Glorious yellow: When I began this newsletter’s draft the Cootamundra Wattles, Acacia baileyana, were flowering prolifically, lighting up the reserve whether one took in a landscape view or looked closely at the glorious blossoms amid grey-green foliage. Today, a week later, some of the trees show a more amber yellow as the composite balls of tiny flowers begin to brown off. I’ve noticed over the years that, each spring, the wattle blossoms are subjected to at least one drenching and the forecast suggests 2015’s spring will fit in with that pattern.
Even when the flowers are still in bud the wattles are offering food sources for many birds. The Mixed Feeding Flocks (MFF) of Silvereyes, wrens, honeyeater species and thornbills are searching out highly nutritious insect larvae, insects and pollen as they build up their reserves for the breeding season. Grey Fantails will accompany the MFF species but catch insects on the wing, flying after them from amongst trees’ branches. (How do they and Swallows know which flying insects are edible when they’re darting about at speed? Obviously their eyesight is different from humans’.)
Mt Rogers spectacularly shows its large population of Cootamundra wattles as the end of each winter approaches. Both Acacia decurrens and Acacia dealbata flower now on Mt Rogers and elsewhere in the region. The Early Wattle has been flowering through winter with those the Girl Guides planted in 2010, in from the Wickens Place carpark, being particularly floristic. The branches of pale creamy-yellow blossom are prickly, making the locally occurring bushes ideal refuges for small birds. There are other spring-flowering wattle species in the reserve, though some may not be local to the area.
Other wattle species ensure they provide food for pollinators at other times of the year with Acacia mearnsii (Nov), Acacia rubida and A. melanoxylon (Oct-Nov), A. implexa (late summer) all being native to Mt Rogers.
Wattles are indispensible to other plants because their roots contain nodules hosting bacteria capable of fixing nitrogen from the atmosphere. Nitrogen in the soil improves fertility…especially important for the plants which rely on Australia’s impoverished and ancient soils. An Indigenous elder once told us that Eucalypts can’t thrive unless wattles are also growing nearby, alluding to the nitrogen-fixing benefiting other, unrelated, species.
Other blossoms are worth studying if you’re inclined towards bird-watching. The almond trees on the corner of Flynn’s Schwarz Place surprised us by attracting Scarlet Honeyeaters a year or two ago. So far I’ve only seen Yellow-faced and White-eared Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebills and honeybees amongst this year’s almond petals. Near here in mid-Flynn, a neighbour’s Ironbark is still attracting the constant attendance of Rainbow Lorikeets. The story was that, nearly 20 years ago, a few Lorikeets were released from an aviary in Hawker. The species is certainly nearly always heard in or from the Pinnacle, and they have spread out from there over the decades. Probably they compete for nest hollows with other less-assertive species. Today we saw Australian Wood Duck flying over Mt Rogers. They also nest in tree hollows and not always as near water as we might expect...but how, then, do the little fluff-ball ducklings safely reach water after they’ve hatched and before their flight feathers can allow them to fly?
Rarer sightings include Margaret’s & Chris’s Crescent and New Holland Honeyeaters visiting their Banksias on 23rd. The ‘New Hollands’ are common in the Botanic Gardens…a good place for birdwatching! The pairs of Wood Duck mentioned above are unusual too.
Cryptandra are in full flower at the moment. The heather-like white flowers show on over 30 low-growing shrubs just to one side of the track that winds south of the two reservoirs. When I first discovered the ‘Cryptandra patch’ there were fewer than 10 plants. There are also Hardenbergia in full purple glory in that same area at the moment so it’s well worth our efforts to prevent the encroachment of African Lovegrass from the track and St John’s Wort from deeper into the bush there. The native grasses are flourishing and I found 2 or 3 Early Nancy lilies flowering, a sure sign that spring is here.
Frogmouths at Carwoola just outside Queanbeyan have begun nest construction but I couldn’t find any piles of twigs on the branch ‘our’ pair used last year. Rosemary L said she’d been shown the roosting Frogmouths in a Schwarz Place garden but the house has recently changed hands.
The Working bee on 3rd August involved Angharad, Ted and I in a stroll through the reserve with many interruptions where we tackled isolated weeds, picked rose hips and made a note of the need for return visits for concentrated effort. One target area will be NNE of and down slope from the summit. Another will be closer to the Fraser playground. Today (23.08.15.) Ann, Ted and I worked south-east from Schwarz Place, Flynn. I was prepared for a few woody weeds and a patch of African Lovegrass which has escaped the mowers. We found birds had often perched amongst a thicket of Hakea leaving cotoneaster, pyracantha, privet, Mahonia and Chinese elm seeds to germinate and grow up through the native Hakea. It was a hands and knees job to find the bases of the weeds’ stems and then to cut & daub them. The thicket had been a cubby in the past and would still be a wonderful retreat for young people!
Drainage realities have been visible over this winter, as seepage has reached houses which back on to the reserve. When the infrastructure was established before the suburbs went in in the seventies, embankments were created to prevent surface water rushing down the slopes. These have usually been successful but, underground, gravity dictates different routes which probably weren’t studied by the engineers. When moving round the main path several damp places are obvious after rain events. At least one of these occurs from a spring. Another known spring is amongst large boulders and, when wet, there’s growth of an almost-seaweed-like plant in the fissures.
A tour round, on 6th August, allowed Brian Bathgate, the TAMS Belconnen & Gungahlin Place Management land manager, to follow up on the $20,000 repairs and resurfacing of the main gravel path around Mt Rogers. Karissa Preuss from Ginninderra Catchment Group also attended. We were able to show them the Landcare Group’s approach to reducing erosion on the tracks and paths people, paws and wheels use to access the cross-country parts of the reserve. By diverting water sideways through run-offs and into the bush’s vegetation, the speed of flow is considerably reduced. Fast flowing water thus fails to reach and gouge out the gravel of the main path frequented by hundreds each week. Seeds, silt and debris flow along the run-offs but at least the Mt Rogers Landcare Group’s volunteers can then see where any seeds have come to rest and germinated.
Creeks and rivers have followed this pattern for millions of years, replenishing the land with water-borne nutrients. The nutrients and the water itself have given rise to fertile land for agriculture for most of the world’s civilisations. I recently came across The First Eden by David Attenborough. It’s a 1987 book which vividly brings “The Mediterranean world and man” to life by describing the history of the sea itself, the influence of the land around its shores and the progression of the great civilisations. The major rivers, the floodplains and the fertile deltas they created were essential to people in each epoch of history. Forests and shrubs covered much of the continent that became Europe and the lands of ‘The Middle East’. Once the vegetation was cleared and the timber used, irrevocable changes to climate, rainfall, soils and livelihoods occurred. We have seen similar changes in and to Australia, especially once dams were built to tame flooding rivers and creeks and provide water for irrigation and stock.
Erosion occurs when water travels rapidly downhill and grinds the soil away. David Tongway, who became David Tongway AM in the Queen’s Birthday Honours, is an internationally renowned soil scientist, specialising in restoring soils and repairing the effects of erosion. He’s been volunteering his expertise in local reserves for years. Some of his work will be shown at the Park-Care – Landcare display at the Jamison Centre from 4th to 6th September. The display is a great chance to see what other landcaring groups’ volunteers are achieving locally.
Our achievements are recorded on the blog at mtrogerslandcare.blogspot.com
Enjoy spring on Mt Rogers and in your gardens!
Rosemary 6258 4724