Sunday, June 7, 2020

THE PRE-EUROPEAN VEGETATION OF TOOWOOMBA -- Submitted by John Swarbrick


[Trish Gardner has researched and considered this topic for many years and has made useful contributions to this section, as have Peter Cullen, Maurice French and Ed Willey]
The pre-European vegetation of what is now the urban area of Toowoomba would have been an expression of the topography, rainfall distribution and soil moisture levels across the area and the vegetation’s management by the indigenous community.
Toowoomba lies in a shallow basin whose eastern edge is the steeply downward-falling scarp of the Great Dividing Range at an elevation of about seven hundred metres. The basin is about five kilometers across and a hundred metres deep, is bounded to the north, west and south by low hills, and drains to the northwest.
The soil type is predominantly a red lateritic clay, with brown stony basaltic soils along the hill tops and ridges around the city and alluvial soils along the creek lines.
The prevailing winds for much of the year are moist easterlies which rise up the escarpment and drop rain along the eastern edge of the basin. The rainfall decreases significantly from east to west across the city whilst the rate of evaporation rises, so that the city becomes progressively drier towards its western edge. During the winter strong dry southwesterly winds blow intermittently, but there is usually little rain from that direction.
The southern half of the basin is drained by East and West Creeks, both of which rise close to the inland side of the escarpment and flow northwards on either side of a middle ridge, joining in the city center to form Gowrie Creek which runs northwestwards and drains into the Condamine River. The creeks are shallow and run fairly permanently, and before European settlement and drainage extended on both sides to form swamps.
The area was settled by indigenous people long ago, who would have lived as best they could from the naturally occurring plant and animal life of the district. They would have managed the flora and fauna to the limit of their technology to provide as much food and other resources as possible, but we do not now know how, where or for what ends this was done. The type and level of management would have varied across the area to make the best use of the natural resources.
The interactions of topography, soil type, rainfall distribution, soil moisture levels and human management would have created a mosaic of vegetation types with intergrading and shifting boundaries, and the resulting vegetation across the Toowoomba basin would most likely have been a patchy and shifting transition from dry rainforest through softwood and vine scrub to sclerophyll forest.
By the mid twentieth century only one small area of dry rainforest and scrub still remained to the west of the escarpment, in the Boyce Rainforest. It has been well maintained as such and contains some typically rainforest species such as giant stinging trees (Dendrocnide excelsa). Before recent developments on Prince Henry Drive there was a shining-leaved stinging tree (Dendrocnide photinophylla) near the exit gate from the one-way section of the Drive, and two small remnant groups of Watkin’s figs (Ficus watkinsiana) still exist on Mt Lofty. Prince Henry Heights was early on referred to as Yam Ridge and as Tick Hill; both native yams and scrub ticks are primarily associated with softwood and vine scrub.
Scattered remnants of this vegetation including deciduous figs (Ficus superba var. henneana) and Moreton Bay figs (Ficus macrophylla), celerywood (Polyscias elegans) and ribbonwood (Euroschinus falcatus) trees still occur across much of the city, with an isolated remnant Moreton Bay fig tree as far west as Colvin Road in Drayton. There is a probable reference to rainforest species including giant stinging trees still growing as far west as the hills north of Gowrie Junction in the nineteenth century.
The combination of red clay soil and forest with extensive shade, leaf fall and surface litter without compaction would have resulted in moister, more open and more fertile soils than we see across the city today, and there were springs along the lower slopes above the swamps. This and other factors together with the few records available suggest that softwood and vine scrubs were much more widespread across the Toowoomba basin than we can envisage today. Franke Scrub on the western side of Highfields is a remnant of this vegetation, which would have been common on moister slopes and gullies across the whole of the Toowoomba basin. Since being fenced from cattle about ten years ago both Franke Scrub and another scrubby gully north of Kingsthorpe have thickened up and are showing natural regeneration of araucarias and other softwood and vine scrub species.
Photographs from the 1870s show the area below Picnic Point was dominated by eucalypts (Eucalyptus, Cory-mbia and Angophora species), and remnant eucalypts are still common across the whole of the city both in parks and as isolated trees.
The lower part of Queens’s Park was recorded as having originally been an Aboriginal camping and gathering space and to have been kept open by fire. This area would have been on the edge of the swampy East Creek, which as late as 1872 was described as having ‘thick reeds and rushes’. The area was used in the mid nineteenth century as a European camping ground, splitters lived and worked there, and the surrounding forest was grazed by horses and bullocks. It has since been filled in and built up above flood level to form the lower oval of Queen’s Park.
The moister soils just above the swamps and creeklines would have supported ribbons of softwood and vine scrub and the swampier soils along the creeks both weeping bottlebrush (Callistemon viminalis) and black tea tree (Melaleuca bracteata). These species can still be found along the creeks in the city, although few if any would be original specimens.
European squatters and settlers arrived in the Toowoomba area in the early 1840s, driving their flocks ever northwards on the inland routes through northern New South Wales. The extensive grassy plains of the Darling Downs offered good grazing and the land was taken up quickly, and Drayton became a settlement at the top of the escarpment on the route down to Moreton Bay (now Brisbane). As the European population grew Drayton suffered from insufficient water supplies, and settlement expanded northwards into the well-watered and timbered basin that now contains Toowoomba city (initially known as the Drayton Swamp). This brought the Europeans into increasing conflict with the First Australians already established in the area. In 1851 Christopher Rolleston, the Darling Downs Commissioner for Crown Lands, reported that European settlers were deliberately destroying bunya trees in the area with the aim of ‘keeping blacks out of the neighbourhood’, although it may also have been to access their useful timber for building and furnishing their new homes. 
 Between 1845 and 1860 the need for space for housing and farming and for timber for building, furnishings and firewood led to rapid destruction of the local forests, with useful timbers such as hoop and bunya pines and red cedar being selectively logged ahead of the tougher and less useful eucalypts. Twenty people held licences to cut trees in the Drayton Swamp in 1850, fifteen of whom could cut hardwood only whilst five held general licences which would have allowed them to cut rainforest species as well. One of these licensees employed nineteen men.
Experience by the Friends of the Escarpment Park has shown that softwood species such as bunya pines and Wonga vine (Pandorea pandorana) regrow readily in bushland parks when broadleaved privet and lantana are removed, provided at least a few remnant plants remain, and it is likely that across the Toowoomba basin much of the vegetation would have been patchy softwood and vine scrub in pre-European times.

Freneau Pines Park - Article and photos by Lauren Marlatt

This is a unique and to my mind wonderful park that I suspect has not been visited much or at all by most of our members. The entrance is in Hursley Road directly opposite the main entrance to the horse racecourse. Everything in this park is TALL and decades old.



The glorious and uplifting entrance into Freneau Pines Park featuring an avenue of statuesque Norfolk Island pines (Araucaria heterophylla), decades old and showing signs of suffering from uncertain weather

One of several Hoop Pines (Araucaria cunninghamii

The base of a Bunya tree (Araucaria bid-willii) which is suckering with several stems around its base, atypical growth I would think...weedcutter effect?

Melaleuca quinquinervia stands beside
the road just at the entrance to the park

A singular tall stately Eucalyptus grandis is a major park feature

Bunya Pine (Araucaria bidwillii) amidst several Cook Pines (Araucaria columnaris)




Saturday, May 9, 2020

BIRD SIGHTING ANECDOTES (while in relative lockdown) – 07 April, 2020 - by Ben Gundry


In early April I became aware of a nearby clamouring to be fed. Upon investigating (any excuse to stop work) I found a female Superb Fairy-wren feeding a fledged chick that was two to three times her size. Jean took a photo and we concluded that it was a Horsefields Bronze Cuckoo chick – one of our more commonly observed cuckoos here. A bit of emerging bottle green on the back and a light hachuring of bars across the front were its distinguishing traits. It revisited next day to the same tree and vine tangle, with multiple wren attendants.
There was a moment when the male wren appeared, looking disturbed and apparently about to start legal proceedings related to paternity testing.
Our dam is a shallow puddle again, having breached in the heavy rain of mid-February. It is full of tadpoles etc. and attracting birdlife. There is a pair of White-faced Herons and there has been a brief visit by a Great Egret (a rare sighting for us here). I watched as a heron did its special dance of right foot, scratch-scratch-scratch, left foot, scratch-scratch-scratch – probing for any subsequent movement, (all to hokey-pokey rhythms that I could almost hear). Suddenly it became aware of me and promptly vacated.
A pair of Plumed Whistling Ducks was occasionally sighted near the dam since early March, being very secre-tive. In early April, one adult started noisily carrying on, near the house, in the early afternoon, with occasional muted responses from the dam/gully area. Next day, by coincidence, I encountered the two Plumed Whistling Ducks and five very small ducklings on our smaller but permanent dam on the east side of our property. They had abandoned their puddle for a better piece of real estate. What amazed me was the 700 meters of dense pasture they had to negotiate en route.
We also had a rare (for us) sighting of a pair of King Parrots drinking at the dam. Our resident Pheasant Cou-cals have been most vocal recently and have adopted the top of a maturing Silky Oak as their trysting perch. (As Uncle Remus said, “Everybody got to have a singin’ tree!”)
In recent years we’ve had occasional brief visits by Eastern Whipbirds. This year a pair arrived in our gully and scrub patch in January and have been around (not all the time) until almost the end of March. We’ve been so privileged to have those iconic bush calls to start our days at dawn.
The Collared Sparrowhawk has been working the house environs where we have several bird baths, looking for any opportunities, even visiting the insect screens.
Double-barred Finches, Speckled Warblers and White-browed Scrubwrens have all recently been seen busy with nesting materials. So the rush is on, after a tough summer, to produce a next generation before winter sets in. Grass seeds and insects are in abundance following those February rains. Good luck to them!


Photos by Jean Gundry

Pheasant coucal

Speckled warbler

Plumed whistling duck

Horsefields bronze cuckoo

Eastern whipbird






Photos by members


FROM LAUREN MARLATT


Seeds off a Brachychiton rupestris tree in a park in Hursley Street
White fungus found growing on the underside of a persistently wet cardboard 


FROM DIANA BALL

Eudocima fullonia - common fruit-piercing moth caterpillar found crossing the road on Prince Henry Drive (Photo by Jim Ball)








Birds seen in a garden in Pechey area - by Tricia Allen


In the absence of an outing on 05 April, I decided to have an outing in our garden with our daughter Carolyn. This turned into two separate one-hour sessions. These are the birds seen and heard in order of their appearance.
Grey Butcherbird, Eastern Whipbird, Eastern Spinebill, Currawong, Magpie, Brown Honeyeater, Lewins Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Kookaburra, Brown Cuckoo Dove, Striated Pardalote, Red-browed Finch, Brown Thornbill, Noisy Friarbird, Red-backed Fairywren, Superb Blue Wren, Eastern Yellow Robin, Scarlet Honeyeater, Pale-headed Rosella, Pied Butcherbird, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo.
Carolyn's photo is of a scarlet honeyeater, which has run out of the red callistemon it usually frequents but seems perfectly happy in the salvias at our front door.



Lamprolina, a genus of Leaf Beetles in the Chrysomelidae family - by Glenda Walter

Although this insect season had a late start, I’ve been able to find quite a few leaf beetles on my walks around local parks. Some of these are brightly coloured to warn predators that they are inedible, but others with dull colours rely on not being noticed.
The common name of the Lamprolina genus is “Pittosporum beetles”, most feeding on plants belonging to the Pittosporaceae family including Pittosporum and Bursaria. At first glance many beetles in the Lamprolina genus look the same, but they can be differentiated by the black patterns on the pronotum and head. As I have only been able to identify L. impressicollis, I can’t say for certain that the spot and patch patterns are identifiers for separate species or if there are just local variations on one or more species. The fact that they are found on different food plants may indicate that those in the images below belong to at least several species. Experts on iNaturalist website including Martin Lagerwey, an acknowledged Leaf Beetle expert, are unable to help.
Members of the Lamprolina genus are said to be found in the East and North of Australia. As in many insect families, the taxonomy is in need of revision.
The colour of the elytra (wing covers) varies between dark blue, dark purple and very dark green, and head/ pronotum are shades of crimson to orange and yellow. The pronotum was differently shaped in some, and the beetles also varied in size.
Here is a list of those I have found in South East Queensland:
·         Lamprolina impressicollis, with no spot or patch markings, was seen at Bellthorpe and at Stanthorpe.
·         Species A – black patches on front of pronotum and back of head - Hartmann Reserve, Rogers Reserve and Withcott.
·         Species B – two black spots on pronotum and large patch on head - Federation Park.
·         Species C – large black patch on noticeably bright crimson pronotum, and none on head - Peacehaven.
·         Species D – black patch at rear of head - Crows Nest National Park.
·         Species E – blue elytra and yellow pronotum with grey marks - Lake Broadwater.  
·         The larva of an unknown Lamprolina species- Rogers Reserve.
Chris Reid in his paper A taxonomic revision of the Australian Chrysomelinae, with a key to the genera (Coleoptera: Chrysomelidae), published in 2006, says that there are 14 described species in the Lamprolina genus. (This number may have changed since 2006, and there may be undescribed species as well.)

Article and photos by Glenda Walter, April 2020
Lamprolina species A  Hartmann Reserve
Lamprolina species B Federation Park
Lamprolina species C  Peacehaven
Lamprolina species D
Crows Nest
Lamprolina species E
Lake Broadwater
Lamprolina impressicollis
on Bursaria, Stanthorpe
Lamprolina species larva Rogers Reserve
Lamprolina impressicollis Bellthorpe
 
                                               




                                                                                               





Tuesday, December 10, 2019

OUTING REPORT: Ambrose Treacy College and Sherwood Arboretum, 03 November 2019

At 7.30am sharp, nineteen Field Nats, including our driver Phil Haxen, departed by bus from the Neil Street car park bound for Ambrose Treacy College, Indooroopilly. On arrival we met up with Lesley Beaton and John Ball, who had travelled independently. The focus of our visit was Brother’s Gully
An article by Alexander Davies entitled Brother’s Gully: A story of habitat regeneration increasing biodiver-sity, in the June 2019 edition of “Metamorphosis” the Magazine of the Butterfly and Other Invertebrates Club (BOIC) had alerted Ben Gundry to the potential of the Gully for a visit. To quote from the article: “Brothers Gully is a patch of sub-tropical riparian rainforest adjoining mangroves, located at the south western end of Ambrose Treacy College, Twigg Street, Indooroopilly, Brisbane. The Gully area starts at the top of Kate Street, Indooroopilly, and stretches 140 metres till it reaches the riverbank”.
The Gully is the subject of a weeding and revegetation program, initiated in 2015 by a Year 11 student, Alex-ander Davies, with support from the school and his grandparents, Trevor and Tina Lambkin. Alexander, our guide for the morning, had been motivated by the sight of this small remnant area of riparian rainforest becoming choked by exotic weeds. He told us that revegetation of the steep Gully is also supported by the Brisbane City Council under its Land for Wildlife program, and free plants from the Moggill Creek Catchment Group (MCCG) and Save our Waterways Now (SOWN) nurseries. But the weeding and planting is all done by students (Gully Men) under the direction of Alexander.
We were impressed by Alexander’s knowledge of both the flora and fauna as he guided us around different sections of the Gully, some relatively advanced and others still being cleared in readiness for planting. Over 180 (mainly local native) species of ground cover, understorey, mid-storey, and canopy plants have been grown to enhance the existing vegetation. An increasing number of birds, mammals, reptiles, and invertebrates have been recorded since commencement of the project – a reflection of the plant species selected.

After a leisurely lunch on a wide deck overlooking the river, we departed for the Sherwood Arboretum, to be joined by Tricia Allen and her grandson. On arrival we were met by Brisbane City Council volunteer Guides, Dick and Jankees. Opened on 21 March 1925, the heritage-listed Sherwood Arboretum covers an area of 15 hectares, contains approximately 1,100 trees from about 300 species, and comprises parkland, artificial fresh-water wetland and has an extensive frontage to the Brisbane River. Of particular note is an avenue of Queens-land Kauri Pines (Agathis robusta) planted for the 1925 opening. 
Splitting into two groups, we followed our knowledgeable guides as they identified fine specimens of native trees, some local and others from further west that were familiar to many of us. A boardwalk along the Bris-bane River introduced us to three species of Mangrove. A very comprehensive description of the Arboretum is available on Wikipedia and interested readers are encouraged to access it for further information.
Leaving at 4.00pm Phil drove us safely back to Toowoomba, where we arrived at 5.30pm after an enjoyable day blessed with perfect weather


(Report by Deb Ford)


Plus Dusky Moorhen & Barred Cuckoo-Shrike

Brown Huntsman Spider, Heteropoda jugalans, family Sparassidae, at Brothers' Gully 
(Photdo: Francis Mangubhai)

Avenue of Qld Kauris at Sherwood Arboretum (Photo by Diana Ball)


River mangrove flowers and salt crystals on the leaves (Photo: Diana Ball)