Friday, May 26, 2017

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. 
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.

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