After parking in Schwarz Place, Flynn, I aimed to walk through the reserve checking known areas of weed infestation to assess the species’ status as spring approaches. It wasn’t surprising to see the main track was busy with people escaping, with and without dogs, from the confinement yesterday’s wild winds and cold had induced.
At first it was sunny and the winds were light but by 10.15 the winds were stronger and from the south. Their coldness came straight off the snow in the Brindabellas, though visible whiteness decreased as the warm sun melted a couple of days’ worth of precipitation; at most sleet for us in the suburbs but snow to excite the winter sports enthusiasts in the high country. And to think that if overseas folk know where Australia is at all most of them wouldn’t know that our modest mountains attract snow.
African Lovegrass (ALG) shows up to the east of Schwarz Place usually along the tracks and paths. There are a few woody weeds to attend to. I was more than delighted to hear 3 hours later that the new people at the end of the street had taken out many trailer loads of overgrown plants including Cotoneaster, Jasmine and Periwinkle since they moved in. Their weeds went to Canberra Sand & Gravel at Parkwood to be mulched and composted. We’ll be able to reward them with free native plants from the next Weed Swap on 4th & 5th November.
Although some plants here have been sprayed before I think there’s still Chilean Needle Grass growing in this part of the reserve. The St John’s Wort patch I knew of seemed to either be clean or a bit behind in the rosettes developing.
North of Snow Gum Corner’s views above Jacob Place, masses of Wild Oats have already germinated. By summer the plants will be over a metre tall. The oats were part of pasture improvement practice when land around the embryonic Canberra, including Mt Rogers, was grazed. There’s a curious 4 m square space in the oats where a white-flowered, tiny native Asperula conferta grows. Common Woodruff is its common name. I wonder whether its chemistry has some inhibitory effect on the oats or perhaps where it grows is too wet for introduced plants. There’s another area of Woodruff on the way to the creek in Flynn and this is clayey and wet after rain events.
Much of Mt Rogers shows remnants of Grassy Woodland where there are species of shrubs, Acacias (wattles) and Eucalypts interspersed with native grasses and wildflower species. Decades of grazing after settlement in the 1840s displaced the groundstorey native plants. Often places that had rocks or boulders protruding from deep under ground protected native grasses and wild flowers. Mt Rogers has several examples of these refuges. Some have had Urn Heath flowering with pale yellow bells all winter and they’re now welcoming the Hardenbergias’ purple flowers. Aidan has written an interesting article on Mt Rogers’ geology. It’s available on the Blog that Ann curates for us: www.mtrogerslandcare.blogspot.com
I wondered whether Mt Rogers had been cleared of younger trees during the grazing period? Some 70 magnificent triple-century Eucalypts remain. Nola and Graham volunteered to photograph them several years ago. Griffin and Angharad have volunteered to GPS the gum trees more recently … fine examples of the diverse contributions members of the Mt Rogers community make to the reserve that gives hundreds of us so much pleasure.
I met Bob and his canine Beau at one point. Bob recalled discovering Mt Rogers in the 1980s after moving into Spence. He recalled how he collected and filled the equivalent of several wheelbarrow loads of rubbish in those days. With great attention to detail Bob also picked up broken glass. These days the rubbish situation is better. Chris is one of those who now picks up litter when walking with Margaret and canines Cayenne and Pepper. He remarked that he’d found a perfectly serviceable toothbrush the other day: possibly his most inexplicable find so far.
As Bob and I chatted a flock of small birds came through. The mixed flock of insectivorous birds were exploring the copious Cootamundra Wattle blossoms for insects and larvae. Wrens, Grey Fantails, Silvereyes, Thornbills foraged at different levels of the trees and on the ground. They need fine bills to secure their prey species. They’re a contrast to the several photos (below) I took that showed the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos had moved through the reserve in recent weeks. Several people have been delighted to see these birds that make regular cockatoos look small. Mt Rogers doesn’t have many cone-bearing trees but they use their massive beaks to break open the galls on some wattles. Other trees had had their bark peeled back so the cockatoos could reach the invertebrates underneath. Especially fascinating were instances when superficially healthy wattles had borers in their trunks. The birds had ‘bitten’ the trunks open and exposed the insects and their tunnels
As we’ve found and recorded before, there were several old trees covered with Ivy. They thrive in shady and damper places making the woodland look almost English in places. There were also known Blackberry patches to check. Deeper in from the ‘Tudor’ house in Spence there was a large Honeysuckle infestation. I stopped to watch after noticing small brown birds flying into the Honeysuckle mass and then back into nearby trees. Were they building in the shelter of the Honeysuckle or taking something from there into a nest being made in the trees? They were too quick for the binoculars but may have been White-browed Scrub Wrens.
The damp ground made pulling out isolated Serrated Tussock plants possible; I didn’t have tools with me. Steve has diligently sprayed ST and ALG whilst walking systematically through the reserve with his backpack kit. His voluntary work complements what we achieve on our twice-monthly working bees and helps to ensure that infestations ‘uphill’ of the main gravel path are recorded and dealt with.
The ACT only has two Weeds Officers but Mt Rogers is very fortunate that Jenny Conolly is able to organise funding for a contractor to spray the grasses I’ve mentioned; principally where they occur between the gravel path and residences and along the main access tracks. Persistence is the best solution for achievements against weeds, as we also know from our gardens.
The wattles are magnificent at the moment and I hope you’re able to walk round Mt Rogers soon to see them. The most numerous species is Cootamundra Wattle (two photos below) which originated in the Cootamundra area. It was widely planted decades ago and forms dense thickets after a fire event as can be seen on Mt Rogers. Silver Wattle is also in flower with Red-stemmed Wattle about to come into flower. All provide food, shelter & habitat for a range of insects, birds & other animals.
Ginninderra Catchment Group, with Southern and Molonglo catchment group colleagues, is working to achieve adequate and reliable long-term funding for landcaring and the support of the volunteers who are stewards for reserves and Urban Parks around the ACT. Funding for Landcare has principally come from the Federal Government whereas Canberra Nature Park reserves Parkcarers and rangers are funded through the ACT Government.
I tried to locate the Frogmouths. We may come across their daytime roosts in a range of places, possibly depending on the prevailing winds or likelihood of sunshine. All the previous years’ nest trees I passed were bird-less. I did hear a Bronzewing Pigeon’s “Boom” once or twice. The Magpies that I came across all seemed preoccupied with foraging. Here in mid-Flynn the normal routines are changing as pairs begin nest building.
Let Access Canberra 13 22 81 know if you need signage warning of swooping birds.
Let’s hope the weather settles down for Phil Nizette of Wellspring Environmental Art & Design when he begins engraving MT ROGERS on the rock-sign on the edge of the Wickens Place carpark.
We are working on wording for dog-behaviour signs at entry points around Mt Rogers. These are to inform newcomer dog-carers about managing their canines’ behaviour whilst in the multi-use reserve. Following the review of dog exercising areas in 2014 we expected that the Government would provide educative signs for all areas where dogs are allowed. You may have noticed no smoking signs near playgrounds. Signs that might help protect us from poorly managed dogs are more difficult it seems.
The next Working-bees are on Sunday 27th August and Monday 4th September from 09.30. We’ll meet in Mildenhall Place and at Wickens Place respectively. Contact 6258 4724 for details.
Rosemary, Convenor, Mt Rogers Landcare Group 21.08.17.