Saturday, June 28, 2014

June Club Outing Reports

Trish Allen organised a day in the Lockyer Valley, focusing on the Mt. Sylvia district, renowned for its patch- work landscape of irrigated vegetable and lucerne crops on the river flats with grass-fed beef being produced in the more undulating foothills. Whipbirds called as we began our first visit of the morning to Karen Gruner’s Land for Wildlife property, tucked away in Reibstein Road. This gave us an insight into the type of country the early German pioneers in the district would have selected. Karen and partner Michael chose their 57 acre property because of its possibilities as a safe haven for wildlife and in the four years that they have lived there, they have worked tirelessly towards restoring and conserving the flora and fauna on their patch. 

Their property has Brigalow (Acacia harpophylla) growing on the tops of the hills, with semi-evergreen vine thicket on sedimentary rock closer to the valley floor. They face the frustrating task of battling with lantana, Madeira vine and tree pear. Their first plantings of trees have been very successful, notwithstanding the loss of newly established trees due to the floods of 2011 and 2013. The flora and fauna lists for this property would indicate that Karen and Michael’s vision to restore this property’s ecosystem is a worthy passion, and with continued hard work they will succeed. Their work makes them true modern-day pioneers in this valley.

After morning tea by the creek we moved to the property on the other side of the creek, belonging to Jim and Joan MacDonald. We enjoyed the shady walk along the avenue of Ficus Benjamina to meet Jim who is in his eighties. He has been planting native trees on his 40 acre property since 1983, his first planting being a wind- break of wattles and eucalypts. In 1987 he planted a wildlife corridor, and these plantings, including Red Cedar (Toona ciliate) and White Cedars (Melia azedarach var. australasica), are now maturing. Some species such as the Eucalyptus tereticornis are now self-propagating. It is obvious Jim is still passionate about planting trees and through trial and error he has learnt a great deal along the way. Jim’s success in growing trees on his property must be inspirational for Karen and Michael.

Jim MacDonald with frog poster (above)

Elattostachys xylocarpa Beetroot tree at Karen's place (above right) 

Phyllanthus microcladus (right)

Report and Photos by Jean Gundry

Trish and Adrian’s Trees - and a Cowpat 
The afternoon of our Upper Tenthill outing was spent at Trish and Adrian Allen’s former property, where we saw the remains of their 1970s planting of 1000 trees. Most of the trees had survived and were looking well established and comfortable on what is now a wooded slope, though the hoop pines (Araucaria cunninghamii) apparently succumbed to the first drought. The crows ashes (Flindersia australis) were looking particularly splendid, as might have been expected considering the magnificent old crows ashes occurring naturally at the bottom of the slope. There were also some large and lovely specimens of the South American racehorse tree (Tipuana tipu). Trisha spoke of her regret at having chosen to plant them. When she and Adrian had goats on the property, no seedlings survived. Since the goats have gone, however, the trees are showing a tendency to escape into the surrounding landscape. Having planted a few environmental horrors in my time, I can sympathise! Among other weeds, I planted some Tipuanas in the seventies. They were recommended by the Forestry Department, which supplied me with the plants. 

Dung beetle (See note below)
Having listened to Geoff Monteith’s fascinating talk on Friday night, we paid more attention than we usually do to the cow dung on the property, and wondered what wonders might be discovered in a particularly fresh, moist pile. Our new member Deb Ford has had prior experience of dung beetles, having been involved in a dung beetle collection exercise. Sure enough her sharp eyes spotted this little specimen, which was quickly scooped up on a stick. The process covered the insect rather liberally in dung, which seemed to offend it deeply, as it immediately began to clean itself using its middle pair of legs. I decided to help it along with a bit of a dunk and swish in the clean water of the dam. This led it to cling rather desperately to my finger, showing off its long back legs to the camera. Having paid attention on Friday night, we concluded that it must be a ball-rolling species, rather than one which would bury dung immediately under the cowpat. We also knew that this must be one of the species introduced by CSIRO, because our own native dung beetles, having evolved with the drier dung of marsupials, would not have been interested in this particular source of their favourite food. We hoped to see it start making a ball when, on being replaced on the pat, the         beetle began making rhythmical sweeps with its front legs. No ball seemed to be forthcoming, which led us to speculate that it was feeding.

 (Photo above: Trish Gardner and Lauren Marlatt examining the single dung beetle found in a fresh cowpat at Mt Sylvia - photos by Glenda Walter)
Report by Trish Gardner

Hello Glenda
Just back from out at Lake Nuga Nuga near Injune where I continued on to for a couple of nights after the Nats talk. Good work, that’s a dung beetle and it’s one of two species of the introduced African ball-roller Sisyphus. I showed pictures of their balls and the larva inside during the talk.
There are two introduced species S. spinipes and S. rubrus and they both occur widely in SEQ. They are very difficult to tell apart and impossible in a photograph. S. spinipes is the one I said does not bury its balls but just secretes them under the edge of a grass tussock. S. rubrus does bury its balls.
Cheers Geoff


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