Tuesday, November 7, 2017

Calothamnus quadrifidus - article and photos by Barbara Weller

Calothamnus quadrifidus, commonly known as one-sided bottlebrush is a plant in the Myrtle Family, which is endemic to the south-west of Western Australia. The common name alludes to the arrangement of the flowers in the inflorescence which line up on one side of the stem. It is a shrub with grey-green, pine-like foliage covered with soft hairs and red flowers in spring. This bush is growing in my garden and was planted about three years ago. This is the first time it has flowered.

OUTING REPORT – Lake Broadwater Conservation Park (October, 2017)

Lake Broadwater Conservation Park near Dalby on the Darling Downs is one of my favourite natural history venues in south-east Queensland so, when I was asked if I’d lead an outing there for the TFN some months ago, I was more than happy to accept. This all culminated on Sunday 08th October when a small but enthusiastic party of members and friends met at the main camping grounds at 9.30am for a great day in pleasant company delving into the private lives of the denizens of this wonderful ephemeral wetland; a jewel in the crown of the Southern Brigalow Belt bioregion.  
Ephemeral it might be but at present the lake is brimming full attracting the nemesis of birdwatchers particularly and the contemplative soul generally, the power boater and water skier. After we rallied at the camping site we beat a hasty retreat to the bird hide out of range of this high-octane lunacy where many of the waterfowl had preceded us and probably for much the same reason. Sitting in and wandering around the bird hide produced some great species with and without a spinal cord depending on the proclivities of the questers involved. Everything from a snowy squadron of Gull-billed Terns to a bank of flowering sundews, from pie dish beetles to an old man Forester (Eastern Grey Kangaroo), all was gist for the mill.
Here we got a very impressive bird list, as well as other interesting fauna and flora before heading to the old, now derelict, natural history museum building for smoko where we were treated to a fossil display by Troy and Skye Cox. Troy and Skye are a young and very enthusiastic couple deeply interested and knowledgeable in palaeontology especially that of the Dalby area where they are now resident. Fossil crabs, remains of extinct giant marsupials, ancient crocodilian scutes, jaw bones and teeth all gathered around Queensland provided a fascinating adjunct to smoko and we must sincerely thank them both for making time to attend the day’s outing. Also present today were Dalby residents Malcolm and Marjorie Wilson long time stalwarts of the recently disbanded Lake Broadwater Natural History Association. They are both a wealth of knowledge about the history natural and cultural of the area and it was great to have them along for the day. Malcolm, among his many areas of expertise, is also a keen fossil hunter and somewhat of a mentor to Troy so things palaeontological seem like continuing around Dalby for a good while yet.
Between smoko and a belated lunch Malcolm took us on a conducted tour of the bulloak/cypress country south of the lake but the day had turned hot and we didn’t tarry to long here before heading for the Wilga Bush Camping Area for more food! We had this entire area to ourselves and, after a leisurely lunch, we ambled off down to the lake’s edge recording all sorts of stuff en route including rosella-like plant galls, a magnificent flowering Black Orchid Cymbidium canaliculatum; two species of monitors and some very nice waterfowl.

By the time that we’d finished this walk shadows were lengthening so everyone departed to their various destinations including as far as Brisbane. I’m sure the travel was worth it though. 
Species recorded; Lake Broadwater Conservation Park; 08 October 2017
The centipede Ethmostigmus rubripes (Photo:Glenda Walter)
Birds:Black Swan, Australian Wood Duck, Pink-eared Duck, Grey Teal, Pacific Black Duck, Australasian Grebe, Crested Pigeon, Peaceful Dove, Australasian Darter, Little Pied Cormorant, Australian Pelican, Eastern Great Egret, White-faced Heron, Whistling Kite, Australian Hobby, Purple Swamphen, Eurasian Coot, Black-winged Stilt, Black-fronted Dotterel, Masked Lapwing, Gull-billed Tern, Whiskered Tern, Galah, Little Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Pale-headed Rosella, Laughing Kookaburra, Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Superb Fairy-wren, White-throated Gerygone, Striated Pardalote, White-eared Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Little Friarbird, Striped Honeyeater, Grey-crowned Babbler, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, White-winged Triller, Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Australasian Figbird, Olive-backed Oriole, White-breasted Woodswallow, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Willie Wagtail, Torresian Crow, Magpie-lark, White-winged Chough, Apostlebird, Australian Reed-Warbler, Welcome Swallow, Tree Martin, Mistle-toebird. Mammals: Common Brushtail Possum (skull only), Eastern Grey Kan-garoo, European Brown Hare Reptiles: Dubious Dtella Gehyra dubia, Sand (Gould’s) Monitor Varanus gouldii, Lace Monitor Varanus varius Dragonflies: Wandering Percher Diplacodes bipunctata, Tau Emerald Hemicordulia tau, Blue Skimmer Orthetrum caledonicum, Wandering Glider Pantala flavescens.

Butterflies: Caper White Belenois java, Meadow Argus Junonia villida, Common Grass Blue Zizina otis Other: Little Basket Clam Corbicula australis, a centipede Ethmostigmus rubripes, Large Brown Mantis Archimantis latistyla (egg-case only), a scale insect (gall) Cylindrococcus spiniferus, Black Orchid Cymbidium canaliculatum (flowering), a sundew Drosera serpens (flowering).

(Report by Rod Hobson)

TFNC Members Talk - October, 2017 Meeting

New member Natasha Preston showed photographs taken by Laurie Perks, of tree kangaroos on her relative’s property in North Queensland, and spoke about their characteristics and habits which in some cases are quite different from those of ground-dwelling kangaroos. Blade Preston, who is also one of our new members then showed images of birds he had taken in the Bunya Mountains area, including the Brown Falcon, Golden Whistler, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo, Pink-eared Duck, and many others. It’s great to see a young person so enthusiastic and keen to learn about natural history and share his knowledge with us. Some of us missed being involved with Neil McKilligan’s egret-counting venture some years ago, but we were pleased to see Neil’s images of some of the 14-heron species found in Australia. Some but not all, are found in the Toowoomba area, and Neil spoke briefly about each. Rod Hobson did not come prepared to speak at this meeting, but kindly filled in for member Jane Orme who was unable to be present. Rod had brought the jaws of a tiger shark and some fossil shark’s teeth for “show and tell”, and spoke about the enormous extinct shark, Carcharocles megaladon, which lived from 23 to 2.6 million years ago, growing to 15 metres long. Rod’s article about this giant creature also appears in this newsletter. Thank you to Natasha, Blade, Neil and Rod – your presentations were enjoyed by all.
(Glenda Walter)

Tree Kangaroos  (Natasha Preston)

The tree kangaroos found in Far North Queensland are called the Lumholtz tree kangaroo. They weigh up to 14-20 kilograms, and are about 75 centimetres long with their tail about 85 centimetres. Their face is quite black with their fur many shades of brown. Their babies are called joeys and grow inside a pouch. They live for about 20 years, due to not having many predators. They eat Bollywood leaves, fruit, berries, lantana, Black bean leaves and even bark. They are a master of disguise, you may be looking at them and they simply tuck their head down and fade into the flora. An interesting fact is they don't hop on land; they walk. They are very agile in a tree, jumping up to eight metres from tree to tree. On land, they are extremely clumsy and awkward. Ten percent of their day is spent eating, cleaning themselves and socializing, the rest of their time is sleeping. They are extremely fascinating creatures with strong forelimbs, shorter legs for climbing. Their rubbery wide feet are equipped with rubbery soles and their tail is used as an anchor for balance when they are up very high in the trees. I encourage everyone to go and discover this amazing animal for yourself.

Herons of Australia  (Neil McKilligan)

There are in excess of 60 species of heron worldwide of which Australia has 14 resident species plus occasional visitors from the islands of the tropical north. Our herons are differentiated in three groups.
·         The Night Heron - Nankeen Night Heron (one species),
·         Bitterns (three) - Australian, Black, and Little,
·       Day Herons (10) - Pied Heron, Great Billed Heron, Pacific Heron, White-faced Heron, Striated Heron, and the Great, Intermediate, Reef, Little, and Cattle egrets. They all have a pectinate (comb-like) middle toe and powder down feathers. Both being used to keep their feathers clean. Egrets are simply white herons. Reef egrets come in black and white morphs.
They show a large degree of habitat specificity and species-characteristic choice of feeding methods. Most feed in water or swampy areas, the Cattle Egret being a notable exception frequently following large ungulates on dry pasture land. The Great Egret is a stand and wait predator up to its belly feathers, the Intermediate searches reedy and weedy situations, and the Little actively pursues its prey in shallow open water.
I spent 20 years studying the Cattle Egret at its nesting sites in the Lockyer Valley. Nest counts yielded over 4000 in a good year and were only achieved with the help of TFNC members and other volunteers. These hardy souls seemed not to mind the knee-deep mud and aerial bombardment from chicks scrambling among nests overhead. All in all our herons are a very beautiful and interesting group of birds.
Carcharocles megaladon  (Rod Hobson, 10.10.17)

About a fortnight ago I was cleaning up a desk in our spare room after tolerance from the distaff side of my marriage had finally reached breaking point - “What do you need a dead stone fish for, anyhow.” That sort of thing. Anyway, during the subsequent flurry of activity I came upon a box of fossils that had been left to me by a close friend, the late Jeanette Covacevich. Jeanette spent her working career with the Queensland Museum eventually attaining the level of Senior Curator of Vertebrates specialising in herpetology. She was made a Member of the Order of Australia for her contribution to conservation and Science, particularly herpetology.

Great White Shark, North Neptune Island,
South Australia September 2010:
Photo credit Marcel Steinmeier
Aside from our shared passion for reptiles we both had an equal passion for faraway places especially islands and she had spent time on such oceanic outposts as St. Helena and Pitcairn. We both shared a great love for the isolated Chatham Islands. These islands lie in the middle of the Pacific about 660 kilometres off the South Island of New Zealand under which they are administered politically.

During a stay on the Chathams in February 2006, Jeanette visited the famous fossil fossicking site at Te Whanga Lagoon on the main island. Here, near the mouth of Blind Jims Creek she found the remains of a very large shark tooth plus several other smallersharks’ teeth. It was this tooth that I eventually inherited and that found its way to the TFNC’s October show and tell. The tooth belonged to the extinct sea monster Carchar-ocles megaladon commonly known by its specific epithet Megaladon (lit. large tooth). Years ago, while I was touring around California, I also bought the tooth of one of these fishes at a lapidary shop so I brought it along on the night, as well. This curio is a perfect example of this shark’s tooth albeit from a much smaller animal than the Chatham tooth. If I remember correctly the provenance of my Californian tooth was a Wyoming fossil bed?

Megaladon is the largest predatory shark that has ever lived. It had evolved by the start of the Miocene, about 23 million years ago. It is believed to have existed until about 2.6 million years ago. Early estimates of this species’ length have been grossly over-estimated but it is thought to have reached 15 metres, which is more than twice the length of the largest Great White Shark Carcharadon carcharias ever recorded. Megaladon was originally believed to be the ancestor of the Great White and was formerly placed in the same genus, however more recent work suggests that Megaladon actually belonged to its own extinct family of lamid sharks. Despite the similarity in tooth structure between the Great White and Megaladon the Great White is now thought to have evolved from an extinct Mako Isurus hastalis found worldwide in Miocene and Pleiocene deposits. This shark, by developing serrations on its teeth became the ancestor of the present-day Great White Shark. The teeth of Megaladon could reach up to 18 cm high whereas those of the Great White are only about a third of this size. This really enforces what a formidable predator Megaladon was. Speculation as to the extinction of Mega-ladon focuses on the cooling of the seas in the late Pleiocene about 2.6 million years ago. Megaladon is believed to have fed on marine mammals especially the great whales. Fossil baleen whales have been found in Antarctica recently and it is thought that they began colonising these waters around the end of the late Pleio-cene. It is not known if these whales shifted to these waters to escape predators or for feeding but irrespective it is believed that the cold-blooded predators such as Megaladon were unable to cope with these changed climatic conditions, unlike their blubber-encased prey, and subsequently died out.
My other exhibit on the night was a set of Tiger Shark Galeocerdo cuvier jaws taken at Waddy Point on K’gari (Fraser Island) in the mid 1990s. The Tiger Shark is common in these waters especially when following migrating Humpback Whales Megaptera novaeangliae. It is named in honour of the great French zoologist and taxonomist Jean Leopold Nicolas Frederic Cuvier (1769-1832).

I have included some images with this article including two that show the serrate dentation of the Great White.

Shark teeth for comparison with the images of Megaladon’s teeth. They are quite similar. It can be seen why these sharks, and the Tiger Shark, are/were such awesome predators. The detail of the Great White’s teeth was taken from a beach-washed female found at Inskip Point on 27.03.2005 whilst the photo of the shark attacking the trolled lure was taken on a trip that I attended off North Neptune Islands, South Australia in September 2010, one of the great highlights of my natural history life.

Fossil teeth of Megaladon; Partial tooth from
Chatham Island (R) and entire tooth from
Wyoming fossil bed (L): Photo credit Robert Ashdown

Detail of Great White Shark teeth from specimen beach-washed,
Inskip Point 27.03.2015: Photo credit Col Lawton

Detail of Tiger Shark teeth from specimen taken Waddy Point,
Fraser Island: Photo credit Robert Ashdown

Thursday, October 12, 2017

Rosewoods and Rosewoods - by Trish Gardner

Bob Fuller remarked at the last meeting that the rosewood used in his school woodwork classes was not the same as the rosewood which grows in the Lockyer Valley. The rosewood after which the famous Rosewood Scrub is named is a wattle, Acacia fasciculifera. It is a wonderful timber, very beautiful, and (as you’d expect from a long-lived wattle species) very heavy. It is rarely used for furniture, but the pieces which exist are much-loved by their owners, and are often family heirlooms. They are almost impossible to pick up and carry, though. It’s also used for fenceposts which never wear out.

The Australian “rosewood” which is more likely to be used for furniture (and in woodwork classes) is Dysoxylum fraserianum. It grows in south-east Queensland and northern NSW rainforests. It is very common at Ravensbourne, and easy to grow in our local red soil.
Rosewood is a name that simply has popular appeal, so there are lots of trees with red timber that have been given the name. In Australia, it is also given to Acacia rhodoxylon, (another heavy timber like the Lockyer Rose-wood). We also have several “scentless rosewood” species (Synoum sp), and a “scrub rosewood” (Pseudoweinmannia). Even the introduced weed, Tipuana tipu, is sometimes called “rosewood”, though locally we know it as Racehorse Tree.
Internationally, the name is most often given to various species of Dalbergia, which go by the names of Brazilian rosewood, Honduras rosewood, Indian rosewood - or simply “rosewood”.

You may have parked your car under this rosewood tree (Dysoxylum fraserianum) at Beutel’s Lookout, Ravensbourne.

Report on September Outing to Marburg

Crow's Ash seedpods in dry rainforest
Ten Field Nats made their way to Marburg and met Bob Hampson and his wife Narelle at the park opposite the hotel by 9.00am. Bob, who is the co-ordinator of West Moreton Landcare welcomed us and began by telling us a brief history of Marburg. The area had once been highly forested, with Crow’s ash (Flindersia australis) (also known as the Australian teak) the signature tree of the region, but extensive logging over the years has reduced the forest to remnants. One of the effects of extensive logging has been that the water table rose and with it the water became more saline, so that the water table, which is only about a metre deep in places, has made the Black Snake Creek quite salty. We also learned that at one stage there was a sugar mill in town, with an adjacent refinery as well as a rum factory, producing 1200-1500 gallons of rum annually. During the time of the American Civil War, cotton was planted in Marburg, and the first Kanakas employed in Australia were at Marburg. The cotton experiment did not last.

After the short introduction to Marburg, we were taken for a walk around the relatively new walking pathway near the Creek and the attempts to rehabilitate the Creek with native plantings. The round trip brought us back to the Park and the end of the first part of our program. Awaiting us at the Park was Fiona McAdam, a former social worker, a lawyer, an adoptee of the Yolgnu people in north-east Arnhem Land, now resident of Marburg. Fiona was recently bitten by an Eastern Brown Snake and survived to tell the tale. One of the larger remnants of the dry rainforest or vine scrub, as it is frequently known, is on Fiona’s property.

When we arrived at the scrub, some members elected not to walk down a slope and went with Fiona, while those that overcame the first hurdle of a fence, went through the remnant forest with Bob and Narelle Hampson. They pointed out a number of trees and vines and spoke about them, and they were very ably aided by our soon-to-be member, Colin Walpole. What is recorded is a reflection of the paucity of knowledge of the writer and not of our hosts.

Some of the specimens found in the forest/scrub: Crow’s Apple (Owenia venosa), Scrub Whitewood (Atalaya salicifolia), Native Holly (Alchornea ilicifolia), Red Kamala (Mallotus philippensis), Small-leaved Fig (Ficus obliqua), Celery Wood (Polyscias elegans), Rough-leaved Elm (Aphananthe philippensis), Foambark (Jagera pseudorhus), Red Olive-Plum (Elaeodendron australe).

Jagera pseudorhus with its fruit and seeds

Red Olive Plum (Elaeodendron australe)

Bird List: covers areas visited including Marburg, Black Snake Creek, Fiona McAdam’s Property, Emu Farm.
(compiled by Tricia Allen from Members’ sightings)

Australian Wood Duck, Little Black Cormorant, Pacific Black Duck, Straw-necked Ibis, Australian White Ibis, Brown Falcon, Purple Swamp Hen, Masked Lapwing, Crested Pigeon, Spotted Turtle Dove, Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, Galah, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Fantail Cuckoo (H), Laughing Kookaburra, Rainbow Bee-eater, Superb Fairy Wren, White-browed Scrubwren, Noisy Miner, Brown Honeyeater, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Eastern Yellow Robin, Grey-crowned Babbler, Eastern Whipbird, Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike Thrush, Rufous Fantail, Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Figbird, Pied Butcherbird, Torresian Crow, Sparrow, Welcome Swallow, Australian Reed Warbler. 
(Report and photos by Francis Mangubhai)

“Try It” Emu Farm 
Emu chick - photo by Jean Gundry
We all have passed this farm many times and taken a sideways glance at the emus in the field. Sunday’s outing was a good opportunity to find out how this Australian icon is being used to improve our health. An emu in the wild can expect a life span of about 70 years. At “Try It” Emu farm chicks are raised from eggs and the emu oil and meat is harvested after two years. Eggs are incubated for about 50 days and during this period the eggs are turned, as a father emu would do in the wild. We tapped and listened to the eggs to hear the chirp of the chick, almost ready to peck its way out of its shell. Seven hundred chicks were born at the farm this year though the expected rate of chick production is 50% as many eggs will be infertile.

At two years of age, breeding begins and come February of that year, the emus are at their prime for fat (oil) and are bound for the abattoir. Sixteen kilograms of fat are harvested very easily as the fat melts at 35°C and the very lean prime cuts of meat (1-1½ kg per bird) head to the restaurants. The rest of the meat, as well as the bones, goes to the pet food industry. Bone marrow and the cartilage are added to the oil. The skin, however, is usually damaged from the emus’ fighting and not a source of leather but it is used as a source of gelatine. The only waste is the lower legs. Emu oil has been proved to be 30 times more powerful that other oils as it is high in Omega 9, 3, 6, 5 and 7. “Try It” emu oil is tested so that it is safe for use over a three-year period. It is recommended for arthritis, tennis elbow and repetitive stress injuries. Ingesting emu oil is said to be good for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and for Type 2 diabetes. Some of us were interested in the ‘Hoof Cream’ on sale in the shop! Stephen Schmidt, the owner of the emu farm, is the living proof of the efficacy of emu oil. It might be worth a try if you suffer from any of the above problems. 
(Report by Linda Mangubhai)

Fiona McAdam’s Property

Those of us who decided to join Fiona’s group were able to experience one of Fiona’s favourite locations on her property. We visited an abandoned home belonging to former owners who built it at least 100 years ago. With no power or running water their life must have been quite basic by today’s standards. The home was built on the side of a gully which traverses the property. Several dams are now built along the gully and one can imagine the plentiful supply of water which would replenish these dams after rain. Fiona took us along the well treed gully to a very protected area where we were able to walk along the valley floor. The birds were in fine voice amongst the wattles, alphitonias, eucalypts etc. As we enjoyed a lovely morning tea provided by Fiona she showed us photos of the weed management projects she has been undertaking - waging war on Cats Claw in particular. We really appreciated this opportunity to share and understand Fiona’s passion for caring for her special part of the world. Before joining the rest of the group for lunch we returned to the top of the hill to see an extensive stone wall constructed with basalt rocks. For the first German settlers, the wall was a pragmatic solution to several challenges - rocky ground and the need to restrain animals- and the fact that the wall has stood the test of time is a tribute to their skill.

Stone Wall
(Report and photo by Jean Gundry)

Friday, September 1, 2017

September Club Outing: Two Properties in Kingsthorpe Area

[This outing was combined with the Toowoomba Photographic Society.]

This excursion evolved over the past one year when Gerry Saide and I thought it a good idea for our two clubs to have a combined outing – for the Nats to look at a subject through the eyes of a good photographer, and for the Photographers to borrow from our naturalist eyes. Twenty-three members and two visitors, plus 12 photographers, enjoyed a day out together. At least three of our members were also members of the Photographic Society. We assembled at “Coronet Street” to carpool and I gave directions to Laws’ place, only to have most of them arrive there before I did.
White-winged Fairy-wren (Photo: Blade Preston)
Glen and Nicki Laws own a Vet Practice in Oakey and Westbrook and run a Wagyu breeding program on their property three kilometres north of Kingsthorpe, where they have lived for about 10 years. We had the benefit of their garden and the back corner of the farm where the White-winged Fairy-wren was present for the first group to see – though perhaps only Blade Preston captured an image of it. Nicki and Glen put on a billy tea and damper for us at about 11.30am, which is when most of us caught up with the large koala perched conveniently in an old mountain coolabah near their deck. Nicki had not seen any koalas on her early morning walk, so she assumes that it made its way there at about 8.00am – just for our benefit! Much appreciated.
Koala in E.orgadophila (Photo: Blade Preston)

We made our way to Goombungee’s Pioneers’ Arms Hotel for our 1.00pm date with lunch and I’m pleased that all went well. Thirty-six in total dined, including Nicki and Evan.
Our afternoon venue was at Russell and Evan Ehrlich’s farm, about four kilometres north of Laws’ place. It has been in the family for three generations (about 90 years) and ceased to be a dairy farm only one month ago. They are moving into Angus beef production, and we saw some of these on their Cooby Creek block later in the afternoon. Our first walk took us along a Landcare windbreak/corridor with a variety of endemic species. At this early afternoon hour, it was not a good time for birdwatching. The dead trees where we were parked had been ring-barked long ago by Evan’s grandad. These provided good atmosphere for the photographers who went into overdrive, also a fine opportunity for us when some birds landed (tree martins and an Australian Kes trel) against an afternoon sky backdrop.
We moved to Ehrlich’s Cooby Creek block, next to the Boodua Reserve. Currently, there are only shrinking waterholes in the prevailing dry, but I’ll urge you all to make a trip there some time after good general rain when the water levels are well up. Then you’ll need care as you drive in on the black soil road!
Our sincere thanks to the two landholders who welcomed us to their inner sanctums so openly and gave so generously of their time.                                                                                                                                                                          [Report by Ben Gundry]

Bird List (complied by Natasha and Blade Preston)

Australian Raven, Galah, Zebra Finch, Kestrel, Black-shouldered Kite, Superb Fairy-wren, White-winged Fairy-wren, Variegated Fairy-wren, Rainbow Lorikeet, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, White-faced Heron, Straw-necked Ibis, Red-rumped Parrot, Australian Magpie, Yellow Thornbill, Welcome Swallow, Tree Martin, Striped Honeyeater, Brown Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Magpie Lark, Little Friarbird, Fairy Martin, Australian Pipit, Rufous Songlark, Rock Dove, Pale-headed Rosella, King Parrot, Cattle Egret, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Grey-crowned Babbler, Crested Pigeon, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Apostlebird, Striated Pardalote, Laughing Kookaburra, Indian Mynah, Pied Currawong.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

August Outings Report: Lowood and Jensen's Swamp

Nine-fifteen on Sunday morning saw a good group of fourteen Naturalists assemble outside Peter Bevan’s Hobby Nursery in Patrick Street, Lowood. We walked a short distance up the road and onto the old rail corridor. The Brisbane Valley railway established a branch line terminus at Lowood in 1884 to bring in supplies for the scattered farms and transport their produce to the Brisbane markets, also take timber out. Before that time the area was known as ‘The Scrub’ and the new name stemmed from the ‘low woods’ of Brigalow which differed from the taller trees elsewhere in the Brisbane Valley. A town soon grew up beside the terminus. The line serviced the area for over a century, with the last rail motor using it in 1989, then it was closed.
The rails were taken up and the corridor has become the Brisbane Valley Rail Trail for use by walkers, cyclists and horse riders. When completed the 161 kilometre way will go all the way from Wulkuraka to Yarraman.
Peter Bevan, with the help of some friends, has been responsible for the revegetation and enhancement of the Lowood section of the disused rail corridor, and what a magnificent job he has done. Except perhaps for Myall Park, I do not believe I have seen so many different native plants in one area – approximately half a kilometre stretch of healthy trees, bushes and groundcovers from mature to newly planted, many of them flowering in winter. After years of hard work, and Peter’s obviously wonderful green thumbs, the success of the project has brought assistance from the Somerset Regional Council and others, and planting areas will extend into the town.

We were not the only ones enjoying the sunshine; there were a number of hikers and cyclists making use of the trail. The area is a haven for birds and other wildlife. Some of the birds are so used to humans they have become exceptionally cheeky and a Scaly-breasted Lorikeet was rather difficult to photograph when sitting on my head or the camera! Most of us bought plants from Pete’s Nursery, a treasure-trove of native species. 

Acacia concurrens trees on the trail - Lowood

Sysygium corniflorum in Pete's garden

Bird's Nest fungi Cyathus stercoreus growing in the mulch around new plantings on the trail

(Above photos by Jim Ball)
Our party proceeded to Jensen’s Swamp Environmental Reserve, a 20 hectare (approximately) area nicely set up with picnic facilities and walking tracks. This is another example of a small number of volunteers putting in a huge effort to look after and enhance an area of importance for local flora and fauna. Pauline von Ruetzen and her husband Norbert met us for lunch and gave us a guided walk along some of the many trails.
Lunchtime provided an unexpected bonus. A group of aboriginal men and a couple of friends from the Ipswich district were having a day get-together and had been looking for a suitable piece of wood to make a new didgeridoo. One of the young men gave us an impromptu performance on a didgeridoo he had with him and was a most accomplished player. We spent some time in conversation with them.
Hibiscus insularis (photo: Jean Gundry)
Alas no koala sightings but we were intrigued with a large, unusual hibiscus with very attractive flowers which we were unable to identify at the time. This turned out to be the Phillip Island hibiscus, Hibiscus insularis. It is endemic to Phillip Island located south of Norfolk Island, where each of the two original clumps consist of multiple stems of a single genotype and do not produce seedlings in the wild. It is usually propagated by cuttings and is listed as critically endangered in its natural habitat.

(Report by Diana Ball)

Bird list for Lowood and Jensen’s swamp and further report (by Ben Gundry)

Combined for both venues:
Darter, Pied cormorant, Pacific Black Duck, Wood duck, Grey Teal, Dusky Moorhen, Purple Swamphen, Intermediate Egret, Straw-necked Ibis, Masked Lapwing, Galah, Rainbow Lorikeet, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Crested Pigeon, Pheasant Coucal, Kookaburra, Superb Fairy-wren, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Striated Pardalote (heard), Little Friarbird, Noisy Miner, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Brown Honeyeater, Striped Honeyeater, Figbird, Pied Butcherbird, Grey Butcherbird, Magpie, Torresian Crow, Welcome Swallow.
A raptor may have been a Black Kite. My mystery bird at Jensen’s Swamp was perhaps a female Rufous Whistler (seen, but not heard). Also, feral Rock Pigeons.
En route to/from Lowood: Sacred (white) Ibis, White-headed Pigeon, Plumed Whistling Duck (perhaps a thousand, beside a farm dam at Brightview), Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Magpie Lark, Red-tailed Black Cockatoo.
While having lunch at Jensen’s Swamp, we were joined by about 12 Aboriginal men whose backgrounds were from all over Queensland, and who were gathering termite-hollowed eucalyptus branches, from Crown Land, which would be suitable for didgeridoo-making. We were entertained by their impromptu didgeridoo performances and by the humour of their easy confraternity on such an occasion. With our attention diverted, we did not realize that our eats had been raided by an opportunistic butcherbird.
The surprise birds of the day were a pair of Eclectus Parrots. Trish, who lives in one of the Nursery houses and who works in the Nursery and on Pete’s Rail Revegetation Project, feeds the lorikeets and owns the two Eclectus Parrots. Dexter (the male, of course) is two years old and is captive-bred. Precious (the female) was found after a flood, so must have been a captive bird. She laid last year and is occupying the nest again just now – however, Dexter may not yet be mature enough for eggs to be fertilized. Trish has made the observation that Dexter “enjoys the wing”. (i.e. he sits at times with one wing between his legs – a substitute mating procedure.)
Males are a bright lime-green, with bright red wing coverts and sides of the body, and an orange bill. Females are much more vivid – chiefly bright red with a broad body band of purplish-blue, and a black bill. Females do not reach reproductive maturity until about five years of age.

When breeding, the female is secluded for the duration in the nest hollow, with the male delivering food (fruits, nuts, pizzas, etc.). Her vivid colours would otherwise attract predators to the nest site. As a large parrot, bigger than a galah, they would live to a considerable age – probably several decades.

The other noteworthy sighting was a pink flamingo, seen in the front garden of a house opposite the nursery. This sighting was verified by some members who have far more experience of Africa than I do.

Little Friarbird (photo: Jim Ball)