At their property at Slaty Creek (near St Arnaud) Alison Harris and Rob Youl ran a next box workshop for twenty people with young St Kilda naturalist, Gio Fitzpatrick.
Gio led a farm walk showing how small timber nestboxes, hollow branches, woodheaps, dead trees, piles of stone and stone-filled postholes attract animals. Moreover, piles of ground litter (natural, not man-derived), especially eucalypt bark, quickly build up populations of beetles, worms and skinks, which soon become food for predators higher up the chain, especially birds and bats. Gio covered some of his own fascinating research on favourable temperatures inside hollow trees, and under roofs and artificial structures, relating it to assisting desirable Wimmera species. Coupled with this, small waterholes, excavated by local contractors and planted with reeds and sedges, create further niches for animals on the Youl-Harris land. The highlight was a possum-proof nextbox made by Gio from a large wheelie-bin, for use by owls, ideally powerful owls ranging across the Pyrenees and nearby plains. Positioning necessitated Lindsay Ezard’s cherry-picker. Local Landcare and conservation management network co-ordinators, Kevin Spence and John Boadle, both greatly appreciated the day and the number of keen St Arnaud and Stawell landowners present. ‘There’s no doubt simple and cheap ways exist using natural and recycled materials to encourage birds, bats and small marsupials like sugar gliders and antechinus to flourish,’ they indicated. ‘We had an interesting and rewarding day.’