Bugs, birds and bushes blitz

A sleepy koala spotted amongst the gum leaves. Pictures: SUZANNE BURVILLE.

By Mikayla van Loon

If you are needing something to do during lockdown and want to make those walks a little more interesting or if you’ve ever had an interest in science and the environment then this one is for you.

Yarra Ranges residents are invited to become citizen scientists for the month of September to help log the vast array of flora and fauna the shire has on offer.

A competition between eight local councils, including the Yarra Ranges, Greater Dandenong, Casey, Monash, Kingston, Knox, Frankston, and Cardinia, is aiming to get people out and about to take photos of the various species of plants and animals in their own backyards or wherever a walk takes them.

Yarra Ranges Council’s environmental volunteer support officer Jen Ellison said it is a great way for each of the regions to learn more about local plants and animals.

“It’s a really, really great way of learning a little bit more about your local nature, there might even be things that you’ve got in your garden that you don’t know you’ve got,” Ms Ellison said.

This aligns with the council’s biodiversity strategy which is currently being worked on and will help form a bigger picture of what needs to be conserved in the future.

“It really helps us look at all of our reserves in the Yarra Ranges region, and see, what do we have in our region, what flora and fauna have we got? What do we want more of? What do we need to protect?

“And so it’s a really fantastic way of helping us get more data and understanding about our local nature.”

By involving the community, a broader area can be covered, more so than what Ms Ellison’s team could do on their own.

“We have a lot of wildlife in the Yarra Ranges so there’s no way for us to know what’s out there,” she said.

“But this is a great way of citizens getting out there and showing us pictures, showing us what sort of potentially rare species we do have.”

This project will also help contribute to an understanding of the biodiversity that is thriving in its natural habitat and what might have changed throughout the years.

Ms Ellison is already aware of some really exciting discoveries, with one family trying to snap a photo of a koala.

“We don’t have many koalas in the Yarra Ranges. So if we can get some amazing features like that, then that’s fantastic.”

While those discoveries are wonderful, Ms Ellison said she really hopes this inspires a curiosity in children to learn about the world around them and be fascinated by Australia’s native species, not just zoo animals like elephants and tigers.

“I really hope it gets kids curious. I think that’s what’s really great, I hope they want to lift up some bark and look for the bugs underneath. I hope they’re looking in their trees to hear bird noises.”

This is all being hosted through the application iNaturalist, where people can take photos and upload their observations.

To find out more, head to https://www.yarraranges.vic.gov.au/Experience/Events/Biodiversity-Blitz-2021