MID-WINTER MT ROGERS CIRCUIT - AUGUST 2018


The weekend’s bitterly cold wind was still obvious but didn’t deter the 20 or so walkers who shared the path and conditions from 13.15 onwards. I met an energetic multi-lap runner who joked “Not having a stall today?” This with reference to my gathering up some brochures for a make-shift offering of local places-to-visit and natural history information on the Queen’s Birthday holiday.
She’d signed the Ginninderra Falls petition then.

This reminds me to thank all Mt Rogers community members who have signed, petitioning MLAs to ensure that there are ecologically sound buffer zones around Ginninderra Falls to protect the unique area from the encroachment of urban development in the future. The Ginninderra Falls Association has heard that there may not be any news of the NSW Government’s deliberations about approving or rejecting Riverview’s rezoning application until next year. It’s vital to have the hundreds of signatures gathered so the community is ready for the developers’ next moves.

Starting my clockwise stroll from near the Notice Box, I noticed:
  1. Wild oats, germinated and flourishing green amongst the thicket of Cootamundra wattles, were almost the only sign of lushness in the prolonged dry conditions we’re experiencing. The thicket’s there because that area was set fire to some years ago and wattle seeds need heat to split the seed coat, to allow water in and to stimulate germination.
  2. Some Thornbills were calling high in the nearby eucalypts as they sought insects. Currawongs’ calls resounded through the reserve. Are their seemingly omnipresent numbers reducing small, insectivorous birds’ chances of survival, breeding and keeping the insect populations in shrubs and trees balanced?
  3. The pile of concrete-from-the paths debris Mt Rogers needlessly hosted has gone. Soil, straw and seeds are evidence of restoration attempts. Time will tell whether there were weed seeds in the soil and whether ants and birds ate too many of the seeds. Chris D kept me informed of the debris progress. Chris and Rob have had issues with the path workers’ accessing their street.


    Debris dumped in the reserve when there's an exit gate 50 m to the left.
  4. The heavy vehicles’ track from the Magrath Place gate through the reserve’s grass is very obvious. Less obvious were up to 50 young Serrated Tussock tussocks near the ‘white house’ and the Mildenhall Playground.
  5. As several of the seat notices were going mouldy and the masking tape was finally succumbing to the elements I’ve taken the notices down for now. I’ve asked rachel.tokley@act.gov.au if she can seek permission for our using cable-ties to attach the A3 info sheets to the seats. Chris C trialled that method for us.
  6.  There were one or two Puff-balls along the track. These remarkable fungal fruiting bodies push their way through the soil, gravel and sometimes even urban asphalt so the minute spores can be exposed to dispersal by breezes. The spores are part of the mix of fresh air we breathe and that most of our bodies learn to cope with.

  1.  I wonder if Mt Rogers hosts Truffles? They are an essential part of the diet of Australia’s small digging mammals. The diggers, just by foraging for their food, created holes through the soil allowing air and rain to penetrate. Plant debris entering these spaces added nutrient-rich, decaying material that retained water and created diverse soil structure. Introduced animals have caused the extinctions of hundreds of small mammal species with Australian soils impoverished as a result. Search for Mulligans Flat fences and check the Australian Wildlife Conservancy’s site: http://www.australianwildlife.org/field-programs/feral-cats-and-foxes.aspx  for up-to-date projects that include fencing introduced predators out of reserves.
  2. On a walk round Mt Rogers’ gravel track several boulder clusters are visible. I sometimes muse about these being iceberg-like tips of huge subterranean structures. Going back in time it’s likely that the tips we see were once as buried as the rest of each of their ancient formations. Millions of years of rain and wind have eroded soils away from the rock to expose new surfaces to weathering and colonisation by multiple species of lichens. Aidan wrote a pre-history account of Mt Rogers for us several years ago. It’s a 'page' on the right hand side of the screen at the Blog Ann creates for us: www.mtrogerslandcare.blogspot.com
  3. I took some photos of the Prickly Pear cactus ‘plantation’ above Bainton Crescent, Melba. Quite soon after the 2003 fires I came across the householder removing smaller rocks from beyond his fence-line. He was piling them up in heaps on the edge of the main rocky knoll there. When I remarked “that’s a lot of work” the reply was that he was clearing the rocks away so the grass could be mown to protect his property. “What about the cactus plants?” I then asked. He said he’d put them in in the seventies to prevent burglars from entering. Now we can see further results of his labours. The Prickly Pear pieces he planted into the rock piles have grown into substantial specimens. Pieces turn up in the rest of Mt Rogers from time to time and neighbouring Bainton properties have a few as part of their hedges. What would happen if each piece were put through a mulcher? Would the pulp be any use or would it grow?

  4. The last three working bees have seen Angharad, Anne, Ivan, Jemima, Phil, Ted adding to our CV’s by tackling three separate expanses of Honeysuckle. It’s cosmetic weeding to a certain extent as the sources of each intertwined plant will regrow. By then we’ll be ready to spray the new leaves or return to dig out the roots. More intractable are several Ivy infestations as the trailing branches have roots that’ll cling to trunks or grow wherever they touch ground. Ivy berries are cryptically dark bluey-black but the birds bring them from gardens and poo them into the reserve when they perch on trees’ branches.

     Ted, Phil and Angharad beginning work on Monday 2 July. We were watched, most of the time, by a Galah perched above in the next tree. Was it guarding a nest hollow?

      Jemima was also in the team.

     Phil, Ted and Anne in action.

If your walking or cycling takes you near Canberra region creeks, lakes and rivers your help with a new project would be more than welcome. The Australian Platypus Conservancy is organising surveys of the presence and abundance of the Australian Water Rat Hydromys chrysogaster. (If that name is daunting divide it into four! water+mouse+yellow+belly explains what the scientific name reveals) There will be gatherings where the project and the animals’ lives are explained. One is at ANU on Thursday 2 August  at 19.00 hrs and another is being organised by Waterwatch at the ‘Old Health Centre’ Kippax on Wednesday 1 August also at 19.00hrs. (Parking behind Woolworths).

Our next Working Bee is scheduled for Sunday 22 July. Potentially frosty nights & mornings suggest another 09.30 hrs meeting time. Meeting above the easement between Hammett and Bainton Places on the reserve’s Spence - Melba edge.

Rosemary,   Mt Rogers Landcare Group      6258 4724.

MT ROGERS NEWS UPDATE May 19th 2018


PATHS
1) Yesterday I received this from Rachel Tokley, Urban Volunteer Group Coordinator 
“Hi Rosemary, The operations team are investigating possible solutions for this section of track.   I’ll be in touch with the outcome once known.”
The team is lead by Brian Bathgate, Operations Manager Belconnen/Gungahlin. We’ve been  volunteering successfully with Brian as Mt Rogers’ Land Manager for many years. Both he and Rachel understand our passion for Mt Rogers as a nature reserve and they appreciate the consistent stewardship – custodianship contributions our community makes.

The section of track nearest the Flynn Playground is the one being referred to.
Its need of urgent maintenance has been consistently reported. And as recently as yesterday after another worrying trip and fall by a regular walker.   

2) Having seen a pile of concrete and soil waste dumped amongst the struggling “Avery gum trees” on Monday 14th I found that the path behind Keane Place, Fraser houses was being replaced.  By yesterday, 18th, the workers had reached behind Avery Place. During a conversation with a Government employee in ute  # 215 292
 I learned that the works were being carried out for Roads ACT.  They had, he said, received “that many complaints” about the state of that path. I wasn’t quick enough to ask “Over how many years?”

  Rachel will forward your Mt Rogers concerns or need for action: Ph 02 6205 2044 Email rachel.tokley@act.gov.au

IF it is safe to be seen doing so phone Police 13 1444
or Crime Stoppers 1800 333 000 when negative activities are happening.

WORKING BEES
Ted, Claire and I tackled some woody weeds on the edges of the burnt area on Monday7th.
On Sunday 27th May we’ll work on more on the NE section. Meeting near the Tudor-Style House-seat from 09.30am.

Rosemary, 19.05.18.
Mt Rogers Landcare Group 

POST HRB NEWSLETTER: Mt ROGERS COMMUNITY MAY 2018


The distraught reports from Mt Rogers' carers of tree felling, branches cut and ancient eucalypts marked with striped or yellow tape was an inauspicious beginning to the Hazard Reduction Burn (HRB) of Saturday 21st April. We hadn’t expected “to be the last to know” because protocols regarding informing communities improved dramatically after the eastern section of Mt Rogers was the site of the reserve’s first HRB in August 2011.
Several weeks later Prescribed Burns signs went up, letter-boxed notices were delivered to the nearest properties and I received an emailed notification through Rachel Tokley.
Visible preparations began on Friday 20th April. Fire Management Unit personnel installed sprinklers up-track from the Notice Box and all round the HRB’s borders so the extent of the blaze would be contained. Ancient and significant trees were hosed down or sprinkled to ensure their damp bark was able to repel the spread of fire up their trunks.
On the day, Andrew (Dir. Comm.) confirmed locations with me in order to protect the Blue Grass lily clumps, our plantings and the prickly Hakeas that serve as refuges for small birds. It was clear from conversations with the Fire Management Unit’s Andrew and Tom that our electronic mapping of rarer plants and Mt Rogers’ sensitive areas, with Ginninderra Catchment Group’s assistance by contacting the research unit, had been effective.
Clare Beale had remapped and GPS’ed significant areas on March 7th during our introductory ‘walk round’ with Rachel Tokley. Whenever I met the actual fire crews during or after the burn it was clear that they each had in-depth ecological understanding, knowledge of individual species’ characteristics and responses to fire. They treated Mt Rogers with respect and care whilst carrying out their tasks and burning what we have loved for decades. 
View of the burn from Flynn playground.

Even though they may have begun their fire-fighting careers seeing “the bush” as the enemy the fire-fighters now apply their training to achieve the patchy and cool burns that give native species the maximum chance of natural and robust recovery.
There were at least six units, including Hall’s Volunteer Rural Fire Brigade’s Unit 10, present on 21st. Each crew was allotted a section of the reserve for specialist lighting and managing the fires with their tankers, equipment and hoses along and down from the mostly northern boundaries. As it was a calm day the smoke tended to ascend rather than drift down the slopes towards Flynn. There were exceptions, with no-one being exempt from being affected by swirling greyness quite regularly. 
View north from behind Schwarz Pl, Flynn

Quite soon after seeing the first smoke from near Schwarz Place, several of us saw a raptor soaring above the smoke. Neither my attempts to photograph the bird nor the other observers were able to establish its identity. Black Kites are known to respond rapidly to seeing smoke, knowing that there will be fleeing animals to be snatched up in their talons.  But Black Kites aren’t common in this region.
Currawongs didn’t miss the opportunities of multiple roasted invertebrate ‘dinners’, calling and coming in soon after the areas had cooled. Magpies were more demure about their foraging. Today, eleven days afterwards there were 15 Crimson Rosellas amongst the 5-Ways Snow Gums, busily picking up or taking the eucalypts’ small gumnuts off branches. Were they eating the minute seeds?
During my several visits since the HRB there has been great stillness in the burnt area. Sometimes small groups of birds will be in the trees’ shocked canopies with some of these being migrating Honeyeaters. A Kookaburra struck a characteristic pose above the grey, white and black ground. The huge eucalypt where I watched kookaburras attempting to enlarge a hole into a nesting hollow two springs ago lost a main branch 36 hours after the burn. It may have received a too-hot burn. 
Jill's fallen tree trunk.

Working on Jill's tree trunk

Jill phoned to report a tree fallen across the Lily Track (up past the No Motorbikes sign off Schwarz Place). The remains of the multi-trunked tree still smouldered actively. This was in turn reported to Tony who alerted the crew charged with being on-site on Tuesday 24th. The post-fire crews also had tankers, hoses and equipment. They, like their on-the-day colleagues were brilliant at engaging with ‘the public’, reassuringly explaining processes, principles and the needs of flora and fauna and our species. They were glad to have our directions to hot spots and appreciated that, if we had taken the risk of entering the burnt zone, at least we were each well prepared and wisely shod. 
Kangaroos' track, and typical view of burnt bush

Several young children had the joy of feeling the power of hosed water when they came up “to see the fire-trucks” during the Parks crews’ lunchbreak. Some adults had driven several kilometres to “see where the smoke was coming from”. 
Hose up the Lily Track

I received comments like “It looks much better”, “When are they going to do the rest?”, “They’ve done a good job”.  Sometimes I’m not quite sure how to take these … do those beyond our knowledgeable community want the bush to look neat and tidy in a parkland sense (as around the Flynn playground perhaps)? Many haven’t had time to join the dots … if all is burnt at once where do the mobile species go, live or forage? If black, white and grey homogeneity is a “good job”, do people see shrubs and grass tussocks as an impediment? Perhaps far more people than we realise are terrified of the dangers posed by “the bush” as they understand it.
Even during the HRB there were butterflies flying around. Perhaps they were hill-topping. The commonest butterfly at the moment seems to be the Meadow Argus with circular spots on its wings. Small beige moths were there today. Perhaps they sought the bases of grass tussocks for egg-laying? Some of the burnt tussocks showed green growth already. In a couple of places where sods of soil had been dug up during the preparations, Wild Oats seedlings have emerged. Weed species responding to “disturbance”. Perhaps that principle is the basis for no-dig gardens and minimal-tillage farming?
Track south towards the Frogmouths' Tree from '5-ways'
I recognised a few Pasture Day Moths on the Saturday. Apina callisto is a day-flying species. You’ve seen the plump caterpillars moving over the gravel path in the winter looking for places to dig a pencil-diameter tunnel into the hard surface. They pupate in these tunnels, emerging the following April as we’re now seeing. The caterpillars feed in the frostiness of winter but survive because of the antifreeze agents in their cells.
I did wonder how much “smoke inhalation” birds, dogs and other species can safely breathe. Their respiratory systems are often very different from the lungs we take for granted.
We had 7 mL rain on Sunday 29th here in Flynn. How much did the burnt area receive? The rain drops don’t seem to have washed the ash away or caused the bare soil to move. The kangaroos’ tracks through the bush are very clear now. Phil’s going to monitor any erosion effects on the tracks he already cares for.
If you have any photos of the HRB and the healing that will happen they’d be a most welcome record of how this section recovers. It’s the most extensive moderate-to-good biodiverse area of Mt Rogers, even though there are places where the rank introduced grasses over-dominate. Would you consider taking a series of ‘after’ photographs of an area that you regularly pass by? We can put them up on this blog.
.....
e.g. Photos on 22 April, from track upslope of Rechner Place, Flynn (by Ann M)




............
For Monday 7th’s working bee I propose a walk around the outer edges of the HRB area with wands and loppers at the ready. A few privets, Celtis and other woody weeds are showing themselves. 
We'll meet near the Notice Box at 9.00 am.
Cheers,
Rosemary,  Convenor, Mt Rogers Landcare Group. 02.05.18.

MARCH 2018……. MT ROGERS NEWS

Hazard Reduction Burn
March came in with a rush of activity when there were several reports of ground being cleared, branches sawn off trees, trees cut down and several of ‘our’ most treasured, centuries old Eucalypts having ribbons round their trunks.
It took Brian Bathgate, Mt Rogers’ Land Manager for TCCS, an hour or two to find out what was happening. The Fire Management Unit had begun preparations for a Hazard Reduction Burn (HRB) in the reserve without alerting the Land Managers, much less the reserve’s community.
There is a Brett McNamara article in this week’s Chronicle on page 7. It does not seem to explain what HRBs in our reserves are designed to achieve other than “to enhance, protect and conserve our beautiful bush capital”.
There was a HRB on the eastern side of Mt Rogers in August 2011. The currently planned burn is part of the broad ACT-wide schedule of HRBs. I put a map of the target area on the seat by the notice box. It shows that the burn will affect the vegetation between the track up from Jacob Place (Flynn) and the rocky track up from the notice box. I placed some Living with Fire brochures in the notice box and in residents’ letterboxes in adjacent streets.
Rachel’s visit
Rachel Tokley is Urban Volunteer Group Co-ordinator for TCCS. On Wednesday 7 March Rachel visited Mt Rogers for the first time and heard about our concerns. More importantly, she was really impressed with the place, the sense of community that we have and what we have achieved with your decades-long landcaring, erosion management, stewardship and species observations.
Since she has an extensive network of contacts within and beyond the ACT Government’s agencies, Rachel encourages us to report management issues to her, rachel.tokley@act.gov.au and ph. 0478 404 999. This would include the state of the path, the dumping of rubbish (e.g. those mattresses), fallen trees or branches.
Fix My Street is another, though online, reporting option.
The Rock Sign & a ‘garden’?
The Rock Sign has been tagged. Rachel has organised for the Graffiti Unit to remove the vandalistic paint-job and cover the rock surface with a clear ‘paint’ that makes graffiti easier to remove. If we planted some native daisies around the sign’s boulders, would those of you who come up by car be able to bring bottles of water to help the little plants establish? It’s a very exposed position of course but it might have been native grassland there 5060 years ago. 
Here's the Rock Sign again, after its installation in December, in case you've not seen the photos in one of the blog posts further below. 

Clare
For the first part of Rachel’s visit we were accompanied by Clare from the Fire Management Unit. Clare took photos and GPS co-ordinates of areas and rarer native species that are especially sensitive to fire damage and important to us. Her camera was busy because this HRB will affect the most extensive high-to- reasonable quality woodland zones in the reserve.
The HRB needs to be a series of cool patch-burns as there are very few places where damage to habitats and ground-dwelling species can be avoided. The ancient trees are marked for special care and the ground has been cleared around them. HRBs are done to “reduce fuel load” but there are differences of opinion between ecologists and fire management personnel especially surrounding the effects and frequency of burns. At least this target area hasn’t been burned officially for 4050 years or more.
There have been visible HRBs in Namadgi in the past 10 days. Residents should be notified of the pending HRB with signs going up at entrances to Mt Rogers.
Weeding
The Sunday 25 February working bee against the Tree of Heaven infestation was rained out as the spectacular dump of 92+ mL hit the region. On Monday 5 March Phil and I moved through the bush east of the notice box pulling or cutting & daubing scores of young woody weeds. We ‘extrapolated’, from what we found, that there’s plenty of similar work throughout the reserve should anyone feel so motivated! As usual the weeds we found originated from berries carried into the reserve from garden plants. One stranger that I dug out turned out to be a young Asparagus Fern. The well watered ground made our work relatively easy.
Koels departing…less one from Fraser
This last week has been quiet in most areas of the ACT as the Koels begin their migration out of the region. Red Wattlebirds, Noisy Friarbirds and Honeyeaters also move away. April is the time of traditional Honeyeater migrations through the river corridors with thousands of several species passing through to warmer places. Small groups of these migrating species may pass through Mt Rogers.
One fledgling Koel won’t be migrating. Hayward found the injured chick on the edge of Mt Rogers and carefully took it home. It was after-hours. Ruth emailed a “what to do?" message but I didn’t receive it before they’d taken the little bird to the 24-hour Gungahlin Veterinary Hospital. The vet said it had ‘neurological damage’ and would need to be euthanased.
As Koels are still newcomers to ‘Canberra’ I thought the Australian National Wildlife Collection would be interested in the bird as a specimen. I phoned the clinic-hospital and the staff, understanding the situation, agreed to put the corpse in their freezer. I collected the surprisingly small bird and, a few days later, took it to the ANWC at Gungahlin.
The efforts of probable Wattlebird parents in raising the young cuckoo won’t be wasted as it is now in the research collection. The Injured Wildlife Hotline is 0432 300 033 and Website www.actwildlife.net.
Lyndon’s Red-Capped Robin
Mt Rogers bird- and wildlife-watching identity, Lyndon, made news on the COG (Ornithologists’ group) email line recently. He ended up with a Red-Capped Robin on his cap whilst photographing at Yerrabi Pond, Gungahlin. Steve W was on hand with a quick photo. The robins are also seasonal migrants. The story and photo are in the blog-post below this one, and the photo is repeated here.

Working Bees
The next working bee is on Sunday 25 March, meeting at the Wickens Place carpark at 09.00 am. We’ll try again for another assault on the Tree of Heaven. Monday 1 April’s a holiday.

Rosemary, Convenor
Mt Rogers Landcare Group  
6258 4724.    
16.03.18.

Where's that Red 'cap' Robin?

A short story about Mt Rogers folk, Lyndon, Maureen and, in recent years Doug the Blue Heeler.
These folk have walked on Mt Rogers for decades.

Lyndon’s interest in photography increased as Doug slowed down; with a huge telephoto lens being part of their daily equipment.

Mt Rogers gained substantially when Lyndon collated his photographs to produce Wildlife of Mt Rogers. 
A file celebrating Mt Rogers’ bird species followed and morphed into a photo-book. It illustrates all the species Lyndon has seen on and from Mt Rogers.

In the course of his Mt Rogers birdwatching, Lyndon met Steve W.
Steve specialises in videoing birds and their behaviour, with this passion taking him throughout our region and beyond. He has also provided countless valuable statistical analyses of birds’ abundance and movements to the COG (Canberra Ornithologists Group) email line.

Steve and Lyndon teamed up. Lyndon was introduced to the numerous birdwatching locations around the ACT by Steve and the pleasantly addictive pursuit of studying local avifauna. Lyndon has joined the scores of locals who record what their binoculars find and link their discoveries to Canberra Ornithologists’ Group, Canberra Nature Map and E-Bird. 

Here’s the delightful result of their being beside Ginninderra Creek at Gungahlin’s Yerrabi Pond on March 1st.
Today, at Yerrabi Pond, a Red-capped Robin became impossible for Lyndon to
photograph. It landed on his cap, on the peak first and then moved to the
back. I was not close enough nor quick enough to get a clear shot but you
get the idea from the photo. A special moment.

[Lyndon agreed to have his photo sent to the chatline]

Steve

At this time of the year several Robin species pass through the bush capital from breeding at higher altitudes.  Sighting the robins provides the classic case of "being in the right place at the right time".
We’re occasionally lucky in finding them on and around Mt Rogers. They usually join Mixed Feeding Flocks of other small foraging bird species.  

Rosemary 

MT ROGERS IN MID FEBRUARY 2018

NOTES FROM A WALK AROUND THE TRACK on Mon 19.02.18 after a 34 degree day
First, here is our 'Notice rock', in December 2017

Weather
It was blissfully cool after the previous days’ inescapable heat. Grey clouds brought hope of some rain. The easterly breeze refreshed walkers but probably extracted even more moisture from the summer-desiccated vegetation.
Agapanthus blooms
Landcarers’ compliments to those who have cut off the spent flower heads and taken them to the green waste site for mulching & composting.  The birds might discover the seeds are edible & begin taking them into the nature reserves in their droppings.
Grey Butcherbird
One was perched on the wires across Schwarz Place. It pecked an insect off the wire and was later heard carolling away; the equal of its magpie cousins.
Chinese Pistachio
In weed awareness hindsight, those of us who bought Chinese Pistachio trees for our gardens could have been labelled ‘gamblers’. The trees brighten our autumns with glorious northern-hemisphere colours. They are dioecious:  plants where the male and female reproductive systems occur on separate plants.” The female plants produce berries, birds eat the berries and spread them into others’ gardens or the bush. We all see the Cockatoos at work in the trees. Their strong beaks and gizzards may not crush every berry. The seedlings grow up from under the larger trees that the cockatoos perched in, as privets and cotoneasters do. Chinese Pistachio is now a declared pest species.
Cockatoos
A few weeks ago Barbara J responded to a request for evidence of where Sulphur Crested Cockatoos roost. They’re familiar with & gave evidence of the roost site around the Flynn playground’s trees. Today the ground was littered with white feathers from the birds’ moulting & preening - if corroboration of Barbara’s long-term observations was needed.
Winds and branches
Winds have been tortuous at times this summer. Wind direction is influenced by topography and the presence of other trees. Thanks to those who have moved branches that have fallen across the main path. We’ve had success with the ACT’s Fix My Street in such situations provided we can show the nearest street or mark the location on a map. Mattresses and other dumped material were removed quickly as the result of Lyndon’s and Phil’s respective reporting.
Whipper Snipping
In recent weeks a major effort has seen rank grasses in the zone between the path and the houses whipper-snipped into neatness. Thank you TCCS for organising this. Wouldn’t it be great if the original wildflowers and shrubs were still dense around the zone’s clusters of boulders and able to crowd out the last 100 years’ windblown or animal dispersed seeds?
TCCS
Transport Canberra & City Services’ Rachel Tokley will be having a look round Mt Rogers on Wednesday 7 March. We’ll be able to raise any issues with her for liaising with the TCCS and broader networks. When Angharad mentioned the ‘tags’ on the engraved MT ROGERS rock Phil Nizette carved two months ago Rachel has arranged for the ACT Government’s Graffiti Unit to address the vandalism. 

Blackberry
It’s a pity ivy and honeysuckle don’t attract sufficient attention for removal by contractors. Blackberry attracts governments’ attention because it is a Weed of National Significance. The Ginninderra Catchment Group has a new funding stream for the treatment of blackberry clusters in the catchment of Ginninderra Creek. Are there any blackberry infestations that need spraying in the land parallel to Kuringa Drive, in the land between Fraser oval and Dunlop or around Lake Ginninderra? Please report sightings, with locations to: landcare@ginninderralandcare.org.au .
Green grass
When most of the vegetation is very beige it’s easy to see where hidden water sources are keeping grasses green. How does water drain down subterraneously from the higher levels of Mt Rogers? Perhaps as the lower slopes were moulded into the landscapers’ and engineers’ visions the directions of springs ‘ flows were changed? In the suburbs there are greened places that can be attributed to leaking swimming pools and sewer lines from houses. Fix My Street’s the place to report these too. Actual water flows can be reported to 13 11 93. We did this for a ‘no-man’s-land’ part of Redfern Street, Macquarie last week.
Notices
Thanks to Chris C for redoing the Snow Gum’s corner notice after the eddying wind blew the two A4 sheets apart. Chris has an A3 laminator and offered to redo that information sheet.
Bark’s brilliance
Before I’d even moved into the reserve I was awed by the glorious golden yellow hues of those Eucalypts that are shedding their bark. Some of them have the common name Yellow Box for the new bark that’s revealed when the bark’s age + rain + heat  + wind peel strips off trunks and branches.
The ground around each tree was littered with bark with some pieces having been blown several metres. Barks’ textures give clues when identifying eucalypts and would show their diversity if anyone indulged in the bark-rubbings we used to try 6 decades ago.  Photos achieve similar results nowadays. 
Negative:
The MT ROGERS sign being tagged left a decidedly nasty taste in our mouths even though a remedy will be forthcoming. Perhaps more official graffiti spaces would be acceptable to the artists but tagging is a different cult it would seem. 

Positive:
Hayward and Ruth initiated a sad but valuable Koel story. Hayward found an injured Koel fledgling and took it to the Canberra Veterinary Emergency Service at Gungahlin. The vet said it had ‘neurological damage’ and would have to be euthanised.
As the Koel is a relatively new species in our region I thought the Australian National Wildlife Collection (ANWC) might be interested in the body. A phone call or two later and the caring co-operation of the clinic’s vets, and the little corpse was frozen. It’s now been taken to ANWC. Here’s a link that explains the collection and its immeasurable value to researchers here and internationally.

Rosemary, Mt Rogers Landcare.  6258 4724.

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.