This year marks the 20th Anniversary of the Greater Blue Mountains region being granted World Heritage status by the United Nations.
Blue Mountains City Council will mark this important milestone by celebrating the unique privilege of managing a City within a World Heritage Area.
From July to December 2020, Council will showcase how we help preserve an area of such special significance, including recognition of Traditional Ownership, protection of the environment and threatened species, water resource management and strategic planning.
Blue Mountains waterways are some of the most beautiful, iconic and highly valued in Australia. They sustain a unique diversity of animals and plants, hold great cultural significance to Traditional Owners, and provide huge opportunities for recreation and eco-tourism.
Our waterways also supply drinking water to over five million people, including residents of the Blue Mountains local government area.
Think of your favourite animal. Can it breathe through its skin, clean up after others or predict the weather? We’re guessing not. NPWS are sharing six of the many reasons we should all be a little more appreciative of these tiny eco-powerhouses.
1. Frogs can test environmental health
Frogs have a thin, permeable skin which lets liquids and gasses pass straight through. This thin skin is also very sensitive to temperature, sucks up pollutants and toxins, and absorbs water – removing the need for frogs to drink. These unique qualities make frogs superstar bioindicators, which means that scientists can use data gathered from frogs to get a better understanding of an ecosystem’s environmental health. Because frogs live in water as well as on land, they can provide an indication of both habitats.
2. Frog song is music to our ears
If you’re lucky enough to hear the call of frogs where you live, it’s usually a sign that you are living in a healthy and unspoilt area. Each species of frog has its own unique call, so it’s possible to check what types of froggies live in your backyard just by listening carefully (or downloading the FrogID app).
When frogs detect drops in atmospheric pressure (yep, they’re that clever) – an indication of impending rain, they’ll begin croaking, giving the Bureau of Meteorology a run for its money!
Where and when can we hear frogs? There’s no hard-and-fast rule for all frogs, but they like to breed near water, so listen out for them around dams, wetlands and ponds, or after rain. Many frogs call during their spring and summer breeding seasons, while some only call during autumn and winter and others will call all year-round. Most Aussie frogs are nocturnal and won’t start croaking until after dusk, but this isn’t the case for all frogs, especially during wet weather. When you’re in a NSW National Park, you may just come across the Brown striped frog with its distinct ‘tok’ call or the Peron’s tree frog, with the male’s drill-like call it’s often described as a ‘maniacal cackle’. Reminder: a good rule with all wildlife is to stay on track and keep your distance. Frogs are good to spot not to touch.
3. Frogs help to maintain water quality
Tadpoles act as nature’s pool cleaners, feeding on the algae that forms in ponds, creeks and puddles. While the tadpoles enjoy a delicious feast, algae levels are kept under control, filtering our water and keeping it clean – and they don’t even charge for their waste-management services. When we lose frogs in waterways, we will notice that water quality declines and water courses become clogged up.
4. Frogs are an irreplaceable ring in the food chain
Frogs play an important role as both predators and prey in the food web. Frogs’ diets consist of large quantities of insects, including pests, helping to keep population sizes of these unwanted critters at bay. Frog eggs provide food for insects, like spiders and wasps, while tadpoles fill the bellies of fish, birds and some insects. With a wide range of birds, mammals and reptiles relying on adult frogs for food, their disappearance would drastically affect entire ecosystems.
5. Frogs keep humans healthy, too
Without frogs as predators, populations of mosquitoes, which are carriers of disease, will increase. Having frogs around can help to keep mosquito-transmitted diseases, like dengue and malaria, from spreading to humans.
6. Australia has one of the world’s most diverse ranges of frog species
With more than 200 native frog species, Aussies are fortunate to have such a varied range of frogs living and croaking in our own backyards. More than 80 frog species are found across NSW in a range of environments, from rainforests and mountains to deserts. Sadly, eight species of Australian frogs have become extinct in the last 25 years and 30 frogs are currently listed as threatened in NSW. Pollution in our waterways, introduced fish species, loss of habitat and Frog chytrid fungus – which has led to the decline in frogs worldwide, are some of the threats putting our precious frogs at risk of extinction.
Why not keep in touch with the Citizen Science Frog Search NSW – a combined research and citizen science project studying 3 threatened frog species in the Blue Mountains World Heritage Area. The Blue Mountains Frog Search Citizen Science program aims to monitor three key threatened frog species around the Blue Mountains region using acoustic data loggers. These data loggers will be installed near waterbodies across various sites and allow for the detection of frog species using their unique calls. As part of the project, Citizen Scientists have the opportunity to manage an acoustic data logger (including installation, maintenance and retrieval), as well as learn how to identify the unique calls for each frog species and analyse the data collected. Training will also be provided in the use of mobile phone apps, such as iNaturalist and FrogID. Online training is currently being provided via Microsoft Teams, however, this will be extended to include face-to-face workshops and field trips in the coming months. If you are interested in becoming involved in the project or would like to know more, please contact Alana Burton at Alana.L.Burton@uon.edu.au or on 0448 462 004. Feel free to check the “Frog Search NSW” Twitter or Instagram accounts.
Great news! We have added a new page – VIDEOS to our Bushcare website where we can showcase Blue Mountains Bushcare and volunteers, the environment, threatened species, how to and other interesting segments.
Keep an eye out as we expand the video library. For the time being have a look at videos showing Bushcare South Lawson Park, Popes Glen Wasteland to Wetland, Saving the Callistemon megalongensis, Threatened species in the Blue Mountains and the Turtle Island Habitat launch.
A research and citizen science project that catalogued fauna species within the Blue Mountains, has now been published online.
The Blue Mountains Fauna Project Inventory was celebrated on 26 February, at a launch event that included informative talks by Anne Carey of Applied Ecology and Alex Callen from the University of Newcastle.
Over 16 months data was collected from publicly available records, from special interest groups such as WIRES and the Australian Herpetological Society, as well as from Blue Mountains residents for the project.
For this inaugural version, the project collated over 300,000 fauna records from the community and fauna databases to create the first inventory of fauna in the Blue Mountains LGA.
Mayor, Cr Mark Greenhill said: “This inventory demonstrates the incredible array of animals we share our home with, and reflects what a privilege it is to live in a city within a World Heritage Area. People come from all over the world to experience our wilderness, our animals and our precious biodiversity.”
Residents were asked to record animal sightings through an interactive map on Council’s Have Your Say website. There, community members were invited to drop pins on the map with details of fauna sighted. Photos and video could also be uploaded, if the resident had filmed the animal. Community members also contributed via the project’s Facebook page. If this all sounds very contemporary, Researchers compiling the inventory also researched historical records including the writings of early European explorers.
The Inventory has revealed a spectacular menagerie of furred, feathered and scaled friends we share our Mountains home with. More than 450 different species, including 51 threatened species, were recorded within the Blue Mountains local government area. Notable resident sightings include the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater spotted in a Springwood backyard and a micro bat found in leaf litter by someone cleaning out their gutters.
This inventory is an extremely useful resource both now and into the future, as it gives us a benchmark to measure whether we are succeeding in supporting our biodiversity or failing our wildlife.
After the prolonged drought, unprecedented bush fires and flooding natural disaster this Inventory reminds us of both how vibrant, and how fragile our local environment is, and what is at stake if we fail to protect it and these animals.
Anne Carey from Applied Ecology, who produced the Blue Mountains Fauna Project Inventory Report, presented an engaging talk on the species listed in the Inventory and where in the Blue Mountains you are likely to find them. Alex Callan, of Newcastle University, talked about a frog conservation citizen science project and encouraged all present to help fight the decline of Blue Mountains frog species.
The Blue Mountains Fauna Project is a joint partnership between the Blue Mountains Bushcare Network and Blue Mountains City Council, with grant funding from the Greater Sydney Local Land Services. Thanks to the efforts from the Bushcare team for running the fauna project program, in particular Tanya Mein for setting the project up – conducting the fauna surveys over the mountains.
The fauna inventory enables us to learn more about what wildlife is in our local bushland and how you can help both as a conservation volunteer and an landholder. If you would like to know how to help our wildlife then contact Bushcare. https://www.bushcarebluemountains.org.au/join-bushcare/
Check out Blue Mountains Conservation Society – What Blue Mountains Fauna Is That? Its primary source of information is the Blue Mountains Fauna Inventory. You’ll find it here – https://www.bluemountains.org.au/fauna.shtml
On Threatened Species Day (Saturday 7th September) we had a series of talks about fauna in the Blue Mountains. The day started with Anne Carey from the Blue Mountains Fauna Project presenting the findings of the year long study.
Throughout the day there was a stall with weed and threatened species information. The eco cinema was playing a series of short films about threatened species and where they occur.
Next was the amazing Akos Lumitzer from amatterofflight.com.au who talked passionately about the powerful owl and how he came to spend so much time capturing the images.
Last but not least was Dr Beth Mott from Birdlife Australia. She presented the Powerful Owl project that is a citizen science project.
Another great reason to come along to the Threatened Species Day at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre, in Katoomba (Saturday 7th, September).
View the awarding winning Powerful Owl’s nest made during a series of Waste To Art community workshops held across the Blue Mountains. The sculpture is made from waste fabrics, to highlight that Australians are buying 27kg of new clothes annually and over 20kg ends up in Blue Mountains residents’ garbage bins each year.
At the Regional Waste to Art Community Exhibition held in Oberon recently the Blue Mountains entry was awarded first prize in the Community 3D category. A fantastic result as the exhibition featured about 120 artworks, from 14 NetWaste councils, that were all made from everyday rubbish.
Waste to Art aims to encourage the whole community to rethink their own waste and promote a low waste lifestyle. By taking action to Reduce, Reuse and Repair over buying new, it saves resources like water and energy that go into manufacturing new items.
efforts do make a difference and also help threatened species like the
Powerful-Owl which is found across the Blue Mountains in old growth forests.
GORILLAS IN THE SWAMP (G.I.T.S.) are a dedicated group of Swamp-carers whom have been heroically spending their own time to fight back the weeds and take care of the invaluable and endangered ecological area that is Valley View Swamp in Blackheath.
There have been numerous Swampcare events at Valley View Swamp in the past which have made marked improvements in the health and condition of the site. Even with these accomplishments, we have recognised that the challenges facing us require a bolstered approach and a monthly meet-up in order to revamp the regeneration of the natural environment here.
WHY ARE SWAMPS SO IMPORTANT? – Blue Mountains Swamps are biologically diverse plant communities that occur nowhere else in the world. The swamps provide crucial habitat to a number of Threatened Species including the Blue Mountains Water Skink (Eulamprus leuraensis) and the Giant Dragonfly (Petalura gigantea). These swamps also play a vital role in maintaining the water flows in the area’s creeks, waterfalls and ground-water by capturing and storing rainwater and then slowly releasing it over time. Swamps act as filters, purifying water prior to its release into the natural environment downstream. Blue Mountains Swamps are coming under ever increasing pressure and are very susceptible due to the edge effects of urbanization and urban runoff.
PLANNED NEW MANAGEMENT STRATEGY – Big plans are in store for Valley View Swamp with a new management strategy nearing completion. The stormwater issues will be addressed with the construction of sandstone water-retention basins, sediment settling ponds, bio-filtration systems and rock lined channel. As well as being aesthetically pleasing, these storm-water control structures provide the benefits of improving water quality, reducing sedimentation in the swamp, rehydrating ground water and creating habitat. We are looking forward to observe and document the progress throughout the works of this project. Of course, we will continue to remove and control the invasive species on the site and encourage native revegetation too.
GORILLA IN THE SWAMPS (G.I.T.S.) – Valley View Swamp, Blackheath
When: 2nd Thursday of the month 9:30am -12:30pm
Where: Meeting on the corner of Valley View Rd and Hargraves St, Blackheath
What to bring: Please wear weather appropriate clothing which you don’t mind getting dirty, sturdy footwear and gumboots if it’s wet. A hat, sunscreen, plenty of water and something for morning tea. Tools and gloves are provided.
Greater Glider found on the Mt Wilson Fauna Survey
Last weekend we had the Mt Wilson Fauna Survey Workshop and Spotlight. We were incredibly lucky to see three greater gliders, a threatened species and the Anabat detector also recorded a threatened species, the Eastern Bentwing Bat!
Despite the cold, we had a great turnout of people and animals…..
Around 400 people enjoyed Wentworth Falls Lake at its best recently at a Waterways Festival held by Blue Mountains City Council, together with Kindle Hill School, Blue Mountains Grammar School, Wentworth Falls Public School and the Jamison Creek Catchment Community Group. Festival goers enjoyed walks, talks, workshops and displays on all things waterways – from crayfish and turtles, to how to have a water-sensitive home.
Locals enjoying healthy waterways craft activities at Wentworth Falls Lake
The festival offered creative and interactive experiences to festival goers, including a water-song painting and a 3-D catchment model. Students and staff from the three schools worked very hard in the lead-up to the event to put together art displays, information on local iconic species, face-painting, performances, treasure hunts and more. Bushcare was well represented, with the Jamison Creek Catchment Care Group stall displaying information on catchment issues, and samples of problem weeds.
Nearly 100 community members contributed their pledge to a ‘pledge waterfall’ promising to take action to protect their local waterways. This included actions such as washing their car on the lawn, controlling invasive weeds, or keeping pollutants out of stormwater drains and gutters.
Cailin Lyddiard (left) Caitlyn Clark (middle) and Mirabai Sigel (right) make friends with a baby turtle.
Council is investing significant resources and working with the community across the catchment to restore Jamison Creek and protect it from urban runoff, including a $700,000 investment in 2017-18, jointly funded by BMCC and Water NSW, and installing new stormwater treatment systems at 15 locations.
(from Left) David Coleby, Rae Druitt, Paul Vale, Lachlan Garland, Clr Romola Hollywood and Mayor Mark Greenhill
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