After heavy overnight rain and with a forecast of scattered showers for at least the morning period, 8 intrepid walkers departed Oatley Station during rain showers and arrived at Heathcote in clearing conditions. There we met with 3 more souls who joined us for coffee and the reading of the “riot act” during which the rain returned. In spite of the conditions (both “riot” and weather) 11 starters headed off through the Scouts and Guides training camp, towards the bottom of the Heathcote Valley and the Woronora pipeline track.
By the time we reached our first creek crossing (Battery Causeway) the rain had passed making morning tea opportune. Water levels had subsided from those of the reccy walk 2 weeks earlier making all the creek crossings relatively easy, (mostly) without even getting wet feet.
The Bullawarring Track from there to Waterfall led us past some spectacularly gnarled angophoras, verdant grass trees, geebungs and banksias as well as waterfalls and plenty of rock pools and a swimming hole. Whilst enjoying a lunch break in the now pleasant sunshine ‘near ‘the mysterious Myuna Pool and watching a beautiful Kingfisher flit about, Sharyn and Phil joined us having walked from the Waterfall end of the track.
To finish the 10km walk, at the top of Heathcote Creek, we climbed up quite a steep (140m ascent) ridge and then on to the Waterfall train station. A tired group, but I think satisfied with the day’s challenges and rewards, made their way home, some via a stop at the Oatley pub for welcome refreshments.
Report on OFF walk in Heathcote N. P. 2 April 2017 By Kim Wagstaff.
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On evenings with good visibility I have noticed substantial numbers of flying-foxes from the Kareela camp flying west past Gungah Bay towards Oatley Park, but this evening visibility wasn’t good enough to tell whether this was still occurring.
Report from our resident Flying Fox watcher Geoff Francis (20 march 2017)
Flying Foxes important part of an healthy sustainable ecosystem.
Our resident Flying Fox watcher Geoff Francis reports that the Flying foxes have returned to Myles Dunphy Bush Reserve this summer. Their numbers have gradually increased from a low base in Aug September. There are currently ( Jan 21 2016 ) about 250 Flying-foxes roosting in the Myles Dunphy camp.
There is a shortage of food for them not just in Sydney, but in much of Eastern Australia. In Sydney, the shortage might be partly due to the unseasonally dry weather since October. As a result many of the Flying-foxes are in poor condition and the relocation of the Flying-foxes from the Kareela camp has been suspended. They were previously feeding locally on flowering Angophora costata and Melaleuca linariifolia, but these ceased flowering early in December. Some of the Red Bloodwood (Corymbia gummifera) in the local area commenced flowering in late December which provided a food source.
The Flying-foxes have also been suffering from the recent heat waves. When the temperature in the camp reaches 40 degrees there is a risk of mortality, greatest among juvenile Flying-foxes (not currently in the camp) but also among adults in poor condition. On days like last Tuesday (17 January) with the temperature up in the mid or high 30s, the Flying-foxes cope by moving from the Melaleucas, Cheese Trees and Swamp Oaks in the wetland into Turpentines and Blackbutts on the neighbouring footslopes. These trees have a thicker and more continuous canopy, giving greater shade. They also fan themselves with their wings for cooling.
The last OFF outing for the year was a three-hour return cruise on Wednesday 30 November from Gunnamatta Bay at Cronulla, along the Hacking River to Royal National Park. Thirty-six members and friends embarked at 10.30 am on a fine mild day and enjoyed a smooth and comfortable ride (mid-week there was very little water traffic). Unlimited morning tea was available throughout the cruise and at the conclusion of the trip some of us lunched in Cronulla. It was unfortunate that Maureen, who had recommended the cruise for our 2016 program, was unable to join us on the day.
We travelled on the M.V. Tom Thumb III, named after the 2.5 metre rowing boat in which Bass and Flinders and ‘the boy Martin’ explored the area in 1796. Their voyage is also commemorated by a monument at Bass and Flinders Point in Cronulla but over the intervening 220 years much of the landscape they saw has been drastically altered.
On the southern side of Port Hacking, after we passed the settlements of Bundeena and Maianbar that border the Royal National Park, it was not difficult to envisage what the first Tom Thumb’s crew would have seen. The shores remain covered in typical Sydney sandstone flora dominated by flowering angophoras with their summertime deep orange trunks and an understorey of native shrubs and grass trees. Silver Gulls, Crested Terns, Pied Cormorants and a solitary Pied Oystercatcher were resting on a sandbar, and we were surprised and delighted to see a dolphin in the river. Graham spotted an adult and an immature White-bellied Sea Eagle.
The tide was high so our boat could motor as far as the weir at Audley; some passengers recalled Sunday School outings there. A kayaker was fishing in the shallows and picnickers on the bank waved to us. The commentator on board said it was planned, in the event of a Japanese landing during World War II, to bring all navigable craft in Port Hacking up the river to this point and burn them.
The commentator also spoke about the original inhabitants – the Tharawal or Dharwal people, their place names and culture; some of their middens were destroyed when shells were gathered as a source of lime for buildings in Sydney. There were anecdotes about the European settlers and early industries including a fish hatchery and deer-farming. Many landmarks and significant dwellings and boathouses were pointed out, and free maps on board allowed us to trace our route. Also on board were albums of early photos and newspaper cuttings relating to life on Port Hacking.
The return journey took us into some of the bays on the northern shores of Port Hacking, a completely different landscape featuring palatial homes, private jetties and big boats. But there were also some swimming baths for the general public and one passenger said she had spent her youthful summers there.
Shiprock Aquatic Reserve at the entrance to Burraneer Bay was pointed out. The biodiversity in this 2 hectare reserve so close to Cronulla is extraordinary and was illustrated by Gary Dunnet at an OFF meeting in February 2010. He explained the adaptations that allowed animals and algae to crowd onto the sandy substrates and rocky cliffs of what is essentially a flooded sandstone valley, and he listed some of the land and water-based human activities that can threaten that biodiversity. It was ironic that our tour guide also pointed out the former Fisheries Research Centre at the entrance to Gunnamatta Bay; scientists at the Centre which was closed down by the NSW Government in 2011, would doubtless have contributed to knowledge of Shiprock’s rich biodiversity.
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For those interested in reading an evocative account of the original Tom Thumb’s exploration of Port Hacking, I recommend the following book. It has been described as juvenile historical fiction and I borrowed from Kogarah Library some years ago.
Joan Phipson, 1972. Bass and Billy Martin. Macmillan of Australia. 240 pages.
Gary Schoer, OFF member and extensive Polar traveller joined us once again in November to share his photos and assessment of the beauties of and threats to the Arctic. Gary took us with him on a Aurora Expedition small group expedition to the Svalbard Archipaelego which includes its biggest Island, Spitzbergen, in between Northern Norway and Greenland.
While Gary was fortunate to see and capture some great images of seabirds such as puffins, Northern Fulmars, Ivory Gulls and Guillemonts to name a few, he gave additional insights into their conservation status and particular threats which are causing many populations to plummet in the last 20 years or so.
The smoking gun seems to be especially the rapid increase in average air temperatures, reduction in amount of sea ice especially thicker multi-year ice. In some areas average temperatures have increased by as much as 10 degrees celsius, causing the frozen soil of the tundra to melt and even creating additional pine forests where once there were no trees over many parts of the Arctic.
Gary had to travel to 81 degrees North to see 6 of 7 polar bears sighted on the journey on sea ice, which was virtually absent further south…a big change over as little as 15 years since OFFS members Julian and Annette Sheen were there. One other bear was sighted on a small glacial moraine island where it may have had to swim quite a distance to get access to Arctic tern eggs…a pressure on a bird that has flown 15 000 km from Antarctica to breed there.
So, as Gary emphasised, everything is connected. The changesd size of populations and average body length of the important bird-food fish may be contributing to sea bird losses.
While we in Australia and more temperate worlds argue about how to effect behavioural and fuel use changes to keep average world temperatures below 2 degrees above recent historical levels, the animals, plants and indigenous people who live there are well past that target, and we can only hope that sensible and strong political efforts will stope what we are seeing in the Arctic creating a tipping point that will affect ecosystems well beyond the poles.
Chris Lloyd has been a member of Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society since 2007 (and was a family member in the 1960s, when his mother was secretary of the organisation). He has had a life-long concern for the health of the environment and has contributed to a number of programs to monitor and improve wildlife welfare.
Since 2013 Chris has co-ordinated the Georges River component of Birdlife Australia’s project on Powerful Owls. Chris has worked with 150 volunteers to monitor 20 or so pairs of Australia’s largest owl as they hunt and breed along the river from Campbelltown to Taren Point. He sees one of the most significant aspects of the project is providing ‘citizen scientists’ with the skills and knowledge to work alongside biologists and contribute to valuable research. Chris has organised numerous workshops for volunteers to learn skills including microscopy and data recording and the application of biological concepts to fieldwork.
In the Powerful Owl project Chris has worked closely with Bushcare volunteers. He himself has also undertaken habitat restoration in a separate project – monitoring endangered seabirds and restoring their breeding grounds on islands on the NSW coast. It is tiring and uncomfortable work – at night counting incoming birds, and by day tearing out tangling kikuyu grass and planting native Lomandra as cover for the nesting birds.
Chris has a gift for imparting information on these environmental projects to a general audience. He is an entertaining and persuasive speaker who has addressed groups ranging from small garden clubs along the Georges River to OFF meetings, Bushcare seminars, and service groups including the Men’s Shed of Mortdale. With plans provided by Chris, and encouragement from OFF member and Bushcare staffer Heather Stolle, Mens’ Shed workers have produced a number of nest boxes for birds, enhancing our local habitat for native species.
An environmental issue of great concern to OFF is water quality in Georges River and its catchment. Chris is one of our members who has participated for many years in Clean Up Australia Day, removing rubbish that would otherwise pollute our waterways. In recent years he has been joined in that important community work by his partner Nadia and their teenagers.
On 22 August Rodger entertained us with another one of his adventures.
On this trip he travelled the notorious Dalton Highway from Fairbanks to Deadhorse, Alaska.
This road featured on the TV program “Worlds Most Dangerous Roads”. See below for video played during talk. Before 1996 it was only open to trucks supplying the Alaskan oilfields. Despite the harsh environment, plants and animals manage to survive.
Rodger talked about their life on the edge of the Arctic Circle . Life in the extreme temperatures at 70 degrees north is tough.
Most memorable photo from the night was the Northern most spruce tree (now chopped down!)
CLICK HERE TO SEE PRESENTATION
CLICK HERE TO SEE DALTON HIGHWAY VIDEO
Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society (OFF) volunteers have been helping ANU PhD candidate Ross Crates with his research into the ecology of the Regent Honeyeater, one of the most endangered birds in the country.There may be as few as 600 individuals remaining in the wild.
25 Flora and Fauna Society members and friends helped to make 80 Regent Honeyeater and Friar Bird nests over a two week period in August. Ross will use these artificial nests (with false eggs) in Capertee National Park to ascertain which birds and mammals predate on the Regent Honeyeater eggs and young. The nests are now in place with cameras to track predators.
Ross’s research is aiming to identify the major threats to the survival of the Regent Honeyeater in its woodland habitats. Reducing threats such as nest predation and loss of woodland habitat can contribute to the Regent Honeyeater’s long term survival in the wild.
This work follows on from his fieldwork into their habitat when he used motion sensor cameras, including one donated by Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society. Ross will present his findings at one of OFF’s regular monthly talks in 2017.
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Sunday 7th August Oatley Fauna and Flora held its first walk with the group Hike It Baby. Five OFF members and 13 adults and 13 children and babies met in Oatley Park to undertake a family friendly exploration of the bushland.
As we set off to the bushtrack through the centre of the park, we were met by several sulphur crested cockatoos who put on quite a close-up display in the steamroller park.
We spotted wattles in flower, blueberries on the bluberry ash trees,banksia flowers and seed pods, hardenbergia and lomandras. Lower down colourful mushrooms, moss and lichens were seen. Scratchmarks on a tree, most likely from a possum, were pointed out.
The highlight for both children and adults were the two tawny frogmouths roosting in the trees facing Lime Kiln Bay.
We had a very pleasant morning stroll before returning to the steamroller park for morning tea and play.
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Citizen scientists are being asked to help in a joint project between University of New South Wales, Botanic Gardens & Centennial Parklands.
In recent years there have been significant decline in the populations of Yellow Tailed Black Cockatoos. Birds have been seen in urban areas feeding on introduced pines and food sources in bush parks and golf courses.
Click here for more information and to register sighting
Pictures here were taken in July and August from a flock of nine seen on an Old Man Banksia (Banksia serrata) on Lloyd Street Oatley.