The Field Naturalists Club of Victoria ( FNCV) has hosted SEANA camps in 1992 at the Basin, 2002 at Campaspe Downs, 2011 at Phillip Island and the recent autumn get-together over the weekend of 27-29th of April. The get-together was based at Badger Creek Hall, a few kilometres from Healesville and within walking distance of Healesville Sanctuary. In all 84 members from 14 Clubs attended and took part in a range of excursions in the Yarra Ranges area. Participants organised their own accommodation with many choosing to stay at the Sanctuary Resort Motel or at nearby caravan parks.
Registration took place on Friday afternoon at the Badger Creek Hall with each person selecting their own program from the twelve excursions arranged for the weekend. Those who had ordered natural history books from the FNCV catalogue at discounted prices collected their orders.
On Friday evening the speaker was Alex Maisey, convener of the Sherbrooke Lyrebird Survey Group, his presentation was titled, Conservation of the Superb Lyrebird on the Melbourne Fringe. Included in his very informative and well received talk were several stunning video clips of lyrebirds dancing, displaying and feeding young. We were heartened to learn that very good numbers of Lyrebirds remain in Sherbrooke Forest. However, with the many threats to wildlife in this increasingly urbanised area, conservation efforts remain critical to their continued presence. Supper was provided as field naturalists from around the state took the opportunity to catch up with each other.
The FNCV were very fortunate with two days of beautiful Autumn weather. An all day excursion, taking in O’Shannassy aqueduct, Cement Creek Rainforest Gallery and finishing with a walk along the Donna Buang Rd left at 9 am. This excursion was repeated on Sunday. A small group took part in an ongoing revegetation program designed to improve the habitat of the Helmeted Honeyeater at Yellingbo Conservation Reserve and were lucky enough to view this rare species. Our thanks to Cecilia Imre and Sue Bendel from the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater for their work in organising and leading this activity. Others choose a morning excursion, touring two sites in the Dixons and Chum Creek areas to compare the differences fire intensity has had on the recovery of vegetation since the Black Saturday fires. This was ably led by local ecologist Marty White and repeated on Sunday.
Fifty participants took part in a special behind the scenes tour of the threatened species and Australian wildlife health centre at Healesville Sanctuary. Our thanks to Dr Rupert Baker, General Manager of Life Sciences, Zoos Victoria for leading this personally. Many choose to explore the sanctury for the rest of the day with others enjoying a picnic lunch at the Badger Creek Hall, then joining the two afternoon excursions offered. The first, involving a car shuffle, was a one-way walk from Maroondah Dam to Donnellys Weir. This group were very excited to find a pair of Powerful Owls at the Weir. The second group, again led by Marty White, visited an old tip site, managed by Yarra ranges Council to learn about how its restoration was managed and the challenges that were faced.
In the late afternoon many members of affiliated clubs attended the SEANA AGM and general meeting. A short committee meeting was also held to elect office bearers for the next 12 months.
A highlight of the get-together was a catered two course meal in the Sanctuary Resort Motel dining room on Saturday evening. Dr Rupert Baker was the after-dinner speaker: his topic, The Role of Zoos in Conservation. Rupert commenced his presentation with the an account of the decline and extinction of the Christmas Island Pipistrelle. In 2009 Zoos Victoria was contracted to establish a captive breeding program for the tiny bats on the island. They were too late. It was very much a wake-up call. Since that time Zoos Victoria has created a ‘Fighting Extinction’ committment that no Victorian Terrestrial Vertebrate will go extinct on its watch. This commitment has resulted in organizational structural changes which have delivered increased conservation actions, with over $10m now spent annually on conservation program.
On Sunday the FNCV fungi group invited SEANA participants to join their regular program of surveying for, photographing and identifying fungi at Dom Dom Saddle. Another group left early to meet their leader at Murrundindi Conservation Reserve. Keen nature photographers spent a very enjoyable time at the beautiful Wirrawilla Rainforest Walk searching out invertebrates and fungi. A very popular excursion was ‘Giant Trees’, an opportunity to walk off track under the capable leadership of Brett Mifsud to view some of Victoria’s largest remaining Mountain Ash.
Finally I would like to acknowledge the tremendous help and support given by a number of FNCV volunteers in making this weekend get-together of field naturalists the success it was.
by Cecily Falkingham
The above report was written to place on the SEANA website. However, in no way does it tell the full story of what went into planning and running this weekend or the hard-working group of FNCV volunteers who made it all possible.
I would particularly like to acknowledge the support of Max Campbell, Sally Bewsher and Wendy Gare. Max was instrumental in finding the venue at Badger Creek and liasing with speakers. He travelled up to Badger Creek twice on Friday and Saturday to set up equipment in the hall and to chair the evening meetings. Sally has been an invaluable collaborator and advisor over many months. Wendy in her job of administrative assistant to the FNCVhandled enquiries, registrations, payments and problem-solved with friendly efficiency.
I am especially grateful for the responses from Marty White, Geoff Lay, Cecily Falkingham Reiner Richter, Cecilia Imre, Brett Misfud, Sally Bewsher, Sapphire McMullan Fisher and the FNCV fungi group who volunteered to take on the responsibility of leading excursions. Marty generously gave up most of his weekend to lead three activities and Geoff also volunteered for both days. Assistants were needed for all 12 excursions, in a few cases taking convoys some distance to meet up with the leaders. My thanks goes to Sally Bewsher, Ken Griffiths, Sue Bendel, Ruth Hoskin, Sheina Nicholls, Rosalind Smallwood, Carol Page and Graham Patterson for so ably and willingly taking on these tasks and ensuring everything ran safely, smoothly and to time. Three very special people, Hazel and Edward Brentnall and June Anton shopped and baked to provide a delicious supper on Friday evening and made themselves available throughout the weekend to keep the kitchen open. Thanks also to Kathy Himbeck who took on the work needed to administer the FNCV’s offer of discounted natural history books to participants. In addition Kathy brought up and displayed a range of books for purchase on Friday afternoon and evening.
A number of people completed necessary tasks prior to the weekend. Ruth Hoskin and Geoffrey Patterson collected materials for and assembled ‘show bags’, Robin Drury undertook the time-consuming job of making sure our program was communicated to Parks and complied with their guidelines and Su Dempsey underetook to check the SEANA first aid kits and make sure all the items out of date were replaced.
I have had only positive feedback on the success of the 2018 SEANA autumn get-together. It was my good furtune to have been part of the great team of people who gave unstintingly of their time and expertise to assist me in co-ordinating the weekend.
By Joan Broadberry