Back row from left: Matthew Steele, Jane Anderson, Matthew Rudge, Aaron McKellar, Sue Cunningham. Front row John Parkinson, Helen Munro, Justine Vella. (Team Leader). Absent: Lynn Godfree, Stephanie Chew, Robert Hajjar.
Did you know that Council has its very own team of bush regenerators quietly beavering away behind the scenes? As there have been some changes to the team we thought it a good time to shine the spotlight on them!
We are very lucky to have a very capable and experienced crew led by the newly appointed Justine Vella as Team Leader and Matthew Rudge as Bush Regeneration Project Officer.
The team is currently working on a number of high conservation projects restoring the rare forests of the lower Blue Mountains and Blue Mountains Swamps in the upper mountains.
They are often called upon to support our Bushcare program and Council’s new organisational structure is providing more and more opportunity for them to work more closely with the Bushcare Team. We hope you’ll get to meet them in person on site one day soon!
Food A pollinator habitat garden is more than just flower beds. By providing an assortment of plants, which flower throughout the year, you are providing a consistent food supply which will encourage pollinating insects and birds to stay, feed, drink, shelter and even reproduce. It is recommended that you plant swathes or large patches of flowers, rather than scattering them randomly through the garden. By planting flowering food-crops in large patches, you encourage specialist pollinators such as bees to forage within these patches, cross pollinating the plants as they move efficiently from flower to flower.
Shelter The next thing you need to do is provide potential shelter. You can include hollow logs, pieces of thick bark and crowds of rocks which will provide shelter and nesting substrate for a variety of pollinators. Resin bees, leafcutter bees and solitary wasps will nest in large drilled holes in wood, which mimic the natural cavities produced by wood-boring insects. Hollow or pithy stems can be collected and bundled up when plants are pruned. These will attract reed bees and masked bees as well as small solitary wasps and ants. By providing small cavities in rockeries or with layers of rolled bark, you will be providing shelter for ladybeetles, resin bees and other pollinators.
In Australia, gardeners are encouraged to mulch their plants, to maintain soil moisture. However, some of our pollinators, such as solitary bees and wasps, nest in the ground and find it hard to dig through the thick layers of mulch. So leave an area of bare ground, at least a metre squared, to encourage ground-nesting bees into your garden.
Water is necessary for honey bees and birds so include a shallow bird bath, with a large rock in it to reduce the chances of insects drowning. A bowl filled with wet mud will provide minerals and water for some butterfly species and rocks provide insects with a warm place to bask.
Maintenance of your habitat garden is important if the plants and the pollinators are to thrive. Water deeply and regularly to ensure flowers produce plenty of nectar and pollen. Don’t use insecticides. If a plant is infested with many pests, it may need feeding, pruning or pulling out. A healthy garden will not only encourage pollinators, it will encourage wasps, shield bugs, spiders, dragonflies and other natural pest-predators. Keep the water and mud bowls topped up and place a seat out in the garden so you can sit, observe and enjoy your wonderful pollinator habitat garden.
From 1st July 2017 the NSW State Government has replaced the Noxious Weeds Act 1993 with the Biosecurity Act 2015. Under the Noxious Weeds Act all landowners had a responsibility to control noxious weeds on their property. Under the Biosecurity Act the same responsibility will apply and will be known as a General Biosecurity Duty.
General Biosecurity Duty
Under Part 3 of the Biosecurity Act 2015, landowners or land managers have a “General Biosecurity Duty” to prevent, eliminate or minimise the “Biosecurity Risk” posed or likely to be posed by priority weeds.
What is a Biosecurity Risk?
A biosecurity risk exists where priority weeds have the potential to negatively impact on agriculture, industry, the liveability of our city, human health or the environment.
The new name for invasive weeds
Under the Biosecurity Act 2015 invasive weeds are known as “Biosecurity Matter” or “Priority Weeds”.
The Greater Sydney Local Land Services have created a list of State and Regional Priority Weeds with expected outcomes and recommended measures for each species. Council has also nominated Local Priority Weeds that are a problem within the Local Government Area and specified expected outcomes and control measures for these weeds.
The Blue Mountains Bushcare Network proudly to presented their third Bushcare Network Conference on Saturday July 29. This year theme is Citizen Science so a Bioblitz seemed appropriate! The day focused on our beautiful and unique lower mountains vegetation communities. We were fortunate to be able to spend the day with experts to learn how to be “ears and eyes” on the ground. The data we collected will go into data bases for a wider audience.
Concurrent sessions occupied the morning. They included field-based citizen science activities at various locations around Springwood and two presentations at the Hub:
Hollows as Homes – Adrian Davis University of Sydney
Bushcare website update/setup – Hugh Todd
Aquatic Wildlife – Jenny Hill & Fitzgeralds Creek Streamwatch GroupRosenthal Lane, Sun Valley
Birds of the Deanei – Carol Probets & Graham Turner, Deanei Forest Reserve, Springwood
Monitoring the Fauna of Fitzgeralds Creek Catchment – Peter & Judy Smith, Valley Heights Creek, Sun Valley
Plants of Fairy Dell Reserve, Springwood Susan Jalaluddin & Helen Yoxall
The birds group, led by Carol Probets and Graham Turner, observing Bell Miners in the Deanei Forest Reserve, Springwood.
We all reconvened at the Blue Mountains Theatre and Community Hub in Springwood for lunch, informative and inspiring presentations from Margaret Baker and Jenny Hill, and hands on workshops including what to do with the data we collect.
The Hub presentations included:
Birds of Endangered Forests of the Lower Blue Mountains – Margaret Baker
Margaret’s talk introduced the endangered eucalypt forests (Threatened Ecological Communities) that are found on clay soils of the Lower Blue Mountains from Springwood to Hawkesbury Heights and to Lapstone. She described each of the communities, identifiedthe main trees and talked about some of the rare plants, but the focus was the diversity of birds to be found in each of the forest types, especially birds that are listed under NSW legislation as Threatened.
“Citizen Science in Action – what to do with your data” – Jenny Hill
Citizen science has emerged as a distinct field over the last 20 years and is now enjoying a boom. What are some successes? What are the factors critical to its success and what role does Bushcare, Landcare and Swampcare play in this success? How could citizen science grow to be part of the bigger story about restoration and protection in the Blue Mountains? This is brief overview of citizen science is an introduction to group presentations.
In her community volunteer role Jenny Hill is Coordinator with the Leura Falls Creek catchment working group, Bushcarer and Streamwatcher. Jenny has been involved in environmental education and learning for over 35 years and is currently Environmental Educator for Blue Mountains City Council. In this role she conducts citizen science and connects with nature programs across the mountains with schools and community groups. Jenny’s on-ground experience enriched her presentation and provided the bigger picture of citizen science in many different contexts.
Introduction to Biodiversity Atlases on the Internet – Margaret Baker
This talk provided an introduction to the biodiversity atlases that are available on the Internet. It focused on the Atlas of Living Australia – where to find it, how to use it to determine biodiversity in a selected area and how to record data as an individual or as a Citizen Science group. It showed how the kind of data collected in the field sessions of today’s conference can be readily entered into the global exchange of biodiversity information. The world-wide and unrestricted access to such information can however be problematic and so some issues related to atlas and database use was also be discussed.
Active volunteer with Links view Landcare and Bush Place Bushcare, Beth has been involved in Bushcare for 2 years starting initially with Links view Landcare then joining Bush place Bushcare group at its inception. Beth spends the second Saturday of the month out in the field with these 2 groups and whilst studying Certificate II in Conservation and Land Management online Beth has found these Bushcare days a valuable source of knowledge, inspiration and bush comradery.
Garnering different perspectives visions and practical experience enables a broad base for Beth’s studies. She has also been involved with the Bushcare Boosters program and grass seed collecting and sorting workshops. She has a passion for botany and seems to find an interesting plant every work day which she will enthusiastically share with the groups.
Once her children are all in school Beth will find work in the conservation and land management field, so she can feel fulfilled in her work and give back to the community she calls home.
Pherosphaera fitzgeraldii Katoomba Falls photo courtesy Ian Brown
Protecting the Wentworth Falls population of the endangered Pherosphaera fitzgeraldii from the very invasive Montbretia was the name of the game for our Jamison Creek Catchment Care Day this year. It was well received by some keen Bushcare volunteers, BMCC Bushland Operations Team (Bushcare Officers and Bush Regeneration Officers) and the NPWS Ranger for the Jamison Valley.
Having 2 extra Bush Regeneration team members involved for the first time meant we could divide into smaller groups and cover more of the creekline as well as share information about the management of the whole area while we worked.
One group met at Wentworth Falls Car Park, walked to the top of Wentworth Falls and then worked upstream (wading where necessary) to follow up woody weeds in the area worked last year.
The other groups met at the corner of Jamison and Fletcher streets, kitted up and after a short walk down to the creek, with some walking further down the Charles Darwin Track, started target ting Montbretia around the pools and cascades and all woody weeds and the along the track and creek banks. All three groups re-united for lunch and informative talks on the creek bank.
Montbretia is slow going so although the distance covered wasn’t huge, we removed lots of corms and enjoyed the beautiful weather and surroundings while we worked. There was lots of opportunity to discuss the creek condition, learn about the endangered Dwarf Mountain Pine (Pherosphaera fistzgeraldii).
Montbretia (Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora) corms
Montbretia (Crocosmia x crocosmiiflora) flowers
Another target weed in this catchment is Erica lusitanica (Spanish or Portugese heath, often referred to simply as “Erica”, a woody shrub which has a similar appearance to native tea trees so is often mistaken for a native. Both Montbretia and Erica have the potential to establish in the rocky crevices on the cliffline adjacent to the waterfalls – taking up the space where Dwarf Mountain Pine grows. Annual Catchment Care Days are a valuable contribution to the ongoing work of Council’s Bushland Operations Team, contractors and the volunteer Bushcare Groups. Charles Darwin, Jamieson St Landcare, Wentworth Falls Lake, Water Nymphs Dell and Valley of the Waters groups were all represented this year and together we not only dealt with Montbretia and Erica but as Tutsan, Japanese honeysuckle and Small-leaf Privet as well.
Jenny Hill from Council’s Healthy Waterways Team delivered a very informative talk about the issues affecting the water quality of the catchment and the work underway to improve stormwater management.
Good food, good company and good work resulted in a very enjoyable and productive morning – made possible through funding from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage “Saving Our Species” program. A huge thank you to SoS and the dedicated volunteers of Wentworth Falls!
This research may be of interest to Bushcare Groups that have worked their patch for over 10 years.
See details below on how to participate: The Department of the Environment and Energy, together with the CSIRO are undertaking an investigation to understand how Australia’s biodiversity has been changing in recent years. As a part of this investigation we are seeking to understand how the 1°C increase in surface temperature experienced over the past century may have contributed to recent changes in biodiversity across the Australian landscape.
To this end we are very interested in hearing about the experiences and observations of people who are familiar with different parts of Australia. We hope that their insights and stories will provide us with a unique view of how things are changing. To participate, you would need to be able to select a natural area (e.g. your local region or farm, a Nature Reserve, urban bushland) that you have been familiar with for at least the last 10 years. Note that we are interested both in areas where change has been observed and where change has not been observed. The survey can be found here<https://csirolandandwater.au1.qualtrics.com/jfe/form/SV_dcjRc0gqVUMKeiN> and is made up of a series of observational questions and an open section for people to tell us their stories. It would take about 30 minutes. Additional information about the project can be found here<https://research.csiro.au/biodiversity-knowledge/projects/recent-history-climate-driven-ecological-change-australia/>”.
North Hazelbrook Swamp July 2009 photo Lyndal Sullivan
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!
March 2007 Kittyhawke volunteers at the first Swampcare event learning the ropes. Photo by Michael Hensen
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.
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!
April 2007: Hard at it in Kittyhawke Swamp, Wentworth Falls. Photo by Michael Hensen
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