Helmeted Honeyeater update for the release site at Bunyip State Park

Jim Thomas - Project Officer, Healesville Sanctuary 12/12/2000

Helmeted Honey-EaterAs of November 1999 the Helmeted Honeyeater (Lichenostomus melanops cassidix), Victorias bird emblem, has been held in aviaries within Bunyip State Park with the aim to re-establish them to this area. Through the cooperative efforts of Parks Victoria, Mike and Elaine Harrison and Healesville Sanctuary the birds are fed daily and twice daily when the temperature exceeds 25 degrees. The birds are fed an artificial nectar mix, sliced fruit and several species of insects. The aviaries are fitted with native vegetation which is cut at the Sanctuary and mimics the preferred breeding environment of the Helmeted Honeyeater. The birds are supplied with several different types of potential nesting material such as emu feathers, dingo hair and spider webs. The birds use these items to build their nests and hold them together.

In the wild there is only about 100 of these birds left with an additional 34 in captivity. Needless to say, the six birds we have at Bunyip are very valuable indeed ! The plan of the Recovery team is to have these birds breed and raise young in the aviaries at Bunyip. Once the young are independent of their parents, at about 40 days old, the doors to the aviaries will be opened allowing the birds to come and go as they choose. Hopefully the birds will establish and start breeding outside the aviaries, upon which further birds will be introduced to the aviaries. If this is successful then this procedure will be repeated.

The birds we have at Bunyip have been captive bred at Healesville Sanctuary and are all adult birds ranging from 2 to 4 years of age. A Helmeted Honeyeater can live to 12 years old and have been recorded as breeding at this age. In each aviary is a pair of birds which to date have not been as productive as we would have hoped. However the wild population and the captive population at the Sanctuary have produced few young this breeding season. It's hard to put a finger on exactly why the birds have been less productive. It could be the inclement weather we had at the start of the breeding season, which incidently is from late July to late February.

Fortunately, two of the three pairs at Bunyip now have nests. One of these pairs is sitting on two eggs (clutch size is usually 2 and occasionally 3) with the other ready to lay any day now. All we have to do now is wait for the eggs to hatch, which takes 14 days, upon hatching we must maintain a steady flow of live food such as flies, mealworms and moths for the parents to feed the young. When the young are raised to 40 days of age we will then open up the doors. If all goes well this could be as early as February. I'll keep you posted of the progress in the next newsletter. -- Jim Thomas

"TRUFFEL HUNT" at KURTH KILN - Sunday, 23rd July 2000

Anne Marsden, Heritage Officer Friends of Kurth Kiln members were invited to join the Field Naturalists Club of Victoria on a botany excursion in search for "truffels" [subterranean fungi] around the Kurth Kiln area. Alfred and Ursula had the billy boiling at the Kiln, to welcome the group of about 20 who assembled on this Sunny winter morning. The excursion leader, Teresa Lebel, from the National Herbarium, then described to the group the type of truffel structures that might be found, and the troops set off along Soldier Road and adjacent tracks, armed with 3-pronged curved rakes, to gently scrape and search the litter and topsoil layers for these fungi.

It was a pleasure to move through the Bush on such a lovely morning, with some of the Hakeas and Acacias beginning to come into flower, but it was largely "heads down" and rakes to work for the next 1 1/2 hours, with occasional enthusiastic reports of success. We then returned to the Kiln picnic ground where the spoils were laid out on a picnic table and - watched by 3 Kookaburras perched overhead - Teresa identified approximately 25 species of truffels and other fungi.

Most of the truffels belonged to the "Basidiomycetes" group [the most common group of fungi, which includes the gilled fungi, such as the edible mushroom, puffballs, and rusts]. They were mostly spherical, smallish [up to 15 mm] and light in colour, and sometimes with a distinctive odour. Some of the truffles were cut to show the inside spore-bearing parts, and we tasted small pieces of one or two of the edible ones, though it was agreed that it would be difficult to find enough for decent meal! A most enjoyable and informative morning -- our thanks to Teresa and the Field Naturalists club.

Anne Marsden

Ph.D RESEARCH in the Powerline Easement in Bunyip State Park.

Donna ClarkeConservation of our natural heritage is becoming an increasingly important issue, however with today's society, business and economics often hinder the conservation process. The research that I am conducting is hoping to bridge the gap between business ethics and conservation values, by providing a management plan that satisfies both of these things.

Currently I am undertaking initial surveys to determine what species of small mammals are present under the easement. Using this data, I will decide where to have my permanent study areas within the easement and adjacent forest.

My longer term studies will focus on the movement patterns of the mammals found under the easement, in the hope to determine whether or not these populations are interacting with each other, or if in fact, they have become isolated. Isolation may be caused by roadways acting as barriers to movement or unsuitable management regimes, both of which are present in the park.

At the moment I am considering conducting a comparative study between a two other powerline easements running through alpine regions and Bunyip State Park, to determine if similar things are happening in other areas. This however is subjective to funding available, but it would be great if it goes ahead.

Donna Clarke