FoMM Newsletter July 2023

It’s our twentieth anniversary!

July marks the twentieth anniversary of the founding of FoMM. In 2003 Waltraud Pix called the first meeting of what was to become FoMM, to gain support from others interested in preserving, enhancing and raising awareness of the importance of the endangered grassy woodlands on Mount Majura’s lower slopes. FoMM’s first project was tackling the heavily weed infested drainage line near the Hackett reservoir.

Since then, FoMM has engaged hundreds of local residents in weeding, planting and habitat restoration at sites degraded by past activities such as grazing, firewood collection and car racing. FoMM volunteers have removed countless woody and herbaceous weeds, planted thousands of trees, shrubs and wildflowers and sown grass seed at sites formerly used for sheep camps and horse holding paddocks. The habitat around two old farm dams and the Hackett drainage line has been restored, making them a lovely water source for all kinds of creatures. FoMM volunteers also contribute to mapping Mount Majura: to show the location of rabbit warrens for eradication by government contractors, to monitor rare plants and to chart our weed removal activities.

Since 2012 much of FoMM’s attention has been devoted to The Fair site, at North Watson. Weekly sessions by volunteers and special events involving scouts, schools, soldiers, prisoners, rugby players, university student and corporate groups have transformed this formerly very degraded site.

FoMM also hosts regular walks guided by experts to inform participants about the trees, wildflowers, frogs, ants and nocturnal animals which share the beautiful environment we all live in.

While FoMM is a great success story for the contribution made by volunteers to nature conservation in the bush capital, there is always more to be done. Do join us at our regular activities held on the Third Sunday of each Month and every Monday at The Fair.

Before – the weed infested drainage line near the Hackett reservoir in 2005.
After – healthy plantings of native raspberries and tussock sedge have transformed this watercourse. Photos Waltraud Pix.

Rare bird sighting at The Fair

Don’t be surprised if you come across people traversing The Fair site carrying cameras with telephoto lenses! One of the regular FoMM volunteers recently observed a rare visitor to Mount Majura, the White-browed Babbler (Pomatostomus superciliosus) only sighted once before in the ACT, in 2007. This lone bird was way out of its range, as the animals are usually found in dry sclerophyll woodland and semi-arid grasslands.

Babblers are ground foragers living on insects and other invertebrates found in leaf litter. They are usually found in small groups and sentries will announce the presence of humans with whistling calls. FoMM’s birder recognised the creature from its distinctive call and took the photograph below. You can listen to recordings of the birds and see more photos here

The Fair’s newest avian visitor, a White-browed Babbler. Photo Brian Grinter.

Weeding with a view. Third Sunday working bee 16 July

Many people enjoy the Casuarina Track and the views from the ridge where it joins the Summit Track. Twenty years ago, the saddle was a treeless expanse covered with weeds – a legacy of the time when the mountain was grazed by sheep. One of FoMM’s early projects was to remove the weeds and plant a variety of local native plants which are now thriving.

FoMM makes occasional maintenance visits to remove any weeds which are creeping back. After our May working bee at this site, we decided to return to hand weed Horehound and Fleabane from this beautiful site.

Meet at the old sheep camp at 1pm. It will take about 30 minutes to walk to the site from any of the trails marked on this map.

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, some tools, gloves, and a cake for afternoon tea. More information here.

The ridge is a popular rest site on the way to the summit. Photo Waltraud Pix.

Mondays 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 & Ian Nicol Streets. No experience necessary – you will learn from others who will share their knowledge. We are currently tackling Cootamundra wattles (Acacia baileyana) a popular garden plant which is highly invasive. While not a problem in their natural geographic locations where local seed-eating insects keep them in check, these wattles reproduce prolifically, threatening to take over the grassy woodlands of Mount Majura.

We work in pairs to cut smaller wattles with secateurs or loppers, followed by quickly applying herbicide from a hand-held spray bottle or dabber. Larger trees are ‘frilled. One person chips at the bark with a tomahawk while the second applies herbicide to the exposed inner cambium tissue which is responsible for the growth of stems and roots. Normally FoMM volunteers are mild-mannered tree lovers, but we rather enjoy the massacre of the Cootas.

A recently frilled Cootamundra Wattle, showing the pink herbicide application. Photo Waltraud Pix

Rosenberg’s goanna makes the national news

If you were intrigued by earlier items in FoMM’s newsletter about the project to map the Rosenberg’s goannas (Varanus rosenbergi) resident on Mount Majura and Mount Ainslie you may enjoy this recent report in the Saturday Paper. Its author, Suzannah Marshall Macbeth, was one of the volunteers in the ACT National Parks Association project, led by Don Fletcher. Camera traps baited with raw chicken carcasses captured photographs of the goannas, who can be identified by their distinctive facial markings. Goannas were also fitted with GPS packs. The tale of ‘Rum’ reported in the article reinforces the importance of keeping dogs leashed while walking on the nature reserve.

FoMM volunteer Jochen Zeil came across this goanna as he was weeding on Mount Majura.

Congratulations to Steve Taylor, winner of the Froggatt Award for environmental conservation

The award is given for a significant contribution to protecting Australia’s native plants, animals and ecosystems. Steve is Manager, Invasive Plants and Plant Pests within the ACT Parks & Conservation Service and widely admired by Parkcare volunteers.

When a smart phone field mapping app was released in 2014 Steve realised it would put an end to ad hoc mapping, allowing easy sharing of geospatial data mapped by rangers, contractors and volunteers. Steve’s visionary thinking means the ACT now has a comprehensive data set for invasive weeds spanning ten years, with 330,000 control site records.

FoMM volunteer Barbara Read maps an area of treated weeds at the Hackett watercourse, using her smart phone. Photo Margy Burn.
This map created by Barbara shows the areas of weeds treated by FoMM volunteers. The data forms part of the overall data set for weed control in the ACT.
Print Friendly, PDF & Email

Comments are closed.