rate field botanist who we knew would confidently pick up many species that our amateur eyes would miss.
A key reason for the survey was to establish baseline knowledge of the vegetation this area supports now, so that changes the area undergoes in the next several years can be better assessed. We have taken lots of photos and have established photo-points, but we also needed more detailed knowledge of what’s actually growing. Plant species were identified as we walked through the western section of Site 4 and an area of private property adjacent to Site 4. Detailed 20 m x 20 m quadrat surveys Continue reading
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The King site, like most in this project, is generally steep so that most revegetation is done by hand. However, the site has a flat to undulating ridge-line, perfect for direct seeding and that’s just what Janet and Justus Hagen got up to a few weekends ago. Here you can see their direct seeding machine being pulled behind their 4WD, scalping the ground where seed is then sown. Direct seeding usually occurs when soil temperatures have warmed enough for the seeds to begin germinating (in theory), though some seeds may not germinate for months or even years – waiting for just the right conditions.
In this case the direct seeding was supplementing the ground layer of native grasses and some herbs and the scattered grey box trees. You can find other site pics here and here and here.
Looking NE along the ridge-line and the nearly finished direct seeding job. New site boundary & fence-line to the left and white tree guards on the steeper slopes to the right.
Later that day, Project Officer Steve Joblin dropped into another of the project sites to check on progress. The Granter site had previously had roof-habitat tiles placed near the location of a Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar) record (in Nov. 2012). This species is Nationally Threatened and had not been recorded in this district prior to the start of this project. These tiles had been checked on a number of occasions during the year for small skinks etc, but no more legless lizards had been found. However on this day, Steve was lucky! Though the stripes were not as clear as on a previous individuls, it was non-the-less a Delma impar and further proof that the site supports a population of these special animals.
Bougainville’s Skink (Lerista bougainvillii)
Garden Skink (Lampropholis guichenoti), a very common skink across Victoria.
Striped Legless Lizard with indistinct stripes and tell-tale yellow cheeks.
Same individual Striped Legless Lizard (Delma impar).
We have recently followed up sightings of uncommon fauna such as Spotted Quail-thrush and Long-nosed Bandicoot at the ‘Hidden Valley’ site with remote surveillance camera placements. The cameras failed to record quail-thrush, but did show up a bandicoot and a range of other wildlife, including Black Wallaby, Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Short-beaked Echidna, Common Wombat, Brushtail Possum and White-winged Chough, as well as the introduced pests Red Fox, feral Cat and Sambar. (Click on any of the photos below for a closer look.)
Eastern Grey Kangaroo with joey
Common Brushtail Possum
Recent bird sightings at ‘Hidden Valley’ include Peregrine Falcon, Common Bronzewing, Flame Robin (they love using the tree guard stakes as perches), Weebill, White-naped Honeyeater and Grey Butcherbird, which takes the running total of species to 48. This total is bound to rise when intensive surveys are undertaken later in the year.
A total of 521 seedlings were planted at Sue and Joel King’s property, by 17 Strath Creek Landcarers (adults) and seven juniors in 2 and 1/2 hours on a windswept slope, slippery with capeweed. Another three Landcarers were doing a fantastic job of catering, which in this case meant gourmet pizzas in the wood fired pizza oven! Joel and Sue now have 20 seedlings left to plant out of 1,000 allocated to this site by the Strath Creek Biodiversity Project. In September, the ridge top will be mechanically direct seeded.
Stakes and guards were recycled from revegetation projects the King’s have undertaken in previous years. This slope will now benefit from the fencing previously completed by the Project to lock out stock. The only browsing animals now present are the local Kangaroos. With a bit of capeweed control where possible over the next few weeks, the struggling remnant wallaby grass should begin to recover and form a good cover on the ridge top. Continue reading
NAB Corporate Volunteers enjoying a break.
Eighteen National Australia Bank Corporate Volunteers arrived at the Hubbard shearing shed for a morning cuppa. This was the second Corporate Volunteer planting day in Hidden Valley this season. And it appears to be the Battle of the Banks; a small group of ANZ volunteers planted 230 seedlings at this site a month ago and now it was time to see what the NAB volunteers could achieve.
The plan was to take the group all the way to the top of the hill and plant some of the higher ripped areas in this project site, but the previous day’s rainfall was enough to make it too risky to drive in this hill country; one of the volunteers even bogged his own vehicle before the day even got underway. Continue reading
John Hamilton’s dozer ripping the SW facing slope.
The 6.3 ha Granter site was fenced back in Feb 2013 and now it’s being prepared for planting. John Hamilton’s dozer creates three rip-lines up to 500mm deep with each pass. These rip-lines will allow newly planted seedlings to quickly get their roots deep into the rocky ground, as well as capture and store rainfall that may otherwise have run-off (see below for additional comments). It’s a strategy that, if carried out well, has few disadvantages and can give seedlings a big advantage in their first few years. Continue reading