FoMM Newsletter – March 2024

Third Sunday working bee 17 March 9am – noon, Oldfields Lane, North Watson

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

Early autumn is a good time to tackle exotic deciduous woody weeds. Meet a ParkCare ranger and enjoy great company while you help to remove small woody weeds including HawthornSweet Briar rose and Nettle Tree.

Meet at the nature park entrance at Antill Street, North Watson, 50m south of the Aspinall Street roundabout at 9am. See this map. Please be punctual – we will leave the meeting point shortly after 9am to walk to the site.

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

A Sweet Briar growing at the Oldfields Lane site. Photo Barbara Read.

Autumn Bird Walk Sunday 24 March 8 – 10am

Join bird enthusiast Peter Miller on a guided walk on the lower slopes of Mount Majura. Meet at the nature park entrance off Mackenzie Street, Hackett, near Grayson Street. Wear sturdy shoes; bring binoculars, camera, a bird ID app or handbook if you have them, and a gold coin donation for a species list. More information here.

The migratory Scarlet Robin (Petroica boodang) has arrived in the reserves around the western edges of Canberra and will likely be seen on Mount Majura before the end of March. Photo Brian Grinter.

Native Plants Sale

The next Australian Native Plants Society Canberra sale is on Saturday 16 March, at Clunies Ross Street, Acton. The sale is smaller than usual, with about 3000 plants on offer. Gates open at 8.30am – come early for the best selection. More information here.

The purple flowered Variable Glycine (Glycine tabacina) growing in a patch of Climbing Saltbush (Einadia nutans); with a young Hickory Wattle. This recent photo taken at The Fair by Waltraud Pix is an excellent example of how nature responds when weed competition is removed.

Nature photography competition closes 31 March

Photos taken while you walk or exercise on Mount Majura can be important sources of conservation information. FoMM is a huge fan of Canberra Nature Mapr (CNM), the source of many photos in our newsletter. Anyone can contribute a photo to CNM and sometimes these photos are highly significant. For example, a photo the contributor thought showed the abundant Common Blue Butterfly turned out to be the first ACT record of the endangered Purple Copper Butterfly.

Canberra Nature Mapr is running a photographic competition to expose more beautiful photos of animals, plants, fungi and habitat with photos judged on artistic and photographic merit. The overall winner receives $400 and there is a $200 prize for an entry submitted by someone under 18. There will also be a People’s Choice award. The competition runs to 31 March 2024 with winning entries in the various categories to be exhibited at the CSIRO Discovery Centre. More information here.

A bee collecting pollen from a Dianella flower. Photo Waltraud Pix.

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 park entrance near Tay and Ian Nicol Streets. No experience necessary.

It’s now too late to tackle St John’s Wort and we’re focussing on removing weeds including FleabaneBlackberry Nightshade and Cleavers (Sticky weed), the latter growing under Cherry Ballarts which are also sheltering native ground covers, Climbing Saltbush and Stinking Pennywort.

Ladybirds on the stems of Fleabane were feasting on tiny aphids. Photo Max Pouwer.

February Butterfly walk

Over thirty people enjoyed FoMM’s first Butterfly walk, led by the effervescent Dr Suzi Bond.

As well as the introduced Cabbage Whites, familiar to all Canberra vegetable growers, we saw native species including the Common Grass-blue, the Meadow Argus, the Broad-margined Azure and the Common Brown Butterfly.

Suzi showed us a breeding colony of Stencilled Hairstreak inhabiting a young Acacia. These creatures have a symbiotic relationship with ants which defend the eggs, caterpillars and pupae from predators because the caterpillar excretions are, Suzi said, ant cocaine! We observed adult butterflies, caterpillars and hatched and unhatched pupae cases on the plant.
Two larva of the Stencilled Hairstreak butterfly in a Green Wattle with fierce attendant meat ants. Photos Jenni Marsh
The ACT has 92 recorded butterfly species (compared with only 50 in the whole of Britain). Mount Majura is a butterfly hot spot because of the food provided by its biodiverse grasses, flowering plants, shrubs and trees. FoMM weeders who despair at the proliferation of introduced plantains were somewhat cheered when Suzi told us Meadow Argus feed and breed on this weed. The Spotted Jezebel commonly seen in Canberra gardens loves the Cherry Ballarts on Mount Majura. The tree canopy provides shelter and Mount Majura also offers an environment conducive to ‘hilltopping’: a mating behaviour when males show off their strength and genetic fitness.

Some more fun facts from Suzi:

  • No ACT butterfly caterpillars eat eucalypts. If you see a chewed eucalypt leaf, the damage will have been done by moths.
  • Cabbage whites can be sexed: two dots on the forewing are female; one dot, male.
  • If you thought hilltopping sounded like a country dance routine, Suzi informed us butterflies also engage in ‘mudpuddling’, seeking nutrients on moist substances including wet soil and dung.

Suzi also sang the praises of migratory butterflies. The Meadow Argus lives in environments as far apart as the Simpson Desert and Mount Kosciusko. If you see a butterfly with faded, tattered and worn wings, it’s likely long-lived, or has flown some great distance.

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