Working Bee Report – the Saturday Experiment
- Seventeen participants planted 513 plants ranging from eucalypts to grasses on Saturday, 14th May. Mary, our working bee coordinator, had to go home twice for more plants! We planted up an area to the east of Furness Street in Furness Park. This is one of two new revegetation projects we’ve been able to undertake – thanks to grant funding from Melbourne Water.
- The digging was easy along the water’s edge in silty soil – but more testing on the steep creek bank and even more testing up top – due to the prolonged dry spell.
- Our next Working Bee is planned for next Sunday, 5th June – weeding and planting in the northeast corner of Furness Park closer to the bridge.
- There were several new participants including two who explained they can’t come to working bees on Sundays due to regular commitments elsewhere. So, Committee has wisely resolved to have 1 or 2 working bees on Saturdays next year as well.
Maintenance Team Report
- Recent work has seen completion of in-fill planting along the northern track behind Boongarry Avenue houses and weeding/planting in Blacks Walk near the Middleborough Road entrance and in the land adjacent to 60 Main Street.
- We’ve had welcome extra help with Friends Jan and Nicky both being able to participate on some days recently.
- Furness Park Tree Treatments: in the area between the kids’ playground and the new grasses regeneration area, Council has felled one tree and another has been partly retained as a (habitat) stag.
- Removal of Pine Trees in Kalang Park: One small and one medium sized pine tree were removed (24/5) at the area rear Haydn and Molleton Streets in line with the Master Plan for the park. Considerable dead-wood pruning on nearby trees was also undertaken by Council’s contractor.
- Main Street Bridge railings: Committee representatives met on-site with Council and contractor staff on Thursday 26/5 to review the position of the bridge railing wings (aka “flares”) prior to their installation. The aim (weather dependent) is to have the new railing installed by the end of June.
- School Fence with Park – to improve security, Laburnum Primary School plans to increase the height of its fence around the school on its eastern and northern (ie the park) boundaries.
- Strictly speaking, fungi are not plants – in biology-speak, they belong to their own “kingdom” – as do plants and animals. There are lots of differing fungi around at present:
- Our current Noticeboard display features local indigenous fungi – why not try to use it to help identify the fungi you see?
- Many fungi are extremely poisonous, even lethal, so park users should not collect, eat or otherwise consume mushrooms and other fungi growing in the park. Parents should be particularly vigilant in relation to children in this respect. The Poison Information Centre’s phone number is 131 126.
Our Beloved Concrete Channel
- Many of us consider the concrete channel running from the Laurel Grove bridge towards Main Street is very ugly indeed – so we often scratch our heads trying to think of ways to improve it – or at least its aesthetics.
- A major “gotcha” is that section of the creek is actually a drain of a specific capacity – any changes must not adversely affect its hydraulic performance. Naturally, Friends are more than welcome to contribute ideas to Committee for consideration.
- So what did the creek look like before it was “barrelled” ? The creek was very shallow and swampy – and spread more widely across what is now park. The creek’s water flow would have been comparatively slow and the water volume in the creek would have been much lower due to it having a smaller catchment from a much less built-up catchment area. The creek itself would have been higher – erosion would have gradually lowered it as flows increased.
- The plan below is excerpted from a 1938 MMBW survey plan. It shows a section of Gardiners Creek moving westwards from the Main Street bridge:
- So what does the plan tell us ? Firstly, the creek used to lazily meander tending more southwards than today. The “barrelling” done in the 1950s eliminated the meandering – which formerly contributed to the frequency of flooding. Secondly, the built environment has changed significantly too – there being no houses at lower levels close to the creek.
- The channel was dug to confine and redirect the water – specifically, to prevent flooding of post-war spec-built housing in Haydn Street.
- The MMBW eventually built a house at 62 Main Street – in the block to the south west of the bridge. It was eventually demolished in 1984 to improve park accessibility and the property was incorporated into the park. Parts of the property at 60 Main Street – to the north west of the bridge – were also acquired by the MMBW in the 1950s and are now effectively part of the park too.
- Looked at in fine detail, the plan shows levels (in feet) which show that the creek banks were about 4-5 feet lower than the road at the bridge. The bridge was lower than it is now – it used to “dip” over the bridge like this:
- Another interesting aspect is that Hill Street ended on top of the hill – today’s access lane to Main Street didn’t exist. Also, neither the park nor its walking tracks existed then – they came to be in the 1980s.
- Blackburn Lake Visitor Centre’s upgrade opened on 30/4. Our Friends at Blackburn Lake are very pleased that the Centre’s new soaring roof means there’s no chance it will continue to be confused with a toilet block (though there are facilities there)!
- Planting along the shared bike/pedestrian path along Sparks Reserve’s boundary with Middleborough Road has been completed by Council. Hopefully, the high density planting undertaken there should ensure sufficient survivors to compensate for Council’s destruction of 60 trees (!) there earlier this year.
Parks and the Urban “Heat Island Effect”
- The Eastern Climate Action Melbourne group recently (11/5) hosted a talk by Dr John Merory on the impact of climate change on health – at the Field Naturalists Hall in Gardenia Street. Dr Merory focussed on the effects of heat on human health but also discussed the effects on agriculture, insect borne diseases and so forth. One point that struck us was the importance of parks in tackling the “heat island effect” of cities. This 2008 diagram was sourced from the US Environmental Protection Agency with our highlighting (coincidentally following the roof line of the Visitor Centre above!):
- An urban heat island is an urban area that is significantly warmer than its surrounding rural area due to human impacts. The temperature increase tends to be larger at night and is most noticeable both when winds are weak and during summer and winter. The main cause of the effect is the modification of land surfaces with waste heat from energy use a secondary contributor. Nearly 40 percent of the increase is believed to be due to the prevalence of dark rooves, with the remainder coming from dark-colored pavement/roads and the declining presence of vegetation.
- Anecdotally, we know of several locals who regularly walk along the creek on hot summer nights to refresh themselves because they know it is much cooler there than inside their houses… We also know that parks “lower our temperature” psychologically too.
- Anyway, all this underscores the importance of our keeping our park healthy for the sake of our own health – particularly as our population and building density both grow.
Spring Bird Count
- A date for your diary: Saturday, October 22nd has been confirmed as the date for our Spring Bird Count. Our usual group leaders, Ian and Pat, have both confirmed their availability.
- Incidentally, Friend Ruth has let us know about Birdlife Australia’s draft policy concerning bird photography. Most of this is commonsense aimed at not disturbing birds when nesting.
- Nesting is the most critical and stressful time in a bird’s life. It’s best not to take photos of nests with eggs or chicks, whether a parent bird is present or not. Our summary is that photographers must NOT:
- Expose, or show undue attention to, a nest.
- Startle a bird (eg via noise, call playback or flash photography) – risking it breaking or ejecting eggs/young or leaving them too long.
- Modify the nest or its surroundings in order to create a more photogenic situation.
- Linger too long in the bird’s core territory.
Plant of the Month
- Plant of the Month is Common Correa or “Native Fuchsia” (Correa reflexa). This is a variable shrub, very suitable for local gardens and very attractive to birds. It is flowering nicely now (normally from May to October) – with pale green bells locally and red bells elsewhere.
Weed of the Month
- Weed of the Month is Parramatta Grass or Rat Tail grass (Sporobolus africanus). Parramatta grass is a very tough and wiry tussock grass with bluish-green folded or flat leaves up to 5mm wide. It usually grows to under 45cm high. Flowering stems are erect with a seed head up to 18cm long. The branches of the seed head are very short, so that the whole head looks to be a single spike.
- It comes to us from Africa and is a widespread weed in Australia. In Blackburn, it is typically found growing in lawns, sports grounds and nature-strips where it is resistant to mowing. It is flowering now. We’ve weeded it out of our new grasses regen area in Furness Park.
- Fauna Sightings: Eastern Spinebills and our usual array of parrots – including a possible nesting site of the Gang gangs in Kalang Park.
- In the corridor: Friend Ruth has kindly sent us photos of a Goshawk or Sparrowhawk (above). She’s also noticed a White-faced Herons’ nest construction commencing. She also thinks she may have found evidence at Wandinong of Powerful Owls.