On Sunday 24th January six volunteers gave time to Mt Rogers for the first working-bee of 2016. Ann had a family happening to attend, so left after an hour. Ann was my back-up in case I called in sick and she also keeps the blog updated with the news, newsletters, other articles, observations and photographs … mtrogerslandcare.blogspot.com
It was good to welcome Ivan back from his hip-replacement surgery. He worked unstintingly on St John’s Wort (SJW) and any woody weeds we came across. We worked in the triangle west of the single tank. Quite a few people use the tracks around the area but the grassy wildness is only used by kangaroos.
We began on the track towards the summit from Wickens Place, recognising and pulling a few SJW plants (like the one pictured below) – slowly but determinedly so as many roots as possible pulled out of the conveniently dampened soil. Ted multi-tasked, pulling SJW, leaving the older plants’ seed capsules to desiccate in the heat of each day. We all had to seek out younger plants growing through the rank introduced grasses. They might have been SJW seedlings or suckers from nearby mature plants – either way we found well-developed roots and clusters of pink buds at soil level ready to branch out during 2016–17. The next phase will be to ask Steve D to spray SJW in this triangle as pulling is only partially successful.
There were also Mustard plants flowering lemon-yellow (as in the next photo below). In spite of sturdy tap-roots they pulled out quite well. The roots’ holes will allow air and any further rain falls to penetrate deeper into the soil. David took the Mustard as his speciality, ranging through the area to find & pull scores of other Mustard plants. He’s very interested in stewardship of the land – what better way to support communities and Country than with some landcaring hours? There are several Mustard-like cabbage-family weeds. The Cabbage white butterflies are among the flowers’ pollinators.
Brendan and Vimanh joined us for the first time and were eager to learn about Mt Rogers’ ecology and plants as they worked alongside us. Vimanh searched widely for plants that were showing their golden-yellow flowers. Once her ‘eye was in’ she successfully added the small SJW to her victims list.
We were able to point out a native ground-cover, Climbing Saltbush. Here it’s ground-hugging and we found several with small red berries. Common Bronzewing and Crested Pigeons eat the berries but it would be encouraging to think that lizards would be better at finding the small orange-red fruits amongst the tall grass than pigeons. Both pigeons prefer to feed where the grass is short and where they can see any potential dangers.
We introduced Brendan and Vimanh to Serrated Tussock as there are about 30 plants scattered through our work area. We cut off and bagged any remaining seedheads and then Ted dug out the tussocks with a small mattock. Quite a few plants were ‘hiding’ under shrubs as that’s where the wind had blown the long stalks or where seeds had fallen out of resting kangaroos’ fur.
Brendan, Ivan and Ted began work on a huge Firethorn that’s obviously escaped notice for several years. The photo below shows Ivan and Brendan tackling the job watched by David and Vimanh. It’s a fertile bush, as there were hundreds of green berries on each branch. We’ll continue work on this later in the year. Are any grazing animals in the species’ homelands (China, the Caucasus through to Turkey) able to nibble at Firethorn leaves amongst the vicious thorns? Here birds disperse the orange-red berries.
Anne C will continue her solo walk-and-weed sessions with isolated woody weeds as her target species. The mowing that has tidied up the Mt Rogers fire-management zone this sprummer hasn’t prevented new shoots of Mustard rapidly growing into path-side spaces. If anyone would like to bring secateurs on their walk and cut off these plants close to the soil we’d have hundreds fewer Mustards next spring! The flowers are pale yellow. Chris & Margaret are on the lookout for Verbascum flower-heads, cutting off & bagging any they come across.
John & Joan reported their concern that a neighbour was emptying their swimming pool into the edge of the reserve at the weekend. Just think through the quality of the water after months of dosing with pool chemicals. And if it was a salt-water pool….There are very few plant species that thrive in salty soils and even fertilisers can devastate soils and river systems over time….Pool chemicals…aaagh!
If they haven’t already done so I expect EUROPEAN WASPS will be appearing more regularly around our yards soon. The EUROPEAN WASPS HOTLINE number is 6258 5551 and there’s a website www.ewasp.com.au that gives additional information about these potentially dangerous introduced wasps. They are also a significant threat to native vegetation because of the way they destroy flowers when they seek to steal nectar. Australian flowers have evolved to be pollinated by Australian insects and birds. The European wasps are about Honeybee size and black & yellow.
In The Chronicle of 23rd January there was an article from Brett McNamara on the new Reptile component of Canberra Nature Map (CNM). Ian’s photo of one of Mt Rogers’ Brown snakes trying to work out how to eat one of the Bearded Dragons was submitted to CNM as evidence of our populations and also the snake’s appetite. Frances had taken a Brown snake on her phone a few days previously. The beauty of the CNM is that one’s photos can be sent in and species of plants, reptiles, fungi and butterflies identified. If the phone or camera has GPS capability the photos are doubly useful, as location and abundance data can be built up for the region’s native species.
The combination of soil warmth and rain has triggered the germination of fungal spores. Perhaps we could collectively build up a dossier of Mt Rogers’ fungi species. I take a plumber’s mirror with me so I can look at the underside of the fruiting bodies without damaging their efforts to reproduce. There was a warning about DEATH CAP MUSHROOMS on the local radio news today.
On page 5 of The Chronicle, Tough Mudder was featured. Children are offered challenges and team-work experiences which include playing in muddy water, trying obstacle courses, problem solving, climbing outside. Compass work and code-breaking are offered inside. These are primarily school holiday activities with costs revealed on the bfirm website. Mt Rogers can offer most of these challenges free!
Angharad, Ted & I were working in the rain at first on 1st February when we continued pulling SJW to the west of the single tank. We also worked on more to the east of the tank, an area where Mary had worked several years ago. There’s also a patch of African Love Grass nearer the tank’s entry gates that Steve has previously sprayed. New plants have grown up since, so return visits will be scheduled.
Now is the time to MULCH! With all the rain topping up the soil’s water-table, the moisture can be retained by using coarse mulch materials. Air and any later rain can move past the coarse mulches. However, there are times when the Bush Fire people denounce woody mulches as fire-hazards so there’s pros and cons involved. The rain might trigger eucalypts shedding their barks. These sheets of bark can be broken up into smaller pieces where they deflect the sun’s heat and encourage the spread of raindrops across the ground….but plant-based mulches could also be flammable……another Catch 22.
One of Mt Rogers’ west-side neighbours generously offered free peaches to passers-by. Margaret, Chris and Dennis reported clear sightings of a Channel-billed Cuckoo in the Basely-Avery-Bingley area of Fraser. These massive cuckoos are rare as far south as the Canberra region. They parasitise Currawong and Magpie nests so they could be very useful if they time their journeys south more accurately!
Koels seem to have worked out the timing better. This photo is of a female Koel in a mid-Flynn garden.
There’s an article from The Conversation this week: ‘Why a walk in the woods really does help your body and your soul’. The suggestion is that there are exchanges between the trees and our lungs that chemically contribute to our wellbeing. Perhaps plants are far less passive and far more interactive than we thought. We certainly can’t ‘do without them’ or afford to treat them as ‘only plants’.
Rosemary 6258 4724 mtrogerslandcare.blogspot.com 04.02.16.