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MORNING OF action - NOVEMBER 5 2023

Pics and info coming soon!

night OF action - OCTOBER 20 2023

With much excitement, a small group of us ventured into Hohnes Hill in the dark, with our torches, looking for precious little caterpillars and their attendant ants. The caterpillars are Eltham Copper Butterflies pre-transformation! Focusing on Sweet Bursarias (of which there are many hundreds), we searched for the distinct movement of ants who crawl all over the caterpillars that live with them through this stage of their lives. An incredible relationship. We also saw a delightful diversity of other little creatures. Such fun!
Read on for details of the night with warm thanks to Susie Kumar who wrote the article.
 Susie is one of our fabulously passionate people :-)

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It is Friday night, 20th October, lovely conditions, no wind; it’s warmish and close to 9 pm. It is completely dark; from a distance you can see a number of tiny lights bobbing around Hohnes Hill Reserve. There are 8 of us, including the ecologists John and Kathy. We are all very gently tip toeing around in our designated line of travel looking for Bursaria spinosa trees, then checking for the Notoncus ants, then undertaking a closer inspection to see if they are helping a young plump Eltham Copper Butterfly larvae to feed.

It takes a while to get your eyes into picking up details that you might otherwise overlook, (like our very careful weeding approach here at Hohnes Hill). It is a calm, slowing down approach that finds the ants. And well, behold, we do find this elusive translucent greenish larva just there on a Sweet Bursaria plant with attendant ants!

The larvae prefer Bursaria about 1 metre height or smaller, as they like the smaller younger leaves. We even witnessed two larvae emerging from their ant nest homes close to the base of the Bursaria plant. The results are not officially in – however tonight’s count of approximately 49 Eltham Copper Butterfly larvae suggest the colony has grown since last year’s count.

It was a terrifically interesting and unusual way to spend Friday night. The event highlights the importance of the excellent and careful weeding work undertaken by the Friends of Biodiversity Hohnes Hill and reminds us of the very precarious and delicate ecological balance that supports these tiny creatures that make Hohnes Hill their home.

Thank you Wayne Kinrade and Vicky Shukuroglou for guiding us through the highly anticipated evening event for the Eltham Copper Butterfly larvae count.

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See the tiny hole at the base of the Bursaria above? That's the nest of the ants, where the caterpillars live. We saw two emerging from this hole. It is critical not to shine a light on them for more than a passing moment. If they sense too much light they will start returning homeward, even if early in their feeding time.

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Some of the creatures we saw - various flies, bees, a pobblebonk frog showing its powerful burrowing thighs, crane flies joined at the 'loins', spiders with their tents, moths (one showing its pheromone-detecting antennae) and more...

It is such a delight to know that the work we are doing is enabling these creatures to live within the ecosystem!

MORNING OF action - OCTOBER 1 2023

In a nutshell, we focused on an area where Eltham Copper Butterfly larvae were found last year. We very carefully weeded around the Sweet Bursarias, making habitat more suitable for the larvae and adult butterflies. We worked in ways to ensure minimal soil disturbance - this is essential in part for the sake of the ants who look after the butterfly larvae. A good technique is often slow but effective. Our focus was on 'sweet vernal' - a weedy grass that not only produces copious quantities of seed to keep its populations growing, but is also allelopathic, meaning it releases chemicals into the soil which inhibit the growth of other plants. Not good! If anyone knows how these chemicals might also affect the Notoncus ants, please get in touch. More soon... (& once again we shared amazing food - thanks team!!)

MORNING OF action - SEPTEMBER 2 2023

A glorious morning was shared - learning about plant ID, effective methods for weeding, and seasonally responsive actions. We continued our work on weedy vetch, which is growing quickly and showing not only how much there is to do, but how effective we were last month! Countless young Sweet Bursarias are no longer going to be smothered, allowing them to grow and giving the Eltham Copper Butterflies easy access to the plants. This is essential for these wonderful (and critically endangered) creatures to survive. Pics coming soon.... but in the meantime, here are a few from Tadema Reserve where we organised another action in a special patch of remnant bush that provides for a small population of Eltham Copper Butterflies. Much weeding was achieved, and we planted many Sweet Bursarias to increase the habitat available to the Butterflies, with the plan of slowly but surely linking to other larger populations. Fantastic! We're keen for Friends of Frank St and others to join in and generate more great outcomes.  

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These pics are from Tadema ... you can see the areas that we carefully weeded.  Native grasses, lilies, and other locally rare plants that have close relationships with the site and its particular qualities, were being pushed out by a fast-spreading succulent. You can also see some of the guards protecting the little Bursarias which will hopefully grow well with some care over the summer months. The area is quite degraded with extensive weed cover and heavily compacted soil. 

And of course... the fabulous snacks organised mainly by Tim. Big shout out to him for his great efforts. 

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MORNING OF action - AUGUST 5 2023

We had another brilliant gathering with significant benefit to our beloved reserve.

This time we focused on Vetch, working carefully around Bursaria, Lilies, Raspwort, Speedwells, Glycines, and more.
The vetch is currently small enough to be fairly easily removed, roots and all, with gentle teasing. One vetch plant can grow to smother an entire young Bursaria - this is a significant problem as young Bursarias are essential for the Eltham Copper Butterfly. Vetch prevents many other small plants from growing well, producing seed, and germinating.
We also removed many weedy grasses, making the base of Bursarias just a little more accessible to butterflies.
Great care was taken to ensure ant nests were not disturbed. We want these ants to be happy and healthy.
There is much to do! And then we had yet another feast
... Huge thanks to excellent friends who brought tasty morsels.


MORNING OF action - JULY 1 2023

Wow what a brilliant team! We continued working mainly in the lower slopes. Some carefully dug up well-established Watsonia bulbs. It's a good time of year to do this job while the soil is moist and friable thanks to recent rain, and before the bulbs grow, flower, and seed. Others thinned out a substantial area of Cassinia Sifton. This plant is a good example of how one species can take advantage of certain conditions and become terribly invasive, making life hard or impossible for other species. Another group removed hundreds of young Cleaver plants, while others weeded around a few of the Glycine Latrobeana. We also removed more Gorse and replaced them with Bursaria Spinosa, keeping the larvae of beloved Eltham Copper Butterflies well fed. 
A very warm welcome to our new members - so wonderful to meet you and work together. 
We then shared warm drinks, amazing feast (thank you to the brilliant cooks!) and conversations...... So good.
A hearty hooray to everyone, the difference is truly sensational. 

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Careful decision-making is critical to ensure best outcomes and least harm to our precious indigenous plants and animals. The removal of any vegetation has flow-on effects, whether the vegetation is indigenous or recently introduced. Considerations include erosion, reduction of shade/increase of sunlight, different available nutrients and moisture, change in shelter and food for insects, birds, bush rats  and other creatures, and more.
Knowledge of place and ecosystems is invaluable!

happy volunteers - so productive
The feast!

MORNING OF action - JUNE 4 2023

We worked in the lower slopes, carefully digging up well-established Watsonia bulbs and Paspalum grass. Part of the challenge was working among the beautiful Microleana, Themeda Triandra, various Dianellas, lilies, orchids and more. What a joy to see them and increase their chances of survival.

We also carefully uprooted countless juveniles of the invasive Cleaver and a small but increasing population of the introduced Violet. We chopped out a few Gorse, with more to be dealt with! 
As always, working to achieve minimal disturbance.

We also discovered a large European Wasp nest which will now be 'killed off' (sorry Wasps). One nest can create hundreds of new colonies. Wasps negatively affect the ecosystem, reduce available food, scare small birds, attack indigenous insects and more. 

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Bags full of Watsonia bulbs and others...... great work and a good time of year to get this done when the soil is soft and bulbs will come up a little more easily.
Also, no flower stalks to scatter seed.

Productive and happy couple of hours followed by morning tea (great biscuits Tim).
Thank you also to our friends at Hohnes Rd Playhouse!

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Following a tremendous launch with our enthusiastic community, our first gathering on May 13 was brilliant!

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A big hooray for our first morning of action and conversation - wonderful for everyone to connect with new and familiar faces, and share such a productive time (cassinia sifton must be quaking in its roots).

It was a thrill to see everyone's happy smile at the end of the morning. Thank you. 

Exciting bit of news is that we uncovered a lot of excellent species growing among the weeds. We dodged Greenhood orchids, Kennedia Prostrata (Running Postman), various lilies, AND a Glycine Latrobeana (Clover Glycine) which might be unmapped. These tiny plants demonstrate how careful all activity has to be to ensure no damage is done.

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It is also important to remember that all activity undertaken is site-specific. The fact that we are going hard at removing Cassinia Sifton and sensitively undertaking other ecological thinning, is in response to particular Management Plans and does not mean this approach can be applied elsewhere without careful consideration for all factors at each site. For example, the removal of any vegetation has an impact on bird populations and their movement, and the same goes for deer, whose cutting hooves cause much damage. We have seen areas that have suffered the consequences of deer coming in once the weed cover is thinned. Consideration of all pressures and characteristics is essential. We are fortunate that deer don't seem to be a problem at Hohnes Hill. 


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Just before the official Launch, Federal Member Kate Thwaites, Councillor Eyre, and Councillor Paine went for a walk in the reserve with Karl Just (ecologist) and Vicky Shukuroglou (Convenor for FoBHH). Biodiversity conservation and reinvigoration were discussed, and Eltham Copper Butterfly sites pointed out. Management plans for the other threatened species were part of the conversation, as well as the urgent need for significant policy development to ensure biodiversity decline is halted and reversed. The Launch was attended by more than 60 enthusiastic locals! Mayor Ramcharan also spoke, and Councillor Duffy also attended. 

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