SWAMPCARE FIELD DAY

Swamp School photo by Paul Vale

A Blue Mountains Swamp near the airfield at Medlow Bath — in its flowering glory — attracted an  enthusiastic group of Swampcare volunteers to a field day in January 2017. The field day was part of a 10 year project to protect swamps, called “Swamped By Threats” whose partners include Central West Local Land Services, Blue Mountains City Council and National Parks and Wildlife Service.

The volunteers enjoyed a morning packed with information and good food topped off by a sighting of Blue Mountains Water Skinks – a well deserved reward for all their work during 2016! Unfortunately, the hoped for Giant Dragonfly did not make an appearance … this was not a good year for their emergence.

Two eminent swamp experts were on hand to generously share  their knowledge deepen our understanding of swamp plants and animals and their dependence on groundwater. Doug Benson is a highly respected plant ecologist and Honorary Research Associate with the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney. He has studied swamps of the Blue Mountains and Newnes Plateau for more than 40 years, satisfying his curiosity about how and when they developed. Ian Baird drew on more than 13 years of research on the threatened Giant Dragonfly and swamps generally, to share his extensive knowledge of the fauna that dwell in them.

Our current swamps formed up to 15,000 years ago as the land warmed up and became wetter after the last Ice Age.   How the unique swamp plants formed and where they were during these cold and dry periods are particular questions of interest.

Flowering shrubs such as the rare Acacia ptychoclada and the Grevillea acanthifolia were admired along with sedges such as Empodisma minus and Xyris ustulata. Two shrubs present Banksia ericifolia and Hakea teretifolia are killed by fire because they do not resprout from a lignotuber and do not store seed in the soil. Individual plants can take up to 8-10 years to flower and fruit and even more years are needed between fires to establish a seed bank to ensure the continuation of viable populations of this species in this location.

Plants adapted to sandstone areas only drop seeds close to the parent plant, which is in contrast with northern hemisphere plants where seed moves much greater distances due to reliance on wind dispersal.  The presence of Mallee eucalypts in swamps may be understood in terms of opportunities to thrive without the competition of larger trees. Adapted to wetter conditions and fire, some of these Mallees have lignotubers at least 50-100 years old.

Using a 1.8m steel soil probe, Ian demonstrated the significant differences in the depth of soft peaty soil over the swamp and the patches of drier sandy loam. These soil differences are reflected in the plants, and determine where Giant Dragonflies can reproduce.

Ian identified patches suitable as breeding habitat and those which were not, and discussed the importance of damp or saturated peaty soil with a high water table for egg-laying and larval establishment.  It is believed that they then spend at least 6 years in their larval burrow.  The deepest larval burrow Ian has found, also the deepest recorded, was 75cm.

A very young Blue Mountains Water Skink, plus two adults were sighted. One adult water skink sat still on top of the grass watching the group for some time. Genetic studies indicate that this species has been in swamps in the Blue Mountains for at least 2 million years, but where were they during the ice ages which have occurred over that time? They are currently solely dependant on peat swamps in the mid-to upper Blue Mountains for their survival.

 

Blue Mountains Water Skink

Ian gave some insights into the range of less appreciated fauna found in swamps which also need groundwater for survival, from the small invertebrates and skinks which may survive fire under patches of wet litter, to the common eastern froglets, burrowing crayfish and swamp rats. Blue Mountains Water Skinks can sometimes use these burrows, and those of Giant Dragonflies, for protection from fire and predators. Crayfish burrows are found in areas with groundwater seepage or a high water table which they can access in their burrows. Swamp rat tunnels may also be abundant; one of which was inspected (these are more horizontal).

 

Both Doug and Ian explained how Blue Mountains Swamps are important for holding and filtering water. The conservation of swamps is a key concern of those present and an interesting debate on fire, sedimentation and climate change followed. The predicted hotter, drier conditions and more frequent fires will threaten the swamps’ survival.

KPMG working together with Mt Wilson Bushcare Group

On Friday the 10th of March members of the KPMG IT section came along to give the Mt Wilson Bushcare group a helping hand to control the Ivy and Honeysuckle along the Mereweather Lane Firetrail, which connects to the start of the famous Wallangambe Canyon.

Alice, Susan and Jayne from Mt Wilson Bushcare Group were there as part of their March workday.  Libby Raines passed by to say hello, despite recovering from an operation.

The group showed great enthusiasm for the task, removing 18 bags of Honeysuckle and Ivy from the site, and given that the KPMG bunch hardly get out from in front of their computers, they were really keen to be in the bush on a rare bright sunny day for this season. They all  had a wonderful time connecting to nature and contributing to the good work that the Bushcare Group do.

Whilst working away we found a Greater Glider that had been predated on, probably by a Powerful Owl. It gave us a chance to have a close up look at the beautiful features of this animal, its dark fur on its back, snow white fur on its underside and its membranous gliding wings /skin.

We thank KPMG for their help and the Bushcare Group would gladly welcome them back when they are ready for your next team day.

 

 

Public Consultation Period for the Greater Sydney Regional Weed Strategy ends 8 March!

 

 Greater Sydney Regional Weed Strategy Explained

Greater Sydney Local Land Services (LLS) has created some you tube videos to help explain the new Regional Weed Strategy.

LLS is currently seeking feedback on the plan from 8 February to 8 March 2017.

Swampcare in Wentworth Falls

Kittyhawke Swamp

Kittyhawke Swamp, North Wentworth Falls. Photo by Peter Ardill

Wednesday  29th March  9am – 3pm     Join the long term efforts of volunteers to free this large swamp system of a huge variety of weeds and restore the habitat of the Giant Dragon Fly and the Blue Mountains Water Skink.  A joint NPWS/ BMCC activity.  Lunch and morning tea donated by the Hominy Bakery. Book with Lyndal on (02) 4780 5623 or lsullivan@bmcc.nsw.gov.au by Tuesday 21st March.

  

The 2017 Bushcare Picnic

Our annual Thank You Bushcare picnic is on Saturday 29 April 2017 at

Megalong Valley Community Hall – Save the Date! 

This year we are combining the usual lunch-time bar-b-q picnic with a camp-out on Friday 28th April, a night-time fauna survey and early morning birdwatching so – stay posted for more information coming soon!

Lunch will be at noon with our annual awards presentations at 2:00pm.

More details coming soon!

 

Consultation on the Draft Greater Sydney Regional Strategic Weed Management Plan

Dear Bushcare Volunteers

Greater Sydney Regional Weed Committee is very keen to hear from as many people as possible on the plan so we hope you can make one of the information sessions.

INVITATION TO A PUBLIC CONSULTATION FORUM on the Draft Greater Sydney Regional Strategic Weed Management Plan

The draft Greater Sydney Regional Strategic Weeds Management Plan (GSRSWMP) will be released for public consultation on 8 February 2017. The plan has been developed as part of the NSW Government’s Biosecurity reform process in response to the Natural Resources Commission’s review which identified the need for a more coordinated approach to managing weeds.

It is estimated weeds cost the NSW agricultural industry about $4.3 billion every year. Weeds also have serious implications on our lifestyles and the natural environment. Native biodiversity in particular has suffered declines in the distribution of many species as a result of invasive plants.

The GSRSWMP will provide the framework for improved management of weeds on both public and private lands by guiding investment to achieve the greatest outcomes in prevention, eradication and containment.

The draft plan was developed by the Greater Sydney Regional Weed Committee in partnership with Local Control Authorities (i.e. local governments), NSW Department of Primary Industries, National Parks and Wildlife Service, environmental interests (i.e. Nature Conservation Council), Landcare, NSW Farmers Association, Nursery and Garden Industry Association and Aboriginal and public land managers.

The Plan will now be made available for public consultation for feedback before being finalised.  As part of the consultation process, Greater Sydney Local Land Services and the four subregional weed committees will host five public forums across the region. The purpose of the forums is to explain the contents and impacts of the draft plan, respond to questions and assist anyone who is considering commenting on the draft plan.

A Forum will be held in Penrith at the Cambridge Park Community Hall 97 Oxford St Cambridge Park on Tuesday 7 February from 5pm -7pm.

To register your interest in attending please email  admin.greatersydney@lls.nsw.gov.au  or phone Greater Sydney Local Land Services on 4724 2100

The Draft Greater Sydney Regional Strategic Weed Management Plan and supporting information is available at  www.lls.nsw.gov.au/greatersydney  from the 8th February 2017.  If a copy is required before this please email admin.greatersydney@lls.nsw.gov.au

The closing date for submissions is 8 March 2017.

News from the Bushcare Team

 

Callistemon megalongensis

Well, another year has passed and another begun since the last issue of Gecko and we have had some changes here at the Bushland Operations Team. Peter Chrismas has left us to pursue a career as a photographer and a recruitment process is underway to replace him as well as Jill Rattray who retired a little while ago.

In the rest of the Bushland operations Team we have welcomed Justine Vella as the new Bush Regeneration Team Leader. Justine replaces Andrew Rhodes who is now Bushland Management Officer while Matthew Rudge has been appointed Bush Regeneration Project Officer. Both Justine and Matt have a wealth of experience and we look forward to working with them and the other members of the Bushland Operations Team to ensure our reserves get the best possible care!

So, with lots  of new energy in our teams we are looking forward to working again with you all to keep caring for the natural areas of the Blue Mountains.

Monica, for the Bushcare Team.

 

Pollinator week in the Mountains – a Buzz of activity !

Bee Hotel workshop – Upper Kedumba Bushcare Group November 2016

Birriban Katoomba High School Landcare, Upper Kedumba Bushcare, Central Park Bushcare and Leura Public School Swampcare all participated in activities to promote and encourage pollinator awareness and habitat.

Upper Kedumba Bushcare group hosted a pollinater habitat (Bee Hotel ) making workshop. Three types of habitats for different bee species were constructed and installed in appropriate places around the site. A simple hanging Bamboo home , an elegant bee box with asorted materials and entry sizes to enhance habitat variey and a sturdy mud home with besser blocks for ground dweling bees, such as our favorite, the Blue Banded Bee.

Some participants also made smaller versions to take home. The group reports that those installed on site already have evidence of happy occupants – within the month !! David Rae installed his “Bee Hilton” which he constructed prior to the day, and reported that he advanced his knowledge of the subject through the workshop. “The production of the clay infill for the blocks was a very useful exercise I think. I have since played around with this at home using a mix of Builders Clay, sand & soil” he said.

The final product!

Philip Nelson spent many hours preparing for the day and having materials ready so the group could simply construct and has written out a comprehensive “how to” information sheet. His advice to those planning a similar event is to construct some hotels first to work out what is best done prior to the day and what are the most suitable tools and materials to use.”

Central Parks Jo Goozeff found a lovely simple way to construct 4 bee hotels out of a hard wood log , these were quickly inhabited by resin bees , cuckoo and mud wasps all fantastic pollinators.

Making the clay bee hotel at Upper Kedumba Karen Reid, Hugh Todd, Judy Smith.

The Birriban Landcare students spent 3 months planning, preparing and making 5 very beautiful bee hotels. The day of installation was marked with a ribbon cutting by a group of school dignitaries and the planting of bee friendly plants in the Birriban habitat garden. Cheekily promoted as “the biggest hotel opening The Blue mountains has seen” the installation warranted an article in the Blue Mountains Gazette.

Leura Public School Swampcare Group celebrated Pollinator week by constructing a mixed material bee hotel in the bushland behind the school. Four students re-used an old wooden Antechinus nesting box as the hotel’s foundations and filled it with lengths of bamboo, various widths of holly stems (previously cut from the site) with holes of various widths drilled into them, tree fern stalks and eucalyptus bark. The hotel was then mounted on a cut stump of dead holly, making further good use of the weeds on site.

Leura Public School Bee Hotel. photo by Stephanie Chew

Pollinator week participants were surprised to learn that not only do native bees exist, but we have so many species (over 1500) in Australia. Like most people, the only bee species they were previously aware of was the European Honeybee and while honey is most appreciated, the role played by other pollinators is critical to a well-functioning ecosystem and crop production.

 

The Gully Bushcare Groups’ get-together again in 2016

Another very successful Bushcare Groups’ Gully Get-together was held on November 6 last year. Friends of Katoomba Falls Creek Valley Bushcare Group was joined by Upper Kedumba Bushcare Group; Garguree Swampcare Group and Prince Henry Cliff Walk Bushcare Group who all came together to help  with a severe infestation of Ligustrum sinense (Small-leaf Privet).

The Privet patch before work

After the Privet Loppers were done!

The Get-together is intended to acknowledge and inspire the volunteers for their sustained efforts and highlight the importance of the Bushcare efforts in the catchment. Over 55 people participated (including staff and presenters) contributing a total of 165 hours weed control over an area of approximately 100m2. Many of those attending are new to Bushcare and the day offered a chance to learn new skills while making a valuable contribution to protecting the natural environment of The Gully.

The morning offered an opportunity for the Bushcare groups who regularly work in the Upper Kedumba Creek Catchment to come together to support each other, learn about the Aboriginal Cultural significance of The Gully and to connect with the community involved in caring for it.

Aunty Sharyn Halls welcomed us before we split into groups each aiming to complete a specific task – there were Privet loppers, Montbretia diggers, mobile hand weeders and tea dwellers.

After a solid work session, we reconvened for lunch and to hear talks from:

  • David King—Aboriginal Cultural significance of The Gully;
  • Ian Baird – Bushcare contributions over the past 25 years;
  • Ian Brown – Pherosphaera fitzgeraldii (Dwarf Mountain Pine) Saving Our Species surveys;
  • Eric Mahony – BMCC bush regeneration work plans;
  • Michael Alexander (Prince Henry Cliff Walk Bushcare); Phil Nelson & David Rae (Upper Kedumba) presented snapshot highlights of their groups’ activities.

At the end of the morning, those present left with an increased understanding of the threatened plant species Pherosphaera fitzgeraldii on Katoomba Falls, the importance of looking after The Gully. Motivation is high and we’re all invigorated to continue our Bushcare efforts throughout the catchment to protect the quality of the water flowing over the falls and into the Kedumba River. Thanks to everyone, and for the generous support of the Blue Mountains Food Co-op, Sandy Holmes and the NSW OEH Saving Our Species program for supporting the day.