Park News – October, 2015

Spring Bird Survey (24th October)

  • The weather was near perfect for our Spring survey with a good number of Friends participating.  As is common, the Tawny Frogmouths tend to steal the day.  These gentlemen were quite photogenic while often holding their child(ren) under wraps at their feet (we know they’re probably the males because the men take the day shift while their ladies roost nearby – close, but not too close, so as to draw attention away from the little one(s)).  Friend Brad sent us this shot (showing the chick with slightly different colouration – dad’s beak is at the top left of the cone of feathers):

tawny and chick

  • Given the conditions, the results were a little surprising.  Consistent with Blackburn Lake’s recent survey, the number of bird species observed was 15% down on the usual numbers seen in Spring.  There were 25 bird species observed (also 1 frog and 1 beehive!).  For the full results, please visit Bird Survey Spring 2015.
  • As the report shows, the good news was the number of species seen nesting in the park.  Friend Jim’s photo shows that Lorikeets prefer hollows for nesting:

lorrikeets nest

Park Maintenance
track maintenance

Council Path Works

  • Council path maintenance works (filling pot-holes, levelling etc) are almost complete.  This includes a small path realignment in Blacks Walk along the path just south of the creek to improve maintenance vehicle access.
  • The Gardenia Street boundary has also been recently upgraded using Castella topping.  This looks quite different – having a reddish/brown colour – and has the advantage of better porosity – having larger, rounder particles.  The problem has been that Lilydale topping there consistently gets washed away after significant rain events.  If Castella doesn’t work, concrete is next!  Interestingly, the red/brown colour may be the colour of the future – Lilydale topping will be phased out as the Cave Hill quarry closes down.

Melbourne Water Maintenance

  • Melbourne Water is planning woody weed removal work on the northern side of the creek between Main Street and the Laurel Grove bridge. The main target is some Monterey Pines growing along the bank – there are concerns that the pines will develop and damage the adjacent concrete channel.
  • Work could start as early as mid to late next week. During the work, the path along the northern side will have to be closed.
  • Melbourne Water (which is responsible for the creek and its banks) will also take the opportunity to remove other woody weeds to the east along the northern creek bank.
  • So – What’s a woody weed? – well, any weed is “a plant in the wrong place”.  A woody weed is a weed that has some wood about it – typically a tree or a shrub. Monterey pines are indigenous to California, USA – so obviously don’t fit our bushland park environment.

Bollard

  • Following representations to Council via our committee, Council plans to replace the removable bollard in the centre of the path adjacent to the car park near the bowling club.
  • The existing dark green, steel removable bollard is regarded as a hazard to cyclists, pedestrians and vision-impaired people.  It does not conform to current guidelines for bollards.

Kalang Oval Netting

black poles

  • Installation of the netting has been completed.  The poles have turned black as predicted (with matching black netting) – so are less obtrusive and look less like inviting as goal posts!

FFF – Far Flung Friends on the WWW II – Lucy’s Story

  • Following the interest we received in our article on Björn from the Åland Islands, we are pleased to bring you another article on a Far Flung Friend – this time, Lucy from England (pictured at Little Venice in London):

Lucy at Little Venice

  • We recently met her weeding in the park with her mum (who is a stalwart weeder) – one suspects that was the best way she could spend some quality time chatting and catching up with her parent!
  • Lucy was born and bred in the eastern suburbs and grew up close to our park – first in Haydn Street and later in Sheehans Road, including attending Laburnum Primary School. Her parents were very involved in protecting the park from development and establishing the Creeklands Committee. She is still close to friends she made in our area, even 30 years after first meeting them.  Lucy is in her thirties and, finishing her postgraduate study at Melbourne University, she travelled to Europe in 2013 with the objective of gaining work in her professional field of biomedical research. So far, a suitable role has eluded her – but she has enjoyed working in hospital administration in London since.
  • Lucy misses Blackburn – especially the space we enjoy here compared to her home in west London – which is rather densely populated and close to Heathrow airport. To help maintain her hand in weeding and to be close to birdlife, she regularly visits as many green spaces as she can. She used to enjoy walking to work along the River Thames to Richmond (UK!) and bird spotting along the way. Here’s a photo of a heron she would see most days near Richmond Lock:
    Lucy's heron
  • Interestingly, her heron looks a lot like our White-faced Heron (pictured on the creek’s edge near Blackburn Road):
    heron1
  • Lucy was only back for a short holiday to catch up with family and friends including meeting her new twin nieces – her brother (a physicist) and his family having recently returned from Colorado to Melbourne to live after a long stint working in the USA.
  • Hers has been a Far Flung Family – one of the perils of making their careers in the sciences one suspects.  Lucy enjoys reading our web news online and is always eager to hear what’s going on “back home”.

Working Bee Report (Sunday 18th October)

  • The mulch was soon spread in the beds adjacent to the Laburnum Primary School fence following a good showing from Committee members, ably assisted by some of our “best friends” who had not been able to participate for a while due to other commitments.
  • Unfortunately, Council didn’t provide enough mulch for the beds to be completely mulched – so we’ll be back at the next working bee in November (our last for the year).
  • Thanks to all who responded to our call to BYO wheelbarrows. A flotilla of father, mother and baby bear barrows were utilized to make short work of our task.
  • Also, a SWAT team (comprised of Friends Alan and Graeme) was dispatched to deal with an outbreak of the noxious weed Serrated Tussock Grass growing in a nature strip nearby in Pakenham Street. This had been spotted by Friend Gillis on his walk to the station from Blackburn South.
  • Last working bee for 2015 will be November 8th – more mulching!

Snakes !

  • Council parks management has passed on anecdotal reports of there being a higher level of snake activity in parkland this year than usual.
  • There have been no sightings in the Creeklands – however, snakes are well known to our east at Blackburn Lake and there have been reports further to our west along Gardiners Creek.
  • Indigenous snakes are protected and are part of a healthy ecosystem.  You need to take care and assume that they are venomous.  All the more reason to keep your dog on the lead too!

Black Wattles in Dire Straits

  • Several park users and committee people have noticed that a number of our Black Wattles seem to be in dire straits.  Friend Peter, who has a background in forestry, has sent us his explanation:
photo 1

Photo 1: Black Wattle Browned Off!

The defoliation of many Black Wattle (Acacia mearnsii) trees that has recently happened along the Creeklands has been caused by an outbreak of the larvae of the native Fire-blight Beetle  (Acacicola orphana ). Well known in SE Australia including Tasmania, this insect occasionally builds up populations and eats most of the wattle leaflets, just leaving the mid-rib. Affected trees look brownish like they have been scorched by fire (see Photo 1) – thus the common name.  Most trees recover but repeated attacks will weaken some trees, often leading to dieback and death.

Life cycle

The adult  beetle (in the Chrysomelidae family) is about 6mm long  and is creamy with green and brown stripes. It lays eggs in autumn in rows on the underside of leaves which hatch out after approx. two weeks. During winter the young greenish larvae (see Photo 2) consume the foliage.

photo 2

Photo 2: The Culprit – a Fire-blight Beetle Larva

In about spring the mature larvae leave the tree and burrow into the soil  and pupate.  The adult beetles emerge from the soil in late spring-early summer, and also feed lightly on the wattle foliage, before laying the next generation of eggs in autumn, thus completing the life cycle.

  • We thank Peter for that timely and knowledgeable report.  It is good news in that the pest is native and that most trees are predicted to recover.  Interestingly, although the tree is indigenous to Blackburn and south east Australia more generally, large commercial plantations are found in southern and eastern Africa , Brazil and India where it is grown for its tannin (eg for leather processing) and firewood.

Noticeboard

  • To honour the centenary of its opening this year, our current Noticeboard display features the Open-air School which used to neighbour Furness Park in Gardenia Street.  This display replaced our display of wattles and other plants flowering in spring.

Plant of the Month

bulbine lilies

  • Plant of the Month: Bulbine Lily  – Bulbine bulbosa.
  • The photo shows some specimens in Kalang Park – just starting to flower.  It grows in grass-like clumps headed by tall yellow, starry flowers up to 75 centimeters high.  The flowering period is generally long, extending from Spring to Autumn though with a wide local variation.

Weed of the Month

creeping buttercup

  • Weed of the Month: Creeping Buttercup – Ranunculus repens.
  • A less welcome yellow flowering plant is Creeping Buttercup which is native to Europe, Asia and northwest Africa.  It has erect flowering stems up to 50 cm high as well as prostrate running stems, which produce roots and new plants at the nodes, rather like strawberry plants.  It likes damp places and becomes quite dense.  The photo shows an example growing quite densely along the water’s edge in Furness Park.

Sightings

  • In addition to the 25 bird species observed in our Bird Survey Spring 2015a Grey Fantail and a pair of Crimson Rosellas have been spotted (both in Furness Park).
  • Our frog listeners fear that the Striped Marsh Frog might be taking over in our park.  No Spotted Marsh Frogs and relatively few Pobblebonk (Banjo) frogs have been heard along the creek and in the Billabong so far this year.  The Southern Tree frog is still there however.  Please see Our Frogs page for more information.
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