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Listen to a recent Member talk about his experience of living on the Co-op on the ABCs Science Show.
Read the article Round the Bend Conservation Co-operative: Alternative Strategies for Conservation and Housing" in Arena magazine, issue #158.
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Celebrating 50 years of residential conservation
The weather and the hospitality was warm and inviting as members (past and present), friends and associates of the Co-op gathered at the Christmas Hills Hall for an evening of celebration.
There were talks, recollections, speeches, songs and laughs a-plenty. There was music and dancing, champagne and food, and all under strict Covid rules that everybody should be in bed by midnight.
The paparazzi were also in attendance and here is some of their work…
Vale Tim Ealy
Tim Ealey died in late October after battling a chronic respiratory condition over several years.
Tim was one of the major figures who were inspirational and instrumental in protecting the Bend of Islands and developing the Environmental Living Zone (ELZ). Tim provided the intellectual and scientific heft behind the concept of ‘Residential Conservation”.
For members of Round the Bend Conservation Co-operative, Tim was not only a co-founder but a pioneering conservationist whose tireless efforts helped shape the way the Co-op operates today.
One example of Tim’s pioneering approaches was to introduce mosaic burning into the Co-op’s land management plan in the early 1970’s. Today it is recognised as ‘indigenous burning’.
Whether it was ground breaking research on kangaroos in Central Australia, early scientific expeditions to Antarctica, establishing the first Australian University Environmental Science course, or rehabilitating mangroves on Western Port Bay, Tim’s energy, charisma and infectious sense of humour were truly a force of nature.
Recognising Tim as one of the ‘giants’ of conservation is not without its irony. Tim was, some would say, ‘height challenged’ and a fitting legacy is to have the enduring association with a tiny marsupial he discovered in the Pilbara, named after him: Ningaui timealeyi.
Tim was indeed the mouse that roared.
Dr. Tim Ealy OAM
29 March 1927 - 21 October 2020
Above: One of the Co-op’s many terms of endearment for Tim is ‘Tim the Torch’!
New orchids identified
It's been a fantastic season for wildflowers on the Co-op, especially for orchids: Spider orchids, Duck orchids, Tiger orchids, Leopard orchids, Beard orchids, Caladenia's and Sun-orchids in particular.
And two new orchid species were identified for the Bend of Islands:
The Forest Sun Orchid, Thelymitra arenaria, flowered in late October on a warm sunny afternoon. It's possible this orchid has been photographed in previous years but not correctly differentiated from the three other similar species with hooded post anther lobes, that we have in the area.
Cryptic Fingers, Caladenia mentiens, has a very small flower but a tall stem.
Forest Sun Orchid, Thelymitra
Cryptic Findgers, Caladenia mentiens
Cryptic Findgers, Caladenia mentiens
Forest Sun Orchid, Thelymitra
About a year ago I went ‘round the bend’.
I moved into a conservation co-operative in the Bend of Islands, a unique residential community located on the Yarra river about 50 minutes northeast of Melbourne.
The idea came out of the blue, via an ad for a house that instantly answered my growing desire to connect with two undervalued - but to my mind essential - elements of life: community, and nature.
Round the Bend Conservation Co-operative owns 132 hectares of pristine bushland with 25 houses nestled in the landscape along three brick paved tracks. The land is characterised by Box-Ironbark forest that flows over a succession of dry ridges and wet gullies.
There are no fences, no dogs and no cats, so wombats, wallabies and kangaroos roam freely, and in the evenings Lesser Long-eared bats flit through the trees, occasionally huddling under the eaves of my house to catch their breath. I watch Sugar Gliders, Possums, and the endangered Brushtail Phascogale in the trees around the house, their eyes glowing like headlights in the beam of my torch.
The Co-op marries conservation with residential use - it’s been likened to ‘living in a national park’. It’s home to over 130 bird species, including the endangered Powerful Owl and White-throated Nightjar which chooses these slopes to breed after flying down from New Guinea each spring. Echidnas wander about and frogs, owls and grey flying foxes contribute to the night music.
If this all seems too bucolic it comes at a price. Bushfire is a real threat, shops are 20 minutes’ drive away and there is no public transport.
Members get together for work parties, management meetings and expert talks, but live otherwise independent lives. They represent a cross-section of society and stages of life, from families with children to retirees. But there is one unifying characteristic – a love of environment and a wish to conserve it.
Membership is a protracted process – and for very good reason. Time is needed for both parties to size each other up and see if they ‘fit’. I’ve been here a year and I’m content to still be in the 'fitting room.'
Encounters with nature here are not confined to the bush. Soon after arriving, I discovered my house has porous borders (and I don’t mean people who rent!). There are phascogales living in the roof and tiny scorpions venture inside and need to be escorted out again. I even discovered a baby Small-eyed Snake in the laundry! To me, these encounters – not so much nature at your door as through it – are a thrill.
A new sport hits the Co-op– nest boxing!
There are a number of nest boxes on the Round the Bend Conservation Co-op. I say ‘a number’ because none of us were exactly sure what that number was. They had been erected at different times over the years and though as it turns out they were by no means dormant, any monitoring of them had long since gone into hibernation. So back in May this year (’20) a few of us decided to institute a bit of good old scientific rigour, go visiting and see if anyone was at home.
Armed with a lot of enthusiasm, (and a sneaky camera on a pole that we could poke into each nest box door) we set off to do an inventory.
As word spread, more nest boxes came out of the woodwork (s’cuse the pun) and were added to the spreadsheet so that, at time of writing, there are 24. These are spread along the ridges off the three tracks and some close to houses.
We were armed with a map and satellite coordinates but still the first expedition required a bit guesswork and keen eyes to spot them.
I don’t know that any of us had a clue what we would find so we were delighted when the first nest box displayed the beautifully crafted leaf nest and stripy fur (and mildly annoyed faces) of a pair of Sugar Gliders.
So far we have logged: a Tuan, lots of Sugar Gliders, a bees nest, and much evidence of occupation if not actual inhabitants.
To minimize the intrusions for the occupants a schedule has been devised with monthly observations and a spreadsheet from which we can draw data on seasonal variation, frequency of use and any change or additions to occupants.
We will also be adding to the number of nest boxes as new ones become available.
We may have expected more Tuans but they have a large range, with multiple nests and besides their ideal habitation – at least around here, seems to be house roof cavities!