FoMM Newsletter – August 2023

August 20 Third Sunday working bee, 1pm, Oldfield’s Lane North Watson

Mount Majura nature park is an important remnant site for the endangered Yellow Box – Blakely’s Red Gum (YBBRG) woodland, which provides important habitat for many plants and animals, including rare and endangered species.

This will be a ‘search and destroy’ activity in the YBBRG grassy woodland of Mount Majura’s west slope, the main target being Cootamundra Wattle (Acacia baileyana) a non-local, highly invasive coloniser; also Cotoneasters and Firethorns.

Meet at the nature park entrance at Antill Street, North Watson, south of the Aspinall Street roundabout. See this map. Please be punctual – we will leave the meeting point shortly after 1pm to walk along Oldfields Lane to the site.

We will work in pairs, cutting the weed stems and applying herbicide. if you prefer not to use herbicide you can be the cutter, or the spotter.

Bring sun protection, drinking water, secateurs and garden gloves if you have them. Wear sturdy shoes and clothes which cover your limbs. We provide sanitiser, tools, gloves, and a delicious cake for afternoon tea. More information here.

Waltraud Pix with a ‘frilled’ Cootamundra Wattle. Frilling is used for larger trees too big to be cut with secateurs or loppers. Angled pouches are cut into the bark, then the exposed layer quickly sprayed with herbicide. Photo Barbara Read.

Let’s get to know our NEIGHbour

When you walk east along Oldfields Lane from Antill Street on your way to the site of our August working bee, the nature reserve is on your left and on your right are the Hackett Horse Paddocks. Further up the rise, Mount Majura’s endangered YBBRG woodland is on both sides of the Lane.

The Horse Paddocks comprise 35 Ha, one of 15 similar facilities on government land, managed under contract by Territory Agistment. This agistment land also forms green corridors and provides recreational areas for locals to enjoy.

Horse riders have access from the Paddocks to marked trails on Mount Majura – all ACT horse trails are mapped here. The ACT Equestrian Association actively lobbies for the interests of horse riders, including when the draft Territory Plan revealed an initiative to “investigate expansion of Mount Majura Nature Reserve to include Hackett Horse Paddock”. See this ABC news story.

The current Plan zones the area occupied by the Horse Paddocks in the same way as land recently developed for housing in northern Watson. While FoMM supports the expansion of the nature reserve, horses are better than houses as neighbours for the reserve – woodland cannot survive the wholesale destruction which we see now in new housing developments.

One of our NEIGHbours in the Hackett Horse Paddock looks over the fence at Barbara Read, who took this photo.

Mondays at The Fair

FoMM volunteers have worked at The Fair site in North Watson every week since 2013. As can be seen from the photos below, this work has contributed to the transformation of what was a highly degraded site. Prior to the construction of The Fair housing estate in 2010, the land had been used for farming, riding horses, racing cars and the Canberry Fair theme park.

Compacted and denuded soil before it was loosened, mulched and sown with seeds of native grasses and flowering plants.
A carpet of Paterson’s Curse. Both photos taken by Waltraud Pix in 2014.
After more than ten years work, the Fair site now contains thousands of native trees, shrubs, wildflowers and a carpet of native grasses planted and sown by FoMM. Now we concentrate on maintaining the site, hand pulling herbaceous weeds like St John’s Wort from dense wildflower patches and removing woody weeds such as Briar rose and Hawthorn.

Meet us any Monday at 9.30am at the nature park entrance near Tay & Ian Nicol Streets. No experience necessary – you will learn from others who will share their knowledge.

The Monday weeders are delighted that The Fair site has been chosen for an excursion by participants in the ACT Environmental Volunteers’ Conference, on August 11.

The Fair after ten year’s work. Photo Waltraud Pix.

Hackett wombat sighting reported to the Canberra Nature Map

The Canberra Nature Map (CNM) is a citizen science initiative established by Aaron Clausen after he nearly trampled a colony of critically endangered Canberra Spider orchids while mountain biking across what he then thought was “relatively boring bush consisting of gum trees and brown dirt”. Now more than 2000 contributors and 116 expert moderators volunteer their time to create a trusted, up to date field guide to plants and animals across the ACT.

Recently a lovely Common Bare-nosed wombat (Vombatus ursinus) was reported to CNM – the newly painted mural on the Icon water tank.

The painted likeness is so good that it was correctly identified by an AI tool. There is a Hackett wombat – or was. Vombatus hackettii is an extinct species that lived in Southwest Australia during the Late Pleistocene, its fossil remains first found near Margaret River, WA.

Common wombats are now rarely seen on Mount Majura; previous sightings likely to have been releases of hand-reared animals. The CNM moderator who commented on this 2023 sighting at Antill Street, near the Hackett Horse Paddocks, wrote that the Paddocks provide ideal wombat habitat, and we may eventually see a wild population return to Mount Majura.

Indian Myna petition to ACT Legislative Assembly

When Environment Minister Rebecca Vassarotti declared Indian (Common) Mynas (Sternus tritis) a prohibited pest animal in June 2021, she said: “They are very aggressive and intelligent, known to evict native birds from their nests, dumping out their eggs and even killing their chicks”.

This recently launched petition calls for action including the development of a control plan and better coordination of Myna control and pest management. Find out more about Mynas here.

Photo courtesy Canberra Ornithologists Group

Flora after Fire: free online symposium, Wednesday 16 August 12.30 – 4.30pm

This Australian Network for Plant Conservation and UNSW hosted symposium will present a range of speakers covering plant and fire relationships, case studies of impacts and lessons for actions moving forward, with special emphasis on impacts and recovery after Black Summer. Program information and registration form available here

Regrowth after fire in the Eurobodalla Regional Botanic Garden. Photo courtesy Max Pouwer.
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