Centennial Park meander in the labyrinth & swamplands

On Friday 30th June 16 members of OFF took the train and bus to Centennial Park on a crisp, clear morning.
 
After morning coffee (with good use of Keep It Cups) and singing Happy Birthday to one of our group we set off for a gentle walk to the Lachlan Swamp.
 
 
 
 
Lachlan Swamp  is a magnificent paperbark swamp and home to a Flying Fox colony. We also observed a large flock of Little Corellas  and amongst them we spotted a few Long-billed Corellas. The Long-billed are normally found in Southern New South Wales.
 
 
 
From there we proceeded to the Labyrinth where many of us followed the path into its centre and out again. This sandstone labyrinth was completed in August 2014 having taken 5 months to build. It was based on the one in Chartres Cathedral in France.
 
 
 
After a picnic lunch on the lawns in the sun we walked back to Oxford St and caught a bus to the Reservoir Park in Paddington. This park is a re-purposing of the old water reservoir – a small gem easily overlooked. It also has a lovely example of a Wollemi Pine tree.
This completed our walk. We were very fortunate to have had such a sunny winter’s day as the forecast in the beginning of the week had been very different.

Urban Habitat Creation

Georges River Council is drawing on the expertise of specialist arborist, Michael Sullings from Sydney Arbor Trees to create nest boxes in dead trees that would otherwise have been cut down and mulched. The preserving of’wildlife trees’ is increasingly important as urban sprawl drastically reduces the number of suitable habitat trees.

Michael and his team use small chainsaws to ‘sculpt’ the hollows within the trunk or branch of the tree. The size and configuration of the hollow will depend on both the tree size and the target animals. More on  urban habitat creation

 

In the Georges River local government area work has been completed on trees in:

Depot Roberts Road

Myles Dunphy Reserve

Oatley Memorial Gardens

Spooner Park

Waterside Parade, Peakhurst Heights 

In the modern age, trees are usually viewed in terms of amenity and safety, with unsafe trees being removed entirely. What is generally overlooked is which aspects of the tree could be retained for the benefit of local wildlife and biodiversity. 

Dead and decaying wood is a food source for insects and other invertebrates, which are in turn food for reptiles and mammals and birds. Trees – alive or dead – which contain hollows are habitat for all manner of organisms. 

Cavities in trees can take decades or even centuries to develop into a large enough space for birds and animals to live in.  It is estimated that 15% of Australian vertebrate species use natural tree hollows for nesting, raising young and housing1. In NSW alone, over 150 species of wildlife use cavities, and are referred to as obligate hollow users. Around 40 of these species are listed as vulnerable or endangered

As people come to a greater understanding of the importance of urban wildlife, and the supporting role that trees – dead as well as living – play, hopefully dead trees and logs will come to be seen as a thing of beauty or at least a necessity.

Full Report on  urban habitat creation

Jibbon Head

On Sunday 4th June, 15 OFF members and friends went on our annual “whale watching” walk. We arrived at Cronulla by train and car and then ferried across to Bundeena. It was a beautiful day and many people like us had decided to visit Royal National Park, consequently the ferry was quite crowded.

From Bundeena we followed the Jibbon Head track, there were plenty of wildflowers out including four species of banksia, acacias and plenty of pea flowers.


We had lunch in a lovely grassy spot overlooking the entrance into Port Hacking. It was a good spot for whale watching as well! We saw up to 10 whales, some were breaching creating spectacular splashes.   We returned to Bundeena via the aboriginal rock carvings, now protected by the construction of a viewing platform. We debated whether the two whales in the carvings were a humback and an orca and what was the significance of the two whales to the local aboriginals. Perhaps they had some cooperative arrangement with the orcas as used to occur with the whalers in Twofold Bay at Eden.


We then scarpered back in time to get the 3pm ferry which again was well crowded.We officially finished at Cronulla and satisfied that we had achieved our whale spotting goal and had a lovely walk in our great treasure, the Royal National Park.

SEE PHOTO GALLERY

Heathcote National Park to Waterfall

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.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO ALBUM

 

Myles Dunphy Flying Fox Camp has grown to over 2000

Bats March 2017Report from our resident Flying Fox watcher Geoff Francis – About 2350 flying-foxes flew out from the camp at Myles Dunphy Reserve on 19 March 2017. This is the largest number roosting in the camp since April 2011.
 
P1010377The camp has spread out from the wetland onto the neighbouring foot slopes. The northeast end of the expanded camp is only about 35 m from the boundary of the proposed development site on the former bowling club and about 85 m from the location of the proposed five storey seniors’ apartments building. There were greater than usual numbers of flying-foxes using the northeast flight path, and many of the flying-foxes came out on the northeast flight path but swung around onto the main north flight path. Thus I was unable to count the numbers for the two flight paths separately. However, at least 200 flying-foxes flew through the airspace where the proposed five storey building would be located.
 paperbark-melaleuca-Melaleuca-quinquenerviaLilly-Pilly-FruitThe flying-foxes are feeding on flowering Melaleuca quinquenervia street trees and some flowering Corymbia gummifera in the Oatley area. They are also feeding on a few (planted) flowering Eucalyptus grandis, and numerous fruiting Lillypillies (Acmena smithii). The flowering of the M. quinquenervia and fruiting of the A. smithii which commenced early last week has significantly increased the available food in the local area, and the increase in flying-fox numbers appears to be a response to this.
 
 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.
 
 

Flying Foxes at Myles Dunphy

IMG_3179Our 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.
Flying-foxes rq_0020
 
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.
 
 
Angophora costataSnow in summerCorymbia gummifera fruit _2_
 
  
P1000574 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.
 
 

MD FFoxes 2016to2017

 

Cruising the Scenic Port Hacking River

dscn1561-2-groupThe 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.

 

p1010150On 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.

p1010155The 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.

dscn1540-middenThe 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.

 

p1010171

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.

p1010136Shiprock 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.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO ALBUM

Footnote:

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.

An Expedition to Spitzbergen in the Arctic

magdalena-fijordGary 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. 

 
puffinsWhile 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.
 
calving-arcticThe 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. 
 
IMG_9926bear


 
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.    
 
flowersSo, 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.
magdalena-fijord
 

St George Community Award to Chris Lloyd

entryChris 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.

award2Since 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.

powerful-owl-084-webIn 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.

award4An 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.

Flora and Fauna of Northern Alaska

BearsForestOn 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 programWorlds 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.

Last treeMost 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