Congratulations to Robin Dickson on her Georges River Council Australia Day Volunteer Award 2017!
OFF nominated Robin Dickson, our Membership Secretary and Welfare Officer, for the GRC Volunteer of the Year Awards 2016 but those awards became incorporated in the Australia Day Awards 2017, so finally on Monday 23rd January, Robin was presented with her Georges River Council Australia Day Volunteer Award by the General Manager Gail Connolly and Administrator John Rayner, and Federal MP David Coleman. OFF representatives Graham Lalchere, Peter de Beuzeville and Liz Cameron were there to congratulate Robin.
Our nomination read:
Mrs Robin Dickson joined Oatley Flora and Fauna Conservation Society Inc (OFF) in 1990 and for the past 23 years has been a very active member of the OFF committee. Initially she was Honorary Secretary (11 years) then, for the last 12 years, Membership Officer, and for 8 years, Welfare Officer; she continues to carry out both these roles. As Secretary she was energetic in pursuing OFF’s objectives and has efficiently resumed that extra role when the current Secretary is absent.
Robin devotes considerable time to OFF business and activities. She processes new memberships, maintains an up-to-date register of members and their contact details, and each month presents a report on membership statistics and changes to the register; she also arranges printing and postage of OFF’s monthly newsletter. She is particularly busy at the end of the year, preparing and posting membership renewal forms to about 300 members.
As Welfare Officer, Robin looks after the wellbeing of our members, some of whom are quite elderly (our Society has been active for 62 years); she visits and phones those who are housebound or unwell, and sends condolences on behalf of OFF.
We have nominated Mrs Robin Dickson because she does far more than simply fulfil her nominated duties. She is a cheerful, warm and caring woman who fosters goodwill in our community and makes everyone feel welcome and valued. These qualities in Robin, along with her gentle persistence, have contributed greatly to the very high retention rate of members in OFF. She knows, and is probably known to, every member of our Society and communicates very easily with children as well as adults. Robin is generous in acknowledging the achievements of other members of OFF – in 2004 she documented the contribution of some of our prominent members and presented it to the Oatley Heritage Group, creating a record for future reference. But she is self-effacing regarding her own contributions.
Robin attends most of the numerous OFF events and outings and is always ready to provide practical assistance – helping on stalls, welcoming newcomers and providing delicious food for catered events. Her excellent handicraft skills were called upon this year when OFF members made 50 artificial nests for a research project on the endangered Regent Honeyeater.
This is the second year we have stayed in Pygmy Possum Lodge at Charlotte Pass and again it was very satisfactory; fourteen OFF members spent three to seven days there during the week of 8-15th January. It was also a pleasure to have the company of some of the ski club’s members who were welcoming, helpful and knowledgeable.
The bedrooms, all with en-suites, were comfortable and warm, and the kitchen very well-equipped (but it called for some complex choreography when everyone was preparing dinner at the same time). The lounge afforded spectacular views of jagged granite tors, snow gums and olive-green shrubs, all occasionally blotted out by sweeping curtains of rain that briefly dampened our enthusiasm for the outdoors.
During inclement weather we occupied ourselves with reading, needlework, jigsaws, crosswords and identification of plants and animals we’d photographed. There was a happy hour each evening which sometimes developed into serious wine-tasting, and one night to admiration of the full moon as it rose in a crystal clear sky flushed by the sun’s afterglow.
This year was particularly good for wildflowers – daisies everywhere, mintbush and eyebright on the upper slopes, clusters of magenta trigger plants, cream candle heath and glossy buttercups in low-lying areas. Photographers found it difficult to capture the depth of colour in bluebells, flax lilies, violets, fan flowers and others in the blue – mauve spectrum.
Fauna was not conspicuous but there were grey kangaroos on the Waterfall Track and we saw two large echidnas. Piles of dung, scratchings and big burrows were the closest we got to wombats. Around Charlotte Pass were Flame Robins, Brown Thornbills, Australasian Pipits, Crimson Rosellas, Little Ravens, Striated Pardalotes and Welcome Swallows.
There were some introduced animals including hares, a black rabbit, a feral cat (which we reported) and Common Starlings. A variety of sleek high country skinks was seen, and several “large dark snakes” (probably copperheads). There was a dead alpine funnel-web on Porcupine Track and colourful live grasshoppers and beetles were photographed on leaves and flowers; a few Bogong Moths secreted themselves in the Lodge at night.
The legacy of snowfalls late in the season was evident in the high water level in Lake Jindabyne and good flows in the alpine streams. The countryside was green and snow gums were regenerating well, although the rate of regrowth is noticeably slower at higher altitudes. March and bush flies seemed more than usually abundant and persistent, perhaps another consequence of the recent rain and snow.
Weather conditions were generally mild and conducive to walking. Our first walk was to Porcupine Rocks, an OFF tradition that prepares us for more demanding tracks. Many small patches of snow were visible on the Main Range and we admired “Jan’s tree”, a magnificent old Snow Gum beside the track that escaped the ferocious alpine fires of 2003. On our return to the Kosciuszko Road, we indulged in hot drinks and burgers at the Alpine Eyre café at Perisher Gap; it was a popular meeting spot for the rest of the week.
Other walks completed by members of our party included Dead Horse Gap via the Thredbo chairlift, Blue Lake, Mt Kosciuszko via the Summit Road, Rainbow Lake, Guthega to Illawong, Waterfall, Mt Stilwell and Charlotte Pass Village to Alpine Eyre café. On the windiest day, while some were battling gales around Mt Stilwell, one couple enjoyed a peaceful riverside picnic in the sheltered woodland of Island Bend. At the end of the week the remaining ten people lunched together at Parc Café in Jindabyne and spent time in the displays and shop in the NPWS Centre.
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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.
A simply beautiful day was spent in the calm ambience of the Minnamurra Rainforest on Sunday 30th October. Sixteen expectant walkers gathered at the Visitors Centre of the Budderoo National Park ready to face the climb up to the Falls. Because of trackwork the walk was in two parts: the steep walk to the waterfall followed by the lovely Minnamurra River walk.
The first part of the walk was a challenge made esasier by the regular path and rewarded by views of the deep chasm and distant views of the higher falls. After rain the water flow gushed down into the deep canyon. The bush was damp and fertile and the birdlife kept us company.
We returned to the picnic area near the Visitors Centre for lunch then set out on the shorter walk along the river.
The walk was glorious with added excitement provided by the two suspension bridges. The views up and down the waterways and down into the deep limpid pools were memorable.
And there were monsters too – a monster strangler fig and two delightful dragons on rocks by the water (somewhat smaller in size). Along the walk there were information signs to help us understand our surroundings.
All in all it was a top day with the drive down the coast being no obstacle to our fun.
Report by walk leader Julian Sheen CLICK HERE FOR PHOTO ALBUM
Fifteen OFF members and friends enjoyed our annual weekend field trip on 24 & 25th September to Capertee National Park. Heavy rain overnight presented the visitors to the national park with a swollen river crossing. It was a challenge to smaller cars, but all crossed it.
The highlight was seeing gorgeous gold and black Regent Honeyeaters at close quarters. It was a fitting reward for those who had made artificial nests for a predation experiment run by ANU postgraduate student Ross Crates. One night Ross showed photos of predators, including Brush-tailed Possums, Sugar Gliders and Grey Shrike-thrushes, that had raided the artificial nests.
There were ambles along trails through different habitats that offered plentiful subjects for the photographers in the group. On the upland Airstrip Trail four different orchids were flowering and there was a sweeping vista of distant peaks that included Mt Marsden and Tayan Peak in Wollemi NP. By contrast the shaded grassy banks of crystal clear Ullumbra Creek sheltered maidenhair ferns and native violets, and supported massive river sheoaks on which fine-leafed mistletoes were flowering.
Driving back to the homestead after a late afternoon visit to the Valley Lookout, we were treated to a magnificent rainbow and encountered Wallaroos and Common Wombats venturing onto the river flats for their evening meal. Recent rains had put a fresh in the Capertee River and encouraged a chorus of frogs and crickets at night.
Many thanks to Deb Andrew who shared her intimate knowledge of the park and its rich flora and fauna.
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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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