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)

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