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Placement GIFNewsletter of the Friends of Scott Creek
Conservation Park

No. 162, March/April, 2016

The President's Words:

Time is well and truly marching on and I have no idea where it has gone! Summer has come and gone, with most of the day to day activities of the Friends continuing unabated, except for the occasional cancellation of a working bee or bird banding weekend due to hot weather or fire ban. I really appreciate all the people who are making an extra effort to help the group with its activities in the aftermath of losing Tom. If anyone else thinks that they have something that they would like to contribute in this regard, please do not hesitate to speak to me or one of the other members of the committee.

There has been much work achieved this year, both through the scheduled ‘Hands-On’ Team activities, plus numerous impromptu visits by a few pairs and individuals who continued with the work that couldn’t be completed during the scheduled bush gardening days.

As well as having such committed supporters, FOSCCP has also been very fortunate in the amount of funding it has received, both for the Almanda Project and other specific areas of the park. Following on from the crowd funding initiative, we received a substantial boost from the gate takings, book sales and other fund raising at the Wirrapunda Open Garden last September, held at John Wamsley and Proo Geddes’s beautiful property at Aldgate.

We are also very grateful for the ongoing funding support being provided by the Department of Environment, Water and Natural Resources (DEWNR) and Natural Resources Adelaide and Mount Lofty Ranges (NR AMLR). In addition to grants from the two councils that Scott Creek CP extends across (Adelaide Hills Council and the City of Onkaparinga), this means that we can continue getting contractors in to do a lot of the primary clearance of Blackberry and woody weeds in our priority areas of the park. Once the work falls into the category of follow up that we volunteers can manage, those areas become the focus of our regular working bees, while the contractors can move on to another area.

John Wamsley has also managed to locate another significant and, hopefully, ongoing funding source in Patagonia Inc. This is a US based clothing company, with stores in Brisbane, Sydney and Melbourne, that donates 1% of its earnings to conservation. Patagonia Australia has told us they are “thrilled” to have the opportunity to support to our Almanda Project and, through their community funding, their goal is to “develop strong long lasting relationships” and they are looking forward to a “continued involvement with FOSCCP.” This support is provided by the Patagonia Environmental Grants Fund of Tides Foundation, and its receipt is testament to John’s terrific ability to locate and foster support for this important work in Scott Creek CP. At John’s suggestion, we plan to make use of these funds in the Mackereth Creek section of the park.

To continue John’s praise, in celebration of its 30 years, the January-February 2016 edition of Australian Geographic named 30 conservation heroes for their service. Our very own John Wamsley was one of these, joining the likes of Jane Goodall, David Attenborough, Tim Flannery, Bob Brown, Atticus Fleming and Steve Irwin. John was noted as the Prime Minister’s 2003 Environmentalist of the Year, but the article said he was better known as the controversial conservationist who wore feral cat skin hats. He was particularly recognised for drawing attention to Australia’s disgraceful mammal extinction record since Europeans arrived, with many of these being linked to cats and other feral species. He was also acknowledged as the first property manager in Australia to fence off enclosures to protect native wildlife from feral animals. The article was accompanied by a very flattering photo of John with a stuffed fox.

Secretarial Musings:

Let’s talk about the weather.

After a long, very dry spring and early summer, nature has made an about turn and given us more rain than we would have expected   Rainfall figures from my rain gauge at the corner of the Park (Gurr and Mt. Bold Roads) show that we got 113 mm from the 22nd. January to the 12th. March. The average for February from 1981 to 2012 was 19.7 mm. Without these heavy downpours the average would be considerably lower. The effect on the bush is noticeable. Undergrowth has picked up and any open areas have greened up very nicely. Of course, the weeds are taking advantage of the moisture, but this also makes some of them easier to see. In late afternoon, I can count up to 10 kangaroos in our house paddock, busily nibbling down what nature is providing. Nature is certainly resilient.

These summer high rainfall events come at irregular intervals. My records show well over 50mm. in February in 1992, 1993, 1994, 2000, 2003, 2011 and 2014. Certainly, they are not what we can depend upon, but our bush has evolved to take advantage of these downpours.

Buried in all the statistics on rainfall, temperature, humidity, cloud patterns and wind circulation are trends that only sophisticated technology can make sense of. The discussions on climate change often oversimplify the real trends. There is undoubtedly an increasing trend to higher temperatures, but there is also the argument that these trends are over- or under-emphasized at times, to bolster arguments for and against the climate change concept.

As a geologist, I find no problems with the concept of changing climate. There are abundant signs of this throughout geological history, varying from “snowball earth” six hundred million years ago, to some high temperature, moist climates at several times in more recent geological ages. What present day workers are trying to discern is the real trends buried within a plethora of daily data and where these trends might take us in the future. Meanwhile, all we can do is to moderate our energy usage where we can and let the scientists carry on with their studies, which will hopefully get us nearer the truth, as time goes by.

Remember, climate is what we live in; weather is what is going on outside right now.

Excursions and Such:

On the 28th. February 10 of our members paid a visit to the Laratinga Wetlands at Mount Barker. We had heard that the area was very dry, with little water in the ponds, due to the drawdown by the copper mine at Kanmantoo.  However, this didn’t seem to have a great effect on the bird life. We counted 51 species in the two hours we spent there.

Highlights were the sighting by Peter Watton of a Crested Shrike-tit feeding a young bird; a photo of a Buff-banded Rail (again by Peter), and a pair of blue-billed Ducks on the sewerage pond area mixed in with a large number of Pink-eared Ducks. There were not a large number of wader species, but there were several groups of Redcapped and Blackfronted Plovers.

The morning finished with a visit to Millie’s for coffee and cakes.

Wildlife roosting at Laratinga (JD)

Buff-banded Rail at Laratinga (PW)

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John Wamsley’s Genus Of The Month

Olearias

Probably the most variable genera in the Park is Olearia. Defined mainly by what it isn’t rather than what it is makes it confusing. However! With our most common Olearia, the Twiggy Daisy-bush, starting to flower let’s have a look at them. Named after Adam Olearius, a German botanist, 1603 - 1671, there are about 32 species in South Australia with five listed as growing in our Park. They are commonly called Daisy-bushes. The Twiggy Daisy-bush Olearia ramulosa (two photos below) is fairly variable. Occurring from the western Eyre Peninsula, across the northern Flinders Ranges and down into the south-east of SA it varies in size, leaf length, ligules, hairs and bristles; “the species is regarded as a complex of numerous intergrading variants”. However! The give-away is that it looks like a daisy that has lost most of its petals.

Flowers: Most of the year.
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At the other end of the spectrum is the Mount Lofty Daisy-bush, Olearia grandiflora.

By producing root suckers it forms large masses appearing as one enormous, spreading undershrub. Although it does not flower very often, when it does it is spectacular. Masses of large daisy flowers makes it an extraordinary sight.
Its range is small, only growing in the southern Lofty region. Our Park is fortunate to exhibit some wonderful displays.

Flowers: November – December.

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My favourite would have to be Olearia ciliata the Fringed Daisy-bush.

Its lilac coloured flowers are an absolute joy in our bush. Only growing about 30 cm high it is sadly becoming less common in the Lofty Ranges.

Flowers: July to November.

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Olearia tubuliflora is a bit like Olearia ramulosa and is very closely related but it has lost all its petals so it is called the Rayless Daisy-bush, which brings up the interesting question, “How can it be a Daisy-bush when it hasn’t got any daisies?” But! Such is botany.

Not a common plant and again, our Park is fortunate in having an excellent patch down Greenhood Creek way.

Flowers: October to December.

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Finally we have the Cypress Daisy-bush, Olearia teretifolia  

Sadly although it has been recorded in the Park it seems to be no more. But! They say there are still plenty on Kangaroo Island.

Flowers: August to December.

See them at Wirrapunga Open Garden in December.

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Bird Banding Report:

The banding group had three forays into the Park during January/February, with the following results

16/17  January            Scott Ck.                     46 banded       3 recaps           14 species banded
6/7 February               Gate 9                         28                    8                      12
20 February                Mackereth Ck             9                      2                      4         

The Mackereth Ck. weekend was cut short by the promise of rain on the Saturday, which didn’t eventuate.

Significant recaptures were of a Superb Fairy Wren  (4+) at Scott Creek, a Striated Thornbill (5+) at Gate 9 and the best, a Whitebrowed Scrubwren aged  13+, also at Gate 9. This is the fifth time this bird has been recaptured since March, 2003, at this site.  The original band was so worn that we replaced it with a new one.

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    Owlet Nightjar at home on Twisted Chimney Track
         Photo by Adam Dutkiewicz

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Members’ Contributions:
One of our newer members, Stephen Davey, has provided us with a salutary tale from another significant nature reserve. His narrative is informative about an area very different to our Scott Creek Park environment and contains a lesson on navigation in the Outback.

On Getting Lost in the Mallee

Hindsight is a most useful tool. It not only clarifies our folly, but lets us view it dispassionately.

Getting myself lost in the Mallee wasn’t a lot of fun, but strangely enough, the remembrance of it fills me with a satisfying sense of having triumphed over my own stupidity. What follows is an abridged account of that experience.

Walking off-track with a map and compass in country with few distinguishing landmarks means that navigation is rarely an exact science, but over the course of a couple of decades I had always managed to second-guess and find my way back to the starting point. I suppose if you are going to make a mistake, why not make it a big one?

The occasion was a solitary walk at Gluepot Reserve, in the vast, uncleared Woorinen Dunefield, north of the River Murray. As was my habit, I liked to stray into the ‘Restricted Zone’, simply because it is forbidden country and therefore alluring. I left my car behind at about seven-thirty in the morning and crossed through a corner of the restricted area to gain access to the adjoining Calperum Station, where I was also not supposed to go. This was in the month of May, but the day was warmer than I had anticipated, with the temperature climbing into the low thirties.

I reached my goal, this being a dune-ridge a couple of kilometres inside Calperum. There was a great deal of spinifex understory to cross through, so I had already expended a lot of energy on this outward leg. The spinifex and its attendant low, horizontally spreading mallee (mostly a form of E.socialis) necessitated numerous small diversions. This was the first of several cumulative factors which compounded to warp my navigation. I was already off-course but didn’t know it. The next bearing I followed was therefore leading me astray. This might not have mattered if I had made a simple check at my next goal, which was a fence line and boundary track to take me back into Gluepot Reserve. All I needed to do was to sight along the fence to see that I was not at the correct place. I made an assumption, and everything which followed was flawed on account of that assumption.

The fence lines in that area form an odd shape. Without a map to accompany this account I cannot clearly describe the sequence of misguided moves which followed from this first mistake. Suffice to say, I thought I would come to another track and that this track would lead me back to the car. I had already crossed that track. In fact, I was probably no more than a kilometre from the car when I plunged on into the scrub in my deluded state. By this act I ultimately added about twenty kilometres to the walk. No exaggeration.

A certain amount of dehydration on that warm to hot day may have contributed to my confusion, and I always carried a heavy, well stocked back-pack on these extended walks. A subsequent mistake was to keep walking long after I should have been at the next known point. The sun was already getting low in the sky. I was exhausted and my legs and feet were giving me pain. You may recognise the feeling. Suddenly, you are lost.

I knew roughly what quadrant I was in, and that there would ultimately be a track I could follow, but I didn’t know how far it would be until I reached such a track. My water was getting low and I began to wonder if I had the strength to keep going. This was a lesson for me. You can’t walk out if you haven’t the energy to do it.

Spinifex kept appearing across my path to taunt me with its impregnable spines, so I veered off to avoid it. It no longer mattered. I tried different bearings in likely directions, using the intuitive skills I had accumulated over the years, and fighting down that awful feeling of panic which makes us breathe faster and use up our moisture. I gave myself another twenty minutes of searching for a track before I would have to resign myself to being marooned, alone and still lost, to wait out the night in the middle of the scrub.

It may have been less than ten minutes after this decision when I found that miracle of civilisation, a track. Some distance along the track there was a marker. I was stunned to find out where I was and I that had walked at least ten kilometres off-course, with a further ten kilometres ahead of me to reach the car. The sun went down and by torchlight I dragged my tortured legs and feet along the track, knowing that I only had to keep going and the ordeal would all be over. There was no comforting spiritual presence beside me, just a moonless darkness and that peculiar absolute stillness which sometimes falls in the bush. Life is reduced to its simplest form when all you have to do is put one foot in front of the other. I remember that time became compressed and meaningless. At about eight thirty in the evening I reached the car. I had been walking for thirteen hours.

It taught me valuable lessons, but I hope others may learn those lessons in an easier way. At least the years of experience and careful preparation had not been wasted. After the adventure I was high for days. I came out of it with only a huge blister on one foot and my limp was proof that I had conquered my own Everest.

Perversely, I look back on it as one of the best experiences of my life.

Stephen Davey

 


     The Dreaded ‘Spinifex’ (Triodia) and mallee at Gluepot

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Programme April - July 2016

All working bees meet at 9.00am at Gate 16 Almanda Car Park

NOTE: WORKING BEES CANCELLED IF FORECAST TEMPERATURE
FOR ADELAIDE IS 36C OR ABOVE OR IF FIRE BAN
ANNOUNCED FOR MOUNT LOFTY RANGES

Month

Date

Activity

Location

APRIL

     

Sat & Sun

2,3

Bird banding

Gate 11,  7 am.

Tuesday

5

Working bee

Salvation Jane, Yorkshire Fog and other weeds; Powerline Gully, Area 25, G16

Sunday

10

Working bee

Blackberry; Upper Mackereth Creek, Area 17, G11

Sunday

17

Autumn walk

Showcasing Almanda Project – more information to come

Wednesday

20

Social Lunch
All welcome!

The ESSENCE - Stirling 12pm (via lane between Gardiners Real Estate & children’s wear shop)

Saturday

23

Working bee

Blackberry, Mint; Upper Mackereth Creek, Area 15, G11

MAY

     

Tuesday

3

Working Bee

Broom; Almanda Creek, Area 22, G15

Sunday

8

Working bee

Blackberry, Thistles, Fruit Trees; Area 14, G14

Thursday

12

Business Meeting

Butler’s residence, Coromandel Valley, 7.30pm.

Sat & Sun

14,15

Bird banding

Derwentia Creek, 7.30 am.

Thursday

19

Social Lunch
All welcome!   

SHEOAK CAFE - Belair 12pm (cnr Sheoak & James Rds)

Saturday

28

Working bee

Erica; Area 4, G7

       

JUNE

     

Sat & Sun

4,5

Bird banding

Gate 4, 7.30 am

Tuesday

7

Working Bee

Erica; Area 5, G5

Sunday

12

Working Bee

Boneseed; Area 10, G8

Wednesday

15

Social Lunch
All welcome!

The ARTISAN - Blackwood 12pm (down lane beside Bendigo Bank)

Sat & Sun

18,19

Bird banding

Gate 7, 7.30 am.

Saturday

25

Working bee

 

JULY

     

Tuesday

5

Working bee

 

Sunday

10

Working bee

 

Thursday

14

Business Meeting

 

Sat & Sun

16,17

Bird banding

?

Thursday

21

Social Lunch

Blackwood Golf Club - 12pm  (611 Cherry Gardens Road - just south past oval at junction of Ackland Hill & Ironbank Roads)

Saturday

23

Working bee

 

MEET AT GATE 15, ALMANDA CAR PARK, 9.00AM


Office bearers: Any queries on Friends activities, please contact your office bearers.

President: Peter Watton, (H) 8270 4354,      11 Banes Road, Coromandel Valley, 5051. Email: peterw@treesforlife.org.au  
Vice President &Tuesday/Sunday Working Bee Coordinator:  John Butler, (H) 8278 2773, 5 Trevelyan Court, Coromandel Valley, 5051.  Email: jhbutler36@gmail.com
Secretary/Bird Banding Coordinator: Don Reid. (H) 8388 2123, 224 Mt. Bold Road, Bradbury, 5153. Email: dre00249@bigpond.net.au  Mob. 0488174992
Treasurer: Donella Peters, (H)  8339 5639, 10 Boomerang Cres, Aldgate, 5154.              Email: dld@internode.on.net
Web page queries: lesliej@internode.on.net