In 1989, Robert Anderson stood with friends on Parslows Bridge in Yellingbo and watched in awe as Victoria’s bird emblem, the Helmeted Honeyeater, painted golden flight paths among the ageing Woori Yallock Creek swamp gums.
One year later, the beautiful birds were gone from the habitat near the bridge and Bob knew he couldn’t let them disappear forever.
With the help of hundreds of devoted members from the Friends of the Helmeted Honeyeater community group, a major revegetation project in Woori Yallock catchment was undertaken.
Almost 20 years since the group was formed, a healthier Woori Yallock Creek continues to flow, thousands more plants and trees grow unimpeded in the Yellingbo Nature Conservation Reserve and the amount of Helmeted Honeyeaters living in the wild has jumped from just 50 to about 100.
Bob, now 73, says the health of Woori Yallock Creek is a lifeline for the fragile state of animal and plant life in the region.
“You wouldn’t have Helmeted Honeyeaters in the area without the creeks and you wouldn’t have the lowland form of the Leadbeater Possum, which is also Victoria’s animal emblem. It’s a special wet habitat that they need to survive,” he says.
“It wouldn’t say much for Victoria if we lost our bird emblem to extinction. If we save the Helmeted Honeyeater we’re saving something special.”
“From my unscientific eye, I think things are getting better for the Worri Yallock Creek. We came across a number of freshwater muscle beds with the Melbourne Water people recently and they said that was a good indication of the health of the stream being ok. Water tests have also come back ok so we’re pretty positive about it.”
Bob says his happiest moments include conducting tours with students through revegetated forests. “One little fella said that it was the best day he’d ever had in his life. The kids are really important to us and to hear a comment like that is really special and gives us hope for the future.”
Story by Daniel Clarke, 2008