What a difference a year makes! In February, I invited readers to send in their favourite repeat monitoring photos, and you responded with an amazing series of fantastic images.
The goal was to promote ecosystem monitoring rather than gun photography. Nevertheless many of the photos tick both boxes, and combine great images with great observations. Now it’s your turn to select your favorite shots.
I have divided the submitted images into four categories:
- Paired historical and recent photos that show long-term changes
- Recent photo pairs that illustrate changes over 1 to 5 years
- Photo pairs that document tree planting and revegetation works
- Time lapse videos that show changes over days and weeks.
Please select your favorite photo in each category plus your overall winner. You can use your own criteria for selecting the winning photos: accuracy of camera locations, ecological interest, scenic attraction, whatever you like. The winners will receive a prize of a book. I hope the gallery encourages everyone to get outside to document changes in their own patch of bush in 2015.
You can expand each photo to full screen view by clicking on the image. Please enter your votes in the forms at the end of the blog post.
Category 1 – Displaying historical changes
Yanakie Isthmus, Wilsons Promontory
Over 70 years, the vegetation at Yanakie Isthmus on Wilson’s Promontory has changed from a mosaic of open, grassy swales bordered by she-oak covered sand-dunes, to dense thickets dominated by Coast Tea-tree (Leptospermum laevigatum). The change was caused by over-grazing by introduced and native herbivores and altered fire regimes. This photo pair, taken 50 years apart, graphically shows the transition. The original photo was taken by Bob Turner in 1958 and the repeat photo by Jim Whelan from Parks Victoria in 2008.
Ettalong Beach, NSW
Urban sprawl has caused the biggest changes of all. The next three photo pairs, submitted by Ross Wellington, uncover the vanished vegetation at Ettalong Beach and nearby Umina Beach in coastal New South Wales. The original Umina Coastal Sandplain Woodland is now listed as a Threatened Ecological Community under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act. Only three small remnants of the original ecosystem survive.
A hundred years of urban growth at Ettalong Beach, NSW. Views in 1915 and 2014, looking south from Blackwall Mountain Reserve. The repeat photo was taken by Ross Wellington.
Umina Beach, New South Wales
These air photos show an area about 2.5 kms south-west of the Ettalong Beach photos above. The first air photo was taken in 1941 and the second image, from Google Earth, 70 years later in 2012. Roads and houses have replaced parallel sand dunes and coastal vegetation.
Memorial Avenue, Ettalong Beach
This change is even more dramatic at ground level. These photos point down Memorial Avenue towards Blackwall Mountain Reserve in the distance. The original photo was taken in 1915. Ross Wellington took the repeat photo 99 years later, in 2014.
Gooram Falls, Victoria
Compared to the coastal areas above, the vegetation at Gooram Falls in the Strathbogie Ranges has remained stable. Tim Barlow re-visited the falls 140 years after the initial photo was taken, found the original photo point, and then measured the old River Red Gum behind the rocks. He estimated that the trunk grew from about 60 cm girth in 1874 to 90 cm in 2014. It was a big old tree way back in 1874. See Tim’s story for more details. The initial photo from Trove was taken by Charles Nettleton.
Category 2 – Documenting recent changes
Over one, two or three years, ecosystems can remain very stable or change dramatically, as the following photos demonstrate.
Macalister River, Victoria
In January 2013, the Aberfeldy wildfire burned the Macalister River region in west Gippsland. Thomas Fairman photographed the burnt landscape a month later, and returned again in March 2014 to see how the forest was recovering. “I was surprised by the extent of regeneration”, wrote Tom. “The site has now formed part of my PhD research, which is looking at the recovery of forests after multiple high-severity fires – so hopefully in the future this image may be complemented by some numbers!”
If not photographed, many changes are easily overlooked. This sequence of photos, taken from 2012 to 2014, shows the changing understorey in a reserve in Wodonga in north-east Victoria. The bright green shrubs in the top photo are Small-leaf Bush-pea (Pultenaea foliolosa). Toby Grant writes, “in the January 2013 heatwave these shrubs died all over the Albury Wodonga region”. Many trees and shrubs in other areas died that summer, as described in an earlier blog post. Did plants die in your favorite patch of bush? The three photos were taken by Parklands Albury Wodonga and submitted by Toby Grant.
Simpson Desert, Queensland
“We had driven past this gorgeous sight at our field site in the Simpson Desert, Queensland – 30 years of spinifex growth and a lone eucalypt sapling glowing warmly in the light of the setting sun” writes Alan Kwok. “That night thunderstorms raged around us, lightning split the sky from three separate storm fronts circling us. Orange glows seeped into the dark sky on the horizon, from fires lit by the lightning strikes. The fires tore through the spinifex, burning tens of kilometres per day. Vast swathes of hummock grasses, previously able to hide a standing emu, were reduced to black ash burned into the red sand. Fire moves quickly, and spinifex burns in its own way. The flames disposed of the hummock grasses, but to our surprise the lone eucalypt still stood, its trunk burnt, but leaves still eucalypt green.”
Rocky Cape, Tasmania
At the other end of the scale, some ecological changes are very slow. Helen Robertson took this photo pair in February and December 2014. The 2 meter tall bracken regenerated after the area was cleared by an earlier landowner. After taking the first photo, Helen cut the bracken to encourage regeneration of other shrubs and trees. “My plan is to rehabilitate it slowly back to the understory that was” she writes. It’s a big job. This year there was “not much change – it will probably be several years of work and regrowth to see a significant difference.” I wonder what the area will look like in another 10 years time. Can you spot Helen’s Border Collie in the second photo?
Baranduda waterfall, Victoria
Some changes are startling. Believe it or not, these two photos by Peter Neaum were taken just 10 months apart, in May 2010 and March 2011, from exactly the same place. Peter writes, “These two images show change caused by a significant rainfall event in Dec 2010. Given the small catchment and resulting impact [the road was closed and washed partially away], it must have been quite a storm”.
Can you match the central rock ledge in both photos? “I do find it comforting to note that despite all the local change, the water is trickling over the rock ledge at the same location”, writes Peter. That’s a lot of erosion. The tree in the foreground was washed downstream.
Near Scotia, western New South Wales
Usually a big dump of rain gives great results. “It’s amazing how a bit of rain can completely transform the landscape” writes Samantha Travers. “These photos were taken in July 2008 (dry times) and July 2011 (wet year). This paddock appears to be under similar grazing pressures … [in] both years”. The two photos were taken along the Springwood–Pinecamp Road by Samantha Travers.
Category 3 – Showcasing revegetation
The most uplifting examples of environmental change come from revegetation works, conducted by volunteers, landholders and larger organizations. These photos showcase the fantastic environmental benefits that result from these activities.
Back in 2007, in the middle of the big drought, this streamside looked pretty grim. Drop in a fence, a gate, lots of seeds and buckets of rain and – five years down the track – everything looks much, much better. This great work was conducted by the Goulburn Broken Catchment Management Authority (GBCMA). The initial photo was taken by Barry Oswald and the repeat photo by Jim Begley.
More great work from the Goulburn Broken CMA. In three years, from 2008 to 2010, this grazed paddock was transformed to a seed production orchard. Five native shrubs were sown: Acacia montana, Acacia pycnantha, Dillwynia cinerascens, Dodonaea viscosa and Eutaxia microphylla. Seeds from these plants will be collected and used in future revegetation programs. That’s a wonderful increase in natural capital. Photos submitted by Jim Begley, GBCMA.
Look how long this is! This wildlife corridor near Woodside in West Gippsland provides “a fantastic link through the landscape” as Jim Begley put it, while also enabling “large paddocks to be broken up for rotational grazing and provide protection for lambs from the harsh winds off Ninety Mile Beach”. It’s a great win-win arrangement for production and conservation. Both photos were submitted by – you guessed it – Mr Jim Begley.
Burrumbuttock, New South Wales
“This is the view I see every morning, right behind our house in Burrumbuttock”, writes David Watson. “The first image was taken around a year after we moved in, in February 2004. The second image I took a couple of days ago. A lot has changed during the decade. As well as transplanting hundreds of red gum seedlings from around the dam to the perimeter of the property, we planted 3,000 or so trees and shrubs. I keep the original photo beside the breakfast table for before/after comparison—amazing how a single static image can remind you how dynamic Nature is.”
Bookham, New South Wales
Greening Australia’s Whole of Paddock Rehabilitation program transformed this paddock from a place the landholder called, “one of the coldest paddocks on earth”. Five years later, the wind speed and chill factor have been reduced and the tree lines are alive with insectivorous birds. A great outcome indeed. The photos were submitted by Graham Fifield of Greening Australia.
Bungendore, New South Wales
Another example of the Whole of Paddock Rehabilitation program, this time from Bungendore, east of Canberra. Graham Fifield from Greening Australia describes the WOPR program in this way, “WOPR combines production and conservation outcomes on agricultural grazing land. Bands of endemic trees and shrubs are sown across the paddock to restore habitat for woodland birds while providing shade and shelter for livestock. While the trees emerge from seed and grow to escape height, stock are excluded from the paddock for a period of 5 years. The farmer is paid a stewardship payment to partially compensate for the loss of income during this time.”
Upper Gully at Batlow, NSW
This series of three photos – taken in 1994, 1999 and 2012 – shows 18 years of regeneration on Craig Anderson and Bindi Vanzella’s property near Batlow. “We have been working on linking the roadside remnant to the wetland on our farm” writes Bindi. “Fencing out stock and tree and shrub planting with some unexpected regeneration did the trick. Over 20 bird species now forage or nest in the area. Nest boxes are occupied by Antechinus or Ring-tailed Possums. Although not common, Sugar and Greater Gliders have also been seen.” Imagine spotting a beautiful Greater Glider in your revegetation – what more could you wish for? Photos by Craig Anderson and Bindi Vanzella.
Spillway at Batlow, NSW
Revegetation at the small-scale is equally valuable. This triptych of images taken in 1994, 1995 and 2005 is also from Craig Anderson and Bindi Vanzella’s property. “This dam spillway was eroding at the very top of the Yaven Creek catchment’ writes Bindi. “Although a small area it took a long time to stabilize with rock. It didn’t take long for the scattered Prickly Tea Tree seed to germinate. We also planted or translocated other local riparian species. This site is now so dense that a 2014 after-photo would be lost in plant growth. Yabbies happily living among the rocks are preyed on by water rats, water skinks are common, echidnas frequent the area for ants, and birds actively use the site for foraging. We also stumble across the odd snake too!”
Mount Tamborine, Queensland
Moving from the farmlands to the suburbs, a new urban forest of local trees and shrubs is growing rapidly in this restoration project at Tamborine Village Substation at Mount Tamborine in Queensland. The three photos were taken in October 2012, a year later in December 2013 and finally, in September 2014, and were submitted by Katherine Richardson of Ecosure. In years to come, the trees will ring with the sound of whipbirds and wompoos.
Narawang Wetland, Sydney
Cameron Webb took these amazing repeat photos. “These two shots were taken roughly 20 years apart at Sydney Olympic Park in the site now known as Narawang Wetlands. The 1995 photo is a scan of a slide taken during one of my first trips to the site when it was still under the management of the Australian Navy. The site was a heavily degraded ephemeral wetland comprised of a mosaic of freshwater and brackish water habitats. Rehabilitation of the site increased the quantity and quality of freshwater habitats for local birds and frogs. The 2014 photo shows how established the aquatic and terrestrial vegetation has become, creating an amazing ecological resource located, essentially, in the middle of metropolitan Sydney.”
Category 4 – Time-lapse videos
By this stage you may be feeling a trifle overwhelmed. But don’t go yet, there’s more! Watch these three short videos. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.
A year in the garden
Have you ever wondered what would happen in you took a photo of the same place every day of the year, and stitched them all together to make a video? Karen Retra did. “Keen to try to capture the growth of a grass tree flower spike, I chose a ‘photo point’ in my front garden and took a photo a day from that spot with my phone for a year. I’ve patched the photos together into a video. It breaks nearly every rule of time-lapse photography and is jumpy due to the variations in placement, exposure and time of day. Yet I like that you can see not only the grass tree, but also other flowers, the leaves and colors changing with the seasons.” Why not make a video of your garden next year?
Planting She-oaks at Tuggeranong Hill
Four hours, 300 hands, and 2,500 seedlings are featured in this 3 minute video from Greening Australia. “On World Environment Day, 150 volunteers, with the support of ACT Parks and Conservation Service and Greening Australia braved foggy and cold conditions to plant 2,500 Allocasuarina verticillata (Drooping She-oak) at Tuggeranong Hill Nature Reserve. These trees will provide food resources for the vulnerable Glossy Black Cockatoo. The outcomes are captured here in time-lapse photography, with images captured every 20 seconds from 8:30am to 12:30pm.”
Tang Tang Swamp, Victoria
I don’t want to influence your vote but I do want to end with a bang. This extraordinary video by Adrian Martins from North Central CMA in Victoria doesn’t require any explanation. Sit back, turn the volume up, and invite your friends to watch. You’ll never guess what will happen next. The video looks great in full screen view. To increase the size of the video, click on the rectangle at the bottom right of the YouTube clip.
And the winner is…. ?
And now, dear readers, it’s over to you. Please vote for your favorite repeat photographs of 2014. Select your favorite repeat photo in each category, and then your overall winner.
Voting will be open until Friday 9th January 2015 to give everyone time to enjoy the photos over the Christmas–New Year break. The winners will be announced on Sunday 11th January 2015.
On behalf of every reader of this blog, I extend many, many thanks to all of the photographers and videographers who submitted their great work. We are all most grateful for your enthusiasm and generosity.
UPDATE: Voting in the competition has now closed, and you can read all about the winning entries and the new 2015 competition in the next post.
The Ecological Society of Australia (ESA) – check out their great web site – and Wiley Publishing have kindly donated a number of books as prizes for the winning photographers. Thanks to the ESA Book Review Editor, Dr Perpetua Turner, for arranging this generous donation.
Thanks to everyone for reading and supporting my blog this year. I wish you all a Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and a wonderful time in 2015. I hope you have lots of opportunities to take your own repeat photos in 2015. Please leave a message for the photographers in the Comments section below.