Lyrebirds on song with $49,600 grant

17 August 2015

A national grant will help one of the longest-running volunteer groups in Victoria to step up its work in the preservation of habitat for lyrebirds in the Sherbrooke Forest. The Sherbrooke Lyrebird Survey Group has received $49,600 as part of the Dandenong Ranges Environment and Bushfire Reduction Community Grants, secured by Jason Wood MP, Federal Member for La Trobe and funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme. The Community Grants are coordinated by the Port Phillip and Westernport Catchment Management Authority. This grant will help the group work with Parks Victoria to establish fenced exclusion plots. The plots will be planted with fire-suppressing rainforest species such as Sassafras and Muttonwood, which also helps rehabilitate rainforest vegetation. The group, which started in 1958, plays an active role in advocating for the lyrebirds’ survival by working in conjunction with Parks Victoria and the Friends of Sherbrooke Forest to conduct yearly surveys of the birds, ensure feral animals such as the introduced red fox and sambar deer are controlled in the park, and facilitate research into the life history and ecology of the Superb Lyrebird. Research has shown that lyrebirds prefer to breed in gullies where the rare Cool Temperate Rainforest vegetation community is found. These areas of Sherbrooke Forest are under severe pressure from feral deer and weeds. Alex Maisey of the Lyrebird Survey Group said that ongoing monitoring by the group reveals significant damage to the area by feral deer. “They ringbark the Sassafras by rubbing their antlers against the trees. They are big animals and also cause a lot of erosion and damage to the threatened vegetation communities both by trampling and eating.” The grant will provide exclusion fencing of some of the threatened vegetation to stop access by the deer, and it will also fund weed control. Despite the weed and deer problems, the Sherbrooke Forest is home to a healthy population of lyrebirds across its 800ha. The annual winter dawn surveys held recently of male lyrebird activity in the forest, revealed around 60 males, which could be supporting an estimated total lyrebird population of between 170 to 200 birds. “Lyrebirds are very long-lived and the males take between 7-10 years to mature and gain their own territories. Given how quickly the deer population has expanded, we need to act now to ensure the long-term population of lyrebirds,” Alex said. “The fencing will allow us to set up some long-term monitoring to check the impact of feral deer control programs,” he said. Member for La Trobe, Jason Wood MP, said the he is proud to have secured funding through the National Landcare Programme for the long-running group which has done important work in the Sherbrooke Forest for 57 years. “The Sherbooke Lyrebird Survey Group has a strong core of members, with a lot of supporters who step in for particular activities. They have shown what can be achieved when working in conjunction with Parks Victoria to tackle the problems,” he said. The project will also target weeds in these areas, to improve the quality of habitats of a range of rare species such as the Mount Dandenong Freshwater Amphipod, Dandenong Burrowing Crayfish, Slender Treefern and Sooty Owl. While the group works hard to tackle weed infestation, it always needs more volunteers to achieve its goals of creating weed-free habitat for wildlife. For more information on Sherbrooke Lyrebird Survey Group visit: https://www.facebook.com/SherbrookeLyrebirdStudyGroup