I t’s 6am on a warm, breezy Saturday. Cars are being parked on the paddock, binoculars, insect repellent, hats and water bottles are coming out as people gather. We greet each other, welcome and introduce visitors, acknowledge the traditional custodians, attend to the health and safety briefing. As well as regulars, a few visitors join us, people who know and love their birds.
We hear some tips on how to listen for the birds around us, led by Deborah Metters, our Land for Wildlife Regional Coordinator. Then off we amble for two hours of wandering along bush tracks, stopping to listen and discuss what we might be hearing and seeing, learning pointers on how to match the sights and sounds of the birds we’re seeing to their names.
Along the way people stop to look at plants, have quiet side chats, wander off on their own, feed the younger boys, as well as listen to, watch and discuss the birdlife. Then it’s back to the deck for a scrumptious shared breakfast provided by all. It’s another morning with the Mt Mellum Land for Wildlife Local Area Network.
Mt Mellum is a smallish mountain (approx. 400m high) at the southern end of the Blackall Range in the Sunshine Coast Hinterland, overlooking the magnificent Glass House Mountains to the south. The geological landscape is basalt flows at the top of the hill meeting Landsborough sandstone further down. It’s a rich place for flora and fauna.
The Sunshine Coast Council has purchased several properties around the mountain as part of their acquisitions program to preserve places of biological importance and create connectivity corridors. There is no township of Mt Mellum, rather a series of houses dotted in rural properties along the main roads around, up and down the mountain.
Many local Mt Mellum landholders are committed to Land for Wildlife, and it is these people who gather every three months or so for a Saturday morning gettogether. We’re a varied group; working singles and families, retired people, those who live on their land, others who live elsewhere. Some joined Land for Wildlife years ago, others are working towards that registration. Our block sizes vary greatly, and even include three smaller blocks whose owners are working towards Land for Wildlife registration as one unit.
Several years ago, a question was raised in a Land for Wildlife publication, asking if anyone saw benefit in beginning a Local Area Network in their area. After tossing the idea around with our Land for Wildlife Officers Nick Clancy and Alan Wynn, the early stages of the group kicked off.
Initially, there were individual discussions with some would-be members and then a general invitation to local Land for Wildlife landholders to a walk, morning tea and a discussion at the Councilowned Mt Mellum East Nature Refuge. A questionnaire followed, which led to our first ‘official walk’ at a wonderful property down in a gully, an area full of original and planted Richmond Birdwing Vines (Pararistolochia praevenosa).
Bev Hand, a local elder, was generous with her time and knowledge for that first wander. We saw evidence of earlier Kabi Kabi inhabitation through grinding grooves on the rocky creek bed and were introduced to that patch of bush through Kabi Kabi eyes.
Generosity has been a theme of the group, from members opening their properties, to sharing information, fauna camera images, maps, delicious food and much more. The natural tendency to ‘have the place looking good’ has taken over a bit, but really, with lots to do, who has time to remove the weeds to have the place looking spiffy for neighbours and friends?
Our intentions are to create a group of people who encourage each other in the care and love of the bush and its inhabitants, to increase our knowledge and understanding of the ecosystems, the flora, the fauna and the interrelationships within them, to enjoy ourselves socially, and to include Land for Wildlife newcomers on our little mountain. Deep thanks to Alan Wynn for his advice and encouragement in this process.
Where next? Well, after several years of gatherings, we have more properties to visit when we’re invited, much to learn through educational events, networking with neighbours, discussions about how we impact the landscape and visits from experts. Of course the urge to share our successes, present our problems and discuss our land management issues is ongoing. Whatever we do, it will be done in a spirit of cooperation as a diverse group is brought together by our commitment to the care of the flora and fauna of Mt Mellum.
Article by Christine McMaster
Land for Wildlife member
Mt Mellum, Sunshine Coast