Conditions were fortunately very good after a wild week of strong winds, rain and even a dusting of snow on the Wednesday. As a result of the snow many fern fronds have been crushed down and were providing an obstacle along the walking tracks. The temperature was relatively mild and although you could hear the wind in the tree-tops it was not that strong. First Light was predicted at 6:52 am and the official sunrise time was 7:21.
We had 38 volunteers which was more the enough to cover all 16 monitoring locations. After meeting at 6.15 am everyone was briefed and out into the field by 6:40. Kookaburras were the first birds to start calling and were very active and noisy for quite a while. It seemed like quite a long wait until we heard our first Lyrebird at 6:58 am. Most volunteers had vacated their sites by around 7:15 am and people started filing into the Guest House for breakfast by about 7:25.
The results were collated this year during Google Earth. The bottom of Lyrebird Ridge seemed to be quite active as well as the points around the suspension bridge and the Bulga Carpark. other sites were much quieter with only one or two calls heard.
Using our call triangulation method there ended up being a couple of anomalies with the results that made the certainty of the existence of a couple of birds 100% certain. (e.g 2 monitoring sites heard it calling but a closer one did not). Overall though we came up with a total of 9 birds calling for 2019 (which is one more than last year).
While spending a bit of time in the Tarra Valley Car Park on Saturday morning it was mind blowing to witness a significant number of touristy looking vehicles slow down, check out the place from their vehicles and then drive on without getting out of the car. One lady who had stopped for a look around, approached me and said “we have come up from Yarram and were wondering where to go for the best walks!”. She seemed surprised when I said that one of the best walks in the park is right here.
The Rainforest Walk at the Tarra Valley is certainly a must-do Tarra-Bulga National Park experience. The ancient gnarly Myrtle Beech, fresh mountain streams, lush green mosses and delicate filmy ferns are truly spectacular (not to mention Cyathea Falls). Maybe it needs better signage (VicRoads) or publicity but seriously people if you a driving through, stop, get out of the car, take a walk and check it out for yourself.
Although they are not often seen by visitors, feral and domestic cats are established predators at Tarra-Bulga National Park and our remote camera results suggest they are becoming more common.
The table below shows results from five years of remote camera monitoring carried out by the Friends of Tarra-Bulga Park. Cat numbers as a percentage of total species recorded rose dramatically from 0.7 to 3.9%.
No. of Cats Records
Percentage of Cats
The impact these cats are having on the birds, small mammals and reptiles is a real concern. Although there are many variables in the ways we set up our cameras, the general trend in the last few years is for them to be detecting greater numbers of cats and less small native mammals (e.g. Antechinus and Bush Rats). Sadly we have also been detecting less of the smaller birds such as Pilotbirds and White-browed Scrubwrens. (For a summary of sightings of others species download this Percentage of sightings per year for commonly detected species captured in remote camera photos )
The gallery below shows that cats in Tarra-Bulga range from large ferals and panther look-alikes to small (some might say cute) looking kittens, some even have collars. What is undeniable though, is that their presence has a major impact on the ecology of Tarra-Bulga National Park.
Renowned for its stunning cool-temperate rainforest, luxuriant tree-ferns and towering Mountain Ash trees, Tarra-Bulga National Park is cherished by Gippslanders and enjoyed by visitors from all over the world. The original separate small, but significant, Bulga and Tarra Valley Parks were reserved just over a century ago while the giant forests surrounding them were being laboriously hand cleared by selectors to turn into farms. Clearing this land turned out to be folly, the terrain, cold winters, bushfires, weeds and rabbits all contributed to the farmers giving up and walking away, leaving scrub and noxious weeds in their wake. Forestry and sawmilling in the area for timber and pulpwood also led to the loss of more of the original giant trees.
In recent years Tarra-Bulga National Park has expanded. New areas including abandoned farmland have been added with the goal of physically linking Tarra Valley and Bulga Parks as well as to reduce visitor pressure on significant sites, provide greater recreational opportunities and protect additional vegetation communities representative of the Strzelecki Ranges. It is recognised that Tarra-Bulga National Park has the potential to become even more spectacular and significant as cleared land is successfully regenerated.
To this end the Friends of Tarra-Bulga National Park are seeking volunteers interested in helping with the regeneration process. The group holds occasional work days on weekends, undertaking activities such as planting over-storey trees and controlling noxious weeds. The next activity is scheduled for Saturday July the 23rd 30th and will focus on removing tree guards from successful new plantings. The meeting point will be at 9.30am at the Visitors Centre Car Park. For further details or to register your interest in helping out Friends of Tarra-Bulga with any of their activities email firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 0488 035 314.
On the 8/2/2016 following one of our group meetings at Balook , outside the visitors centre just after sunset I hung out a white sheet with a UV light in the hope of finding a few interesting insects to photograph and potentially upload on to our “Friends of Tarra-Bulga National Park” project on http://www.Bowerbird.org.au. The conditions were windier than ideal but an interesting array of creatures did land on the sheet including a medium sized brownish moth with distinctive white spots on its forewings, it landed without fanfare and hung around just long enough for me to take a quick photo.
Back home the next day, I consulted Peter Marriott’s book Moths of Victoria and after much head scratching and flicking back and forward between pages I managed at last to find what I thought could be match, a species called Chrysolarentia pantoea or the “Variable Carpet Moth”.
In Moths of Victoria, photos of this moth are of preserved museum specimens captured in the Otways and Lamington National Park (on the Queensland/NSW border). Peter writes in his book that no specimens of this moth could be found in collections taken between these two sites. He did predict that other populations of this moth could be established in cool temperate rainforest or other similar natural habitats.
As I was not 100% confident with my identification and thought this sighing could be of interest, I contacted Peter who to my satisfaction agreed that I was correct and it was in fact Chrysolarentia pantoea, that I had managed to photograph. Remarkably he said that it was the first time to his knowledge that this species has been recorded in Victoria since the last museum specimen had been captured near Lorne way back on the 8/2/1907. That is exactly 109 years to the day between sightings!
Filmy Ferns are a feature of the wet gullies and rainforests in Tarra Bulga, they are usually found as epiphytes growing on the trunks of trees and other ferns, especially Soft tree-fern (Dicksonia antarctica) as well as rocks and steep embankments . There are five different species known to occur in the park and although they are small and delicate, with a bit of practice it is easy enough to learn to tell the difference between each species. Four of them belong to the same genus (Hymenophyllum). Along with the Filmy ferns there are many species of Mosses and Liverworts that flourish in similar moist sheltered locations.
Click on the Galleries for Closer Views and Photo Descriptions
Austral Filmy-fernHymenophyllum australe
This fern is dark green and not particularly shiny. It is common and easy to identify by the wing which is several millimetres wide and extends all the way along the central wiry stem from the tip of the frond to the base (stipe) where it is attached. It has lots of spore producing sori at the tips of the fronds. The sori have 2 lips and they often present in pairs.
Close up of fertile frond with pairs of fertile sori.
Colony on Tree Fern
Winged stipe where it attaches to the rhizome.
Fertile frond with pairs of indusium covering sori.
Shiny Filmy-fern Hymenophyllum flabellatum
This is another very common fern found in the rainforest gullies. As indicated by its common name it is very shiny and it is a lighter green than the Austral Filmy-fern. The stem (stipe) does not have a wing and has a tuft of hairs at the base. The pinnae (ends of the fronds) often form a fan shape. The sori (spore producing bits) at the tips of the frond segments are wider than the rest of the leaf.
Frond – Not the hairy base of the stem.
The stems (rachis) are not winged along the whole length.
Shiny Frond with indusium at tip of segments.
Fan shaped frond segments
Common Filmy-fern – Hymenophyllum cupressiforme
Common Filmy-fern is easily found and identified by serrated margins of its outer fronds. It has large spore producing sori which are located close to the main stem (rachis) of the frond. Alpine Filmy-fern (Hymenophyllum pelatum) also has serrated margins of it frond segments (pinnae) but it has never been found in the Tarra Bulga.
Large black sori located close to the central stem.
Indusium, close to rachis.
Frond, note the serrated margins.
Narrow Filmy-fern – Hymenophyllum rarum
As its Latin name suggests this fern is the hardest to find of all the local species. It will often grow among Common – Filmy fern (e.g. Along the East-West track in the Tarra Valley picnic area) and superficially looks similar. As its common name suggests it is narrow, It has a narrow wing along its main stem which may cause confusion with Austral Filmy-fern, but a clear distinguishing feature is the the V shape made by the veins at the base of the indusium (tissue protecting the spores) at the tips of fertile frond segments. Click on the Gallery below for a better view.
With V shaped veins at the tip (below the indusium)
Close up (magnified) of tips of fertile fronds. Note V shaped veins.
With V shaped veins at the tip (below the indusium)
Where stipe attaches to the rhizome.
Frond has a narrow wing.
Fronds segments divide on one half only.
Veined Bristle-fern – Polyphlebium venosum
Is the only species of the 5 ferns not in the genus Hymenophyllum. It is very common in the same habitats as the other occur. It is distinguished by its very delicate pale green shiny fronds (only one cell thick). Tiny branched veins are clearly visible on the narrow fronds. The fertile fronds have a trumpet shaped spore cover (indusium).
Fertile fronds with trumpet shaped indusium protecting the sori.
There are four main species of tree ferns found in Tarra Bulga National Park, (along with many other fern species) The two most common you will see are Cyathea australis (Rough tree-fern) and Dicksonia antarctica (Soft tree-fern). The Soft Tree-fern is more common in the moister areas including the rainforest gullies while the Rough tree-fern is more dominant on the slopes. Once you get you eye in it is fairly simple to tell the difference between these two, the most obvious being by comparing the trunks. The Rough tree-fern has much of its trunk covered by the remains of broken off stems (Stipes) Which are rough to the touch, while the Smooth tree-fern is soft to the touch and is covered by masses of soft hairs which are actually roots. On this soft trunk other species of plants will often grow including tree and shrub seedlings, epiphytes and other ferns.