Thursday, February 7, 2019

Queensland’s Natural Wonders Photography Awards

Some members of the TFNC may be interested in this competition. Information is provided below.

I’m excited to announce that QCC has launched the Queensland’s Natural Wonders Photography Awards as part of our 50th Anniversary celebrations.

There’s nothing as powerful as a photograph to inspire emotions and motivate people to action. That’s why we’ve launched these new Awards, to recognise and celebrate the power of images - and the importance of photographers - in protecting our natural world.

We would love to have all our member groups get on board to make sure the best photographers and most beautiful places in your region get represented in the competition.

Can you include a post about the awards on your social media? Or perhaps you could send an email to your members, or give us a shout-out in your newsletter? To make it easy, we’ve even created these graphics and text you can use straight away - just click here to download.

There are fantastic prizes up for grabs, including a weekend for two at one of Queensland’s top eco-resorts for each of the three category winners, and vouchers for adventure and photography equipment for runners-up and junior prize winners.

Be quick - entries close Friday 8th March - click here for details on how to enter.

The best photographs will be showcased at our Natural Wonders Awards Night on Sat 6th April in Brisbane. Tickets for this glittering event go on sale soon.

So many photographers are also nature lovers, and this photo competition gives them a chance to bring together both their passions. We can’t wait to see all the wonderful entries.

Many thanks


P.S. who do you know who takes great photographs? Why not forward this email to them and encourage them to enter!

Louise Matthiesson
Director, Queensland Conservation Council
Mobile: 0406 041 428
Phone: 07 3846 7833
1/377 Montague Road, West End, QLD 4101

Friday, November 23, 2018

Backyard Bit

Fireflies can be a festive sight for a brief period in the latter part of the year along the Toowoomba Range escarpment. Fireflies are beetles (Coleoptera), not flies, and they belong to a family found throughout the world (except for Antarctica) called Lampyridae. There are about 2000 species world-wide, but Australia has only 25 described species, all of them confined to the wetter parts of coastal Northern Territory and eastern Australia, especially in rain forest and mangroves. 

The firefly species seen locally is Atyphella scintillans. The males fly just after dusk emitting a series of controlled flashes from light organs on the underside of their body. This is part of their mating sequence. Females also flash but have not been observed to fly with males. Larvae and pupae are also faintly luminous. Synchronised flashing, which is common in New Guinea species, has also been observed in some north Queensland species. 

The ground-dwelling larvae live in moist leaf litter and are predators on small, soft-bodied invertebrates, especially small land snails and slugs. They inject a paralyzing secretion through their mandibles into their victim. The prey's tissues are dissolved extraorally and the liquified mass is then imbibed by the larvae.

Adult fireflies do not eat and only live for a few days.

(Michael Rooke (information courtesy of Rod Hobson)

Outing Report - 4 Nov, 2018 - Ian and Margaret Clarke's Property “Bundara”, Biddeston

An early start meant that we foregathered at Bundara at 7.00am – just as well, as it was quite a warm day! Ian commenced proceedings by giving us an overview of the history of the property, the existing vegetation and the various plantings that had been put in.

Ian has an interest in oaks and has planted a collection over 30 species in number on the property. During our walk around, we saw but a fraction of these. There was of course an English oak Quercus robur, but I made a note of a few others amongst an impressive array. Q.coccifera, the Kermes oak is from the Mediterranean. It hosts the kermes scale insect from which a red dye called 'crimson' was derived. Another that caught my attention was Q.variabilis, the Chinese Cork Oak, which, like its European counterpart, can produce cork.

The existing native trees are dominated by eucalypts, in particular Eucalyptus orgadophila, the Mountain Cool-ibah, E.tereticornis, the Forest Red Gum, and Corymbia tesselaris, the Carbeen/Moreton Bay Ash. I also noted E.sideroxylon, the Mugga/Red Ironbark, and E.meliodora, the Yellow Gum.

There followed a bewildering array of native plantings with a list running into the hundreds, which is a tremen-dous achievement. I will just comment on a few that caught my eye or piqued my interest. Acacia pendula is the wattle with silvery 'weeping' foliage. Atalaya salicifolia (Scrub Whitewood) was eye-catching due to the winged rachis between the leaflets. We saw three Brachychitons – B.populneus, the Kurrajong, B.discolor, the Lacebark, and B.rupestris, the Bottle Tree.

Ian showed us his pecan tree (USA) Carya illinoiensis, which yields little in the way of nuts for humans because the nuts all get eaten by the cockatoos!

We saw Ian's orchid which was briefly elusive as it was up in the fork of a tree, the orchid being Cymbidium canaliculatum, the Black Orchid/Tiger Orchid. We saw four species of Dodonaea including Dodonaea viscosa, which has in the past surprised us, being native also to Zimbabwe and New Zealand! Amongst the Flindersias we saw (I think there were four) was F.maculosa next to the driveway, in spectacular flower. This is another tree which has an attractive 'weeping' habit.

I was interested in Ian's Wilga, Geijera parvifolia.  I had heard that these can be difficult to propagate, but Ian said that his readily produces seedlings around the trees. The Glochidion ferdinandi (Cheese Tree) obligingly assisted with identification by bearing fruit in the shape of miniature cheese rounds which give it its common name. 

Ian has plantations of olives on the property – Olea europea. But he also has the African Olive, O. africanus (possibly a subspecies of the European olive) and, happily an Australian olive, namely, O.paniculata, the Native Olive. Also in the olive department we saw Notelaea linearis, the Narrow-leafed Mock Olive, which has a common name which I doubt is 'common'!

We saw Ozothamnus diosmifolius, the Rice Flower, so called because the flower buds resemble rice grains. Podocarpus elatus struck a familiar note as Podocarpus is well represented in southern Africa as is also Poly-scias. Ian has P. elegans. Zimbabwe has P. fulva.

A lovely splash of yellow colour was provided behind the dam wall by planted Senna artemisioides and S. coronilloides. Senna was previously 'Cassia', until the taxonomists decided to upset the apple cart and split the genus. The name 'artemisioides' is a reference to the appearance of the foliage which resembles that of Arte-misia absinthium, the notorious wormwood from which absinthe derived its flavour. We don't know if Ian has tried making absinthe from his Senna!

There were too many plantings to comment on all of them, but there was an interesting aside on the subject of planting trees. Ian confirmed that he has used road-kill roos in the planting holes over which the new tree is grown. He was asked if this makes a difference and he assured us that it has the trees 'jumping out of the ground'!

A lovely morning's walk in the garden and property was followed by lunch at the Biddeston School where we inspected the plantings of native trees around the oval in preparation for the school's 100th anniversary.

Thank you to Ian and Margaret Clarke and to Sharon Wilson, principal at Biddeston School.

(Report by Philip Haxen)

Speaker Report November - Extinction of the Australian Megafauna: What is the Evidence?

(Bryce Barker, Professor of Anthropology, University of Southern Queensland)

The Australian megafauna lived during the time known as the Pleistocene, colloquially termed the Ice Age, which occurred between about 1.7 million to 10000 years ago. The megafauna are the extinct ancestors of species which are today much smaller and were characteristic of the Pleistocene not only in Australia, but also the Americas and Eurasia. North America had mammoths, saber- toothed cats and giant sloths for example, (as per my previous talk about the La Brea tarpits near Los Angeles). Africa is the only continent still inhabited by megafauna.

The Australian representatives included Megalania prisca, a seven metre goanna; Diprotodon, at two metres at the shoulder the largest marsupial to have ever existed; Procoptodon goliah, the short faced kangaroo standing over two metres high; Thylacoleo carnifex, termed the marsupial lion, and many others including seven metre snakes and crocodiles, a 2.5 metre turtle and two toothed platypus species double the size of today's species.
There is ongoing debate and controversy as to the causes of extinction of these animals which occurred world-wide. Professor Barker's presentation clearly examined the likely causes by comparing the Australian research with findings from America and Europe.

Broadly, reasons for the extinctions cover three main theories:
  •     The arrival of humans with their superior hunting 
  •     The effect of humans on the landscape
  •     Climate change   
It is possible that all three could have contributed, but Dr Barker laid out the following points regarding human arrival:
1)      Is there evidence of hunting technology coinciding with extinctions?
2)      Are there remains of megafauna in association with human settlements?
3)      Is there rock art depiction of hunting of megafauna?
All three are found in America, Africa and Eurasia.

In North America the earliest hunting technology is the stone projectile or knife, characterised by the 'Clovis Point', a sharp tool knapped from suitable stone and associated with the Clovis people. There are many bones of megafauna associated with these people, and clear signs of penetration of or cuts to the bones (including those of extinct megafaunal bison). So far, although stone tools are plentiful, there is no confirmed evidence of mega-faunal bones associated with Humans in Australian archaeology. Remains of post megafaunal species are how-ever common.

Eurasia also has many finds associating stone projectiles with remains of extinct megafauna. Depiction of hunting seems universal in rock art and is a feature common to all inhabited continents. The Lascaux and Chauvet caves of France are famous, as are the many and widespread bushmen paintings in Africa. So far there is no Australian rock art confirmed as depicting megafauna. Many paintings previously thought to depict megafauna have been dated to well post-extinction and are considered to be 'dreaming' creatures...possibly passed down over many generations from an ancient memory.

Professor Barker then went on to describe a truly remarkable and unique Australian site of human habituation, the Nawala Gabarnmang Rock Shelter, where he has carried out research. Found only just over 10 years ago by two men overflying a remote area of Arnhem land, Northern Territory, the site seemed almost lost to memory. One elderly man recalled camping there with his father in the 1930s.

The shelter is part of an ancient shallow ocean floor where deposits of sand laid down over time were compressed into sandstone, then harder quartzite. When the structure was raised above the sea, erosion of softer sandstone began, leaving pillars of quartzite supporting a roof. About 50 000 years ago people began to use the shelter. The pillars would have then been about a metre apart, and people began to modify the shelter by chipping away some pillars with stone tools to increase space. This was carried out over many generations and they also began to cover all surfaces with paintings. There is layer after layer of paintings, some confirmed as being 28 000 years old! Blocks of broken pillar have been used for grinding coloured ochres, others piled up as platforms for artists to sit or stand on.

No representations of megafauna or their remains have been found at the site. The thylacine is clearly depicted, but it is known that they occurred on the mainland until about 3 000 years ago (possibly displaced by the dingo). There is a painting at a nearby site, of what appears to be a large flightless bird in which a spear is embedded. Research focused on the giant Genyornis newtoni which became extinct about 40 000 years ago. Humans and the bird may have co-existed for some thousands of years. However, dating of the painting showed it to be only 14 000 years old, so it is probably another 'dreaming' beast. It is now believed that only at most 14 species of the original 90 megafauna species were still extant when humans arrived on this continent. The evidence seems then to suggest that direct contact with humans in Australia is an unlikely megafauna extinction culprit. However, many still assert that hunting wiped out the megafauna.

The scientific research continues with ever more sensitive dating techniques such as Optically Stimulated Luminescence OSL, (which dates sediments by measuring when silica was last exposed to sunlight!) which so far matches the older carbon dating. Meanwhile the controversies continue.

(Report by Cheryl Haxen)

Friday, October 26, 2018

Neodypsis decaryi - THREE-CORNERED PALM TREES in TOOWOOMBA - Article by J. T. Swarbrick, September, 2018

Three-cornered (or triangle) palms (also known as Dypsis decaryi) are small but highly ornamental palm trees from Madagascar, where they grow in open areas and forests as well as in rainforest, where the few remaining trees are endangered but protected. They are however widely grown as ornamentals in many climates, including Toowoomba. Three-cornered palms are unique among palms in that the leaves spiral upwards in three distinct ranks. The leaf bases are swollen, overlapping, with white waxy bases, and the rather few leaves on each plant are pinnate, stiffly erect with slightly arching tips, about three metres long and white to green, without basal spines. The sparse stiffly erect leaves with drooping tips give this elegant palm its very distinctive outline. The leaflets are long and narrow, and taper to a fine point. The lowermost leaflets on each side of the leaf develop very long (up to two metres) fine thread-like reins (see photo), a characteristic also found in some other palms.

The trunks of three-cornered palms are 30-40 centimeters thick, greyish and rather rough, and the old leaves dry out on the trunks then fall naturally. This leaves untidy trunks and usually the old leaves are cut away for tidiness, sometimes leaving the bases to accentuate the triangular effect. In nature the palms grow 10-15 meters tall, and although they are easy to cultivate and grow quickly when young they only reach 5-10 metres in cultivation. Established trees are very drought tolerant but need some moisture and require deep rich free-draining soils for best growth. They require a frost-free location.

I only know of two specimens in Toowoomba, one in the front garden of St Mark’s Church in High Street, Rangeville, and one between Matthews Street and Lillian Court in south-west Toowoomba which is visible over the fence beside the eastern drive-through beside the Philharmonic Society Hall in Mathews Street (see photos below). No doubt there are others in the city,

Three-cornered palms grow well in Toowoomba, are of striking appearance and only moderate size, and should be more widely grown in our parks and gardens. The very similar teddy bear palm (Neodypsis lastelliana) has a distinct crown shaft which is densely covered with fuzzy brown hairs.

The three-cornered palm trees in gardens in Lillian Court (left) and in High Street, Toowoomba (right)

Outing Report: Dingo Mountain & Chasely Park, near Crows Nest - 07 October 2018

Despite recent rain and the prospect of more to come about 19 members made their way to our rendezvous in the paddock at the home of Michael and Monica King, on the road to Crows Nest Falls. Here we met up with Steve Plant, member of the Progressive Community of Crows Nest, and the recently formed Crows Nest Community Solutions, a charitable company that has acquired several vacant blocks of land in the area between Bullocky’s Rest and the Crows Nest National Park in order to protect them from development, and eventually make them accessible for environmental enthusiasts.

Steve gave us a brief history of the early settlement and rural industries of the area before leading us across the creek by way of a sandstone outcrop – fortunately still above water level despite the recent rains. Steve was very considerate of those of the party who, in his words, were “less sure-footed” and found us a choice of routes up the bank onto the narrow strip of alluvial land beside the creek, which had provided the only land suitable for the original settlers to crop. To our right was a tumbled band of granite rock, with one presenting a perfect bed for a large colony of rock orchids, a few of which were still in flower.

We then made our way between broken sandstone and clumps of invasive Rhodes grass, and up through the open forest, largely ironbark, until we found several long, crude concrete troughs at ground level, remnants of the original piggery, with evidence of split-wood fencing, foundations of outbuildings, and simple farm mach-inery. As we gained height we were shown a hand-dug cutting nearly two metres deep through the rocky sand-stone ridge, through which the whey from an adjacent butter factory had been gravity fed down to the pig troughs. All of this agricultural activity had been abandoned over 60 years earlier, but it was fascinating to picture what it must have been like for those early pioneers.

Between those “less sure-footed” and those intent on bird-watching and botanical discoveries our progress up Mt Dingo was fortunately quite slow but well worth the climb to enjoy the views from the top of the cliff. Once again, we were offered a choice of routes, from a careful scramble down the cliff to a well-contoured descent back through the forest of grass trees. One of our members pointed out a small clump of tiny hooded orchids that miraculously escaped being mangled by a carelessly-placed boot.

Most of the party met at Bullocky’s Rest for a picnic lunch before driving round to Chasely Park where Steve led us through to the foot of the Pump Hole on Crows Nest Creek, where he showed us a photograph, circa 1910 judging by the fashions of two ladies standing on the ledge below the old “elephant footed” eucalypt that still keeps guard over the pool. Once again Steve pointed out a superb colony of rock orchids blanketing the cliff face, fortunately protected by being on the only part that could not be easily reached by vandals.

We were doubly blessed on this outing, by the rain that had been forecast holding off until we were all just about back home, and by having the privilege of Steve’s leadership, with his comprehensive knowledge of the area, its history, fauna and flora.

(Report by Shirley Cormack)

Bird list for Dingo Mountain and Bullocky’s Rest, Crows Nest  (Jan Veacock)

Dingo Mountain: Little Black Cormorant, Black Duck, Wood Duck, Rufous Night-heron, Kookaburra, Sacred Kingfisher [a pair flying around where the cars were parked], Peaceful Dove, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Rainbow Lorikeet, Rufous Whistler, Grey Thrush, Grey Fantail, Willie-wagtail, Leaden Flycatcher, Black-faced Cuckoo shrike, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Scarlet Honeyeater, Little Friarbird, Noisy Miner aka mickey [nesting], Striated Pardalote, White-throated Gerygone, Eastern Whipbird, Red-backed Wren, Superb Blue Wren, White-throated Tree-creeper, Magpie Lark, Pied Currawong, Torresian Crow. 

Bullocky’s Rest: Apostle Bird, Noisy Miner, Pale-headed Rosella, Kookaburra, Torresian Crow, Grey-crowned Babbler, King Parrot, Rainbow Lorikeet, Pheasant Coucal.
Also seen were two koalas at Dingo Mountain Road. I was not present for the last walk to the creek from the small park so I have no list for there. A huge number of cicada shells were seen and photographed on one of the trees in the small park.

Plants at Dingo Hill  (Article and photo by Trish Gardner)

Situated just east of Crows Nest, Dingo Hill preserves a large area of a unique ecosystem type which occurs only on sandstone-derived soil near Crows Nest. We were fortunate to have Steve Plant show us around, as he has a deep knowledge of the history, both natural and human, of the area. Dingo Hill is a naturalists’ paradise, with high diversity of plant species, and the resulting high wildlife diversity that you would expect in these circumstances.

The area is unusual for its large number of Eucalyptus species. One of these is the Helidon ironbark Eucalyptus taurina, a timber notable for splitting with a very straight grain. Unlike the small-leafed ironbark E.crebra, another of the three ironbarks which occur in the area, the Helidon ironbark decays if used in the ground.

However, it was widely used for above-ground structures such as the piggery whose ruins stand on the hill. A noticeable characteristic of the Eucalypt population was the lack of old trees - a common feature of natural areas close to all our towns, where timber was heavily harvested for construction and for firewood. The results are a lack of habitat hollows, and a disproportionate population of applegums (Angophora species), which don’t make good firewood.

Dingo Hill is also unusual in having so many members of Proteaceae family within a very small area. These are three species of Banksia, two Grevilleas, and one species each of Lomatia, Hakea, Persoonia, and Petrophile. Dry rainforest species were in evidence. Examples were the local tuckeroo Cupaniopsis parvifolia, the leopard ash Flindersia collina, and the canthium, Psydrax odoratum. As Steve pointed out, the ecology of the area is fire-dependant, and fires would have kept the numbers of these species low. Without fire, however, the rain-forest species would have been dominant - and this may be the long-term future of Dingo Hill, given that residential development spreads around it, and fires may be unwelcome in the future.

Of interest to all of us were nodules of resin exuding from the trunks of the grasstrees, Xanthorrhoea johnsonii. “Xanthorrhoea” means “yellow flow” (of resin), but in this species the resin flow is red. If warmed, it becomes soft, and was used by Aborigines for gluing axe heads to their handles. It could also be ground to a powder and mixed with water as a medicine. Look for samples which will be brought to the next meeting for Show and Tell.

Flying duck orchid (Caleana minor)
The find of the day was a group of small orchids. At first, we mistook them for greenhoods, as they “nodded” in a similar way, but close examination showed they were something quite different. We eventually discovered they were small flying duck orchids, Caleana minor. This was a new species record for the area. Thank you to John Dearnaley for identifying it for us. 


For this trip in February 2018, there were four of us and we decided to concentrate on visiting National Parks and spend three to four nights in each area. The first park we visited was Kaziranga National Park in the state of Assam in the north east corner of India. To reach it we flew from Kolkata to Guhwati and then had a five-hour road trip to Kaziranga. We passed through some beautiful lush country where many crops were being grown. On reaching Diphlu River Lodge, which consisted of comfortable high set wooden cottages, Peter and I were given the Cottage that Wills and Kate had slept in.

The park is renowned for its birdlife. It has two thirds of India’s species, and we certainly saw many of these, our guide and driver were both very knowledgeable and knew exactly where the birds would be. The park also has over 2000 one-horned rhino; this is about 70% of all the wild rhinos in India and Nepal. They are a big attraction for tourists but are still being poached for their horns which are sold to Asian markets to be ground up for traditional medicines. To combat this trade there is a considerable anti-poaching team constantly in the park.

We at last got a glimpse of one old tiger which appeared to have an abscess on its front leg which it had had for some time. Our guide told us that sick animals were not allowed to be treated by Vets although in other states they were treated.

Travelling by air and train we arrived in the state of Utterakhand to visit Corbett Park. We found that travelling by train was by far the best transport, as it was punctual and relaxing with good service. The park is in the foothills of the Himalayas and is very well watered with glacial rivers and big areas of Sal forest. Again, the birdlife was prolific, and we had many good sightings. There are wild elephant in the park, also some domesticated ones. These are no longer ridden by tourists hunting for tigers as it has been found to be painful for their backs to carry tourists.
We only saw one tigress here but had amazing views of her as she crossed in front of our Jeep, went down the bank and swam across the river. We were surprised how habituated she was to humans; there were about 10 jeeps following her and she didn’t appear at all concerned.
Next stop was Ranthambore in Rajasthan. This is another park renowned for Tigers and again we had very good views of them. The park has many different areas with different habitats including some beautiful lakes with many water birds, crocodiles and swamp deer. A rare animal to be seen here is the insectivorous sloth bear which feeds on insects and also honey. We saw a mother and two cubs who were enjoying themselves playing and rolling around in a fluffy ball.
Finally, we went to look for leopards at Jawai Park. It was a rocky area overlooking a large dam and the leopard live in the caves dotted around the hills. They have coexisted with the local villagers for many years; occasionally they take sheep or goats in which case the villagers are reimbursed by the Government as tourism is a good money earner. We only had a brief glimpse of a young leopard about a kilometer away, but we enjoyed learning about the villagers and their farming methods.

(Report and photos by Alison Evans)