brisbane ranges

The seat

This is a guest article by Wendy Cook.

I am sitting on a wooden seat in my favourite place in the Brisbane Ranges National Park, swinging my legs. The seat, designed and built by a former park ranger, has a sloping back, and with feet well off the ground, everyone who sits on it soaks up their surroundings, relaxes and soon finds their legs swinging. It’s a cool October morning and I’m enjoying the warm sun and the view. In front of me are knobbly grey and red rocks, with a scattering of pale green and grey circles of lichen. They are the top of a small cliff, below which are bare twisted branches, black and grey, a reminder of the intense bushfire that tore through here in January 2006. 

The view from the seat.  Image: Wendy Cook

The view from the seat. Image: Wendy Cook

Although it is over ten years ago, the dry rocky soil makes recovery difficult. Many gum trees resemble small bushes. Fresh green leaves highlight the tops of a few. The soil between them is still bare. The seat miraculously survived the fire, unsinged, although nearby trees are blackened. In the valley and on distant hillsides the effects of the fire are less obvious. Trees are still less dense than they were and tall black trunks stand out. On one, I see a white pair of cockatoos. Raucous calls alert me to two more Sulphur-crested Cockatoos flying overhead.  A small dark bird of prey soars and dives over the valleys and hills. I hear quieter calls of many birds, chirps, chatterings and chimes, some sounding like musical conversations. A little bird with a grey back and an orange-brown breast lands, partly hidden, in a nearby tree, perhaps seeking insects. 

Taken seven years after the bushfire, this photo shows recovering eucalypts and bare soil.  Image: Wendy Cook

Taken seven years after the bushfire, this photo shows recovering eucalypts and bare soil. Image: Wendy Cook

A Red Beaks Orchid ( Pyrorchis nigricans ).  Image: Wendy Cook

A Red Beaks Orchid (Pyrorchis nigricans). Image: Wendy Cook

As I write, a small shiny dark brown beetle with reddish legs lands on my pen. The sunlight catches its wing cases, turning them dull green. It spends a couple of minutes exploring my pen, hand and paper, then flies away. On the red gravel, sand and rocks beneath my feet, little black ants work, heading out from their hole at the base of a rock, searching with pauses as they spread out from its central point, returning in haste with morsels of food for their nest. One pushes ahead of it a dull yellow wattle flower fallen from a bush growing up from below the cliff edge. The faded bloom is huge in comparison to the ant. It turns backwards and pulls it prize down into the hole. Nearby on the rocks, I see a larger ant, one of my favourites, also black apart from a golden abdomen glistening in the sun. 

A black ant with its golden abdomen glistening in the sun.  Image: Wendy Cook

A black ant with its golden abdomen glistening in the sun. Image: Wendy Cook

I think of the discoveries I made on my walk here. The bush is full of flowers, with species changing with the soil type. The most colourful area is through a heathland of poor soil.  Among the eucalypts grow grass trees with long narrow leaves. The central leaves stand tall like a spiky haircut, surrounded by a long drooping fringe. Below this is a jacket of brown dried leaves, and for the older plants, a black trunk, straight or crooked, and perhaps branched to two or more shaggy heads. The smaller grass trees create a circle in the dirt around them, where the pointed leaves touching the ground are swayed by the wind.  Around the grass trees are the flowers.  Orange, yellow and red peas mix with white flowers of teatrees and everlasting daisies and curly red blooms of Brisbane Ranges Grevillea, found nowhere else in the world. Buds on long stalks sprouting from a circle of leaves promise lilies yet to come. A cluster of wattle bushes dangle green seed pods edged with red. Crane flies cling to grass blades with their long legs. Their narrow wings spreading outwards are transparent, patterned with brown veins. 

Grass trees are a common sight on the journey to the seat.  Image: Owen Cook

Grass trees are a common sight on the journey to the seat. Image: Owen Cook

A view of grass trees and wildflowers.  Image: Wendy Cook

A view of grass trees and wildflowers. Image: Wendy Cook

The red flowers of Brisbane Ranges Grevillea ( Grevillea steiglitziana ) growing with Parrot-pea (Dillwynia sp.)

The red flowers of Brisbane Ranges Grevillea (Grevillea steiglitziana) growing with Parrot-pea (Dillwynia sp.)

A crane fly.  Image: Wendy Cook

A crane fly. Image: Wendy Cook

A wallaby and I startle each other.  I watch as it hops away, quickly vanishing among the grass trees. I find a large wide feather, white and fluffy near its base, brown towards the end, with darker brown patterns across the middle.  It lies on top of the leaf litter near the base of an old stringybark. A hollow is burnt into the tree’s base. Its top is broken off and its branches are twisted. I see two holes in the trunk with bark torn off around the entrances. Birds or animals are nesting in these hollows. Perhaps the feather fell from a young owl, learning to fly, or its parent delivering food.

The feather found on Wendy's travels.  Image: Wendy Cook

The feather found on Wendy's travels. Image: Wendy Cook

To me, the walk, and especially the seat, is a magical place, peaceful and full of life, with a wonderful view of hills and valleys, becoming paler in the distance. The horizon is fairly flat, with faint blue hilltops showing just above it in places. The only obvious signs of humanity are a pale gravel road winding down to a picnic ground, out of sight, and up again over a distant hill, sounds of faraway traffic on a busier road, and the seat.  Perhaps you too have your own magical place to visit and enjoy nature.

Wendy Cook lives on a farm west of Melbourne with her husband and two teenagers. She loves watching the nature she sees around her every day and writing about it. She is a volunteer with Fungimap and at her local primary school where she hopes to instil a love of nature and reading in the children.

Banner image courtesy of Wendy Cook.

Community Conservationists: Five Successful Applicants

Wild Melbourne is delighted to announce the successful applicants for our Community Conservationists video series, supported by the Norman Wettenhall Foundation. The application process yielded 36 fantastic applications that demonstrated the breadth and diversity of conservation work being done by the Victorian community.

As you can imagine, choosing just five stories to film out of so many amazing applications has been no easy task. We considered a number of criteria in order to guide our decision-making, including subject, location, conservation value, funding, profile and, of course, the story itself.      

In no particular order, our winners are:

Friends of Brisbane Ranges

The Brisbane Ranges are just west of Melbourne, in box-ironbark country and are home to a very rare marsupial - the brush-tailed phascogale. The Friends of Brisbane Ranges have been working in this unique region planting trees, installing nest boxes for phascogales, and conducting ecological monitoring. This has fostered a collaboration with many organisations, including the involvement of a local high school in the building of nest boxes, with the students also learning about conservation in the process. 



Connecting Country

This year, Connecting Country celebrates their ten year anniversary. Over the past decade, they have been working in Central Victoria, taking a landscape-scale approach to conservation over a wide region. Much of their work focuses on the conservation of woodland birds in the region through tree-planting and pest control, culminating in an ambitious aim to restore 7,000 Ha of woodland habitat by 2023. 

Connecting Country

Connecting Country

Friends of Bats and Bushcare

Melbourne's Friends of Bats and Bushcare work to conserve one of the city's most iconic, yet misunderstood, animals - the grey-headed flying fox - mostly through public education. This species is one of the few that can live in an urban environment, typified by the Yarra Bend Park colony, but they are still in decline overall. Friends of Bats and Bushcare hope that by teaching the public about flying foxes and maintaining their urban habitat, Melburnians can continue to share the city with the flying foxes into the future. 

Friends of Bats and Bushcare

Friends of Bats and Bushcare

Hindmarsh Landcare

Project Hindmarsh began with an idea - to reconnect the Big Desert with the Little Desert through corridors on roadsides and private land. Twenty years later, after planting 750,000 trees and 3,000km of direct seeding, Hindmarsh Landcare achieved their aim - creating the Little Desert-Big Desert biolink. Through this, Hindmarsh Landcare has also engaged people from the city with the Wimmera region, with hundreds of volunteers participating in the project over its two decades. 

Hindmarsh Landcare Network

Hindmarsh Landcare Network

Wildlife of the Central Highlands


Wildlife of the Central Highlands (WOTCH) was formed in 2014 by community members and environmental science students who wanted to document the wildlife in the Toolangi State Forest. Since then, they have been conducting citizen science in the Central Highlands by searching for species such as the Leadbeater's possum and the greater glider. Their work has had some very direct conservation outcomes. 

Thank you so much to all our applicants and to the Norman Wettenhall Foundation for their continued support of our organisation and the work that we do to engage Victorians with our natural world.

Cover photo courtesy of Connecting Country.