Mt Rogers January 2012

Some weeks ago the Mt Rogers grass was mown and whipper-snipped to give the suburb-path interface an almost park-like neatness. Thereafter it wasn’t particularly hot so many plants read the weather’s signals and produced new flowers. African love-grass (ALG) has exploited the situation with a flush of delicate, grey-black flowers. Landcare Group members have donated several hours to beheading and bagging the grass tussocks where they are growing ‘above’ the gravel path.                               

We did hear that the ALG would be sprayed but that’s not happened as yet. In any case would spraying kill the seeds before they eventually fell off the dead plant? ALG has been in the news recently with adverts in the papers aiming to spread awareness but in places like Mt Rogers the aim is to keep it out of areas that are not already infested. It grows into robust tussocks which spread so that there are no inter-tussock-spaces for forbs and wildlife. If you’re not sure about identifying this WONS (Weed of National Significance) have a look in the Wickens car-park area where it’s not really been set back by being sprayed there two years ago.       

Steve and Judy have worked on path-side tussocks on their side of the hill and we aim to keep working round the path over the next few days before the seeds begin to drop off. Ivan and I worked on another infestation on the narrow track up to the summit from the northern “new concrete drain”. It’s easy to see that feet and paws have carried seed up this way over the past 5-10 years. It’s also a pointer to those that hold the purse strings for on-going maintenance programs. Mowing isn’t the only grass-related expense they need to budget for in nature reserves and urban open spaces.

ACT landcare and parkcare volunteers provide hours of labour for a variety of tasks. They enjoy making a contribution for their local bush, sharing like-minded company and learning-as-they-go about habitats, species and each other! There are always rewards for working that go beyond accolades, money or awards.

Today the raucous calls of kookaburras reached us several times. They wouldn’t be around if the place didn’t have a suite of animals to feed on and the sustaining plants. One or more Koels called occasionally “co-elle”. We often see the quick-getaway movements of small skinks and larger Ctenotus species with beautiful striped markings. Just to confuse us we found several Native lovegrass plants growing in damper areas on the edge of the sloping track. We came across a spreading ground cover with intense purple pea-shaped flowers. Glycines come into their own in summer with lush green leaves when most other plants are drying-off. There are one or two patches close to the path in the north. The twining species is more cryptic unless it’s climbed up taller plants’ stalks. Bluebells were fabulous once the sun shone on them this morning.

Sometimes bright yellow flowers can be seen from the main path. You’ll have noticed the swathes of yellow around the ACT’s open spaces. St John’s Wort (SJW) has responded to the rainfall and warmth of spring with huge numbers of residual seeds in the ground germinating and now flowering. There are 560 species of SJW worldwide and the orange-petalled native species is found on Mt Rogers. The pervasive Hypericum perforatum is native to Europe produces thousands of seeds but also has extensive roots making it difficult to successfully pull out even when the soil is damp. (Wear gloves when handling this one).

St John's Wort shows five petals, green sepals and many stamens in the centre of each flower. Even better for botany-lessons are the dandelion-like Flatweed flowers. Pull apart these yellow flowers to see that each head is a mass of individuals. What seem to be flat petals are five tiny petals fused together. At the base there’s the potential seed with the stalk having hairs that will eventually help the mature seed float away on the breeze. Flatweed and Catsear are having a ‘good’ season as Mt Rogers and unmown nature strips show. Bag any flower heads you take off, as the flowers will otherwise continue to ripen into seed-heads that’ll re-invade.

If you look closely at the seed-heads you’ll see the similarity to dandelions. The prize for such seed-heads would go to Salsify and Goat’s beard from Europe and Asia. Often they’re more than 6 cm across and the seeds can be nearly 2 cm long … great for drifting on the wind to colonise new ground. In the early 1600s Salsify’s taproot was likened to carrot and parsnip, but once flowers have developed they’re tougher-eating. Roasted roots could be a coffee substitute.

Peter sent over a photo of Centuary or Pink stars because he’d found a patch with white flowers. From Europe and Western Asia originally, it’s a weed that’s behaving just like many invaders. It’s been around for decades but in smallish numbers. Conditions this summer have suited the seedbank and millions have germinated. It’s one of those flowers that could convince us that it’s an Australian native. How many decades will pass before our open spaces look like open spaces everywhere when more weeds become naturalised?

The lush, greenest grass, currently, is Weeping grass. It’s a common native species and tends to be invasive. But in places that’s just what we want if it will take over from some of the introduced grasses which mature early and are dry by summer’s heat.

Several people have remarked that there have been fewer Superb Parrots around Mt Rogers this year. Yet they have been passing over mid-Flynn in small numbers and in all directions for several weeks. Perhaps real ornithologists will be able to tell us what’s been happenining eventually. There was a call for information on sightings of begging young but I’ve not even heard those calls.        

Young Galahs are begging and ‘our’ magpies brought their young in for us.

We can hear the gentle boom of the Common Bronzewing pigeon all over the reserve whereas a few years ago they were restricted to the main carpark area. Rosellas and finches can surprise us by gathering seeds amongst long grasses.

On 17th November Nancy and John found the Frogmouth family in an old, flowering Wattle just 50 m NE of their nest tree. They and Lyndon caught some great photos (see November blog below). Last week there were three birds in that same tree and I wondered if two young had had their marching orders. But Kirsty has reported finding a Frogmouth corpse recently. This loss explains how important it is to have extra young to protect against this loss of huge parental energy and effort. There have been some great photos of young Owlet Nightjars on the COG email-line but ours have remained cryptic. Chris reported a Scrubwren in his Fraser garden … delightful birds that prefer dense cover and aren’t often seen on the hill.

I’m sure there’s been much more bird activity than this but I’ve been a bit slack in my journeyings. We watched a Willie Wagtail catch a brown butterfly elsewhere and then take the body off to feed hungry nestlings. This explained the collection of wings found on the ground near the same spot. Have you seen the masses of Soldier Beetles that cluster on certain plants for shelter overnight? There have been virtually swarms of them in the sky at times but perhaps they don’t taste good enough to excite birds such as Grey Fantails.

Keep the cameras busy. Your contribution to Mt Rogers could be that you make a photographic record over the seasons. Please send over any interesting sightings!

Perhaps we’ll see you as WORKING-BEES resume. Landcare’s not all hard, muscular work! As plants set seeds there will even be work for good pairs of scissors as we harvest seeds into bags before they can blow away. Some bending-over may be needed!

We have all learnt about plants and the weedy species as we’ve gone along so no prior knowledge or experience is needed. We reward ourselves with occasional plantings.

The Landcare Group has gloves, tools, gaiters and ENTHUSIASM!


Rosemary  6258 4724

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