Bushcare News

Together with the usual action packed events calendar and some great reading courtesy of Bushcare Officers Lyndal and Jill and volunteer Bushcarer Lesley, this issue brings a fresh new face to Gecko for the New Year! Please let us know what you think of it – after all, it’s your newsletter and we value your feedback. All comments are welcome – go to www.bushcarebluemountains.org.au or ring Erin on 4780 5320.

Our feature story about the Popes Glen project made it in to the BM Gazette in November following a well organised and well attended Councillors’ briefing. The briefing was informative and enjoyable and both it and the project are a great testament to the joint effort by volunteers, Council staff and contractors alike. Well done to the Popes Glen project steering committee and to Emma Kennedy for the media release.

In September I had the wonderful experience of trekking “The Great Ocean Walk” along Victoria’s coast. It is a magnificent landscape and a highly recommended week-long walk. Sadly though, several areas it traverses are badly infected with Phytophthora. I was interested to see Parks Victoria’s excellent system of hygiene control – the boot cleaning stations are well positioned (almost unavoidable) and well designed. The hygiene control is backed up with clear, information in all the tourist brochures, maps and signage associated with the walk.

I left confident that I wasn’t bringing back any unwanted guests on my boots, but also made sure they were clean (I put them through the washing machine) and disinfected before I wore them again at home in the Blue Mountains. Not only are we privileged to live in one of the most spectacular world heritage areas in the country, so far we haven’t seen the damage Phytopthora can do. Seeing whole eucalypt communities dead or dying from the Phytopthora related dieback made me all the more determined to do all I can to stop the spread here. Once its on your Bushcare site, there’s nothing that can be done – so please, make sure your boots and tools are clean before you start your next Bushcare session.

Enjoy the Summer reading, and the Summer Bushcaring,

Monica Nugent

 

The Problem with Feral Cats

It seems that every time I turn on our ABC lately I hear a report on the problem of feral cats; Landline, Lateline, Background Briefing, Bush Telegraph, Offtrack, to name a few of the programs that have run stories on the feral cat issue. It’s as though we’ve reached or passed the tipping point for protection of native species from these predators, and there’s a scramble to get some action.

It is estimated that there are approximately 20 million feral cats in Australia, responsible for killing and eating more than 20 billion mammals, reptiles, birds and insects a year. The figures vary, but anywhere near that is alarming and tragic. Ecologist Dr John Read, who has dissected more than 1000 feral cats over 25 years, states that “they eat falcons and cockatoos, bats, centipedes, scorpions. I imagine that they would have a hard time pulling down a saltwater crocodile, or a cassowary, but virtually every lizard, every snake, every frog, every bat, just about every bird in Australia and any mammal smaller than a large kangaroo, are susceptible to cat predation”.

They are larger than domestic cats, and their range can be up to 10 kilometres. They can spread disease and parasites including toxoplasmosis. This is particularly harmful to marsupials, causing blindness, paralysis, respiratory and reproductive disorders’. (BMCC information brochure).

Antechinus stuartii

So what is being done to counteract this threat? Environment Minister Greg Hunt says he will host a national threatened species and feral animals summit before July 2015, with the intention of signing the states, territories and other stakeholders up for a 10-year eradication plan. This would involve baiting, trapping and shooting, and biological control. All have their problems, and all are very expensive, and while total eradication is desirable it seems highly optimistic.

Some of the programs already underway or planned include; cooperation between farmers and a catchment Landcare group in Northern Tasmania who are trapping and shooting cats at a rate of 5 or 6 per square kilometre; the use of sniffer dogs in Queensland; domestic cats on Christmas Island must be sterilised and no more will be introduced; the NSW Government has announced that it will trial feral-proof fencing in some NSW National Parks, this has proved effective for protecting native mammals but is very expensive; and there are thoughts of re-introducing the Tasmanian Devil to mainland National Parks to compete with the cats and destroy litters of kittens – complex because of their health problems.

Closer to home, in the Blue Mountains, many animals are at risk of predation, particularly ground-dwelling mammals and birds such as the Brown Antechinus and Lewin’s Rail.   Threatened species at risk include the Blue Mountains water skinks, brush-tailed rock-wallabies, eastern pygmy possums and bush-stone curlews. Council does not engage in feral cat control because current control methods are generally ineffective and cost prohibitive at a landscape scale, and higher priority is given to habitat restoration programs such as Bushcare. Blue Mountains NPWS undertakes feral cat control in the region only where the cats are impacting on threatened species – they are being controlled ‘as a priority at brush-tailed rock-wallaby sites to lessen their impact on juveniles and population recruitment’. The constraints are similar to the Council’s – effectiveness of control measures and the limitations of resources.

What can we do?

While current control measures and resource limitations make feral cat control problematic, there are significant ways owners of domestic cats can contribute to reducing pressure on wildlife. Registration of cats is a legal requirement in the Blue Mountains, and sterilisation is encouraged, preventing the problem of unwanted litters of kittens being dumped near bushland. Cat enclosures appear to be the only really effective way to separate cats and other creatures. I know cats that have never been free to roam. They are healthy and contented. They have an enclosure attached to the house with access to fresh air and soil. They will never be run over or injured by other animals. And they have never killed another animal. There are designs for cat enclosures on the Victorian Department of Primary Industry website – follow links to Pets, Cats, Cat confinement, enclosures and fencing. The Katoomba Vets, and probably others, have a contractor’s brochure with a range of designs.

Cat enclosure

 

Have a look at the Council brochures on feral and domestic cats at www.bmcc.nsw.gov.au/sustainableliving/environmentalinformation/studentinformation, and check the document downloads in the right column. If you have difficulties accessing this information, contact the Bushcare office and we’ll send it to you.

Acknowledgements to Michael Hensen, BMCC; Regional Pest Management Strategy 2012 – 17, NPWS; Gregg Borschmann and Background Briefing, and other ABC journalists too numerous to mention; and Habitat News, CWC Newsletter no. 49, Winter 2014.

cat enclosure

Jill Rattray

 

 

Larval burrow morphology and groundwater dependence in the endangered Giant Dragonfly

A recent journal paper by local ecologist Dr Ian Baird ([email protected]), on larval burrow morphology and groundwater dependence in the endangered Giant Dragonfly, Petalura gigantea, may be of interest to bushcarers.

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The following abstract is from the paper:

“Most species of petalurid dragonflies have a fossorial larval stage, which is unique in the Odonata. Larvae typically excavate burrows in soft peaty soils in mires, seepages or along stream margins, which are occupied by a single larva throughout the long larval stage. This paper reports on a study of burrow morphology in Petalura gigantea, with the objectives of describing their burrows, documenting any variability in burrow morphology across the hydrogeomorphic range of habitats used by the species, identifying factors contributing to any such variability, resolving questions in relation to the single previous illustration of a burrow system and identifying the level of groundwater dependence of larvae. The species was found to be an obligate, groundwater dependent, mire-dwelling species with well-maintained and sometimes complex burrows. Burrow complexity and morphological variation are inferred to be a response by larvae to the hydrogeomorphic characteristics of the habitat and substrate attributes. All burrows were occupied by a single larva, consistent with previous observations of other fossorial petalurids, but in contrast to the previous description of a P. gigantea burrow complex occupied by multiple larvae. The functional role of identified burrow features is discussed. Although the fossorial larval habit confers ecological benefits, the species’ groundwater dependence and restriction to mire habitats places it at increased risk in the event of any reduction in groundwater availability, more intense fire regimes, and the potential compounding effects of rapid climate change.”

Baird, I.R.C. (2014). Larval burrow morphology and groundwater dependence in a mire-dwelling dragonfly, Petalura gigantea (Odonata: Petaluridae). International Journal of Odonatology, 17, 101-121. doi:10.1080/13887890.2014.932312

Shale Sandstone Transistion Forest Added to Critically Endanged Ecological Community

The Scientific Committee, established by the Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 (the Act), has made a Final Determination under Section 23 of the Act to list the Shale Sandstone Transition Forest in the Sydney Basin Bioregion as a Critically Endangered Ecological Community in Part 2 of Schedule 1A of the Act and as a consequence, to omit reference to Shale/Sandstone Transition Forest from the list of Endangered Ecological Communities in Part 3 of Section 1 of the Act.

Copies of the Determination may be obtained from the Committee’s Executive Officer or from www.environment.nsw.gov.au.

Blue Mountains Seniors Expo a Success for the Mountains

Over 300 seniors throughout the mountains flocked to Springwood Sports Club on Wednesday 5th November to participate in a Blue Mountains Seniors Expo. The last seniors expo held in the mountains was over 8 years ago. The expo showcased over 30 information stalls, local resources, demonstrations and various speakers to inform seniors and veterans (and or their families/carers) of the choices available to enable them to live independently in their own homes for as long as possible. The Expo was a partnership of Council, Tri Community Exchange, Blue Mountains Tafe, Blue Mountains Food Services. Western Sydney Community Forum and Springwood and Katoomba Neighbourhood Centre. This expo was not only a success in terms of the numbers of seniors there on the day, but also the great presentation by Council in terms of information/ stalls available. There were stalls from the library section of Council, the leisure centres, waste services, rates, roads and traffic, bushcare and councils aged and disability services information.

Clydebank Swamp

Adam Knott Clydebank Swamp

Photo: Adam Knotts

This swamp is one of the sites we visit for swampcare. By keeping weeds out of these communities is one way the bushcare program can make a big impact on their health. Come along and help protect these beautiful places.

From Weeds to Wetland: Bushcare Success at Popes Glen

It’s taken more than a decade of vision, hard work and determination, but Blackheath’s Popes Glen is being transformed from a weedy wasteland into a thriving wetland filled with native plants and animals, thanks to an ambitious bush restoration project involving Popes Glen Bushcare Group, Council and the NSW Environmental Trust.

Popes Glen Bushcare 05

It takes a village… members of Popes Glen Bushcare Group, BMCC Councillors, and staff from Council and the NSW Environment Trust celebrate the renewal of Popes Glen, Blackheath.

In 2012, the group successfully secured a $233,000 grant from the NSW Environmental Trust. Since then, the pace of progress at the site has increased dramatically.

A team of contractors is now carrying out highly sensitive and skilled work to remove the remaining willows, stabilise the edges of the silt flat using structures built from recycled materials, and plant thousands of plants to protect the silt from future erosion.

Over the last 12 years, Popes Glen Bushcare Group and Council, supported by the local Environment Levy, have removed a forest of willows and revegetated an area the size of half a football field with 7,000 local wetland plants at the headwaters of Popes Glen Creek.

The group’s monitoring program shows that the restored wetland is dramatically improving water quality in Pope’s Glen Creek, with faecal coliform counts reduced by up to 85%.

The new wetland is also preventing a large amount of pollutants from escaping into the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area, only 2km downstream. Twenty cubic metres of sediment have already been removed from the stream since 2012.

Popes Glen Bushcare volunteers showcased the success of the project on 28 October, when Deputy Mayor, Cr Chris Van der Kley, and Councillors Anton Von Schulenburg and Don McGregor, together with Council’s General Manager and NSW Environmental Trust staff, toured the site.

Popes Glen Bushcare 11

Successful partnership: (from left to right) Stephen Hardy, NSW Environmental Trust, BMCC Councillors Anton Von Schulenburg, Don McGregor and Chris Van der Kley with Alan Lane, Coordinator, Popes Glen Bushcare Group.

Mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill, congratulated the Popes Glen Bushcare Group for their success.
“The volunteers from Popes Glen Bushcare Group have 20 years of environmental success behind them. It is a credit to the skill and dedication of these volunteers that they can manage such a large-scale and complex environmental restoration project.

This important work benefits us all; from protecting the places we love to walk and play in, to preserving local biodiversity and our World Heritage Area, and enhancing local tourism – which relies heavily on a clean, green environment,” said the Mayor.

‘We were gratified to be awarded this significant grant,’ says Alan Lane, Coordinator of the Popes Glen Bushcare Group. ‘It acknowledged our hard work to date and built upon important gains funded by Council’s Environment Levy. We’ve almost finished converting the willow forest and the huge silt flat into a permanent wetland. Not only is water quality improving, but several species of frogs have returned and small birds are abundant. Maybe one day we’ll see Giant Dragonflies!’

‘Willows are beautiful trees,’ comments Paul Vale, Deputy Coordinator, Popes Glen Bushcare Group. ‘Unfortunately they are also extremely invasive weeds that choke streams and native vegetation, and destroy aquatic ecosystems. That was happening to Popes Glen Creek and urgent action was needed.’

Back in 2002, the Popes Glen Bushcare Group and Council took on the challenge of restoring Popes Glen. The ongoing and significant achievements of the group were crucial in securing the NSW Environmental Trust grant.

Visit the Popes Glen Bushcare site for more information.

The dreaded Red Spider Mite

By Ray and Elma Kearney

This article is written to alert field biologists and bush regenerators, to the fact that the overseas Tomato Red Spider Mite has been introduced and caution needs to be taken to restrict spreading this potentially devastating pest whilst in areas known to be infested. T. evansi originated from Brazil and spread to South and North America, Africa (end of 1980s) and Europe (Spain 1995). It had not been reported from countries in Oceania until October, 2013 when the NSW Department of Primary Industries (DPI) advised it has now entered Australia at Botany. The link below outlines the DPI ‘Pest Alert’ and describes this ‘Tomato Red Spider Mite’ which resembles two other species of spider mites. http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0008/486179/Pest-Alert-tomato-red-spider-mite.pdf

For the full article please click on the link below:

 Biosecurity Submission – Red Mite _R. & E. K._ 21.6.14 HQ

Disability Awareness at Bushcare — places still available!

There are still limited places available for this important training day so if you can spare some time and would like to build the skills of your bushcare group, please join Bushcare Officers and other volunteers this Friday!

Morning tea and lunch provided

RSVP essential to Monica Nugent by Wednesday 29/10/14

Please ring 4780 5528 or email [email protected]

In keeping with our policy of access and equity, BMCC Bushcare is committed to making the benefits of Bushcare accessible to everybody in our community, including those living with a disability. The Bushcare Team is pleased to provide this training opportunity. It will assist Council’s Bushcare staff, Bushcare Group Co-ordinators and other interested volunteers to integrate people with varying levels of ability into Bushcare whilst ensuring a safe and satisfying Bushcare experience for all members of the group.

About the trainer: Maeve Dunnett from ‘Inside Out’ is passionate about the rights of people with disabilities to access all the same services that non-disabled people are able to access. And what’s more, she is a Bushcare volunteer and a member of the Blue Mountains Bushcare Network! Maeve is a qualified trainer who has 20 years’ experience working in the disability and community sector.

Managing Bush Land on Community Title Land

Many residents buy into a Community Title development with little understanding that they are also buying into the management of common land. Residents often receive limited information about how community title works or their responsibilities. This factsheet developed by the Local Land Service is a guide to managing bushland on this land.

Managing Bushland on Community Title Land