Thursday, October 12, 2017

Report on September Outing to Marburg

Crow's Ash seedpods in dry rainforest
Ten Field Nats made their way to Marburg and met Bob Hampson and his wife Narelle at the park opposite the hotel by 9.00am. Bob, who is the co-ordinator of West Moreton Landcare welcomed us and began by telling us a brief history of Marburg. The area had once been highly forested, with Crow’s ash (Flindersia australis) (also known as the Australian teak) the signature tree of the region, but extensive logging over the years has reduced the forest to remnants. One of the effects of extensive logging has been that the water table rose and with it the water became more saline, so that the water table, which is only about a metre deep in places, has made the Black Snake Creek quite salty. We also learned that at one stage there was a sugar mill in town, with an adjacent refinery as well as a rum factory, producing 1200-1500 gallons of rum annually. During the time of the American Civil War, cotton was planted in Marburg, and the first Kanakas employed in Australia were at Marburg. The cotton experiment did not last.

After the short introduction to Marburg, we were taken for a walk around the relatively new walking pathway near the Creek and the attempts to rehabilitate the Creek with native plantings. The round trip brought us back to the Park and the end of the first part of our program. Awaiting us at the Park was Fiona McAdam, a former social worker, a lawyer, an adoptee of the Yolgnu people in north-east Arnhem Land, now resident of Marburg. Fiona was recently bitten by an Eastern Brown Snake and survived to tell the tale. One of the larger remnants of the dry rainforest or vine scrub, as it is frequently known, is on Fiona’s property.

When we arrived at the scrub, some members elected not to walk down a slope and went with Fiona, while those that overcame the first hurdle of a fence, went through the remnant forest with Bob and Narelle Hampson. They pointed out a number of trees and vines and spoke about them, and they were very ably aided by our soon-to-be member, Colin Walpole. What is recorded is a reflection of the paucity of knowledge of the writer and not of our hosts.

Some of the specimens found in the forest/scrub: Crow’s Apple (Owenia venosa), Scrub Whitewood (Atalaya salicifolia), Native Holly (Alchornea ilicifolia), Red Kamala (Mallotus philippensis), Small-leaved Fig (Ficus obliqua), Celery Wood (Polyscias elegans), Rough-leaved Elm (Aphananthe philippensis), Foambark (Jagera pseudorhus), Red Olive-Plum (Elaeodendron australe).

Jagera pseudorhus with its fruit and seeds

Red Olive Plum (Elaeodendron australe)

Bird List: covers areas visited including Marburg, Black Snake Creek, Fiona McAdam’s Property, Emu Farm.
(compiled by Tricia Allen from Members’ sightings)

Australian Wood Duck, Little Black Cormorant, Pacific Black Duck, Straw-necked Ibis, Australian White Ibis, Brown Falcon, Purple Swamp Hen, Masked Lapwing, Crested Pigeon, Spotted Turtle Dove, Sulphur-Crested Cockatoo, Galah, Scaly-breasted Lorikeet, Fantail Cuckoo (H), Laughing Kookaburra, Rainbow Bee-eater, Superb Fairy Wren, White-browed Scrubwren, Noisy Miner, Brown Honeyeater, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Eastern Yellow Robin, Grey-crowned Babbler, Eastern Whipbird, Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike Thrush, Rufous Fantail, Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Figbird, Pied Butcherbird, Torresian Crow, Sparrow, Welcome Swallow, Australian Reed Warbler. 
(Report and photos by Francis Mangubhai)

“Try It” Emu Farm 
Emu chick - photo by Jean Gundry
We all have passed this farm many times and taken a sideways glance at the emus in the field. Sunday’s outing was a good opportunity to find out how this Australian icon is being used to improve our health. An emu in the wild can expect a life span of about 70 years. At “Try It” Emu farm chicks are raised from eggs and the emu oil and meat is harvested after two years. Eggs are incubated for about 50 days and during this period the eggs are turned, as a father emu would do in the wild. We tapped and listened to the eggs to hear the chirp of the chick, almost ready to peck its way out of its shell. Seven hundred chicks were born at the farm this year though the expected rate of chick production is 50% as many eggs will be infertile.

At two years of age, breeding begins and come February of that year, the emus are at their prime for fat (oil) and are bound for the abattoir. Sixteen kilograms of fat are harvested very easily as the fat melts at 35°C and the very lean prime cuts of meat (1-1½ kg per bird) head to the restaurants. The rest of the meat, as well as the bones, goes to the pet food industry. Bone marrow and the cartilage are added to the oil. The skin, however, is usually damaged from the emus’ fighting and not a source of leather but it is used as a source of gelatine. The only waste is the lower legs. Emu oil has been proved to be 30 times more powerful that other oils as it is high in Omega 9, 3, 6, 5 and 7. “Try It” emu oil is tested so that it is safe for use over a three-year period. It is recommended for arthritis, tennis elbow and repetitive stress injuries. Ingesting emu oil is said to be good for lowering blood pressure and cholesterol and for Type 2 diabetes. Some of us were interested in the ‘Hoof Cream’ on sale in the shop! Stephen Schmidt, the owner of the emu farm, is the living proof of the efficacy of emu oil. It might be worth a try if you suffer from any of the above problems. 
(Report by Linda Mangubhai)

Fiona McAdam’s Property

Those of us who decided to join Fiona’s group were able to experience one of Fiona’s favourite locations on her property. We visited an abandoned home belonging to former owners who built it at least 100 years ago. With no power or running water their life must have been quite basic by today’s standards. The home was built on the side of a gully which traverses the property. Several dams are now built along the gully and one can imagine the plentiful supply of water which would replenish these dams after rain. Fiona took us along the well treed gully to a very protected area where we were able to walk along the valley floor. The birds were in fine voice amongst the wattles, alphitonias, eucalypts etc. As we enjoyed a lovely morning tea provided by Fiona she showed us photos of the weed management projects she has been undertaking - waging war on Cats Claw in particular. We really appreciated this opportunity to share and understand Fiona’s passion for caring for her special part of the world. Before joining the rest of the group for lunch we returned to the top of the hill to see an extensive stone wall constructed with basalt rocks. For the first German settlers, the wall was a pragmatic solution to several challenges - rocky ground and the need to restrain animals- and the fact that the wall has stood the test of time is a tribute to their skill.

Stone Wall
(Report and photo by Jean Gundry)

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