S4W have an upcoming webinar on 28 May at 11 am -12pm where they will provide an update on their two koala projects, we’re they would love it if you could join them.
Please see all additional information on the webinar below.
‘Tune in online for an overview of all the work we have been doing to map and track surviving koalas after the 2019/20 bushfires, as well as the latest news from our project monitoring koalas after they are released from care. There will be an opportunity for a Q&A at the end of the webinar.’
Petalura gigantea (Family Petaluridae), commonly known as the Giant Dragonfly or Southeastern Petaltail is a very large dragonfly which may have a wingspan up to 12.5 cm. It is recorded from peat swamps, bogs and seepages along the coast and ranges of NSW from near the Victorian border to around the Qld border. It is listed as Endangered in NSW under the NSW Biodiversity Conservation Act2016, with habitat loss and degradation identified as the main threats. In addition to the large size and widely separated dark eyes, the species (and genus) is characterised by a long pterostigma (darkened cell) towards the end of the leading edge of the wings, and large, petal-shaped, anal appendages in adult males (Figure 1). Adult females lack the conspicuous anal appendages and are somewhat bulkier than males (Figure 2). These features distinguish it from other very large dragonflies such as Austrophlebiacostalis. Various Bushcare and Swampcare sites in the Blue Mountains include peat swamp habitat of Giant Dragonflies.
The Petaluridae (“petaltails”) can be traced back to the late Jurassic and currently includes 11 known species around the world, including the endemic Australian genus Petalura with five species. The family is unique amongst dragonflies, in that larvae of nine of those species (including all Petalura species) excavate (sometimes complex) burrows which extend below the water table in peaty soils and which they occupy and maintain for their entire larval stage. The deepest burrow recorded for a petalurid worldwide was a P. gigantea burrow I investigated, which was 75 cm deep. These dragonflies have very long larval stages; extrapolation from recent studies suggests a larval stage of at least six years in P. gigantea, and possibly 10 or more in some situations. Larvae reach a length of 4.5-5 cm. Larvae feed on a range of small invertebrate prey within their burrows, including worms and nematodes, and are likely to act as ambush predators of larger prey from within their burrow entrances, feeding on above ground invertebrates, such as spiders, crickets, cockroaches, and perhaps small frogs, such as Crinia signifera. Larvae with submerged burrow openings in shallow pools can also prey upon other dragonfly or damselfly larvae within those pools. It is possible (but unknown) that they also leave their burrow openings temporarily to forage under suitable conditions, such as at night and during rain. I have recorded above ground chambers above their burrow openings, within litter layers and Sphagnum hummocks, which they may use for foraging purposes. Larvae leave their burrows and climb the nearest shrub or sedgeland vegetation to undergo emergence (ecdysis) to the adult stage, usually leaving their larval skin (exuvia) attached to their shrub or sedge emergence supports. The presence of exuviae confirms a site as a successful breeding site. Emergence may commence in early October in some years in some sites and extend into January, but normally appears to commence during November, at least in the Blue Mountains.
Adults live for a maximum of one summer flying season, which extends into February at least, with occasional late flying individuals having been observed on one occasion as late as mid-March in the Blue Mountains. Adults are predatory upon other flying insects during flight and consume a range of prey, including other dragonflies and damselflies, butterflies, moths, grasshoppers, cicadas, wasps, and various types of flies, including crane flies. Adults typically return to a perch to consume prey. Adults spend much time perched in sedgeland and shrub vegetation, interspersed with generally short flights associated with foraging, mating, and in the case of males, territorial interactions. Adult females typically leave their larval swamp habitat following emergence and only return to a swamp habitat for breeding purposes. There is no courtship behaviour and mating generally occurs in swamp habitat with the pair perched in sedge or shrub vegetation. Egg-laying (ovipositing) involves insertion of the ovipositor into the wet, organic-rich soil substrate, into fissures in the substrate, or amongst or under live or decomposing plant material overlying the substrate. Females typically walk along the soil surface or perch within covering vegetation or on litter while ovipositing. They do not appear to oviposit into substrate covered by more than 1-2 mm of water. Most adults encountered in swamp breeding habitats are males, who are typically territorial in swamp habitat. Predation of adults by birds, skinks and spiders has been observed and dead individuals have been found in spider webs.
Petalura gigantea is considered to be an obligately groundwater-dependent species. Although the burrowing larval habit confers ecological benefits, including increased environmental stability, and some protection from the effects of fire, flood, drought and above ground predators, the species groundwater dependence and restriction to peat swamp habitats places it at increased risk in the event of any reduction in groundwater levels (e.g., due to groundwater abstraction, tunnel or pipeline boring, and longwall coal mining), more intense fire regimes, and the potential compounding effects of rapid climate change. Loss and degradation of habitat as a result of urban and transport infrastructure development, agriculture, forestry, and longwall coal mining continue to threaten the species through loss and degradation of habitat.
Figure 1. Male Petalura gigantea perched on razor sedge, Lepidosperma limicola, in a Blue Mountains Swamp. Note the conspicuous petal-shaped appendages at the end of the abdomen. Photo: Ian Baird
Figure 2. Female Petalura gigantea perched on Acacia ptychoclada in a Blue Mountains Swamp. Photo: Ian Baird
By Jessie Malpass (Communications Officer, Science for Wildlife)
Rescued Koalas returned to the Bush (plus 1)
As the massive bushfires were consuming the Greater Blue Mountains area, Science for Wildlife leapt into action and saved 12 koalas. With the help of volunteers and wildlife experts, Executive Director Dr Kellie Leigh and her team did everything they could to save as many koalas as possible from the approaching fires. These koalas were taken to Taronga Zoo for three months and were returned once it was safe to do so.
In March 2020, Science for Wildlife returned not 12 but 13 koalas to the wild! One of the koalas gave birth to a tiny joey after she was rescued.
Post-fire scat surveys tracking the koalas
Now, it has been just over 12 months since the last of the 2019/2020 bushfires, Science for Wildlife has been working hard to track surviving koalas. They have been monitoring the koalas that were saved ahead of the fires to learn how they use the landscape after fire, as well as heading out to five study sites across the Blue Mountains and the Hawkesbury to conduct scat surveys and find out how many koalas survived, and where.
Since September 2020 they have completed over 200 scat surveys with the help of volunteers, and have another 250 to go this time, using their koala detection dog team, including Smudge the Coolie. Conserving koalas in unburnt areas including around private properties is now more important than ever, and so Science for Wildlife conducted a recent ‘Community Attitude Survey’ to identify barriers to conservation. The results from the surveys will guide the information that S4W shares with communities, to improve outcomes for koalas and other species.
Camera Trap Project – calling for volunteers!!!
Help us work out which species used water and food stations during the bushfires
In March 2020, the last of the devastating 2019/20 bushfires were put out but Science for Wildlife was still on emergency response for wildlife, putting out water stations and food for any remaining wildlife in burnt areas. After the huge effort to place the food and water stations in the bush, Science for Wildlife wanted to evaluate if their efforts were worthwhile, so a team of staff and volunteers put out camera traps to monitor the water and food stations – hoping to capture images showing a range of wildlife benefiting from these stations.
Then COVID-19 hit, and the team were unable to bring the cameras back in to analyse the images and had to leave them out for a few months. For the remainder of 2020, Science for Wildlife focused on broadscale surveys to map surviving koalas to inform population recovery.
The team at Science for Wildlife would love your help to look through the camera trap images to see what we can discover! Fortunately, this summer has been kinder, but more hot summers and droughts will come, and the findings will help to guide welfare efforts for koalas and other species during the next extreme weather event. Water stations were placed up in trees and on the ground, so you will be looking for a range of arboreal and ground animals as well as birds. We cannot wait to see what animals you find! All you will need is a computer and internet connection.
Here are the questions Science for Wildlife are looking to answer:
Which water stations designs were used, were some used more than others?
Were the water stations still used after the heavy rains arrived?
Which species used the water and the food drops?
Which sites had more wildlife using the resources we put out, and how does that relate to fire intensity in that area?
Where were feral animals present, and how many were there compared to native wildlife?
NSW Seniors Festival (formerly Seniors Week) is the largest festival for seniors in the Southern Hemisphere. To acknowledge the remarkable contributions our local seniors make to our Blue Mountains community, a program of events for the month of April, 2021 has been put together. The theme for 2021 is ‘In our nature’.
All events will strictly follow COVID safe procedures, as outlined by NSW Health.
A copy of the Seniors Festival Program for the month’s events can be downloaded here and hardcopies will also be available at Council’s Library branches and Customer Service Centres in Katoomba and Springwood.
Bushcare volunteers and Blue Mountains community members can now contribute to building knowledge about our local freshwater crayfish species, as part of an exciting new citizen science project, the Blue Mountains Crayfish Count.
Council’s Healthy Waterways Team runs annual crayfish surveys in three areas and waterbug surveys at more than sixty sites, but we are unable to conduct formal surveys in every stream- that’s where you come in!
By collectively gathering more data on crayfish, this helps us to get a better picture of the health of our crayfish populations, and in turn, the health of our waterways. It may also allow earlier detection of possible pollution incidents that are impacting on crayfish and waterway health.
As part of the launch of the project, we’ve made some short videos about crayfish. These summarise the differences between our native spiny crayfish and yabbies, their importance, and some things you can do to help protect them. There’s also some great underwater shots of some beautiful Giant Spiny Crayfish (Euastacus spinifer). Check out the videos at Council’s youtube channel: https://www.youtube.com/user/BlueMtnsCityCouncil/videos
By collectively gathering more data on crayfish, this helps to get a better picture of the health of our crayfish populations, and in turn, the health of our waterways. It may also allow earlier detection of possible pollution incidents that are impacting on crayfish and waterway health.
Follow these simple steps to contribute to the crayfish count:
Register for iNaturalist through the app or website
Search for and join the Blue Mountains Crayfish Count project
When you next see a crayfish, take a photo of it
Upload the photo to iNaturalist (through the app or website), and add it to the Blue Mountains Crayfish Project.
Last year local volunteers removed 1.6 tonne of rubbish from bushland and parkland sites, most of which included drink containers, plastic food wrapping, packaging materials and plastic bags.
You can get involved by finding a local park or area that needs cleaning or by joining an existing Clean Up site near you. Once registered, you will be sent a free Clean Up kit including bags, gloves, information and promotional materials.
For further information on how to get involved and find a local site near you, please visit the Clean Up Australia Day website www.cleanup.org.au/
Outstanding citizens were celebrated at Blue Mountains City Council’s annual Australia Day Awards on 26 January, 2021.
Environmental Citizen of the Year – Lis Bastian
Congratulations to Lis Bastian – a founding member of one our new bushcare groups – Blackheath Community Farm Landcare.
For years, Lis Bastian has devoted herself to helping others live more sustainably. She does this by leading by example and by teaching people of all ages about permaculture and environmental responsibility.
Lis created The Big Fix (www.thebigfixblackheath.org) which is a social enterprise that focuses on ‘changing the story.’ The initiative has enabled a collaborative, solutions-based culture to grow and thrive in the Blue Mountains and beyond.
Other projects that have been spearheaded by Lis, include a Community Farm in Blackheath which she regularly reports on through Facebook to inspire others. Lis also set up and now runs ‘Pluriversity’, which provides a range of learning opportunities for young people who have left school engage with one another and the wider community.
Lis reaches out to others and builds partnerships with unlimited generosity and devotion to protecting the environment.
The full list Awards recipients included:
Young Citizens of the Year – Annelise Schroder and Harry Elbourne
Citizen of the Year – John Turner
Senior Citizens of the Year – Peter A. Kidd and Rosemary Hart
Environmental Citizen of the Year – Lis Bastian
Community Achievement of the Year – Blue Fringe Arts and Literature Exhibition.