Drying out: It looks (02.10.15) as if we’re in the early days of a bout of warm weather. This may have the effect of hastening the flowering of grasses and their consequent release of pollen. Hay-fever sufferers will dread receiving the wind-borne pollen that is making its way to the female parts of other grass plants of the same species. Try searching online for Pollen grain images and you may be surprised at the delicate, intricate beauty of the tiny grains. We can now see them through powerful electron microscopes. Cores taken from, for example, the Lake George area and Antarctica have revealed much about the history of plants and the movement of the continents. Palynologists are those who study pollen grains. Their work has informed numerous studies about continental drift, the origins of Australia’s fauna and the occurrence of similar plant species in South Africa and Australia.
Superb efforts from Angharad, David, Heather, John, Kirsty, Ted, Phil, Rob and Sue have spoilt the 2015–2016 flowering and seeding attempts of Serrated Tussock plants, African Lovegrass and several woody environmental weed species during working bees on 7th and 27th September. We dug out the grasses and cut & daubed the shrubs (Privet, Cotoneaster, Pyracantha, Briar Rose and a few Prunus). Several apologies were received including Keith’s. He’s one of the many appreciators the Landcarers draw encouragement from for their compliments and keen observations. Thank you all for being part of the diverse and dedicated Mt Rogers community!
Euphorbia: For the first time we also tackled an infestation of Euphorbia. These garden plants, originally from Europe, are popular for their green ‘flowers’. Alas they join the list of trendy, useful or attractive plants that become weed threats to the bush when their seeds are readily dispersed by wind, birds, water, wheels, feet, fur and paws. Gazanias, Viburnum tinus, and Olives are among the weed species that Floriade visitors are being introduced to at the Bush Friendly Garden (BFG). Cutting off spent flowers is one way to enjoy these plants without their seeds or berries threatening biodiversity in reserves and others’ gardens. (The top photo below shows the 'pest plants' side of the BFG, and the photo below it shows the opposite side of the BFG with its welcome alternative plants.)
Superb parrots flew east across our backyard in mid-Flynn this morning. Their familiar but not recently heard calls alerted me. Their vivid green fly-past was too rapid to judge whether they were all male birds. Definitely a species to look out for as there have been sightings of the over-wintering birds during the cold months. Presumably there’s breeding going on deeper into NSW and perhaps in the ACT. There’s an emerging citizen science survey aimed at recording Superb Parrot sightings. If anyone’s interested in participating please contact me, 6258 4724.
Butcher-birds have adopted the Mt Rogers area in the past year and may be nesting in Fraser’s Keene – Avery Place trees. Angharad reported regular visits and on 20th I heard and then saw one Butcher-bird watching for movement on the ground near the twin tanks. The birds have a reputation for skewering prey on tree branches, hence their name. They are closely related to Magpies and share the ability for melodious carolling calls with the familiar ‘pies.
Kookaburras have also been reported, including by Dennis, as active near Mildenhall Place. Keep eyes peeled for them as there may be last-year’s young helping to feed the incubating parent.
The Frogmouths: On 19th September Tracy mentioned that their garden in Schwarz Place is hosting the Frogmouth pair this year. It’s usually the male that incubates during the day with the female roosting in a nearby tree. When Pam R and I walked the track south of the twin tanks there was a Currawong – Magpie commotion focussing on an ancient eucalypt. This led us to find another incubating Frogmouth. He ducked down as he was swooped. We took a couple of photos and retreated, worrying that the nesting attempt might fail. Phil reported that all was quiet next day. Stuart Rae is a Frogmouth expert in the ACT and said there might be as many as six pairs of Frogmouths nesting in the Mt Rogers area. The nests could be as close as 200 m apart. Mt Rogers is complemented by the presence of gardens that offer food, insect-foraging spaces and possibly nest sites. It’s usually the female young that disperse after a successful breeding.
On Mt Ainslie, Frogmouths have been enterprising enough to take over a disused Choughs’ nest. These mud ‘bowls’ are a far cry from the collection of sticks and twigs the Frogmouths normally create.
Kangaroos: Has anyone seen ‘our’ mob recently? On 29th a woman was asking about a small black dog that had gone off chasing a kangaroo, possibly from the mob. A bit later I again saw the male ‘roo I’d seen at ‘Bridget’s’, the small patch of grassy woodland behind Woodger Place, Fraser. It seemed calm when I first saw it, and may have adopted that as its territory after being chased up towards Mt Rogers. We heard a fascinating talk by Jerry Olsen during which he showed that the main animals in Wedge-tailed Eagles’ diets are kangaroos. The birds have been known to harass female roos to the point of their ejecting their joeys ... a tender meal for the eagles though a gruesome prospect for our minds.
Wildflowers at ‘Bridget’s’ are great at the moment. Early Nancy tubers are rich in starch. This nutritional energy was very welcome after long cold winters. Bulbine Lilies’ tubers, rich in iron and calcium were eaten, roasted. When women dug the tubers the disturbed soil could later host the surviving lilies’ seeds. Glycine’s roots are liquorice-flavoured apparently. The ground above the Creamy Candles Stackhousia monogyna was burnt in the 2013 Hazard Reduction Burn but the cool burn obviously didn’t affect the plants’ underground parts. Several Indigofera adesmiifolia Tick Indigo occur in this remnant. It’s one of the species that put Mt Rogers on the map, as it’s not particularly common, apparently. We have 8 original species in 60 hectares. Native Clematis was scrambling over low shrubs and grasses. The Ngunawal people ate the twining plants’ roots, and another source notes Clematis’ medicinal use for aching joints. The Grevillea patch hosts several varieties of Grevillea with closer inspection showing diversity of the spider-like flowers’ shapes and colours. I wonder who planted the Grevilleas and when? Honeyeaters enjoy their nectar.
Trackside mown edges are currently hosting several introduced wildflowers. Some of them may also be in our gardens:
· Pink = Cranesbill & Storksbill, Onion Grass (cockatoos & galahs dug for the bulbs in previous weeks).
· Yellow = Flatweed, Cat’s Ear and Capeweed.
· Blue = Creeping Speedwell.
· White = a type of Clover.
With any of the flowers, see whether you think there are fewer Honeybees around pollinating them this summer. Are there any native bees visiting flowers? Many of them are about the size of a Hoverfly or smaller.
Reptiles are on the move and will emerge in response to the warmer nights. There have been several sightings of Brown Snakes already. Definitely time to rein-in the random wanderings of our dogs and perhaps to warn those you reckon are newcomers about dogs’ curiosity amongst the grasses.
Bettongs and Bush Stone Curlews are the potential stars of night-time visits to Mulligans Flat, should you want a change of scene for an evening exploration. Any funds raised support the Canberra Woodland and Wetlands Trust and the scientific programs in the Trust’s reserves. The Trust advertises:
“At Mulligans Flat Woodland Sanctuary we offer a two-hour guided twilight walking tour to spot-light for, and try to catch a glimpse of bettongs, curlews and other nocturnal animals in their natural habitat. To make a booking visit : http://bettongs.org/visit-us/”
Enjoy spring’s sights, smells and sounds!
Convenor, Mt Rogers Landcare Group.
Convenor, Mt Rogers Landcare Group.