northern Victoria and the Southern Riverina
Black Rock in Greater Bendigo National Park by K. Stockwell
Greater Bendigo National Park
Kamrooka Forest, the Bendigo Whipstick, One Tree Hill and Mt Sugarloaf Nature Conservation Reserve
over 17,000 hectares, Greater Bendigo National Park was created in 2002,
following an Environment Assessment Council investigation of Victoria's
Box-Ironbark Forests. It includes the former Whipstick State Park, Kamarooka
State Park, One Tree Hill Regional Park, Mandurang State Forest, Sandhurst State Forest and some other parcels of public land.
areas which ring Bendigo and Eaglehawk have long been highly regarded
for their bird life, particularly the diversity of honeyeaters, and
plants, many of which are of horticultural potential.
The park features several different vegetation types, including
box forest, box-ironbark forest, mallee and melaleuca forest. Unfortunately,
the Wellsford Forest, which is supportive of a wide range of honeyeaters
and which still has some huge old trees, has been excluded from the
national park. Overnight camping is permitted (no charge) at a number
of spots, including the Notley Picnic Ground.
The park itself is the product of intensive use over the past 150 years from gold mining, land selection, forestry, and eucalyptus oil production. Many significant relics of these industries, particularly the gold mining and eucalyptus oil industries, remain in the park today.
Kamarooka Forest is the
northern-most section of Greater Bendigo National Park.
The former Kamarooka State
Park (about 6,300 hectares) is best reached by driving west from the
Northern Highway at Elmore, or by driving north along Tennyson Road
from Huntly. It
is a hotter, drier than the areas further south. Ironbark is uncommon.
Grey Box is the dominant tree through much of this forest. Yellow Box
is found on alluvial deposits. Melaleuca Scrub dominates in places.
There are also extensive areas of Mallee, including the localised Kamarooka
Mallee and Whirrakee Wattle. Several plants more common further inland
are found in the vicinity of Mulga Dam.
Millwood Dam, Kamarooka Forest (K Stockwell)
Millwood Dam is a good
spot to look foir bush birds. The distillery dams along Campbells Road are another good birding spot.
Mulga Dam picnic area is a good
spot to start exploring and one can commence a marked 17km walk to the
Whipstick Forest from this point.
In the past,
most of the forest was cut for timber (e.g. support poles for mines)
or cleared for agriculture or mining. Most soils in the forest are infertile
clays and stones. Most of the farms have long since been abandoned
and the days of surface gold mining have past. Nor has cattle grazing
been particularly successful. Therefore, a large area was abandoned and allowed to regenerate.
Chinese Scrub (Cassinia) and Wattles (including Gold Dust Wattle, Bent-leaf
Wattle and Whirrakee Wattle) are colonising plants which may proliferate after
disturbance (e.g. when grazing ceases). Grey Box, Melaleuca or Mallee may become dominant with the passing of time. Chinese Scrub (Cassinia) is native but it is flammable and not a good shrub to grow close to houses; there is a case for controlled burns in areas where Cassinia is close to dwellings or to the edge of the forest.
In Spring, it may be worth driving
east along Camp Road to Kamarooka East Road for the wildflower display. If there has been a wet winter, various species of wattle and wildflowers put on a great display
in Spring. If you interesting in birding, follow the directions outlined
in the following article.
in Kamarooka by
few years ago, Peter Allan of Rochester wrote this article for "The
Bird Observer" about a lovely piece of bush within an hour's
drive of Echuca, an area with brilliant wildflower displays in Spring,
but an area which is too seldom visited. Owing to prolonged drought and 'fuel-reduction burns',
bush bird numbers have crashed since the article below was written.
Subsequently, in 2006, Peter wrote a brochure on the birding spots of
Kamarooka which can be downloaded as a pdf. Webmeister.
here to download a copy of Peter Allan's pdf brochure on birding spots of Kamarooka.
Mulga (a wattle) growing
amongst Grey Box in the western side of Kamarooka
Extending north from Bendigo is
a bushland area with flora ranging from the tall Red Ironbark (Eucalyptus
sideroxylon) , at Eaglehawk, through to the unique Whipstick
Mallee, blending into tall Kamarooka Mallee and Grey Box woodland further
north. Finishing on a 13km front parallel to the Elmore-Raywood Road,
it is the remainder and a reminder of the once extensive woodlands of
Victoria's northern plans.
Within this remnant lies the Greater
Bendigo National Park: a Swiss-cheese park holed by private land.
(Since this article was written,
some uncommitted public land and eucalyptus-oil leases have been included
into the new park. Webmeister.)
Fortunately, the poor soil, dry
land and lack of minerals have meant much of the flora still endures.
My preferred area is south, along
the Kamarooka East Road and then east on Noble Track in the Kamarooka
At the start of a walk along these roads, the birds are
those of the undulating dryland farms that surround the area: Australian
Magpie, Ravens, Galah, Red-rumped Parrot, Crested Pigeon, White-plumed
Honeyeater and the pesky Noisy Miner.
Noisy Miner (photo: David Ong)
The woodland has a low cover of
daisies and native grasses, then an understorey of acacias, hop bushes
and Cassinia, through which the grey-brown trunks of Grey Box rise up
to 20m. or more; probably the largest stand of pure Grey Box in the
Further along the road our ears attune to the clear musical calls
of the Grey Butcher Bird, Grey Shrike-thrush and Rufous Whistler and
two species often heard but hard to find, Gilbert's Whistler and the
Crested Bellbird. White-wing Choughs rise protestingly from a muddy
depression and the first of many Eastern Rosellas fly alongside momentarily.
Rufous Whistler (David Ong)
Bellbird (David Ong)
Due to past timber practice, many
poor timber trees were ring-barked. Now, some 40 years later, these
grey ghosts, approximately 50 metres apart, provide excellent hollows
for the Rosellas, Galahs and Brown tree-creepers and marsupials, in
what is still a comparatively young regrowth forest. Despite the unusual
surplus of holes, the Rosellas still make use of the remaining old fencing
posts, nesting below ground-level at times and suffering meat ants and
flooding on occasion.
A busy flock of White-browed Babblers
flurry across the track.
Their bulky, obvious nests are an important
part of the local habitat, recycled not only by babblers, but used as
nesting bases by Gilbert's Whistler, Crested Bellbird, Grey Shrike-thrush,
pigeons and Diamond Firetail.
Diamond Firetail (D Ong)
One nest started as a 'Gilbert's'
open cup, on which Babblers dumped their domed home. Subsequently a
Shrike-thrush hollowed out the top and lined it with bark strips, and
last summer Firetails added their bottle-shaped nest, complete with
dried daisy entrance. This season the Shrike-thrush was back again,
adding to the growing pile of debris.
Now three kilometres into the Park,
patches of Mallee and Yellow Gum appear and the honeyeaters dominate.
Numerous Fuscous and Yellow-tufted dispute territories and we hear the
calls of Black-chinned and Brown-headed. What attracts these nectar-lovers
is the almost continuous supply of blossoms from the eucalypts...and
from the mass of acacias, mint-bushes, etc. At the road's junction with
Noble Track is a tall stand of Yellow Gum rising out of low acacias
and bordered by tall mallee. Here, one August, I found seven active
Wattlebird nests in an area 700m*60m, and further along the track another
six nests in a 500m. walk.
(Peter has not found ANY bush bird nests in this area of the forest over the past five years: a few decades ago it was common for him to observe between 30 and 90 bush bird nests per year in this area. Webmeister)
The bird list of the Kamarooka and
Whipstick Parks record 23 honeyeaters and although some of these are
rare inland visitors such as White-fronted, Black and Spiny-cheeked
and Singing, one should record at least ten species each visit. In the
mallee are many Yellow-plumed and occasional Purple-gaped Honeyeaters
and in the low scrub White-eared and occasional Tawny-crowned.
White-fronted Honeyeater (D Ong)
Little Friarbirds nest along the
seasonal creek by Noble Track. In winter, Yellow-faced and White-naped
come visiting. Species more likely to be found only in the Whipstick
are the Noisy Friarbird, Blue-faced, New Holland, Eastern Spinebill
and the very rare Regent Honeyeater.
* Peter Allan is a keen amateur
naturalist who has carried out bush bird nesting surveys in Kamarooka Forest for about three decades. "Kamarooka" is an aboriginal word
meaning "wait-a-while" and this section of Greater Bendigo
National Park is a great place to do just that.
Peter wrote the above article several years ago and the area has suffered a severe, prolonged drought ever since. Many of the under-storey and prostrate plants have died and bush bird numbers have collapsed. Peter used to record up to 90 active bush bird nests in his Kamarooka study area. Typically, about 30 nests were observed yearly until about 15 years ago; Peter has observed no active nests in the past few years. Similar observations have been observed by others and this has caused the Victoria Naturally Alliance to publicise the crash.
Our woodland birds in trouble (Victoria Naturally Alliance; site includes link to an ABC video clip).
Honeyeaters. Around and between the two former State Parks,
there are areas where Blue Mallee has been harvested for oil. Pam Land,
who owns property in this area, has found these areas to be good places
to look for Yellow-tufted, Yellow-faced, Yellow-plumed, White-eared,
White-plumed, White-naped, Tawny-crowned, Singing, Brown-headed, Black-chinned
and Fuscous honeyeaters. Other birds likely to be observed in such areas
include Red Wattlebird, Spotted Pardalote, Noisy Miner and Purple-crowned
Eucalyptus oil production in this
area is being phased out and the leased areas are to be included in
the new national park.
Back to top of page
Now part of Greater Bendigo National Park, the former Whipstick State
Park lies north of Eaglehawk. To reach it from Melbourne, turn left
(west) off the Midland Highway at Epsom (near Bendigo Pottery) and then
right onto Neilborough Road and stop at Shadbolt's Picnic Area.
In spring, the circuit walking track from Shadbolts to
Old Tom's Mine is sometimes lined with wildflowers provided there have been good winter rains, something which has not been the case over the past decade. The southern section of this walk
is through ironbark forest, a threatened ecosystem. 85% of Australia's
original ironbark forests have been lost to clearing and the Whipstick
is one of the few parks which protect this forest type.
Spring wildflowers growing under Ironbark in the Whipstick (K Stockwell)
The Whipstick (Flagstaff) Hill walking circuit from Shadbolts is also worth doing. This is a good walk
for observing mallee eucalypts.
The nature walk circuit from Notley Picnic
Ground is excellent because the different species of eucalypt are clearly
labelled. Camping is allowed at Notley Picnic area. If you intend walking
in the Whipstick Forest, the following map is recommended: Epsom 7724-1-3
Mulga Dam to Black Rock. There is also a long walking trail
from Mulga Dam at the northern end of Kamarooka forest across Campbell
Road to Black Rock Flat Road. Most of the route is marked with arrows on posts (but a few vital roadside posts are missing). There
is an interesting rock formation near the end/start of the walk and
close to Black Rock Road. The walk is best done in late August or early
September when the Whirrakee Wattle is in bloom. A car shuttle is suggested.
The walk includes Kamarooka Hill. The Summerfield 1:25,000 map (VicMap)
is recommended; some crucial markers are, unfortunately, missing.
Bendigo Bushwalking and Outdoors Club
One spot worth visiting for spring
wildflowers is Rifle Range Road (south of Notley Picnic Ground). Unfortunately, this area was recently burnt by DSE as part of its fuel-reduction programme. Prior to the present prolonged period of drought, this area was reputed to have the greatest
concentration of song birds in Australia.
The southern section of Greater
Bendigo National Park has three blocks: One Tree Hill, Mandurang South
and Crusoe/Big Hill.
The eastern section of One Tree Hill block can
be entered via Wildflower Drive off Strathfieldsaye Road, the western
section via Edwards Road and the eastern section from Pioneer
Road. There are tele-communication towers atop One Tree Hill and, as a result, there is pressure on authorities to burn bush around their base.This bush has many plants which are not common to other parts of the park, creating a dilemna insofar as fire could leave Bendigo without telephone services and some radio and television services. Walking Tracks near One Tree Hill usually provide good bird-watching
The Mandurang block can be accessed via Bailiff Track which leads
off Pearces Road. Hunts Gap Road leads into the Crusoe-Big Hill block. There are no camp grounds in the southern section.
Victoria web site and/or Chris Tzaros book Wildlife of the Box-Ironbark Country for maps and more about Greater Bendigo Regional Park.
Bendigo Regional Park
box-ironbark bushland park of about 8,740ha on the outskirts of Bendigo
has several sections.
One of the largest sections lies between Eaglehawk
and the northern (Whipstick) section of the Greater
Bendigo National Park. It comprises the former Eaglehawk Regional Park,
Diamond Hill Historic Reserve and parts of the Marong, Mandurang and
Wellsford State Forests as well as a number of smaller bushland reserves. The major access roads are Diamond Hill Road, Burns Street, Kangaroo Gully Road and Sheltons Road..
Diamond Hill has relics from past gold mining, including mullock heaps, tailings, remnant gardens and foundations of old buildings. Diamond Hill was once site of a township with hotels, churches, cottages and a gold commissioner's camp.
DSE notes on Bendigo Regional Park
Mount Sugarloaf Nature Conservation Reserve
on the eastern side of Wellsford Forest, (which is not part of the
National Park) Mount Sugarloaf is immediately west of the Fosterville Gold Mine. The vegetation on the mountain is much more diverse than that of the box-ironbark forest on the surrounding flat land.
Road, which runs between the McIvor Highway and the Epsom-Fosterville
Road, runs through the reserve. Mt Sugarloaf and its ridge is clothed
in thick scrub. Heath vegetation is found in the north-western part
of the reserve. Chestnut-crowned Heathwrens have been observed at the
northern end of the Sugarloaf Ridge.
This is, in my opinion, the most
interesting part of Wellsford Forest as far as bush walking and birding
are concerned. Much of the forest west of the reserve has been cut for
timber; a handful of old ironbarks remain in areas of ironbark forest.
Note: Murphy Road is incorrectly labelled Sugarloaf Road on the Bagshot
1:25,000 map. Topographic map: Bagshot 7724-1-2 1;25,000 (VicMap)
box-ironbark forest lies between Bendigo and Axedale.
is in flower, it is usually alive with various species of Honeyeater
and other birds. This forest is sometimes logged in places but probably
should not be insofar as it is very slow to recover without active management to curtail Dodder vines.
Part of Wellsford
Forest has been incorporated into Bendigo Regional Park. The remainder is available for logging. The dominant trees include Yellow Gum, Ironbark, Grey
Box and various species of Mallee. Understorey plants include Whirrakee
Wattle (Acacia williamsonii), Bent-leaf Wattle and Gold-dust
Wattle (Acacia acinacea) all of which are particularly attractive when in full bloom.
Much of the forest is a silvaculture plot. There are a few big ironbarks
between one and two kilometres west of Mt Sugarloaf. Private bushland
(Gunyah Valley Farm) to the north-east is of
higher conservation value than most of the public land, the owners having, at least until recently,
kept under-storey in tact; they have created wetland areas for birds.
The eastern side of the forest, Mt Sugarloaf Nature Conservation Reserve, affords good bushwalking
and birding opportunities and supports a range (no pun intended) of
Amy Groch has produced an outstanding brochure on Wellsford forest for the Department of Sustainability and Environment (DSE), including a map of the forest and information about eucalyptus distilling and visitor facilities I(e.g. Gunyah Picnic Ground).
Wellsford Forest - Gunyah Picnic Area (DSE; pdf file; external link)
DSE map of Wellsford Forest (pdf file; external link)
Note: The Parks pages outline other reserves and forests in the Bendigo area, including One Eye Forest.
A separate page has been prepared on plants of the Whipstick. Click here to enter.
Gold Dust Wattle (Acacia acinacea) (photo: K Stockwell)
Wattle (photo: David Ong)
Claw Spider Flower
(Grevillea alpina) (Photo: David Ong)
Mint Bush (Prostanthera denticulata) (photo: D Ong)
Mallee (photo: David Ong)
Caledenia (photo: David Ong)
threats to Greater Bendigo National Park
wildfire: there have been relatively few fires in the park. However, on 7th February 2009, an horrendous wildfire occurred on the outskirts of Eaglehawk and several houses were lost; some lives were also lost.
ill-informed public responses to the fear of wild fire resulting on pressure upon politicians and park managers to make decisions which do not reflect the fact that the Park itself is an asset worthy of protection.
pressure from residents who reside within park enclaves upon politicians and park managers to take action which may result in a loss of bio-diversity or environmental damage.
and unnecessary fuel reduction burns ~ areas in the middle of the Park have been burnt even though there has been little fuel on the ground; isolated shrubs (in areas of few under-storey plants) which acted like islands to wildlife were lost; bird-rich habitats in the middle of the forest have been burnt in Spring.
Loss of suitable habitat for birds, invertebrates and other native animals, e.g. as result of plants dying as a result of prolonged drought and increased temperatures.
damage by hoon drivers driving along walking tracks, driving on wet roads, damaging vegetation and/or doing doughnuts or burn-outs on flat cleared areas favoured by robins (e.g. near Campbells Road dams).
vandalism, e.g. of historical remains
soil and vegetation disturbance caused by gold prospecting and mining
weed invasions (e.g.
animals such as rabbits, goats, wallabies and hares damaging vegetation
discharge of mining tailings/wastes and polluted water into the Pak
bad decision making by inexperienced, inept or ignorant park management
lack of adequate funding for park maintenance and protection
as a result of climate change, an increased incidence of storms which impact upon the vegetation
pressure from persons with vested commercial interests resulting in decisions which damage habitat or bio-diversity.
Fuel Reduction Burns
Several Bendigo-area conservation groups have been working together to convinve the Park managers to produce a new, more appropriate, ecologically friendlier fuel reduction plan. Whilst the groups are not opposed to fuel reduction burns completely, they argue that such burns should not occur in 'drought refuge areas' around dams which are located well away from houses. During the prolonged drought, many bush birds have sought refuge in bushland around dams which still have some water in them.
Obviously, gullies and other weed-infested areas, including areas of Pampas Grass, should probably be burnt. Similarly, fuel reduction burns can be justified in bushland near houses that is dominated by Cassinia because Cassinia is very flammable.
Representatives of the groups have sought meetings with politicians, DSE and Parks officials and made submissions.
Unfortunately, some fuel reduction burns have resulted in trees being burnt through at the base and toppling down. Some isolated clumps of bushes have been burnt when raking around them would have prevented them from being burnt. In some areas there was very little fuel on the forest floor yet a burn occurred.The thin soil, and the micro-invertebrates it contains, may take decades to recover from such burns. In some areas, fuel reduction burns occurred during spring when birds were nesting in the area.
Fuel-reduction burn policy is a touchy subject. There is no ideal solution. But there is a clear need for more research and more consideration to the location and timing of controlled burns. Bio-diversity in the centre of the Park should not suffer as a result of unnecessary fuel reduction burn: the Park itself is an asset worthy of protection, just as houses and buildings are assets to be protected from wild fire.
Bushland reserves of northern Victoria and southern Riverina
Parks Victoria Greater Bendigo NP page