Excursion 9: Alberton West State Forest

Excursion 9a: Alberton West State Forest No. 1Saturday afternoon
Leader: Melinda Darer (FOAWSF)Facilitators: Wendy & Norbert Fuessel

A full group of some 20 plus participants ultimately met at a western corner of the state forest, cars ‘higgledy-piggledy’ on the gravel roadside end off in the scrub. We met our leader Melinda from the local Friends group, caring for and trying to protect this important forest from logging. Her introduction included that this forest had not seen fire since before the 1930 fires. She outlined the animals of significance that this forest supported including the Powerful Owl, Sugar Gliders, a Skink, Koalas most importantly and others. Mel gave us an overview of the JARR (Jack and Albert Rivers Restoration) Project which over a 16 plus year period had instilled numerous landcare and other programs largely for the protection of the Nooramunga Marine and Coastal Park within Corner Inlet in ways deemed to limit farm nutrient and such entering its water affecting sea grasses and other. The JARR project was also having good steps forward in returning sea grasses already lost utilising new techniques of stabilization in tidal zones.

We then set off into the forest along a central track to a region Mel felt was a little more undisturbed and more likely to display possible orchids and other plant and birdlife. Two FNCV members honed in upon a couple of birds in the high canopy of the mostly Stringybark forest. Their ears attuned, they used their phone to sound out a Cuckoo species. In the damp mud of the track gutter another three field naturalists drew gum portions with seed pod to determine species identification. A couple of large old Swamp gums took our attention for a while. Norbert pointed out a hole high in a big Manna Gum where with binoculars we could see good signs of parrot usage.

The group moved onto a more open area, where some illicit logging had obviously begun, before protesters had manned a big tree and fought for the nature of the state forest. As regards the small plant life it was still few and far between, but the group was not to be thwarted and found various species of birds, a couple of orchids, butterflies and other.

Bird list:
King Parrot, Spotted Pardalote, Fantail Cuckoo, Shining Bronze Cuckoo, Pacific Black Duck, Sacred Kingfisher, Grey Strike Thrush, Grey Fantail, Red Wattlebird, Little Raven, Magpie, White Throated Treecreeper, Sulphur Crested Cockatoo, Rufous Whistler, Yellow Faced Honeyeater, Striated Pardalote, Olive Backed Oriole.

Plant List:

Trees: Swamp Gum, Mountain Gum, Manna Gum, Mountain Ash, Yellow Stringybark. Understory: Clematis, Maidenhair, Acacia verticillata or Prickly Moses, Olearia lirata or Snowy Daisy Bush, Erica, Goodenia ovata, Sweet bursaria, Diplarrena, Wahlenbergia, Sundew, Blue Bottle-daisy. Orchids: Spent Sun Orchid, Closed Bird Orchid.

The weather held out for us to enjoy the afternoon and come away from the forest with some better understanding of this forest environment.

Wendy Fuessel and Greg Gilbert

Excursion 9b: Alberton West State Forest No. 2Sunday afternoon
Leader: Melinda Darer (FOAWSF)Facilitator: Mitch Smith

Our excursion to the Alberton West State Forest started off in the sideways rain and bitterly cold wind but despite this we were all keen to explore this unique area.

After a brief presentation from Mel Darer of Friends of Alberton West Forest highlighting the past land uses, its long period without fire or disturbance and its recovery and future protection we decided to make our way from the stringy bark ridge down to the wetter gully, affording more protection from the weather amongst the Mountain Grey gums. Here was the edge of a logging coupe that was halted by the efforts of the forest defenders of the FoAWSF and we were told that pulp was to be the intended use of such a valuable resource evoking the ire of local environmentalists and our naturalists.

Our exploration of the adjacent bush land was more pleasant as the rain held off and soon many examples of the diversity of this area were discovered. Several orchids were found including two species of Bearded orchid, Calochilus sp. and some Caladenia catenata or White fingers as they are commonly known, with the rare and threatened Cobra Greenhood Pterostylis grandiflora finished for the season. Our eagle-eyed participants also found the rare Billardiera mutabilis recently split from the more common Appleberry B. scandens and defined by its more colourful flowers and villous fruits. Further searching found other local plants such as various pea plants not in flower and other understory specimens happily ekeing out an existence in the shelter of the magnificent gums.

Down in the gully we admired the majestic Grey Gums which sheltered us from the wind and were shown the ‘den’ trees of the local Greater Glider population. Gliders, one of the reason for the logging injunction, can use several different hollows to reside in across a large area and often share these homes with other resident gliders in the area. Mel told us of the importance of long undisturbed forests and their ability to provide the right habitat and structure, crucial for their survival into the future.

We dispersed back to warmer abodes just as the rain once again came in, feeling pleased that there is one more place these enigmatic creatures can still call home.

Big thanks to Mel and all those who go out of their way to protect our wildlife and are always willing to share its beauty.

Mitch Smith