Sunday, 30 November 2014

The time of the lilies

Late Spring into early Summer is the time of the lilies. As the warmth hangs around the lower slopes of Barrm Birrm, spires and drifts of flowers open to reveal a marvellous inventiveness. So many tricks of the eye and scents, to tease and entice, all in pursuit of pollination! 
The Tall Fringe-Lily wears a cute fringe on its three bright pink petals. The pretty Milkmaids stand in clusters, bright white petals offsetting their pink ovary, murmuring 'come hither.' And the Chocolate Lily sends out long stems decked with many bright purple flowers that waft, yes, a delicious chocolate scent on the morning air. 
Tall Fringe-Lily. Russell Best
Chocolate lilies, with Milk maids. Nadya Korinfsky

Chocolate lilies. David Francis

A good place to start your lily searching is up a track 130 meters along the dirt road part of Gap Road, from the T Junction at the top of Gap Road. Park on the right hand verge where there's space, and head up the lower slopes. Soon you're in swaths of chocolate lilies. 
Lily browsing is a gentle pastime. It requires a slow pace, a willingness to look and wait for the flowers to make themselves known, and an appreciation of small things. These aren't lilies as you find them at the florist, blaring their presence. They are small, delicate constructions, living their lives out quietly amongst grasses. 
Once you make a start, wandering for lilies takes a hold. You may find yourself off the track, picking your way through grasses, scanning ahead for more wonders. Let your curiosity lead you. There are so many tracks in Barrm Birrm, you're sure to find another soon, and heading down the slope anytime is your fallback, bringing you out onto Gap Road. Go deeper into the bush and you may start to find Barrm Birrm's spectacular orchids. 
To learn more about these plants, get a copy of "Macedon Range Flora" from the good folk at Riddells Post Office.

The Strange History of Barrm Birrm

Barrm Birrm, the place of many yam roots, rises behind Riddells Creek. Here you'll find 120 hectares of the original foothills vegetation fringing Melbourne's Volcanic Plains. It's right on Riddells' doorstep, but not many people know its strange history. 
In the early 1970s, owners of the land then called the Shone and Scholtz land, took advantage of an old subdivision plan from the 1890s (Crown Allotment 112 Parish of Kerrie, County of Bourke) to sell off 162 lots. You can still see the subdivision if you search "Planning Maps Online". When I was looking to buy on Gap Road, I got a shock to see the neatly delineated lots of this plan, with road names like "Prince Alfred Terrace". 
Romsey Council, which had responsibility at the time, informed purchasers that they would not be able to build. The soils were too easily eroded, and the land had high conservation value. Yet hope springs eternal in the mind of the eager investor, and the lots were all sold. For many years, some owners visited regularly and camped, and you can still find remnants of fireplaces.
Then when Romsey Council was amalgamated into Macedon Ranges Shire Council, MRSC resolved to maintain the conservation status of the area. Council has an open offer to take ownership of lots at no cost to owners, who are paying rates on land they can only walk through. Council now owns 17 lots.
From time to time, someone advertises to sell their lot – one went on the market recently with the ambitious price of $30,000 - and last year I came across someone asking after Lot 53 Prince Alfred Terrace (that's it below). 
All I could show him was a muddy track, and wish him well.


Monday, 15 September 2014

Spring Walks in Barrm Birrm

In this beautiful weather, there's no better time to walk through Barrm Birrm. Riddells Creek's secret bushland, right on our doorstep.

The wattles are still flowering - Prickly Moses has been in flower for over two months now, with no sign of flagging, and the Blackwoods have recently joined them. But early spring is also the time to see new growth right down at ground level, amongst the grasses.

Honey Pots appearing through the Wallaby Grass

For a slice of Barrm Birrm, take a 30 minute walk from the Riddells Creek Winery. Go up Gap Road, right onto the dirt road and after 400 metres, park on the verge beside the "Winery" sheds.  Walk a little way up Gap Road and turn into the first dirt track, walk 100 metres and you'll get to a big pool of winter rain. Head right up the hill.

You'll walk through a favoured hangout of the local lads. A lovely spot to drink and talk in the bush, and sit by a campfire, but sadly, they took to a couple of young trees recently, exercising their hormonal instincts to impose themselves on raw nature. Fortunately, they didn't have a chainsaw, and the impact is minor, but it's a pity they didn't notice the nearby Ovens Wattle, a native but not indigenous to the area. I've taken to carrying a pruning saw with me on my walks, and feel some responsibility for escapees like this, since I have them flowering along my fenceline.

Ignore the building waste dumped at the side,
and walk through a gorgeous grove of Cherry Ballart heading on the track up the hill. Straight away, you'll find the Prickly Moses, which hugs the lower slopes of Barrm Birrm.

It likes the damp in this hollow of the hillside. Growing not much more than 2 metres, it has a lovely shape, and flowers for a long time - an excellent garden shrub in places where you don't have to push through it, though the truth is it's not that prickly. Walk in to stand amongst these acacia, and have a look down at the grasses.

Red-Anther Wallaby Grass is the predominant grass in Barrm Birrn, working its way from here through to the top of the slopes. It's called the Red Anther because in late summer, it has orange-red flowering stems that rise up a metre or so from the grassy clump at ground level. Quite delicious, and delicate, like all of the understorey in Barrm Birrm.

Walking on, the ground levels off, then reaches another track. This is one of the two main roads of Barrm Birrm, put in by the developers who sold off lots here in the mid-1970s. It is named Prince Alfred Terrace, would you believe it!

This subdivision first came to life in the 1890s, how we just don't know, but if you search the "Planning Maps Online", you'll see the cadastral boundaries of the lots the developers sold. There never was permission to build here, because the soils are too easily erodable (hope springs eternal in the mind of the naive purchaser), and there never will be now, with Macedon Ranges Shire Council resolved to maintain the conservation status of the area,

So turn left onto Prince Alfred Terrace, and just a little further on, head right on the next track that runs downhill. You'll see how readily this soil erodes once the surface vegetation is cleared off. Where the slope levels off, walk a few metres to the right, slowly, and you'll see the natural gully formation on Barrm Birrm. Incredibly deeply eroded, you'd need to abseil down from this point. These small creeks don't run often, but when they do, there's not much to hold them back. Thsi is a good place to see wallabies in the early morning, or to hear them thumping away as you approach.

Continuing on, and turning left, you're back at the lads hangout and can head out to Gap Road.

In all, a brisk 15 minute walk, but for those of us who like to stop and linger, gazing first up, then down, more likely 40 minutes.


Thursday, 11 September 2014

Join the October bird count

As part of National Bird Week Monday 20 October and Sunday 26 October, Birdlife Australia are conducting a national bird survey, The Aussie Backyard Bird Count. Macedon Ranges Shire Council has partnered with Birdlife Australia, Woodend Landcare and Woodend Bird Observers Group to assist with surveying for species within the Macedon region.

The Aussie Backyard Bird Count will allow for a greater understanding of bird populations in the Shire. Birds are sensitive to changes in the environment and can provide us with an insight into the impact of invasive species, changes in climate and the overall health of the local environment.

All you need to do is:

1. Sign up to the Aussie Backyard Bird Count by visiting the link at or download the Apple/Android Aussie Backyard
Bird Count App.

2. Record all bird species in a 20 minute survey in your backyard, local park,
schoolyard or other area of choice during National Bird Week.

3. Enter your data into the online form or via the Apple/Android App.

Monday, 8 September 2014

That toad, and the other animals out there

News of the Asian Black-Spined Toad found recently in Sunbury has now been followed up with a photo id leaflet,.

Up in Bendigo, 4th October, Visual Arts Centre, La Trobe University in Bendigo, 121 View St,
Bendigo, an art/science/conservation collaboration between the Centre for Creative (CCA), La Trobe University, and the Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA), wll host a conference talking about our relationship to animals, approached from artistic, scientific and conservationist angles. There will be talk, and video/photos of animals at night time, captured on motion sensitive cameras like those the RCL uses. Contact Jan for more information.

Thursday, 28 August 2014

Knowledge is not enough

From the WorldWatch Institute

In “Ecoliteracy: Knowledge is Not Enough,” Hempel, Professor of Environmental Sciences at Redlands University, states that environmental education should restore nature-based attachment to place and go beyond teaching science—it should include ethical, cultural, and political dimensions.

“The fundamental sense of connection that people had with the natural world has disappeared in most places,” says Hempel. “Restoring ecoliteracy to this connective role and fortifying it with the power of science and widespread recognition of global interdependence is perhaps the greatest challenge of this century.”


Saturday, 23 August 2014

What Riddells Creek Landcare achieved last year/Options for this year

Here is my address as President to our recent AGM (the Minutes here, the Ppt here).  The Powerpoint has a visual reflection on three goals of our group, then what we achieved last year and some of the options for the coming year. Have a look! If anything catches your fancy, keep an eye out here for news on what we're doing on these possibilities.

Our first committee meeting of the new year is 26th August, and after that I'll post some of what we decided to concentrate on for the rest of this year.

We had a marvellous discussion of what envionmental philosophers (two in particular) have to bring to the question of what appreciating nature means, and how we might go about appreciating nature.  Here are the slides from that conversation. Thanks to Georgina Butterfield for being with us and stirring us up (gently) about some of our assumptions. 

Philosophy has the awkward job of raising questions about what we take for granted, to upset our assumptions and bring keener inquiry to important matters. If you are looking for the references to follow up our discussion, you will find them under a new project Environmental Philosophy.

In the same place, I'll post some of the pieces that you are a little harder to get on the web.

With Spring advancing in its slow waltz (here one day, gone the next), it's a wonderful time to be in the garden, or finishing off those planting jobs that you've been meaning to get done this winter.  I'm off to see how Steve my neighbour is going down at the old tip site next door to my place here at Riddells Creek Winery.

Ross Colliver
0411 226 519
President Riddells Creek Landcare,
RCL blog
Victorian Landcare Council,

Sunday, 17 August 2014

Late winter Barrm Birrm

Over the last few weeks I've been getting out amongst the wattles in Barrm Birrm, as they explode and fade like fireworks. I'm getting a better sense of what likes to go where.

Prickly Moses clearly doesn't mind having its feet damp, because here it is in the sag, a shallow valley, in the hillside just up from my place. And it seems to like company - many Prickly Moses all being prickly in the same locality, new cylindrical flowers on their fine limbs.

What I take to be Golden Wattle sends its flowers right up on tip-toes to its crown, dancing amongst the dark green crowns of surrounding trees. I love these trees, that gentle sway of gold against the blue sky.
Then there's a personal favourite, Cinnamon Wattle, such a sparse and elegant structure. It seems to like the mid-slopes, and a bit of dryness, and gathers a few companions, but not too many, around itself. Rush up and see it soon, it's fading a little now, because these started flowering in June.

I found this elegant arrangement at left on my morning walk and set about photographing it, the austerity of the grass tree beside the abundance of the wattle.

Its flowers are a total extravagance. It was only later, working my way through Russell's identification guide to Barrm Birrm wattles, that I found that it is the Sallow Wattle (Acacia longifolia) and definitely not a native of these parts.  Is it chainsaw time for the Sallow Wattle, I wonder?

 Talking of chainsaws, there's been a lot of that kind of noise coming out of Barrm Birrm this winter, more than last winter, on a steady rise since our State Premier, soon after the last election, announced an easing of restrictions on domestic frewood gathering in State forests. The message seems to have been taken up as "it's okay to take timber whereever you find it."

Barrm Birrm is private land, so it's strictly speaking illegal, but those legalities don't worry me, and I'm not bothered that much by people cutting the fire-worthy sections out of the many fallen trees, because there seem plenty of fallen trees to provide protection of the lizards and the like.

What worries me is cutting down standing trees, because that means birds lose any chance using the hollows of trees as nesting sites.

The other thing that gets me hot and bothered is that most firewood gatherers take their vehicle in over the grassland so they can park a metre from where they are cutting, makes it easier, doesn't it, and they bugger up the grassland in the process.

Just a little bit, mind, and you don't really notice it do you?

Well yes I do. Have a look below. You can feel there's been a 4WD in there. Doesn't look right.

Or here.

What is it about taking your vehicle anywhere you want? Get smart guys - you drive here once and it takes years for that bit of bush to go back to normal. Drive whereever you want and this place will soon look like any unsealed parking lot.

If you want to use your power for good, join the Mobile Landcare Group. Borrow the BLUE Streak, my completely adequate firewood moving device, anytime you want. Or give yourself a challenge and rough handle that cut timber 15 metres to the back of your machine on foot. There's just got to be bigger challenges that driving in.

Sorry I'm having a go at 4WDers, I'm leaving the 2WDers out. Below is a perfectly good hang out spot (sharp left just after Riddells Creek Winery), perfect for meeting up with the gals before a summer evening's events, or for sitting by a modest fire in winter, knocking back a few.

Being out in the bush, that's what it's all about. I can manage the fast food trash you drop, cleaning up after the children every few weeks isn't so hard.

What I don't get is why its necessary to push a new track out the other side of this spot, rather than just turning around and heading out the way you came in. 

So a note to drivers of all stripes, and I'm trying not to be moralistic here. Barrm Birrm is not there for you to tool around on.

It's here as a little reminder of what the bush was once like all the way around the ranges skirting the volcanic plains, the delicate web of green living its sweet life outside the bitumen bonanza of Riddells real estate.

Sunday, 11 May 2014

Scats and Skulls

Tanya Loos came to Riddells Neighbourhood House Monday 5 May, and introduced us to her collection of skulls and other parts of animal, and scats, gathered in walks near her home at the edge of the Wombat Forest.  
Tanya has kept her eyes and ears open, and discovered the animal life and seasons of the place where she lives, and she shared with us some of those discoveries.
Tanya Loos on the right, 
Christina Cheers on the left.
 Some highlights for Gill Best were:
Holding the elegant skull of a baby platypus 
Learning about the special ingredients needed to attract brush tail phascogales
Discovering why wombats have cubed poo
Elena Best was very impressed with a pellet from a Wedge-Tailed Eagle, the skin of a hare neatly rolled up for regurgitation.
My standout was the jaw of a phasgogale, with very sharp teeth. 
Thanks to Tanya for an insight into our native fauna, and into how much can be learned by keep your eyes open as you walk.

Friday, 2 May 2014

MRSC staff visit Barrm Birrm

Russell Best and Ross Colliver took environmental staff from Macedon Ranges Shire Council for a walk around Barrm Birrm recently, and talked through options for the area. Michelle Wyatt is the Coordinator, Policy Implementation, Strategic Planning and Environment Department (in the middle), and William Terry (on the right) is the Envrionmental Programs and Education Officer.

They were excited to see the quality of the bush in Barrm Birrm and to hear what RCL is doing to look after it.  We were delighted to hear that Council is willing to take over ownership of blocks in the Barrm Birrm area, meeting all costs of transfer of title. Funds to support this are limited, but 16 of the original 162 lots have now been handed to Council. 

There have been complaints to Council from owners from time to time over limits to development, but Council is sticking by its "no development" policy for this valuable bushland.  There are limited avenues for owners to get themselves out of the bind they are in, and we're pleased Council is offering support to landholders.  New discussions with Trust for Nature may turn up other avenues for bringing properties in Barrm Birrm into conservation.

We pointed out that many people assume that Barrm Birrm is a State Forest, and gates and a fence would signal that this was in fact private land. There would be benefits to conservation of the area in excluding 4WDs and trail bikes, but this would have to be weighed against the cost and appropriateness of enclosing an area of private land.  We said that Riddells Creek Landcare would be able to contribute funds to assist with fencing.

MRSC is embarking on improving monitoring of fauna on its reserves, with an early project the introduction of nesting boxes for phascogales and gliders.  A possible site is the cluster of properties now in Council ownership in the NW area of Barrm Birrm - Russell will assess the possibilities of installing nesting boxes there. A project like that would be a good way to build interest in Barrm Birrm amongst Riddells residents, as well as confirming the presence of these animals in Barrm Birrm.  As tree dwellers, there's a good chance they have eluded the predators at ground level, and are still around.

Michelle and William were also pleased to hear about NatureShare's progress and say they will get familiar with its capabilities.  Michelle said she would test the possibility of MRSC contributing funds, as part of a partnership, for developing Apps for Macedon Ranges flora and fauna.

Some of our readers may already be subscribers to MRSC's monthly Environment eNewsletter. It's jam-packed full of the latest updates what’s happening in the Macedon Ranges environment and ways you can take action to help! To sign on to get this attractive and informative newsletter,  Click here.

Wednesday, 30 April 2014

Free "Skats and Skulls" talk next Monday 5th May

Join naturalist Tanya Loos as she shares the delights of being a bush detective through her scat and skull collection.  Highlights include a koala skull, a wedge-tailed eagle pellet and other things which shall not be named because there is a bit of fun, “guess what this is?” component to her talk.

Tanya is a nature columnist for the Hepburn Advocate and author of the book “Daylesford Nature Diary: Six seasons in the foothill forests”. Tanya is also the Upper Campaspe Landcare Network Facilitator. She has lived on a bush block in Porcupine Ridge, in the northern part of the Wombat Forest since 2001. 

7.30 – 8.30 Monday 5th May,
Riddells Creek Neighbourhood House

Monday, 14 April 2014

Locally Rare, Endangered and Significant Species of Riddells Creek - A Reference Guide

This species list is designed as a reference/guide to support the assessment of environmental impacts of future developments in the Riddells Creek area.

The reference list contains species occurring in Riddells Creek that are:

1. listed as rare/endangered in Victoria,
2. locally rare/endangered/significant in the Riddells Creek area using the following criteria ...
  • species where if one area is damaged then 50%+ of Riddells Creek's population will be lost, 
  • species with very few individuals remaining (some plant species are known from only one remaining individual), 
  • species low in numbers and are critical for the survival of other species on this list,
  • species in serious decline. 
In addition, all Eucalyptus trees, of all species indigenous to Riddells Creek, capable of bearing nesting holes in the next 50 years are included as significant to the Riddells Creek environment.

The list, accessed via the link below, exists in the form of a NatureShare collection in which each species have photos attached to help with identification (click on the link below to access the list in NatureShare - NatureShare currently works in Firefox and Chrome, not Microsoft Explorer ... NatureShare was created and developed by members of Riddells Creek Landcare and the Australian Plants Society Keilor Plains Group):

Rare, Locally Endangered and Locally Significant Species of Riddells Creek


Here are the species in their respective groups, with links to them in NatureShare (ie. same list but with photos) - those below in bold are also listed as rare-endangered in Victoria, those in italics are possibly now extinct in the Riddells Creek area since no individuals have been recorded in recent years:

Mammals (4): Brush-tailed Phascogale, Koala, Platypus, Wombat (doesn't include Feathertail Glider as it isn't confirmed in Riddells Creek ... nor are bats and antechinus included because we don't know enough about their local distribution).

Birds (21): Australian Owlet-nightjar, Azure Kingfisher, Bassian Thrush, Black-capped Sittella, Blue-winged Parrot, Brown Goshawk, Buff-banded Rail, Crescent Honeyeater, Grey Currawong, Nankeen Night Heron, Noisy Miner, Painted Button-quail, Peregrine Falcon, Powerful Owl, Rufous Fantail, Rufous Songlark, Sacred Kingfisher, Satin Flycatcher, Shining Bronze-Cuckoo, Spotted Harrier, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater

Frogs (3): Bibron's Toadlet, Growling Grass Frog, Whistling Tree Frog

Butterflies (13): Amethyst Hairstreak, Banks' Brown, Bright Copper, Dull Purple Azure, Forest Brown, Grassland Copper, Imperial Blue, Rare White-spot Skipper, Red-spotted Jezebel, Silky Hairstreak, Sword-grass Brown, Varied Dusky-blue, Varied Sedge-skipper

Moths (1): Oxycanus rufescens

Orchids (26): Alpine Greenhood, Bearded Midge-orchid, Blue Fairy, Early Caladenia, Golden Moths, Great Sun-orchid, Hare Orchid, Mantis Orchid, Parson's Bands, Plain-lip Spider-orchid, Purple Donkey-orchid, Red-tip Greenhood, Salmon Sun-orchid, Scented Sun-orchid, Sharp Midge-orchid, Short-lip Leek-orchid, Small Gnat-orchid, Small Mosquito-orchid, Small Spider-orchid, Spotted Hyacinth-orchid, Spotted Sun-orchid, Summer Greenhood, Tall Potato-orchid, Tiny Greenhood, Tiny Pink-fingers, Wallflower Orchid

Wattles (8): Dwarf Silver Wattle, Gold-dust Wattle, Large-leaf Cinnamon Wattle, Large-leaf Hickory-wattle, Lightwood, Narrow-leaf Wattle, Southern Varnish Wattle, Spreading Wattle

Daisies (21): Brachyscome diversifolia, Chrysocephalum baxteri, Chrysocephalum semipapposum, Craspedia paludicola (Swamp Billy-buttons), Helichrysum leucopsideum, Leptorhynchos squamatus subsp. squamatus, Leucochrysum albicans subsp. albicans var. albicans, Microseris sp. 3 (Yam Daisy), Olearia glandulosa, Olearia rugosa, Ozothamnus ferrugineus, Podolepis jaceoides s.s., Senecio cunninghamii var. cunninghamii, Senecio microbasis, Senecio picridioides, Senecio squarrosus s.s., Siloxerus multiflorus, Stuartina muelleri, Vittadinia gracilis, Vittadinia muelleri, Xerochrysum viscosum

Peas (7): Dillwynia ramosissima, Goodia lotifolia var. lotifolia, Indigofera australis, Platylobium obtusangulum, Pultenaea humilis, Pultenaea pedunculata, Pultenaea scabra

Lilies (5): Arthropodium sp. 3 (Small Chocolate-lily), Caesia calliantha (Blue Grass-lily), Caesia parviflora, Dianella amoena, Hypoxis hygrometrica var. villosisepala

Other plants (81): Ajuga australis, Alisma plantago-aquatica, Allocasuarina littoralis, Allocasuarina verticillata, Alternanthera denticulata s.s., Amperea xiphoclada var. xiphoclada, Amphibromus nervosus, Blechnum minus, Blechnum nudum, Brachyloma ciliatum, Calandrinia calyptrata, Callistemon sieberi, Carpobrotus modestus, Cassytha pubescens s.s., Centrolepis strigosa subsp. strigosa, Cheilanthes sieberi subsp. sieberi, Clematis decipiens, Convolvulus angustissimus subsp. angustissimus, Convolvulus angustissimus subsp. omnigracilis, Coprosma quadrifida, Cryptandra amara s.s., Cyathea australis, Cynoglossum suaveolens, Cyperus lucidus, Daucus glochidiatus, Dicksonia antarctica, Elatine gratioloides, Epilobium billardierianum subsp. cinereum, Eryngium ovinum, Eucalyptus ovata var. ovata, Eucalyptus rubida, Eucalyptus viminalis subsp. viminalis, Euryomyrtus ramosissima subsp. ramosissima, Gahnia sieberiana, Galium leptogonium, Geranium solanderi var. solanderi s.s., Geranium sp. 1, Geranium sp. 3, Gratiola peruviana, Hibbertia fasciculata var. prostrata, Histiopteris incisa, Hydrocotyle sibthorpioides, Hypolepis rugosula, Isotoma fluviatilis subsp. australis, Lepidosperma curtisiae, Lindsaea linearis, Linum marginale, Lissanthe strigosa subsp. subulata, Lomandra nana, Lythrum salicaria, Mazus pumilio, Mentha laxiflora, Myriophyllum crispatum, Opercularia ovata, Ophioglossum lusitanicum, Oreomyrrhis eriopoda, Pelargonium australe, Pelargonium rodneyanum, Pellaea calidirupium, Persoonia chamaepeuce, Pimelea axiflora subsp. axiflora, Pimelea curviflora var. 1, Pimelea glauca, Potamogeton cheesemanii, Ptilotus spathulatus f. spathulatus, Ranunculus glabrifolius, Rubus parvifolius, Rumex dumosus, Sambucus gaudichaudiana, Schoenoplectus tabernaemontani, Stylidium armeria subsp. pilosifolium, Stylidium graminifolium s.s., Triglochin procera s.l., Typha orientalis, Urtica incisa, Villarsia reniformis, Viola betonicifolia subsp. betonicifolia, Viola spp., Wahlenbergia communis s.s., Wahlenbergia luteola, Wahlenbergia multicaulis

NB. the Riddell species list currently contains no reptiles (waiting for an assessment on these) and no insects (other than butterflies and one moth - insects are not easy to work out in terms of distribution/rarity).

Here, separated out, are all the species that are also listed as rare or endangered in Victoria (25):
Species listed as rare/threatened in Victoria 

Here are all the species protected by law via the FFG Act (all 10) and/or EPBC Act (in bold - 2) - those in italics have a significant listing on the IUCN Red List or have been assessed using IUCN Red List criteria and appear to be Critical Endangered (those with an asterisk are yet to be assessed by IUCN):

Dianella amoena (Matted Flax-lily), *Diuris punctata var. punctata (Purple Donkey-orchid), *Geranium sp. 1 (Large-flower Crane's-bill), *Jalmenus icilius (Amethyst Hairstreak), Litoria raniformis (Growling Grass Frog), Ninox strenua (Powerful Owl), Phascogale tapoatafa (Brush-tailed Phascogale), Pseudophryne bibronii (Bibron's Toadlet), *Stylidium armeria subsp. pilosifolium (Hairy-leaf Triggerplant), *Trapezites lutea lutea (Rare White-spot Skipper)


A useful feature of the NatureShare list for Riddells Creek is that it can be cross-referenced easily with other lists on NatureShare (eg. Barrm Birrm plants - 57 species, Mt Charlie plants - 36 species, Wybejong - 9 species, Rail Reserve plants - 35 species ... NB. click on the links to see the species at those sites - and note these are underestimates because they only include plants). New collections can be created on NatureShare by anyone to aid this process.


The Concept of 'Rare'

The concept of 'rare' and 'locally significant' is an interesting one. There are planetary definitions of rare and endangered as defined by the IUCN Red List of species. There are Australia-wide lists of threatened species and ecological communities that are protected by the EPBC Act. And finally there are Victoria-wide lists of threatened species and ecological communities that are protected by the FFG Act. So from a governmental point of view the concept of locally rare is legislated.

The Victorian list is the most interesting in the context of this article. It contains species, protected by law by the FFG Act, that are endangered in Victoria yet the same species is common across the border in NSW. I was once startled by an email discussion that included the comment about a plant that is rare in Victoria but common in NSW, saying 'what is the point of listing it as rare in Victoria'. On reflection I can understand why one might think that. The reason is quite simple. Although Victoria is an artificial concept from an ecological point of view, the State of Victoria is where we live and it is a significant construct for those people who live here. Looking at Victoria as 'where we live', if any species became extinct from Victoria it would be a significant loss to the State. This concept applies to other levels too. It applies to my block of land and the remnant bush and animals that use it. If I were to never again see Koalas or to lose a plant species from my block it would be disastrous to me - so it is reasonable to argue that I have locally significant species on my block. This is a concept used in a similar way by Trust for Nature too. They compile lists of species for every block of land they covenant which include references to species which are EPBC-listed, FFG-listed, rare in Victoria using DEPI's VROTS list, and then also 'Locally Significant' species that refers to how rare it is locally.

So, the concept of rare applies to Victoria, my block of land, and really any other area that has significant meaning. Every Council area in Victoria should have a list of its locally rare and endangered species. The locally, state-wide, nationally and planetarily endangered Acacia rostriformis (Bacchus Marsh Varnish Wattle) could become extinct in our Council area if the only plants known here (at Daly Reserve in Gisborne) were to be lost to the Council's proposed development in the Reserve. Every town area (like Riddells Creek) should also have a list. Perhaps it should be applied to the Macedon Range massif too? It is obvious that if we were to lose Koalas from Riddells Creek that it would be a devastating loss, and the same applies to all locally rare and endangered species in Riddells Creek.

The Concept of 'Extinct in the Wild'
There is one other concept to consider here too, the concept of 'Extinct in the Wild'. Many developers and their consultants will argue that it is OK to get rid of rare plants in one area because they can collect seed and plant them elsewhere. This may seem a reasonable compromise but it isn't. What does it really mean?

The IUCN Red List uses the continuum for assessing species:


Similar to what we discussed earlier, this continuum is equally applicable to all levels, down to local significance. Put simply, the practice of removing a remnant population and replacing it with a plantation puts the species into the EW category (EW means extinct in the wild but surviving under cultivation or in a zoo - NB. EW is listed on the continuum as one step worse than critically endangered). No matter how it is argued, anything that is removed or tansplanted/cultivated and planted elsewhere is no longer a remnant population. Every time remnant vegetation is removed, it results in local extinctions (at the level of the area removed). These wild populations can never be replaced by cultivation, revegetation, etc - they can only turned into non-wild populations, which have significantly lower importance from an ecological/biodiversity perspective.

The Vagaries of Locally vs Globally Endangered

Some species have a large territory which means they are inevitably in low numbers in the Riddells Creek area (eg. Powerful Owl, Koala), and for some species there is so little appropriate habitat left that they are on the brink of being forced out of town (eg. Platypus, Geranium sp. 1, Purple Donkey-orchid and many other grassland species).

There are a few species where the total known local population is less than 10 individuals. Some of these are not endangered in Victoria but on the brink of being lost in Riddells Creek (and the Macedon Range). One of these species is Olearia glandulosa (Swamp Diasy-bush). At 2-3m tall it is a hard plant to miss, yet only one individual is surviving in Riddells Creek. One plant was found in 1984 in formal surveys conducted after the Ash Wednesday bushfires. We think the same plant might be surviving today. No other individuals are known in Macedon Range or across the Shire, making it arguably the most endangered species in Riddells Creek, the Macedon Range and the Shire.

In a global context, possibly the most endangered species we have in our area are Geranium sp. 1 and the Hairy-leaf Triggerplant. It is a curiosity of globally rare species that in the very few places where they survive, they are often locally common (this fact was noted in Darwin's 'The Origin of Species'); eg. the Hairy-leaf Triggerplant can seen in good numbers (hundreds) in a couple of places in Riddells Creek, but this plant is not found anywhere else in the world (in fact it is the only species endemic to the Macedon Ranges area). It is a similar story with Geranium sp. 1 - ie. over 90% of the known world population occurs in the Riddells Creek area so it doesn't get close to the Swamp Daisy-bush in terms being locally endangered - but of course from global standpoint it is far more significant.


The list for Riddells Creek is a dynamic one - all of the links in this article will update as the list changes. If you see something missing or think that a species shouldn't be on the list, please let us know at Riddells Creek Landcare.

If you would like further advice or information on a particular species, feel free to contact us.

Sunday, 16 March 2014

More new species named for Riddells Creek, 2013-14

At the time of writing this article, the number of species we've named in Riddells Creek is 1273. Here are some of the new species spotted in the 2013-14 season or named recently. Click on the links below to get to the details of the observation in NatureShare (best viewed in Firefox or Chrome). We live in an amazing place!

Coccinella transversalis (Transverse Ladybird).

Conoderus tabidus
- a type of Click Beetle.

Austrolestes leda (Wandering Ringtail) - Male (left) 'guarding' female as she lays eggs on Triglochin procera s.l. (Water Ribbons) at Wybejong Park. This is the 21st dragonfly species record for Riddells Creek and the 11th species recorded at Wybejong.

The next eight species were recorded on Cup Day - holidays can be very useful!

Gasteruption spp. - a type of wasp that lay eggs using its long/amazing ovipositor in the nests of solitary bees and wasps.

Cleridae spp. - a type of Checkered Beetle.

Ocirrhoe unimaculata - a type of True Bug (the insect Order: Hemiptera).

Calliphora augur (Blue-bodied Blowfly, Lesser Brown Blowfly).

Calliphoridae spp. - a type of blow fly or bottle fly.

Conopidae spp. (Thick-headed Fly).

Oxycarenus (Oxycarenus) spp. - a type of Ground Bug.

Syrphidae spp. - a type of Hover Fly. Apparently there is nothing looking like this in the Museum's insect collection.

Phrataria replicataria (Pale Phrataria).

Fletchamia mediolineata - a type of Land Planarian or Flatworm.

Lophyrotoma interrupta (Cattle-poisoning Sawfly) - despite the common name it is a native sawfly.

Talaurinus impressicollis- a type of ground-dwelling weevil.

Sceliphron laetum - a very large mud-dauber wasp (harmless to humans).

Chrysolarentia lucidulata (Lucid Carpet-moth) - sometimes holds its wings together as in the first pic below (from Riddells Creek) but more often seen with wings flat (second pic below by David Francis at Mt Macedon).

Moerarchis australasiella - a beautiful moth of the Tineidae family.

Tenebrionidae spp. (Darkling Beetle).

Phew !!!