Excursion to Chepstowe, Snake Valley and Linton areas
Led by John and Elaine Gregurke . 5 November 2017.
By the time we reached Chepstowe the weather was warming and at lunch we sat in calm sunshine at Mag Dam Rec Reserve in Snake Valley. The wildflowers at places visited were magnificent. Our outing ended at the Memorial for the 5 fire fighters tragically killed in the 1998 bushfire near Linton – a very moving visit. Fourteen field naturalists attended the field-trip including Tony from Bendigo club.
Mr Neville Oddie (OAM and long time conservationist and Aboriginal rights activist) welcomed us and then us showed just some of the many aspects of the property that reveal his exceptional knowledge and dedication to nature conservation issues. The Oddie family took up land around Chepstowe after the gold rush in 1860’s when large sheep runs were split into smaller units. First we visited a farm dam that had been retro-fitted with a second wall, to provide both shallow and deep areas and hence nesting material and habitat for Spoonbills, Ibis and oth waser birds. Brolgas nest here in dry years. From here we had views of volcanic and sedimentary landforms, also exposed granite of Mt Emu which has major significance in local indigenous folklore.
We were keen to visit the site of plantings of Anchor Plants (Discaria pubescens) by FNCB members in 1991, across Bailey’s Ck from the homestead. The Anchor Plants, now in profuse flower, line part of the north bank of creek. The Oddies have planted other native species along the creek, including Melicytus dentatus (Tree Violet), Banksia marginata (Silver Banksia) and Bursaria spinosa (Sweet bursaria).
The old bridge spanning the creek which is joined by Mt Emu Ck lower in the catchment and often floods the Skipton area, has buttresses built from local bluestone. An interesting species of pelargonium with pale flowers grows on the banks north of the bridge. On part of Bailey’s Creek, old Red Gums were fenced off to encourage seedling growth
Next we parked at the Chepstowe Wind Farm where Neville outlined construction of the three wind turbines with 80 m high towers, and 50 m long blades made of balsa and fibre glass. The blade tips travel at up to 300 km per hour. The scheme generates power equivalent to the needs of 2000 homes and performance over the first 2.5 years has exceeded expectations.
The towers were constructed at Wyhalla, and the nacelles imported from Portugal. Each ‘windmill’ cost around $7 million and the landowner is paid a monthly rent contracted over a 25 year-period. The turbines are controlled remotely from Germany but maintained locally, and electricity feeds into a local power line (which could not handle more than 3 turbines). There were 100 objectors to the wind-farm at the time of its proposal in 2010. Interestingly, no bird-kills have been recorded around the scheme and brolgas are commonly seen to fly and feed between the towers.
The final visit at Chepstowe was to an extensive area of land that has been fenced off from previously intensive sheep-grazing, for grassland restoration trials and demonstrations. Part of this area was devoted to species establishment trials involving direct seeding of 50-60 herbaceous species, scalping and burning treatments. Most evident survivors in flower were Leucochrysum albicans (Hoary Sunray), Chrysocephalum apiculatum (Common everlasting), Craspedia variabilis (Common Billy Buttons), Eryngium ovinum (Blue Devil), Poa sieberiana (Fine Tussock Grass), Themeda triandra (Kangaroo Grass), Austrostipa spp. (Spear grasses) and Wallaby grasses.
Although the project funding has ended, some observations and measurements continue. Also in this area, many roof tiles had been placed to allow shelter and observation of reptiles and other fauna. Under a tile we saw a White-lipped Whip Snake with its distinctive dark head markings.
Walking north, we then entered an even larger area of ex-grazing land that for 25 years had been fenced to exclude stock, and which is burned regularly to encourage native species regeneration. In this area we found an impressive number of species in flower, which have largely replaced the predominantly Sweet Vernal Grass sword. These included Goodenia lanata (Trailing Goodenia), Goodenia pinnatifida (Cut-leaf Goodenia), Stylidium sp. (Grass Trigger Plant), Veronica sp. (Speedwell). Acaena novae-zelandiae (Bidgee Widgee), Acaena echinata (Sheeps Burr), Kennedia prostrata (Running Postman), Ar- thropodium strictum (Chocolate Lily), Senecio glomerata (Fireweed), Convolvulus erubescens (Pink Bind Weed), Pimelia humilus (Common Rice-flower), Burchardia umbellifera (Milkmaids), a small sedge Centrolepus aristata and several orchids including Diuris basaltica (Golden Moth Orchid), Caladenia transitoria (Bronze Caladenia), Monotoca scoparia (Prickly Broom-heath), Caladenia pusilla (Tiny Finger Orchids), Caladenia moschata, (Musky Caladenia), Boronia nana (Dwarf Boronia).
Neville explained some of the difficulties of burning this area of grassland in the small window of opportunity during the year. He also mentioned the transfer of nutrients by grazing sheep from the lower grazing areas to higher places where they like to ‘camp’, and the effect that this transfer has on promoting higher diversity in the lower less fertile parts of the fenced-off restoration area. Long-term sheep grazing had almost wiped out the Myrnong (Microseris lanceolata) that had been here and was once a main Aborigine food staple.
At our picnic lunch at Mag Dam Recreation Reserve we saw Hard- head Duck and other water birds, some bird boxes and a yabby trap. Also in the picnic area we found the environmental weed Parentucellia latifolia (Red Bartsia) and evidence of Redfin.
Then we traveled through farm and forest roads towards Linton, stopping four times to look at ground flora and trees. At one stop where firewood was being cut, Elaine showed us a male Spotted Pardalote near its nesting hole in the ground. Many herbaceous species were in flower and these are listed here roughly in the order in which they were first observed: Burchardia umbellifera (Milkmaids), Arthropodium strictum (Chocolate Lily), Dianella revoluta (Black- anther Flax Lily), Leptospermum myrsinoides and L. continentale ( Silky and Prickly Tea-trees), Indigofera australis (Australian Indigo), Luzula sp. (Woodrush), Daviesia leptophylla (Narrow-leaf Bitter-pea), Acacia myrtifolia (Myrtle Wattle – thickened marginal vein), Bossiaea prostrata (Creeping Bossiaea), Pterostylus sp. (Tall Green-hood Orchid), Leucopogan virgatus (Common Beard Heath) Caleana sp. (Duck orchid), Caladenia transitoria (Bronze Caladenia), Caladenia moscata (Musky Caladenia), Chiliglottis valida (Common Bird Or- chid), Corybas sp. (Helmet Orchid), Calochillus robertsonii (Beard Orchid), Lomandra multiflora (Many-flowered Mat-rush), numerous Thelmytra sp. (Sun Orchids) in bud, Pimelia flava (Yellow Rice-flower), Olearia lirata (Snowy Daisy Bush), Viola hederacea (Ivy- leaved Violet), Cassytha glabella (Slender Dodder-laurel), Microserus lanceloata (Yam Daisy Myrniong), Lagenophora gracilus (Slender Bottle Daisy) Acacia lanigera (Woolly Wattle).
Our visit with Neville Oddie was a revelation to those of us who had not seen the property or experienced his enthusiasm and wisdom in managing land for conservation and production purposes. We greatly appreciated the time he devoted to our visit. Thank you John Gregurke for an excellent outing, which was well researched, and navigated, through a maze of interesting roads and forest.
Report: John Petheram