whipstickIronbark and wattle by K Stockwell

The aim of this page is to promote the Greater Bendigo National Park. Emphasis has been placed on the Whipstick-Kamarooka section, its plants and its birds.

Bendigo-Eaglehawk is fortunate to be almost completely surrounded by bushland.

Accessing Kamarooka Forest
The Kamarooka Section of the park can be accessed from Elmore bhy taking Raywood Road to the Tennyson Road intersection and turning south (at the stop sign). After a few hundred metre, the park is entered and there is track on the right, Camp Road, which leads past the Mulga Dam camping area and the start of the Mulga Dam to Black Rock Flat walking track.

The Kamarooka section can be accessed from Huntly, Bendigo via Tennyson Road.

Accessing The Whipstick
The Whipstick section of the park can be accessed from Eaglehawk via the Eaglehawk-Neilborough Road.

The One Tree Hill section can be accessed from Flora Hill via Mandurang Road.

Mount Sugarloaf NCR can be accessed via Axedale-Goornong Road.

Camping
There are commercial caravan parks in Bendigo and Elmore.

In the Kamarooka Forest, free bush camping is allowed alongside Mulga Dam and Rush Dam but there are no toilets.

In the Whipostick section, camping is allowed at Shadbolt, Notley and Loeser picnic and camping areas. There are toilets at Shadbolts and Notley but not at Loeser.

Maps
A map of the park can be downloaded from the Parks Victoria web site.

1:25,000 topographic maps covering the park include:
Summerfield 7724-1-4
Mayreef 7724-1-1
Epsom 7724-1-3
Mandurang 7724-2-4


 

Bushland Reserves
of
northern Victoria and the Southern Riverina

Greater Bendigo NP

Black Rock
Black Rock in Greater Bendigo National Park by K. Stockwell

Greater Bendigo National Park

including

Kamrooka Forest, the Bendigo Whipstick, One Tree Hill and Mt Sugarloaf Nature Conservation Reserve

Introduction

Southern Section

Access (side panel)

 

Introduction

Covering 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.

The bushland 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 Section

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.

Birding in Kamarooka by Peter Allan

A 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.

linkClick here to download a copy of Peter Allan's pdf brochure on birding spots of Kamarooka.

Grey Mulga
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 Forest.

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
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 State.

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
Rufous Whistler (David Ong)

Crested Bellbird
Crested 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
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 HE
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.

Links to other sitesOur 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 Lorikeet.

Eucalyptus oil production in this area is being phased out and the leased areas are to be included in the new national park.

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The Whipstick

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.

Walks
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.

Whipstick
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 1:25,000 (VicMap).

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.

Links to other sitesBendigo 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.

 

Southern Section

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 opportunities.

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.

linkSee Parks 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

This 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.

Links to other sitesDSE notes on Bendigo Regional Park

Mount Sugarloaf Nature Conservation Reserve

Located 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.

Murphy 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)

Wellsford Forest

This box-ironbark forest lies between Bendigo and Axedale.

When ironbark 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 vegetation types.

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).

Links to other sitesWellsford Forest - Gunyah Picnic Area (DSE; pdf file; external link)

Links to other sitesDSE 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.

 

Whipstick Plants

A separate page has been prepared on plants of the Whipstick. Click here to enter.

'.Gold Dust
Gold Dust Wattle (Acacia acinacea) (photo: K Stockwell)

 

Whirrakee Wattle
Whirrakee Wattle (photo: David Ong)

 

Grevillea alpina
Cat's Claw Spider Flower
(Grevillea alpina) (Photo: David Ong)

 

Prostanthera
Rough Mint Bush (Prostanthera denticulata) (photo: D Ong)

 

Bull Mallee
Bull Mallee (photo: David Ong)

 

Caledenia
Caledenia (photo: David Ong)

Potential threats to Greater Bendigo National Park

Potential threats include:

  • 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.

  • inappropriate, frequent 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. Pampas Grass)

  • 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.

linkBushland reserves of northern Victoria and southern Riverina

linkParks Victoria Greater Bendigo NP page

 

Greater Bendigo National Park

Parks Victoria Greater Bendigo National Park Page

notes on reservesBushland reserves of northern Victoria and southern (Riverina) New South Wales

 

Click the 'next' button for the Gunbower-Perricoota Forest page

 

Northern Victoria and Southern Riverina Conservation and Environment Site

 Section 1: Conservation news  Section 5: Bush photographs
 Section 2: Bushwalking  Section 6: Bushland reserves
 Section 3: Birding   Section 7: Indigenous animals
 Section 4: Indigenous plants  Section 8: Conservation Links
 

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