Spring Bird Survey
- Naturally, our Spring Bird Survey (21st October) was the highlight of the month in the park. Julie’s photo above of a Grey Butcherbird (notice the hook at the end of its beak) reflects the weather – it was cool to mild, overcast and windless – with fine drizzle occurring for a short while during the event.
- Attendance was good and twenty-two bird species were observed – a little down on previous years. As usual, our knowledgeable and entertaining leaders (thanks Pat and Ian!) made for an interesting and informative event which was capped off with the traditional morning tea which included tasty treats (thanks Anne and Nicola!) to fuel the correlation of the groups’ results.
- No Wood or Pacific Black ducklings were sighted – though we did see a family of Chestnut Teal ducklings. No one seemed to get a good shot of them – so we’ve used one of Ruth’s taken of the same family a few days earlier. One plausible theory is that the diesel oil pollution event has affected duck breeding this year.
- Unexpectedly, no Wood Ducks at all were seen though we do know they are present in the park. Also, we usually see Grey Fantails and Musk Lorikeets in our spring bird surveys – but they weren’t spotted this year either.
- Speaking of “spotted” – the above bird shows an adult male Pardalote “spotted” in two ways – he was spotted on the day and photographed by Michael – plus, its common name is the “Spotted Pardalote”. It is one of our tiniest birds and its name is no surprise! Interestingly, its stubby beak and tail book-end a rather colourful little bird in its underparts. The similar “Striated Pardalote” has also been seen in the park – but not for some time…
- Being Spring, breeding /nesting was evident. Interestingly, two pairs of Mudlarks were seen in the process of building their mud nests above the creek (John’s photo shows a male with nesting material in his beak). The numbers of tawny Frogmouths were about the same as usual – though, strangely, no chicks were seen.
- Finally, another interesting, albeit non-avian, sighting was the above charmingly-named “dog vomit slime mould” (!) identified by one of our group leaders. It has a worldwide distribution, and it is often found after heavy rain or excessive watering. Its spores are spread by wind.
- For further information on our Bird Surveys, including links to all the results, please click here.
Working Bee Report
- Our final community working bee for the year on Saturday 7th October was a great success with a good roll-up of 15 people on a beautiful Spring morning. We weeded in Kalang Park on the north side of the creek (the area to the left in the photo) and created two cubic metres of weeds restoring one of our newly planted “corridor” areas to its best.
- Since then, our Maintenance Team has continued weeding from that area westwards towards Pakenham Street.
- Plans for next year’s working bees are well underway in terms of choosing sites and ordering plants from our local nurseries. We had a good response this year to our 2 Saturday working bees which book-ended our working bee season. We may trial three Saturdays and three Sundays given the favorable response to Saturdays.
- Recognising the importance of vegetation in the Blackburn Creeklands and its role as contributing to a wildlife corridor and as habitat, our park is managed as a “Bushland Park”.
- It seems someone was disappointed that one of our park’s trees adjacent the car-park near the Scout Hall was removed. In this particular case, the tree had died and was falling over the adjacent path.
- In many cases, we advise that sound, dead trees be retained for habitat purposes. Furthermore, if a tree has to be cut down, we usually recommend that the logs be retained at the site if practicable – once again, for habitat purposes and also so nutrients are eventually returned to the park. Council regularly assesses live and dead trees in the park for stability.
- Most of our park was cleared for farming purposes including stock-grazing and fruit orchards a century ago. Most of the ground and mid-storey plants would have been cleared at that time. The exception was that several of our canopy trees – particularly some of the large Yellow Box and Manna Gum (eucalypts) – are likely to be remnant vegetation pre-dating European settlement. Some of our oldest trees could be 130+ years old.
- Large, old trees provide nesting hollows, bark shelter and food for a varied population of birdlife, possums, bats and insects. As the number of old remnant trees decline, so (critically) do tree hollows. Because these trees take so long to mature, it is important we continually plant so there are new trees in development ready to take over as our veterans decline.
Why do our trees die?
- Like all organisms, trees eventually die. Some trees naturally have a short life-span, some may be overgrazed by animals such as possums, some may be attacked by insects and other causes of death might be weather conditions such as prolonged drought / storm damage or problems in the landscape such as erosion.
- Some species, such as the Black Wattles, are fast growers and have a relatively short life. They serve as early colonizers of an area (eg after a bushfire) creating a transitioning environment which fosters other vegetation.
- Generally speaking, because ours is a Bushland Park, exotic trees are not desirable. The park’s Management Plan provides for the progressive removal of some problematic species such as Monterey Pines. There are exceptions of course – trees retained for heritage reasons such as the oak at the foot of Kalang Oval which was probably planted on a farm about 120 years ago – also, the remnant pear orchard further east in Kalang Park.
- These days, we plant indigenous trees of known local provenance – sourced from our local indigenous nurseries. The volunteers at the nurseries propagate plants from seed and cuttings collected from local indigenous plants. In earlier times, the importance of using indigenous trees was not understood – there was a tendency to be satisfied with planting “native” vegetation instead – ie Australian plants, often not locally indigenous plants. Examples of these are the Spotted Gums in Blacks Walk. Some native varieties such as Sweet Pittosporum and the Wattle Acacia floribunda have become problems due to their spreading rapidly – so are also treated as Woody Weeds.
- Woody weed trees comprise a special category of nuisance too – these include Hawthorn (probably originally planted in the area for hedging/fencing purposes), Cherry Plums and Loquats (for fruit), Cotoneaster, Prunus and Desert Ash (garden escapees).
Plant of the Month
- Plant of the Month is Hop Goodenia (Goodenia ovata ).
- Hop Goodenia is a tough bright green shrub with small yellow flowers in spring and summer. There are several good examples around the Furness Street bridge. It’s easy to grow – a good garden plant that responds well to regular clipping increasing its density. It also offers good protection for small birds.
- Another bonus is that it copes very well with the hot weather (that’d be a nice thing!).
Weed of the Month
- Weed of the Month is Panic Veldt (grass).
- Panic Veldt comes to us from Africa and is an invasive, perennial grass with both profuse and rapid seed production. The inset in the picture shows the tell-tale ‘inflorescences’ – the botanical term used for the flowering and seed-producing part of any flowering plant. As they dry out, they become white – a good way to identify the weed from good grasses.
- It is opportunistic – quickly invading newly disturbed areas, seeds all year round and quite possibly rates as the Number One weed in the park. It usually grows 30-50 cm high and older plants can spread a metre or more. Unfortunately, it tends to out-compete indigenous ground covers in most soil conditions.
- The good news is that its roots are weak – so the pest is quite easily pulled out.
Current Noticeboard Display
- Our current Noticeboard display features a poster containing photos and descriptions of the flowering plants to be seen in the parks of Whitehorse (thanks Blackburn and District Tree Preservation Society!).