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. 
 
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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.
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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

 

 

Bird on the Brink – Regent Honeyeater

P1000348Oatley 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.Capertee NP Regent HE  12-18_10_2015 174There 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.

P1000286Ross’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.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO ALBUM

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Hike It Baby in Oatley Park

P1000298Sunday 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.

P1000296As 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.

P1000310We 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.

P1000291The 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.

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO ALBUM

Yellow Tail Black Cockatoo Research

P1000148 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.

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Clean-up Australia Day 2016

On Sunday 6th March, 40 people registered at Jinna Reserve South Peakhurst for the OFF Clean-up activity. Numbers from the Society were boosted by a contingent from Mortdale Girl Guides and their parents, plus some individuals who had seen our notices around the suburb.IMG_3194

Some OFF members took their canoes out onto Lime Kiln Bay to get access to what was lurking in
the mangroves, the rest picked their way around the muddy foreshores of the bay on both the
Peakhurst and Oatley Park side of the inlet.

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IMG_3173Total rubbish collected was 36 bags, nearly half of it plastic bottles; also 9 car tyres, PVC piping and metal objects. This was an outstanding result,although real success should be measures by the absence of any rubbish in our bushland and waterways. We thank all those who gave up their morning to contribute to this community event.

Report by  Clean up Site Coordinator – Alan Fairley
 

CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO ALBUM

 

Dollarbirds in Lime Kiln Bay

Dollarbird -Limekiln BayRecently, David Mercer of Georges River Wildlife photographed  some young dollarbirds leaving a tree hollow in Lime Kiln Bay on 24 January 2016 .

Dollarbirds are a summer migrant. They arrive in Australia in late spring, Sept/October and then mate and build a nest, typically in a tree hollow. They can have up to 4 young. The young leave the nest in mid summer, Dec to January.

The parents continue feeding them for some time before the young become independent.
The birds leave Australia in late summer, March to April, and fly north to Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands where they spend the winter.

While they are not a rare bird in Australia, they are not commonly seen in the Sydney area and it is a treat to have them nesting so close to suburbia. It is good reflection on the richness and good habitat that Lime Kiln Bay provides that these birds continue to use the area and successfully raise young.

Report by Graham Fry

DollarBirds Dollar Birds 24 Jan 2016

“Dollar bird and chick. Noisy miners tried to chase off the chick but it stood it’s ground ” – Georges River Wildlife – 24 January 2016.

As part of the Wetland Awareness poject OFF will be conducting free guided walks around the Wetland to show interested people how the qualrity of stormwater runoff is improved and the abundant native plants and wildlife that the wetland supports. CLICK HERE FOR MORE INFORMATION

Black-bellied Swamp Snake at Oatley Park

Black-bellied Swamp Snake or Marsh Snake Hemiaspis signata was found by OFF member Matt Allison on the road near the entrance to Myra Wall garden at Oatley Park on 13 February 2016.  The snake appeared to have been run over. Report was made by Liz Cameron our Secretary and past Australian Museum educator.

Black Belly Swamp Snake 13022016

This is believed to be a rare sighting for Oatley park  Matt Mo’s paper (on the OFF website) didn’t record the species in his surveys in Lime Kiln Bay between 2006 and 2014 but noted that a specimen was collected in Oatley in 1996; according to Glenn Shea (2010) that was the last record in the Australian Museum’s database, for the species in the St George area (Shea, G M 2010.  The suburban terrestrial reptile fauna of Sydney – winners and losers.  pp. 154-197 in The Natural History of Sydney; edited by Dan Lunney, Pat Hutchings and Dieter Hochuli for Royal Zoological Society of NSW).  Glenn listed the Swamp Snake as one of the ‘Suburban Battlers’ in regard to persisting in the Sydney region.
Black Belly Swamp Snake and Liz
The Atlas of Living Australia records that the 1996 specimen from Oatley was donated to the Australian Museum by Oatley resident and staff member at the Museum and donated another swamp snake in 1986. 

Average total length is reported at 60 cm; today’s specimen was 45 cm long, so it wouldn’t be fully grown.

Species occurs in coastal and near-coastal areas of eastern Australia from far northern Qld to the south coast of NSW. Usually found in low-lying marshy areas but also found on dry rocky ridges and wooded beach dunes.  Normally active during the day and at dusk, but may be active at night in hot weather.  It gives birth to live young (from 4 to 20 in a litter).

The snakes feed largely on skink lizards and frogs.  A bite from a large specimen may be very painful but not generally regarded as dangerous. (This information from Cogger 2014.  Reptiles and Amphibians of Australia; 7th edition; CSIRO Publishing).

Report By Liz Cameron

 

Lime Kiln Bay Wetland Guided Walks

W5.royal spoonbillEver wondered where your stormwater goes and what happens to it?

As part of the Wetland Awareness project OFF will be conducting free guided walks around the Wetland to show interested people how the quality of stormwater runoff is improved and the abundant native plants and wildlife that the wetland supports.

Saturday 20th February, 2016 3pm – 5pm
and
Saturday 19th March 2016 3pm – 5pm

 

Meet at corner Waterfall Rd and Acacia St. Oatley

Wear sturdy shoes and a hat, bring water and sunscreen
CLICK HERE FOR PROJECT FLYER