Sunday, September 18, 2016

Club Meeting & Proposed Outing - October, 2016

CLUB MEETING: Friday 07 October at 7.00pm. at St Anthony's Community Centre, Memory Street, Toowoomba.

Speaker for the evening will be Judi Gray who is the President of Wildlife Queensland in Toowoomba, and Chairperson of “Friends of Rogers Reserve” (at Highfields). Brendan and Judi have owned their 18½ acre property “Jarowair” near Highfields since 2005, and have registered a Land for Wildlife covenant with the Queensland Murray Darling Committee Land for Wildlife program. Judi and her husband Brendan have long had an interest in wildlife and in native flora, and are also expert photographers.

CLUB OUTING: Sunday 09 October to Brendan and Judi Gray’s property at Kleinton
Assemble at Neil Street car park (corner of Hall Lane) at 8.20am for an 8.30am departure to Gray’s 20 acre property at 50 Rodeo Drive (off Cooby Dam Road), Kleinton, arriving around 9.00am. The programme will be:

· A short walk and talk with Judi.
· Morning tea around 10.00am.
· Another walk, then lunch. The formed tracks are not steep, but occasionally rocky.
· After lunch, we will move on to Charles and Motee Rogers Reserve, adjacent to the Highfields Cultural Centre. Judi is the co-ordinator of the Friends of this Reserve. This session should be about 1½ hours, to finish soon after 3.00p.m.

Visit Judi’s blogspot at

If carpooling, please pay your driver $5.00.

For further information: Ben Gundry 0407 463558

Outing Report: 4 September, 2016: Redwood Park

As soon as we got to the gate, we were reminded that it is spring by the wonderful display of creamy-coloured flowers on the Wonga vines, Pandorea pandorana. Wattle perfume was the next thing, with the Hardenbergia violacea providing a brilliant purple counterpart to its gold, in the complementary colour scheme typical of our district’s early spring.

We met our hosts, Hugh and Kay Krenske, at the comfortable picnic ground where we had morning tea. There we began to appreciate the work of the Friends of the Escarpment Parks(FEP), in restoring this once weed-infested portion of Toowoomba’s original rainforest and making it into a showpiece for the local ecology. Weeds were not obviously in evidence, and good quality interpretive signs have been installed, there and along the paths. Hugh explained the techniques the group had developed, learning by trial and error, to deal with the weeds that still blanket much of the Range flora, preventing regrowth of native plants. The worst of them are Madeira vine, cats claw, and African asparagus vine, all plants which were introduced to Australia as garden ornamentals. Hugh explained that they have found that the best technique has been to make careful but extensive use of herbicide, and avoid disturbing the soil by digging or uprooting weeds. (The latter would provide more opportunities for new species of weeds to gain a foothold, which is why they prefer not to do it.) They combine this with a planting programme to supplement the remnant vegetation and develop canopy, which makes future re-invasion a little harder for the weeds.

A walk across the creek and up the hill showed us just what an impressively large area is gradually being brought under control by FEP. It was a salutary reminder that even a small group can achieve a large amount, with persistence, and willingness to experiment and find the most effective techniques for a particular site.

Hugh and Kay explained that they also involve the community as much as possible, from working to get Toowoomba’s Regional Councillors on side, to sending groups of school children out to see who can collect the most Madeira vine tubers.

Walking down the hill again was like a walk through time, as we moved from the areas newly cleared of weeds, through recovering areas, to the section that has now been weed-free for many years and has been restored to its natural state.

At a time when so much of Toowoomba’s natural environment is being lost or destroyed, it was refreshing to visit a site where the process is being reversed so effectively. Thank you Hugh and Kay.

(Report and photo by Trish Gardner)

Bird List: (Compiled by Francis Mangubhai from members' sightings)

Eastern Yellow Robin, White-throated Treecreeper, Grey Fantail, Spotted Pardalote, Scarlet Honeyeater, Lewin's Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, White-naped Honeyeater, Brown Cuckoo Dove, Spectacled Monarch, Striated Pardalote, Varied Triller, Grey Shrike-thrush, Bar-shouldered Dove, Peaceful Dove.

Fauna: Monitor Lizards

Hello all,
On Sunday 4th, we shared Redwood Park with members from the Toowoomba Field Naturalists as well as many other walkers who chose to enjoy the pleasant spring weather. Most of the time was spent looking at the work FEP had done in the rainforest, discussing the various weeding strategies and regeneration activities. Back at the picnic ground some of us were fortunate to see two monitor lizards writhing together also enjoying the newly arrived spring.

Regards Hugh

Speaker Report - Sept 2016 - On Spiders

Dr Ron Atkinson lived and worked in Toowoomba, so is familiar to some of our members. Accompanied by his wife and daughters, he was made welcome on Friday night, and all listened with great interest to his talk titled “The Twenty-first Century Spiderman”. Enormous changes have been made within the field of spider taxonomy since the 19th century, and Ron outlined some of them.

A small spider field guide with black and white illustrations published in 1968 is now almost completely obsolete. Mascord’s “Australian Spiders in Colour”, published in 1970 and owned by some of us, was a great improvement as images were in colour, but is probably now 50% incorrect. “A guide to the Spiders of Australia” by Volker Framenau and others, full of information and containing excellent colour photographs was published only two years ago but already needs revision. 

The early scientists describing Australia’s wildlife, including spiders and insects, used genera and family names familiar to them from their work in the Northern hemisphere, but they proved to be inaccurate, so changes were later made. Spiders once allotted to the genus Epeira in Australia, are now placed in at least seven different spider families. The common spider, Eriophora transmarina, the garden orb weaver, has had nine name changes since it was first described in 1865.

Two funnel-web spiders were named in 1873 and 1877 by Koch and Pickard-Cambridge respectively, Hadronyche cerbera and Atrax robustus; now these have been expanded to more than 30 Hadronyche species, many named for their locations – H. lamingtonensis, H. alpina, H. Tambo, H. monaro. The three Atrax are probably incorrectly named since taxonomic convention says that the first published generic name for the group should apply for all others of the same kind of spider.

 Some spiders show strong sexual dimorphism, like Mopsus mormon, a jumping spider. This was confusing for some taxonomists, especially when more females than males are found, or vice versa, and they were first thought to be separate species. There are various reasons for these name changes. Early scientists working on spiders could only communicate by letter, and mail services within Australia and overseas were of course much slower than they are today. This meant that many species which were identical were given different names by different people describing them. A paper which was written in Eastern Australia and published in the UK might take years before it arrived at the home of a biologist in a different part of Australia. 

Technology of course has vastly improved since the 1870s. Taxonomists then relied on line drawings to illustrate their descriptions, and some were much better artists than others. At that time some did not realise what features were important - Funnel web spiders are separated into species in some cases merely by bulge sand spurs on their legs or by the shape of their palps or epigynum (sexual parts).

Microscopes have been vastly improved since those times, allowing more specific descriptions. For example only one white-tailed spider was known in 1989, the species named Lampona cylindrata. But Norman Platnickin 2000 examined all specimens of white-tailed spiders held in collections in Australia and overseas and was able to separate them into 56 species of Lampona, plus 145 species in 21 other genera; an amazing 201 separate species in all. The internet, macro lenses and digital photography have all made huge improvements in speed and accuracy of communication and image quality, and today every good museum and research centre now has access to a scanning electron microscope, enabling the minutest hairs on a spider’s leg to be seen in great detail. At least some of these minute features have taxonomic value. 

Over the last few years, the optimum tool in examining relationships between life-forms, DNA profiling, has become more accessible. For simplicity’s sake, mitochondrial DNA of spiders is being examined, not the whole genome. DNA analysis makes the whole process of classification more objective because it reveals the evolutionary changes that have led to the spider species we have today. Charts called “clades” can be created using the data – these look and are complex, but they show clearly the similarities, differences and relationships between spider families, genera and species. Some spider families have been altered, divided or combined, and in some cases new names given. This process is being used to revolutionise the taxonomy of other life forms as well, including human ancestry. 

Ron explained the origin of and how to use his “Find-a-spider” website – on this very useful site he has provided several ways for interested spider-hunters to identify their catches – by family, by species name, and by photographs. Ron updates his site when a change appears on the “World Spider Catalogue”, the High Court of Arachnology. The Atlas of Living Australia also has links to old and new spider names. Several questions were asked by members at the end of his talk. All showed their appreciation of Ron and his family for travelling from Brisbane to speak to us on such an interesting topic.
(Article and photos by Glenda Walter) 

Wednesday, September 7, 2016


Greg Lukes from Friends of Escarpment Parks alerted me to some unusual fungi seen by volunteers in Hart-mann Reserve. By the time I saw them they had deteriorated as they often don’t survive for long, but they must have been spectacular when fresh.
Boletes are a group of mushrooms which (mostly) don’t have gills, instead having thick spongy caps with vertical tubes to hold the spores – on the underside you will see just the ends of the tubes, which look like pores. There are many different species of Bolete, some smaller and delicate, and others very large and tough. I am unable to identify the ones I saw at Hartmann Reserve, but they are probably all the same species as they grew in a group under a large Eucalypt close to the fence on Rowbotham Street. The mushrooms are the fruiting bodies of a fungus which grows in a symbiotic relationship with the roots of the tree. Many Boletes turn blue when bruised, while others show a reddish stain. Boletes are popular with insects, slugs, snails and larger animals, so many have nibbles or holes in the caps, as this one does. It was about 150 mm. across.
The underside of this large mushroom would have been a dull gold, but this Bolete and others nearby had been attacked by a second fungus with the common name “The Fungus Eater”, Hypomyces chrysospermus, which forms a white and bright yellow coating and rots the Bolete.
Insects also eat and breed in Boletes – inside the rotted stem of one, along with the white Hypomyces chrysospermus, were several grubs.

 This smaller (60mm) and newly emerged Bolete growing close by is probably the same species,and shows the bluish bruising on the underside. 

Hartmann Reserve is a valuable area which supports all kinds of life forms. I regularly visit, and have found more than a hundred species of insects there, as well as other creatures.

A big thank you to those who donate their time and effort to control weeds in the park – you do a great job! 

Perhaps Hypomyces chrysospermus is a match for the fungi
described in an article by E.A.R. Lord, as mentioned by the
speaker at August’s meeting, Jan Veacock. The various species
of Boletes on which it feeds have a wide variety of cap colours
ranging from very dark to pale. They can be large or small, and
are often very fleshy with thick, short stems. In a group they
could well look like small stones. When Hypomyces attacks,
it covers the fungi with white fuzz, while under the white fuzzy
surface a brilliant egg-yolk yellow substance replaces the
internal structure of the hosts before it rots into a slimy mush.
(Photos by Glenda Walter also.)