Box-Ironbark Birding in Nagambie

Location: Nagambie

Size: 257 hectares

Traditional Owners:


Landholder: Manfred Ruff

Why I bought the property

In late 1996, the farmer who owned the property as part of larger adjacent holdings, had fortuitously advertised the property in Wingspan, the then journal of Birds Australia. I hadn’t been in the market for a rural block of land, but a seed was planted in the back of my head that continued to grow until some month later I made the call, fully expecting the property to already be sold. It wasn’t, so arrangements were made for a visit.

On that first visit I fell in love with the Ironbarks and the Yellow-tufted Honeyeaters, whereupon the property was as good as sold. The fact that it was adjacent to forested public and private land on 3 sides added to the greater landscape attraction of its location.

Property description

The property had been partly cleared in the early 1900’s for stock grazing and the remainder had been subject to selective logging. Luckily, numerous old growth trees survived and provide critical habitat for hollow dwellers and nectar feeders.

When I purchased the property it could most simply be described as roughly equal areas of forest, scrubby regrowth and cleared paddocks. It has a couple of natural drainage lines that flow for some time following wetter periods. Now, 27 years later, the regrowth areas have roughly doubled in size at the expense of the cleared areas.

Additionally, a grant from the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (GBCMA) in 2018/19 has allowed a previously cleared area to be direct sown with local indigenous flora. With 2019 being very dry, initial germination was patchy, but later wetter years have seen this direct seeding turn into an outstanding success story.

Numerous stone artefacts dating back to Aboriginal occupation have been pointed out to me and some scar trees have also been found.

What have we done

In the first few years after purchasing the property I collected seed from the many different tree and shrub species on the property and planted the seedlings mostly along the badly eroding drainage lines. As luck would have it, those first few years were reasonable in terms of rainfall and the plantings had a high success rate. When the millenium drought began in 2001, subsequent plantings hit 100% failure rate. At that point I stopped and have done very little revegetation since, apart from the direct seeding in 2018/19.

Following the passage of 25 years since those initial plantings, it is now extremely rewarding to see those plants producing seedlings of their own and thereby continuing with natural regeneration the revegetation that I had started.

Around 100 nestboxes have been installed over the years, including 60 in 2016/17 with funding through the GBCMA. Most common users of the boxes have been Owlet Nightjars and Sugar Gliders.

What Has Changed?

Following the breaking of the millenium drought, the property’s level of natural regeneration took off and I saw little need in conducting additional plantings. The drainage lines are now largely covered in reedy vegetation that has stabilized the erosion and provided much needed habitat for frogs.

Sheep had previously wandered through the forested areas, decimating the herb and shrub layer. With removal of the stock and the breaking of the drought, this layer has now recovered well, providing beautiful flowering displays in late Winter and Spring.

The regrowth areas also responded to the drought breaking and continue to expand into the previously cleared areas.

The establishment of our house garden has also seemed to benefit some smaller bird species that thrive in the protective environment provided by Grevilleas and Bottlebrushes. Over the last few years, Diamond Firetails have nested in most of the trees in our garden, including multiple nests in the Olive and Lemon trees. Now it is common to, on a daily basis, see parties of 10 or more individuals of this species whereas previously it was only seen in parties of 3 or 4 on only a handful of occasions each year.

What Lives Here?

The bird list for the property now exceeds 170 indigenous species, whilst animals include Brush-tailed Phascogales, Yellow-footed Antechinus, Sugar Gliders, Echidnas, Sand and Tree Goannas and numerous other smaller lizards and snakes.

One year when Ironbarks flowered particularly intensely, a flock of Grey-headed Flying Foxes flew in each evening to partake of the nectar bounty.

Swift Parrots are also regularly recorded when the Ironbarks are in flower.

Vegetation is typical Box-Ironbark, dominated by various Box species, along with Red Ironbark and Red Stringybark.

Ironbark photo by Manfred Ruff.

Mid layer comprises Cassinia (known locally as “Chinese Scrub”, as it was said to follow the diggings of the Chinese prospectors in the 1800’s goldrush era). various Acacia species and areas of Grey Grasstrees. The lower layer includes Daphne Heath, Rosy Baeckea and Nodding Blue Lily.

My wife and I also live here now, having moved here permanently in 2012.

Our goals

With the property well on the road to recovery, it now needs time for the young saplings to develop into the old growth trees that must have dominated the property prior to the arrival of the European settlers. This will take time that exceeds our lifespans, and underscores the purpose and importance of the covenant I placed on the property not long after I bought it.

I have been interested in all things Nature since a very early age and became an avid birdwatcher in my early teens, I bought the vacant block in the late 1990's, first building a shed and then an off-grid house a couple of years later. I now live here permanently with my wife.
We provide eco-tourism services through our Box-Ironbark Birding business, which you can follow via our website or social media.

Land Covenantors Victoria acknowledges the Traditional Custodians of country throughout Victoria and their deep connections to land, water and community. We pay our respect to their Elders past and present and extend that respect to all Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples today. Contact:

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