The weather forecast spells the end of the glorious extended autumn with an increase in the number of frosts likely to begin the cooling down of the soil and consequent reduction in obvious plant growth. No doubt growth will continue below the surface as roots continue the expansion they've achieved over the past two "good" seasons. Some people have observed that many plants had fewer flowers during summer and that they have been concentrating on the growth of leaves and branches whilst there was dampness to support the growth.

Fewer flowers has meant less nectar and pollen for honeybees and the larvae in their hives. With other threats affecting honeybees overseas the bees' reduced pollination services for our food crops becomes increasingly serious.

In the European Union pesticides containing nicotinoid chemicals have been banned due to the effects on bees. There is an online petition going round which calls for a similar ban in Australia.*

There's very little colour to attract bees to Mt Rogers at present. The exceptions include a rangey, yellow-flowered member of the mustard family, Hirschfeldia. The flowers may also be visited by butterflies with Cabbage whites and Meadow Argus still quite common once the mornings have warmed up.

Both our recent (human) working bees have been guided by colour. Thank you to Ann, Barbara, Flemming, Ivan, Lorraine, Michael and Sue who each volunteered a few valuable hours and allowed us to cover several hectares of bush. We've been seeking-out the leaves of Chinese pistachio and removing the trees when they're found whether large or small. It's the female trees in gardens that are causing the spreading of the species' berries but purchasers wouldn't know which trees they have for several years. The pistachio is one of several commonly used plants which are on a new listing of "sleeper weeds"…species which are now turning up in nature reserves like ours and adding to the workload of volunteer weeders and the ACT Government's rangers.

Scarlet hips from Briar Rose are visible in places but the thorns make their removal and daubing a slow process. Cotoneaster, pyracantha, privet and hawthorn also advertised their presence with some berries and yellowing leaves for the hawthorns. There's a large privet tree near here in mid-Flynn that's covered with pendulous branches of navy-blue/purple berries. If only it were a simple matter to ask the owners to remove the tree & take it to be composted before the birds are hungry enough to eat and disperse the berries into other gardens or nature reserves.

Red grass or Red-leg grass, Bothriochloa macra, is an obvious and widespread native grass which shows reddish stems and leaves now. To those who seek an immaculate nature-strip it may be a weed but there are also many areas of this grass on Mt Rogers now. There are few green grasses at the moment and it's possible that green areas have access to the reserve's underground residues of water or run-off. In the suburbs, green grass in public areas may survive on leaking pipes or swimming pools. ACTEW's water number is 13 11 93 if these green patches are wasting increasingly-precious water.

Shrubs with green visible may be the fine-leaved Cassinia bushes with some still showing the remains of their Cauliflower Bush flowers. Two wattle species have greener-than-eucalypts-leaves at present. Acacia implexa's leaves are curved whereas Acacia melanoxylon leaves are straighter. The former has formed almost-thickets where the seeds have been stimulated to germinate by fire.

As I walked this afternoon I heard the calls of and then saw a White-eared Honeyeater. Its white ear feathers are obvious but the name detracts from the glorious olive-green of its feathers. Scarlet robins are about, also seeking insects and the males' breast feathers really are the strongest scarlet…a much stronger hue than the un-related European red-breasted robins after whom they were named.

With the onset of the dryness and with the grasses' flower-heads gradually dying-down it's been easier for cross-country walkers to reform their preferred tracks and paths across and through the reserve. The paths are clear but dusty as we'd expect and with rocks poking through they're an interesting challenge for the sure-footed and well-shod walkers.

Other tracks through the bush show the regular routes of the kangaroo population. There have been several reports of people seeing 7 animals. They certainly use all parts of the reserve if their scats are anything to go by.

Presumably it's young people who have fixed wooden battens to the trunk of the 'Bench-mark' tree so they can reach a platform-lookout they've installed.

I hope the multi-century-tree's bark is thick enough to be unaffected by pathogens on the screws and nails that hold up the battens. Nailing signs to trees and piling lawn-clippings against trees' bark are other signs of ignorance leading to the possible death of the affected trees. Sometimes, too, the wonderful ancient trees remaining as features in newly developed suburbs later die because the soil around their extensive roots has been compacted by machinery, causing the destruction of essential air pockets.
I came across a dead Hakea decurrens which has Bushy needlewood as a common name according to Google. Hakea were named for Baron Christian Ludwig von Hake, 1745-1818, German patron of botany if that helps de-mystify the complexities of one species' names for you! It's a local native and the woody seed pods have a two-tone effect when heat opens them to release the seed. I pondered the amount of energy that goes into the production of these seed pods as each mature plant has dozens. Most of the Hakeas burnt in the eastern Hazard Reduction Burn have young seedlings now growing nearby: a testament to thousands of years of evolution for a genus responding to fires.
Did you manage to join in any of the Heritage Festival events between 13-28th April? One I particularly enjoyed was Return of the Bellows at Ginninderra Blacksmith's Workshop. We've all driven past the tin shed' beside the Barton Highway dozens of times. It's near the equally cryptic property Deasland, after which Deasland Place in Fraser is named. The National Trust organised the ceremony to explain how the huge bellows for the blacksmith's forge were repaired as a conservation education project of University of Canberra students and a Queanbeyan specialist metalwork business. The shed, built around 1860, has been repaired in recent years and archaeologist Dr Peter Dowling mentioned how various metal objects had been unearthed as the dirt-floor of the shed was studied. Harry Curran was the last blacksmith, retiring in the 1940s. His granddaughter was there and she'd revealed that blacksmiths and farriers could easily tell which leg of a horse the remaining horseshoes had fitted. That carriageway of the Barton highway was the original road between Yass & Queanbeyan and Ginninderra was "forerunner to Canberra" with many buildings and homes near where the creek runs under the highway today.

Perhaps it's a feature of age but history can become addictive. It does reveal much about our past, our culture, the region's original inhabitants and how resourceful and inventive people can be…of necessity. At another event we were shown a recipe for Parakeet pie. It took eleven Rosellas to make a pie. It also shows how the larger native birds became locally extinct in a hungry settlement.

Another 'history' has recently been launched: A Labour of Love: celebrating landcare in the ACT. Lyndon's photo of 'our' frogmouths features prominently.
Rosemary, Convenor Mt Rogers Landcare Group


*(Another current online petition from CommunityRun seeks to halt the spread of Coal Seam Gas (CSG) activities in Australia. The CSG industry's chemicals' effects on ground-water is the catalyst for this petition as is the treatment of farmers and their communities by the CSG industry.)

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