Over the past 30 plus years, the Kowree Farm Tree Group has been a steady figure among
conservation efforts in the Wimmera. Their successful track record in leading conservation projects
led to the group being invited by our local federal member, Anne Webster MP, to submit an
application for the Communities Environment Program.
The Communities Environment Program forms part of the Australian Government's 2019
environment policy election commitment, Our Plan for a Cleaner Environment. The Program
provides each of the 151 electorates across Australia with up to $150,000 to fund
small, community-led environment projects. These projects aim to address local
environmental priorities. In consultation with their community, each Federal Member
of Parliament identifies potential applicants and projects in their electorate and
invites them to apply for a grant.
The endangered South-east Red-tail black cockatoo is listed EPBC and is one of 20 priority
endangered bird species. It is also a valued element of our local community. Since its adoption as the
official mascot of the 2006 Commonwealth Olympic Games, this species has become somewhat of a
local celebrity, even being adopted as the icon for our local Art Gallery and Golf Club. One of the
major threats to the bird is the loss of its rather specialised feeding habitat of Buloke and Stringybark
The 'Restoration of the South-east Red-tail black cockatoo feeding habitat' project, aims to
establish new feeding habitat, in existing habitat areas for the endangered South-east Red-tail black
cockatoo. The group was successful in securing funding for the project. Already well underway, the
project will establish new feeding areas for the South-eastern red-tail black cockatoo on a total of 4
properties. There will be a total of 8 ha of feeding sites established via creating stringy bark and
buloke plantations, and 20 ha of feeding sites established by planting and guarding 50 individual
paddock trees. With work well underway in total 1100 stringy bark and 280 buloke trees have
already been planted during the July - Sept 2020, planting season. The areas have been fenced off to
protect them and are now waiting for more rain to ensure their success.
The project had also intended to involve local school groups, with students from St Malachy’s school
and Edenhope College invited to participate in education programs and tree planting activities.
Unfortunately due to Covid-19 lock downs only a small number of students were able to participate
in these activities, mostly during Term 1. A successful nature walk through the Edenhope Flora and
Fauna reserve with Foundation and Grade 1 students from St Malachy’s school, led by Gloria
Freeman of the Kowree Field Naturalists, allowed the students to observe the cockatoo’s feeding
on local Stringybark’s. Several students were also involved in planting activities on one of the sites.
The Kowree Farm Tree Group sponsored a Red-tailed Black Cockatoo art exhibition at the Red Tail Gallery in Edenhope in November 2015. The Red-tailed Black Cockatoo is an iconic threatened species for the area and is highly valued by the locals. The majestic cockatoos were well represented by the artworks and a video of the cockatoos coming to drink at a farm trough offered rare footage of the birds. The exhibition was very successful with numerous works coming from all over, including local students.
On Saturday the 18th of April 26 bird enthusiasts from Edenhope, Apsley, Naracoorte, Millicent, Penola and Mt. Gambier participated in a Kowree Farm Tree Group and Landcare Woodland Bird Workshop run by Jonathan Starks of Dimboola. The workshop was run in the Meereek Flora Reserve about 15km south west of Edenhope.
With the weather on our side, we began with a guided walk through six different ecological vegetation types – Heathy Herb-rich Woodlands, Damp Sands Herb-rich Woodlands, Seasonally Inundated Woodland, Plains Sedgy Woodland, Plains Woodland and a Sedge Wetland. This part of the Meereek State Forest was turned into a flora reserve 32 years ago in 1983, for its rare and critically endangered ecological vegetation communities. It is vital that places like these be managed effectively to preserve the biodiversity that they hold.
A keen eye was needed to spot some of the bird species seen on the day, especially for the Weebill which is one of Australia's smallest birds. A total of 40 species of birds were seen during the workshop including: Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Variegated Fairy-wren, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Spotted Pardalote, Scarlet Robin, Red-capped Robin, Whistling Kite, Red-browed Finch, White-browed Babbler, Musk Lorikeet, Golden Whistler and Grey Fantail. The Red-capped Robin was amongst one of the highlights of the day and can be seen in the photo below by Bob Green of Birdlife South East SA.
After the walk we enjoyed a lovely morning tea provided by King’s Katering and a talk from Jonathan Starks about woodlands, how they influence bird species distribution and bird ecology
Numerous community groups helped the Kowree Farm Tree Group plant and guard approximately 18,000 trees on the Ozenkadnook and Minimay bankmecu landbank blocks. Hopefully, with some good summer rains, there will be good tree survival rates. Next year is set to be just as big and we look forward to working with the community groups once more.
The Kowree Farm Tree Group ran a Tree Planting course this year to encourage those interested in revegetation works and shelter belts plantings to learn about all aspects involved in tree planting, from site selection, to seed collection & propagation, weed and pest control, fencing, ripping, and the best tools and guards to use for planting seedlings.
Goroke environmental students and their teacher visited the Minimay landbank block on Wednesday the 4th of June to learn about using photo points as an important reference for landscape changes due to management practices. They also learnt how to do a rapid vegetation assessment in Stringybark bushland and will do another one in Buloke woodlands in two months time.
The Goroke cooking students joined them this time and went off on there own bush walk to discuss bush tucker. Afterwards we were supplied with lovely kangaroo burgers and bush salad. The students and their teachers hope to return do to similar activities. Some of the students were involved in the planting of this block and enjoyed seeing how their hard work had was developing.
On Monday, March the 24th twenty-eighty Ladies put on their gumboots and frocks to come to Lake Bringalbert to listen to guest speakers Jackie Wilson, Lydia Rich and Toni Domaschenz about their experiences living in a rural community. The speakers spoke extremely well giving insight into life on the land, owning a local business, what its like to live in a rural community and why they enjoy living rurally. The talks were well received, providing a bit of a laugh here and there. Cheryl's Coffee Blitz supplied a gourmet pancake dinner with a choice of Italian Soda, Cherry Blitz and Cucumber Mocktails. After the formalities of the evening, Ladies enjoyed networking and catching up with women from the surrounding area whilst huddled around the fire. A big thanks to everyone who made the night possible! Keep a lookout for another Ladies Night in late February 2015.
The Creatures of the Night event hosted by Junior Landcare on Sunday, April 6th was a big hit, with 22 kids and their parents attending. The Bat Box building, Bat Biscuit decorating and Bat Cave were a major attraction. The kids also enjoyed looking at insects under a microscope, making bat masks and going on a night walk in search of bats. The Bat Boxes will be shared between the St. Malachy's School and Edenhope College for all the kids to look at and hopefully have some little creatures to look at in the near future. Seeing as the bat boxes were such a big hit, I hope to plan a nest box building day where each family can make a bat box and install it in their backyard or on their property. A big thank-you to everyone who made the night such a great success.
The launch of the Young Ag Network in the West Wimmera Shire created a huge interest locally with around 70 people in attendance.
Naracoorte seeds director Jamie Tidy gave a presentation ‘getting the most out of your pasture species’. This presentation was well received and resulted in some interest in establishing the group’s own pasture trials in this area. Both Naracoorte seeds and West Wimmera Rural have offered to assist and support these trials. Regional Landcare Facilitator Bindy Lees said “to have the offer of such support is a great beginning for our network, we are certainly lucky to have had this opportunity arising”.
The Kowree Farm Tree Group was host to a number of Conservation Volunteers from around the world last week. The conservation volunteers travelled from the United States of America, China, Taiwan and South Korea. Volunteers were involved in various projects associated with the protection and re-establishment of vegetation for the Red-Tailed Black Cockatoo.
While volunteers were in Edenhope they visited St. Malachy’s school where they were shown the new Bush Tucker Garden and got to sample some of our native foods. Regional Landcare facilitator Bindy Lees worked with them last week and said “The group was a really interesting group of volunteers and they were all very taken by our landscape. They hope to return in five years to see the progress of their efforts.”
The Conservation Volunteers Program team leader Tom Morrison said “The volunteers always love to get out into country areas and meet rural Australians. It gives them a greater understanding of life on the land.” Tom will return to Edenhope in two weeks with another group of Conservation Volunteers assisting in similar environmental projects.