January 2018 news, including 'Side-tracked by Butterflies and Wattles'

SCORPIONS: Steve W has sighted a Forest Scorpion on the main path today, 08.01.18.,  asking whether they’re common on Mt Rogers. I’m sure they’re there and part of a healthy ecosystem but seeing them on the path would be unusual I’d say. They’d be hidden away under rocks where it’s damper and near their invertebrate prey.
SNAKES: Lynn, Rod and Steve D have each reported sightings of large Brown Snakes since the weather turned spring to summer. It seems as though there’s a resident Brown at or near the Summit but also that the snakes seek water and rodents in gardens adjacent to Mt Rogers. Other people have “walked here for years and never seen a snake”. We all need to “be prepared” for sightings of these normally shy creatures and ready to retreat. Snakes are protected of course as are other native animals and plants.
SIGN: As I was clipping feral grasses around the now-engraved MT ROGERS sign at the Wickens Place, Fraser carpark a walker asked where the Frogmouths were now.
The fledglings we watched from the ‘Tween Tanks Track” have dispersed by now. Roy reported seeing two chicks in the Schwarz Place, Flynn trees quite recently. Their family and neighbours were equally delighted as they’d all wondered, without any sightings, whether this season had been unsuccessful for “their” pair. Clearly there’s been a variation in local nesting times this sprummer.
SUPERBS, SBB’s & SCC’s: The Superb Parrots seem to be spreading through the suburbs a bit by now. They’re after wattle seed-pods and unharvested fruit.  It was mid-Flynn’s turn to host a screech of Cockatoos this morning as they left their roost for the day’s foraging. Satin Bowerbirds have already been reported enjoying garden’s fruit.
PASSPORTS: Several regular walkers including Margaret and Chris have turned the Nature Play CBR  Passports into explorations with the under-12’s. The passport-sized booklets offer Missions for families going in search of organisms, natural objects and experiences in reserves, special places and their own backyards. Send and email to alesha.brown@act.gov.au if you’d like her to send you passports to being observant whilst outdoors. The Nature Play website also has a suite of  downloadable lists of outdoor things to do for each age group.
TWO REGULAR WALKERS have had dangerous and extremely distressing encounters with an on-leash German Shepherd recently. This may be the same dog that attacked Hoot some months ago.  In each incident the handlers were unable to adequately restrain the dog. Perhaps they were walking the dog for someone else. These unprovoked attacks were reported to the rangers via dogcontrol@act.gov.au/. If witnesses could also report what they’ve seen to that same e-address it will help the rangers analyse the occurrences of these ACT-wide incidents.
SPRAYING: Steve D continues his back-pack spraying efforts against golden-yellow St Johns Wort throughout the reserve. The plants are in flower and thanks to the rainfall pattern there are thousands of smaller plants needing the Starane treatment. The infestation is repeated throughout the region’s reserves and open spaces. 

EASILY SIDE-TRACKED…..BY BUTTERFLIES & WATTLES: After the 41 degree heat of 7th January I went to the Mt Rogers Fraser carpark to cut the grasses around the new MT ROGERS sign engraved on a boulder. It was already warm and humid though we’d had ineffective showers with yesterday’s cool-change-that-wasn’t. I also sheared round about six yellow ‘button’ daisy, Chrysocephalum apiculatum plants and a few Stipa grasses in the hope that TCCS brush-cutters would ignore that area.
Nearby two Cootamundra Wattle were being visited by many small butterflies. My brain registered ‘Grass Blues’ until other observations kicked in…these were darker and larger than Grass Blues and why would grass habitat butterflies be obsessed with wattle trees?
Once home and with Suzi Bond’s 2016 Field Guide to the Butterflies of the A.C.T* to hand I concluded the butterflies were Stencilled Hairstreaks, Jalmenus ictinus. Both Suzi Bond and Michael Braby give Ictinus Blue as an alternative name in their respective Field Guides.
Between conversations that explained my latest eccentricity to bemused Mt-Rogers-regulars early-walking their dogs to beat the heat, I took a few photos with the compact Canon. 


The butterflies have a projection on their wing margins near pronounced orange and black spots.
Two of the butterflies were in copulating mode. Another was very still and stationary for some time, preparing to lay eggs perhaps?  Most of the butterflies approached and seemingly searched the trees landing only briefly. When they did land their wings were open for a split second showing iridescent patches on the grey-brown wings.
There’s a large ant nest near the trees with meat ants active. I realised there were meat ants on the trees’ branches. This triggered memories of wattle-ant-insect larvae associations, symbiosis and interdependence. 
Both Field Guides mention Stencilled Hairstreaks’ associations with Meat ants. *“...colonies can only establish on larval food plants located near Meat Ant nests……The [butterflies’] larvae feed during the day either singly or communally. The larval attendant ants are Meat Ants (Iridomyrmex purpureus).” The Imperial Hairstreak is similar to the Stencilled Hairstreak but small black ants attend the Imperial Hairstreaks’ larvae.
I should have thought to also look for larvae – caterpillars in the trees. Both butterfly species rely on wattle species as larval food plants. Are there larvae on the Hickory Wattles, Acacia implexa, currently in flower? Are these beautiful, approximately 3.5 cm butterflies, threatened by the authorities’ penchant for having wattles removed as ‘fire hazard’ vegetation?
And so much for the reputation of Cootamundra Wattles, Acacia baileyana as a native pest-plant species. Here was further evidence of Mt Rogers’ population of Cootamundra wattles being a vital habitat species at all stages of life despite invasiveness when the seeds are stimulated into mass germination.

Rosemary Blemings 08.01.18.

MT ROGERS DECEMBER NEWSLETTER 2017

MURRUNGUNDIE GUIDES’ VISIT

On Monday 13th November hours after we’d continued our assault on the Tree of Heaven with Anne, Ted and Diana, Angharad and I hosted a group of about twenty Murrungundie Guides for a stroll on Mt Rogers. They normally meet at Charnwood near the Mt Rogers Scouts’ Hall but wanted to renew acquaintance with the place.
In August 2010 some of their predecessors planted shrubs 50m in from the Wickens Place carpark. This sprummer the shrubs flowered again.
Four leaders, including Rhonda who’s been an inspiring, local Guide Leader for over 30 years, took over from the girls’ parents at 18.00 hrs. We strolled along the Tween Tanks track where Angharad introduced them to the Frogmouths. Father was on the nest with a just-visible chick. Mother, in typical Frogmouth pose, was on a nearby branch.
We pointed out the differences in the trees’ ages by their sizes noting that the others had been planted as the four suburbs were built around Mt Rogers 45–50 years ago. The view across CSIRO land and Hall to Spring Range offered the chance to mention the opportunities of the Centennial Trail’s walks. As we came within 200 m of the summit the impact of Gungahlin & Crace was clear and treeless.
Once at the summit the girls began working out the compass points and where their homes were. Rhonda asked them what they thought the Trig Point was for. As we walked we found ourselves being asked questions about the plants, the birds we saw and heard (the Bronzewing pigeons were calling) and the likelihood of snakes and lizards. There were always excited interactions between the girls. Currawongs’ calls increased as pre-dusk approached.
The Guides divided into patrol groups to work out the next few weeks’ programs whilst drinking water and eating their snacks. They were able to complete missions in their Nature Play CBR Passports having seen birds, a few flowers, the different trees and shrubs, bugs, beetles and the distant views.
We pointed out the wild oats, relating them to porridge and saying the plants were normally taller but the rain pattern had kept the stalks shorter. On the return journey we paused at the Bench Mark Tree for further drinks and a few photos.
As we neared Wickens Place again, one adult heard “And we can see the sunset!”. If only more learning and fun could be scheduled outdoors!
  

OUTDOORS CLASSROOMS

Summer obviously has its drawbacks for being outdoors but once the restrictions of school hours have passed perhaps we can all adopt the concept of getting up with the sun. Outdoor activities could then be achieved in the cool of the day. Nature PlayCBR Passports can be obtained via the Nature Play website, http://www.natureplaycbr.org.au/. The passports suggest Missions for the children to find species and objects outdoors. There are also several Playlists of Things to do before you’re…should anyone need activity ideas.
One idea I had but have never tried is to take children on a bus ride from stops in Fraser, Spence, Charnwood, Melba to southern ACT. With a notebook or clipboard in hand they can check off observations of hills, clouds, weather, trees, animals, birds and inanimate objects seen as they’re driven along. Fares costs apply & changes may be needed unless travel happens before 10.15 am. There’s the advantage of air-conditioned comfort.

PLAY AND PLAYGROUNDS

If you find yourself with “Google-time” in the holidays, search for Forest Kindergarten. You’ll see refreshingly natural approaches to learning that allow urban students to follow their curiosity, to learn through applying their imagination and to co-operatively develop their physique using structures from nature. Some playgrounds around Canberra are becoming more natural to allow for unstructured play. There’s http://www.environment.act.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0010/906472/Explore-Canberra-Parks-and-Recreation-Guide.pdf ... which lists playgrounds and reserves in each ACT area.

WATER

Please ensure that birds visiting your garden have a clean dish of water for drinking or bathing. We have a terracotta plant pot saucer that also has a flat stone in it so small birds can reach the water. A new response to feeding birds has emerged:https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2017/dec/09/feed-the-birds-stop-the-demonising-and-tell-us-how-to-do-it-properly
With the warmer weather water is more important than feeding the birds we share our places with. We’ve come to know Brown Thornbills in our shrubby garden. They come through seeking insects ans other invertebrates several times a day. Pest control without toxic chemicals!

BLACKBERRIES

Ginninderra Catchment Group was awarded a grant for Blackberry spraying on land that’s drained by Ginninderra Creek. Contractors have reached the Mt Rogers infestations we recorded.

OTHER NOTES

I suspect the approximately 100 ml of rain we received will be welcomed by weeds species. Until the soil dries out again it’s quite ‘easy’ to dig out species like Flatweed. These are the yellow Dandelion-like blooms on nature strips that await mowing. Each bloom can have about 50 separate flowers and consequently the same number of readily blown away seeds. If you have these flowers try to use a catcher when mowing, put the mowings in a black plastic bag for several weeks to ‘cook’. Then, stealthily, put the bag-full in the garbage bin. We’ve found in the past that chopped-off Flatweed heads continue to develop seeds if just lying on the ground.
Our next working-bee will be on Sunday 28th January but I’m sure our dedicated Mt Rogers landcarers will keep the observations coming in.
Has anyone seen Superb Parrots this ‘season’? I have a theory the Rainbow Lorikeets are deterring them from feeding on local Loquat trees.
Phil’s responded to the rain by checking the erosion channels regularly.

 

ENJOY the HOLIDAY SEASON!

Rosemary  (6259 4724)

MT ROGERS IN OCTOBER 2017: gathering news together

Money for nature
You all know that preserving natural areas costs more from your taxes than governments are prepared to prioritise.
You all know how much time our volunteers have given to weed management, species monitoring, rubbish collection and community-building on and around Mt Rogers.
You all know we’ve asked for the path near the Flynn playground to be repaired…
Here’s a chance to ram your messages home AGAIN:
The ACT Government has established a consultation survey on the ACT Budget that is now open till the 24th October. https://www.yoursay.act.gov.au/2018-19-budget-consultation. This is a very brief survey on what priorities the Canberra Community want in the next budget. At the end of the survey there’s a box for your specific comments. Tell Government why our reserves are special!

PLEASE take time to fill out this survey and put ENVIRONMENT at or near the top.
If our open spaces are healthy and cared for, everyone benefits and for the long-term. 
Others will prioritise the obvious health, education, policing but YOU HAVE THE WISDOM & COMMITMENT TO KNOW WHAT CARING, STEWARDSHIP & CUSTODIANSHIP MEANS. Let’s show the government we’re serious about our habitat.
..........
 
Tree of Heaven
This Sunday, 22.10.17., we’ll meet at Wickens Place at 09.00 hrs and move to the Tree of Heaven patch.  We’ll be continuing the treatment we began in autumn.
Please avoid walking through the rarely-walked area because there will be many stumps waiting to trip up the unwary. Jenny Conolly the Urban Pests and Weeds Officer has lamented several times “We don’t have the resources to treat this infestation…” Yet she’s been instrumental in setting up management programs for African Love Grass, Serrated Tussock and Chilean Needle Grass for Mt Rogers over many years. There is a great deal of work being done by the rangers in all reserves but those who hold the ‘purse-strings’ have no idea of what’s needed if the bush capital is to remain unique.

Our volunteers have:
  • Repaired the Notice Box again. Colin’s going to add a hook soon so ribbon can ‘flag’ that some new message is inside.
  • Reported on the Frogmouths’ progress and on other species they’ve seen.
  • I heard of a troop of forty kangaroos making their way up to Mt Rogers from the Fraser-Spence easement last week….extraordinary. Are they still there?
  • Reported sightings of Superb Parrots feeding on the seeds of weeds amongst the grasses.
  • Reported someone having taken felled shrubs and tree branches from their property to be dumped into the reserve. *
  • Gathered even more reports  “This is such a special place; we come here as often as we can.” “We’ve been walking here for years.” “We came here as children.”


* Dumping is not O.K.
Dumping of household items in Wickens Place is disgraceful, lazy and unnecessary. Worse, for Mt Rogers wildlife, is the dumping of garden waste in the reserve or ‘over the back fence’. Usually weed species are included on the na├»ve basis “They’ll all rot down eventually” or “it’s only the bush.”
Weed & garden waste can go to Canberra Sand & Gravel at Parkwood & it’s a FREE drop-off.
One nearly-all-native part of the reserve is being invaded by gardens’ grassy weeds dumped by those who live nearby. 
Monday 6 November’s working bee will be in that area. Meet at Wickens Pl. at 09.00 hrs.
We know that ACTEW have recently been through the reserve clearing vegetation that dares to grow under the power-lines.  Whilst some of this eucalypt debris has been taken away most has been left in the reserve to rot down. Hopefully this returning of nutrients to the soil will happen before attention-seekers set fire to the leafy branches.
You’ll have heard that tree trunks and thick branches are returned to some reserves to restore habitat when invertebrates and fungi break down the woody cells.  Birds and other animals then feed on these recyclers as well as returning to do their pest-control foraging in the living trees’ and shrubs’ branches. These reserves have much more ranger-attention and professional management than Mt Rogers is afforded.

It’s already so DRY.
We’ve all noticed in our gardens that the soil moisture is very low.  If you’re near neighbours who are new to gardening and watering encourage them to water close to or below the soil level so evaporation is minimal and their money’s not wasted.
Mulching with coarse material is great as it allows the air & good amounts of rain moisture to reach down to the plants’ root zone. 
For the birds we’d encourage the placing of a shallow dish of water near shrubs that allow perching & their checks for danger.  We had a Grey Fan-tail bathing in our birdbath twice yesterday. The bath is just a terracotta saucer that should be under a pot. In it there’s a flat pebble or two for smaller birds to reach into the water safely.

Ginninderra Falls.
You’ve probably seen TV adverts for the Ginninderry development in west Belconnen that begins with the suburb of Strathnairn to the north & NE of the Strathnairn Arts Centre off Stockdill Drive, Holt.  Eventually the development will stretch over quintessential views to the border beyond Parkwood road.. You may have visited Ginninderra Falls before they were closed in 2004. If you’d like a brochure about how the development could affect the Falls I’ll send you a copy.

Remember, this blog is sequential, and you can scroll down or cherrrypick from the menu at the righthand side to catch up on older newsletters!

Rosemary, Convenor Mt Rogers Landcare Group.  6258 4724.

Notice Box repaired for printed Mt Rogers news & brochures

Here is the newly repaired Mt Rogers Landcare notice box, thanks to Colin J.
You can see part of a Mt Rogers brochure through the circular window.



Behind it you can see the grass growth, with the mounds of native Microlaena stipoides Weeping Grass contrasting with the bright green of introduced grasses and Wild Oats (Avena sp.).

The oats will be tall and dried out by summer whereas the Microlaena will become greener as summer approaches and contain more moisture than dried-out species.

Rosemary
Mt Rogers Landcare Convenor


MT ROGERS: MID-SEPTEMBER UPDATE 2017

 The next working-bee will be on Sunday 24th September from 09.00hrs. We’ll meet in McNolty Place, Spence.  On Sunday October 22nd we’ll meet at Wickens Place and return to the Tree of Heaven task. (No working bee on Monday 2 October.)

Sunday 17 September was another brilliant day emerging after a week of feral winds and minimal rain. The wind was still cold at times but there were sheltered places in the backyard where the garden needed attention. Do check the moisture levels at your place as the windiness, frosts and lack of useful rain have dried out soils.

Throughout the day we could hear the “chip chip” of Yellow-Faced Honeyeaters. They have Flynn mapped out in terms of finding and feasting on the nectar of Ironbark trees. These eucalypts’ flowers are pink. Rainbow Lorikeets were also busy in the nearest tree and were strangely silent compared to their usual noisy, fast-flying aggressiveness. The story goes that the ACT’s population has expanded from aviary birds released from Hawker 20 years ago. It’s likely that climate change is also playing a part in their increasing numbers these days.

Last Sunday Mt Rogers hosted a bird-watching walk for the Canberra Ornithologists’ Group (COG). Angharad researched and reconnoitred the routes that would offer the best sightings from an 08.30 start. The tally was 26 species augmented by a display from a squadron of Straw-Necked Ibis giving a thermalling display high above the reserve as we returned to Wickens Place. Our 12 visitors seemed well pleased. Tee was lucky enough to spot a pair of roosting Frogmouths. Those with the right lenses moved round for some closer shots of the appealing couple. Perhaps someone has spotted a nest? We found three last year.

The previous weekend, 8–10 September Ann was among a number of local landcarers/ParkCarers contributing several hours as explainers at the Parkcare Display at Jamison Shopping Centre. The general public had a chance to see what landcaring is all about and where volunteers are actively caring for their special places around Belconnen.

Phil and Richard (Rangers) were at the Display for several hours on Sunday 10th before heading to Flynn to talk to a person who has been sporadically taking timber out of Mt Rogers for some time. The Rangers confiscated the culprit’s woodpile and included the following in their report: ‘The current maximum penalties that apply are as follows (in summary only):
*Take native plant growing on unleased land - $7,500
*Damage native tree, unleased land - $60,000
*Damage fallen native timber with diameter more than 10 cm, unleased land - $7,500
*Take fallen native timber from unleased land - $7,500. ’  
Our thanks go to Ted for his investigations of recent drag-marks through the reserve to the west and for taking valuable photographs. Contact the Parks and Conservation Service’s Compliance Unit if you see someone taking timber 6207 6487.

             
If only there was a compliance unit to attend to the problem of irresponsible dog owners.  A few of us have been discussing making our own signs with messages about dogs being under their owners’/walkers’ control. We are still waiting for the official signs about dog behaviour & owners’ responsibilities that were ‘promised’ in 2014. Our regular community members, their dogs and Mt Rogers’ wildlife need protection from those who don’t care about others and fail to respect and share the reserve that we’re stewards of.

Steve has responded to our mapping that confirmed St Johns Wort infestations by spraying these weeds with Starane. This herbicide does not affect grasses near the SJW rosettes.
             
Rosemary 6258 4724

Mt Rogers Landcare Group’s working bee on Monday 4th September

Photos taken by Rosemary on Monday 4 September

Angharad and Ted cutting & daubing a Sweet Pittosporum that sheltered a Privet.
  

Diana wondered whether cutting down a native plant was justified. 

The Cootamundra Wattles’ blooms are past their prime. 

We were watched by a Kookaburra. Maybe its nest is nearby?
We’ve been watched by Kookaburras in this area before.
Nearby is a huge, ancient eucalypt that doesn’t look very healthy. It has several hollows. I used to call it The Possum Tree as it may have had scratch marks from possum paws on its trunk.

Not long after this the next cold front came through with rain.

Rosemary
Mt Rogers Landcare Group Convenor

Another 10.5 hours for Mt Rogers

Sunday 27th August was another day when the Bureau of Meteorology succeeded in predicting the weather. We put in another ten and a half hours of weeding before the rain began.

Thanks to Ann, Colin, Ivan and Ted some tricky invasives were taken out from hiding places under other shrubs and trees. Privets and cotoneasters were cut & daubed. A large Briar Rose with shrivelled but no doubt still viable rosehips was cut back and the hips were bagged. We were working in the area accessed by the track to the twin reservoirs. 

Also in this area are healthy St John’s Wort rosettes at the bases of last years’ browned-off flower shoots. 
Steve D. and I are conferring on the weeds scenario at the moment and he will be able to treat the St John’s Wort in the reserve with that appropriate herbicide: Starane in this case. It affects the SJW but not nearby grasses.

Steve has continued his walking through the reserve spot-spraying Serrated Tussock and any African Lovegrass he comes across. Until spring stimulates more germination of grass seeds the main occurrences of these introduced grasses and Chilean Needle Grass are in the mown areas between residents’ fences and the gravel path around the ‘hill’.

I’m also ensuring the Catchment Group has infestations of Blackberry, Honeysuckle and Ivy recorded as there’s another round of funding available to tackle Blackberry as a Weed of National Significance (WONS) in Ginninderra Creek’s catchment. 

You’ve probably noticed germinating Capeweed plants on the edges of the gravel track. They’ll flower pale yellow … pretty and useful for daisy chains but easily spread by brown, hairy seeds sticking to laces and fabrics. 

In our gardens people are complaining about Flickweed Cardamine hirsuta. Seeds dry out in long, thin capsules and then explode away to begin next season’s crop. Chickweed is at least edible though it does taste a bit like grass. 

The Weed Foragers Handbook  is a handy guide to plants that are edible, their lookalikes and how these useful weeds have been used in previous centuries. Cleavers, or Sticky Weed, Galium aparine, is another edible weed - though unless it’s used well blended or in Smoothies it’s a bit like eating Velcro due to stems, leaves and fruits being covered with the hairs that hook onto things …including fur & feathers. Hence it's being spread. 

Whilst we were working we were rewarded by Wrens and Double-Barred Finches passing through. They reminded us that birds are nesting and needing the dense shrubbery around Mt Rogers as safe sites for breeding. The "Double-bars” are an especially welcome sighting as are the Speckled Warblers Steve’s seen reasonably recently.

If you come across troublesome Magpies ring Access Canberra 13 22 81 for action by the City Rangers.

After our weeding and lunch I went out to Strathnairn, driving through hail. Later it snowed out there too, bringing a very light dusting of snowflakes momentarily. Later again I drove along Stockdill Drive delighted to see and photograph snow on the ranges’ foothills. In the distance to the SE there was a big dump of whiteness on a hill beyond Queanbeyan as seen through the Molonglo Valley and binoculars. 

It’s now the turn of other wattle species to flower after the Cootamundra Wattle trees are a bit past it. Keep your eyes peeled for Early Nancy’s white flowers. I found one or two behind Woodger Place the other day.

Thank you Working-bee volunteers and to the many others who make Mt Rogers special.

There’s some wonderful Art of Nature  at the Belconnen Art Centre for a few weeks. Animals and plants from all continents. It’s free. Parking at the Mall is the best option as there are few spaces in the official carpark on the lakeside. Steve D has a couple of paintings entered. Josie, a neighbour in Flynn, has a Highly Commended portrait of a Galah chick near its nest hollow. 

Rosemary
Mt Rogers Landcare convenor
Mt Rogers Landcare is part of Ginninderra Catchment Group