Come to Broken Hill this coming August to see where it all started, learn about and celebrate the beginnings of Natural Regeneration in Australia.
In 1937 Albert Morris, his wife Margaret Morris, the Barrier Field Naturalists and 3 Mining Companies made history by starting the first professional scale natural regeneration project in Australia and possibly the world. This was inspired by Albert’s long held dream to fence an area ‘1/2 a mile wide around the town of Broken Hill’ to counter extreme dust storms and sand drift caused by overgrazing.
The Australian Association of Bush Regenerators (AABR) along with local community members is planning a few days of tours, field work and an awards dinner to celebrate this remarkable 80 years.
The idea is similar to other ‘regen holidays’ where visitors can contribute some regen work for two mornings (optional) and locals will run special tours of the reserves explaining the history and current management of this amazing project. After lunch we will be able to visit a range of activities including historical & art exhibitions, movies and a heritage tour.
There are many places of natural beauty to appreciate near Broken Hill as well as its rich union and mining history to explore.
Options for travel will include train, minibus or private cars. The train can be caught from Katoomba. Those travelling on minibuses will be on an organised tour – price details coming later – including an extra field trip on the way (Nyngan waterponding), and van park accommodation and transport within Broken Hill.
It is never a surprise that so many of our Bushcare volunteers are stand-out community members, not only for their commitment to caring for the bush but also for caring about their community, and 2017 is no exception. Four of our long-term volunteers received Senior Citizens Awards this year.
- Popes Glen Bushcare Group
- Centenary Reserve Bushcare Group
- Upper Kedumba Creek Bushcare Group
- Garguree Swampcare.
In addition, he’s involved in Swampcare and participates in many Bushcare events and workshops, usually generously acting as photographer. He is also the current Convenor of the Blue Mountains Bushcare Network, represents the Network on the Popes Glen Remediation Committee, is the Bushcare Officer for the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, the Conservation Officer of Blue Mountains Bird Observers, the Blue Mountains Bushcare Network Representative and a member of the Executive Committee of the Greater Sydney Landcare Network. And somewhere in all that, he finds time for ongoing care of Blackheath Memorial Park.
ROGER WALKER is a hardworking and dedicated volunteer with the Leura Cascades Bushcare Group. He is also a long-standing and active member of the Leura Falls Creek Catchment Group. Roger has also been the Secretary for the Leura Home Garden Club for about five years. He has been volunteering in the gardens at Everglades since 2008. At Everglades, he also volunteers as a garden guide for tour groups and helps with front-of-house operations during festivals and events.
ERST CARMICHAEL is a very kind, generous and community-minded person, always willing to assist anyone where she can. She founded and was very involved with Friends of Lawson Action Group (FLAG) in the mid-nineties until approximately 2002 (a sub-group of CORE – Coalition of Residents for the Environment). Erst also helped establish the Association of Concerned Mid-Mountains Residents (ACMMR) and was very active in that organisation from approximately 2007 until just recently.
Erst founded the South Lawson Park Bushcare Group in 1995 and has been the convenor from that time. She has regularly participated in Streamwatch at South Lawson since 2005.
RAE DRUITT was a founding member of the Wentworth Falls Lake Bushcare Group in 1988, and has been its Coordinator since its inception, ie 19 years. The WFLBG meets twice a month, on the second Tuesday for two hours in the afternoon, and on the fourth Saturday for three hours in the afternoon. She has been awarded a BMCC Bushcare Hard Yakka Award and was also a founder member of Sublime Point Bushcare Group back in 1996. She was a volunteer at the Native Plant Nurseries (one in Blackheath, 1995-2005, and one in Lawson, 1998-2005) of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, during which time the Society grossed over $270,000.
Rae was one of the first Volunteers at the Cultural Centre when it opened in November 2012, and still works there on Tuesday mornings at the Front Desk. Rae also put in several years of volunteering at the Zig Zag Railway looking after the gardens and building a bush track (with information about native plants) for visitors.
Last year marked 20 years for this stalwart group of volunteers and they have successfully confronted just about every issue a Bushcare group can face – not just weeds but serious erosion and the ongoing impacts of urban development. To celebrate this achievement the film Blue Mountains Bushcare: South Lawson Park has been produced by Peter Ardill and Vera Hong. Directed by Vera Hong (Seconds Minutes Hours Productions) the film examines bushland values, the ongoing threats that urban bushland faces and how the bushcare group has managed these challenges. The film contains some beautifully filmed scenes of the Lawson Creek catchment and is available for viewing at https://vimeo.com/verahong/south-lawson-bushcare Thanks to Greater Sydney Local Land Services, the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program and Blue Mountains City Council for project support and funding.
The South Lawson Group first started in mid-1995 with the then only Blue Mountains City Council Bushcare officer, Virginia Bear. Our aim was to regenerate and maintain the health of the upper catchment of Lawson Creek, which flows into Bedford Creek and the Nepean River.
The early years were spent mostly at the top of the Waratah St/Honour Ave section of the reserve (see map below) where Japanese honeysuckle, Privet, Montbretia, Blackberry and Broom were major invasive weeds. Some seed collecting, planting and track work were done, the latter with help from TAFE students under the guidance of a Bushcare Officer/TAFE teacher.
We expanded our weeding to the creekline and over the years to the surrounds of the BMX track and soccer field. In more recent times we have been extending the riparian buffer zone along the creek and swamp of the former golf course area by planting and allowing the bush to regenerate naturally. Some of us are also actively involved in Streamwatch and this process has been both informative and complementary for our Bushcare work.
The main vegetation communities along the creek are Eucalyptus woodland, Blue Mountains Swamp and a riparian strip of assorted native plant species, including rainforest species. The threatened species Persoonia acerosa and the endemic species Acacia ptychoclada are also present.
Our group is very committed and we are fortunate to have a few bush regeneration practitioners amongst us. Our website is also worth a look at: http://southlawsonpark.bushcarebluemountains.org.au It has some interesting photos and excellent educational material.
Dear Bushcare, Swampcare, Landcare and others interested in caring for our bushland. This issue of Gecko is being prepared in the midst of incredibly wet days so it is only fitting that it be full of swamp-related news! We’re celebrating ten years of Swampcare this year, and so a big thank you to Lyndal for the articles and for the immense amount she has contributed to developing our Swampcare volunteer program. Lyndal’s passion, skills and experience are a large reason for the success of the volunteer program and her ongoing commitment to making sure the Blue Mountains Swamps get the protection they so rightly deserve is to be congratulated.
Also to be congratulated are our BMCC Senior Citizen award winners— Erst Carmichael, Paul Vale, Roger Walker and Rae Druitt. Those of you who know them will not be surprised that they have been recognised in this year’s Senior Citizens Awards, and those who don’t can find out more inside.
And while we’re on the subject of awards, this year’s Bushcare awards will be announced at our annual “Thank You Bushcare” picnic in the Megalong Valley on Saturday 29 April. The bus will be available for those requiring transport, there’ll be food, good company, congratulations and for the first time this year we are adding on a Biodiversity Camp and Survey. I hope to catch up with you there, or at Bushcare!
– Monica, for the Bushcare Team
Swampcare is celebrating its 10 year anniversary this year! From the first on ground workday at Kittyhawke Swamp in North Wentworth Falls in March 2007 Swampcare has grown into an annual program of events in the Blue Mountains run by Council’s Bushcare. Swampcare provides opportunities for volunteers to learn about swamps and the special requirements of undertaking bush regeneration in these sensitive places as well as making hands on contributions to protecting them.
Many workshops have been held over the years to add to the knowledge of volunteers covering swamp ecology, vegetation, threatened species and techniques to rehydrate swamps. A Swamp Symposium will be held on Wednesday 21st June to celebrate and continue developing community knowledge, thanks to people such as Dr Ian Baird, who has very generously given his time and shared his knowledge by regularly presenting workshops.
Over the 10 years more than 2000 volunteer hours have been contributed in on site works. Many thanks must also go to Hominy Bakery in Katoomba who have been donating delicious lunches and morning teas for volunteers at every event since 2007. A much appreciated incentive to keep coming back!
Sites currently worked by volunteers in the Swampcare events program are:
- Rocklea St Swamp, North Hazelbrook;
- West Kitty Hawke Swamp, Wentworth Falls;
- Clydebank Swamp North Leura;
- Valley View Swamp, Blackheath.
In addition to the Swampcare events program, there are 15 other Bushcare or Landcare groups which also work in swamps and/or their buffers at some stage during each year.
There are 2253 hectares of swamp mapped in the Blue Mountains with 929 of those outside the National Park. Swamps within the urban area are recognised as being the most vulnerable to degradation, a concern which is being addressed by this program.
According to recent recorded history, scientific and management interest began in swamps in 1974 with the PhD by WN Holland entitled ‘Origin and Development of Hanging Valleys in the Blue Mountains, NSW’; which showed the significance of the geomorphology on formation and maintenance of hanging swamps.
In 1988, ecologists DA Keith & D H Benson described and mapped ‘Blue Mountains Sedge Swamps’ and other upland swamps, as part of a larger study. In 1991 the Blue Mountains City Council recognised swamps as an ‘environmentally sensitive vegetation community’ in Local Environment Plan 1991 (LEP 91).
After witnessing a number of destructive developments occurring within and around swamps, in 1999 community members, under the banner of the Blue Mountains Conservation Society, began working to gain legal protection for swamps.
In September 2007, after 8 years of hard work, Blue Mountains Swamps were listed as a Vulnerable Ecological Community under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act (TSC Act). In order to achieve this, 3 other significant achievements were made:
- The listing of Temperate Highland Peat Swamps on Sandstone as an Endangered Ecological Community under the Commonwealth EPBC Act in 2005 (which included Blue Mountains Swamps), and
- An amendment to the NSW TSC Act to make provision for Vulnerable Ecological Communities (2002),
- An increase in community awareness and support for swamps.
For a more detailed history and swamp images see http://bluemountains.org.au/swamps.shtml
Since the listing in 2005, Blue Mountains City Council has obtained over a million dollars in grants from state and federal agencies to protect the swamps. BMCC’s ongoing Save our Swamps program is currently partnered with Central Tablelands Local Land Services to deliver a 10 year $750,000 “Swamped by Threats” grant. This aims to continue protecting the swamps of the Blue Mountains and Newnes Plateau with a focus on swamps that are known habitat for the endangered Blue Mountains Water Skink and the Giant Dragonfly.
Swampcare is a vital component of the concerted effort by BMCC and the Blue Mountains community to protect its valuable swamp systems. Our swamps continue to need all this community support – hands on swamp restoration work, watching and reporting illegal activity, writing submissions on potentially damaging developments, and campaigning to strengthen legal protections and ‘buy back’ swamps.
New members are always welcome to join the Swampcare program, just contact the Bushcare office on 4780 5623!
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 Grevillea acanthifolia were admired along with sedges such as Empodisma minus and Xyris ustulata. Two of the shrubs present in swamps, 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.
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.
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.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org by Tuesday 21st March.