The Sherbrooke Lyrebird
Study Group was formed to protect and observe the Superb Lyrebirds
in Sherbrooke Forest.
In the 1950s, it became known that the
Forests Commission Victoria intended to increase the number of
pine plantations in the Dandenong Ranges. This
information greatly concerned amateur ornithologist Ralph Kenyon
who had spent much time studying the lyrebirds of
Sherbrooke Forest. He believed that the species
would be adversely affected if the project went ahead.
With the assistance of Dr. Len Smith, then
Director of National Parks and Miss Ina Watson of the Fisheries
and Wildlife Department, Ralph Kenyon arranged a meeting with the
Chairman of the Forests Commission requesting a delay in
proceedings to allow a study of the lyrebirds and their habitat
requirements. The Forests Commission agreed to this
Ralph Kenyon was then able to obtain
community support which resulted in the formation of the
Sherbrooke Lyrebird Survey Group. The group attracted naturalists
and concerned members of the public who feared the detrimental
effects of increased pine plantations on the lyrebird population and habitat.
They strongly lobbied against this. During this
period the group realised that much better knowledge about the
ecology of the species was vital in order to effectively conserve
and protect lyrebirds.
In 1958 the group was formalised. The
group's constitution stated that their objective was "The
elucidation of the life history and ecology of the lyrebird, with
particular reference to their survival in Sherbrooke Forest Park,
Victoria." During the 1970s the name of the
group was changed to Sherbrooke Lyrebird Survey Group.
The group began the annual mid-winter "Dawn
Survey" in 1970. Over three mornings, volunteers count the
number of male birds calling at dawn and locate them using compass
triangulation and careful recording of the time of calls. This
method was adopted firstly by Ferntree Gully and Kinglake National
Parks and is now being used in other parks where lyrebirds
occur. Papers have been published by SLSG members on mating,
nesting and plumage.
By the 1980s the pressure on the fragile
population from predation by foxes and wandering domestic animals
led to many wildlife groups pushing for animal control laws and
fox control programs.
On 30th January 1986 the
Member for Monbulk Neil Pope, introduced two members of the group
to the Minister for Conservation Joan Kirner who arranged a
meeting to discuss the predation issue, the Dandenong Ranges
Management Plan and other matters relating to the group's survey
work. It was decided that Sherbrooke Forest Park was
to be given National Park status to the benefit of both habitat
A range of protective measures have since
been developed in order to prevent predation of lyrebirds by
foxes, feral animals and domestic pets. In 1988, the Shire of
Sherbrooke, with the support of the Department of Conservation,
Forests and Lands, introduced a cat curfew in all areas around the
forest. The Shire of Yarra Ranges continues to enforce this curfew
and other bylaws that require ratepayers to properly control other
pets as well as cats.
Parks Victoria has implemented an active
fox control program and the Friends of Sherbrooke Forest have
assisted in the improvement of lyrebird habitat by removing
invasive weeds. As a result of these and other measures, the
lyrebird population has steadily increased and currently is stable
at around 160 birds. While control measures are
maintained, the population's growth will continue.
Today, modern technology is used in the
form of DNA collection and GPS location but this does not lighten
the enormous physical task of "on the ground" work done each
day by the dedicated members of the group. Since 2000,
approximately 25 chicks have been banded each year. Members assist
research students with studies in disease, analysis of calls and
diet. The group also assists park visitors with interests in
photography, film, television and music incorporating the lyrebird's
In October 2008, the Sherbrooke Lyrebird Survey
Group (SLSG) celebrated 50 continuous years of studying and
working to protect the Lyrebird population in Sherbrooke Forest,
part of the Dandenong Ranges National Park. Once again the
group's name has been changed, this time to Sherbrooke Lyrebird
Study Group in order to encompass the range of environmental,
research and community awareness activities undertaken by members
of the group.
During this fifty year period the group has
increased knowledge and understanding of the lyrebird while also
promoting awareness of the species and its habitat. The
group's membership has remained constant at an average of 12.
Group members promote understanding and awareness of the lyrebird
species by addressing community groups and leading guided walks
for social and service clubs, environmental groups and walking