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Monday, 6 June 2022

Helping our threatened birds one grant at a time

Sixteen north east Victorian landholders have received grants under the third and final round of the Bush for Birds project.

The grants will support the landholders to create and improve habitat for the critically endangered Regent honeyeater and Swift Parrot. 

Among the round 3 grant recipients is Gianni D’Ortenzio from Everton Upper.

Mr D’Ortenzio has a strong interest in both the environment and landscaping and has previously worked to create some award-winning cottage-style gardens.

He is now turning his botanical interests towards what he can do for the environment and threatened woodland bird species.

His Bush for Birds grant focuses on thinning dense thickets of eucalypts, utilising a machine mulcher, to provide room for large hollow bearing trees to form, and revegetating a grassy paddock with some native nectar producing shrubs to encourage the Regent honeyeater, swift parrot and other woodland birds to visit his property.

He and his wife moved from south-west Victoria in January 2021 after buying the Everton Upper property and returning to north east Victoria where they had lived previously. Their property borders flora reserves at Everton and previously had been part of the Brown Bros Everton Hills Estate.

“We wanted to have a bit of space. It has been a steep learning curve since attending a Trust for Nature field day where I first saw the machine mulcher,” he said.

“It took a while to get my head around cutting down trees but the whole notion is that trees need water and space to grow and you need big trees for nesting sites. The whole area where we have undertaken this ecological thinning looks so much better and I have been very pleased with the results.”

Mr D’Ortenzio said the machine mulching had recently been undertaken over one ha utilising the Bush for Birds grant. Twenty-five of 80 Blakely’s Red Gums have also been planted in an open area and weed control to tackle lavender and blackberries will be completed as part of the program.

He said the expertise and enthusiasm offered by environmental consultant Ian Davidson, Landcare facilitator Alandi Durling, winemaker John Brown and others had given him the confidence and support to tackle the project.

Mr D’Ortenzio’s property is also home to some interesting reptile species including a friendly resident lace monitor and even a beautifully striped but endangered bandy bandy snake.

The Bush for Birds Project is supported by the North East Catchment Management Authority (CMA) in partnership with Trust for Nature through funding from the Australian Government. 

The program aims to help land managers restore, manage, and increase critical habitat for these species on private and public land. It also aims to protect quality habitat in perpetuity by expanding the area of conservation covenants in the region.  

The Regent honeyeater and Swift Parrot depend on woodland habitat which has been lost due to historic land clearing and ongoing land degradation issues, including invasive plants and animals. 

Large areas of suitable and remnant habitat for these birds frequently occur on private land. The involvement and contribution by north east Victorian landholders is essential for the success of the Bush for Birds project, which will also benefit other woodland species.  

Bush for Birds has already funded 52 sites in previous rounds, covering an area of 1832 hectares under land management agreements. These agreements comprise 262 ha of revegetation, 1268 ha of weed control, 76 ha of ecological thinning, and the establishment of 234 ha of conservation covenants.  

After thorough site assessments by project officers and evaluations by an expert panel, the third and final round of Bush for Birds grants will support 16 project sites and help landholders manage another 341 hectares of land, totalling 2173 hectares under land management agreements as part of the project.  

Grant recipients will kick-start their projects this year. On-ground actions for the round three grants will add another 20 hectares of revegetation, 225 hectares of weed control, 61 ha of ecological thinning and the establishment of 17 ha of conservation covenants.

The Bush for Birds project is now in the final implementation phase, and grant recipients should complete all activities by March 2023. 

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