Category Archives: Natives

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.

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.

  

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.

 

Bringing Back the Birds in Blackheath

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!

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!

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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!

Where would we be without BUBBLES!

Where would we be without BUBBLES!

 

Decades of Healing e-version now available!

Popes Glen 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.

Look for the Book Funnel link on http://popesglen.bushcarebluemountains.org.au/publications

It is also available direct from Book Funnel:  http://dl.bookfunnel.com/i3nt7ey9v9

You’ll see that you have three options depending on how you want to read the book: mobi for your Kindle, epub for your i-pad, smart phone, etc., or pdf if you prefer to read it on your computer.

Alan would love to have your feedback – on the content, writing, structure or ways we might make it more useful when we revise it at the end of the grant.

Researching the Ecology of the Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo

a-yellow-tailed-black-cockatoo-in-sydneys-centennial-park-photo-by-peter-rae

A yellow-tailed black cockatoo in Sydney’s Centennial Park. Photo: Peter Rae

Is there anyone who doesn’t appreciate the sight of a flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos (YTBC) flying overhead ? It seems that very little is really known about them and you can help to change that and potentially influence planning for their conservation.

Jessica Rooke is an Advanced Science (Biological Sciences) student at the University of New South Wales. She is currently undertaking Honours in Ecology with the Centre for Ecosystem Science, supervised by Professor Richard Kingsford, Dr John Martin and Dr Kate Brandis.

Jessica’s project focuses on the well known Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo. However, not many people know that this iconic species has been largely understudied, and is in significant decline. The project’s objectives are to investigate the species habitat, foraging and breeding ecology, with an overall aim of creating a management plan to help conserve the Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo.

In particular, it would be helpful for you to report any sightings of YTBC (regardless of location) using the online survey which can be found on the Centre for Ecosystem Science website: (https://www.ecosystem.unsw.edu.au/content/conservation-practice/threatened-species/foraging-and-habitat-ecology-of-the-yellow-tailed-black-cockatoo). Further, if you know of any YTBC nesting sites in the Blue Mountains and wider areas that would be extremely useful to researchers investigating the breeding ecology.

If you have any further information, questions or queries, particularly regarding locations of breeding/nesting sites, please contact Jessica: j.rooke@student.unsw.edu.au

Banksia Park Bushcare volunteers recently observed some Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos boring into Tea trees, apparently to extract wood-boring invertebrates. The group had intentionally planted Hakeas and Banksias to provide a food source for them so we were pleasantly surprised that the Tea trees planted alongside were also providing food for the iconic species! Jessica advises that literature suggests that Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos increase this behaviour during breeding time, and when juveniles are fledging (around June-July, although this is based on limited studies, and is said to change across their range). If your groups has any similar observation, please take the time to record them and upload the data to the easy to use survey. The more we can contribute to these Citizen Science type projects, the more chances we’ll have to help protect the habitat of the species being studied.

You can read some more about Jessica’s research at: http://www.smh.com.au/nsw/rare-birds-project-tracks-wild-yellowtailed-black-cockatoos-for-the-first-time-20160708-gq1axx.html

 

UNSW Chinese Students Association lends a helping hand to Katoomba Falls

UNSW Chinese Students Association helping out with planting at Katoomba Falls

UNSW Chinese Students Association helping out with planting at Katoomba Falls

Our fabulous Blue Mountains put on a text-book Winter’s day for a small group of students from the University of New South Wales on July 14 – bright sunshine and crisp (cold) air – perfect for planting ferns along the newly refurbished walking track at Katoomba Falls.

The group may have been small but the amount they got done was not! Working with contractors engaged by Blue Mountains City Council (BMCC) who prepared the holes ready for planting, 120 Blechnum nudum, Gahnia sieberiana and Lomandra longifolia were very quickly in the ground, watered and protected from frost and wind with tree fern fronds.

The students were so enthusiastic and energetic that once the plants were in, we had plenty of time to enjoy a cup of hot chocolate and some delicious, locally produced biscuits before walking to the lookout, guided by Monica from the Bushcare Team.

Hopefully this was just the first of many more days such as this one, which not only showcased one of our local icons but also the wonderful work that BMCC is doing to protect the World Heritage on our doorstep

Chinese students Katoomba Falls

Vincent shows us how its done

Chinese students at Katoomba Falls

Edol, Mindy, and Vincent wasted no time getting in amongst it

Connected Catchments

Creekline In Full Force  Vale Street - June 2016

Vale St Baramy Trap in Full Flow – June 2016

On May 2 the Leura Falls Creek and Jamison Creek Catchment Working groups came together along with Blue Mountains City Council Natural Areas and Healthy Waterways teams to do “catchment crawls” (minibus tours of the key work sites) in each other’s catchments. Residents of the Vale St end of the Leura Falls Creek catchment were also invited.

In the morning, the Leura Falls Creek tour showcased the recently constructed stormwater upgrades including the Vale St Baramy Trap and raingarden – shown below in full flow with the recent heavy rains in early June. The Jamison Creek Working Group had an opportunity to see what types of stormwater management systems will be installed in the Jamison Creek Catchment in the near future.

After lunch, a tour of Jamison Creek Catchment gave us a chance to learn about where the upgrades are planned and how they will be constructed.

The stormwater improvement projects in both catchments are an initiative between Water NSW and Blue Mountains City Council. The catchment crawl was filmed by KFM Media, Katoomba. Thanks to the tour guides, Eric Mahony and Geoffrey Smith from Blue Mountains City Council and Peter Bennet who designs the Baramy Traps. Thanks to Monica Nugent for driving the bus. And thank you to every one who came on the tour.

Vale Street - June 2016

Vale Street – June 2016 11

A very unusual bush invader!

Pseudopanax crassifolius

Pseudopanax crassifolius photo credit: Mike Hudson

One day, at bushcare with the Wentworth Falls Lake Bushcare Group, Ross Day called me over to identify a strange plant. It was like nothing we had seen before, five close vertical stems with enormous trifoliolate leaves springing directly from them on long petioles. Those leaves were dark green, only about 25 mm wide, but anything up to 400 mm long. And tough! They were also armed with vicious teeth along the margins.

It was identified by staff at the Herbarium in Sydney as the New Zealand Lancewood, Pseudopanax crassifolius, in the family Araliaceae. (It has a relative in SW Tasmania called Pseudopanax gunnii, and both are related to our Elderberry panax, Polyscias sambucifolia).

The intriguing ecology of this plant involves a straight upright trunk with largely inedible leaves. All this is designed to deter being eaten by the NZ Southern Giant Moa, a flightless bird 3 m high. Of course the Maoris killed the last one hundreds of years ago, but in evolutionary terms the tree hasn’t caught up yet! Even more amazing is that after 15-20 years, when the tree gets to about 5 m, well out of the range of the Giant Moa, it changes abruptly to produce broad succulent leaves in a short canopy, and then flowers more or less normally.

Don’t ask me how it got to Wentworth Falls! We surmise that it was a garden plant that was no longer required, dug up, and thrown in the bush to die. It didn’t, but put down roots in the damp leaf litter and survived. I suspect that it was lying down at the time, and that the present five trunks sprouted like epicormic regrowth from that trunk.

David Coleby, Wentworth Falls Lake Bushcare Group, davidcoleby@bigpond.com

Lancewood tree, Pseudopanax, New Zealand. Phot credit: Mike Hudson.

Lancewood tree, Pseudopanax, New Zealand. Photo credit: Mike Hudson.