Amazing how much of a routine Koalas get into. At a camera site we had been monitoring for over 12 months, we had never come across a Koala. In fact you wouldn’t really have expected one because it is in a regrowth area of Silver Wattle, with the nearest suitable Eucalypts quite a distance away. All of a sudden our camera location has become a point on a local Koalas new favourite path. Since late May it has been crossing by our camera on average every couple of days, all up a total of 24 times (and still counting).
It is interesting to click on and check out this photo gallery to see just how regular of a routine it has.
Technology today has made it super-easy to dig up fascinating old newspaper articles like this one below from the Argus in 1925. We would have to think that the author would be fairly astounded if they could step forward in time and visit the Tarra-Bulga today. What will it be like 88 years from now??
THE TARRA VALLEY.
When in 1840 Strzelecki led an expedition from New South Wales over Mount Kosciusko and through Gippsland to Corinella, on Westernport Bay one of the party was an Australian aborigine named Charley Tarra. The choice of this native was fortunate for in the latter part of the journey when food supplies were exhausted it was Charley Tarra’s prowess as a hunter that saved the party from starvation.
To such straits were they reduced to in the last 50 miles – and so wild and rough was the country that it took them 22 days to hew their way through the bush – that they lived almost wholly on the flesh of Koalas or native bears. A few months later when a party from Melbourne chartered a vessel to carry them to the newly discovered province, they took with them Charley Tarra, and when they, or rather some of them were cutting their through the tangled way undergrowth back towards Westernport Tarra’s gun frequently provided the hungry travelers with bear flesh. Which if not tasty, at any rate had food value, It was therefore fitting that Tarra’s name should be preserved in the nomenclature of the streams of Gippsland and, on a river rising in the hills 10 0r 12 miles from where the town of Yarram has since been built, and flowing through a wilderness of bush and fern trees, was bestowed the name of Tarra. It is not an imposing stream, and along most of its course the beautiful surroundings have vanished.
As one wanders in South Gippsland with its hundreds of bare hills or if not bare then covered only with dead eucalypts, or through the lower lands that have nearly all been devastated by fire, it is difficult to picture what this great territory was like when it was first explored, or even to visualise it as it was half a century ago. But a page or two of “the universal and public manuscript” that at one time was expanded to the eye of all can still be seen in the upper part of the valley through which the Tarra River flows. They are not unsullied pages, for every here and there one comes on patches of dead trees looking like phantoms of the surrounding living giants, with their marble like boles. On the hills and in the valleys, the fern trees rise above a tangled wilderness of blanket-wood, hazel, and other scrubs peculiar to the virgin mountain forests of Victoria. Far down in the main valley and in the trackless ways of the Tarra’s gully tributaries are bowers of myrtles of various sizes and conditions, some lithe and fresh others old and hung with lichens. Along the road over the hill big hearted settlers, in spite of great difficulties and discouragement, have built homes and cultivated little clearings.
In some cases, however, the odds have proved too tremendous, and scrub and bracken are almost hiding from view the abandoned homesteads. Near the top of the range where the Tarra River has its source is a timber mill, and though all the machinery is still there it seems a long while since the mill was in operation Scores of white logs mark an old timber trail now partly over grown with young scrub, and the bush is gradually creeping back around the mill and the timber-getters’ huts.
Near its source the scenery of the Tarra River is not surpassed by the beauty of any other valley in the State, but it is not likely to attract tourists. For the greater part of the year the road through it is almost impossible for motors, and there is too much stale, flat, and unprofitable country to be gone through to make the trip suitable for a walking tour. The bit of wild bush that is left is but a scrap of a mighty forest that 50 years ago covered South Gippsland, and this probably must ere long be destroyed and the name of the Tarra Valley be recorded only in the catalogue of things that were and cannot be again.
The planting activity this month saw a good turnout of members of both our group as well as some great helpers from the Conservation Volunteers. The work focused on adding overstorey species (in this case Mountain Ash) to a scrubby regrowth site located along the Grand Ridge Rd.
Several years ago we had planted Blackwood’s on this site with mixed success. Blackwood seedlings are a favourite food of Wallabies. We found that the Chicken wire guards we used back then were not 100% successful in keeping Swamp Wallabies at bay and that they were able to reach the top and nibble the new growth. An application of Sentree (Wallaby Deterrent) helped to give the plants a fighting chance, but most are still quite stunted where as the ones that have got away have reached over 3m tall. Hopefully the new improved guards we used today; which were taller, wider and made of stronger mesh; will see a better success rate. They will also be able to be reused down the track for future plantings. Some of the dead Blackwoods had reached several feet high and then died. They had no roots left, so not sure whether they had been chewed off (by rats??) or maybe caused by the tubes being root bound or just rotting away, the stems were still quite green.
All up we planted 40 new Mountain Ash trees, as well as removing old guards from previously planted trees. Although this may not be a big number, it is a reflection on the careful effort we made to do the job properly and make sure they are well protected, so hopefully, they get the chance to grow into forest giants. Thanks to Pam and David for preparing a delicious barbecue lunch for the starving workers, and also to the Conservation Volunteers for their tremendous support for this event which was an enjoyable and productive day.
We have had what we hope is the first of many Koala’s detected by our remote cameras. This one was on the move past our camera site in the Tarra Valley. Koala sightings seem to be reported more frequently in the park in recent years, but this is only anecdotal as no proper ongoing survey has ever taken place. Importantly the park is part of the habitat of the Strzelecki Koala population, which is significant because the local Koalas are thought to be the only population in the state that are not descended from a handful of trans-located Koalas from French Island and hence are thought to be much healthier and genetically resilient.
This Koala was in an area of the Park that has some very large Mountain Grey-gum trees, (Eucalyptus cypellocarpa) which researchers believe is one of the local Koalas’ favourite food sources. Although not their first choice Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans); which is the most common eucalypt within the park is thought to also be utilisted by Koalas as well as Messmate (Eucalyptus obliqua) which is also quite common. We would love to hear about any sightings in the park to add to our knowledge and to help contribute to regional efforts that are being made to get a better understanding about the distribution of the Strzelecki Koala and its health and well being.
This is the time of year when most of the daisy species in Tarra Bulga are in flower. A number of species look quite similar and a bit of knowledge is often needed to tell one from another.They are all medium shrubs with narrow linear leaves and similar looking cauliflower like flower-heads.
One group are the Cassinias’ there are three separate species and all of them occur in the more open and exposed sections of the park rather in the shaded and protected gullies
Cassinia aculeata – (Common Cassina or Dogwood) has the the shortest and narrowest leaves of the three. If you look underneath the leaves you can see that they are curled over at the edges. Another distinguishing feature is that the new flowers are sometimes pink rather that white.
Flower head, in this case showing the Pink Form
Showing the underside of the narrow leaves that are hair below with recurved margins.
Showing white flowerheads this time.
Cassinia longifolia – (Shiny Cassinia) has broader and longer leaves and the new leaves are noticeably shiny and sticky to touch. The underside of the leaves are covered in short dense hairs and the vein down the middle is very prominent.
Showing the Shiny upper-side of the leaf which can be sticky and has a prominent mid-vein.
Showing the underside of the leaf with dense hairs and the mid vein.
Typical shiny leaves
Cassinia trinerva – (Three-veined Cassinia)Has leaves that are also broader and longer than Common Cassina, they are quite soft and not shiny or sticky. They have a big vein running down the middle of the leaf and two smaller veins that run a millimetre or two inside the leaf margins.
Underside of leaves showing the 3 veins that give the species its name.
Cassinia trinerva – Three-nerved Cassinia
Flowerhead which again looks very similar the the other 2 species in the park.
Cassinia trinerva – Three-veined Cassinia
Ozothamnus ferrugineus (Tree Everlasting) is a fourth species that can be confused with the Cassinia’s as it is a similar size and has similar leaves. It’s leaves are around the same size as Cassinia longifolia (Shiny Cassinia) but its leaf margins are usually a little wavy. With close examination the flowers are clearly different to Cassinias, they have little bracts around the individual florets.
Leaves look fairly similar to Shiny Cassinia but the edges tend to be a little undulating.
Underside of the leaves has a creamy white – felty texture.
Side view of flowers, which can be identified by the separate mini florets.
Another view of the flowers, Note the difference to Cassinias.
They also have a woody trunk, Which is probably the source of their common name.