Coast Guardians twitch for Aussie Backyard Bird Count

Last month, the Great Ocean Road Coast Committee’s Coast Guardians from Geelong Lutheran College took part in the “Aussie Backyard Bird Count”, an annual citizen science project now in its sixth year run by BirdLife Australia.

Students learned to identify a few common species before the tally and used bird ID books, binoculars and the app field guide to identify as many birds as they could in a 20-minute period. With iPads in hand, ears and eyes ready to get twitching, students worked in groups to log their bird sightings into the app.

Year 9 students from Geelong Lutheran College logging their bird sightings into the Aussie Backyard Bird Count app.

The Coast Guardians submitted a total of 11 checklists, identifying 25 different species between the Gap and the wetlands in Torquay. Geelong Lutheran College has helped to make this location a great area of biodiversity with the revegetation of the Whites Gap car park area over a seven-year period participating in the Coast Guardians program.

The most common sighted bird at this location was the Welcome Swallow as there were a lot of insects buzzing around for them to snack on. The Red Wattlebird and New Holland Honeyeater were also in abundance. One special bird we were pleased to see was the Yellow-rumped Thornbill feeding on the ground beneath the bushes.

The Yellow-rumped Thornbill is the largest and probably the best-known
thornbill, with a striking yellow rump. Photo: BirdLife Australia.

We discussed where the data went to and its value in assisting scientists to spot indicator birds for change, which were most common, and which are declining in numbers. The students were amazed at how many birds they could spot, once they had practice in getting their eye in. This was a great lesson in patience and well-being in nature. The students found it relaxing and were keen to do more surveys.

As of publication, the count for Australia was over 106,000 lists submitted and over 3.6 million birds sighted across 680 species. What a brilliant opportunity for Coast Guardians to participate in a community activity and contribute to science and understanding of nature! Thanks to the app, anybody can contribute as a citizen scientists at www.aussiebirdcount.org.au/submit-a-count/.

Learn more about the Coast Guardians program and how your local school can become involved in this immersive environmental education program for year 9 students at www.gorcc.com.au/education/.

About us
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 www.gorcc.com.au.

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: www.inaturalist.org/projects/surfcoast-september-bioblitz-2019.

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 www.gorcc.com.au.

Nurdles prove major hurdle for marine life

What’s a nurdle? A nurdle is a very small pellet of plastic which serves as the key material in the manufacture of plastic products. Countless billions of these small plastic balls are used each year to make nearly all our plastic products.

Accidental spillage and mishandling means that countless nurdles have ended up in our oceans, wreaking havoc on the environment.

Mistaken for food by our marine-life and seabirds, nurdles and other plastics can make animals very sick when ingested.

Read more

Vandals trash Jan Juc woodland

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee is calling on the community to help put an end to the damage caused by illegal party sites in threatened Moonah woodlands along the coastal clifftops at Jan Juc.

Illegal access and campfires were again discovered in the sensitive vegetation, causing significant environmental damage in the protected area and placing lives at risk. Read more

Volunteer Week ft. Eion Beaton

National Volunteer Week (NVW) is an annual celebration to acknowledge the generous contribution more than 6 million Australian volunteers make to communities across the nation.

The Great Ocean Road Coast Committee are grateful for the support environmental volunteer groups contribute to help preserve the natural coastline for future generations. This week we would like to showcase some of our dedicated volunteers and say thank-you for their ongoing contributions to the environment. Read more