It was a beautiful day – sun shining, birds calling and a gathering of people keen to learn about and document the qualities of this lovely patch of forest. At the Gowar School ruin, set amongst a patch of tall Yellow Gums, the bird life was really rich. Out with the binoculars!
A large Yellow Box from survey area 3
We decided to try out two techniques:
1 – Habitat hectare assessment using a simplified technique (the ‘half monty’ technique).
In a group of 4 or 5 we did a ‘line survey’ across a hectare of forest, recording large trees, canopy cover, understorey species and recruitment, weediness, organic litter, and amount of large logs. We surveyed three different sites: one near the school ruin along the mined gully area, one mid-slope, and the last on a ridge. What we observed and recorded was then compared to the 3 Ecological Vegetation Class ‘bioregion benchmarks’.
Key observations in all three areas were:
- the lack of large trees – and therefore tree hollows
- the available hollows were predominantly in dead stumps and the bases of living (often coppiced) trees
- limited amount of logs lying on the forest floor – again an important measure for habitat
- two areas had a high number of understorey species
- there were few weeds, even in the mined areas.
We heard that a recent survey for Tuans (Brush-tailed Phascogale) across these forests had revealed a significant population, suggesting that they are using ground-based hollows. And we realised that our assessment of weediness was probably limited – it’s autumn and it has been very dry. There also seemed to be limited recruitment of local species – again possibly linked to seasonal conditions.
2 – Bird survey
We started off using the 2ha – 20 minute search technique (recommended by BirdLife Australia) for the bird surveys. This method seeks to record species of birds and their abundance in a 2 ha area over a 20 min survey period. We used a rectangle 100 metres wide and 200 metres long for the survey. The low numbers of birds forced us to modify the method and we extended both the area and search time in order to detect as many species as possible. We’ll have a think about future methods as to what might be most suitable to document natural values (from a bird perspective) across these areas.
Key observations were:
- Both species diversity and numbers were highest in gully areas with higher densities of large trees – no real surprise there.
- Ridges and more elevated areas were poor in terms of numbers and diversity although we did get some interesting species in these areas including Scarlet Robin and White-eared Honeyeater.
- The gully area to the east of Gowar Track produced a nice list including Brown, Buff-rumped and Yellow Thornbills, Red Wattlebird, White-eared and Fuscous Honeyeaters, Scarlet and Flame Robins, Varied Sitella, Grey Shrike-thrush, Grey Fantail, Dusky Woodswallow, White-throated and Brown Treecreepers, Crimson Rosella, Whistling Kite and the highlight a Speckled Warbler.
All in all it was a great chance to try out these recording techniques, testing out how to work together as a team of volunteers with a range of knowledge and skills. It was a great chance to learn more about this forest, and everyone enjoyed the experience. Next we’ll assemble and map the data, and work out the best approach for our next Nature Search Day.
Thanks to everyone: Geoff, Carol, Peter, Amelia, Chris, Daryl, Terri, Neville, Kate, Pat, Tom and Reuben. And extra thanks to those who brought equipment and lead us in our recording tasks.