Ol’ Blue Eyes and the Power of the Bower

Bowerbird

 

For all those doubters, – the art of ‘Romance’ is not dead in Flowerdale. In fact there are males that go to extremes to prove they are worth a second glance.

Flowerdale is an interesting region with the Mt. Disappointment and Kinglake National Park at the southern end and drier, denuded or open woodland hills to the north. That means that birds of the shadier, moister gullies can sometimes be found at the southern end of Flowerdale.

In this case, it is the Satin Bowerbird (Ptilonorhyncus violaceus).

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Note the grass bower on the forest floor to the left of the photo. Blue plastic is visible in front of the bower.

On a recent holiday break, Chris Cobern came across the Satin Bowerbirds unmistakeable bachelor pad in the bush. Typically strewn with blue baubles (plastic strips and bottle tops) this hopeful romantic had constructed a bower of dry grass and saliva on the chance that a passing female might see the merits of his decorative endeavours and enter his bower while he entertained her with a song and dance routine. What this individual lacks is the full satin black/blue plumage of a mature male which can take up to seven years to develop. So he is not likely to win over a mate just yet as females in the area will visit several bowers and choose the male with the most decorated lovenest, and best courtship routine. The winner takes all, often stealing trinkets from the bowers of less experienced males. A successful courtship ends with a brief mating within the bower. The female then heads off  to build a nest some metres above the ground, where she brings up her brood on her own. Often a successful male will attract a number of females to mate with.

Satin Bowerbirds are likely to be seen around the Flowerdale township. Let us know if you come across their bowers

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Snippets

 

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.DSC_0167

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

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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.

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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.IMG_6014

Flowerdale Landcare Blackberry Busting program ends for 2014

 

Volunteers from Flowerdale Landcare put in a total of 19 hours on Sunday the 14th of December. This effort assisted members of Flowerdale community in the residential hub who lacked the means or ability to manage blackberry on their properties. Twelve properties were listed for assistance with the energetic co-ordination of Bronwyn Graham, secretary of Flowerdale Community House.

Most of the work was completed using our 600 litre spray unit.

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One of the difficulties with managing blackberries in an urban setting are that the seeds are often dropped by birds perching on fence lines and in garden shrubs. This can make spraying inappropriate. On some properties the cut and paint technique was used to protect valued plants. The cut and paint technique involves cutting canes close to the ground and applying undiluted glyphosate to the stump. The poison is then drawn through the root system of the blackberry, killing the plant. This system is a targeted approach with minimal chemical use. It is also time consuming and you need to check for snakes before crawling under bushes at this time of year!

Much of the blackberry problem for the people of the residential hub comes from the heavy infestation along the banks of the nearby King Parrot Creek. At this time of the year the Macquarie Perch are breeding in the Creek and spraying is not appropriate with the risk of overspray contaminating the water. More voluntary work will occur along the banks in 2015.

This year, Flowerdale Landcare has assisted in treating blackberry infestation on approximately 180 ha in the Flowerdale region. This is a drop in the ocean really, but the aim is to lead the community and encourage others to take part. From the response we received on Sunday, we are certain more  people will be involved next season.

Variations on a theme

Pobblebonk

Keen observers of our flora and fauna often become excited thinking they may have stumbled across a new or rare species. More often than not, the difference observed is a variation within a species. For example the frog in the above picture is your typical representative of the Banjo Frog or Pobblebonk (Limnodynastes dumerili), commonly found in the Flowerdale area and widespread in a variety of habitats in Victoria. The frog pictured below with the yellow flank is also a Pobblebonk, a colour variant found in the nursery operated by Rick Wheeler near the Flowerdale Primary School. A survival adaptation of frogs is the ability to merge into the surrounding environment Combined with the ability to remain motionless, the frog is able to  avoid detection by predators. Colour change is achieved by sensing its surroundings and releasing hormones that control the movement of the pigment melanin to contract deeper into the skin cells, or disperse across the cell and closer to the skin surface, thereby creating lighter or darker shades. This yellow flanked Pobblebonk may have been hiding in some of the yellow pigmented grasses that Rick is growing, it would be interesting to know.

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The evenings in Flowerdale at the moment are punctuated by the call of the Peron’s Tree Frog, also known as the Maniacal Cackle frog. It is the middle of breeding season for this species. With little suction caps on its toes, the Peron’s Tree Frog is a skilled climber. I watched one last night climbing the window and catching insects attracted by the light bulb. Click on the following link to hear it’s spooky  call http://frogs.org.au/frogs/species/Litoria/peroni/

Invasion Alert!

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;

  1. Identify and gauge the extent of the problem
  2. Talk to you neighbours and make a combined effort for the greatest long term effect
  3. Seek advice on the best method and resources available to tackle the problem
  4. Record with your local Flowerdale Landcare your theatre of operation, objectives, tactics and successes.
  5. 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.IMG_5992

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.DSC_0139

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.DSC_0142

Seasons come and go

 

The traditional four seasons don’t really figure when you live in an area such as Flowerdale. With an early summer coming on and the grass curing very quickly, we’ve had a very short orchid season. These beautiful gems of our roadsides and un-grazed open bushland have all but finished for the year.tiger orchid1

One of my favourite roadside sites that contains tiger orchids, nodding greenhoods, onion orchids and small sun orchids is on an embankment in an area that was given some attention by the Shire this year.IMG_5948 Last month for the first time in many years the roadsides were slashed here which would be welcomed by some who worry about potential fire fuel load with hot dry days upon us. For others, it was disappointing to see many small shrubs and herbaceous plants such as Narrow- leaf Bitter Pea and Austral Indigo reduced to mulch. A conversation with the Shire worker suggested that putting up signage or other indicators of significant areas known to locals would greatly assist their approach. With that in mind our group contacted our Upper Goulburn Landcare Co-ordinator Chris Cobern, who assisted me in putting in place a sign that may help protect an area of diverse ground flora and encourage other locals to look more closely at what they may have on their roadsides. In 2013 I counted 120 Tiger orchid individuals on this site, this year I counted 118. I also noticed the Tiger orchid in a number of other sites around Flowerdale.

Significant roadside site

Recently I have been fortunate to work with volunteers alongside Chris  Cobern  on fence building in the Mickleham/Kilmore fire affected areas (Feb. 2014) of Willowmavin/Kilmore assisting landholders in the South West Goulburn Landcare Network area. As with Flowerdale after the 2009 fires, I have noticed prolific flowering of orchids, in particular Golden Moths (Diuris chryseopsis) along the roadsides in the fire affected areas of the Mitchell Shire.DSC_0043

On a recent walk through the bush at Dixons Creek I photographed a beautiful orchid commonly called the Wax lip Orchid (Glossodia major). Definitely a gem.IMG_5963

Flowerdale Remembers

Remembrance Day in Flowerdale yesterday was proudly organised under the auspices of Flowerdale Landcare. Fifty two adults and around 25 primary school children gathered at the Flowerdale Community Hall at 10.50 a.m. to observe the Minute Silence at 11;00 a.m, commemorating the Armistice of 1918, the end of the Great War. The commemoration saw a strong contribution from the Flowerdale Men’s Shed who provided crucifixes to the school children.

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These crucifixes were inscribed with the names of family members who had served Australia. The children respectfully placed the crucifixes into the lawn at the Hall before joining the adults in the service led by John Brown and supported by the Men’s Shed choir. The Cuppa that followed the service was provided by the Hall Committee assisted by the senior Flowerdale School children. Thanks to the 12 Flowerdale Landcare members who participated, especially those who provided the yummy home made ANZAC biscuits. Thanks also to Flowerdale Community House who provided the publicity and the service sheets for the commemoration. The children are commended on their participation, learning and respectfulness of the occasion. Our local Flowerdale Hotel closed for the observance so that staff and proprietors could take part.

 

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A new page is being developed by Flowerdale Landcare that will focus on local plants for small gardens. From time to time Flowerdale Landcare members involved in nursery production will submit local plant species and notes on their use in the garden landscape  as a resource for Flowerdale residents to refer to when planning or renovating gardens, enjoying their garden or landscaping around the family home. The first of these plants  is the Gold Dust Wattle (Acacia acinacea).

Gold Dust Wattle is found growing locally on sunny banks often under red box. It can colonise an otherwise inhospitable site and provides a low growing splash of spring lemon yellow colour. This local plant can be trimmed to keep it compact and bushy and promote suckering. Without trimming the Gold Dust Wattle can grow to 2 metres with a straggly look. A good plant for embankments, rockeries and anywhere that receives full sun or dappled light. Good drainage essential. Drought and frost tolerant. Good habitat for small birds and as with other wattles; fixes nitrogen in soil.

Flowerdale Landcare Launched with a Flotilla of Ducks

What started as a cool overcast morning quickly cleared to a warm day in the mid twenties. A perfect day for some 27 Flowerdalians who gathered at the Community House in Silver Creek Road for the Launch of Flowerdale Landcare.

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Native plants for small gardens

Community House provided us with a wonderful venue of well manicured, shady grounds, play equipment, and a BBQ. Participants were soon engaged in conversations about the marvel of bees and the art of beekeeping. The Playground was the first stop for Max and Connor. Others perused and purchased vegetable seedlings.  Native plants suitable for small gardens  were displayed by Rick (proprietor of RAW Plants a native nursery located in Flowerdale). John and Ellen put on a feast of sausages and onions  for those who had missed breakfast and kept up supplies for lunch as well

Sue, Steve and David wandered  down to the Silver Creek at the back of the house for some serious water creature investigation with Connor and Max. Armed with pocket magnifying glasses  several water nymphs were observed as well as a fresh water crayfish Euastacus armatus (listed under the Flora and Fauna Guarantee as threatened). Greater fun was had by seeing who could throw the biggest rock and make the biggest splash.

Whirligig Beetle Larvae

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Look Mum!

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Talking Compost!

While these children were engaged at the creek, Derek was discussing permaculture and composting in one of the meeting rooms, with a focussed audience. 

After lunch there was a short walk to the King Parrot Creek for the much anticipated Great Flowerdale Duck Race. Although there were only 30 entrants in this years field, the ducks were soon strung out over the course. With the first 4 ducks under the bridge to be awarded a prize, there were some pretty excited duck owners urging their chances along. DSC_0108The race was all but won when a swirling breeze blew straight upstream taking the ducks with them. To make matters worse, the ducks that were lagging behind then forged to the front with ducks belonging to Jenny, Carol, Deb and Paul claiming the prizes of organic moisturizers, a nest box, a rustic watering can and some gardening magazines.DSC_0110 Onlookers on the bridge also observed a fresh water crayfish (identifiable with it’s whitish claws) before heading back to the Community House for birthday cake to celebrate the second anniversary of the formation of the Group.DSC_0125

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Duck Retreivers

Thanks to everyone who assisted and participated in the day, including Joe who helped set up and Claude for cutting a safe walkway through the long grass to avoid snake surprises.The feeling amongst the participants was that the day was very entertaining and will most likely be an annual event fitting in with our objective of encouraging more people to enjoy and appreciate the King Parrot Creek. The water was very refreshing too for our duck retrievers Wayne, Paul and Steve. The turnout on the day was a great response considering the event was only advertised through our blogsite, the Flowerdale Flyer, Parrot Chatter and an email.  If you want to keep in touch with what is happening in Flowerdale Landcare, just click on the Follow button to join 66 other followers.

Upcoming Community Event:

Remembrance Day will be observed at the Flowerdale Community Hall on the 11th of November with the involvement of the Primary School and the Men’s Shed Choir. Everyone is invited to join in this observance. Flowerdale Community House will be running a bus for those who need assistance with transport. Arrive by 10;50 a.m. for an 11;00 a.m. start

 

Broom Busters II

It’s a  fact of life that we march steadily to an age where our capacity for physical activity declines. In rural areas across  Australia the reality of the need for young people to head towards cities and regional centres is perennial. This migration of young people out of the region has implications for all volunteer groups in rural areas. For many Landcare Groups the average age of participants is rising. I noticed with our last Insurance renewal that volunteers with Landcare are now covered up to the age of 90. This is fantastic recognition that there are people in our communities of advanced years still involved and making a contribution.

Being less than half an hours drive from Whittlesea,  ( no longer a sleepy country town on the edge of Melbourne’s northern suburban sprawl), is a great advantage for Flowerdale Landcare. New faces in our local community are welcome and will keep the average age of our group down. One of the ways forward for Landcare Groups will increasingly be partnerships and engagement with corporate groups. A variety of businesses and other organisations are keen to involve staff in the volunteer and community service ethos. What better place to spend a day volunteering than in the little bit of paradise that is the Flowerdale Valley!

One such group recently joined with us to tackle the Cape Broom infestation along our King Parrot Creek. Unfortunately we weren’t able to turn on great weather and we often sought shelter in the barbeque area of Moore’s Road Reserve, during a passing shower. The Certificate III in Environment Studies group that worked with us on the 17th of September, put in 7.5 hours between them to pull out broom, cut down larger plants and paint the stumps with glyphosate. The small group were given a hearty lunch of real sausages (from our Yea Meat Supply) in appreciation of their efforts. There are many advantages to this interaction. Apart from being an educational experience for all involved, it also makes often tedious tasks enjoyable, a social occasion. Flowerdale Landcare will continue to engage with groups such as this to help us achieve our objectives along the Creek

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