Category Archives: Guest speakers

Taking a closer look at insects

At our last meeting we were pleased to present 5 members with  club life membership. Each has been a member for over 40 years which is a very impressive contribution. This was followed by a guest speaker who is also one of our members, Bill Elder.

Bill gave an interesting talk about how his interest in insects began and developed then he moved onto how to identify the main groups. You may see his passion reflected in the carefully curated collections below.

While there is a wealth of information available these days to assist with identification it is worthwhile developing some skills to know some basic features to look for to get started. The tips are:

  • get a hand lens for use in the field
  • a microscope is useful for finer detail
  • take lots of photos close up and from different angles
  • take note of the food plants, insect life stages, colour, behavior, size and what plants you see them on.

The following handouts prepared by Bill, are on the main distinguishing features of the common orders of insects and a list of field guides and other related books.

If you are interested in insects here the link to The Entomological Society of Victoria




Roger’s Nature Year

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

Fantastic Fungi

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.

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A window on our past

At our February 2017 meeting, Susan Kruss gave a really interesting presentation about some of the club history. Susan is undertaking a thesis “A Voice for Nature”, on the various ways our club has given nature a voice.

Here is a link to the slides with notes. Just click on one of the slides to make it bigger.

Hollows as Habitat

Our meeting topic in June was Hollows as Habitat and was presented by Club Member John Gregurke. Here are some notes from his talk and the photos are by another club member.

If you mention hollows many people immediately think of the ones in standing trees but they are  also found in fallen timber, in the trunks that fall into rivers, rock crevices, burrows and caves. All sorts of fauna require hollows for breeding and or shelter including  mammals, reptiles, birds and frogs and fish. The list of birds for the Ballarat area includes 30 birds that need access to hollows. Across Australia 114 of the 700 species of birds need hollows. Continue reading

Listening to nature

Tawny Frogmouth

The Tawny Frogmouth has a distinctive call

In December we had were fortunate to have Andrew Skeoch speak to our members about the evolution of sound and listening. Animal sounds and bird song have adapted to specific environments and habitats and Andrew gave a very interesting and informative talk about the work he does and some of his observations.

Together with his partner Sarah they have a business called Listening Earth and they travel widely recording natural sounds. His talk opened our ears and minds to what goes on in the natural world around us.

If you missed the talk or are interested in listening to another of his talks, here is the link from ABC radio recorded recently at the Woodford Music Festival.

Thanks to Geoff Park for alerting us to this interview through his blog Natural Newstead.


Dr Mary Gibson works at the School of Life and Environmental Sciences, Deakin University. Her research interests include the reproductive biology and ecology of algae, bryophytes and lichens. She has been recognised as an inspiring lecturer and her skills became evident as she revealed the importance of lichens to the ecology of the natural environment illustrated by many photographs. Continue reading

The Mallard x Pacific Black Duck Hybridisation Threat

Pacific Black Ducks

Our April 2012 talk was presented by Patrick Guay, a research fellow from Victoria University, on the topic of how hybridisation with domestic ducks is threatening Pacific Black Ducks in Australia. Patrick’s area of expertise is in waterfowl ecology and conservation & population genetics and he is well known to our group through his work on the swans and musk ducks on Lake Wendouree. Overall we don’t have a good track record when it comes to protecting birds. Continue reading

The Secret Life in Cemeteries

Feathertails & Button Wrinklewort

Rokewood Cemetery grasslands in the spring

Modern cemeteries may be boring. Designed for low maintenance with white gravel or manicured lawns, the view may be good but there is sameness in all the regimented rows. You may need to be selective but if you decide to visit a country cemetery you will often find there is more to look at than just tombstones, gravel and arum lilies. Continue reading

A Touch of Ice

Talk at Field Naturalist’s Club of Ballarat on 3 June 2011

Carol’s interest in the geography of polar regions began when she was a form 6 student. Since then she has visited the Antarctic, and she spoke to the Club about her 2010 Arctic trip to Svalbard and Greenland. The Aurora Expeditions tour began at Longyearbyen when she boarded the Polar Pioneer, a 71m, 2000 tonne ship which is ice-strengthened but not an ice-breaker. It can move through loose pack ice.

With the aid of maps Carol outlined the route of her trip and explained that climate is affected by latitude and ocean currents. Warmth from the North Atlantic Drift of the Gulf Stream results in a lack of ice on the west coast of Svalbard while cooler currents mean that the east side has sea ice in the winter. Evidence of global warming is clearly seen in the Arctic. The extent of sea ice has shrunk from the 1979-2000 median coverage. 2007 was the year of least summer sea ice and 2010 had the least winter ice. The Greenland Sea ice is declining by 10% per year. Some consequences of global warming in the Arctic are that it is possible for shipping (oil tankers) to operate further north for longer periods. There are border disputes between countries over areas of sea bed and the oil resource they contain.

Continue reading