I photographed my first Glasswing Acraea andromacha this week.

The wings of most butterflies are covered with coloured scales. The Glasswing butterfly has no scales on its forewing giving it a translucent glassy appearance. These wings are also very trough which may help given the unusual mating behaviour. Males capture newly emerged females as soon as they fly, carry them to the ground where they mate forcibly. (The Butterflies of Australia – Orr & Kitching) Reading this forces me to look at butterflies very differently. My somewhat romantic view of butterflies as beautiful gentle creatures has come crashing to the ground as well.

The Glasswings are listed as common along the east coast, Victoria, Northern Territory and northern parts of Western Australia.

Food plants for Glasswing caterpillars on Mt Gravatt are the  native Spade Flower Hybanthus stellarioides, a delicate herb with a yellow “spade” shaped flower, and the invasive weed – Corky Passion Vine Passiflora suberosa.

Forty-five butterfly species have been identified on Mt Gravatt and with the development of Pollinator Links through the suburbs we aim to bring more of these beautiful and, it seems, agressive creatures back to backyards.

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Katie & Nicole attacking Chinese Elm

Katie and Nicole, from Queensland University of Technology, returned to our Tuesday Bushcare again this week joining myself, Marshal, Michael and Edd to fight off the weed invaders in the gully.

I just had to point Katie and Nicole at the Chinese Elm Celtis sinensis and say “That weed has to go.”

These two will take on any challenge!

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Marshal removing the felled tree

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Marshal chipped in to drag the tree out and trim it so the logs can be used to stabilise the slope.

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Edd chasing Bamboo roots almost all the way to Sydney

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Edd, in the meantime, tackled the Bamboo regrowth chasing the roots right up the slope … he thought it was going to lead him all the way to Sydney.

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Thank you Katie

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Another thirteen bags of weeds removed as well as Bamboo and a medium sized Chinese Elm … outstanding!

A sad day though as Katie and Nicole leave us. Thank you Katie and Nicole you are going to be inspiring teachers for some lucky students.

We have planted a number the Near Threatened* Richmond Birdwing Butterfly vines Pararistolochia praevenosa as part of our restoration work. Pararistolochia praevenosa is listed as Near Threatened under the Nature Conservation Act 1992 so it was exciting to find seed pods on one our vines this week.

The vine is quite attractive with a pretty flower that apparently depends on a very small fly for pollination. The fly has to enter a tiny hole to pollinate these small (2 cm) flowers.

We have not seen any Birdwing Butterflies yet, however now we know we have the insects that pollinate these vulnerable vines, I am looking forward to having the butterflies return. Don Sands, Richmond Birdwing Conservation Network, reports that the butterflies were common in the Brisbane area in the past.

(l-r) Katie, Nicole, Edd and Marshal

The Tuesday Bushcare Team removed eighteen bags of Fishbone Fern Nephrolepis cordifolia in three hours this week.

Nature Works 24/7

The Team is only on site three hours a week however when we finish our partner, nature, takes over the restoration work delivering natural regeneration 24 hours a day 7 days a week. We do 10% of the work removing the weeds preparing the area for natural regeneration then nature does the other 90% of the work.

Edd removing weed regrowth

In Zone 13 we are only using natural regeneration:  no replanting or mulching with imported mulch. This reduces the amount of work required (no shoveling mulch or digging hole for plants) and the cost of the restoration (mulch costs about $40/cu metre and plants cost $2 each).

Green Mulching by natural regeneration of local native grasses is reducing weed regrowth, managing erosion and providing food for butterflies. The FWR Group started clearing the Fishbone in November 2010. Just sixteen months later the picture on the right shows the thick covering of Graceful Grass Ottochloa gracillima minimising weed regrowth in the area cleared by FWR.

Edd Cross joined our team for the first time last Tuesday. However his experience with Conservation Volunteers Australia meant that I knew I could put the detailed work of clearing weed regrowth.

Two butterfly and four plant species restored to Fox Gully

Zornia dyctiocarpa

Natural regeneration has now restored Imperial Hairstreak Jalmenus evagoras and Australian Leafwing Doleschallia bisaltide butterflies as well as, four plant species including Zornia Zornia dyctiocarpa and Shepherd’s Crook Orchid Geodorum densiflorum, an endangered species in NSW.

Partnering with nature, Fox Gully Bushcare is having a huge impact in restoration of our unique Mountain habitat.

Shepherd's Crook Orchid Geodorum densiflorum

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Australian Leafwing Doleschallia bisaltide

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Australian Leafwing butterflies Doleschallia bisaltide have returned to Fox Gully Bushcare as their caterpillar food plant Love Flower Pseuderanthemum variable is restored.The butterfly is well named. Once it lands and folds its wings it almost disappears as it looks so much like a leaf. However, wait a couple of minutes for it to open its wings … the bright orange tips on its feelers give a clue – top side of its wings are bright orange with black trim.

Love Flower Pseuderanthemum variable

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Love Flower is a beautiful little herb that is common on the Mountain but it had disappeared from the Fox Gully Bushcare site. The flowers were planted as part of our first Community Planting Day in 2007.

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Leafwing caterpillar munching on Love Flower

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We had one caterpillar last year and this year we found about a dozen munching on the Love Flowers. These caterpillars are the most extraordinary looking creatures you are likely to find in your backyard. They look like they are covered in shiny black barbed wire.

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(l-r) Katie, Toby and Nicole

Sometimes you meet a person who is just special. Today I was lucky enough to meet two such people. Katie and Nicole are Queensland University of Technology students training to be primary school teachers.With teachers like these two our future is in good hands.

Today was rainy all morning and it was expected it to continue all afternoon. This did not put off these two … the idea of wearing garbage bag raincoats was seen as fun, mud … no problem! This is particularly impressive when you know that Katie grew up in Hong Kong and this is the first time she has actually been in a forest.

I liked these two immediately … especially when Toby my spaniel immediately made friends … however they really won me over when they not only found this tiny snail but also shared my excitement.

Katie and Nicole took everything in their stride, laughed all the time and formed one of the most productive teams we have had in Fox Gully. Between us we removed three wheelie bins of Fishbone Fern Nephrolepis cordifolia clearing another large area of this invasive weed for nature to restore with native grasses, vines and ferns.

Pete The Vet – Pete Wedderburn, emailed recently asking permission to use my photo of the Goliath Stick Insect Eurycnema goliath in an article in his local newspaper.

The interesting thing is that Pete The Vet lives in County Wicklow, Ireland and has a regular column in Bray People, the local Bray newspaper. Our Fox Gully wildlife is becoming world famous, featuring in the article Stick insects thrive without special attention… but multiply!

The article is very funny however the message is important – Don’t release exotic pets, this includes unwanted kittens, in the wild. Feral animals and roaming domestic pets are one of the key threats to wildlife in Mt Gravatt Reserve.

Our native Goliath Stick Insects are exotic animals in Ireland and Pete The Vet’s advice – “The main message: if you have too many stick insects, find a victim to take them on as pets rather than releasing them into the wild.”