Sunday, 23 December 2007

XMas in the bushland

Today felt like summer! The Easterly wind promised heat later in the day. John and I set off to pull veldgrass - whieh we found plenty of. Just before finishing we came across an infestation of fountain grass Pennisetum setaceum.
We didn't have enough time to remove all of the plants - will have to come back and remove the rest - but we did remove the seed heads - which were already shedding their seeds.

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Sunday, 16 December 2007

Continuing veldgrass removal

John, Bronwen, Dorothy, and Kim joined in this morning to continue our veldgrass removal program. The veldgrass is scattered through the bushland, clumps about 1 mitre apart, mostly very small, a couple of larger ones that survived the spraying in spring. Removing them now reduces likelihood of plants producing more seeds during summer after each rain.

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Monday, 10 December 2007

Veldgrass weeding over summer

Now that the winter weeding frenzy has eased off we are moving into our summer weeding pattern, mainly focusing on Veldgrass, Pelargonium, Victorian Ti Tree, and any other weeds that we notice. This pattern will continue till next Autumn when the rains come and bring up the winter weeds.
While weeding in the bushland we came across this unfamiliar wattle - well over 2 metres tall, deep green bipinate phylodes - do you know what it is? (click on link to live map below to see the location).

It is currently producing seeds - has long seed pods, black seeds.

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Sunday, 18 November 2007

Committe Meeting November '07

Despite the forecast rain, it was a beautiful morning in the bushland, and the sun came out when we gathered for our committee meeting.

Muffins served were Pumpkin, Apricot and Pecan - which helped greatly in our deliberations.

From left - Vicky, John, Kim, Dorothy, and Dani

Still Geraldton Carnation weeds coming up!

Vicki joined me for a search for remnants of Geraldton Carnation Weed - unfortunately we found a lot - and amazingly there were lots of new ones coming up even though we have had little rain for a month or so and quite warm days.

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Monday, 12 November 2007

Walk Week - Bush to Beach walk segment

Six of us gathered at 10am on a warm Sunday morning at Shenton Park railway railway station.

We walked through the grounds of Shenton College, admiring some mature Tuarts that had been preserved during the development of the school (it was formerly a home for returned service men).

We noticed a new bat-box (installed by GreenCorps to a design by Joe Tonga. Nearby was another, hanging in a magnificent Jarrah habitat tree, one of the few left in the bushland as a result of frequent fires and logging.

Down the hill was a clearing created when the City of Nedlands removed some mounds created when the Army vacated the bushland after the Second World War and bulldozed their ablution blocks. A little further along was another remnant of the War in the form of a dense clump of Blue Lechanaultias, some of them still in flower. The Lechanaultias are not native to this bushland and were probably brought down from the Darling Ranges with gravel used for the parade ground for a Prisoner of War transfer station. This camp was also bulldozed at the end of the war.

Near Lemnos Street we discussed options for next year's walk, possibly going all the way to the beach.

A bare area (formerly a rubbish dump) was another scar this bushland carries which reflects the way people view bushland as waste land.

Last winter's plantings appear to be doing well as a result of the good rains we have had.

We returned to Shenton Park station after about an hour in the bushland.

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Removing the (almost) last GCWs

We are getting to the end of the 'pulling Geraldton Carnation Weeds' season - the warm weather is encouraging them to go to seed in a rush, and the lack of rain has stopped any new seedlings coming up.

Hopefully the rainy winter coupled with our constant weeding to prevent any going to seed will mean that the soil seed bank will be depleted next year - let's hope!

There were still quite a few to pull out - both in the south-east corner, and in the north-west corner.

It was nice to see that GreenCorps (supervised by Nedlands Council) has been also removing Geraldton Carnation weeds from near the southern boundary. The Council has also been mowing the fire access tracks. Thanks Vicki!

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Sunday, 4 November 2007

Three pleasant surprises!

I had three pleasant surprises in the bushland today!

After spending a couple of hours removing Geraldton Carnation Weeds I met Dorothy at the mound removal site, documenting recruitment of native plants in the area where Steve had removed dumps of soil.

Then, I came across an area where a whole lot of dumped concrete blocks had been removed (presumably by Nedlands Council) - thanks Vicki!

Finally, I came across this strange object slung up in a Jarrah near the Grace Vaughan House noticeboard - it looks like a bat box - a 1 metre long tube with a roughened surface and painted grey to blend with the bark of the Jarrah. The tube is open at the bottom, and appears to contain a number of lengths of carboard tubes jammed into it. I am wondering if it is one of Joe Tonga's bat boxes? Who put it there? If you know more, please tell us!

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Additional information provided by Joe Tonga:

Hi Daniel,
Yes, The long tubes are my special experimental bat homes. They are not completely my design but are Australian modified. They consist of two compartments. The bottom half has a collection of different diameter pvc pipes to allow bats to move around according to their temperature requirements. This part is more of a winter roost area. In Summer they are suppose to move up into the top half which is a 100mm pvc pipe which resembles a cave type atmosphere. The insides of this pipe is coated with a special cement render. It is also surrounded by 15 kilos of beach sand to act as a insulator to retain the heat. The micro bats require temperatures of 49 to 52 degrees c. This is what my latest research data.shows. This type of tube habitat heats up to about these temperatures.
The tubes were constructed under my supervision by the Green Corps group. The city of Nedlands paid for them. I have several of them scattered throughout the City of Nedlands bush areas.
Can you keep an eye on them and email me if you see any bats in them. I'm hoping the bats will find them sooner than the conventional timber type which takes approximately 3 years.
You can enter the above info in your blog or on your web page if you like.

Monday, 29 October 2007

The Mathematics of Bushland Management

Just me in the bushland today - but surrounded by painted ladies it seems - dug them out and (carefully) removed from the bushland to avoid spreading their little bulbils that break off from the main bulb.

As I had plenty of time to contemplate things, I pondered on the mathematics of bushland management, specifically, what is going to happen as the number of Geraldton Carnation Weeds declines? Big patches of weeds are easy to find. Individual GCW plants are quite a challenge to find - they are typically only a few centimetres tall, often surrounded by grass, and not really visible until they are advanced enough to flower or produce seeds.

At present we approach the challenge of weed control by working around the edges of infestations, trying to find the boundary, and working towards the centre. So, we are always searching for that individual plant on the outer edge of the infestation. And, I am sure we miss many of these outliers, so the edges of infestations become more and more diffuse and difficult to define.

This strategy is only as good as our ability to find those outliers. If we miss the outliers, and they then go to seed, then we will have an even bigger problem next year - and GCW has seeds that may last up to 7 years in the soil.

Our response to this problem is to visit the same area several times during the season. This increases the likelihood of picking up the outliers, especially as the plants become more visible as they mature. The problem of course is that this puts heavy demands on our time - reducing our capacity to focus on other weeds.

Any suggestions on how to deal with this? Suggestions welcome.

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Saturday, 27 October 2007

Proposed Bush to Beach Walk for Walk Week (11th November)

Walk notes prepared by Daniel Boase-Jelinek, Friends of Shenton Bushland Inc

Shenton Bushland is a time-capsule that tells us a little of what this area used to look like before European settlement 200 years ago, and also how the natural ecosystem of this bushland has evolved and adapted to the changes that have occurred as a result of that settlement.

Looking east from the Shenton Park train station notice that we are high up on a remnant sand-dune.

A geological cross section from the City to the ocean reveals that there are a series of these dunes. Each dune sits on top of an elevated ridge of limestone. In the valleys between the dunes are wetlands such as Lake Jualbup, Lake Claremont and Perry Lakes.

The original vegetation on the dunes is Jarrah Banksia woodlands. Where the limestone comes close to the surface, you will see Tuart and thickets of Dryandra sessilis. Most of the original vegetation around the wetlands has been removed to make way for houses and parks. If you visit Lake Claremont and Perry Lakes you might see some of the original reeds and swamp paperbarks.

This diversity of land forms, and associated vegetation has made it possible for a great variety of insects, birds, reptiles and mammals to inhabit and survive in the area despite the long hot dry summers. Central to this survival is the groundwater that is collected during the winter rains, and then seeps out from the limestone ridges and flows down into the wetlands, ultimately ending up in the river and the ocean. The ground water level rises during winter and causes the wetlands to flood, and declines each summer allowing the wetlands to dry out. The frogs, tortoises and birdlife that inhabit the wetlands in winter have adapted to this cycle. For example, each spring, the frogs leave the wetland and head off up into the bushland, and forage there through summer, before returning to the wetland in autumn to breed. Birds, butterflies, bees and other insects also move to-and-fro with the seasons.

Vegetation linkages provide the routes for these frogs, birds, and insects to move between bushland and wetland as part of their seasonal movement.
Today's walk will commence at Shenton Park train station, and loop through the bushland (following the path marked in blue on this map), returning back to the starting point.

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Entering Shenton Bushland through the car park we notice the big Jarrah and Tuart trees with nesting hollows. It takes many years for trees to develop hollows big enough for birds to use for nesting. During Perth's early settlement there was a lot of logging activities in these bushland areas, and many of the old trees have disappeared.

Walking along the path, looking west into the bushland, we notice that there are few big trees, and most of the vegetation consists of shrubs and ground covers. This reflects the logging, followed by frequent fires that killed off regrowth. It is now ten years since the last fire, and new saplings are beginning to appear. This bushland needs at least another 10 or 20 years without fire to have any chance of getting the big trees back.

The degraded area used to be a rubbish tip for many years. Being on the road to the Brockway Rubbish tip it was cheaper to dump rubbish here than at the tip. Nature has a way of reclaiming these areas, and amid the weeds (which have been sprayed to reduce the fire hazard) there are native plants gradually reclaiming this area.

Native plants compete fiercely with weeds, however, once a patch of bushland has lost much of its over-storey, shrubs, and ground cover, it becomes very vulnerable to weed invasion. Most weeds love fire and bare ground, and will quickly take over an area. Weeds don't contribute food or habitat to birds and insects in the bushland. They don't 'pay taxes', and therefore have a natural advantage over native plants that are continually being attacked and eaten.

Local Councils and Bushland Friends groups try to counter the weed invasion by building the resilience of the existing bushland. They encourage the natural vegetation by reducing fire hazards, spraying weeds, and hand removing where spraying is not practical.

Shenton Bushland has had many uses over the years. Being close to the Karrakatta Barracks and the railway line, it was handy during the Second World War to use as a transfer station for Prisoners of War who were mainly based at Marinup (near Dwellingup), but had to come to Perth for medical and other reasons during their internment. The camp here was a group of tents, as well as a parade ground. Most of this was bulldozed after the camp was closed.

Near the southern boundary of the bushland is the current Karrakatta Barracks.

This area was used as a firing range during the war. It is now used for training Reserves. In the background you might see tents and ablution blocks for the Transport Division that used the Bushland when they needed more room.

Near the top of the ridge, we enter a thicket of Dryandra sessilis, which is a sign that limestone is close to the surface. This thicket is important for small birds that can safely forage for food, safe from larger birds that might hunt them.

This diversity of vegetation is a key for survival of the bushland into the future. Diverse bushland habitats allows a variety of insects, birds, and reptiles to live there, and they all contribute to the ecological processes that keep the bushland alive.

Diversity of bushland habitats is also important for this bushland to survive climate change. There have been many changes in climate during the evolution of this bushland. It has survived those changes in the past because those species that were favoured by the new climate did well, while other species that were not suited to the new climate diminished. Larger bushland areas have more diversity, and thus are more likely to survive climate change. Before European settlement, this was one single bushland stretching hundreds of kilometres along the coast and into the goldfields. Now we have just tiny fragments of bushland left. No-one knows whether these small fragments have enough diversity and resilience to respond to the challenge of climate change.

One of the life forms in the bushland we will not see today are fungi. Fungi are neither plant, nor animal. They live in the soil, invisible to us for most of the year until winter. When the rain comes they put up their fruiting bodies that we recognize as mushrooms and puff balls. They also produce fruiting bodies (such as truffles) underground, that used to be eaten by marsupials. Marsupials were probably an important way for fungi to spread through the bushland. Cats, dogs, and foxes have killed off all the marsupials in this bushland. But the fungi remain, and are vital to the life of the bushland. Without them, there would be no Jarrah or Tuart trees, or many of the shrubs that grow in the bushland because the fungi attach to the roots of these plants and help them gather nutrients from the soil.

Other invisible life forms vital to the bushland are cyano-bacteria. These bacteria cannot survive alone, and need to live in association with a host that can protect them from the hostile world. For example, Zamias form an association with cyano-bacteria by developing special roots that are inhabited by the bacteria. The bacteria use photosynthesis to provide nitrogen to the Zamia in exchange for shelter from a hostile world. Cyano-bacteria are vital to life on earth – over millions of years they were the source of much of the oxygen in our atmosphere. Unfortunately, oxygen is toxic to cyano-bacteria, so they are the victims of their own success. Is this a lesson for human beings?

A question for you to consider: How is your lifestyle impacting on the survival of the plants, insects, fungi, birds, and reptiles of Shenton Bushland?

  • do plants from your garden threaten to invade the bushland?

  • could you plant species in your garden that can enhance the movement of insects, birds, and reptiles during their seasonal migrations?

  • do you use chemicals in your garden that might harm these insects, birds, and reptiles?

  • have you told your local council that you value the work council does in looking after these bushland areas, and that you are happy for your rates to be used for this purpose?

These might seem small things, but they have a big impact on the survival of this bushland!

Sunday, 21 October 2007

Surprises - nice and not so nice!

Gladiolus angustus - (Long tubed painted lady) - a nasty surprise lurking where we didn't expect it.

These plants have lots of bulbils that need to be carefully dug out - otherwise they just get worse each time they are disturbed.

We weren't prepared - will need to come back with trowels and bags.

Moving on we worked on Geraldton Carnation Weeds - still lots of them. This has been a really good year for them, and we need to do a lot more work to make sure we don't have a massive infestation next year.

Also found a few Watsonias - which we dug out - no problems there, just need to keep at them.

Further along we came across 6 Victorian Ti-Tree seedlings that had blown in across the fence from Defence Department land.
A pleasant surprise awaited us further East along the Defence Department land fence - a patch of Dampiera linearis out in bloom! These plants are barely visible for most of the year, and then they come out with this stunning blue and yellow flower!

We feasted our eyes on them, and then moved off to another patch of Geraldton Carnation weeds.

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Monday, 15 October 2007

Snakes alive!

The three of us were transfixed - Brian, myself, and a shiny, black, sleek looking Dugite, which appeared to have just emerged from hibernation, and was no doubt hungry and full of venom!

The Dugite slithered away in a flash amid our nervous laughter, and we resumed our activities pulling geraldton carnation weeds (hopefully the last lot!).

Then we moved to the Watsonia patch where a few were still coming up. Came across what looked like a Banksia grandis seedling - though it could be a B. prionotes - will have to watch it to see (there are no B Grandis adults remaining in the bushland).

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Monday, 8 October 2007

Briefing Vicki - our new bushcare officer

Vicki joined Kim and myself to tour the bushland on Sunday afternoon and discuss management issues.

Points of discussion (see map below):

1. Geraldton Carnation Weed - still lots of plants visible, beginning to go to seed - Friends of Shenton Bushland (FoSB) to continue work in this area (Nedlands to help with Greencorps if possible).

2. Watsonia - a few plants still coming up - FoSB will need to work here also

3. Black flag trial - City of Nedlands need to liaise with Kate to make sure we do not affect Kate's work here.

4. Fire break along Health Department Land - FoSB need to contact Health Department to organise

5. Lachenalia Trial - FoSB and Nedlands need to liaise with Kate about the status of this trial

6. Plantings - Lots of Lupins infesting planting area - good for garden mulch - Dani to come and collect them soon.

7. Barrens - Nedlands needs to spray - FoSB to link up with UWA researcher to make sure project is not affected by spraying

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Monday, 1 October 2007

2007 - Annual Bush to Beach walk

The sun was just breaking through heavy grey clouds as we gathered to set off on our 7th Annual Bush to Beach walk. Our route this year was from Swanbourne Beach to Point Resolution.

Robert Powell provided interpretation along the route of the walk.

Here, right on the coastal dunes at Swanbourne, Robert pointed out the coastal wattles being pruned by salt laden winds coming in off the Ocean.

From Swanbourne we set off up Melon Hill in Allen Park, admiring the enormous restoration effort being put into this coastal reserve. Robert pointed out the magnificent Tuarts on top of the ridge.

Behind the coastal ridge, away from the worst of the salty winds, the vegetation became taller. Here, at Allen Park we looked at the Tuarts, Marri, and Rottnest Island Pines.

The Friends of Allen Park had put in some everlastings beside the cottage where they are based.

We learnt about the importance of native Pellitory plants in the life cycle of the Yellow Admiral Butterflies that travel great distances to visit the bushland each year.
(Photo courtesy of Marg Owen)

We then moved on through the housing development at the former Swanbourne High School site, lamenting the short-sightedness of politicians who sell off such assets and leave future generations with nowhere to send their children to school!

Down the hill from Swanbourne we walked along the edge of Lake Claremont, admiring ducks and other water birds with their chicks.

From there, we crossed through Claremont, and were welcomed to the grounds of the Methodist Ladies College (MLC) by a teacher, Ray Forma, who has given up his Sunday to show us around regeneration work the MLC students were doing along the river.

Ray pointed out the historic buildings on the grounds of MLC.

The view from the top was quite breathtaking.

We then went down the stairs to look at the regeneration work.

This foreshore area was used as a vegetable garden during the Great Depression to help feed students at the college.

After leaving MLC we walked along the river beach to Mrs Herbert's Park for a much anticipated picnic, with refreshments provided by Western Endeavour Rotary Club.

The sun came out as we feasted on home-made muffins. Kerri bought 6 to take home to feed dinner guests that evening!

Rupert noticed the tide was coming in, so it was time to negotiate the shallow rock ledges along the Dalkeith foreshore.

After rounding the headland at Bishop St Reserve we came across the beautiful white beach leading to Point Resolution.

Unfortunately, Government Bureaucracy has failed to protect the public interest here, and wealthy individuals are building their ugly mansions right down to the high tide mark.

Monday, 17 September 2007

Granny's bonnets among the weeds

Brian, John and Phil joined me in the hunt for Geraldton carnation weeds on Sunday. Rain was forecast but didn't happen. Lots of orchids and other wildflowers were out, including the granny's bonnets (Isotropis cuneifolia) see photo below.

Photo: Kerri Boase-Jelinek

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Monday, 10 September 2007

Committee Meeting Spring '07

Spring is always glorious in Shenton Bushland - and this year we have had a good winter rainfall, so there are lots of wildflowers out. These spider orchids are just coming out now, and are quite difficult to see unless you look closely.

Unfortunately, the weeds have flourished also. John, Brian and myself soon found ourselves deep in the prickly thickett of hakea and grevillea near the western boundary of the bushland where the Geraldton carnation weeds (Euphorbia calycina) is at its worst.

At 4pm we adjourned to 'the shed' where we were joined by Phil who helped us demolish Kerri's muffins while we mulled over the issues of managing the bushland.

Among other things, we decided that the nut and date muffins needed more work - they were somewhat bitter - but the banana and kiwi-fruit muffins were absolutely delicious.

We allocated tasks for the up-coming Bush to Beach walk (30th September), and I need to produce maps and walk instructions. Also need to contact the City of Nedlands to see what is happening now that Steve (our bushcare officer) has left.

Monday, 3 September 2007

Bushland Activities - Sunday 2nd September

Spring has arrived in Shenton Bushland.

Brian and I were working in Shenton Bushland today. We came across lots of Leafy Sundew (Drosera stolonifera). The sticky droplets glistened in the sun. I couldn't resist taking a photo. Looking at the photo later, I discovered lots of (out of focus) black shapes of insects stuck in the foliage of the plant. Looking up my reference (The Bushland Plants of Kings Park, Western Australia, by Eleanor Bennett, and Patrica Dundas, 1988) I discover that Drosera plants rely on trapped insects to supplement the meagre diet supplied by Western Australia's impoverished soils. The sticky droplets catch unwary insects, and then dissolve the soft parts of the insect, allowing the plant to absorb its nutrients.

We also came across some Blue Lechanaultia (Lechanaultia biloba). This plant is not native to Shenton Bushland, but was introduced with gravel brought in for the Prisoner of War transfer station built in this bushland during WWII. This plant is all that remains of that time, other than a few mounds left when the camp was bulldozed.

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