Sunday 13 November: Twenty-one neighbours and community members came together to take part in something special – creation of a wildlife corridor which will reconnect Mt Gravatt Reserve with Mimosa Creek and Roly Chapman Reserve. The majority of Fox Gully is private property – the backyards of individual house blocks – so removing weeds and restoring the wildlife corridor requires the co-operation of thirty-seven separate property owners.

A critical step in the restoration was the removal a massive Indian Rubber Tree Ficus elastica in September – 5 men working solidly for 2 days – a huge job generously paid for by one of our Arafura Street neighbours. On advice from Prof Carla Catterall, Griffith University, we arranged for the contractors to leave the large stump for wildlife habitat. The contractor also placed logs on the slope and left two large piles of mulch.

Marshal and I chainsawed the remaining Yellow Oleandia Cascabela thevetia in advance to reduce risk of accidents when we had a large number of people on-site. Logs from the Yellow Oleandia were to be used on the slope to improve access for weeding/planting and to retain mulch and stop erosion.

Madeira Vine Anredera cordifolia  was the next challenge. Also called Potato Vine, this aggressive invader produces thousands of small aerial tubers which can remain viable on the vine or on the ground for five to ten years. Each tuber can send out multiple roots to produce a new vine that can grow at more than one metre per week, rapidly smothering other vegetation. As with many weeds, Madeira Vine is an attractive flowering vine originally introduced from South America as a garden plant. Because of the massive infestation of this weed I decided that the Arafura Street side of the site should not be planted immediately with the focus being eradication of this pest that will out grow any new planting.

The Madeira infestation was so bad that Roger was simply shoveling the tubers into tubs for removal. Even with that work on the Gully Day, Don and I  still removed a full wheelie bin of tubers as we worked on the slope placing logs and mulch. Now that we are getting this major infestation under control we can work with neighbours up and down the gully to eradicate Madeira from the wildlife corridor.

On the day the team removed six cubic metres of rubbish and green waste, an extraordinary achievement when you consider that everything had to be carried up out of the gully to the rubbish skip in O’Grady Street.

Grey-headed Flying-fox Pteropus poliocephalus

They certainly earned a break for morning tea and an opportunity to meet some of the world’s only flying mammals – a really cute Grey-headed Flying-fox Pteropus poliocephalus, a juvenile Black Flying-fox Pteropus alecto and a tiny micro-batLittle Broad-nosed Bat Scotophilus greyi. Jenny and Denise, wildlife carers with Bat Conservation & Rescue Qld, joined us to introduce these cute creatures first hand, dispel some media-myths about Flying-foxes and share ideas on how we can protect and encourage these valuable pollinators and insect catchers. One simple thing we can do is encourage the use of wildlife-excluding HailGuard which protects fruit and vegetables without endangering bats, birds and possums that can get tangled in other netting.

Grey-headed Flying-foxes are found in Mt Gravatt Reserve and BAAM researchers have identified three species of micro-bat in the Reserve.

Little Broad-nosed Bat Scotophilus greyi – insect catching micro-bat

Removal of the Indian Rubber Tree will hopefully restore the permanent spring and provide a water source to attract these micro-mozzie catchers back to the gully as well as promoting the frog population.

Since the Gully Day we have planted one hundred and forty plants and placed logs (recycled weed trees) on the steep slope and mulch is being spread. The event has also created a long term change in relations between neighbours and how neighbours relate to the gully … it is wonderful to see city kids exploring.

Special thanks to Jenny and Denise, Phil Reeves (who personally paid for the rubbish skip) and helpers Barry Williams – Mt Gravatt Men’s Shed, Peter Stirk – Vultures Football Club and Natalie Petersen – ALP candidate for Wishart Ward.

Mt Gravatt Bush Blokes - Marshal, Michael & Paul

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Mt Gravatt Bush Blokes installed the first of our new nest boxes high in a Tallowwood ready for a family of Rainbow Lorikeets or Pale-headed Rosellas to move in.

The nest boxes made by Mt Gravatt Men’s Shed also include designs for Squirrel/Sugar Gliders and the smaller Scaly-breasted Lorikeets – green with yellow ‘scales’ on their chest and bright orange flashes as their underwings are exposed in flight.

The initial order of ten boxes which will be used in restoration of the Fox Gully and Firefly Gully wildlife corridors which will provide urgently needed nesting sites and bring birds and Gliders literally into the community backyards.

The Men’s Shed boxes have been beautifully made with high quality materials – stainless steel hinges, galvanised nails, FSC certified exterior ply, Cutex wood preservative donated by , all following nest box designs from Nest boxes for wildlife by Alan & Stacey Franks – a copy was donated by Hollowlog Homes.

The design includes a lid that can be lifted for inspection, an internal ladder and a removable base for clearing ferral invaders like Indian Mynas.

The box was attached to the tree using 3mm fencing wire covering in hose with a zig-zag section on both side to allow for expansion as the tree grows.

Striated Pardalote Pardalotus striatus – race melanocephalus

Topknot Pigeon Lopholaimus antarcticus

The BAAM envirionmental researchers started their fieldwork for the Flora & Fauna Assessment of Mimosa Creek Precinct. Working in Fox Gully and Firefly Gully last Monday/Tuesday they identified three species of micro-bats Gould’s Wattled Bat Chalinolobus gouldii, White-striped Freetail Bat Tadarida australis and Eastern Bentwing Bat Miniopterus oceanensis. They also found Koala while spotlighting and identified Topknot Pigeon Lopholaimus antarcticus.

Topknots have not been identified in the Reserve before and yesterday a flight of 10 to 15 birds came over very quietly cruising around then settling in a large gully tree. The addition of Topknots to our species list brings us to forty-nine native bird species identified on Mt Gravatt.

Striated Pardalote Pardalotus striatus - race melanocephalus

Today I was lucky to get my first photos and video of our Striated Pardalots Pardalotus striatus – race melanocephalus. I frequently hear these cute birds when walking the Summit Track however they are small and flighty so I have not been able to get any photos.

Black Jezebel Delias nigrina

To top off a big week for new species I also photographed a female Black Jezebel Delias nigrina butterfly. This brings our species count up to forty-six butterflies in the Reserve.

The Flora & Fauna Assessment project is funded by a grant from Dept of Environment accessed with the support of Phil Reeves and then Enviornment Minister Hon Kate Jones

Tawny Frogmouth Podagus strigoides

Thanks to Miranda and Barry, neighbours who live in Arafura Street,  we have photos of the family of  Tawny Frogmouths  Podagus strigoides living behind their houses.

These special birds are well camouflaged against the trunk of a Liquid Amber growing in the gully. These North American trees lose their leaves in winter which allows these photos.

Tawny Frogmouth Podagus strigoides

Tawny Frogmouths are nocturnal, feeding at night on insects. Small mammals, reptiles, frogs and birds are also eaten. During the day these birds pretend to be tree branches, sometimes opening an eye when people are around then going back to sleep.

Click on the photo to see the cute moustache.

Barry, Miranda and fourteen other Fox Gully and Firefly Gully property owners are now committed to restoring their properties as part of these wildlife corridors.

Animal Ambulance driver

Wildlife sightings like these will contribute to the Flora and Fauna Assessment which will evaluate the potential of these corridors and provide recommendations on links across Klumpp Road to Mimosa Creek.

Please email photos of wildlife including details of location to megoutlook@gmail.com. I will include your sightings in the wildlife database I am building. Even photos of dead animals are valuable information on our local species and their movements. Unfortunately this week we have had two Eastern Blue-tounged Lizard Tiliqua scincoides that appear to have been hit by cars in O’Grady Street.

This one was lucky, Annette rang the Animal Ambulance: BCC Call Centre 3403 8888. Within an hour this tough little lizard was on his way to see the RSPCA vets. We are now waiting on news. Hopefully there will be a full recovery and return to the wildlife corridor.

Southside Community News

Kookaburras, Sacred Kingfishers, Rainbow and Scaly-breasted Lorikeets, Pale-headed Rosellas, Striated Pardalotes all need nest hollows for breeding.

Sugar Gliders and Squirrel Gliders need nest hollows for rest and protection as well as breeding. Unfortunately land clearing for farming and housing has destroyed habitat for these bush creatures. The fragmented habitat created suits some species: species like our native Noisy Minors and Brushtail Possums thrive in our suburban environments.

Sacred Kingfisher Todiramphus sanctus

However we are losing the smaller bird species that give us so much pleasure: species like the Sacred Kingfisher, Superb Fairy-wren, Striated Pardalote and Eastern Yellow Robin, require more protection from thick understory plants and/or nest hollows. The smaller gliders like the Sugar Glider and mouse sized Feathertail Glider are also vunerable with the increasing competition for limited nest hollows.

Even conservation protected Mt Gravatt Reserve has suffered. Mt Gravatt Then and Now, Mt Gravatt Historical Society, tells us that up till July 1893 the mountain and surrounds were designated as a railway timber reserve. My intial survey of the 2ha of Fox Gully Bushcare reflects this history with only thirty six trees older than 100 years and only five old enough to have a 50% chance of having nest hollows:  Fox Gully Research – Tree Hollows – March 2011. A healthy SE Queensland forest habitat would typically have 10 hollow bearing trees per hectare with 2.2 hollows per tree.

Even frogs need homes

I am now working with BCC Habitat Brisbane to research the actual tree hollows available and plan the installation of nest boxes suited to local species.

I am privileged to live with these bush creatures at my back door however there is a lot we can do to bring birds back to our backyards with nest boxes. BCC Libraries have copies of Alan & Stacey Franks’ excellent book Nest boxes for wildlife which gives detailed plans for making your own nest boxes and mounting in a way that will not damage your trees.

“You are doing a fantastic job! I would like to bring other bushcare groups here to see this site. It is a great case study in bushcare best practice and natural regeneration.” Last Thursday was our annual site inspection and Kate our local BCC Habitat Brisbane bushcare officer was very impressed with the progress with restoration.

Mai clearing Fishbone Fern

We are lucky at this site to have surrounding bush to provide seed for natural regeneration. However, I believe the main reason for our success, is our almost zero use of herbicides in clearing weeds.

In planning restoration of Zone 13, I did a systematic search of the area and found a six different native fern species, Basket Fern, Rough Maindenhair Fern, Rasp Fern, Gristle Fern Mountain Bracken and Elkhorn Fern, still surviving amongst the invasive Fishbone Fern. Poisoning was therefore not an option: herbicides kill all plants not just the weeds.

Hand removal of weeds seems  slow initially however it reduces long term workload as the native grasses significantly reduce weed regrowth, saving time with follow-up weed removal and reducing the need for re-planting.

Time for a break

Restoration of heavily infected areas needs to be done in stages working from the edges to maximise natural regeneration and minimise weed re-infection. Systematic removal of the Fishbone Fern starts with clearing the bulk of ferns and immediatly bagging to minimise disturbance and spreading of spores from fertile fronds. The next stage is careful removal of fibrous roots and numerous hairy brown or white nodules underground. Fishbone is so successful reinfection can be caused by spread of spores or regrowth from roots and nodules. Therefore, the easiest most successful restoration is based on good work practices: less effort better results.

Of course good work practice includes a making time for a break, a cup of tea and a chat. Our bushcare workforce are all volunteers so ensuring they relax and enjoy the time is an important part of building motivation to return.

2011 will be a busy exciting year for Fox Gully Bushcare.

FWR Group returns on Wednesday 9 February. With four visits scheduled for 2011, I am confident the Fishbone Fern will be completely cleared and the native ferns thriving again in Zone 13.

BOIC (Butterflies & Other Invertebrates Club) is visiting in February for a guided tour of our restoration work. An honour and an excellent opportunity to tap into some expert critique of our work.

The ANZ Fox Gully Team is returning to continue restoration of Zone 8. Now that the Purple Succulent has been removed we will work back up the gully clearing Easter Cassia, Camphor Laurel, Creeping Charlie and removing any weed regrowth.

Stage 3 restoration of Zone 14 will include removal of remaining weed trees and continue the firebreak planting with load fuel load native grasses.

At the other end of the site, in Zone 15B, removal of Singapore Daisy and replanting with frog and butterfly friendly Lomandra hystrix and restoration of Coin Spot Treeferns.

We will also be working with BCC, Transport & Main Roads and other property owners to re-establish the wildlife corridors between Mt Gravatt Reserve, Mimosa Creek and Roly Chapman Reserve: Fox Gully – Wildlife Corridors At a micro level we are starting to directly repopulate the wildlife in the gully with the first generation of Green Tree Frogs Litoria caerulea released.

Our Wednesday Bushcare starts again next week on Wednesday 12 January. Please consider joining us for some weed removal … restore the bush and yourself at the same time.

Fox Gully Bushcare has been named B4C Bushcare Group of the Year for 2010. I was very proud to accept this award from Cr Adrian Schrinner at a ceremony the B4C Southside Sustainability Centre.

Considering Bulimba Creek catchment covers 122 square kilometres, about 10 per cent of Brisbane’s area and home to 120,000 people being named Bushcare Group of the Year is a real achievement!

Thank you to all who have pulled out weeds, carted mulch, planted, watered,  delivered Updates or simply shared words of encouragment.

Thanks to our sponsors: FWR Group, Southside Sport & Community Club, Officeworks – Garden City

And particular thanks to Brisbane City Council:

  • Kate Flink and BCC Habitat Brisbane team who provided valuable advice, equipment, plants, mulch and patiently carted away truckloads of rubbish removed from our site.
  • Cr Krista Adams who supported our application for a BCC Environmental Grant allowing us to continue and expand our community education.

I’m looking forward to an even more amazing 2011 with FWR Group already locked in to join us for four Wednesday Bushcare events, the ANZ Fox Gully Team is planning to come back, BOIC will be visiting for a guided tour of our habitat restoration and our Green Tree Frog repopulation will be into its second generation.