FoMM Newsletter – April 2024

Weeding with a view – third Sunday working bee 21 April 1 – 4pm

Come and help remove horehound at an old sheep camp on Majura Ridge. Enjoy the view, friendly company, homemade cake for afternoon tea and the satisfaction of having cleaned a patch of horrible horehound which will allow native plants to thrive.

The meeting point for the work site is at the junction of Casuarina Track with the summit trail, click on this map to see the location (point 6) and the walking tracks (3 and 5) once you have entered the nature park. It will take about 30 minutes to walk to the site.

Bring sun protection, drinking water, garden gloves and secateurs if you have them. Wear sturdy shoes and clothes which cover your limbs – preferably fabric with a smooth surface to prevent horehound burrs attaching themselves. More information here.

The view from the work site on a misty morning. Photo Waltraud Pix.

FoMM Autumn Bird Walk 24 March

A large group of magpies broke into beautiful song as the twenty Bird Walkers arrived to meet our leader, Peter Miller. A little way up Blue Metal Road, we watched as a King Parrot preened itself among dense Eucalypt foliage. We were surrounded by a chorus of birdsong and calls.

Many parrots leave Canberra for the mountains over summer and return in autumn when food is abundant. They were constantly chatting and calling in large, very active social groups. Crimson and Eastern Rosellas warbled from amidst the dense shrubby Eucalypt woodland, Sulphur-crested Cockatoos screeched, King Parrots whistled in the treetops, as they chewed flower buds. A couple of Galahs perched silently on lookouts.

We saw a pair of Pacific Black ducks with a brilliant green flash of colour on their wings, resting on a log in the upper dam. Peter noted that the colours are created not by pigments, but by the interaction of light with the surface structure of the feathers. In the dense, shrubby woodland between the two dams, we stopped, listened and looked, and eventually sighted Golden Whistlers, Weebills, Grey Fantails, and Spotted Pardalotes foraging high in the foliage and darting between tree canopies. Peter also pointed out a Rufous Whistler while the group walked further along uphill to the Casuarina Trail.

Coming down the trail, we observed Laughing Kookaburras and Red Wattlebirds. At the end of the walk, a Gang Gang Cockatoo flew through the trees nearby. Everyone commented that they had learned much about bird observation and identification on this enjoyable walk.

Different birds are still flying in from the mountains to over-winter in Canberra, so stay tuned for a Winter Bird Walk in June.

Jim L’s photo shows the brilliant green colour on a Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa). Photo courtesy Canberra Nature Mapr.

And on the subject of birds, have you spotted Swift Parrots?

At this time of year Swift Parrots (Lathamus discolor) sometimes visit Mount Majura to forage in flowering Eucalypts. These critically endangered birds migrate from Tasmania and have previously been sighted in the nature park around the water reservoir near Rivett Street, Hackett. ANU researchers Dr Dejan Stojanovic and Dr George Olah believe there may be as few as 500 birds remaining in the wild. See this article.

If you see a Swift Parrot please let FoMM know ( noting the date, time of day, location and the number of birds sighted. If you take a photo please upload it to Canberra Nature Mapr. More information here.

Geoffrey Dabb photographed this Swift Parrot visitor to the watercourse near the Hackett reservoir.

A new-old Tree for Mount Majura

The Mondays@The Fair group were working close to Clancy’s Track near the North Watson houses along Ian Nicol Street one recent Monday and walked past a lovely large old gum tree which Waltraud recognised as unusual. It turns out to be a species that is rare on Mount Majura – this one is the only one we know of, but perhaps there are younger specimens lurking somewhere.

It is a Broad-leaved Peppermint (Eucalyptus dives), and this tree must be a survivor from pre-settlement times. Ngunnawal people would treat people with fever exposing them to smoke from burning leaves to bring relief; its oil can be used as a mouth wash.

The tree has very rough bark on its trunk, but clean upper limbs, with bark streamers hanging from them, and its flower buds are in clusters of up to about 20 buds. We counted up to nine nuts in a cluster of gumnuts. It is not particularly rare in the rest of the ACT. See here for more pictures of it.

Waltraud and Terry admire the Broad-leaved Peppermint. Photo Barbara Read.

Monday mornings at The Fair

Every week a group of FoMM volunteers works at The Fair site in North Watson. Meet us any Monday at 9.30am at the nature park entrance near Tay and Ian Nicol Streets. No experience necessary.

We’re now focussing on removing weeds including Blackberry Nightshade and Cleavers (Sticky weed), growing near Cherry Ballarts which are also sheltering native ground covers, Climbing Saltbush and Stinking Pennywort.

Unfortunately, our findings of new plants also include new weeds. Low amaranth (Amaranthus deflexus) was recently spotted by the Monday weeders growing near the Antill Street roundabout. A native of South America, this may be a garden escapee. The plant can grow up to 0.5 metres in height and is also known as Spreading amaranth.

Barbara Read contributed her photo of the new weed to Canberra Nature Mapr.

The last of the twilight weeding for another year

We were joined in early March by ANU Intrepid Landcare students and Majura Mountain Scouts for a last ditch effort to remove St John’s Wort growing amid dense wildflower patches in the north western part of The Fair.

Intrepid Landcare connects young people to communities while caring for the environment. The ANU group attracted 26 participants, many of them living in residences on campus having come to ANU from overseas or interstate.

Some of the Intrepid weeders enjoying a beautiful twilight evening on Mount Majura. Photo courtesy ANU Intrepid.
Majura Mountain Scouts are great supporters of FoMM, programming regular working bees for Joeys, Cubs and Scouts, accompanied by Scout leaders and parents.

FoMM welcomes involvement of other organisations such as work groups, clubs and societies. Contact if you would like to discuss an activity for your organisation.

Scouts at work with FoMM volunteers. Photo courtesy Majura Mountain Scouts.
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