Twelve field naturalists gathered in very light precipitation on the Moonlight-Illabarook Road-side next to the Illabarook Rail Reserve on Sunday October 7. The reserve is a 28 hectare crown land reserve, one of more than 50 managed by Ballarat Environment Network since 2005. It was previously the home of the Illabarook Railway Station and goods shed, remnants of which can still be found across the site.
Seventeen Field Naturalists were treated to the expansive beauty of Narmbool, a 2000 hectare farmstead operated by Sovereign Hill and located South of Ballarat. Generations of graziers had taken advantage of the fertile pastures, which when enhanced with fertiliser, produced quality wool for sale in foreign markets. With the price of wool not being what it was and the change in management in 2000, the outlook for the sheep became decidedly more culinary than crafty. Being surrounded by prospective chops, loins, racks and shanks it is perhaps fitting that Narmbool is a local Indigenous word meaning ‘fatty liver’. This local foie gras once belonged to possums that gorged on the vegetation of the volcanic soils.
View of Narmbool Homestead
Everyone looks at nature in a slightly different way and each person has their own particular interests they like to pursue. Roger Thomas, a club member, manager of the Ballarat Environment Network Reserves and writer of the Ballarat Courier Nature Notes, has certain plants and animals that he likes to see during the year.
He presented a fascinating talk to club members in August, that highlighted his ‘favorites’ and the depth of his knowledge. Roger doesn’t usually travel widely and most of these plants and birds may be seen within a 40 km radius of Ballarat. There are common and uncommon species and for some birds it is enough to just hear them to be ticked off the list. Roger’s talk was more than a list, it was interspersed with interesting observations gained over many years. Continue reading
On our club’s recent visit to this reserve the weather was rather cold and bleak so I took the opportunity recently to have another quick look.
Locomotive Mine Site
Path over Union Jack Creek
signage about the frogs
sign about mine tragedy
view along creek
The Union Jack Education Area is accessed at the end of Elizabeth Street, East of Warrenheip St, Buninyong, and from Wirreanda Drive off Yankee Flat Rd. The reserve is managed by Parks Victoria and the vegetation is heathy dry forest. In winter there the flowers of common heath provide glimpses of colour. There is lots of moss and lichen, occasional fungi and the leaves of orchids beginning to emerge. Many small birds may be seen flying in and out of the bracken. Continue reading
Our half day field excursion for August was to the City of Ballarat Plant Nursery and then onto the adjacent North Gardens Wetlands. Our leader was Roger Thomas who manages the nursery and we were given an interesting insight in the how the nursery operates.
The nursery does not sell to the public but supplies plants to various projects that happen within the footprint of the municipality. A grant comes from the City of Ballarat to operate the nursery and under guidance from Roger a lot of the work is carried out by a handful of volunteers who meet on Wednesdays.
checking a yam daisy for tubers
City of Ballarat Tree Nursery
Common Tussock Grass
galahs inspecting a nest box
inside a polyhouse
seedlings in polystyrene boxes
seedlings inside for the winter
Keeping a nature diary or record of when one sees the first Nodding Greenhood Orchid or hears the magpies singing in the middle of the night has a long record and many field naturalists will have their own records or books by other naturalists.
It is sometimes handy for Field Naturalists and others who are interested in the natural environment to have a list of plants and animals for a place they are visiting. Such lists are also useful for ecologists and students who are working on projects in particular areas as it gives them a heads up on what to expect or look for when they are surveying an area. Continue reading
On our July excursion led by Emily Noble, we visited some of the bushland areas included in Discovering Ballarat’s Bushland*, published by the Club in 2002.
Mt Buninyong in the fog
A group of 11 gathered at the Blackberry Lane car park on a cold morning with low cloud covering Mt Buninyong. We walked past mature Messmate and Manna Gum, some with hollows. As we climbed higher the weedy species grew fewer. The ground cover was mainly Common Tussock-grass and Weeping Grass. Herbs among the grass included Bidgee-widgee, and Prickly Starwort. A variety of fungi were seen. Continue reading
At our June meeting Les Hanrahan gave a fascinating presentation about fungi. He has a wealth of knowledge built up over the last 15 years or so. After the autumn rains many fungi start to appear. They come in shapes and sizes and are seen in a variety of habitats.
The Sunday following the presentation, Les led a fungi excursion to one our our favorite fungi spots at Blackwood. Twenty six people turned up to be led through the bush to see where fungi occur.
When identifying fungi there are a number of characteristics that need to be observed such as size, colour, shape, margin, moisture on the cap, spore print and texture to name a few. This list is to emphasize that it is not always possible to definitively identify fungi from a photo. Some fungi are poisonous so you need to be very sure of which ones are edible if you plan to cook any. There are a lot of myths around about how to test if the fungi is edible and they are not to be relied upon.
Here is the presentation which has been slightly modified allow uploading. Les retains the photo copyright. There is a list of useful resources at the end of the slides.
Goodenia lanata, Trailing Goodenia
Most Ballarat Field Naturalist members will have been sent this link but some of you in our wider community may be interested in this fascinating story about one of our past members.
Patricia Murphy was a valued member of our group and contributed in numerous of ways to our club as you will find out. Susan Kruss has written a beautiful and well researched article about Pat, which has been published in Muelleria. Here is a link to A passion for plants: The botanical contribution of collector P.J. Murphy.