Scarborough Ponds Trail Kogarah to Ramsgate

After the Government eased the restrictions on activities we were able to resume our activities program on 28th June.,The next activity on our program was Graham Fry’s walk exploring the Scarborough Wetlands at Ramsgate.

We had a very favourable response with 17 people taking part. While it wasn’t a long walk at 5km, it was very interesting exploring an area which many of us have never visited. The weather was relatively cool but rain held off although at one stage it did seem threatening.

The walk was beside the wetland which ranged from relatively large bodies of water to narrow creeks. There was plenty of wildlife particularly birds which were using both the water bodies and the surrounding vegetation. Some parts were very weedy but as is often the case these areas were well utilised by birds.

It was noted that the Swamp Mahogany, Eucalyptus robusta was flowering well and was very popular with birds particularly honeyeaters and lorikeets.

Other people were using the area including a group who had small remote controlled boats including a submarine which were very interesting. Overall most people enjoyed the day and appreciated an opportunity to get outdoors.

Report by walk Leader Graham Fry

More Photos

Trip to Capertee National Park

Over the last weekend in September, OFF members booked out the
Homestead and Cottage in Capertee National Park in what is becoming an
annual event. Deb Andrew led the group on several walks in the hope of
spotting the elusive regent honeyeater. Sadly, it was not to be although there
was plenty of wildlife – scarlet honeyeaters, little lorikeets, woodswallows,
wombats, wallaroos, eastern greys, red-bellied black snakes and lace

The group also had the opportunity to view firsthand the
woeful tree planting carried out by National Parks and see how the
weeds had neatly colonised the furrows ripped into the hillsides.

A short video of the weekend can be found at:

Waterfall to Heathcote via Uloola Pools, Royal NP, wildflowers

On Saturday 31 August 2019, 11 OFF members enjoyed a spectacular and
scenic wildflower walk from Waterfall to Heathcote along the Uloola track via
Karloo Pools (11 km). Uloola walking track meanders through the picturesque
highlands of Royal National Park.

There was a huge variety of wildflowers in many different colours, including a splendid showing of Darwinia and Red Spider Flowers – Grevillea oleoides. Walking conditions were perfect and thanks to the recent rainfall, the waterfalls and pools were at their best with plenty of aquatic fauna.

A thoroughly enjoyable day – thanks to Kim Wagstaff for organising and
leading the walk.

Yeramba Lagoon

OFF Walk to Yeramba Lagoon This month’s walk saw a change of pace with a fairly relaxed 1.8km walk around Yeramba Lagoon by 13 OFF members. The remediation work on the lagoon seems successful so far as the waters were mostly clear of the choking weeds. More work will be done in the future to enable flushing by the salt waters of the Georges River to prevent the return of the weeds.

Walking clockwise, the first section is more protected from the sun and less frequently burnt. We passed some beautiful small sandstone cliffs and rock outcrops. Members were surprised by the extent of the reserve(335ha) and the very good condition of the bushland although surrounded by suburbia.






After the walk we continued on to Lambeth Reserve for a quick lunch and then walked along the boardwalk beside the Georges River, downstream to the National Park There is some lovely bushland on one side and pretty views of the river on the other. Most of the group had not visited these areas before and were pleased to find some new bushland sites close to home.

Walk Leader Vicki Bolling


Royal Botanic Gardens

On Tuesday 5 March 2019, eight members met at Oatley station and caught the train to Martin Place from where we headed through the Domain to the Information Centre of The Royal Botanic Garden where the tour commenced. As our intended OFF leader had a foot injury, we joined the scheduled 10.30 guided tour for the public but the group of 24 was too large for one guide. The Co-ordinator of the Garden Volunteer Program and a very experienced horticulturist, Paul Nicholson, stepped in to take our OFF group and a few others on our own very entertaining tour.

Points of interest included the oldest bridge in Australia; its antiquity was discovered when repairs were done early this century and confirmed by the convict marks on the handmade bricks. The bridge crosses a stream that flows into Farm Cove. Swamp Oaks (Casuarina glauca) more than 250 years old, growing on a hill near the Maiden Pavilion, mark the original high water level; the land below that has been reclaimed from swamp.

We looked at the recently-renovated pond with Lotus flowers & waterlilies, a few flowers still in bloom. The seeds of the Lotus will survive in the water for many years. Water droplets on the Lotus leaves stay in a spherical form due to hairs on the leaf’s surface and roll across the surface, cleaning off dust as they go. Amazing!

Paul led us along a mulched path to show us some most unusual blooms – the dramatic black, white and burgundy flowers of bat plants (Tacca species).

Southern Hemisphere conifers were another feature of the tour. A Kauri Pine is the tallest tree in the garden (33 m). We stood in the shade of a beautiful specimen of a Norfolk Island Pine; it was hoped they would provide timber for ships’ masts but were found to be most unsuitable as the timber splits at points of lateral growth. One of Australia’s rarest conifers, Wollemi Pines are being propagated and planted all over the world.

It was interesting to learn about the Grey-headed Flying Fox dilemma and how it is being resolved. Intense studies including tagging bats showed that the individuals roosting in the Garden during the day were part of a single population extending along the East Coast from Queensland to Adelaide.  So for two years the bats in the Garden were disturbed by noise at dawn and they have moved on to other colonies, of which there are a number in the Sydney region.

Fruit bats are vital for pollination of many native trees and enhance cross pollination because pollen sticks better to their fur than to birds’ feathers. At night the white blossoms of gum trees stand out and their nectar production doubles, making them highly visible and attractive to the bats. The bats
also eat the fruits of figs and other trees, assisting in dispersal and germination through their droppings.

The Australian White Ibis is increasing in numbers in the Garden; their probing is good for aerating the soil as well as for pest control. The Garden is currently participating in a study into their movements; the ibis are being tagged with numbers and the public is encouraged to notify where
they are observed. The palms are suffering as the ibis nest on their crowns, damaging the growing point and in time killing the tree.

We ended our tour in The Calyx, the glasshouse built to celebrate the bicentenary of the Garden in 2016. It is a horseshoe shape, three-quarters glass with the whole back wall covered in plants.

A fine mist of water keeps the plants hydrated and the glass walls and roof allow in light for photosynthesis. The current exhibition is of carnivorous plants – pitcher plants, sundews and Venus flytraps in all shapes, colours and sizes. The exhibition will close in winter but re-open in spring and continue till next year. The Calyx also has an excellent information section, amenities and café with seating outside overlooking a water feature that includes handmade glass pitcher plants, stunning!

On leaving the Garden, five of us went on to the State Library to see the new exhibitions including, among others, a collection of Myles Dunphy’s papers. We finished up with coffee in Oatley after a most enjoyable day.


Walk Report by Marie O’Connor & Photos by Graham Lalchere


New Program for 2019

OFF Field Officer, Graham Fry and Program Officer Matt Allison have put together the program of activities for 2019. There is a mixture of easy excursions and some more demanding walks. Our monthly Monday meetings will feature environmental research, travel and tips on living sustainably.  CHECK OFF NEWS FOR DETAILS OF ACTIVITIES

OFF program 2019- pdf copy can be printed or get a card at one of our talks or walks



25th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm  OEH researcher -Dr David Eldridge: Conservation & management of Australian Drylands.


5thTuesday – Field day – Tour of Royal Botanic Gardens – history, wildlife and horticulture. Leader: Amanda Gibson

25th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm – Linda Groom from Save Kosci Inc walks the talk: Protecting fragile ecosystems in Kosciuszko NP.

31stSunday – Field day – Easy walk – McMahons Pt to Milsons Pt, Wendy Whiteley’s garden. Leader: Sue de Beuzeville


29th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm – OEH Researcher – Ross Crates – updates us on the fate of the endangered Regent Honeyeater.


5thSunday – Field day - Hard walk with easier alternative – spectacular Bargo R and Gorge. Leader: Sharyn Cullis

27th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm- Deb Andrew on Wildlife wonders of the Burragorang Valley – hidden refuge near here.


2ndSunday – Field day - Medium walk – Red Hand Cave stencils, axe-grinding grooves, Glenbrook. Leader: Matt Allison

24th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm - Anna Moltchanski from GRC-partnered Our Energy Future – Solar energy &reducing bills

30thSunday – Field day - Medium walk (some off-track) – Blue Labyrinth, Mt Whaite nr Wentworth Falls. Leader: Julian Sheen


22ndMonday Meeting – 7.30pm - Alan Fairley& Kim Wagstaff showcase the natural wonders of Western Australia – flora & landscape.

27thSaturday – Field day - Easy walk – explore Yeramba Lagoon at Picnic Point nr Georges River. Leader: Vicki Bolling


26th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm - Jayden Walsh displays extraordinary knowledge of reptiles and frogs of the Sydney Basin

31stSaturday – Field day - 15 km walk –Waterfall to Heathcote via Uloola Pools, Royal NP, wildflowers. Leader: K Wagstaff


23rd Monday Meeting – 7.30pm - President Graham Lalchere goes the extra mile with the history of Myles Dunphy, the man.

27/29thWeekend field trip - Stay in Capertee NP accommodation, explore the valley and enjoy the woodland’s rich fauna. Leader: Deb Andrew


28th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm - OFF’s research grant recipient- Justin Collette – reveals progress on his seed germination studies


3rd Sunday – field trip - Morning cruise – explore Hawkesbury R with commentary by local historian. Leader: G Fry

25th Monday Meeting – 7.30pm - Chris Lloyd takes us off the coast of Wollongong to the 5 Islands where he has been instrumental in the conservation strategies of these important sea bird refuges.

DECEMBER 2nd Monday Christmas Picnic in Oatley Park


FEBRUARY 3rdAGM – 7.30pm- Followed by members’ photos & supper

Blue Mountains Botanic Garden

Our Blue mountains excursion to Mt Tomah – Botanic gardens was popular with 30 members and friends participating. After stopping for a comfort break and morning tea at a café in Richmond we arrived at Mt Tomah Botanic Garden at 11.30am. What a contrast to OFF’s last visit here in June 2008 when the fog and mist surrounded us. The low visibility created its own special magic on that cold day as we made our way through the garden. This time however, a perfect spring day greeted us, with the sun shining on a wonderful vista over the garden to the blue mountains in the distance.

On arrival it was agreed that we would all go our separate ways and that the bus would leave at 2pm. for the return journey. The party separated into various small groups which headed off in different directions, consequently there were varied experiences throughout the day. We all enjoyed the wonderful waratahs which were at their best as were the rhododendrons. It was very difficult to come up with favourite garden sections as the area is wonderfully diverse owing to its former use and subsequent development.From 1935 to 1972 (when it was gifted to the Botanic Gardens Trust), the property was operated as a cut-flower farm as well as a private garden which was planted with many unusual species of plants and trees from many parts of the world. In 1983 with government bicentennial grants the garden began its transformation into the Mt Tomah Botanical Garden. The highly managed environment adjacent to natural wilderness proved to be a challenge. The collection of trees already planted was added to with an emphasis on Southern Hemisphere plants which had not previously been grown in Australia, along with additional plantings of many Australian Native species – hence the amazing diversity.

Thanks to Graham Fry for arranging the day and driving the bus without which some members would not have been able to attend. Those of us who had visited ten years earlier noticed how the plants have matured and multiplied. A perfect day enjoyed by all! (report by Robin Dickson)

We were amazed by the Sureal Puya flowers and spectacular show of the pink Flamingo tree.

The North American woodland walk and Gondwana forest with a grove of Wollemi Pines provided shade on a very warm spring day. 



The Rock garden with South African Protea and South American bromliads were stunning displays.


See More about the Gardens




Quarantine Station North Head

Six OFF members and their guests participated on a field trip to Quarantine Station on North Head on Sunday 23 September. It was a glorious spring day which coincided with the 10th Birthday of the Q Station’s new chapter. There were free history tours, stalls, entertainment, and various ‘mock’ re-enactments of historical events.

The complex operated as a quarantine station from 14 August 1832 to 29 February 1984. The concept behind its establishment was that, as an island-nation, the Colony of New South Wales, as it then was, was susceptible to ship-borne disease. Those who might have an infectious disease would be kept in quarantine until it was considered safe to release them. The importance and future role of North Head was reinforced by Governor Darling’s Quarantine Act of 1832, which set aside the whole of North Head for quarantine purposes in response to the 1829–51 cholera pandemic in Europe

The area has three main groups of buildings:

  • the wharf and foreshore buildings such as: the disinfection and sower blocks, the Gas Chamber, the Museum, Café/Kiosk etc. at Quarantine Beach.

  • the hospital and isolation group, and

  • the buildings on the upper grassy slopes, with extensive views, grassy cleared areas around these groups, delineated by bushland remnants and regrowth.

One of the most historic features of the quarantine station is the series of engravings along the escarpment adjacent to the jetty. The carvings were executed by people staying at the quarantine station, and cover an extensive period that stretched from the early nineteenth century to the mid-twentieth century. SEE MORE…


In 2008, Australia’s longest continuously operating quarantine station began a new chapter in its history, termed Adaptive Reuse & Heritage Conservation, and opening as Q Station. Home to a hotel, conference centre, and restaurant complex, a beautiful harbourside destination for families, corporate groups and the community at large to enjoy and explore. It remains part of the Sydney Harbour National Park.



Nattai National Park – Bonnum Pic

A party of 18 club members assembled at Mittagong on Sunday morning 29 July to walk the Bonnum Pic track in the Nattai National Park. The Pic gained its striking name from the French engineer and explorer Francis Barrallier in 1802. For the most intrepid the goal would have been Bonnum Pic itself, a narrow promontory of broken rock, bound on three sides by sheer 150m cliffs with breathtaking views north the distant Blue Mountains and the Burragorang Valley.

We opted for a more relaxing itinerary than the full 16km out-and-back to the Pic, and after a 25km car pool drive along the Wombeyan Caves road and the Wanganderry farm access road, we had a pleasant 1.5 hour walk through grazing land, bush and heathland out to the wonderful Wanganderry Walls. The mallee on the rocky areas was the Narrow-leaved Mallee Ash Eucalyptus apiculata  which occurs at West Berrima, Wanganderry Tableland , Hilltop and Mt Keira. The hakea was Hakea constablei which occurs on Wanganderry Tableland and the Upper Blue Mountains.

We then spent a further hour navigating along the cliff line across friendly, undulating rock domes in brilliant sunshine, mild temperatures, but blustery winds, to our lunch spot, before retracing our steps to the cars. Thanks to Adrian Buzo for leading the walk and writing up the report.

Our  expert fauna guide Deb Andrew was able to spot and record some fauna sightings for the Atlas of NSW wildlife. A Lesueur’s Velvet Gecko (Oedura lesueurii), favoured food of the endangered Broad-headed Snake. She explained that moving the rocks (for cairn building ) was destroying gecko and snake habitat. We saw the v-shaped incisions on the trunks of Grey Gum (Eucalyptus punctata) which are the feeding incisions made by the endangered Yellow-bellied Glider Petaurus austalis (feeds on sap nectar and insects),. We also saw an endangered Scarlet Robin, heard an endangered Gang Gang Cockatoo and heard a Red-browed Treecreeper. There were no previous records for those species in those locations in the Atlas.


National Parks Document on Vegetation

North Head Sanctuary Walk

A dozen OFF members and friends enjoyed a brilliant day out on Sunday 1 July. The walk had something for everyone – spectacular views, flora and fauna, sculptures and history. Despite the ever shifting railway timetables we all made it on to the 10 o’clock ferry to Manly. Sydney harbour was sparkling on a glorious warm sunny mid-winter day.

We walked from Manly ferry terminal across to South Steyne Beach, along Marine Parade which was busy with people enjoying the unseasonably warm day. There were some interesting sculptures along the way highlighting the aquatic life in the Cabbage Tree Bay Reserve.


Coffee break at Shelly beach, where we encountered some very bold Brush Turkeys who were keen to sample our morning tea cakes. We pressed on up the hill to North Head.


The top of the hill gave us some spectacular views north. Cunningham’s skinks were spotted taking in the sun and view. The walk continued through the walled area with endangered Banksia Scrub. Some recent back burning has been done in this area to help with the regeneration of the bush. Enough flowering plants were spotted to keep our plant experts busy. On our walk through this area some Wattle Birds and Regent Honeyeaters were spotted feeding on the Banksia flowers.  Our stop at North Head sanctuary foundation information centre was productive with an enthusiastic volunteer and lots of information.

The nearby sculpture gallery offered some artistic flavour to the day. As we walked on towards the centre of the headland, history buffs were kept happy exploring fortifications and military buildings.


After our lunch break, we walked the Fairfax loop which offered some stunning views of headlands of Sydney harbour and the city. We also glimpsed a few large splashes as whales frolicked amongst the flotilla of whale watching boats. The walk officially finished at the aptly named Bella Vista cafe where some stopped off to a well earned afternoon tea and walk back; others opted for a quicker return on the bus.

Our return ferry trip provided some magnificent sunset views of the harbour and silhouettes of the bridge.