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COMING Up

SATURDAY MAY 4, 10AM

PROGRESSING PLANS
&

GETTING OUR HANDS DIRTY

RECENT ACTIVITY

MORNING OF ACTION - APRIL 2024

So MUCH Cassinia Sifton removed! Again! 
This plant has come in from north of Melbourne and is colonising many areas of Nillumbik including Hohnes Hill. 

What an incredible team effort. We could hardly believe the size of the pile at the end of our two hours. So industrious and effective (well-earned tea, coffee, snacks). 
Other weeds we removed include numerous Western Australian Bluebell creepers with masses of seed not yet ripe, Gorse, English Ivy, Paspalum and Cocksfoot grasses. 

 

We are lucky in Hohnes Hill because there is substantial indigenous vegetation so when we remove weeds there is plenty of mid-storey for small birds and other creatures, and the ground is protected by the presence of indigenous grasses, groundcovers, and moss. 

Very happy to report that John - who joined in for the first time - happened to find a Pimelea Curviflora in what is often described as a very degraded area. Indeed, it is very weedy, but this little plant and several other species show us that there is always good work to be done in supporting indigenous biodiversity! The Pimelea was not looking too great after two months of pretty much no rain and surrounded by invasive plants, but what a survivor...

Pics coming soon

ACTION! CLEAN UP AUSTRALIA - MARCH 2024

On March 3rd around this great land, people gathered and picked up rubbish, in care of Country.

We focused on caring for our precious Diamond Creek whose confluence with the Birrarung (Yarra) is just a short stroll from Hohnes Hill Reserve. For the clean-up, we chose an area slightly further upstream where rubbish was substantial.
We pulled out bewildering quantities...
Half a dozen bikes, half a dozen tyres, two and a half shopping trolleys, a freezer, old bridge materials, witches hats, inconceivable quantities of plastic in the form of bottles and other containers, shredded bags and unidentifiable things, carpets of fake grass, bunting, toys... 

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A HUGE thank you to all who came and made a difference to the animals who have no choice but to live among rubbish.

Litter is a significant killer of animals - platypus regularly suffer injury and death from various items including hairbands, plastic bottle tops and rings around cans, netting, fish hooks and more. 

Platypus and other animals also starve to death if they ingest quantities of plastic...

And chemicals leach into the water...

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Isn't it great that we can all make a difference at the source of the problem!

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MORNING OF ACTION - MARCH 2024

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Wow... If you were a Cassinia Sifton (not the local species) or a Western Australian Bluebell growing in Hohnes Hill, you would have been quaking in your roots.

Massive piles were removed, allowing light to enter areas where the butterflies are likely to spread to, and where the Glycine Latrobeana and other friends are being shaded out too much.
Mid-storey cover is important, but overgrowth here needs attention in order to give local species better chances of survival.  
Amazing team effort once again. Huge positive impact!

MORNING OF ACTION - FEBRUARY 2024

We carefully worked in the cooler lower slopes avoiding Sweet Bursaria plants and areas where butterfly eggs may have been laid on them. We don't want to accidentally brush them off the plants.
You'd be quaking in your roots if you were weedy Paspalum grass! We focused on this before seeds ripen, drop, and spread. We worked to relieve pressure on various indigenous plants including gorgeous Kangaroo grasses (Themeda triandra), Spear grasses, and Yellow Rush Lilies (Tricoryne elatior).  The area is looking transformed and loved!

As always, we worked slowly and steadily, pulling the weeds very carefully - stem by stem if need be - to ensure minimal soil disturbance and removal. So MANY bags of weed seed 

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FLORA SURVEYS - JANUARY 2024

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Last year, with the guidance of Geoff Sutter (expert botanist and one of our excellent team members) we pegged out 8 quadrats (plots) through Hohnes Hill Reserve. The areas were chosen for specific characteristics (such as slope and diversity of vegetation). It was a bit of a challenge given the terrain and density of vegetation, and involved a fair bit of scrambling, weaving and back tracking in order to measure out the 20 x 20 metre plots. 

The very laborious 'pointing' process followed... here is a brief step by step description:

Equipped with clipboard, plant species list/recording form, pencil, 'pointer' and tape measures, find the western boundary line of the plot.

Starting at the southern corner, identify every floral species that touches the 'pointer' (a thin metal rod one metre high).

Do this at 20 cm intervals. That's right, every 20cm! A rather small distance creating more than 1000 record points for each plot. Gee Geoff worked hard!
The person recording finds the species on the list, and marks which line and the distance from 0.0

Keep going...... and going

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It was a brilliant team effort over hot dry days. Apart from Geoff's consistent effort and expertise, a special mention also goes to Evan for his commitment. The process was complex and long, but incredibly valuable for our work in coming weeks and months, and for decades to come. 

More info updated soon..... including cover abundance process and use of data.

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BUTTERFLY SURVEYS - DECEMBER 2023

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Above is a male Eltham Copper Butterfly with its distinct orange-tipped antennae and triangulated wings.

Most people are delightfully surprised to see just how small this gorgeous butterfly species is.

Antennae of the female Eltham Copper Butterfly are not bright orange at the tip and her wings are more rounded than the male's. 

 

Surveys were conducted at the various Eltham Copper Butterfly sites, with mixed results. We had to be responsive to weather conditions as these little butterflies are more active when days are warm, dry, and not too windy. 

The surveys give us valuable information regarding areas the butterflies seem to prefer. This can help shape management. We also learn more about their behaviour as we carefully observe their movement and interactions with other butterflies, other insects, various plants, the site itself, and more.  

MORNING OF action - DECEMBER 3 2023

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We worked in the lower slopes away from Eltham Copper Butterfly areas to avoid accidentally dislodging tiny precious eggs that may have recently been laid on Sweet Bursaria plants. We focused on significantly reducing the weed burden in patches of Kangaroo Grass (Themeda triandra) and Spear Grass species (Austrostipa sp), where we also found a lot of the very discreet and dainty Tricoryne elatior (Yellow Rush Lily). This is such a beautiful plant but often overlooked and easily damaged above ground. Its tubers give it resilience - keep a look our for its soft grey-green leaves and wiry stems with yellow flowers through the warmer months. 

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Dainty Tricoryne elatior , Yellow Rush Lily, with distinct twisted tepals after flowering. 

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Insect eggs we found while weeding - any ideas?

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Paul with a load of Watsonia, Paspalum, Sweet Vernal, and more!

MORNING OF action - NOVEMBER 5 2023

Before our morning of action, we searched for Glycine Latrobeana. This rather discreet plant is not easy to find sometimes - individuals can be truly tiny - with very fine 'stems' and leaves. We  marked each one, noting the health of the population. They need help! They will benefit from our weeding efforts, which will also give them more airflow and light.  Our main targets were introduced Sweet vernal grass, Watsonia, Plantain, and the occasional Broome and Gorse, all of which were getting copious amounts of seed ready for spread. We have just about removed all Watsonia from Hohnes Hill. How fantastic! 

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Making good things happen... so peaceful and enriching...

Weeding carefully among endangered Glycine Latrobeana (Clover Glycine) and other indigenous plants including other Glycine species (egGlycine microphylla - Small-leaf Glycine and Glycine clandestina - Twining Glycine), Tricoryne elatior (Yellow Rush-Lily), various daisies, grasses and more.

Invasive weeds such as Watsonia, Plantain, Montpellier Broome (pic below), Sweet Vernal and other grasses were targeted.

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Watsonia leaves with flowers and stems showing the nodules where small 'bulbs' will form, ripening to drop and grow.

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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.  And once again we shared amazing food - thanks team!!

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Carefully pulling Sweet Vernal stems one by one rather than in clumps means we protect soil integrity, ants nests, and more. You can see how clean the roots are! 

This also reduces incoming weed spread. 

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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.

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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!

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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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OUR FIRST MORNING OF ACTION may 6 2023 

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. 

LAUNCH!

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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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