Friday, May 26, 2017

MELBOURNE WATER (A Short History of “Sewerage Today - A Birds Wonderland”)

Melbourne water has played a significant role in the city’s development from creating underground sewerage in the 1890’s to completion of Thomson Reservoir the city’s largest in 1984.
1891 - Melbourne Water’s predecessor, The Melbourne and Metropolitan Board of Works was formed to take responsibility for both water supply and the treatment of sewage.
1892 - Construction began on Melbourne’s sewerage system, a treatment farm was built at Werribee and a pumping station at Spotswood.
1897 - Known as the Western Treatment plant the former Werribee farm, began operation and the first homes were connected.
1910 to 1970 - The Great Depression and two world wars caused delays in construction extensions and Improvements to both the sewerage and drainage systems.
1970 - The Environment Protection Act 1970 ensured a major improvement in river health.
1999 - Melbourne Water announces ‘The Healthy Bay Initiative’, which includes the construction of ten wetlands in the SE growth corridor.
2004 - ‘Our Water Our Future’ a long-term plan for water conservation to sustain growth was implemented. It also aimed to reduce nitrogen loads in Port Philip Bay and make available recycled water for farms parks and market gardens.
Western treatment plant: The western treatment plant today provides a haven for tens of thousands of birds (284 species have been recorded) thanks to a variety of landforms, the permanent water supply and lots of different tree and plant species. The area is one of the most popular sites for bird watching in Victoria. Threatened Species here are Brolga and the Orange Bellied Parrot.
Shorebirds: There are many different species of which 75% are migratory; some of Australia’s rarest have been recorded here including the Asian Dowitcher and the Buff Breasted Sandpiper. 16,000 shorebirds feed on the mudflats and the discharge of the treated effluent enriches the inter-tidal mudflats. Some which have been recorded are: Red kneed Dotterel; Red necked Avocet; Red Necked Stint; Lewin’s Rail; Pied Cormorant and Water-fowl. It is an important refuge for these during drought and the duck hunting season. Chestnut Teal and Freckled Duck are two other birds of interest.
Eastern treatment plant: The eastern treatment plant is home to a large native bird population. Types found here include Superb Fairy-wren; Magpie Lark; White plumed Honeyeater; Black Swan and Grey Teal. The plant offers birds lots of food such as water plants, zooplankton, aquatic insect larvae and flying insects.
Edithvale-Seaford wetland: This is the largest remaining natural wetland of its kind in the Port Philip/West-ernport region with an estimated 7000 birds at any one time calling it home.
This little story proves that many birds and bird species rely for at least part of each year on Melbourne sewer-age for their survival. Some of the migratory ones travel 24,000 kilometres each year and tagged ones have made this journey ten times in their lifetime. Considering it all began in the 1890’s as a sewerage plant and today it is still a sewerage plant but also a bird wonderland.
Could we consider this - Werribee Wetlands and Wyreema Wetlands??!!!

(Article by Diane Turner)


Report on Sunday Outing in May 2017 to Hockly's property near Ravensbourne NP

A perfect autumn day encouraged many Field Nats out to Garth and Mary Hockly’s property near Ravensbourne. The Hocklys purchased their 105-acre block in 1988 but did not move on to the land until 1996. The property was overrun with Lantana, but had a beautiful creek and there were stands of tall eucalypt. Now, 20 years on, an avenue of deciduous trees in autumn colour, sweeping lawns, flowering shrubs and a beautiful rainforest are testament to the Hocklys’ vision, enthusiasm, and hours of hard work. 
Garth guided members on a leisurely walk through a section of the rainforest, naming the hundreds of trees and understorey plants that he and Mary have planted. Morning tea on their verandah was followed by a walk in a eucalypt and rainforest regeneration area. Within a glade in this area the Hocklys have created a bird-watching space with a bird bath and bird feeding table. This lovely space was our lunch venue, surrounded by bird song and the occasional bird that was brave enough to come down to feed despite the large audience. Most members returned home after lunch, but a few went on to Gus Beutel’s Lookout. A big ‘thank you’ to Garth and Mary for their generosity in allowing us access to the beautiful place they call home.
Bird List for Garth & Mary Hockly’s Property (Complied by Tricia Allen from Members’ sightings)
Pacific Black Duck, Brown Cuckoo-Dove, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Laughing Kookaburra, White-throated Tree-creeper, Spotted Pardalote, White-browed Scrubwren, Brown Gerygone, Weebill, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Eastern Spinebill, Brown Honeyeater, Scarlet Honeyeater, White-naped Honeyeater, Eastern Yellow Robin, Eastern Whipbird, Golden Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Grey Fantail, Willy Wagtail, Pied Currawong, Torresian Crow, Green Catbird, Red-browed Finch.

Members saw platelets (small bare circular depressions) of Black-breasted Button Quail, which pleased the Hockly’s as they hadn’t sighted the birds for about five years.


Report by Deb Ford

Report on 2017 Post Easter Camp at Chinchilla

Day 1: Thursday 20 April  ( Reported by Donalda Rogers)

Six vehicles lined up outside Chinchilla Tourist Park at 8.00am ready for a full day in the Barakula State Forest. There were 20 members of Toowoomba Field Nats and four members of Chinchilla Nats. UHF’s were tuned to Channel 21 ready for the excellent running commentary by leader Frank Truscott on the many sites and plants of interest along the way.
As we turned north towards Barakula on the Auburn Road, Frank pointed out where the old Tramway used to be as well as a closed sawmill and derelict brickworks. Further on was a working sawmill which originally only took Cypress Pine but now includes Spotted Gum.
Just before the southern boundary of the Barakula State Forest we drove through the Dingo Barrier Fence – the world’s longest. It stretches 5,614 kilometres from Jimbour on the Darling Downs through the inland, ending west of Eyre Peninsula on the cliffs of the Nullarbor Plain above the great Australian Bight.

At the Barakula Forestry Office area Frank gave us a short talk on the history of the area. Travelling on, our first “Botanical Stop” was to look at Grevillea singuliflora, which was very interesting. The other plant that caught our eye here was the Woody Pear. What was fascinating was the young plant with its notched leaves, as contrasting with the “adult” plant that had no notches.

The landscape looked a little odd where we passed through an area where they had been thinning the cypress, with stumps as tall as the grass, but only a few centimetres in diameter. Morning tea was enjoyed at the base of the Waaje fire tower. Sadly, the presence of asbestos has caused the tower to be closed. It is 39 metres high and  the single poles for the legs were brought from the coast. The trees in this area were Corymbia watsoniana.
Moving on we stopped at the Waaje flower area for photographers to enjoy a Mistletoe, before moving to an aboriginal site where handprints were still visible under a sandstone overhang. Leaving this area we travelled along the road to where the Auburn Range meets the Great Dividing Range, at the junction of the Fitzroy, Burnett, and Murray-Darling catchments.
Lunch was in the Waaje Wild Flower area where the only tree with any shade was Eucalyptus pachycalyx subsp. waajensis, the same place where the Australian Naturalists Network get together was held in 2010. Our next stop was Smith Creek crossing where we sighted a few birds including Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos. Moving on, we stopped at the Wongongera Yards, a large set of stockyards built originally out of whole and split logs, with no nails, bolts, or wire used. It was used to collect cattle from the runs to the north before drov-ing them to Chinchilla. (As the yards deteriorated they were patched up with fencing wire and old railway sleepers.) There were several good examples of sliprail gate. At one end the rails are loosely held in mortises in the gatepost. At the other end, the gatepost has an L-shaped slot for each rail. The rail can be slid in sideways, and then drops down the vertical part of the slot. A peg through the rail then stops it from being moved up and out again. A scarlet honeyeater was sighted here. Our final stop was to look at Acacia chinchillensis and Dodonaea macrossanii. A truly wonderful day. Thank you, Frank.

Day 2: Friday, 21 April - Nangram  ( Report by Julie Latham)

On a lovely sunny day, we departed for our day out via Chinchilla Weir where many darters, spoonbills and egrets were fishing along the weir overflow. Some good viewing. Our convoy was nine cars. We travelled south onto the Condamine Highway turning west and arriving at Nangram about 9.00am. We were met by Randall Coggan, Manager of Nangram, at the big work-shop shed. The major point of interest was the beautiful lagoon not far from the homestead, with its wonderful picnic area. Francis and Hugh Tilly also joined us at the shed. The Tilly Family are the previous owners of Nangram.
Nangram covers 20,000 acres and is now owned by McDonald Holdings, (purchased in 2014) and is a large, privately owned cattle operation, centred on Cloncurry, in western Qld. The McDonald family are involved in setting aside an area on one of their northern properties, to protect and research the Night Parrot, which has been found there. Trading cattle are bred in the top end and moved down to Nangram and three other properties owned by MDH, to be finished in their 9000-head feed lot. There are seven centre pivots supplying irrigated feed for the feed lot. The irrigation pipes were purchased from Mary Kathleen.
Over morning tea Francis gave us a run through of the history of the property since their purchase in 1964. They moved to Toowoomba in 1988. Nangram was then managed by their sons. Many Chinchilla CFN mem-bers remember the beautiful lotus, which grew along both sides of the lagoon. Water skiing and canoeing were very popular during these years. Francis showed us lovely photos she had taken in those early years. The seeds germinate in the mud, and seeds and roots are edible and taste a bit like corn.
The lagoon is filled from the Condamine River via a ring tank and during the 1983 flood defoliant from the cotton farms washed into the lagoon and the lotus slowly died over the next two years. They did reappear but during the floods of 2010/11 and 2013 they were under water for a long period. Although the water is now free of cotton run-off the lotus has not regenerated. Seeds can stay viable for up to 15 years but, to date none have germinated. There is a thought that European carp fish are muddying up the bottom of the lagoon and maybe there is not enough light for the seed to germinate. We had a very enjoyable walk around the lagoon, bird watching etc. and returned for a very enjoyable lunch.

Condamine Couch at Nangram  ( Observations by Trish Gardner)

During their period at Nangram, the Tilly family developed the very attractive picnic area where we enjoyed both morning tea and lunch. Our interest was caught by the dense lawn-like groundcover, a plant known as Condamine couch Phyla canescens. It is also known as Lippia or Condamine curse.
Having grown up near the Condamine, I can remember when the plant was introduced to the district. My fam-ily’s Oakey dentist and his wife were keen gardeners, and attracted much interest in the 1950's with one of the first Condamine couch lawns. It was much admired as a no-mow lawn, except by me and my three brothers, who wanted to play on it while our siblings were being drilled and filled. We rapidly discovered that its pretty little lantana-like flowers were very appealing to bees!
Condamine couch has gone on to become a serious environmental and pastoral weed in Queensland. It spreads down waterways and in floods, and the seed is also carried by birds. It is found in isolated melon holes which never see flood, and even in cattle hoofprints and wheel ruts which contain water for a short period. It takes over good grazing land, and causes serious riverbank and gully erosion because its shallow roots don’t have the soil-holding qualities of the plants it smothers out. Of equal concern to pastoralists and nature lovers, it has lowered both grazing productivity and biodiversity in the Murray-Darling, Burnett, Fitzroy and Swan River Catchments. Its close relative, Phyla nodiflora has had a similar effect across the Top End and down the coasts to Sydney and Perth.
Botanist Matt MacDonald, who did his doctorate on it, has described it as “the worst weed west of the Great Divide”. One still sees both these plants for sale, recommended as waterwise lawn substitutes for gardens. What to do about it? Some landholders eliminate it, but with considerable effort, as the seeds can last for years. It will always re-invade, though. Others (like the Nangram owners) decide to just live with it, and make use of it as we saw on our outing there.
Corduroy Road near Nangram, Friday 21 April  (Reflections by Ben Gundry)

Cobb and Co started coaching services in 1853 in early Gold Rush days in Victoria and spread across much of Colonial Australia, initially following the big business of serving the needs of the diggings. (food, supplies, gold transport, Royal Mail contracts, etcetera). It moved into other areas of spreading settlement in the post- Gold Rush era – which is more the case in Cobb and Co’s services commencing in areas to the west of Dalby in 1867, but being gradually replaced as railways spread westwards. Rail reached Roma in 1880, but the Western Line bypassed Condamine, so horse-drawn carriage services persisted in such areas, linking to the rail-head towns. The last Cobb and Co service in Australia closed in 1924 – Yuleba to Surat.
To ensure service in low-lying, flood-prone areas, “corduroy roads” were built, like what we saw near Nan-gram, where Cypress trunks were laid over banked earth, and have resisted the ravages of time, floods and white ants for almost 150 years. This corduroy section is close to the current highway to Condamine and was probably only used for 40 years or so, as changes were made with the advent of motor transport. Once Conda-mine was bypassed, the newer towns of Miles and Chinchilla developed as the region’s major service centres.
The etymological origins of “corduroy”:
There is a popular misconception (to which I have been victim, until this recent revelation) that the word “corduroy” is French in origin. Instead, it has regional English roots – CORD (ribbed fabric) + DUROY (light-weight worsted). Extra cut-pile yarn was worked into the weave to produce a raised profile fabric, with the ridges being called “wales”. This cloth had two special properties that made it popular in Britain and North America in the early-to-mid 1700s – it was warm and it dried quickly. While it had been called corduroy, it was sold to the masses as “Manchester cloth”, with the rise of the Industrial Revolution.
When the cloth became more soft and velvety in the late-1700s, it was again branded as Corduroy (with a sug-gested association with French nobility!) to market the new product to the wealthier classes in Britain. Now to “corduroy roads”.  While these roads have been built as far back as Roman times, and possibly earlier, it is the Colonial Americans who first used this term, borrowing from the fabric’s profile, in the early 1700s, for their road-building in swampy areas.
Nats and Corduroy Road (Photo: Jean Gundry)


My Birding Moment of the Camp - Friday 21 April at Nangram Lagoon  (By Ben Gundry)

It was a privilege to see what might have been two dozen Plum-headed finches, in the tall seed-heads of the green panic, fairly close to the lagoon’s waters. (I think that most of my previous Plum-head experiences have been to see just a few of them interspersed with other finch species – especially Double-bars and Zebras.)
My ”voyeur” experience arrived when a male in full fresh colour flew to a female on a fallen branch but above the grasses,, with a dried grass stalk, twice his own body length, held vertically in his beak. On alighting beside her, he began an exaggerated head-bobbing ritual, emphasised by the movement of that grass stalk in his beak. This was repeated, whereupon she flew six to seven meters away and he followed attentively.


Chestnut breasted Mannikins
Plum-headed Finch

Lotus and pontoon





















(Photos by Jean Gundry)






Day 3: Saturday, 22 April - Barakula State Forest – eastern section.  ( Report by Deb Ford)

Our outing to the eastern section of the Barakula State Forest commenced at 8.00am with Frank Truscott, our energetic and knowledgeable Chinchilla Field Nats guide, leading a convoy of seven cars. Two CFN members, Harold Rennick and Denver Kanowski, joined us for the day travelling with Deb and Mike Ford, who enjoyed gleaning additional local information from them.
Our route took us up the Auburn Road, through the Dingo Fence (did you hear the whistle?), driving through mixed forest that included Bulloak (Casuarina luehmannii) and Cyprus Pine (Callitris endlicheri and/or Callitris glaucophylla). Our first stop was Stockyard Creek where we clambered up a dry creek bed to look at old Aboriginal grinding grooves in the sandstone boulders. From there we drove to a WWII Italian internee camp. Although little of the camp remains, we could identify the log border of a bocce rink, and a tent-rig timber pallet floor. (Further information on internee camps can be sent on request. Please contact Deb Ford:  deb@emford.com.au, or call 4600 9960.)
Kapunn Brigalow Scrub was our next destination and our lunch venue. Here knowledgeable Nats were able to identify a number of vine scrub plants, and were interested to see the pretty Native Plumbago (Plumbago zeylanica) in its natural environment. Our lunch break was followed by a bumpy drive to the summit of Turkey Mountain, the road having been constructed by Italian internees during WWII. From the top of the mountain we had a damp and chilly 360o view over the vast Barakula State Forest. From here we were taken to see a small patch of Acacia handonis, a distinct species of Acacia identified by Chinchilla resident, the late Val Hando, and for whom it is named. Over her life Ms Hando acquired substantial knowledge about inland south east Queens-land flora and published books and articles on the subject.
Ballon Forest Office, which closed in 1986, was our penultimate stop. After its closure, it was taken over by Toowoomba’s Concordia College as an outdoor education centre, but this too has now closed. The future of the buildings, including a church, a school and various dwellings is unknown.
The distinctive Chinchilla White Gum (Eucalyptus argophloia) originated in an area roughly 30x10 kilometres north east of Chinchilla township. Our route back ‘home’ took us past several stands of this attractive tree in its home range where, due to land clearing for agriculture, it is now listed as vulnerable. During the day, there were many other wayside stops to look at specimens of botanical interest, identified by Frank in his initial recce of the area. His knowledge, energy, enthusiasm, and sense of humour made him an outstanding guide. Toowoomba Field Nats consider themselves very privileged to have benefitted from his expertise and friendship. Our trip ended at 5.30pm.

Last Day of the Camp: Sunday 23 April  (Report by Sandy Eastoe)

After farewelling several of our number we headed off in our car convoy at 8.35am for the garden of Heather and John Mason. Here we had a couple of hours admiring the many native and exotic species co-existing in an acreage of ground cover, shrub, trees, fruit trees and vegetables in this impressive collection. They have been grown in the last five years from transported cuttings and graftings. Interspersed were sculptures using farm machinery, wood, corrugated iron and driftwood. What an impressive display, and monument to this talented, hard-working, and knowledgeable couple. Thank you.
Morning tea on the verandah was a time of tip sharing. John showed us his Brigalow and Cypress house panel-ing, and coffee tables carved from box in collaboration with Harold Rennick.
We then visited Chinchilla Weir for a very interesting couple of hours watching rich and varied bird life. Our enthusiastic photographers had many opportunities to capture the feeding techniques of pelicans, egrets, and darters, among others. Crows and kite hawks disputed territory overhead. Charley’s Creek was our rendezvous for a relaxed lunch, before departing.

Plants at Barakula State Forest  (Trish Gardner – article and photo)
(E)=endangered; (V)=vulnerable; (NT)=near threatened
The problem with Barakula is not so much it’s trackless, as that there are too many tracks. It would be too easy to get lost, and far too easy to fail to find any of its special plants. Thanks to Frank Truscott of the Chinchilla Field Nats, we had an efficiently guided tour, taking us to most of the Forest’s points of interest. Even so, it took a very full two days.
Barakula was, in the past, a rich source of cypress (Callitris glauca) for house building. Now only a small area is still managed as cypress forestry. Frank showed us one of these areas, and we could see how the trees were thinned, so as to encourage the remaining trees to make their best growth as tall, straight timber trees. We also travelled through Eucalyptus/Corymbia forests of various kinds including spotted gum, Corymbia citriodora subsp. variegata, which is now the most commonly cut timber in the forest.
Our attention was also caught by the rough, bright, orange-yellow bark of the two species of yellow jacket, Corymbia bloxsomei and C. watsoniana, and Frank took us to see a small stand of the very rare Waaje gum, Eucalyptus pachycalyx subsp. waajensis (E). This subspecies became separated from the main population of E. pachycalyx at some time in the distant past, and has evolved into a distinct clade. We also saw the rare woolly gum E. rubiginosa and Plunkett mallee E. curtisii (N). 


A rare stand of naturally occurring
white gums (Eucalyptus argofoloia)
The rare Grevillea singuliflora took us by surprise, with its very un-grevillea-like leaves. Nearby another member of the Proteaceae family, the woody pear Xylomel-um cunninghamianum, grew thickly. Several of the pear’s “clothes peg” fruits were found.
We saw a good selection of Barakula’s 32 different species of wattle. Several them were responding to the recent rain by bursting into bloom. Acacia conferta and A. complanata were gloriously in flower, and a number of others were in bud. A. barakulensis (V) and A. handonis (V) exist nowhere else but in this small area north of Chinchilla, and the range of the rare A. chinchillensis and A. tenuinervis is not much broader. 

To add to our list of rare plants seen, Frank took us to the yellow calytrix, Calytrix gurulmundensis, a rare and rather surprising prostrate hopbush Dodonaea macrossanii, and a prostrate mouse bush, Homoranthus decum-bens (V). The Chinchilla Nats had feared that this small population of the latter had been destroyed by fires a few years ago, so it was a delight to see that it had bounced back. It was not the main flowering season, but we
found plenty of flowers, in all colours of the rainbow, to keep us happy.
Saturday lunchtime saw us enjoying a completely different kind of vegetation at Kapunn Brigalow Scrub, where the Brigalow trees Acacia harpophylla found themselves amongst dense low forest of dry rainforest species. Most were recognised from the scrubs around Toowoomba, but we were particularly pleased to find the shiny-leafed tarenna, Triflorensia ixoroides (Tarenna triflora), which doesn’t occur at home.
Our Barakula experience ended with a diversion to see some roadside Chinchilla white gums Eucalyptus argo-phloia (V). This is a familiar plant to many of us, despite its rarity in the wild, as it has become popular as a timber plantation tree. Somehow, it looked more beautiful in its own natural habitat.
All in all, we had a very good taste of Barakula’s simply amazing diversity of plants. Thank you, Frank.

Egrets galore near Chinchilla (By Neil McKilligan)

Rather than go bush (Barakula S.F.) with the ‘gang’ on the first full day of the Nats. Camp Helen and I opted for a leisurely look at wetlands a short distance from the township. Until we came to the weir on the Condamine River the bird life was unremarkable, but more of that later. It might be mentioned that each wetland got only a quick look and land birds were largely ignored.
First stop was Old Man Lagoon to the north of the town. A very pretty body of shallow (I guessed) water. Both Straw-necked and White Ibises were there and a Yellow-billed Spoonbill sluicing its bill through the muddy water. Obviously, a tactile feeder! A Little Egret and a gaggle of Duckus domesticus completed the complement of water birds. The nearby Round Waterhole yielded only a Darter. West of town a few kilometres Rocky Creek had no water birds.
Our last stop, at the Chinchilla Weir, took our breath away. What a sight to behold!! In excess of 50 snowy white egrets. Many standing along the top of the dam, others more centrally at the lowest point where the water coursed over the spillway and some at the bottom where it discharged to form a river again.
These were mostly Great Egrets with a smattering of Little Egrets. No Cattle or Intermediates were seen. The Little Egret was easily distinguished by its black bill and much smaller size. This was a great opportunity to contrast their sizes as they stood side by side.
They were apparently feeding on fish which would have been very exposed in the shallow stream over the dam. Only one bird (a Little Egret) was actually seen with a fish, scissored between its mandibles. In our region, these birds tend to be solitary feeders, reflecting the sparse distribution of their prey. However, in this instance prey density and availability would have favoured a ‘feeding frenzy’,

Pelican Flotilla - Sunday 23 April, Chinchilla Weir  (By Ben Gundry)

We arrived at the weir at about 11.00am and I was aware of a number of pelicans sky-writing high above the water, with one beginning a spiralling descent to the waterways distantly opposite our vantage point. Within a couple of minutes, all the pelicans were on the water and rafting up for their precision-probing pursuit of pisces. Later I counted 27 in the fleet. This ultimately lasted about an hour, perhaps even continuing after we departed. Even at distance, we could see that the pelicans were doing well – let alone their black cormorant attendants who were lunging ahead of the pack, until they met with success, when they had to spend much longer with each dispatch than the pelicans took with theirs. Closer in, we were aware of much the same shorebirds around the spillway as seen on Friday. Of note was a white ibis which had joined the fisher-folk and was stalking the shallows, with some success – twice seen to be doing away with a little fish. 



Birds at Chincilla Weir - photos by Jean Gundry

Bird Lists for Chinchilla Camp: (Compiled by Tricia Allen)

Caravan Park, Two day trips to Barakula State Forest, Nangram, Chinchilla Weir and Mason’s garden.
Gull-billed Tern, Masked Lapwing, Black-fronted Dotterel, Plumed Whistling Duck, Australian Wood Duck, Grey Teal, Pacific Black Duck, Little Pied Cormorant, Little Black Cormorant, Australian Darter, Pelican, White-faced Heron, White-necked Heron, Great Egret, Little Egret, Royal Spoonbill, Australian White Ibis, Straw-necked Ibis, Eurasian Coot, Wedgetail Eagle, White-bellied Sea Eagle, Whistling Kite, Peaceful Dove, Spotted Turtledove, Bar-shouldered Dove, Crested Pigeon, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Little Corella, Rainbow Lorikeet, Little Lorikeet, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Red-winged Parrot, Red-rumped Parrot, Pale-headed Rosella, Cockatiel, Laughing Kookaburra, Welcome Swallow, White-throated Treecreeper, Superb Fairy Wren, White-browed Scrubwren, Brown Thornbill, Weebill, Striated Pardalote, Spotted Pardalote, Lewin’s Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Brown Honeyeater, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Scarlet Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Little Wattlebird, Striped Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird, Grey-crowned Babbler, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Rufous Whistler, Golden Whistler, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Butcherbird, Pied Currawong, Australian Magpie, Torresian Crow, Magpie Lark, Willy Wagtail, Apostlebird, Grey Fantail, Restless Flycatcher, Eastern Yellow Robin, Australian Reed Warbler, Mistletoe Bird, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Plum-headed Finch, Double-barred Finch, Red-browed Finch, Indian Myna.                                                                     81 species
Nangram Lagoon: Grey Teal, Australian Wood Duck, White-necked Heron, Eurasian Coot, Masked Lapwing, Whistling Kite, Wedgetail Eagle, Peaceful Dove, Crested Pigeon, Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Pale-headed Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot, Cockatiel, Laughing Kookaburra, Welcome Swallow, Superb Fairywren, Striated Pardalote, Yellow-tufted Honeyeater, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Butcher-bird, Willy Wagtail, Apostlebird, Australian Reed-Warbler, Mistletoe Bird, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Plum-headed Finch, Red-browed Finch.



May Speaker Report: Moths of Mt Kynoch by Don Gardner

I enjoyed my husband’s talk to the Toowoomba Field Nats very much. It was interesting to sit in the back row, and see how the other Nats responded to the same things I have been learning during the last four years, since Don took up his hobby of studying the moths on our one hectare Mt Kynoch property.
We were shown a selection of many of the more interesting ones. I could hear remarks all around, which showed that (like me) many of us were surprised to find just how beautiful and interesting they are. The variety of colours, shapes and patterns was quite astonishing. Sizes of the moths ranged from one with a wingspan of 16cm, to one 3mm long. Don has not studied the smaller moths, as this is the limit of his photographic equip-ment. He told lots of interesting stories about their various lifestyles, including those whose larvae live on leaf litter, or as leaf miners. There are even several species whose larvae are aquatic, and live for that phase of their lives in our pond.
Don talked of the difficulty of identifying the moths, and pointed out the identifying characteristics (labial palpae, hairy tufts and shiny patches on the wings, and so on) that he uses. He doesn’t use a microscope, dissect, or use DNA identification techniques, all of which are rather out of the range of the home enthusiast. However, even just using the external appearance as a guide, he has been able to identify over 400 species. He knows that there are many more, just on our patch of land, and that they increase with each new local native plant species that we put into our garden.
He has focussed on the moths which are attracted to the windows of the house, using easily available domestic lighting of several different colours, each of which attracts a slightly different set of moths. Window photo-graphy enables him to photograph them on both sides. (As his wife, I enjoy the fact that he is motivated to keep the windows clean!) Many of his moths have never before been photographed alive, in their natural positions.
Of Australia’s estimated 20-30,000 moths, only 1,200 have been named. (Compare this with Australia’s appro-ximately 416 butterflies, all of which are quite well known.) The problem is the lack of funding for this particular branch of science. The best-studied moths tend to be the pest species of economic importance. With my encouragement, Don has put many of his moths onto a blogsite http://mothsoftoowoomba.blogspot.com.au
I feel it is such a pity that so many amateurs gain a great deal of knowledge on scientific subjects, which is then often lost. If it is put into the public domain it can assist the larger project of adding to the world’s knowledge.
A blog is an easy way to do this, and is free. Don’s has about 200 hits per week. Some are from local people who have found the same difficulty he has had in improving their own knowledge, and share their pleasure in finding a fellow local moth enthusiast. A surprising number of them are from overseas countries, where the moths would be relations of our Australian moths, though not the same.

Thank you, Don, for such an interesting and enjoyable talk. 
                                                            Trish Gardner

Thursday, April 27, 2017

April Speaker Report: The Cane Toad Challenge by Rob Capon

Our speaker Professor Rob Capon, an Organic Chemist, is a Professorial Research Fellow and Group Leader at the University of Queensland’s Institute for Molecular Bioscience. In collaboration with colleagues (University of Sydney’s Professor Rick Shine and his team) they have developed and patented a pheromone based cane toad control technology. This technology allows for the rapid, cost effective species selective trapping of cane toad tadpoles in managed waterways (i.e. dams, creeks, ponds, lakes, canals etc.).

Cane toads are prolific breeders, and the team has identified the short window in time when tadpoles are swarming at the margins of water bodies in the breeding season as an ideal opportunity to make a dent in intergenerational recruitment (that is, take out the young guns before they become adults). Their approach is both environmentally sustainable and safe, as well as being intuitive and simple to implement - if they provide the pheromonal baits. The story of how they achieved their goal of identifying the pheromone was the subject of Professor Capon’s fascinating and well-received talk.

He commenced with a brief history of the spread of and previous attempts to control cane toads. It became apparent that in order to find a practical, long term solution (the Challenge) there was a need to understand the cane toad’s chemical ecology, as had been done with insects where species specific pheromones have been used successfully in insect traps. In theory, it was believed, the same principle should hold for toads.

The problem with cane toads is their toxicity, making it important to learn how it uses their chemistry. This involved dissecting and investigating the structure of the parotoid gland. The parotoid gland is the raised area on the cane toad’s shoulders from where a poisonous, milky substance is exuded when the toad is caught by a predator. The gland contains a mass of small vesicles, each with a duct leading to a pore on the surface of the skin. What the researchers discovered was that the toxin stored in the vesicles was not as potent as that exuded onto the skin. The potency was increased by the addition of an enzyme, stored in even smaller vesicles either side of the duct. This very clever system ensured that the toads were not themselves endangered by storing a lethal cardio toxin in their bodies.

How, then, can this knowledge be used as a control method? It was already known that cane toad eggs are poisonous, as are the tadpoles. Female cane toads coat their eggs with the same toxin to protect them from predators, but the pheromone in this toxin also acts as an irresistible lure for cane toad tadpoles. Cane toad tadpoles eat the eggs from later spawnings, possibly to obtain protein, to renew their own toxin, or simply because of genetic competition. The pheromone is species specific and does not attract frog tadpoles.

Professor Capon and his team extracted the pheromone from adult toad toxin and developed a system to lure tadpoles into traps. The chemistry the tadpoles hone in on is replicated, coated on to an air stone (a porous stone used in aquariums) and placed in a very simple plastic box-trap, with simple plastic funnels fitted in holes drilled in the side. The chemical scent trail leaks from the box into the surrounding water, where the tadpoles detect it and follow it back into the trap. These traps have, for example, been used successfully on Bribie Island (10,000 tadpoles trapped in a 24-hour period) and at Thornlands (44,000 over a season).

There is a web page and video explaining the Cane Toad Challenge that members who were absent from the presentation will find interesting – and even those who did attend will be interested to see the end of the video that was cut short by a power cut. See “An ugly menace” online (http://www.uq.edu.au/research/impact/stories/an-ugly-menace/).


Professor Capon has donated to the Cane Toad Challenge, the travel money provided to him by the Field Nats.
(Report by Deb Ford)

Friday, March 31, 2017

Outing Report: March 2017: Wyreema Wetlands

Our morning at Wyreema was an excellent follow-up to Mick Atzeni’s talk of Friday night. The whole project was much easier to conceptualise when we could see the true scale of it, and get a feel for the lie of the land.
John Mills from Toowoomba Regional Council was kind enough to come and explain to us the ins and outs of sewage treatment generally, and what the changes in Toowoomba’s sewage management mean for the Wyree-ma wetland. It was particularly interesting to have him explain just why it was a good idea to pipe sewage all the way to Wetalla. Apparently Toowoomba previously had a poor record of letting too much nitrogen and phosphorus flow into the Murray-Darling river system, and was a major contributor to the serious problem of blue-green algae. Major changes to Wetalla’s processing method mean that we can now be proud of the clean water that we send down the river. John also brought up the subject of increased “hard-pan” – the increasing area of land under hard surfaces, such as buildings, roads, and driveways – which results in increased stormwater run-off. This will affect the wetlands site.
The Wyreema plant still has a function. It receives the sewage from Wyreema and Cambooya, and sends it on to Wetalla, so a small corner of the site will continue to be involved in this. TRC’s decision is still to be made as to what can be done with the remaining area, which consists of a large area of open land, the old sewage ponds, and the dam which now collects Wyreema’s stormwater run-off.  The stormwater dam will continue to attract birds, but it is still to be decided to what extent TRC might feel able to support the restoration of the area to the high-quality wetland it was, when the sewage treatment ponds were in use.
These shallower ponds provided excellent shallow-water feeding-ground for wading birds. We could also see that unlike the steeper-sided stormwater dam, they provided an excellent habitat for rushes and sedges, which in turn provided nesting sites and shelter for birds.
Members discussed several issues with John, including the TRC’s perceived need to remove sludge from the ponds as part of the process of restoring the land to an acceptable state. John pointed out that sewage works are subject to requirements in this regard, similar to those for mines.
Members queried the necessity of this, considering that birds had been using the habitat, without apparent harm, for 20 years. They also suggested that increasing the pond area, and therefore the seepage area, could be a way of contributing a local solution to the problem of reduced groundwater recharge because of rapidly increasing hard-surfacing of the land. As the increasing local difficulty of accessing bore water demonstrates, it may be that sending all that potential recharge water away downstream is not the happiest solution. Meanwhile, the birds would benefit from the resultant wetlands. Thank you to both John and Mick, for a morning which was both enjoyable, and left us feeling much better-informed about the Wyreema Wetlands issues.
Visiting by Yourself
It is possible to look at the wetland’s birds from outside the fence at any time. This only gives a view of one of the ex-sewage ponds, but because it is shallow, it is the best one for wading birds. The deeper stormwater dam can only be seen from inside the fence, but you can ONLY enter the precinct if you follow certain Toowoomba Regional Council requirements. If you would like to do it, would you please contact Mick Atzeni first to find out about them? It would be helpful to the success of the project, if you could let Mick know of any birds you see there. His email address is: tiddalac@gmail.com
(Report by Patricia Gardner)

Birds, Frogs and Dragonflies List compiled by Al Young

Yellow rumped Thornbill (or 'butter bum')
having a bath at Wreema (photo: Al Young)
Birds – Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal, Straw-necked Ibis, White-faced Heron, Black-shouldered Kite, White-headed (Black-winged) Stilt (1),  Masked Lapwing, Black-fronted Dotterel (8), Rock Dove (Feral Pigeon), Crested Pigeon, Nankeen Kestrel, Brown Falcon (Hodgson Cr), Cockatiel, Red-rumped Parrot, Pale-headed Rosella, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike (Hodgson Cr), Willie Wagtail, Magpie-lark, Torresian Crow, Golden-headed Cisticola, Zebra Finch and Australian Pipit. (Taxonomy follows the International Ornithological Congress, 6.3, 2016)


Frogs: Two species of frogs were heard calling in a patch of rushes in Hodgson Creek. They were Spotted Grass Frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) and Striped Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes peroni). The call of the Spotted Marsh Frog is like a short machine gun burst –‘Burrup Burrup’, whereas the Striped Marsh Frog makes a soft ‘toc-toc’ call.

Dragonflies along Hodgson Creek, Cambooya:
There was a considerable amount of dragonfly activity, mostly associated with ‘begetting’, near the remaining pools of water in Hodgson Creek. Males were actively patrolling their territories with some males and females flying in tandem thus allowing the females to deposit eggs into the water. I managed to identify four different species of dragonflies with a further two or three species of medium-sized dragonflies unidentified because they didn’t perch to allow a photo to be taken. Interestingly there were no damselflies present.
Australian Emperor (Hemianax papuensis)
Male and female flying in tandem
Blue Skimmer (Orthetrum caledonicum)


Scarlet Percher (Diplacodes haematodes)
No dark markings on a scarlet
abdomen
Wandering (Common) Percher
(Diplacodes bipunctata). Note: dark
markings on a reddish orange abdomen

(Photos by Al Young)

THE GRASSLAND AT WYREEMA WETLAND
(Article and photo by Patricia Gardner)

At our March meeting, Rod Hobson and Bruce Lawrie told us that the vegetation around the ponds might include some good quality Queensland Bluegrass grassland, a Regional Ecosystem type (11.8.11), which is classified as “of concern”. Because of the dry weather, they found it difficult to be sure when they visited, a few weeks ago. They remarked on the importance of grasslands as ecosystems and the tendency for them to be undervalued in comparison with treed ecosystems. They expressed the hope that if further investigation showed the Wyreema wetland to have value as a grassland, any planting of trees would be carefully restricted to prevent damaging it.
On our outing, we found it similarly difficult to get a good idea of the full range of plants there, though because of the recent rain it was looking a little healthier than when Rod and Bruce saw it. Given that many of our local grassland plants either die back to their perennial underground roots in dry times, or have seed that won’t germ-inate until good rain comes, there are likely to be more species there than we saw.
Blushing bindweed (Convolvulus erubescens
There was certainly plenty of Queensland bluegrass Dichanthium sericeum there. Other grasses included Yabila grass (star grass) Panicum queenslandicum. There were very few native trees, but we saw Mountain coolibah, Eucalyptus orgadophila and Sally Wattle, Acacia salicina. These species, and their very sparse distribution, are both typical of R.E. 11.8.11.

Healthy grasslands always contain a good population of
wildflowers. We saw blushing bindweed Convolvulus  erubescens; sensitive plant Neptunia gracilis; plover Daisy Leiocarpa brevicompta; tah vine Boerhavia dominii; yellowtop daisy Senecio pinnatifolius (AKA Senecio lautus) and maloga bean Vigna vexillata (the little yellow pea). We also saw a good scattering of Austral cornflower Rhaponticum australe (AKA Stemmacantha australe), the vulnerable plant mentioned by Mick on Friday night. These little grassland forbs are all good butterfly host plants.





Speaker's Report - March Meeting: Wyreema Wetlands

Pink-eared Duck, Black-tailed Water Hen and the Golden Goose

Last year it came to our notice that there is a bird habitat in ‘our backyard’. At the March meeting of the Club Michael Atzeni spoke on the ‘Wyreema Wetlands’ and entitled his talk ‘Saving the Council’s golden goose’.
The ‘Wyreema Wetlands’ has been known for the past 20 years as the sewage treatment area for Wyreema and     Cambooya. With the amalgamation of the shires, this sewage treatment area is to be decommissioned and all waste directed, eventually, to Wetalla. Decommissioning, by law, requires the Toowoomba Regional Council (TRC) to return the area to what it was before it became a sewage treatment plant. That is, all possible contam-inants must be removed. This includes the sludge at the bottom of the small ponds which could contain biohazardous chemicals. It was pointed out that since the waste was coming from a small population and there are no hospitals or industries in Cambooya, pollutants could be small in number. The argument that the sludge was harmful to bird life was dismissed as birds seem to flock to sewage treatment plants, as many in the audience could testify!
The 320 acres, with its ephemeral ponds, storm-water dam, surrounding grasslands and stands of taller native vegetation, is home to 95 (and growing) species of birds of which 30 are rare and five are ‘firsts’ for the Toowoomba region. It was the sighting of the Pink-eared Duck which first alerted Michael to the importance of this area as a potential wetlands habitat. Currently the small ponds are drying out as no water is entering them. There is water in the large primary pond which is the deepest and this is used by a very large number of ducks. Only the previous week the Eastern Rosella, Boobook Owl and Yellow-throated Miner were seen. The keen eyes of young Blade Preston have been an asset in recording the species.
The area around the ponds is predominantly grassland. The Austral Cornflower (Rhaponticum australe) is growing well there (though classed as ‘vulnerable’) and three other vulnerable species of plants have been documented. It is hoped that the vision of having a sustainable and biodiverse wetlands habitat at Wyreema will be achieved and that a wildlife sanctuary can be created as the centrepiece of a unique local recreational space.
How to achieve this? First, the area has to be secured as a wetland ecosystem. Second, a secure water supply is needed along with secure land tenure. It is hoped that the Department of Parks & Gardens of the TRC would oversee the development of this ecotourism site (similar to the TYTO wetlands near Ingham which receives some 21,000 visitors per year and generates a large income for Ingham).
Michael hopes that a management committee can be put in place, linking up the local Wyreema community, wildlife conservation groups, research institutes, the Queensland Government and local schools. (Wyreema primary school is already involved.) There is a great need for baseline data on water quality and also for wild-life surveys. At this point in time, TRC should not proceed with the filling of the ponds and the water supply needs to be increased. The area needs to be redesigned to optimise stormwater run-off, storage and minim-isation of seepage. Michael has presented his case for the establishment of the ‘Wyreema Wetlands’ to the TRC and has received some support from some Council members. There is still a long journey ahead.

Visit wyreemawetands.blogspot.com.au for some wonderful photos of the flying visitors to the Wetlands.
(Report by Linda Mangubhai)