About the Friends

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Yellingbo, Woori Yallock Creek sub-catchment, Australia
Have you ever wanted to contribute to conservation of a threatened species? The Helmeted Honeyeater is Victoria's state emblem and is listed as: 1. Critically endangered (DSE Advisory List Of Threatened Vertebrate Fauna In Victoria - 2007) 2. Threatened (Victorian Govt. Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988) 3. Critically endangered (Federal Govt. Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999) Can people make a difference to this bird's long-term survival? We believe anyone can. Check out the 'Take action' button on our homepage (www.helmetedhoneyeater.org.au), then contact us for more details.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Helmeted Honeyeater Christmas Campaign

Lost for ideas for that hard to buy for person in your life? ZoosVictoria have developed a HeHo Christmas card to plant seeds of hope for Helmeted Honeyeaters! The purchase of 1 HeHo Christmas card will restore 1 square metre of habitat for the Helmeted Honeyeater and give a gift of hope for a future filled with wildlife and wild places.

Through the HeHo Christmas card campaign we hope to raise awareness about the plight of the Helmeted Honeyeater, provide a convenient method to contribute to the conservation of the species and raise enough money to restore two revegetation plots within Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve. 100% of the funds raised go directly to this project.

Cards are $15.00 each. To purchase, please contact Margaret Harwood at Melbourne Zoo on 03 9285 9462 or Andrea Burgess at Healesville Sanctuary on 03 5957 2850.

More information at http://www.zoo.org.au/heho

Monday, October 20, 2008

Education through art

Yellingbo and Macclesfield Primary School students are currently exhibiting work at Karwarra Australian Plant Gardens' Wildlife Art Exhibition. The theme - Endangered Species and their Habitat. You'd never guess HeHos are critically endangered by the number displayed at Karwarra at the moment! Also depicted are Leadbeater's Possums, Powerful Owls and many more species of the bush. On exhibition now until Sunday 9 November 2008 at Karwarra, Mt Dandenong Tourist Road, Kalorama. Oh... and the professional artwork is quite stunning.

Artwork by:
Darrien (Helmeted Honeyeater's nesting) & Matt (Leadbeaters Possums), students at Yellingbo Primary School

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

BlueD's 2008-09 breeding year - parenting in the fast lane

20/4/09: With the breeding season over, it is interesting to see the bird's behaviour changes. Grey is certainly showing his dominance of one territory. BlueD and pink/white in particular are bustled off the feeding stations. Female fledglings disperse from the parental territory to find a male mate in a neighbouring territory. It certainly looks like Grey is 'encouraging' pink/white to disperse.

3/4/09: Monitoring over past weeks shows mauve/orange and red/dark blue missing - hopefully just temporarily. The remaining unbanded fledglings of BlueD and Grey have now been banded. Light green/mauve, pink/white and green/mauve are thriving and seen regularly.

16/1/09: Grey and BlueD fledged their youngster this morning at about 9.26am - wonderful! (One nestling didn't survive). This fledgling is banded mauve/orange. Things were a little quiet in the colony today, presumably because of a goshawk in the area. They are known as predators of HeHo's around Yellingbo.

11/1/09: BlueD has 2 new nestlings that are 4-5 days old. Her 3 older fledglings are still regularly sighted at the supplementary feeding stations.

19/12/08: The new fledgling has been banded with the colours red/dark blue.

2/12/08: The young chick has fledged! Another milestone achieved. BlueD was actively collecting mealworms for this fledgling this morning, cramming 3 into its mouth and then coming back for more as we watched. She's a great mum!

23/11/08: BlueD's nestling is now 2 days old. This is one of the critical periods for HeHo survival. At 12-13 days this nestling will fledge and be less vulnerable to predation. At 40 days, it will be almost independent and at 1 year it will be breeding. Life in the fast lane!

14/11/08: Nest No. 3 has 1 egg. It was candled today, showing that it's fertile. BlueD and the father are still feeding their two 43 day old fledglings. Busy times.

27/10/08: BlueD has already begun a new nest, her 3rd for the season, and is still feeding the 2 fledglings from nest No.2. (She was just practicing with nest No. 1 and didn't lay eggs). HeHo's can nest up to 4 times in a season.

14/10/08: 'Grey' is believed to be the father - Helmeted Honeyeaters are cooperative breeders ie aunts & uncles are known to assist with the rearing of some young. Good news today - both birds have fledged (left the nest).

2/10/08: 'BlueD', a female Helmeted Honeyeater at Yellingbo has successfully hatched 2 eggs this week, the first nestlings (baby birds that haven't left the nest) for the 2008-09 season at Yellingbo. Stay tuned as we keep track of this family group.

Image: BlueD grabs a mealworm to feed her young.
Photograph by: B. Tardif

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Innovation earns the HeHo community a Landcare Award

Congratulations to all our members and volunteers. What a team!

The Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater have won the Community Group Caring for Public Land Award at the 2008 Port Phillip and Western Port Landcare Awards held at Zinc, Federation Square on 6/9/08.

The Friends were selected from seven outstanding nominations from among the more than 230 ‘Friends of’ Groups within the Port Phillip and Western Port region, which encompasses Melbourne and its surrounding catchments.

The Awards celebrate people caring for land and focus on the thousands of volunteers making a difference by tackling some of the big issues in Melbourne’s landscape and catchment environments. CEO of the Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority Mr David Buntine said the Friends continue to be leaders in their field.

“The Group is widely recognised for excellence and innovation in conservation activities and has developed strategic links with other organisations, established an indigenous nursery producing 50,000 plans per year for restoration of public and private land,” Mr Buntine said. “Their contribution in the Yarra Valley and particularly in the Yellingbo area has been significant, and their enthusiasm and commitment as a group continues to make outstanding difference to the protection of local flora and fauna.”

The Friends will now be nominated for the 2009 Victorian Landcare Awards.

The Friends would also like to acknowledge two of our friends in conservation who were both nominated in the strongly contested 'Caring for Country' category.
  • Steve Mitchell from Macclesfield Landcare Group
  • Bend of Islands Conservation Association (Winners. Congratulations!)
More information here

Monday, August 11, 2008

Ambassadors go behind the scenes

The Friends' Ambassadors’ program with Yellingbo and Macclesfield Primary Schools involves 8 students from each school. They experience what is involved in efforts to save our endangered bird emblem and are encouraged to spread the word on what each individual can do to preserve our precious indigenous flora and fauna.

Back in June the students were driven into the reserve in 4wd’s to learn about the special habitat Helmeted Honeyeater’s require, and to gain first-hand experience of the supplementary bird feeding and monitoring program. A tour of our nursery, a presentation on the Leadbeater’s Possum and a bushwalk capped off the day.

On Tuesday 29/7/08 we took a bus to Healesville Sanctuary to meet up with Senior Keeper, Karina Cartwright, who showed us through the captive breeding areas for the Helmeted Honeyeater, Mountain Pygmy-possum, Orange-bellied Parrot, Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby and Tasmanian Devil. A really unique experience to see what goes on behind the scenes. We were very lucky to meet up with one of the sanctuary’s vets, Rupert Baker, who showed us a Mountain Pygmy-possum that he had operated on. Not many people get to see these critically endangered animals. We then headed for the Parrots in Flight exhibition with another keeper, Jason which was a great experience before we reluctantly headed home. The Ambassadors’ loved the day and learnt a lot from Karina. Here are some of their edited comments:

Kristy: "Some of the things that the keepers feed the helmeted honey eaters were millworms (sic. mealworms). Karina told us that they taste like popcorn when fried, and also a milky substance that contains dried pollens and seeds.

I think this was an excellent experience and I hope we get to do it again someday. This is a day I will never forget."

Ryan H: "We were given a challenge to find the lyre birds nest. I was one out of the three to find it was on top of a fern stump."

Harry: "The day ended like any other day except for the fact that I just had the most exiting day of the year. The next day I thought that it would be a normal day but I was crowded with people that wanted to know what I did."

Sarah: "The nest was built in the fork of a tree and it was made from emu feathers which had spider webs wrapped around it to stop it from falling apart and dingo hair on the inside to make it nice and soft for the chicks.

The sanctuary put little cameras inside the avaries. When there is a chick the camera is moved above the nest so the sanctuary can watch the chick to make sure there isn’t any problems.

I still can’t believe how lucky I was to get the chance to go into so many places the public never gets to go and do so many things! I wish I could do it again! THANK YOU FRIENDS OF THE HELMETED HONEYEATER AND HEALSVILLE SANCTUARY!"

Image: The Ambassadors are shown how the video monitoring equipment aids the recovery effort
Photograph by: S. Tardif

ACF Peter Rawlinson Award

The Friends were recently honoured with a Highly Commended award under the ACF Peter Rawlinson Award for our work in conservation. Congratulations to all our volunteers and staff who continue to work with such dedication and enjoyment towards the conservation of the Helmeted Honeyeater and its habitat

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Minister Jennings comes to YNCR

On 14 May 08 Gavin Jennings, Minister for the Environment, Climate Change and Innovation (pictured in centre), visited the Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve (YNCR) to see and hear first hand about this unique environment, the threats it is facing and the practical actions, planning and drive of those working toward good conservation outcomes for this area. He was shown Helmeted Honeyeaters and a Leadbeater's Possum in their natural environment. After touring the reserve, the Minister was introduced to a number of key Friends’ partner organisations and individuals, who spoke on current local issues such as access to funding opportunities and support for landholders undertaking conservation works on private properties and the linking of ‘island’ reserves and public land to establish conservation bio-links for our native species in this time of increasing pressure from climate change.

We also took the opportunity to ask the Minister to help us connect with new audiences and assist us promote two of our publications, “Yellingbo – a special place” and “Hilton finds a Home”, copies of which were presented to him on the day. Profits from these books go directly into the Friends activities in the reserve so with stock still on hand, the Friends would be pleased to hear from any of our members who are able to offer assistance with marketing through their networks.

Preliminary plans are being made to follow up this visit with an ‘update meeting’ later
in the year.

Image: Steve Mitchell (Macclesfield Landcare), Bruce Quin (DSE Field Ornithologist), Gavin Jennings and Brooke Colbert (Ministerial advisor on the Environment)
Photograph by: R Connor

Bushfire at Bunyip State Park

A fire that occurred in Bunyip State Park over the 25th -27th April 2008 is still being investigated, however we can report that it got within 4.5-5.0 kms of the Helmeted Honeyeater release sites before a fortunate weather change brought 16 mm of rain and a gentler wind, reducing fire activity and allowing it to be contained and extinguished. Emergency plans were activated as a precaution, but the birds remained safe.

Image: Tonimbuk release site 1, Bunyip State Park
Photograph by: S Tardif

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Can you help?

Did you know we host corporate planting days in the Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve?

Contact the Friends Coordinators, Sue or Bruce for details - 5964 8341 or heho1@optusnet.com.au

Image: Australian Unity staff planted habitat plants for their corporate voluntering day
Photograph by: B. Tardif

Going wild in April 08

Young Helmeted Honeyeaters flew off into the wild in April, blithely unaware of the critical role they must play to save their kind from extinction.

The birds, aged from just two to eight months, were the latest graduates of Healesville Sanctuary’s captive breeding program that supplements two wild populations of honeyeaters.

Six birds were released at Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve, with nine others released at Bunyip State Park. The fate of the birds now rests with nature, assisted by the Department of Sustainability and Environment, Parks Victoria and volunteers such as the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater.

The releases take the wild population of Victoria’s bird emblem to about one hundred, a stark contrast to many years ago when there was plentiful habitat for the birds from Healesville to South Gippsland.

DSE Field Ornithologist Bruce Quin has been working to boost survival rates of the birds in the wild for more than 14 years. Supported by a dedicated group of volunteers, Bruce provides supplementary food for the released birds which enables close monitoring of the population. This assists in the long term understanding of the Helmeted Honeyeater’s habitat needs, potential predators, survival and population dispersal.

President of the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater Bob Anderson says, “It is a special feeling to be a spectator and watch released captive birds discover that the sky is now their ceiling. Being part of a program that returns birds to their natural habitat is a real joy.”

Without the commitment and cooperative approach of government and volunteers, the long-term aim to bring this species back from the brink of extinction would not be possible.

Image: A young Helmeted Honeyeater flies free
Photograph by: R. Connor

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Members Day invitation - Sunday 30/3/08

Members Day for the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater starts at midday at the Rangers house, 1217 Macclesfield Road, Yellingbo. We will start with a BYO picnic or BBQ lunch, followed by a talk, the unveiling of a memorial plaque for one of our volunteers who passed away late last year and the planting of habitat plants in her memory.

Not a member but would like to attend? You can join on the day!

Our guest speaker, Karina Cartwright is the Senior Keeper of Threatened Species at Healesville Sanctuary. She will update us on the Helmeted Honeyeater’s captive breeding program. Karina has provided the following brief introduction.

The captive breeding program for Helmeted Honeyeaters at Healesville Sanctuary began in 1989. Today the Sanctuary holds 13 pair of Helmeted Honeyeaters in purpose built aviaries, each aviary housing a single pair of birds. Two pair of Yellow Tufted Honeyeaters are also held for use as foster parents. Each year the majority of Helmeted Honeyeaters bred at the Sanctuary are released between the two sites of Yellingbo and Tonimbuk. Occasionally some birds are retained at the Sanctuary for use as breeders in the captive population. Fledgling birds are released at the end of each breeding season (around April) after spending three days in acclimatisation aviaries at the release sites. Throughout the breeding season eggs and nestlings are also moved between the Sanctuary and wild nests as required. This happens for a number of reasons:

1. If a wild nest is abandoned the eggs/nestlings can be fostered into a captive nest or placed into an incubator and hand raised or fostered after hatching

2. If the age of a captive and wild nest are within a few days age of each other eggs/nestlings can be fostered from captive to wild nests. This is a preferable form of ‘release to the wild’ of captive birds as they are then raised and socialised in a wild situation.

All welcome.

Image: Karina & the Friends at our last Members Day
Photograph by: S. Tardif

Fauna survey 25/01/08 to 27/01/08

The Field Naturalists Club of Victoria (FNCV) and the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater conducted a fauna survey for bats and small terrestrial mammals at Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve (YNCR) over the Australia Day weekend.

Twenty seven people, including 11 young people, attended and thoroughly enjoyed the weekend. The weather was warm and humid, good weather for trapping our focal species - bats.

Over the two nights forty four bats were trapped in Harp traps. There were five different species recorded – Chocolate Wattled Bat (Chalinolobus mori), Large Forest Bat (Vespadelus darlingtoni), Little Forest Bat (Vespadelus vulturnus), Lesser Long-eared Bat (Nyctophilus geoffroyi) and an Eastern Broad-nosed Bat (Scotorepens orion). A White-striped Freetail Bat (Tadarida australis) was also heard to call during the night. All animals were identified, sexed, weighed, measured and released over the weekend. This information will be included in the Atlas of Victorian Wildlife database.

A full report is included in our Autumn 2008 newsletter.

The information from these surveys increases our understanding of the species diversity and habitat within YNCR which assists with future management plans. If you would like to be contacted about our next survey – a bird survey – please email heho1@optusnet.com.au or phone 5964 8341 with your name and daytime contact details.

Thank you to the FNCV for an enjoyable and informative weekend.

Image: Setting the Harp trap
Photograph by
: B. Tardif