September Biodiversity Month blitzes past last year

Each September, the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee (GORCC) celebrates the arrival of spring and the explosion of life that comes with it. We are the caretakers of a ‘biodiversity hot spot’, which means there is an unusual diversity of life concentrated within our land management area.

Biodiversity Month runs for the 30 days of September and citizen scientists are encouraged to upload their observations of biodiversity to the online database, iNaturalist.

To facilitate this process, GORCC runs a number of education activities during the month in different habitats and areas of the GORCC management zone, and this year we partnered with Parks Victoria to run sessions in some areas of the Great Otway National Park.

The first community session was held on 1 September, with the day landing on both Father’s Day and Wattle Day. To start the day, Possum Pete led a group in exploring the Anglesea coastal track to see how many species of Wattle (Acacia sp.) and other plants and animals they could find.

A tiny Brown Thornbill (Acanthiza pusilla) pokes its head out from a blooming Silver Wattle (Acacia dealbata) during our celebration of Wattle Day.
Blooming wattle along the Anglesea coastal track.

Later that day, the group explored the Point Roadknight rock pools with 25 keen young biologists and their parents, and they found a great selection of crabs, snails and anemones.

On 7 September GORCC ran a public Rock Pool Ramble at Rocky Point in Torquay. Despite the wintry conditions, 20 members of the public came out to explore wildlife living in the rock pools with us.

On Friday 13 September, GORCC partnered with Parks Victoria and the Friends of Eastern Otways to run a special biodiversity activity. Dubbed ‘Spooky Biodiversity’ because of the date, the group of 30 searched for the nocturnal creatures that might be considered scary at Moggs Creek picnic ground.

Kids surround Possum Pete at the activity trailer to see creepy crawlies up close on the digital microscope at Moggs Creek picnic ground.

There were quite a few insects about including some moths and the group heard the calls of Yellow Bellied Gliders and Boobook Owls when they went for a walk. Local biologist Craig Graham, under the permission and supervision of Parks Victoria, set up nets to capture this Little Forest Bat (Vespadelus vultunus). One of the smallest mammals in Australia, Little Forest Bats can weigh less than 4g.

A Little Forest Bat (Vespadelus vultunus) caught and handled by biologist Craig Graham at the ‘Friday 13th Spooky Biodiversity’ community event.

Thank you to everyone who has contributed their observations to this year’s September Biodiversity Month. What a great snapshot this project provides of the rich diversity of life in this region.

This year, we observed 100 species more than last year, with over 350 species identified. A big congratulations to Neil Tucker for recording the most observations and the greatest number of species throughout the BioBlitz in September, logging an amazing 221 observations and 198 different species. Neil is an active volunteer with coastal conservation groups ANGAIR and Torquay Coast Action and is renowned as an expert on local biodiversity, especially plants and fungi.

To check out all of the observations found throughout the Surf Coast this September BioBlitz, see iNaturalist’s website:

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee
The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee is a State Government body responsible for protecting, enhancing, and developing coastal Crown land from Point Impossible to Cumberland River. All funds raised through the organisation’s commercial endeavours are reinvested back into the coast. Visit us at

Out and about with Possum Pete

Exploring the coast with Possum Pete

This time of the year is characterised by dynamic weather with the definite progression from warmer to colder months. We have experienced the crisp, blue sky and still autumn conditions, and then there’s the driving rain and blizzard-like gales as powerful Antarctic storms herald that winter has arrived on the Surf Coast. We had it all this term, and students had to be at their bravest to be out there in some of the more challenging conditions we’re likely to have all year.

There were many highlights this term, including the conservation activities with year 7s from Grovedale College, and ecosystem walks with Surf Coast Secondary. By far the largest and most impactful project was a partnership with Mackillop College, the Friends of Eastern Otways, Parks Victoria and the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee. We have been able to remove a ferocious invasion of coastal tea-tree from significant heathland at Moggs Creek in sessions that represent hundreds of hours of volunteer work! Read more

Endangered species spotted on coast

CCMA remote sensor camera captures an image of a Southern Brown Bandicoot between Anglesea and Aireys Inlet.

Sightings of the endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot have buoyed conservation volunteers after images of the species were caught on remote sensor cameras between Anglesea and Aireys Inlet in recent months.

Environmental volunteers from the Friends of Eastern Otways group sighted a Southern Brown Bandicoot in June this year.

Volunteer Kaye Traynor said volunteers observed the rare species, which breed between June and December, during daylight hours in the Moggs Creek heathlands.

In a bid to protect and improve coastal biodiversity,  the Corangamite Catchment Management Authority (CMA) has been using remote motion sensor cameras to monitor what species are using coastal habitats in the region.

The cameras – set up at sites in Anglesea and Aireys Inlet – were successful in capturing images of the species on two occasions about three months ago.

Corangamite CMA Biodiversity Manager Nick McCristal said “the cameras are moved through a range of biodiversity projects throughout the CMA region and capture a variety of species.”

Mr. McCristal said the use of remote sensing cameras was a relatively recent addition to the program, as the technology has become less expensive and more reliable.

“The cameras are placed in locations that we believe animals will utilise, such as pathways and water holes and are activated by a motion sensor as fauna moves past,” he said.

Ms Traynor said protection of habitat was very important as well as keeping pets, especially cats and dogs under control.

“Fox predation is also a serious problem,” she said.

Southern Brown Bandicoots are listed as nationally endangered under the Commonwealth Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999.

What does the Southern Brown Bandicoot look like?

  • The southern brown bandicoot is a medium sized marsupial about the same size as a small rabbit
  • Has pointed snout, small eyes, rounded ears, compact body, large rump and a thinly furred short, thin tail approximately half of the body length.
  • Fur is coarse, greyish or yellowish brown above with a whitish belly

The DSE factsheet has included a  detailed description on the Southern Brown Bandicoot.

For more information visit the Australian Government website.

Threats to the survival of bandicoots:

The major current threats to bandicoots are predation, primarily by foxes but also by dogs and cats, and loss of habitat by clearing of vegetation which removes patches where they can live and limits their capacity to move between remaining patches.

What the community can do to protect the endangered species:

The Department of Sustainability and Environment said on their fact sheet there are a number of things the community can do including:

  • Controlling foxes on your property
  • Creating new habitat or improving remaining patches by planting appropriate indigenous understory species
  • Considering staged weed removal and replacing weeds with appropriate native plants
  • Linking patches of habitat with corridors
  • Keeping cats and dogs under control at all times

If you are interested in joining a volunteer group to protect the endangered species then visit Great Ocean Road Coast Committee’s (GORCC) volunteer group and opportunities page.

For information on what is involved with coastal volunteering visit GORCC’s volunteer page.

For further information on how to protect our flora and fauna visit DSE, Greening Australia , or Trust for Nature.

Related Blog Posts: 

 img_041811Counteracting the Coast Tea-Tree invasion
qp-boneseed Weed Profile: Boneseed
bridalcreeper1 Queens Park blitz a group effort  
 dsc00218Sensors to stop stealthy predators

Winning battles in the war on weeds

There’s a war on weeds being staged at the Great Otway National Park and some dedicated environmental warriors have been winning significant battles.

The Friends of Eastern Otways have been working tirelessly to protect and rehabilitate the internationally significant coastal heathlands at Anglesea – renowned for their wonderful flora and fauna biodiversity.

The 1983 bushfires that swept through the Anglesea area allowed many environmental weeds to invade these precious heathlands smothering and crowding out many smaller, more delicate, indigenous plant species.

More recently, fuel reduction and ecological burns have also influenced an increase in the weed load due to stored seedbanks in the ground responding to the stimulation of fire.

Coast Wattle and Coast Tea-tree have been the major offenders.  These plants form monocultures (meaning only that one species grows in the area) and smother all neighbouring plants.  Coast Wattle in its pure form, does in fact belong in the area but has hybridised with the Sallow Wattle in the form of a weed.

In 2005 the Friends of Eastern Otways commenced a project to remove the environmental weeds that had invaded the heathlands along the Great Ocean Road at Anglesea.  No replanting was required, as the existing seedbanks germinated following the removal of weeds and the addition of rain.

Various conservation, community and student groups have assisted with the project which has also been supported by Parks Vic, DSE and GORCC.  All these efforts have returned, what was an almost an impenetrable barrier of environmental weeds, into a highly admired heathland.

The wonderful success of this project has been marked by an impressive comeback from wildflowers and indigenous plants.

Silky Guinea-flower, Common Heath, Twiggy Daisy-bush, Common Wedge-pea, Silver Banksia, Chocolate Lilies and Native Violets are just some of the flowers growing where weeds have been removed, while terrestrial orchids can be found scattered throughout this restored environment.

Despite the accomplishment, work must continue in the area.  Environmental weed seedlings continue to appear and the war is never won.

Would you like to help?

The Friends of Eastern Otways meet on the second Tuesday of each month in the above area near the corner of the Great Ocean Road and O’Donohue Road, Anglesea from 9.30am to 11.00am.

This small group of volunteers work in a beautiful setting against an ocean backdrop to ensure that this very special area of the Great Otway National Park is protected for future generations to appreciate and enjoy.  The group would love to have some more helpers and you will be ensured of a warm welcome if you would like to come along.

Contact Margaret MacDonald (03) 5289 6326 or

This article was published in the Surf Coast Times as part of the publications fortnightly “Going Green Column”.

Playful whale heralds in a great day for forum goers

The Community Forum for Coastal Volunteers last Sunday, 29 August 2010, turned out to be quite an experience for all concerned.

Throughout the day, Fairhaven Surf Life Saving Club was abuzz with the conversation and laughter of some 40 voices as a playful whale made the most of the glassy waves on offer, delighting and sometimes distracting participants from forum proceedings.

With some arriving after very long drives from as far away as Princetown, the first order of the day was morning tea and pit stops before Coast Action/Coastcare Facilitator Jess Brown welcomed everyone to the forum and introduced facilitator Geoff Brown.

Geoff got straight down to business working with the group to map out the connections between the various groups and agencies represented, including by inviting everyone to ‘find their tribe’. A number of tribes quickly formed, primarily along geographic and/or organisational type lines (e.g. Land Manager Tribe, Community Volunteer Group Tribe). Queens Park

It was fascinating to see which tribe people saw themselves as belonging to, with the sole Princetown representative welcomed into the Anglesea community tribe and Friends of Queens Park ending up in the land manager tribe.

This exercise highlighted the different types of connections and the benefits of building constructive networks – a perfect introduction into the three guest speaker presentations that followed:

  • Graeme Stockton outlined the achievements of his group, Surfers Appreciating the Natural Environment (SANE), in protecting and conserving the many values of the Bells Beach Surfing Reserve  Bells Beach
  • Gail Chrisfield described how one little hooded plover helped to introduce the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee to the possibilities afforded by social media to connect and engage with people online, and
  • Margaret Macdonald used a case study to illustrate how the community connections between Friends of Eastern Otways and other groups were having a positive impact on the coastal environment around the iconic Great Ocean Road Memorial Arch. PR Plover and his missus

Then it was time for everyone else to share their own stories with others via a ‘Jumpstart Story’ process that enabled one to quickly listen and share with at least half those gathered before identifying the five or six most inspiring stories for further investigation by the whole group.

The conversations continued flowing throughout a very lively lunch, interspersed with visits to the top of the grassy knoll to view the whale who, by now, looked to have taken up residence out the front of the club.

Fed and watered, the group soon settled down after lunch into the task of future gazing, using a magic wand to look at goals and hopes for the future. The stories from the morning session proved useful in identifying the ‘X factors’ for success, including the skills, capacities and connections among the volunteer groups that are already in place and can be built on. Moggs Creek

Meanwhile the various land managers worked on simple but enlightening role statements to support them in communicating and connecting with others.

Finally, the home straight was in plain sight (as was the whale – still!) as the discussion moved to the next steps needed to making the future a reality, with the first step being to share what happened at the forum via this blog.

In all, the day provided a fantastic opportunity to connect and share with others whose passion is caring for the coast. A big heartfelt thank you to Coast Action/Coastcare Facilitator Jess Brown who put in a lot of hard work and effort to put it all together and make it happen.

Over the coming weeks, the stories emerging from the forum, the lessons we learnt, the goals and wishes for our various groups and our coast, and the next steps we need to take will be progressively added to this blog for participants to refer to and comment on, and to share with those who weren’t there, including people we don’t even know from coasts in other parts of the world.

We look forward to sharing these experiences with you and invite you to post your impressions, thoughts and ideas to this blog – and to spread the word to others.