On my weekly trip over to Willowmavin working with Chris Cobern (Fire -Recovery Co-ordinator for the Upper Goulburn Landcare Network),we often come across interesting creatures or plants in the environment. In a previous post I noted the Golden Moth Orchids on the roadside. On one property where we have been fencing off the Kurkuruc Creek, we have been watching the flowering of clumps of Xanthorrhoea minor, the small grass tree. Normally found in open woodland or heath, this clump is in an open paddock heavily grazed by sheep.
Obviously a tough customer requiring good drainage and drought tolerant, it would make a great garden specimen. Although slow growing, the foliage is attractive and when it flowers it is a striking plant. Nectar rich, it is a great bird and insect attractor. In terms of bush tucker, like Banksia species, the flowers can be used to sweeten drinks
A sunny day on the Kurkuruc Creek means snakes and plenty of them. Tiger snakes abound as well as Red-Belleid Black snakes, taking advantage of the many rocks in the creek to sun themselves. On a walk across the creek, one of our volunteers “Shorty” came across an interesting find half buried in the mud. this fresh water mussel contributes to keeping the water clean through filtering out bacteria and algae which is it’s food source. The life cycle of the fresh water mussel is interesting in that the female filters sperm released from the male through her gills where the eggs are stored and brooded. The fertilised eggs develop into larvae which need to attach to the gills or fins of fish in order to complete their development. The juvenile mussel then detaches from the fish and buries itself in the mud where it continues to grow. The advantage of attaching to fish is that the mussel population can get free transport to other locations in the waterway. Streams that have poor fish habitat therefore are not likely to have a good mussel population. Another good reason then to fence off waterways from stock and revegetate stream banks! Keep our native fish and mussel populations strong. Thanks to Shorty’s sharp eyes, I will know what to look for next time I’m down at our own King Parrot Creek.
Flowerdale Landcare committee of management met for the last time for 2014 recently. Normally a meeting is kept strictly to 1 and a half hours, but while Claude cooked up our BBQ dinner, the rest of us piled into cars for a quick trip up Spring Valley Road to locate Ted. Ted is our local Koala who pops up from time to time and was written about in an earlier post. His latest resting place is in some River Red Gums planted at the back of a farm dam that has been fenced off and revegetated. This patch is only 12 years old but has good connectivity to roadside vegetation and koala forage trees. Ted’s an old bloke that likes to sleep a lot and looks a little peeved when he is woken for a photo opportunity.
Flowerdale is under attack! A number of pests and unwanted guests are upsetting the natural balance in our region and damaging the environment we interact with. Now is the time to take up arms against a sea of troubles. Take a stand and join your neighbours in pushing back the invasion. There are a few simple steps to start you off;
- Identify and gauge the extent of the problem
- Talk to you neighbours and make a combined effort for the greatest long term effect
- Seek advice on the best method and resources available to tackle the problem
- Record with your local Flowerdale Landcare your theatre of operation, objectives, tactics and successes.
- Evaluate and persist; the first attack is seldom decisive.
Flowerdale Landcare has already identified Cape Broom and Blackberry as pests that deserve particular attention over the long term along the King Parrot Creek in the Flowerdale region, but there are others-
Rabbits! Bunnies! Underground Mutton!
These celebrated Easter heroes are so ever – present, we seldom take much notice of them. When was the last time you assessed this problem. Recently, a total of 17 bunnies were observed stretched out baking in the sun on the roadside in front of our cottage. I decided it was time to bake these bunnies as a source of clean, lean protein. Just like an iceberg, what you see is only the tip. Over 4 sessions totalling 4 hours, 40 rabbits were harvested over a 1ha area. That is around 80 meals stored in the freezer, or shared and eaten fresh over the last week. Great bush tucker.
Reduction of rabbits of course means another animal in competition for food may take more of our small native animals. Fox control goes hand in hand with rabbit control. To this end the Upper Goulburn Landcare Network is running a free fox control workshop on the 22nd of November at the Kinglake Scout Hall. To attend this, please call Landcare Co-ordinator Chris Cobern on 0413 855 490.
Another browsing animal that have rapidly built up in numbers are the deer, both Sambar and Fallow. These species have been able to take advantage of the dense bushland vegetation that is a result of the 2009 fires. They are becoming increasingly evident, being observed in daylight as well as at night. The damage these animals are doing to saplings and seedlings is also quite evident. Establishing new plantations of native seedlings faces further challenge if deer are present. Deer are another fantastic resource of lean protein.
Control and harvesting of animals must be humane. and in accordance with regulations.
Blackberry Busting in Flowerdale is progressing well. Join with your neighbours in targeting this weed species which is taking over good grazing land, providing harbour for vermin an choking access to our Creek and bushland. In the last fortnight, 5 neighbouring properties made use of the 600 litre spray unit belonging to Flowerdale Landcare to tackle blackberry infestations. An area of just over 124 ha was dealt with. This too is only the tip of the iceberg and we encourage more Flowerdale residents to make use of the unit over the next 4 months. The best time to make a difference is now. Blackberry is just beginning to flower. Spraying now will prevent the canes from setting seed. Call 0412 334 521 for assistance.
A decade ago we moved up from the city to live in the bush. Looking back we were naïve and idealistic with a vision of removing all the weeds and exotic plants from the property. Every year we would target one or two species with mixed success. All the Cotoneasters are gone as is the Broom, English Ivy and French Lavender. The thistles and blackberry are on their last legs. The journey however has been fraught with blunders.
Very early on we targeted a plant thinking it to be a weed and spent hours pulling it out. Unfortunately it was native – various species of Senecio or Fireweed. Fortunately our clumsy attempts to eradicate the plants failed dismally and they made a brilliant recovery. There are however many such identification traps for the unwary. With similar flowers, one confusion is between the Yam Daisy or Native Dandelion (Microseris lanceolata) and the Dandelion (Taraxacum sp.), a weed native to Europe and Asia.
Yam Daisy – note leaves and drooping buds
Since the fires in 2009, Yam Daisies have been appearing throughout the bush. This species has roots that Indigenous people baked and ate. Unusually, the buds droop on the end of long stalks, which become erect when in flower to attract the pollinating insects. After pollination the stalks again droop only to become erect again when seed heads ripen, presumably to catch the best breeze for seed dispersal.
If you can’t wait the plant’s entire life-cycle to check if your flower is a Yam Daisy and not a Dandelion, look at the leaves. The Yam Daisy has narrower toothed leaves that stand
up off the ground whereas the dandelion has broader leaves that form a rosette on the ground. In the end both plants produce showy yellow flowers but for the purists among us that isn’t enough.
Listed as rare in Victoria, this Common Beard Heath (Leucopogon virgatus) was spotted in full flower on a roadside embankment at the foot of Junction Hill in Flowerdale this week. Not far from my favourite orchid patch, this find again highlights the value of our roadside reserves as areas of relatively undisturbed remnant vegetation.
On checking my orchid patch for the latest orchid to flower, David and Laurie (KPCEG members) identified a small colony of Nodding Greenhood Orchids (Pterostylis nutans) numbering around 15 individuals. On a short walk across a dry exposed slope later in the day, I found a Purple Beard Orchid (Calochilus robertsonii). These local orchids have evolved unique tricks to aid pollination. The Nodding Greenhood produces a pheromone that imitates a female fungus gnat. The attracted male gnat is fooled into approaching the flower and is swept up by the lower petal into the flower momentarily. In the endeavour to escape, pollen attaches to the gnat. The male gnat who is slow to learn, is attracted to the next deceptive Nodding Greenhood, transferring the pollen. In the case of the Purple Beard Orchid, the flower form appears to the scollid wasp male as a female wasp. In the attempt to mate with the deception, pollen is attached and then transferred to the next flower. I think this is pretty tricky, possibly immoral, but as someone close to me says ‘males are so gullible’
The Yam Daisy, Milkmaids and Creeping Bossiaea are also beginning to flower in my favourite orchid patch. Yam daisy, Milkmaids and the Nodding Greenhood Orchid are also Bush tucker, having edible tubers, the Yam Daisy in particular being a valuable bush food to indigenous people.
One of the joys of living in the country with no visible neighbours are the sounds that carry an amazing distance on a still night. One of the most recognisable sounds after rain is the call of what we refer to as the ‘bonking’ frog. We have a dam near the house which we use as a water source in case of fire, but it is also a great habitat for various species of frog. What we refer to as the ‘bonking’ frog is actually called the ‘Pobblebonk Frog’ (Limnodynastes dumerili).
The Pobblebonk is quite common in our district and burrows into the clay near the dam. I happened to be doing a bit of digging today and came across the one in the photo. This frog uses it’s strong back legs to burrow.When I dug this frog up, it was swollen tight as a drum and could hardly move. It is quite a large frog and probably the largest of several species we have in the Flowerdale District. I’ve seen Pobblebonks many times but I’ve never noticed their water holding ability. As I moved to place this frog in a safe space, I ended up with a hand full of liquid and a frog half the size of when I picked it up. It must have passed about 10 ml. of clear liquid. The liquid smelt o.k., but unlike some bush tucker, I wasn’t game to try it!
I’ve read about a frog in the arid regions of Australia called the ‘Water Holding Frog” which can be used as a water source for survival purposes. Perhaps the Pobblebonk has the ability to store water as an adaptation to survive long periods without rain. We have already had a very dry Autumn, maybe these frogs are able to sense a dry period ahead and store water accordingly. I’d love to know more if anyone has any knowledge of this. Meanwhile, next time I’m in the bush and run out of water….
According to the Sulphur-crested Cockatoo “That’s what it’s all about”. After many years observing these birds, I’ve only just realised that they have all been left footers. This engaging parrot is quite catholic in its distribution throughout Eastern Australia, often making a nuisance of itself, raiding crops and splintering woodwork on houses. Having finished all the apples in my orchard last month, these cockatoos have been foraging for other food, in this case the Kurrajong (Brachychiton populneus). This tree, usually found from North-eastern Victoria to Townsville, retains pods of ripened seed and becomes a great food source for a dexterous cockie to prise open. The seed is very nutritious (18gm protein and 25gm of fat per 100gm of seed). In Flowerdale, winter cold has set in, with its frosts and fogs, and with the nesting season only a month away, the cockatoos will really benefit from the Kurrajong seed.
Kurrajong seed is also good bush tucker and was used as a flour and roasted as well. I’m not sure what it tastes like, but will report back when I’ve collected enough to toss in a pan with a little olive oil. I don’t think it will taste like chicken, although the cockatoo might!
The Kurrajong tree also is a source of edible gum, an edible tap root on saplings and fibre from the bark for string making. I have also found the dry pods are good for boat races with the kids in running water.
Disclaimer; Eating our native wildlife is not advocated by this site, which in most cases is strictly protected
At this time of the year as we prepare for the cooler months, cutting and splitting firewood, we sometimes get a few surprises with ant nests, hibernating European Wasps and grubs being found. This block of Tasmanian Bluegum revealed the very nutritious larva of the Eucalyptus Longhorned Borer, (Phoracantha semipunctata). These grubs are a sought after food source for the Yellow- tailed Black Cockatoo. Don’t believe anyone who tells you these grubs taste like chicken (or almonds etc.,)! My own opinion is that they taste like peanut butter and the heads are too crunchy.
It doesn’t taste like Chicken!
The Eucalyptus Longhorned Borer adult beetle takes advantage of stressed trees to lay eggs under the bark. The larvae that hatch eventually tunnel into the tree to pupate before emerging as adult beetles. The larvae can cause dieback in eucalypts. This Australian Native has become a successful invader of other countries (our revenge for the gift of the rabbit). While on the subject of bush tucker, this plant, the Kangaroo Apple (Solanum aviculare), was a common but short lived coloniser emerging after the 2009 fires. We had several bushes emerge on our property. It grows rapidly. Another great bird food, it is taken by rosellas when ripe and the seeds are then spread through the bush. It can be eaten when it turns orange and falls easily from the bush. Don’t try it before this stage as it is poisonous.