Park News – January, 2018

All the Best for 2018!

  • Now that life is returning to normal after the festive season, kids are returning to school and holidays are over – we wish our Friends all the best for 2018!
  • We’ve started the year with some good news and some not-so-good as you will read.  In any event, we’re looking forward to the challenges of the year.

Sightings

  • This year seems to be a great year for butterflies in the park.  Ken, one of our photo contributors took some incredible photos of some Imperial Blue pupae in Kalang Park – just as they were metamorphosing into butterflies:

  • The Imperial Blue butterflies are dark black-grey-brown and sky blue on the top side and pale yellow with black lines on the underside.  Quite obvious in the butterfly on the left in the photo, the Imperial Blue Butterfly also has a “tail” on the base of each hind wing with orange patches.  While resting, the tails blow in the wind and look rather like antennae.  This is believed to fool predators into attacking the more dispensable tails – rather than the head of the butterfly.
  • In a very interesting symbiotic relationship, ants swarm over the butterfly pupae collecting “honeydew” secretions as food.  In return, the growing butterflies receive protection from predators and parasites.  Their black caterpillars are usually found feeding on Acacias.  A good way to find the caterpillars in Spring is to follow a trail of ants along the branches of one of these plants.
  • Another butterfly recently seen in the park was photographed on her mobile phone by a park neighbour in her garden:


  • The photo is clear enough to identify it as a Dainty (or Dingy) Swallowtail.   Apparently the species has spread around SE Australia to South Australia because of its liking for horticultural citrus.   Interestingly, part of a hindwing is missing – perhaps due to an unwelcome encounter with a predator!  The colouration of its hindwing feature (orange on black) looks quite similar to the Imperial Blue doesn’t it? – actually, it has pale blue dots in addition to the orange.
  • While on the topic of insects in the park, you may have noticed Plague Soldier Beetles on foliage this month – our photo shows them rather crowding out a clump of weed grass near the Scout Hall:

  • Mating swarms, often containing huge numbers, are sometimes seen in the park in summer.  It is still something of a mystery why this indigenous beetle (Chauliognathus lugubris), sometimes builds up to massive numbers.  The adult beetles,  which grow to 10 -15 mm in length, don’t seem to eat the plants they settle on – they consume nectar from flowering trees and are predators of other insects, including a number of herbivorous pest insects.  Its grubs live in the soil, feeding on other small creatures.
  • Fox scratchings ? – We have a theory that foxes have extensively scratched the steep surface of the earthen part of the channel on the north side of the creek between Laurel Grove and Main Street.  The food sought is unknown – possibilities mentioned were Oxalis bulbs, worms, grubs…  However, the large “fox hole” on the bank opposite does not appear to be in active use.
  • A Freshwater Eel has been spotted nearby – struggling to swim upstream in very shallow water in the channel.  What otherwise looked like a black stick about 70cm long, drew attention to itself thrashing its tail trying to swim.  Apparently juveniles migrating upstream can climb vertical moist services – so the steps in the channel are not insurmountable.  Adults can travel overland in wet weather to get around obstacles. They can reach up to 1.3m long.
  • King-Parrots are (unseasonally) still around in the park and Musk Lorikeets have been spotted.
  • A less welcome sighting has been that a problem cat has reappeared in Blacks Walk.  Cats are not permitted into the Blackburn Creeklands at any time.

The Way We Were (1984)

  • Megan, one of our Friends, recently found this photo when tidying up a cupboard:

  • This is not from one of our Photopoints – but shows an interesting view of the Blackburn Creeklands most likely taken in 1984 – in the very early days of our park.
  • The photo was taken from the south side of the creek west of the Laurel Grove bridge looking north-west towards the end of Waratah Crescent (the hillocks in the centre distance).  The (somewhat littler) creek runs across the middle of the photo.
  • The fencing was there to control horses – who did a great job of keeping the grasses neatly cropped!  Mr Palmer, who lived nearby, had a leasehold of the area which he sublet to local families for horse grazing/agistment.
  • Removal of the fencing started around 1984 – firstly on the south side of the creek. Willows are a bad woody weed and all those in the photo were later removed as part of the rehabilitation of the area.  Nowadays, the Waratah Wetland exists to the north of the creek more-or-less in the centre of the photo.  According to our Chronology, in 1987, the BCAC Committee received a Bicentennial Grant to recreate the wetland habitat below Waratah Crescent and a Land Protection Incentives Scheme Grant for revegetation.
  • Our thanks to Megan for passing the photo on.  We are always interested in historical photos related to the park.  If you happen to find one in your cupboard, please let us know!  Please click here if you’d like more information on the history of our park.

More Illegal Mulch Dumping

  • Two recent dumpings have involved large amounts of garden rubbish at very exposed sites off Pakenham Street.  There is therefore ample opportunity for the community to have seen the culprit.
  • One problem of course is that Council provides quality, weed-free mulch for us to spread in the park on new beds etc.   So how do you tell the difference ?  Council’s mulch will not contain plants like bamboo or weeds such as ivy.  Also, the trucks Council uses are usually small and have a blue and green “Parkswide” logo on them.  Any other truck dumping “mulch” should be viewed with suspicion.
  • What can YOU do ? Take a photo  and/or get the truck’s registration number – and report it to Council’s Customer Service on 9262 6333, or e-mail details and photo to customer.service@whitehorse.vic.gov.au .  Council has warned the community not to approach perpetrators…
  • Council will prosecute these people – it costs a lot of money (many tens of thousands of dollars annually from our rates) to clean up their messes.  Why do they do it ?  We assume “cowboy” operators save the costs of legal green waste disposal by dumping in the park. No doubt, they charge their customers for waste disposal – so make a tidy profit at the expense of damaging the park and making the council (ie the community) bear the costs of the consequent clean-ups.  On a smaller scale, residents should never dump lawn clippings or other garden waste into the park.
  • As the problem seems to be escalating, we’ve decided we will put temporary signs on illegal dumpings asking the community to report perpetrators to Council for further action.

Stag Down

  • Sadly, one of our most prominent and significant mature stags came down overnight on the 2nd January on the northern side of the creek near Pakenham Street.   Stags are trees that have died but are still standing – presumably named because their branches are sometimes reminiscent of a stag’s horns.
  • Large, old trees (whether alive or dead) provide nesting hollows, resting points, 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.

  • Unfortunately, bees who formerly had a hive high up in the tree, lost their home and some of our newer plantings nearby were also badly damaged when the stag came down.

Corridor News

  • Ruth, our great and regular photography contributor, has managed to locate more White-faced Heron chicks in a newly renovated nest in Linum Street.  The chicks look quite happy and sparky don’t they?  The parents may be the same pair who nested in Acacia Street later last year.  Friend Nicky saw the Acacia Street chicks successfully fly!  She sent us this message on New Year’s eve:  It was great to see the maiden flights with mum and dad (and mynahs [or miners?]) pushing them along.
  • There were actually three chicks in the nest above – here’s a photo taken five days later:

  • Sadly, we are now seem to be back to two chicks.  Mum and Dad often find food for the chicks in our park.  Here’s a photo of one hunting in our creek near Main Street a few days ago:

Plant of the Month

  • This month, Plant of the Month has been awarded to all the plants supporting our butterflies.  Depending on the species, these include  several indigenous grasses, trees and shrubs that occur in the Creeklands.

  • The above is another of Ken’s photos showing the Imperial Blue butterflies metamorphosing.  The Imperial Blues  seem to particularly like the Black Wattle (Acacia mearnsii) – though we’ve also seen them on Blackwoods (Acacia melanoxylon).

Weed of the Month

  • Our Weed of the Month is Agapanthus (Agapanthus praecox ssp orientalis).  The photograph shows an Agapanthus plant growing at the water’s edge in Furness Park (since removed with gusto!):

agapanthus_furness_park

  • On the positive side, Agapanthus is drought resistant and good at stabilizing banks.  On the negative side, it is a prolific and sometimes hard-to-eradicate introduced weed.  We’d like all our friends and neighbours to dead-head your Agies once flowering is finished,  so seed does not enter the creek system via storm-water drains please.
  • Alternatively, you might consider replacing them with an indigenous plant of similar habits (eg a species of Dianella or Lomandra).  Please see our Useful Links page for details of the local indigenous plant nurseries who will be able to help you with choices.

 

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