Welcome to the first annual project report for Crowes Lookout. This report outlines the monitoring efforts conducted in line with the project’s management plan. It provides a comprehensive look into the results found.

This report has been developed by Wilderlands Lead Ecologist, Deanna Marshall.

We would like to acknowledge the Traditional Custodians of the Crowes Lookout Project, the Eastern Marr people, and pay our respects to their elders past and present. We recognise and respect their deep ongoing connection to land, water and culture.

We extend our sincere thanks to our collaborators, Cassinia Environmental. A special acknowledgement is also extended to our hard-working expert volunteers Peter Morison and Garry Cheers.

Crowes Lookout is located 170 kilometres south-west of Melbourne near the scenic town of Lavers Hill in the Otway Ranges. The scenic forest is home to a diverse array of biodiversity, including the Southern Blue-gum and Messmate Stringybark. It is also home to the tallest flowering tree species in the world, the Mountain Ash.

The dense undergrowth at Crowes Lookout provides habitat for many native mammal species
including the Long-nosed Bandicoot which was discovered on one of the remote cameras in the project area.

Of particular significance is the threatened Otway Black Snail, a shiny-black carnivorous snail that lives only in the Otway Ranges, Victoria.

Wet forests and their associated gullies provide very significant drought refuges – areas in the landscape that provide permanent moist conditions for plants and animals to survive during drying conditions.

Recent research from Dr Barbara Wilson emphasises the importance of gullies as significant refuges for conserving threatened small mammals in the Otway Ranges.

Monitoring sites

Wilderlands established three monitoring sites at the Crowes Lookout Project as integral components of the ecological monitoring program. Additionally, Cassinia Environmental established three sites, and Wilderlands utilises two of these, in addition to its own three sites. The primary objective of this program is to monitor environmental changes and contribute to the understanding of biodiversity management at the property scale (Fig. 2).

Figure 2. Monitoring sites located at the Crowes Lookout Project site.

How Wilderlands monitor the flora at the Crowes Lookout

Site condition scores (visual assessments) using a rapid assessment proforma were undertaken at four monitoring sites. The sites are permanently marked with a star picket. The visual assessment included observations in a 1ha area (56m radius around the permanent marker).

These star pickets also double as photo monitoring points. Photographs taken provide a visual representation of the condition of the vegetation at each site.

Monitoring Site 1 – Wilderlands

Monitoring Site 1 (Wilderlands) was located within the Shrubby Wet Forest ecological vegetation
class. Large trees (>90cm DBH) were absent within the study area. Tree canopy cover was between
>4-20%. Understorey had most of the native species life-forms present and obvious structural
diversity. Weeds were not observed. Recruitment was uncommon and there was a high cover of
organic litter. There were occasional logs and stumps.

Monitoring Site 2 – Wilderlands

Monitoring Site 2 (Wilderlands) was located within the Shrubby Wet Forest ecological vegetation
class. Large trees (>90cm DBH) were absent within the study area. Tree canopy cover was between
>4-20%. Understorey had most of the native species life-forms present and obvious structural
diversity. Weeds were not observed. Recruitment was absent apart from herbs and ferns. There was
a high cover of organic litter. Logs and stumps were common. Observations included evidence of Bandicoot diggings and fresh koala scat. A remote camera had been operating on this site (see Remote Cameras section for findings).

Monitoring Site PP1-Cassinia

Monitoring Site PP1 (Cassinia) was located within the Shrubby Wet Forest ecological vegetation
class. There were few large trees (>90cm DBH) within the study area. Tree canopy cover was >20%.
Understorey had most of the native species life-forms present and obvious structural diversity.
Blackberry was present (>5% but <50% cover). Recruitment was uncommon but present. There was a high cover of organic litter. There were occasional logs and stumps. This site is close to the previous logging coupe which may be why the blackberries had encroached. The mid storey is healthy.

Monitoring Site PP3-Cassinia

Monitoring Site PP3 (Cassinia) was located within the Shrubby Wet Forest ecological vegetation
class. There were 3 large trees (>90cm DBH) within the study area. Tree canopy cover was >20%.
Understorey had limited structural diversity, herbs were absent. Weeds were absent. Recruitment
was absent. There was a high cover of organic litter. Logs and stumps were common.

The results across each monitoring site

A total of 24 indigenous flora species were recorded in the rapid vegetation assessments. Monitoring Site PPT2-Wilderlands was the most floristically diverse with 13 species recorded in the rapid assessment.

Bird Surveys

BirdLife Australia pioneered the Bird Atlas method, which involves the recording of bird species and the count of individual birds using a technique that applies to the situation. At Crowes Lookout, Wilderlands adopted the Five Minute Point Search methodology due to the nature of the dense forest habitat. The Five Minute Point Count involved standing at the monitoring star picket and then documenting the birds occurring within a 50m radius for 5 minutes. The radius was determined based on the distance at which we could confidently record all birds without having to move from the centre point. The data was entered into the Birdata app. Additionally, incidental species lists for the property were compiled and entered into the Birdata app.

Bird surveys were only undertaken once in 2023, during winter. In total, 9 birds of 5 species were recorded within the monitoring sites. Furthermore, 4 additional bird species were recorded outside of the designated monitoring sites and periods. This cumulative effort resulted in the identification of 9 native bird species for the Crowes Lookout Project (see Appendix).

Crimson Rosella was the most numerous bird. It is a native parrot to eastern and southeastern Australia, and is renowned for its vibrant red and blue plumage, the blue patches on their cheeks make them easily identifiable. Additionally, as an indicator species, fluctuations in its population provide valuable insights into the overall environmental health, underscoring the importance of its protection.

The White-browed Scrubwren was the most widespread bird. The White-browed Scrubwren, a small bird native to Australia, is distinguished by its prominent white eyebrow and a predominantly brown and grey plumage. This bird is a vital part of its ecosystem, contributing to insect control as it primarily feeds on small insects and spiders. Its presence and population trends are important indicators of the health of their habitats, reflecting broader environmental conditions. As such, the White-browed Scrubwren not only plays a key ecological role but also serves as a barometer for environmental health, highlighting the significance of its conservation.

Figure 3 . Bird species richness and abundance for the Crowes Lookout monitoring sites.

Site 2 (Wilderlands) had the highest species richness and abundance during the 2023 monitoring season (Fig. 3).

Remote Cameras

Wilderlands utilises strategically placed remote cameras to monitor and record the diverse wildlife inhabiting the Crowes Lookout project.

These cameras, installed across various habitats within the project area, operate continuously throughout the year. They are equipped with heat and motion sensors, enabling them to detect the presence of animals and automatically capture both photographs and videos when any creature enters their range.

The data collected from these cameras informs and shapes the direction of future fauna surveys, tailoring them to the specific species identified in the area.

A remote camera was deployed at Site 2 (Wilderlands). Over an average of 47 trap nights, Swamp Wallaby were the most frequently recorded species (Fig.4).

Can you see the Tiger Snake?

The diversity of mammals captured was very encouraging and more thorough surveys are required to understand the diversity of mammals that reside at Crowes Lookout.

Rare and endangered species such as the Long-nosed Potoroo, Broad-toothed Rat and Spot-tailed Quoll have been recorded nearby.

Figure 4. The frequency of captures on a remote camera over 47 trap nights. * denotes a pest animal species.

The key species of Crowes Lookout

Mountain Ash

The Mountain Ash tree (Eucalyptus regnans), is the tallest flowering species of tree in the world. It is a majestic and towering tree species that holds great significance on our Crowes Lookout project.

These towering giants grow in high rainfall, mountainous areas of Tasmania and Victoria, including areas in the Otway Ranges where yearly rainfall reliably exceeds 1000mm.

Mountain Ash trees usually thrive in pure stands, giving rise to tall and open forests. Their canopies provide shelter from the intense summer sun, creating a habitat for a diverse array of fern species in the understory. In regions with lower rainfall and less fertile soils, you can find Mountain Ash stands primarily in sheltered valleys or along watercourses.

Mountain Ash trees are known for their remarkable height, their stature not only adds to the scenic beauty of Australia’s forests but also plays a crucial role in biodiversity.

In Australia, the Mountain Ash tree holds immense importance in biodiversity. These trees provide a vital habitat for a diverse range of wildlife, including various birds, marsupials, and insects.

Mountain Ash forests are crucial for various tree-dwelling animals, including the vulnerable Powerful Owl, Australia’s largest owl, hunts in these forests, using large tree hollows created by lightning strikes or high winds. The hollows are also home to the vulnerable Masked Owl and Barking Owl.

In the Otway Ranges, the Yellow-bellied Glider thrives in Mountain Ash trees, moving effortlessly between them by gliding with skin stretched between their legs. They carve V-notches into the tree trunks, causing sap to flow, and providing a nutritious food source.

They also have cultural significance for Indigenous Australian communities, who have long revered these trees for their resilience and adaptability.


Wilderlands marked a significant milestone in Winter this year when we discovered Koalas on our Crowes Lookout project.

The discovery was made deep in the forest when one of our remote sound recorders picked up a Koala’s deep, echoing bellow.

You can hear the unique Koala calls on the sound recording Wilderlands captured below, listen carefully and you can hear their grunting in the background.

Wilderlands Lead Ecologist, Deanna Marshall, identified this unmistakable call, explaining the unique sounds made by these marsupials. Male Koalas, known for their deep bellowing and grunting due to a special sound-producing organ, use these calls mainly to attract mates.

Spurred by this discovery, the Wilderlands team found additional evidence of Koalas in Crowes Lookout, including distinctive scat and a decomposing skull.

Koalas face numerous survival challenges, including habitat loss, wildfires, disease, and road accidents. Their population has significantly declined, with a third lost between 1990 and 2010 and another 70% in the 2019-2020 bushfires. The Koala is listed as vulnerable on the IUCN Red List. This discovery underscores our responsibility to protect them and ensure a safe habitat for their future.

Read the full article here.

Long-nosed Bandicoot

Our remote cameras in Crowes Lookout also picked up on the presence of Long-nosed Bandicoots.

The Long-nosed Bandicoot, native to eastern Australia, is a small, nocturnal marsupial known for its distinctive long nose and grey-brown fur.

Can you spot the Long-nosed Bandicoot on our remote camera?

They play an important role in the ecosystem at Crowes Lookout by foraging for insects, small vertebrates, and plant material, helping soil aeration and nutrient distribution.

When foraging they dig conical holes which they explore with their long snout. These holes are the perfect spot for seeds to call home, helping the germination of native plants.

This foraging behaviour not only benefits the soil quality but also helps in seed dispersal, supporting the health and diversity of local plant life.

The Long-nosed Bandicoot faces many threats including habitat loss and fragmentation, predation from introduced species and vehicle collisions.

By protecting the Long-nosed Bandicoot, we not only protect a unique marsupial but also ensure the health and sustainability of the ecosystems it supports.

Dunnart sp

The remote cameras we installed at Crowes Lookout have spotted Dunnart sp in the area.

Dunnart sp, photo credit: Australian Museum

Characterised by its pointed snout, the Dunnart sp has large ears, and a long tail, dunnarts are nocturnal and primarily insectivorous, feeding on a variety of insects and small vertebrates.

This diet makes them vital for controlling insect populations, contributing to the ecological balance of their habitats.

However, many dunnart species face significant threats, including habitat destruction, predation by feral animals, and climate change impacts.

We’re aware of several Dunnart species in the area, but we can’t identify this specific one.

These challenges have led to a decline in some dunnart populations, highlighting the need for protection.

Protecting dunnarts involves habitat preservation, controlling introduced predators, and research to better understand their ecological needs and responses to environmental changes.

Protect precious biodiversity at Crowes Lookout project. Forever. One square metre at a time.

Nestled amidst mountainous vistas, towering trees, and fern-filled gullies, you’ll discover Crowes Lookout, a mere 170 kilometres southwest of Melbourne, near the picturesque town of Lavers Hill in the Otway Ranges. Crowes Lookout stands as a sanctuary defined by its majestic Mountain Grey-gum (Eucalyptus cypellocarpa), Southern Blue-gum (Eucalyptus globulus), and Messmate Stringybark (Eucalyptus obliqua) trees, some exceeding 60 meters in height, fostering an arboreal ecosystem bustling with micro-bats, gliders, and an array of avian species. Among them, the towering Mountain Ash (Eucalyptus regnans) reigns supreme, soaring to heights of over 90 meters, claiming the prestigious title of the world’s tallest flowering tree species.

Within the lush undergrowth of Crowes Lookout, a haven is provided for the Long-nosed Potoroo (Potorous tridactylus). Notably, the Otway Black Snail (Victaphanta compacta), a sleek, ebony-hued carnivorous snail, finds its exclusive habitat solely within the bounds of the Otway Ranges.

By becoming a part of the Wilderlands project, Crowes Lookout, you will be significantly contributing to the overarching preservation efforts aimed at safeguarding the wet forest ecosystems of the Otway Ranges.

Connect with our team to discover how you can join Wilderlands and protect this project today.