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.
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!
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.
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.
This event was organised by Blue Mountains City Council Bushcare and assisted by the New South Wales Government Environmental Trust Fund, NSW Local Land Services and NPWS
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.
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.
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 Cumberland Plain Landcare (and Bushcare) Support Program is kicking off early this year with monthly events designed to bring in volunteers, informal training and a small amount of emergency funding to help western Sydney Landcare and Bushcare groups in need.
The Program is kicking off on the Cumberland Land Conservancy’s “Wallaroo”, on Saturday Feb 11th in Mulgoa. Volunteers will be camping out on this beautiful property with dinner, bush poetry and star gazing. An informal talk about the fauna of western Sydney is also planned for the Wallaroo event.
Other events across western Sydney will be equally entertaining and at unique Cumberland Plain Woodland sites, or other threatened Ecological Communities, including rivers, wetlands and rainforests.
All events will have informal talks about aspects of western Sydney’s bushland and will be catered for.
Volunteers from outside of western Sydney are encouraged to come along and help out. Bush regeneration experience would be great, but not essential as training will be provided. More info? Contact…
This year BMCC sponsored 2 one-day workshops for Bushcare. Bushcare Boosters is a three-part course which was designed by the Sydney Metro CMA, Volunteers Co-ordinators Network in conjunction with the Australian Association of Bush Regenerators and several local councils.
We’re aiming to ensure that our community conservation program volunteers are up to date with the current best practices in Bushcare and the opportunity to develop the highest standards possible—the ones we are used to!
To that end, we decided to hire an expert trainer, Geoff Bakewell, who is very experienced in Bushcare and is certified to teach the Bushcare Boosters program, a combination of classroom and field based learning. Geoff has worked as a Bushcare Officer and has delivered Bushcare Boosters to Bushcare volunteers for both local and state government.
So far, we have covered two of the three modules. Module 1, “Bushcare and the Big Picture” looked at the history of Bushcare, the values, problems, plants and animals present on Bushcare sites and the development of site strategies. It was held at South Lawson Park, a good example of a site with many values and complex issues to keep its Bushcare volunteers busy.
Module 2, “The Birds and the Bees of Bushcare” was at another long-term Bushcare site: Jackson Park, Faulconbridge. We spent half a day discussing habitat— how to assess it, find evidence of fauna occupying it, how to look after it.
The third module will cover weed control technique and safe work practices. It is yet to be scheduled, but we will run it as soon as we can—so stay tuned for more information or contact Monica at the Bushcare Office on 4780 5528 or firstname.lastname@example.org
A misty and cold Saturday morning was brightened and warmed by local families at Popes Glen in Blackheath recently. It was an informal idea amongst friends about getting together to spend some time, while getting their kids together and giving them something great to do. Then everyone has a nice bit of morning tea and a chat while the kids run off some more of that energy!
Little people making a Big difference!
And what better thing to do in the outdoors than pop down and meet a local Bushcare group?
Well, that is just what a group of friends in Blackheath did. A wonderful little army of youngsters and their equally wonderful families came down to help the Popes Glen volunteers plant out their third Small Bird Habitats.
These habitats are small, strategically placed areas which are then densely re-vegetated with a mixture of native shrubs and ground cover plants. As they grow and develop these plants will form very dense thickets, perfect for providing shelter, protection and food for many species of small native birds which are known to live in Popes Glen.
Surveys have shown us that these small birds are using several large piles of timber debris left on the site after the treatment and felling of several large Willow trees. This fantastic fact demonstrates the ability of a recovering Bushcare site to provide new habitat and resources for native creatures, where in the past those creatures have only seen their habitat diminish.
With the news that the small birds are moving in to Popes Glen for the new habitat came a potential problem. While these debris piles provide the perfect opportunity for small birds to move in, they are not going to last forever. The wood is steadily breaking down into humus. Not so good for birds, but perfect for plants.
And there was the answer to the problem. The Popes Glen volunteers decided to take advantage of the rich soil by planting shrubs which will grow to replace the structure of the piles as they break down. Then the birds which are depending on their pile of logs for their home can watch their new home grow around them, before their old houses fall down!
What a nice way to spend a misty Spring morning!
By morning tea time, Popes Glen had one hundred and forty new plants. They were all guarded, watered and ready to grow into a palace for small birds! There was a wonderful atmosphere of smiling and fun. Everybody had a contribution no matter how big or small! What a wonderful day at Bushcare!
Alan Lane explains the native regeneration at Popes Glen to BMCC Councillors
Alan Lane of Popes Glen Bushcare is pleased to tell you that the report on the long-term wetlands remediation project at Popes Glen, Blackheath is now available on the Popes Glen Bushcare Group’s web site.