Local Environment

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Ruffy sits on the Southern Strathbogie Plateau in the Victorian Highlands – Northern Fall Bio-region.

Geology and soils

As part of the Strathbogie Ranges the granite rocks of the Hughes Creek catchment were formed when a mass of molten rock forced its way towards the surface of the earth, was trapped and cooled. This happened over 350 million years ago, in the Upper Devonian period of geological history.

The molten rock heated and compressed the existing rocks and they became harder, creating a metamorphic ring. These rocks now form the ranges around the granite tableland. Switzerland Range, Black Range, Waggs Range and Callens Range. The Hughes Creek cuts through these metamorphic rocks near ‘ Kulaba’ in the west of the catchment. Observe the change on the Gobur cutting, Yarck cutting and Ghin Ghin cutting.

Tarcombe Valley

The tableland was probably once a plain which eroded to expose the granite and give form to the land. A plateau of rolling hills with some steep hills, deep gullies and scarps has resulted. Alluvial plains have formed as broad valleys.

Granite tends to crack along the cooling joints and often drainage patterns follow these cracks. Hughes Creek makes a number of abrupt ninety degree direction changes as it flows through rocky gorges formed by erosion of the cracked surfaces.

Local granites are coarse grained so the soils are obviously sandy. Feldspars, micas and other minerals from the granite release plant nutrients on breakdown. Older soil has been exposed to more weathering and thus contains less nutrients. Granitic soils tend to be acidic. These soils are very susceptible to water erosion, wind erosion, structure decline, acidification, water repellence, contamination and weed invasion. Weakly structured subsoils are common which is a factor in landslips, “spewy patches”and creek bank collapse.

Water

The Strathbogie batholith is of significant importance to the Goulburn Broken catchment because it exerts major control over river patterns and ground water flow.

The Hughes Creek rises on the tableland in Terip Terip at an altitude of close to 650 metres. The average rain fall was once 900 mm but has been as low as 300 mm in the last decade. The Hughes Creek and its tributaries are also spring fed. These springs, soaks and bogs are a special feature of the tableland landscape.

From near Terip Terip where the creek starts, it crosses the undulating tableland and passes through a number of rocky gorges before reaching the flood plains of the Goulburn River at Mitchellston. (65 kilometres). The catchment contributes approximately 58,000L to the Murray Darling Basin system.

Flora

A valuable and diverse range of vegetation exists within the Hughes Creek catchment around Ruffy, Terip Terip, Caveat, Dropmore & Tarcombe.

Several Flora Reserves and Bush Reserves are scattered across the tableland:

Wallaby Gully Flora Reverse, Mt Good Morning Bill Crown Land Reserve, Gobur Bush Reserve, Yarck Nature Conservation Reserve, Goodear Bush Reserve , Caveat Flora Reserve, Ruffy Snow Gum Reserve, and Bungle Boori Picnic Ground, and Switzerland Range NCR.

Local Ecological Vegetation Classes (EVCs)

Herb-rich Foothill Forest: Narrow Leaf Peppermint, Messmate, Blue Gum, Broad Leaf Peppermint, Silver Banksia, Silver Wattle, Black Wattle, Blackwood. Herb rich and wildflower ground layer.

Valley Grassy Forest: Yellow Box, Candlebark sometimes Red Stringybark, Hill Red Gum, Broad Leaf Peppermint, Silver Wattle, Tree Violet, Sweet Bursaria.

– Grassy Dry Forest: Lightwood, Black Wattle, Long Leaf Box, Red Box, Red Stringybark, Prickly Parrot Pea, Large Leaf Pea Bush, Grey Guinea Flower, Kangaroo Grass, Wallaby Grass, Tussock Grass, Dianella, Lomandra, Austral Indigo.

Rocky Outcrop Shrubland: Stringybark, Long Leaf Box, Candlebark, Lightwood, Black Wattle, Black Sheoak, Woolly Wattle, Hickory wattle, Varnish Wattle, Narrow Leaf Hop Bush, Common Fringe Myrtle, Grey Parrot Pea, Rock Isotome.

– Riparian Forest & Swampy Riparian Woodland: Found along creeks. Manna Gums, Blue Gums, Swamp Gums, Blackwood, Hazel Pomaderris, Victorian Christmas Bush, Ovens Wattle, Woolly Tea- tree, Water Ferns.

– Perch Boggy Scrubland – Rare: Mountain Swamp Gum, Snow Gum,Tea-tree, Baekea, Ovens Wattle, sedges, mosses .

– Damp Forest: Blue Gum, Manna Gum, Messmate, Peppermint, tall shrub layer, tree ferns.

Significant plants:

– Snow Gums in the reserve at the end of Noyes Lane
– The giant Silver Banksia on Buntings Hill Rd about 500m from the Ruffy CFA shed
– Drooping Sheoaks at Mt Tickatory
– Black Sheoaks on Old Yarck Rd, Terip & Mt Good Morning Bill

A special study funded by the GBCMA is currently being undertaken on our unique Spring Soaks and Bogs by scientists from the Arthur Rylah Institute. The floristic values of wetlands in Highlands and Ruffy have been documented by Fiona Coates & Arn Tolsma. Management Strategies are being trialled across a number of sites. (May 2010).

Free Wildflower Field Guides are available from your Landcare Coordinator.

Fauna

Despite large tracts of land that have been cleared there are significant areas of remnant habitat in the Ruffy area providing connections that link the edges of the tableland from Creightons Creek to Highlands. The Hughes Creek and its tributaries is also a valuable wildlife corridor and provides important native fish habitat.

Common marsupials include the Koala, Eastern Grey Kangaroo, Wombat, Echidna, Brush-Tail Possum, Ring Tail Possum, Platypus, Swamp Wallaby, Eastern Water Rat, Agile Antechinus, Bush Rat.

Some of the rarer animals that may be found are Squirrel Glider, Long Nose Bandicoot, Brush-tailed Phascogale and Eastern Horseshoe Bat.

Several endangered bird species used to include Ruffy in their range. Swift Parrots and Regent Honeyeaters are both migratory birds that follow winter flowering eucalypts such as boxes and ironbarks. Other birds of note are Rainbow Bee-eaters, Yellow- tailed Black Cockatoos, Gang- gang Cockatoos, Crested Shrike Tits, Sacred Kingfisher, Scarlet Robin, Rufous Whistler, Powerful Owl, Diamond Fire-tail finch. Wedge-tailed Eagles plus many more.

Reptiles enjoy Ruffy’s rocky environment and our snake population is very healthy. Common reptiles include:

– Tiger Snake, Red-bellied Black Snake, Common Brown Snake
– Long-necked tortoise
– Marbled Gecko, Striped Skink, Cunningham’s Skink, Three-toed Skink, Bougainville’s Skink, Jacky Lizard, Blotched Blue-tongue, Tree Goanna

Native Fish populations have declined. Removal of riparian vegetation and siltation of the deeper holes have reduced breeding and the introduced brown trout eat fingerlings and compete for food. Macquarie Perch inhabit the mid reaches of the Hughes Creek. Black fish are reasonably common. Southern Pigmy Perch and Mountain Galaxids are likely to be found.

Large populations of the now endangered Trout Cod existed at the turn of last century. After the 1916 flood Trout Cod were rare. Attempts to find this fish (electo-fishing) in recent years have failed to locate any.

Please report any unusual wildlife sightings to your Landcare Coordinator, through the website or the Granite News. For example Alan Renfree recently saw what may have been a Spotted Quoll at the Terip crossroads.