Gippsland High Country Tours
Ecotours and Walking in the High Country and East Gippsland Regions of Victoria


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Archived News  
   
Alpine Discovery Tour 10/7/07 Reedy Creek Chasm 2/2/07
Birds of the Snowy River 24/8/01 Smoky Mouse research 2/2/07
Birthday celebrations 3/8/11 Snowy River & Errinundra Explorer 3/8/11
Cape Conran Explorer 3/8/11 Strzelecki Track & Cooper Creek 3/8/11
Cattle Grazing in Alpine National Park - update 3/8/11 Tali Karng 21/1/11
Croajingolong Coastal Ecotour 23/1/11 Walk Mt Howitt & Tali Karng 3/8/11
Croajingolong National Park 24/8/08 Weeding Sea Spurge 2/2/07
Eastern Peak Walk 24/8/08 Wonders of Wildlife – New Year 24/8/08
Flinders Ranges Natural History Tour 3/8/11 Wonders of Wildlife 21/1/11
International Year of the Forest 3/8/11 Fire Photos
Mt Feathertop 23/1/11 Bushfire News (Feb 2007)
Paddle steamer Curlip 24/8/08 Bushfire News(Dec 2006)

News 25/2/12

Whether you call it walking, hiking, tramping or trekking, there will be something to appeal to you in the spring program.  As well as the new guided walk above, the regular range of tried and true favourites can be found on the walking ecotours pageP. Spend a whole week walking in Croajingolong, or take a short restful break  enjoying a variety of Walks from Waterholes Guesthouse.  For the slightly more adventurous there is a fantastic moderate-Challenging walk in the Victorian Alps Walk Mt Howitt and Tali Karng.  

If you’d like to explore further afield, I still have a few vacancies left of each of the interstate natural history tours.  The Strzelecki Track & Cooper Creek in May, then the Flinders Ranges in September.  Be quick and take this great opportunity to see the birds, wildlife and plants after two good seasons in the arid environment. Whether you are a birdwatching, a photographer or just love the new plants, the history or the landscapes, these trips will have some thing for you.

   

Easter 2012, I have a small group wildlife research tour seeking out the feathers, frogs and furry things of part of the Snowy River National Park. Wonders of Wildlife – Snowy River is a three day action packed experience getting to know some great wildlife rarely seen by casual visitors.  Over previous survey trips to this site we have added over 25 new species to the Atlas of Victorian Wildlife database.

Rather than just a holiday you will be contributing to conservation efforts while your guides share their love and knowledge of the animals and birds of these diverse forests.

I expect most of you have heard by now that the federal government minister Tony Burke has ruled that Victoria’s cattle grazing trials in the Alpine National Park cannot proceed as they now contravene the federal EPBC Act.  This once again demonstrate the nationally significant values that exist in Victoria’s Alpine National Park

If you would like to follow some of the background on the grazing trial proposal and opposition, see the following websites-

Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) explains its cattle grazing trial  www.dse.vic.gov.au  (Then go to the Parks & Reserves page, then Whats New page)

Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) explains its opposition to the cattle grazing trial  www.vnpa.org.au

My Autumn Newsletter is a bumper issue with the 2012 program, news from East Gippsland and the High Country and highlights from recent participants. I am proud to introduce a new environmentally friendly printer for my hard copy Newsletters. Black Rainbow Printing advocate and use 100% post consumer waste recycled paper, vege-based inks, benign press chemicals and are 100% solar powered.  See what a difference your environmentally responsible printing choice can make.

If you would like to receive the Newsletter and are not already on my database please use the Contact page to let me know.  You can request the Newsletter either electronically as a pdf. file or as a hard copy mailed via Australia Post.


News 3/8/11

As we leave winter behind and think cheery thoughts of sunshine and wildflowers, now is the time to plan ahead and think of all the wonderful experiences we can enjoy over the warmer months of the year. This spring celebrate the 20th birthday of Gippsland High Country Tours and there are some great specials on offer, but only until September 30, so be quick.

Perhaps start with the program/calendar page for an overview of the forthcoming program, then click through to more information on each trip.  From there you can contact me to receive the full day by day itineraries for any of the trips.  Please express interest in trips early as some book out quickly.

I appreciate those clients who have helped me make these 20 years such a success.  Over 60% of participants on my trips are repeat clients and almost half of the new clients come to me through word of mouth! I also want to thank Tom, Maria, Hans, Katherine and others who have helped out as guides over the years. Although I no longer lead every trip myself, I still lead most and thoroughly enjoy spending time out there in the bush with you. 

Repeat participants have been rewarded as part of my birthday celebrations with travel vouchers awarded to five people who have travelled over 50 days on various trips with me and another six people who have travelled on more than 9 individual trips with me. The top award goes to June Soutter who first travelled with me in 1993 and most recently in 2009.  Over these 17 years, June has joined 12 trips travelling with me for 87 days!!  Travel vouchers also went to five people who have recommended my trips to the most number of new clients.  Thank you for your loyalty, it is great to have satisfied customers.

For me this has been two decades of meeting wonderful people and exploring together, discovering the wonders of a wide range of different environments. I have enjoying watching your excitement at new discoveries and as many of you know, I get pretty excited at new discoveries myself!  Nature has a habit of providing unexpected surprises even when you are a regular visitor to a particular site.

I enjoy the challenge of your many questions; curiosity about the natural world is a wonderful thing.  Many of you arrive and tell me that you are not very knowledgeable, but you are almost all excellent observers which is the best place to start!  If you can observe and be curious, the learning will follow. For many of you the experience is also about having time to indulge in some quiet time, to contemplate and reflect. In our busy modern lives, taking time out in natural surroundings is such a luxury.  Time and space to think and to gain inspiration is precious. 

Dust off your walking shoes for a great spring walk in the Alps this November Walk Mt Howitt & Tali Karng.  Graded moderate to challenging this one suits fit walker who enjoy good long day walks from a base camp. Spectacular mountain views, waterfalls, vast open plains and snowgum forests.  There will be early wildflowers and smooth trunked snowgums to enjoy. Imagine peaceful high country evenings and the joy of early morning in the mountains. Small group, no more than 10 participants, just enough for good conversation and laughs as you walk. Paul use panorama photo “Walking Mt Howitt” either across above this or beside it.

New for this year is Cape Conran Explorer, which is led by Maria who has a great love of this special part of East Gippsland’s coastline. Places on the spring trip in October will fill fast, but it will also be on offer for autumn 2012.

Imagine spring wildflowers in the coastal heathland, lots of birdlife, cabin accommodation and easy-moderate grade walks. Highlights include a wonderful boardwalk, Salmon Rocks, the mouth of the Snowy River, Cabbage Tree Palms Reserve and the estuary of the Yeerung River with its beautiful reflections. 

Your highlight may well be an evening spotlight walk with Maria to meet the local wildlife.  Cape Conran is well known for its abundant small mammals (thanks to the Southern Ark project removing foxes) so as well as the possibility of seeing or hearing gliding possums and owls, you are likely to see Potoroos and bandicoots not far from your cabins.  What a privilege! 

Maria will have lots of interesting information to share with you and you will learn lots about these special creatures.


Yeerung River
   
There are 2 great “Beyond the High Country” Natural History Tours scheduled for 2012. In May for the first time, I am offering my very popular Strzelecki Track & Cooper Creek Arid Environment Natural History Tour without the camping component, so it will be fully accommodated!  You can experience all these wonderful outback destinations without needing to camp.  After the amazing rains in central Australiaover the past two years, we expect to reap the benefits of the good season.  Trees and plants will be refreshed and have experienced bumper growth.  Bird and wildlife numbers are expected to have increased in response to a greater food supply.   Full day by day itinerary is available now, but don’t delay.
   

Then in September Flinders Ranges Natural Hitory Tour which was new to my program a couple of years ago, but is firmly establishing itself as a favourite.  The Flinders Ranges is a very classical outback destination but so many tour companies rush you through, with just a superficial look.  On this trip you get to delve deeper and really get to know the Flinders and what makes it special. When you look up close the geology is fascinating, ancient folded rocks, fossils and millions of years of weathering to create stunning overall scenery. Dry creek beds boast majestic redgums whose shady branches are home to birds and wildlife. The birdlife of the Flinders is varied and will provide many joys for birdwatchers.  We have plenty of time for birdwatching (see the link above to find the birdlist) so the birdlist grows with every trip. 

   
Back in East Gippsland, in autumn 2012 I will be offering a NEW ecotour focussing on getting to know the shells and seashore life of the East Gippsland coast. Like many people I am sure you have admired shells found washed up on beaches, but have you ever wondered who once lived inside them? I will be joined by Alan Monger who specialises in shells and we will have a great time wandering along beaches, paddling in the shallows and investigating rock pools to discover shells and seashore creatures and learn something of their ecology.  To register your interest and receive the full day to day itinerary when it is available contact me now.
   

Birds of the Snowy River is a great opportunity to experience the variety of birds found in and around the Snowy River valley. Every time we are thrilled by some very special bird sightings. 

Scarlet Honeyeaters have made some special appearances on recent trips but even the more common bird species often provide us with extended time watching them go about their day to day business.  Our total list of bird species seen over various trips is creeping up higher with every visit. 

But this trip is not about ticking off birds (even though new sightings are always exciting) it’s about appreciating birds and getting to know them.  If you are new to birding, this is a great introduction and an opportunity to develop you skills at identifying birds and actually spotting them.

Share bird experiences with others in our very small group (no more than 5 participants) and enjoy a very cosy home away from home for 3 nights at “Kurrajong” Deddick where birdwatching can be as simple as a relaxed cuppa on the veranda as the birds come to you! 

This year, 2011 is International Year of the Forest. For many Australians a forest conjures up images of tall straight eucalypts, shading beneath them a world of ferns and smaller plants. But forests are not just about the trees, they are full of life from the soil below to the treetops above.  They sustain birds, animals, invertebrates and plants of all descriptions plus other important groups of living organisms that we often overlook - fungi, mosses and liverworts.  Forests play an important role in the natural ecosystem and they are an amazing system of life in themselves with each part dependent on others in an often fine balance.

Forests are also great carbon storages.  According to a recent CSIRO paper, the world’s intact forests absorb about one third of our carbon emissions every year.  This makes forest the most effective and immediate carbon storage solution we have. But our forests are subject to many threats, from commercial forestry operations, to clearing for agricultural or development as well as the effects of climate change and more frequent fires. 

When did you last visit a forest? Maybe you would like to re-acquaint yourself with a forest this year or visit a forest type that is new to you.  East Gippsland is home to many wonderful forests.  The Snowy River National Park boasts Mountain Ash forest in the southern sections, while further north near McKillops Bridge, you will find Callitris (cypress pine) forests. Croajingolong National Park has diverse coastal and foothill forests as well as small warm temperate rainforests.  High on the Errinundra plateau you will find cool temperate rainforest as well as old growth eucalypt forests of Errinundra Shining gums. As we head up into the alps we find another magnificent “forest”- the snowgum woodland.  What a variety of forest experiences… just waiting for you!

If you have been following the Victorian Government’s promise to return cattle grazing to the Alpine National Park, you might have been wondering what has happened recently.  The short answer is that we do not know for sure.  According to The Age on July 20th, a DSE spokesperson said ''We are working through the design of the longer-term research trial, informed by the outcomes of year one of the trial,'' she said. ''The state has maintained that, as required, it will refer the trial to the Commonwealth when the design process is complete.''  There is no new information available on the DSE website yet explaining how or when this will take place. According to The Age the department has not responded to freedom-of-information requests for details of the trial lodged by the Victorian National Parks Association, which has now referred the issue to the Victorian Civil and Administrative Tribunal. The Age quoted Association spokesman Philip Ingamells as saying that the government was imposing an extraordinary level of secrecy to fulfill an ill-considered promise to hand the park back to a ''privileged group'' of cattle grazers. The article in The Age has prompted further comment in the media so keeping an eye on the media and checking the following websites is the best way to stay informed about the issue.

Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE) explains its cattle grazing trial  www.dse.vic.gov.au  (Then go to the Parks & Reserves page, then Whats New page)

Victorian National Parks Association (VNPA) explains its opposition to the cattle grazing trial  www.vnpa.org.au

My Spring Newsletter is a bumper issue with the 2011-12 program, news from East Gippsland and the High Country and stories from recent participants.

If you would like to receive the Newsletter and are not already on my database please use the Contact page to let me know.  You can request the Newsletter either electronically as a fairly large pdf. file or as a hard copy mailed via Australia Post.

 
News - 23/1/11
   

Give yourself time out of your ordinary routine to slow down a bit and immerse yourself in nature – its amazing how much this can rejuvenate you.

Perhaps start with the program/calendar page for an overview of the forthcoming program, then click through to more information on each trip.  From there you can contact me to receive the full day by day itineraries for any of the trips.  Please express interest in trips early as some book out quickly.

Autumn brings a new tour Cape Conran Explorer which will be led by Maria who is keen to share some of her favourite parts of East Gippsland with you.  Fully accommodated in basic cabin accommodation, this trip includes easy to medium grade walks exploring glorious ocean beaches, estuaries, coastal heath and foothill forest.  This one is sure to be popular so enquire early to receive more details. 

This year the autumn backpacking expedition for fit energetic walkers is Tali Karng Bushwalk.  Often called the hidden lake, Tali Karng is the only deep natural lake in the Victorian Alps.  With special significance to the Gunai Kurnai people, this sacred site was often wrongly thought to be unknown to aboriginal people. 

The hidden nature of the lake is highlighted by explorer Alfred Howitt’s many unsuccessful attempts to reach it. Our approach from the Wellington Plains requires a steep descent so you will be glad to enjoy some quality time relaxing at the lake’s shores.  Water from the lake seeps out of the rocks in the Valley of Destruction to form the infant Wellington River, which we will follow (crossing over a dozen times) after we leave the lake.

Graded Moderately Difficult you carry a full backpack (16-18kg) for 4 days away from vehicle support, including some steep gradients. If you’d like a more gentle experience of Tali Karng a Moderate option requires pack carrying on 2 days only and the lake is visited on a Day Walk.

Easter brings a very special wildlife experience for a small group to enjoy.  Wonders of Wildlife – Snowy River is an opportunity to meet local wildlife close up and participate in a research project gathering data on wildlife of the Snowy River National Park. Evening spotlight walks feature nocturnal mammals never usually encountered during daytime travels. The sounds are fascinating, frogs calling, screeching gliders and maybe even an owl!  Sometimes all is quiet, the starts are brilliant and you feel privileged to be in the bush and part of this usually private world. By day there are special straps to set up with tasty baits.  Your naturalist guides will have lots to fascinating facts to share with you about the individual animals captured as data is collected and they are safely released back into the bush.  You guides will also discuss the bigger picture, how do wildlife cope with fire, what threats do they face from climate change, feral animals and more.  What management is required to help protect individual species and biodiversity as a whole?

Back home in the High Country and East Gippsland, spring will bring one of my firm favourites Croajingolong Coastal Ecotour. Whether you are a birdwatcher, a wildflower enthusiast or just someone who enjoys easy walks in wonderful outdoor setting surrounded by nature, this trip has something for you.  Scheduled for October, which is about the peak of the spring wildflower season in Croajingolong.  Fully accommodated you will enjoy the charm of historic lighthouse keepers cottages at Point Hicks Lighthouse. A highlight is a guided tour inside the lighthouse itself with the option of climbing the staircase to the light-room at the top.  The cottage verandas look out over the headland and out to sea and what a great place for lunch (or breakfast, or dinner, or any reason at all….) Keep your eyes peeled for seals, whales and a Sea Eagle souring overhead, gannets diving for fish or just enjoy the changing colour and patterns of the ocean and the clouds above. There are lots of easy walks and as we leave the Lighthouse behind, explore Wingan Inlet and on to Mallacoota area.  Gipsy Point Lodge will spoil us for the final nights, the lounge overlooking a tranquil river scene, the expansive garden and grounds to explore and wonderful hospitality. Again more walks, new experiences and your guides have a wealth of knowledge to share with you.  This tour often books out, so don’t leave it till the last minute.

Walkers who appreciate good challenging walks and spectacular mountain scenery can combine the two on Mt Feathertop Adventure in January 2012.  Five days immersed in Alpine scenery, snowgums with shapely twisted trunks and smooth bark, mountains further than the eye can see, soft snowgrass waving gently

in the summer breeze and wildflowers at your feet.  You won’t just be looking at all this you will be walking through it.  Moderate to challenging walks take you through a variety of settings and culminating with the long full day walk out the Razorback ridge to Mt Feathertop.  Wow! Spoiled for views, this is a magical day. There is no camping though, you return every night to cosy lodge accommodation with hot showers to soothe tired muscles and a lounge to put your feet up and relax in. Then your meal appears before you. Now that’s not roughing it!  You do need to be fit though so make sure you can factor in some time “training” and preparing so you will get the maximum enjoyment from the walks.

Right now a very topical issue is the decision by the new Victorian Coalition Government to honour their election promise and return cattle grazing to the Alpine National Park. 

In 2005 Gippsland High Country Tours fully supported the removal of cattle from the Alpine National Park.  The current government has returned cattle grazing in order to conduct a research project led by Department of Sustainability and Environment to assess the benefits and impacts of cattle grazing as a fuel reduction tool. 

If you would like to be more informed about this issue please Click here to download a Word document with facts on this issue, links to other websites and links to recent media articles.

My Autumn Newsletter is a bumper issue with the full 2011 program, news from East Gippsland and the High Country and stories from recent participants. Hear about the success of the Southern Ark project and much more.

If you would like to receive either Newsletter and are not already on my database please use the Contact to contact page please) page to let me know.  You can request the Newsletter either electronically as a fairly large pdf. file or as a hard copy mailed via Australia Post.


News - 24/8/08

Spring is just around the corner, the wattles are in bloom already and a myriad of spring and summer wildflowers are starting to appear.  Get in quickly and plan an escape, leaving behind the pressures of modern life and enjoy a slower pace immersed in nature.  The spring/summer program includes lots of variety with many old favourites featuring whether they be walking tours or more leisurely nature encounters.

If you love dense ferny forests with enormous eucalypts towing above you, Errinundra National Park is a must.  Tucked away in the mountains of East Gippsland it is true hidden treasure. 

Soft leaf-covered tracks wind gently through the magnificent forests, often shrouded in mountain mist and make a perfect setting for short easy walks. 

Snowy River & Errinundra Explorer Tour combines this beauty with the legendary Snowy River National Park where you will find more tall forests plus gorge and waterfall scenes and of course the Snowy River itself. 

Paddle your toes in the water, wonder at the smooth rocks and sandy “beaches” and enjoy the birdlife.  McKillops Bridge over the Snowy is captivating, not just a majestic structure, but one with an amazing history!

Are you an active walker who seeks out energetic walks in wild places?  Perhaps you should try Eastern Peaks Walk exploring the remote eastern peaks of the Alpine National Park.  Not a ski lift in sight, very few visitors and wilderness as far as the eye can see. 

From the top of the highest peak in the area, Mt Cobberas 1, you can see for a long way too… Mt Kosciusko will still have a mantle of snow left and beneath the intervening mountains, the Murray River has its beginnings. 

It is Cowombat Flat, the headwaters of the mighty Murray that make the destination for another long day walk.  Stand with one foot in NSW and one foot in Victoria and visualise the long journey the Murray has to reach the ocean in South Australia.

Does birdwatching interest you more than long walks?  If so imagine leisurely days with ample time for birdwatching with small group of like-minded travellers. 

With more than 6 participants Birds of the Snowy River is a dedicated birdwatching trip getting to know the lovely range of birds found in the Snowy River valley. 

Birds of the dry open woodland feature strongly, with regular favourites and some exciting unusual finds for your birdlist.  Not for twitchers, this trip is not just about spotting birds, but spending time enjoying watching them go about their daily routines.;

This coming season I am offering three departures of this popular trip, but book early as they will fill quickly.

Christmas will sneak up on us quickly enough and with it the New Year.  How do you spend New Year?   Would you like to exchange the loud parties and fireworks for a quieter New Year spent in the forests of East Gippsland?  Again this year I am offering the opportunity for a very different New Year experience getting to know the wildlife of East Gippsland.  Wonders of Wildlife Ecotour allows you to participate in a research project to investigate how the wildlife populations have coped with recent bushfires.  With wildlife records for the Haunted Stream going back to 1995, it will be interesting to see how different species have fared since the fires.  Evening spotlight walks will look and listen for signs of nocturnal wildlife, the gliding possums, large forest owls and tiny insectivorous bats. During the day set and check special traps to safely capture small mammals, search for frogs beside the cool stream and enjoy the peace and quiet.  And why is it called The Haunted Stream? …. you will just have to come along and hear the story for yourself!!

Moving down from the mountain, you can venture into the south east coast wilderness where you will find Croajingolong National Park.  Perfect for leisurely nature lovers or energetic walkers, Croajingolong offers so much variety in scenery and in natural habitats.  The wildlife is varied and very visible, out to sea seals and whales, on land enchanting lizards, wallabies and of course a splendid range of bird species.  There is a great history, stories of shipwrecks and lighthouses of the indigenous people, the Gunai/Kurnai who called this rich coastline home long before white settlement.  Even today we can find ample evidence of their presence in the area.  This spring I am offering two great departures to explore this jewel of East Gippsland.  Both stay in cottages at Point Hicks Lighthouse for three nights, followed by nights spent in the luxury of Gipsy Point Lodge near Mallacoota.  Croajingolong Coastal Ecotour is an easy slow paced trip ideal for nature lovers and birdwatchers.  Plenty of short easy walks and all at a very leisurely pace.   If longer walks are more your thing, then Walking Croajingolong is for you. Walk all morning, enjoy lunch then walk all afternoon.

In the pipeline… an active conservation trip where you volunteer you time to help deal with a nasty environmental weed, Sea Spurge which is threatening the Croajingolong Coast.  Ecotourism is about giving something back to the environment as we travel and Croajingolong needs your help! We always hand pull plants we encounter, but this will be a dedicated weeding trip seeking out infestations along the coast.  Fully accommodated and a meal prepared for you at the end of each industrious day helping the environment.  Contact me for more details.

A fantastic community project is drawing to the end of the first stage in the town of Orbost on the banks of the Snowy River, near its mouth.  Here in a shed dubbed “The boat shed” an ambitious project was initiated to build the “Paddle Steamer Curlip II”.  The original PS Curlip once plied the waters of the Snowy and Brodribb Rivers.  With grant funding and support from local businesses and volunteers a shapely paddle steamer is taking shape.  An engine and boiler had to be acquired and the challenges of re-creating a faithful copy of the original had to be blended with modern safety and marine board standards.  Now as the boat nears completion another challenge has to be overcome, the door of the shed is not big enough!  Ah, but the industrious locals had taken that into account and will remove the entire front of the shed to slip the nearly 20m long boat onto a low loader for its precarious trip under the Prices Highway bridge and to its launching place near Marlo.  There will only be a few inches to spare under the bridge even with the paddle wheel boxes, canopy and chimney removed and I think a few people will be holding their breathe!  Soon I will be able to offer the option of a cruise on the “PS Curlip II” as part of trips that return through Orbost.  A step back in time.

My Spring Newsletter  is out now with an update on the forthcoming program, news from the High Country and stories from recent participants.  Even a story about the PS Curlip II.

If you would like to receive either Newsletter and are not already on my database please use the Contact page to let me know.  You can request the Newsletter either electronically as a large pdf. file or as a hard copy mailed via Australia Post.


News - 7/10/07

Be inspired as you sit on the soft snowgrass surrounded by summer wildflowers, the blue sky above and in every direction, magnificent vistas of endless mountains. 

A cool breeze tempers the warmth of the summer sun and you are reminded how clear the air is up here.  Feel as free as the eagle, sailing on the air currents and watch in wonder as a Flame Robin snatches an insect to carry to its young.

The Alpine National Park is full of life over summer once the winter snows have melted and the Alpine Discovery Tour  in January is a great opportunity to experience this.  Plants burst into bloom to take advantage of the warm sunshine, spotted grasshoppers, colourful butterflies and beetles are everywhere.  Bushfires affected parts of the alps, but so much more is still green and beautiful.... beckoning you to come and be inspired by nature. 

 

As with last year the New Year Wonders of Wildlife Ecotour will be spent getting to know the wildlife of the Snowy River National Park.  Last year we added 22 wildlife species to the Atlas of Victorian Wildlife Database for just a small part of the Park.  Instead of noisy parties, you can listen to the sounds of the bush on New Year’s Eve.  Maybe it will be calls of gliding possums high in the Mountain Ash forest,  Maybe a chorus of frog calls around a waterhole.  Maybe just the gentle summer breeze blowing the leaves.

Have you ever gazed into the eyes of a tiny microbat weighing just 4 grams?  Have you seen just how long the whiskas are on native rodents?  And Antechinus, just manage to work their way into everyone’s hearts. One of the highlights last year was watching a goanna who lumbered known the road past our camp while we sat and ate lunch. Such a prehistoric gait!  So come along and enjoy an action-packed three days away from the “rat-race” immersed in nature.

 
Lake Tali Karng, one of Victorias most popular walking destinations has been closed this year following summer bushfires and then a massive storm and flood event.  With access roads and bridges washed away along the Wellington River, the area has remained closed, however there are hopes that over summer, some alternative road access may be available and some walking tracks in the area may re-open.  My Tali Karng Bushwalk which uses the McFarlane Saddle route into Lake Tali Karng is planned for autumn, so book in early as I will only take a small group of 6 participants.
 
Easy walks in two very special National Parks, magnificent scenery, spring wildflowers and a local ecotour guide to share stories of history and introduce you to plants and wildlife... what a fantastic way to spend a spring holiday!  With every night in cosy accommodation, Snowy River & Errinundra Explorer in November is a delight not to be missed.
 

Errinundra National Park is tucked away high in the mountains of Victoria's East Gippsland region and is home to extensive old-growth eucalypt forests and ancient cool-temperate rainforest. Here the forests of Errinundra Plateau are often shrouded in mountain mists creating a very special atmosphere amongst the tall trees.  Spring brings a splash of colour to the forests as the Gippsland Waratah blooms with its brilliant crimson flowers.  Birdlife is prolific and the treeferns are just unfurling their new bright green fronds.

The Snowy River National Park offers contrasting scenes of both tall forests and open woodlands.  The variety of birds in this woodland is delightful and vantage points give magnificent views over the Snowy River Valley and fold after fold of mountain ranges. 

There will be an opportunity to paddle your feet in the Snowy River itself, enjoy lookouts over gorge and waterfall scenes and listen to tales of a rich history.


Walking with the world at your feet.  Walking through a carpet of summer wildflowers.  Walking just because you enjoy walking in the clear mountain air.  Mt Feathertop Adventure in January will give you all this and much more with really good walks either a short drive or just a walk away from our ski lodge accommodation. 



 

Wander around on the roof on Victoria and challenge yourself with the highlight which is an energetic full day walk (22km return) along the Razorback Ridge to Mt Feathertop.  This popular trip fills fast, so contact me soon for more details.
 

In May 2008 I again offer you the opportunity to join us on a fantastic Arid Environment Natural History Tour, Strzelecki Track and Cooper Creek.  This is quite a contrast to the High Country! 

Led by a  naturalist guide you will discover the plants and wildlife of the diverse habitats we encounter.

The scenery changes from flat gibber plains, to chalky grey white sand formations, the beautiful deep waterholes of Cooper Creek , and red sand dunes.

As well as nature experience, there is a rich history to be told.  Cooper Creek was land of plenty for aboriginal people, however Burke and Wills perished here from malnutrition. At Mungo we go further back to learn about very early aboriginal occupation.  There will be glorious outback sunrises and sunsets as we camp along the tree-lined banks of Cooper  Creek and you will enjoy enormous star-filled skies.  Morning is a great time for birdwatching so there is usually a good turn-up for the “before breakfast” bird walk each morning. 

 

My Spring Newsletter is now available and includes the following-

  • Croajingolong Calling (Frogs in Croajingolong National Park)
  • Stories from recent participants on their impressions of Croajingolong
  • An account of spring in the Snowy River & Errinundra National Parks
  • Mud builders (a story of the mud-brick builders of the bird world)
  • Wildlife Research News
  • Cats and wildlife
  • Strzelecki Track Arid Environment Natural History Tour
  • Lots of walks
  • And more

If you would like to receive either Newsletter and are not already on my database please use the Contact page to let me know.  You can request the Newsletter either electronically as a large pdf. file or as a hard copy mailed via Australia Post.

 

 

News - 2/2/07

Autumn sees me head for the coast with the ever popular departure of Croajingolong Coastal Ecotour in March. 

What do participants love best about this trip? The easy walks and relaxed pace to take everything in – not just look but really experience Victoria’s Wilderness coast.  They are amazed by the really diverse environments of Croajingolong National Park along with the coastal plants, birds and wildlife. 

They love the history and the very special atmosphere at Point Hicks Lighthouse, but then there’s the luxury of being spoilt at Gipsy Point Lodge too. 

 

Thanks to the alertness of one of my participants, I have been able to identify patches of the invasive coastal weed, Sea Spurge, growing on beaches in Croajingolong National Park. 

During two spring trips, participants helped me weed some selected areas and we identified and mapped the extent of the infestation in other areas too large to tackle at the time.  Information on the infestation has been fed back to local Parks Victoria rangers to assist them tackle the problem.  Collectively over the two trips we put in 12.5 “man hours” hand pulling, bagging and removing Sea Spurge.  A fantastic effort team and you were on holidays!! 

One beach is now Sea Spurge free and I hope to be able to watch it on future visits to ensure we pull any new seedlings appearing. 

 

 

Returning to my program in Easter 2007 after a break of many years is a challenging hiking adventure Reedy Creek Chasm Bushwalk.

The Chasm on Reedy Creek is small but spectacular and a hidden treasure amongst the rugged ridges and valleys of the Buchan Headwaters Wilderness Area in the Alpine National Park.

Two experienced walking guides will lead you through a good balance of pack carrying walks and day walks when you leave your pack at camp.

Once we leave the main track for our walks, the country is wild, rocky and steep, so you need to be both fit and adventurous to tackle this one. 

Wildlife are more common that walkers here, so even at Easter you can experience peace and solitude as well as some challenging walks.

NEW!!

A dedicated birdwatching tour to discover the fantastic birdlife of the Snowy River Valley.  To keep the group small and maximise you birding experiences, Birds of the Snowy River in March is limited to 7 participants and is filling up quickly.  The open white box woodland of the Snowy Valley is home to many woodland birds found here in good number, but often declining elsewhere.  In addition there are some interesting summer visitors.  White-winged Chough, Olive-backed Oriole, Brown Tree-creeper, Diamond Firetail, White browed Woodswallow and Rainbow Bee-eaters are just some of the bird species regularly sighted.  The scenery is breathtaking and we are fully accommodated at the lovely house “Kurrajong” on the Deddick River. If you are a keen bird watcher, don’t miss out, contact me for details soon.

Participants on my Eastern Peaks Walk in November were participating in some wildlife research activities as part of my wildlife research project - Threatened Fauna of the Cobberas Area when we made an exciting  discovery.  On the first morning, in the last trap we checked was the Endangered species that was the target of the project!  The Smoky Mouse is a small native rodent listed as a threatened species and endangered in Victoria due to isolated populations scattered across the state.  This first animal was a female and on the following days we captured two males. 

These are the first live Smoky Mice to be recorded in the East Alps Unit of the Alpine National Park for 10 years!  Each was carefully weighed and had data collected before being released back into the rock outcrop where they were captured. 

Further trips are planned for 2007 to gather vital data on the size of this population, their breeding activity and to map the habitat they are using.  Contact me if you are interested in participating in this significant Threatened species project or would like to contribute through sponsorship

Bushfires again dominate the headlines this summer in what is an unprecedented dry season.  The fire behaviour has been extreme and often unpredictable as the dry conditions prevail.

Fifty-five lightening strikes across the High Country on December 1 provided an enormous challenge to fire fighters and some in inaccessible country, took a hold before they could be controlled.  These fires grew and eventually merged to create one big fire. 

Slowly control was gained on many parts of the giant perimeter, but every time the heat rose and the winds picked up, there would be outbreaks to create fresh fingers or “runs of fire” into new areas.  When this happens fire crew have to start again to create new control lines, first with a bulldozer break, then careful back-burning to meet the oncoming fire.  The fire-fighting effort has been enormous with DSE, Parks Victoria and volunteer CFA working tirelessly together with other agencies to protect communities.  As weeks went by and crews began to tire, they were grateful for the influx of interstate and international crews which has allowed locals to take a break.

While the bulk of the fire area is in forested public land, many communities were impacted as it came out onto private land to threaten farms and houses.  Loss of houses, stock and fencing has been minimal compared with the overall area of fire, but no less heart-breaking for the individuals involved.  Thankfully  there has been no loss of life.

Bruthen featured strongly in the News in early January as the fire broke through containment lines to threaten our community.  It was heartening to receive calls and emails concerned over our welfare.  We were very lucky and spared direct attack from either the fire front or embers, often due to kindly southerly breezes.  It came close though, very close!  See fire photos. We did have quite one scary night when the main fire threw a spotfire onto the hill across the road, less than 2km from our house.

CLICK HERE for more fire photos

It was a wakeful night spend watching, but thankfully there was no wind and the spotfire did not grow or move much during the night.  It was a reassuring sight though, to see a CFA tanker patrolling our road every half hour keeping an eye on things.

Once control lines north of Bruthen were secure the threat eased here although we watched with concern the fire travelling north to settlements at Tambo Crossing and  Ensay.  As I type this, only a small “live edge” of fire west of Swifts Creek remains and that is close to being secured.  We expect news shortly that the whole fire is considered contained.  We know there will be hotspots and smouldering logs/stumps for months yet, but the threat will be over.  Hopefully there will be widespread rain before lightening has a chance to start anything elsewhere in the state this summer!  The good news is that Gippsland, East Gippsland and the High Country are now safe and open for travelers.  There are still closures on forest tracks within the fire area, but major tourist destination and routes are open.

I had to cancel all January departures on my program, not because they were burnt, but because of closures of roads and parts of the Alpine National Park.  The fire has been contained west of the Great Alpine Road (ie: between Bairnsdale and Omeo) so most of my 2007 tour program will go ahead with areas in East Gippsland unaffected.  The Lake Tali Karng bushwalk will be cancelled this year due to the fire and a couple of other tours are uncertain, awaiting the opportunity for me to conduct on the ground assessment. The calendar has a clear note for these departures.

 Please book early as many trips fill up quickly and last year a number of people missed out altogether.

My autumn Newsletter is now out with the following stories -

  • A clever poem telling of the fun and adventurous exploits on the Strzelecki Track & Cooper Creek Natural History Tour last May.
  • Another poem about a Snowy River & Errinundra experience.
  • A summary and update of the summer bushfires
  • A great bird story of a bushfire survivor.
  • Autumn Discount coupon
  • And lots more

If you would like to receive either Newsletter and are not already on my database please use the Contact page to let me know.  You can request the Newsletter either electronically as a large pdf. file or as a hard copy mailed via Australia Post.


News - 23/12/06

Currently bushfires are burning in Central Gippsland and North East of the High Country.  Started at the beginning of December by 55 lightening strikes which easily took hold in the extreme dry conditions we are experiencing this summer.  Deliberately lit fires in a couple of locations have added to the spread of fire, as each of these small fires grew and merged.  Total fire area is now close to 700,000ha and although mainly in forested public land, fire has encroached onto some private land and around townships.  Fire crews including DSE and Parks Victoria Fire-fighters and CFA volunteers have worked tirelessly to contain these fires and protect private property.  They are largely at the mercy of the weather and large quantities of rain are what is really needed.  Containment lines are beginning to hold around some edges of the fire and cooler weather over Christmas will slow fire activity and give crews an opportunity to black-out some areas.

The good news is that most of East Gippsland is not currently under threat from these fires and is still a safe travel destination.  I have had to provide alternative destinations for two forthcoming departures, Wonders of Wildlife and Mt Feathertop Adventure which are affected by track closures put in place to ensure public safety in the event of further fire spread.  Please contact me for detail of alternatives for these trips. 


News - 25/7/06

Winter sees us all slip into a slower pace with shorter days that are beginning now to lengthen.  Although still pretty chilly, spring will be upon us in no time, so it is time to plan ahead for some spring escapes.

If you love nature and easy walks, but also love your creature comforts, I have a perfect combination of both with Spring into Nature at Waterholes.

Just a short break, but 4 days of relaxed pace, very little travelling and lots of time to enjoy the serenity of a secluded guesthouse. 

Group size is limited to 8 only and you will enjoy first class accommodation and meals. 

Walks are a leisurely affair with lots of time for birdwatching and seeking out the wonderful array of spring wildflowers. 

The Nicholson River flows right past the garden, so you can choose to laze away the time along it’s shady banks listening to the sounds of the bush and the river tumbling over stones. 

Add some local history and welcoming hosts to complete a great short holiday. 

NEW!!

Well almost new…. Eastern Peaks Walk is a revision of a previously popular walking trip to include more walks which visit more peaks!  Not that we spend all our time climbing mountains, but we do reach some outstanding points which look out over the Snowy River valley and across the Alps to Mt Kosciusko.  There are 3 night bush camping on this trip, so you need to be a bit adventurous.  I provide all the camping equipment and do all the catering, so it is easy camping really.  Our camp is at the headwaters of the Buchan River in the Alpine National Park, a peaceful spot where native wildlife are often seen.  From this lovely base camp we enjoy moderate – challenging walks of around 10-12km, so you do need to be reasonably fit. 

Tasmania is calling for 2007 and I will be sharing the Island state’s wonderful natural environments with a group of enthusiastic nature lovers. 

This ecotour is designed to give you enough time to really get to know some of Tasmania’s unique habitat, enjoy the wildflowers and birdwatching.  With the inclusion of the a number of local Tasmanian guides joining us for a few hours or a whole day at a time, you will receive a much better insight that most tours offer you.  There is a rich history of course and you will learn of both the local indigenous people as well as the European settlement and convict history. 

Some vacancies still exist on Tasmania: A Natural History Tour in February, but don’t delay too long, contact me for details soon!


My two wildlife research tours Bushfires & Wildlife – Forlorn Hope Plain and Wonders of Wildlife – Haunted Stream over New Year, now have their own page. 

Follow the links to find full details of how you not just have a holiday, but also participate in a conservation project. 

Threatened species such as Alpine Water Skink, Eastern Horseshoe Bat, Alpine Spiny Crayfish and Smoky Mouse are just some of our target species. 

At Forlorn Hope Plain the project includes a population study of the gorgeous Broad-toothed Rat, a seldom seen little native rodent. 

So whether you are interested in frog research or Alpine animals, follow the links and see just how rewarding a holiday can be.


Eastern Horshoe Bat - a threatened species
found in the Haunted Stream

Adventurous hikers will be dusting off their backpacks and hiking boots soon and seeking out some spring adventures.  If your idea of an escape is remote, rugged scenery, solitude and a physical challenge, then Cobberas & Cowombat Flat Adventure might be for you. With 5 days away from vehicle support, you need to be fit and adventurous.  Led by two experienced bushwalking guides you will enjoy some really spectacular country while enjoying their expert leadership and local knowledge.

My spring Newsletter is due out very soon and will carry some of the following stories-

  • Read the story of a walking trip to Mt Tingaringy & Errinundra last year.
  • A clever poem telling of the fun and adventurous exploits on the Strzelecki Track & Cooper Creek Natural History  Tour in May.
  • Personal reflections of New Year enjoying nature at close quarters.
  • News of the wonderful Tasmanian Natural History Tour planned for 2007
  • Some fascinating Nature Notes
  • Giveaways to celebrate 15 years of Gippsland High Country Tours
  • Spring Discount coupon
  • And lots more

If you would like to receive this forthcoming Newsletter and are not already on my database please use the Contact page to let me know.  You can request the Newsletter either electronically as a large pdf. file or as a hard copy mailed via Australia Post.

 
News - 21/12/05
 
With the warmer weather upon us lots is happening in the great outdoors. Spring brought the usual mixture of warmth and rain so East Gippsland is looking brilliant going into the warmer weather. 

A big adventure is ahead for those who have booked on my “Beyond the High Country” adventure for 2006.

Strzelecki Track, Cooper Creek, Kinchega & Lake Mungo – An arid environment Natural History Tour is happening in May. 

16 days exploring the wonderful landforms, plant and animals of the arid lands, along with a good dose of both European history (including exploration routes of Burke & Wills and Sturt) and aboriginal history.

Being part of a small group and the inclusion of a naturalist guide will give participants a much greater insight into each place we visit than could normally be experienced on larger tours.  

As well you could - sit under a cool shady tree beside the impressive waterholes on Cooper Creek,  watch glorious outback sunsets followed by starry starry nights, follow tracks in the red sand dunes and discuss which small creatures might have made them. 

Only a few places are still available so ask for the itinerary and pre-booking notes now. 

If a hiking adventure in the High Country is more your style, consider Lake Tali Karng & the Avon Wilderness Bushwalk.  You do need to be fit as this bushwalk takes us away from vehicle support for 5 nights so packs have to be carried.  Lake Tali Karng is truly a hidden lake but a just reward for the considerable effort required on the steep descent from the High Plains to it’s shores.  It is such a serene setting and a perfect place to while away a sunny autumn day.  In keeping with the wishes of the local aboriginal community we visit the Lake during daylight hours only, establishing our camp on the ridge above.  This enables us to walk to the lake without packs, a feature which you will certainly appreciate on the climb out again!!
One of the most popular easy trips this year has been Croajingolong Coastal Ecotour which in contrast to a hiking adventure above is a delightfully easy exploration of Victorias remote eastern coast.  With cosy accommodation every night we enjoy the wonderful array of different environments that Croajingolong is famous for.  Participants have enjoyed bird watching, identifying a variety of wildflowers and vegetation and wildlife sightings are plentiful and varied.  Looking down from the rocky headland at Point Hicks to watch seals playing below, observing a pair of Pied Oystercatchers on the beach as they change shift on the nest, Lyrebirds performing on a quiet bush track are just some of the special highlights seen this year.  There are no special fitness requirements for this trip, just an interest in nature and an enjoyment of the outdoors.  Walks are short and easy and there is plenty of time to relax and take in the marvellous surroundings at your own pace.
One of the outstanding spring trips this year was Mt Tingaringy & Errinundra for Walkers which highlighted just how fickle the weather can be on the highest peak in East Gippsland.  It seemed our only reward for a lengthy climb up Mt Tingaringy was a white-out of cloud at the summit and a blast of icy wind and rain.  Then out of the mist emerged the sight of a lovely wallaby, sitting very upright and watching us – no doubt similarly emerging from the mist.  Curiosity seemed to overwhelm it’s fear and it sat quite still allowing us to pass.  The weather made amends for the rest of the week, giving us perfect spring days for walking in Errinundra National Park.  Just how green can the new growth of tree ferns be!!  Birds sang and bathed in a mountain creek while the immense eucalypts stood majestically above us.  

My next Newsletter is due out at the beginning of March and will carry some of the following stories-

  • Read about the rescue of “Percy the possum”
  • The account of an Alpine hike across the Cobberas Range including the ups and down, emotions, highlights and humour.
  • Stories from recent Croajingolong trips
  • News of the wonderful Tasmanian Natural History Tour planned for 2007
  • McKillop Bridge in the Snowy River National Park celebrated a 70th birthday in December
  • Some fascinating Nature Notes

If you would like to receive this forthcoming Newsletter and are not already on my database please use the Contact page to let me know.  You can request the Newsletter either electronically as a large pdf. file or as a hard copy mailed via Australia Post.


News – 21/07/05

Humpback whales have recently been making an appearance along the east coast. Point Hicks Lighthouse, is perfectly positioned to provide great whale watching and two group were fortunate to enjoy some great whale sightings with me recently. During winter the Humpback Whales make their way slowly from Antarctic feeding grounds to warmer tropical waters off the Queensland coast to have their calves and mate.

During spring they will begin another massive migration south to returning to their feeding grounds again, gently guiding young calves that accompany them.

Both my spring departures to Croajingolong National Park are timed to give you opportunities to view passing whales. Imagine sitting on verandah of your lighthouse keepers cottage enjoying breakfast and watching whales pass by!

Its hard to imagine a better way to start the day. Spring wildflowers will also brighten up the walks on these two departures.

Croajingolong Coastal Ecotour is graded easy and suitable for nature lovers of all ages and abilities. The walks are short, the pace is slow and there is plenty of time for birdwatching and identifying wildflowers. If you are a keen walker, you might prefer Walking Croajingolong which has a focus on walking and includes lots of moderate grade walks. Most days feature a full day of walking, so you need a reasonable level of fitness. Leave the stresses of everyday life behind and walk through the varied environments of Croajingolong N.P.

As most of you have probably heard, this winter has brought a fantastic start to the snow season . Deep snow and good skiing. The local farmers are rejoicing too. Good rains have soaked most of East Gippsland and even the snow is good as it will melt in spring and provide good run-off into dams and streams as well as soaking slowly into soils.

I have a great program of departures scheduled over spring and summer promising wildflowers, history, birdwatching, walks and of course time out to just relax and unwind. Go to Calendar to view the updated program.

New trip for spring!! Well not really new, but a return of an old favourite. National Parks & Wilderness Ecotour is a fantastic walking tour exploring the lesser-known eastern unit of the Alpine National Park. Lots of moderate-challenging day walks explore remote rugged peaks, marvellous snowgum woodland and open grassy plains.

The highlight is a challenging day walk to the summit of Mt. Cobberas No 1 in the Cobberas Wilderness Area. Two nights are in basic but cosy high country accommodation and the other 3 nights are camping.

This is easy camping, with all equipment supplied and lots of help to put up the modern tents which even include fly screen windows, to allow ventilation without over-friendly insects.

We do all the catering so you are not rostered for potato peeling, just sit back, enjoy the sunset and take in the serenity of the sub-alpine environment. Awaken in the morning to birdsong and fresh mountain air. another day .. another great walk!!!

   

My Broad-toothed Rat research project at Forlorn Hope Plain will be getting underway this spring. The project comprises a population study of Broad-toothed Rat and also a post-fire study, monitoring how and when these endearing little mammals return to burnt habitat on the Plain. You can participate in the project by joining Bushfires and Wildlife Ecotour in either spring or autumn. You will be combining a holiday with a great learning experience and making a valuable contribution to the conservation of native wildlife.

The setting is pretty special too. a peaceful sub-alpine plain which will boast lots of wildflowers in spring, a bubbling mountain stream, and a naturalist guide to share with you many amazing facts about animals that call the mountain environment home.


Helping to check the traps

I daresay many of you have followed with interest the issue of Cattle Grazing in the Alpine National Park . The Bracks government needs to be commended on its' courage and foresight in cancelling grazing leases in the Alpine National Park. Although grazing has been a traditional use for 170 years, the ecology of the Alps is very fragile and plants and animals which have evolved over thousands of year are not coping well with grazing and trampling pressures of cattle and other hard-hooves herbivores. Removing the cattle is a start, authorities must now focus on controlling populations of other introduced animals particularly deer and feral horses. It is not only the plants and animals that will benefit, there will be improvements in water quality as alpine wetlands and bogs recover and streams and water catchments will benefit from the protection. It is the end of an era for sure and sad for the families affected, but I believe it is time we moved on. The heritage of the mountain cattlemen is not dead, it will live on strongly in story, verse, song and movies. Ned Kelly is proof that heritage lives on long after the activity or incident is over. The traditions of mountain grazing will continue with mountain leases outside the Alpine National Park and the heritage will continue to be passed on to future generations. Visit www.cowpaddock.com for more information

Are you a bike rider?? For the second year The Wilderness Bike Ride was held in autumn with an enthusiastic contingent of bike riders enjoying some spectacular riding through the Snowy River & Errinundra National Parks. Visit their website www.wildernessbikeride.com.au for great pictures and details on next years ride.


News – 16/10/04

Winter has moved on, Spring is here and before we know it, we’ll be wishing we had planned some time in the great outdoors.

There is no time like the present, so have a browse through my forthcoming program and start planning! Be quick though, many spring trips are filling fast with some booked out already.


Spring Wattles along Snowy River

Some big news is that Gippsland High Country Tours was announced the Winner in the Ecotourism Category at the East Gippsland Tourism Awards held in Lakes Entrance in August. The Awards are designed to acknowledge quality and excellence and each category was strongly contested.

Lots has happened since the last news (below). Fire affected parts of the High Country are experiencing amazing regeneration. Certainly they still look burnt, but the scars are healing and the fire has initiated the growth of an amazing array of plants, some of which were not apparent before the fire. Many plant species had died out and were only represented by dormant seeds lying in the soil awaiting a fire. Grasses were splendid last summer, although sparse on the ground their tall growth and waving seed heads made a colourful and beautiful sight during summer. Smaller wildflowers are enjoying profuse growth whilst the usual cover of shrubs is still re-growing. In years to come, many will struggle to reach the light beneath the shrub cover, but for now, they have been able to respond and grow quickly taking advantage of a niche. We are the winners when we visit during spring and summer to enjoy their beauty.

For those interested in how wildlife recover from fire, my Bushfires and Wildlife Ecotour gives you an opportunity to participate in a research project which is looking at how wildlife (including some threatened species) respond following the fire. An enthusiastic group of nature lovers spent 3 nights in April camped on a beautiful sub-alpine plain and assisting with survey activities. It was a busy time with small mammal traps to set out and check, a bird list to compile, spotlight walks in the evenings and searches along a really delightful creek for lizards and Alpine Spiny Crayfish. It was great to see and hear nocturnal wildlife including Bobucks (or Mountain Brushtail Possums) and Yellow-bellied gliders, which obviously found some way of escaping the flames last year. We still did not manage to record Sugar Gliders, which have not been recorded here since 1960, perhaps next time. The results of this visit showed some populations at our sub-alpine study site remained much as they were before the fire, whilst other showed apparent decreases in numbers. Ongoing surveys will track responses of the population to the fire. Some species are expected to respond by increases in reproduction over the coming years. Anyone who has an interest in getting to know the wildlife of the Alpine country close up would enjoy this. It is a great way to make a contribution to a conservation project while enjoying a holiday and learning lots about alpine ecology in general and wildlife in particular.

A very busy program of departures to the High Country and East Gippsland in autumn was followed by a fantastic interstate trip. Run in conjunction with Ecotrek in SA, the trip took 15 nature lovers up the Strzelecki Track to Innamincka where we spent four nights camped beside one of the magnificent permanent waterholes along Cooper Creek . The days were filled with bird watching, history and discoveries of outback plants. We then headed across to outback NSW and worked our way gradually back to Victoria via Kinchega National Park and Lake Mungo . A fantastic experience! Watch out for details of a repeat in 2006! See Strzelecki Track & Cooper Creek Natural History Tour

Exploring life on a red sand dune

The “Beyond the High Country” natural history tour for 2005 is to Tasmania . A leisurely 16 days exploring Tasmania ’s spectacular landscapes, interesting geology and rich history. There will be walks, lots of time for birdwatching and learning about Tasmania ’s unique flora and fauna. Fully accommodated and led by 2 professional guides with additional interpretation by local naturalist guides. Highlights include Freycinet Peninsula , Port Arthur , two nights on Bruny Island , Mt Field National Park, Strahan, Gordon River and Cradle Mountain . Full details see- Tasmania – A Natural History Tour

The new departures added to the program last year have been very well received and Croajingolong National Park in particular is delighting participants with it’s beauty and diverse and visible wildlife.

For lots of nice easy ambles in coastal environments with time for birdwatching, wildflowers and taking in the very special atmosphere have a look at Croajingolong Coastal Ecotour


Croajingolong Coast

Delightful bush tracks

For those of you who like some really good walks, there are some great walking tours on offer in the forthcoming program.

Walking from Waterholes is proving very popular with the combination of first class accommodation and meals and walks which start right outside your well appointed guesthouse room.

Just a short break, but a total escape from the pressures of modern life.

 

 

Real adventurers will be attracted to Lake Tali Karng & the Avon Wilderness, which is an overnight backpacking bushwalk. Glorious Alpine walking country, some challenges to test you out and splendid autumn weather, what more could you ask for!!

The spring issue of my Newsletter is available now with details of forthcoming departures, stories from recent participants and news from the High Country and East Gippsland . This issue also features a story about wildlife shelters and the wonderful job they do. Use the Contact Us page to request the Newsletter either by mail or electronically.


News - 9/6/04

Since the last update (below) in April, we have continued to enjoy some glorious autumn weather. Unfortunately the much needed rain is just not happening and the farmers are continuing to do it very tough. Many High Country farmers are still reeling from the aftermath of the bushfires and the lack of autumn rain has just made their situation so much harder. The countryside is certainly green again, but the grass is so short that it is of little use for livestock. Hand feed such as hay to keep livestock alive over the cold winter is not only extremely expensive, but is almost impossible to obtain.

It is positive however to drive through fire affected farmland and to begin to see new fences appearing.


A dainty daisy growing amongst the charcoal

Such a lot of work has gone into fencing and farmers have been grateful for the assistance of volunteer groups who have given their time to assist with this enormous job. The job is far from over, with efforts so far concentrated on boundary fencing only. The task of replacing internal fencing could take years, not to mention stockyards, shedding and other farm buildings.

Temperatures in the High Country have become very wintery, despite the lovely sunny days. Last week icy winds and blizzard-like conditions brought substantial snowfalls across mountain areas. Great for the start of the ski season and just on time too.


Brilliant new growth on this eucalypt stands out amongst blackened trunks.

I’m continuing to observe plants and animals that survived the fires when I am out and about.

The new growth on the eucalypts is getting prettier and prettier and a surprising number of plants are re-shooting from the base of burnt trunks and stems.

A new bird sighting a couple of weeks ago was a group of 5 Spotted Quail Thrush foraging on the ground in a burnt forest.

I am continuing to see plenty of Kangaroos and Wallabies.

Also a Wallaroo in the Snowy River Valley. These are common is NSW and SA (where they are called Euros), but very uncommon in Victoria. There are small populations recorded in the Snowy River Valley.

This lone animal appeared to be a male, and was not too fussed about human presence, letting us get close enough for a photo. It was heartening to find two tiny baby lizards (garden skinks) scurrying amongst some leaf litter beside a track and a rare Alpine Water Skink hiding under a log in a waterlogged bog area.

Wombats make regular appearances and with the onset of cooler weather we often see them foraging during daylight hours.

This wombat (pictured right) was one of the miracle survivors of the bushfires.

News on forthcoming departures-
Spring is just around the corner and although I have a pretty full program on offer for spring, don’t leave it too late to follow up trips that interest you. One trip is fully booked out already and a number of others are proving very popular and filling fast. Most spring departures visit areas not affected by fire, however Snowy River & Errinundra Explorer will spend one day in farmland and National Park that was burnt, so we can discuss the effects of the fire, and observe the prolific regrowth. Spring wildflowers here should be pretty good.

Walking Croajingolong scheduled for November will be repeated in the autumn (March). A date is yet to be finalised for this extremely popular walking trip, but let me know if you think you might be interested as it will fill fast. If I have your contact details, I can be sure you get final details about date as soon as they are available.

Wilderness Bushwalk for autumn 2004. Looks like Lake Tali Karng and the Avon Wilderness is a strong possibility for a glorious autumn walking adventure. It is still on the drawing board, details available soon.

Alpine Discovery Tour I have decided not to schedule this very popular Easy Ecotour for 2004 to allow a full season for Alpine plants to regenerate after the fires. Growth has begun already on the highest Alpine peaks, however given a full summer growing season next year, plants will really go ahead. The 7 Day Alpine Discovery Tour will be scheduled again for January and February 2005, when post-fire growth will be quite impressive. We can expect a bumper wildflower season too. I know this sounds a long way away, but it will come around all too quickly, so keep it in mind.


News – 26/4/03

Summer is over, autumn has arrived. After the drama of summer bushfires, life is gradually returning to normal and I thought I would share with news of what is happening in the High Country.

What is happening out there in the bush?

I have been fortunate to spend quite a bit of time in various parts of the High Country over the past couple of weeks, assisting Parks Victoria with post-fire assessments of visitor sites. What I am seeing is truly amazing. At first you tend to see burnt areas as “devastated”, but with a little time, you see that this is all part of nature, especially in a fire prone (and fire-dependant) country like Australia. Fire is perfectly normal in the Australian bush. Nature has contingency plans for fire and knows just what to do. The response by various plants is just incredible. Some are killed completely by fire (such as Alpine Ash forest), but require a really hot fire to split open the seeds and provide an ash bed in which they can grow. Most of our eucalypts, however have dormant buds on the trunks and branches or in the base or lignotuber. These buds sprout abundant leaves and the variety of colour of these bight new shoots is something to behold. Ferns have amazed me with their resistance to fire. We have encountered prolific growth of new fronds on even the blackest treeferns in gullies, as well as abundant growth of various ground ferns including fishbone fern, necklace fern and rock ferns. Sadly we have encountered some large sub-alpine bogs with the large cushions of sphagnum moss apparently killed by the fire. I wait to see what happens here. What is the mosses response to fire? Although it appears dead, it is still working very effectively as an amazing water filter with the water seeping out of these bogs being beautifully clear.

Fire killed Alpine Ash and regrowth on treeferns just weeks after the fire.

What happened to the wildlife?

Of course some wildlife will have perished in the fires and in fact in some places, it would seem that nothing could have survived at all. However it is surprising how many animals found safe havens during the fire and have since emerged to forage for food. Herbivores are now attracted to the tasty fresh growth after the fire and are often found in good numbers in burnt areas. Red-necked wallabies, once common in the High Country appear to still have strong numbers, we are also seeing Swamp (Black) Wallabies and Grey Kangaroos. Numbers of brumbies (feral horses) also survived and we frequently see small family groups of 2 to 8 animals. Wombats are looking a little thinner than usual but many seem to have survived.

A fire survivor - this echidna was one of the lucky ones.

Although I haven’t seen them myself, I have heard of others who have seen good numbers of possums since the fires. Two of our significant mammal species from the High Country Mountain Pygmy Possum and Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby get special mention below. It is a lovely surprise to approach a partially burnt old tree and find a number of small lizards such as Spencer’s skinks basking in the sun on the burnt trunk. They must have buried themselves deep in crevices in the ground to survive the fire.

Birdlife is abundant. Most prolific are the smaller insect eating birds such as Flame Robins, Grey Shrike-thrush, White-throated tree-creepers, Grey Fantails, Thornbills and a yellow robin.. Along creeks and bog areas in the sub-alps, vegetation sometimes remained unburnt as the fire went around the wet areas. Here we find the Black Sallee eucalypt growing, it is in full flower attracting many honey-eaters. Crimson Rosellas are also in really good numbers and we have seen Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos and Gang Gang Cockatoos. Bowerbirds, Grey and Pied Currawongs seem to be finding plenty to eat too. The biggest surprise to me has been the number of lyrebirds we have encountered. I don’t think a day has gone by without seeing or hearing a lyrebird. On one day last week we saw 4 lyrebirds in a 5.2 km walk along a burnt creek valley. They must have a clever strategy for surviving fire, as they are not good enough flyers to be able to leave the areas during the fire and return later. Raptors (birds of prey) are enjoying easy hunting with the reduction in cover for ground dwelling prey. As well as some unidentified raptors we have seen a brown falcon and numerous magnificent Wedge tailed Eagles.

There are plenty of invertebrates around too, including a large number of stick insects which are usually found on tree trunks and the ground in big number in autumn, possible laying eggs and dying at the end of their life cycle. It appears their cycle is going on as usual despite the fires.

Fungi are making a showy appearance, especially on burnt timber. There are some really big bracket type fungi on trunks and on logs on the ground.

What ecotours and walks will be available for the Spring?
Fortunately many of my spring departures are to areas unaffected by fires, so will go ahead as usual. I have a current list of forthcoming departures for 2003 on my Calendar page which will in turn lead you to more details on each trip.

New Departures
If you have visited my Special departures page you will have found the two new departures scheduled during spring to explore the coastal country of Croajingolong National Park. Both these departures are proving extremely popular and places are becoming limited.

What about some serious walking treks?
Unfortunately all of my most challenging bushwalking trips were in areas hit by the recent bushfires. As most are in remote parts of the Alpine National Park, I am still not able to access them to assess how soon I might be able to include them in my program. For now at least, they have to remain “not available until further notice”. I am looking at some new areas to offer some challenging bushwalks in the interim, however it is a slow process and I think now winter is going to beat me. I do expect to have at least one new trip on offer for autumn 2004. Keep an eye on this page for further news.

Caravan, Camping and Touring Supershow.
A last minute opportunity saw myself and Helen Packer of Dinner Plains Trail Rides taking on a stand at this great event held at Melbourne’s Caulfield Racecourse. Along with adjacent stands displaying material from Lakes & Wilderness Tourism Association and East Gippsland Shire’s display on Alpine Bushfires, we draw a lot of interest from visitors keen to learn about the region and the impact of recent fires. As Helen and I were pretty busy getting out and about in the High Country while the show was on , we enlisted the assistance of some volunteer helpers. I would like to thank, Emily, Kristen, David, Patricia, Sonja, Hayley, Marita and Brooke for their willing assistance over the 7 day show. All these volunteers are either studying or have just finished studying tourism, ecotourism or business management and enthusiastically offered their time to help out and gain valuable experience in tourism marketing. From all accounts the show was a great success.

Mountain Pygmy Possums (Burramys parvus)
These specialised alpine dwelling possums make their home on some of Australia’s highest Alpine peaks. Recent bushfires threatened their habitat around Mt Kosciuszko, Mt Bogong and Mt Hotham. I was fortunate to spend a day assisting researcher Dean Heinz with some post-fire trapping of Burramys near Mt Hotham in late March. The good news is that their numbers appeared to be very good. While in most areas the prime habitat for Burramys on top of the mountains, remained unburnt, a lot of the peripheral habitat a little lower down was burnt. As these endearing little possums spend most of their lives deep underneath jumbles of boulders, they would have a good chance of surviving the passing fire. This peripheral habitat is usually inhabited by the males and juveniles in late summer, leaving the females in the areas with best food supply to enable them best chance to fatten up after raising young and gain enough fat store to survive the harsh winter hibernation period. Due to the fires it appears that many young have remained in the female habitat rather than dispersing, causing a greater pressure on the available food resources. It is possible that a percentage of animals may not have gained enough weight during autumn to survive winter. Further research in spring will give a clearer picture.

Brush-tailed Rock Wallabies
The last surviving wild colonies of these critically endangered little wallabies are in Little River Gorge, a tributary of the Snowy River. At the end of January parts of Little River Gorge were engulfed in fire. Remarkably the north facing slopes of the gorge where the wallabies live, remained unburnt. The news was not all good however with another spot fire in the gorge burning one of the three known colony sites about 10 days later. At first it was unsafe for researchers to do more than a couple of very quick visits to ascertain how much area was burnt. Since then, some great progress has been made. One male Rock Wallaby (named Keith after early naturalist and local grazier Keith Rogers), was captured and later released, a little thin, but otherwise unscathed. He was oblivious to his captors approach, far more interested in eating the fruit and other tasty bait in the trap. It is hoped that his two female companions also survived. A decision was made to provide some supplementary feed for the wallabies in the interim while grasses and shrubs started to regrow. It appears they are appreciating the additional tucker with quite a number of droppings found at the feed site, some small ones suggesting that one of the females has a pouch young. Further searching of the rugged gorge has resulted in signs that the other small colonies have probably survived the fire well. Research of any kind in this difficult terrain is slow and these elusive animals are aptly nick-named “The Shadow” because of the difficulty in observing them in the wild. Only time will tell of the longer term affects. More information about the Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby can be found at www.eastgippsland.com/rockwallaby

What about the huts on the High Plains?

Sadly some of the historic huts and well as other historic relics have been lost in the fires. Many participant on trips with me to Dinner Plain area will remember the lovely hut at Horsehair Plain. Unfortunately this was one of the casualties of the fire. The Victorian High Country Huts Association have received some generous support and were hoping to have a busy Easter working bee building a replica hut at the site. However many huts did survive including many of the popular huts easily accessible on the Bogong High Plains.

A very interesting website which you might like to have a look at is the Victorian High Country Huts Association website which includes a list and photos of which huts survived and which did not as well as some great photos from the 2003 fires. www.home.vicnet.net.au/~vhcha


Remains of the historic Horsehair Plain Hut

 



News 1/3/03

Alpine Areas Ablaze
A summary of the Alpine and East Gippsland Fires, Summer 2003

As most of you have probably heard through the media, this summer has been a horrendous one for bushfires in the Alpine and East Gippsland Areas of Victoria as well as ACT and parts of NSW. On January 8th, an electrical storm resulted in lightening strikes which started a number of fires across Victoria’s High Country. Clients with me on the Alpine Discovery Tour will remember not only the splendid views that greeted us on the afternoon of January 8 when we arrived at Danny’s Lookout near Mount Hotham resort, but also the plumes of smoke seen rising from 5 of these lightening strikes. Three of these went on to become disastrous fires at Mt Buffalo, Mt Feathertop and Mt Bogong. At the time, they were of no immediate threat, but as the days passed, the fires which were all in quite inaccessible country, grew and merged to create an enormous fire front threatening homes and assets in ski villages, farming country and towns.

On January 25, strong winds took the fire down through the Cobungra Valley to Omeo as well as threatening Benambra and settlements further east. For the first time houses were lost, however many many more were saved, due to the untiring work of DSE/DPI and Parks Victoria fire crews, Country Fire Authority volunteers and sound preparation by residents. Omeo town was again threatened on January 30th with strong winds fanning the blaze. A couple of houses were lost but the town as a whole was spared and light rain fell overnight, providing some relief.

While the main fire front moved slowly south towards coastal towns, fingers ran out in all directions, heading towards Dargo in the West and Wulgulmerang and Gelantipy in the East. The situation was made worst by additional lightening strikes across the mountains. A particularly ferocious arm of the fire moved eastward across the Wulgulmerang, Black Mountain & Suggan Buggan areas. It burnt a number of houses and outbuilding as well as large areas of farmland. Stock losses were high. The rather unique Seldom Seen Service Station was amongst the buildings burnt and the fire moved down to the Gelantipy area, posing a threat to Buchan and possibly Orbost. For those of you who have visited the area you may well be able to imagine a couple of hundred fire fighters, strategic planners and other involved personnel based at Karoonda Park, Gelantipy as it was used as the main “staging point” for the area. Buchan Caves were closed for a period and residents of Buchan were offered the opportunity to store valuables (ie: important papers, photo albums etc…) in plastic boxes inside the Buchan Caves until the fire threat is passed.

Fire had also reached the Snowy River National Park and the very distressing news was that fire was threatening the last remaining wild colony of Victoria’s Brush-tailed Rock Wallabies in Little River Gorge. Rock Wallaby field worker and wildlife expert Raz Martin sat on a nearby farm and watched helplessly as fire seemed to envelope Little River Gorge. He feared that the entire colony would be lost as even if not burnt, the wallabies retreat into their rocky dens, usually to die from asphyxiation

By January 31st (Day 24), these fires had burnt in excess of 515,000 hectares of Park and forest as well as farmland and due to the high loads of extremely dry forest fuels on the ground, the fire was almost unstoppable, burning erratically and furiously if fanned by winds. The only hope of controlling or stopping a fire of this magnitude is substantial rainfall of 3 or 4 inches right across the region, which did not eventuate.

By Day 29, the Fire situation in Victoria’s High Country remained very serious, despite a few days of calm mild conditions. The fire had now burnt over 922,000 hectares of Park & forests with a fire edge of 1,700 km. As the fire moved away from Alpine Resorts it began to threaten the communities of Cassilis, Swifts Creek and Ensay to the south, Dargo to the west and Deddick and Tubbut to the east.

At last some hopeful news about the Rock Wallabies. Researchers were able to get into the area and sent back word that the northern facing slopes of the Gorge (where the rock wallabies live) were largely unburned!! It is still unsafe to get into the gorge to actually search for individual animals, however there is hope for their survival. The area is still surrounded by active fire however, so there is still a risk of further fire getting into the gorge. Air units are aware of the wallabies and their significance and are involved in their protection.

A spate of milder weather prevailed allowing fire crews to begin to work seriously on containment lines ahead of the fire front, which ultimately would contain the fire and get it under control. With the fire no longer making headlines, the media moved on to other topics, but local residents in fire threatened communities were still living on the edge. Some communities have been on alert for two weeks with bad days bringing dark clouds of smoke overhead to create an eclipse-type darkness, falling ash, burnt leaves and occasionally even an onslaught of hot embers, which have to be put out quickly before they ignite anything. However in most cases the actual fire front is some distance away. Children and elderly are evacuated, later to return, only to repeat the process again the next time the weather threatens. It is a tense time for all.

Personnel involved on Day 29:
- Around 1,900 from the Government agencies
- approximately 1, 500 CFA from outside the Region
- 120 Army
- 116 South Australian
- 68 QLD Fire & Rescue
- 33 New Zealand
- 28 USA

Over 30 aircraft including a Navy Sea King and an Army Iroquois Helicopter, over 250 specialised vehicles, at least 100 bulldozers, and a major commitment from the Gippsland based timber industry.

By Day 36, although fire crews were making steady progress, there was still over 650km of active fire front still to be contained and most of this in difficult and inaccessible forest country. The fire has burnt into large areas of the Snowy River National Park in the east and continues to create problems on the Western side in inaccessible country North-West of Dargo. Road blocks are still in force on all roads accessing areas in the vicinity of the fires, allowing only property owners, emergency vehicles and essential services through.

By Day 43 the fire had burnt 1.10 million hectares which is equivalent to a 60km radius from Melbourne’s GPO. At last some good news with the middle parts of the fire front all now behind containment lines. There are still over 3000 people working on the fire!

On Day 45 (February 21), light but widespread rain fell across much of the fire area. Not enough to put it out, but enough to assist in containment and reduce the risk considerably. Many weary firefighter were sent home for a few days well-earned rest.

Further rain the following week was helpful and by Day 51, 90% of the fire edge is contained, with only the eastern edge in the Snowy River National Park still causing some problems. In total the fire has burned 1.2 million ha with around 75,000 hectares of farming land burnt, 41 houses, over 200 other buildings and nearly 11, 000 stock. Losses continue to be assessed. There is around 1,800km of farm fencing needing to be replaced. Remarkably though there was no loss of life during the whole fire-fighting exercise. Tragically one fire-fighter lost her life in flash floods in the North East.

Recovery
It is amazing how quickly the Australian bush can recover from fire. The highest Alpine regions will recover at a slower rate than lower altitudes as the plants can only grow for a 3-4 month period over summer. Remember that Australia’s vegetation has evolved with fire and many plants require fire for regeneration. With rain falling over most of the fire area, regeneration has begun already with green shoots on burnt trunks and new life emerging from blackened earth. From a distance the scarring from the fire will seem overwhelming, however looking close up plants sending out new growth and wildlife returning or emerging from miraculous survival, can be equally overwhelming sending a strong message of hope for the future.

Local communities also band together in times of trouble, working shoulder to shoulder with neighbors and strangers to save homes and assets in the face of fear and danger. Stories emerge of survival and miracles along with sad tales of disaster and disappointment. As the smoke clears, tears are shed and communities again band together to rebuild. Offers of help come from far and wide… feed for surviving stock, assistance with rebuilding farm fences and sheds, generators to restore lost power supplies, food, clothing, household goods and just a helping hand to clean up.

Once the fire had passed through, the recovery process began quickly. Power and phone lines were being re-instated, children returned from billeting families, businesses prepared to return to normal and farmers began the heart-breaking job of destroying injured stock and finding feed for survivors. From my home at Bruthen, the traffic passing on the Great Alpine Road to Omeo on Days 28 & 29 included trucks with new power poles, cranes and work crews, semi trailers carrying food and other supplies, water tankers with drinking water supplies, stock transports going up empty and returning full of surviving sheep and cattle (leaving the area to find agistment elsewhere or to be sold) and trucks loaded with hay to feed stock remaining on farms. We have also witnessed convoys of fire trucks moving to and from areas as the risks moved from one town to another. Finally on Day 42, the Great Alpine Road opened to normal traffic again and the visiting trucks and volunteer crews have returned home. The focus now is on recovery and the future.

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