Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Wombat numbers on the rise

Posted on 21 July, 2017 by Tanya Loos

Wombats thrive in Western Victoria: Staff member Tanya Loos, who lives 7km north of Daylesford,  shares a story about our burgeoning wombat population.

Coming home from work a week or two ago, I was just a couple of kilometres from my house. The car in front of me slowed to a stop. A medium sized mammal with a distinctly square bum ambled in front of their car and disappeared into the dark forest.
A wombat! A Common Wombat – also known as the Bare-nosed Wombat – in Porcupine Ridge! There are plenty of Wombats around Trentham, Glenlyon, and throughout the Wombat Forest, but in 15 years of living in Porcupine Ridge I had accepted the fact that while we have koalas, the wombats didn’t occur this far north. However, it seems the fortunes of wombats in western Victoria are changing!
In early 2016, a wombat caused quite a stir as it was photographed in the Gunbower forest, literally hundreds of kilometres from the nearest population. Peter Menkhorst, from the Arthur Rylah Institute was contacted to comment and he stated “The most westerly population of wombats on the Great Dividing Range is around Trentham and Daylesford, where the Campaspe begins”. He believed the wombat may have been an orphan pouch young that was released far from where it was rescued. Read the article in the Bendigo Advertiser here.

A healthy wombat, photographed by Connecting Country’s wildlife cameras at his or her burrow in Sutton Grange.  (Ignore the date on the photos – it was taken in 2014)

After seeing my Porky Ridge wombat, I searched online and found a fantastic website called WomSAT. This website is an initiative of the University of Western Sydney, and encourages people Australia-wide to record their wombat sightings. The map is really is easy to use, and enables you to note down whether the wombat was dead or alive, and if it suffered from mange. You can also record burrows. The WomSAT website can be accessed here.

On this map, there were at least eight sightings of living wombats between Bendigo and Daylesford from 2015- 2016, in Harcourt, south of Bendigo in Sedgwick and a big concentration in the Baynton area to the east.

I had a chat with my Connecting Country work colleagues Bonnie and Jarrod who have been documenting an increase in wombat sightings all through the Harcourt and especially Sutton Grange area – one property had a network of burrows with 50-60 entrances!

The same wombat having a little scratch

So what is going on?! My Mammals of Victoria book, also by Peter Menkhorst, states that wombat distribution on a local level is ‘probably most dependent on the availability of suitable burrow sites in association with food supply’.  The wombats do not like very dense forest, but any open habitat seems to do – with habitats ranging from alpine heathland, to wet forests, dry forests and coastal scrub and tea tree heath. Most of the burrows noted by Bonnie and Jarrod have been on creeklines which are tributaries of the Coliban River, and surrounded by open forest or woodland.

Wombats were declared vermin in 1906, and there was a bounty on them from 1925 – 1966. This put the already diminishing western Victorian populations on an even deeper downward spiral and they disappeared from the volcanic plains and indeed, anywhere north of the Great Dividing Range.

Anecdotally, the recent increase in wombat numbers has been noticed after the Redesdale fires in early 2009, part of the devastating Black Saturday fires. The fires may have caused a dispersal of the wombats into previously unoccupied territory.

So if you are in open forest along a creekline north of Daylesford and south of Bendigo, keep an eye out, a wombat family could be your new neighbours!

If you are logging sightings on WomSAT or sending us in a sighting on our Special-Species-Sightings-Sheet-2017, make a note whether the Wombat is healthy or not. Sarcoptic mange is a hideous parasite that Wombats catch from foxes. The mites cause the most severe mange affected skin and swelling around the eyes – and the wombat gets very sick indeed, and eventually dies. More information on wombat mange can be found here. Happily,  wombat lovers and advocates have discovered that they can add a pesticide ointment to a flap on an affected wombat’s burrow and this treatment saves the wombat without it having to be captured and taken to a shelter.

 

 

Dams to Wetlands Workshop – Muckleford Catchment Landcare

Posted on 17 July, 2017 by Asha

Workshop attendees will visit dams like this one in Muckleford (photo by Beth Mellick).

Join Muckleford Landcare to visit two dams and discuss ways in which to improve their function for biodiversity. Everyone is welcome to come along and learn how to turn your dam into a thriving wetland.

The workshop is on this Sunday 23rd July, from 9.30am to 12 noon. Meet at the end of Lyndham Road (off Golf Links Road).  For any questions, contact Beth on 0431 219 980 or bethmellick@gmail.com.

 

Threatened woodland birds get a bodyguard

Posted on 21 June, 2017 by naomi

Threatened woodland bird populations in the Mount Alexander region are being better protected through a new collaborative Connecting Country project. Over three years, $300,000 from the Victorian Government’s Biodiversity On-Ground Action initiative will help to protect, enhance and increase critical bird habitat in Box-Ironbark Forests in the Mount Alexander area. This area is important because it provides core habitat for the Victorian Temperate Woodland Bird Community, which is listed under the Flora and Fauna Guaranteed Act and an indicator of the health of the landscape.

The Diamond Firetail is one of the threatened Woodland bird species to be targeted by the project.

Krista Patterson-Majoor, Connecting Country Director – Project Manager, explains; “Over recent years, we have seen a decline among most threatened species within this bird community. We are taking a team approach with this project and collaborating with Trust for Nature, Dja Dja Wurrung, North Central Catchment Management Authority, Parks Victoria, Landmate, Department of Environment, Land, Water and Planning (DELWP), local Landcare groups and private landholders to carry out a variety of environmental works to help protect the birds.”

Works funded will include having private land owners undertake weed control and fencing to protect remnant vegetation across 60 hectares. In exchange, the owners will set aside land for conservation for at least ten years, including stock grazing removal and pest control. This funded project aligns with our Woodland Bird Action plan which aims to stabilise and then increase the populations of local species by protecting and expanding their core habitat. Landholders who are interested in finding out more are encouraged to contact Connecting Country or fill out an  Expression-Of-Interest-Form-July-2017-Connecting-Country.

DELWP Program Manager, Biodiversity, Jill Fleming, said: “This community-led group has been working for more than 10 years to protect threatened woodland birds in the Mount Alexander region and it’s great to see them receive this funding that will help them, and all the partners, to continue this important work.” DELWP’s involvement will help to broaden the scope of the project and ensure works carried out on private land will be complemented by similar activities on 80 hectares of surrounding public land that has been strategically aligned with private landholders and woodland bird priority zones. “By controlling the weeds and removing stock grazing, we discourage non-native birds, who may displace the native ones, from using the same habitat,” Ms Fleming said.

Twenty-six large scale, multi-partner regional partnership projects totalling $7.7 million have been funded through the Regional Biodiversity On-Ground Action initiative to address major risks to threatened species and ecosystems across the state. These projects will be delivered through regional partnerships between agencies, organisations, community, landholders and traditional owners. The list of projects is available at: www.environment.vic.gov.au/biodiversity/biodiversity-on-groundaction 

Box Ironbark East Biodiversity Hub Steering Group Members (from left) – Chris Timewell (CC), Jill Fleming (DELWP), Matt Menhennet (Landmate), Tanya Loos (CC), Steve Comte (Landmate) Deanna Marshall (TFN), Krista Patterson-Majoor (CC) Bonnie Humphreys (CC), Britt Gregory (NCCMA), Kirsten Hutchinson (TFN) and Noel Muller (PV) – at our inaugural meeting in Castlemaine. Absent are Rodney Carter (DDW), Steve Jackson (DDW) and Adrian Martins (NCCMA).