By: Michael Fox

Artist: Chrys O’Hare
Phil checking installation of water trough.

When leaf moisture is not high enough, this can lead to dehydration and large-scale mortality events as koalas are forced to search the ground for alternative water sources, exposing them to additional threats such as cars and dogs. Conditions in which koalas will need to search for water are only expected to increase in frequency due to climate change. (Watkins, A, Schlagloth, R. and Santamaria, F. (2021) Qld Naturalist 59 (1-3))

Koalas and other wildlife living in urban Island Habitats like Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve are particularly vulnerable as access to water requires crossing busy roads and facing dogs in backyards.

The Tree Troff Koala drinkers have been developed by a Gunnedah farmer working with researchers from University of Sydney and WIRES (Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc.)

First version of Koala drinker

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Last year I spent an interesting morning with farmer Robert Frend of Wildsip who showed me the evolution of the Tree Troff starting with the very first drinker that was simply strapped to the tree.

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Early evolution of Koala drinker

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Supported by research with wildlife cameras observing Koala behaviour the drinker evolved through many versions trialling solar powered pumps and different platforms to finally arrive at an innovative designed, engineer certified and professionally built water for wildlife solution.

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Alan driving stakes to hold the Tree Troff in place.

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Our 2020 Koala Drinker Research Project demonstrated the value of providing water for wildlife, for example, six thousand visits by birds in six months. WIRES generous gift of two Tree Troffs and support from Bulimba Creek Catchment Coordinating Committee (B4C) providing refill services means we are able to create a long term water for wildlife solution for our Reserve.

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The first Tree Troff is installed in the Fox Gully Bushcare site at the junction of the Geebung and Federation Tracks. Bushcare team members Phil Girle and Alan Moore worked with me to assemble and erect the Tree Troff.

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Seton Ball Valve Lockout Devices

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The Tree Troff tank will be filled from ground level with high pressure pump which also allows the water trough to be flushed to clear leaves and mozzie larvae. Installation in a public space has required some modifications to reduce temptation to tamper. Seton Ball Valve Lockout Devices provide a simple way to lock the taps.

Cameras will be installed to monitor wildlife use to provide further evidence to support deployment of water for wildlife solutions in Brisbane parks and Bushcare sites.

By: Michael Fox

Heather Wood bought tasty homemade muffins today to celebrate our last Tuesday Bushcare for the year.

We worked on Zone 6 today removing Creeping Lantana Lantana montevidenses*.

I also showed the team some of the local natives currently flowering. My favourate is definitely Dogwood.

Geitonoplesium cymosum Scrambling Lily

Acacia Leaf Beetle Dicranosterna immaculata

By: Michael Fox

Most people I talk to want less Crows and more Fairy-wrens in their gardens and schoolyards.

A key factor in bringing these beautiful birds back to our urban habitat increasing the number and diversity of insects. So it is very encouraging to find increasing number of different species in areas restored with our National Tree Day events.

In the last week we added four new insect and spider species to our research: Flora and Fauna of Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve.

The first addition was found by Griffith Environment Student and Fox Gully Bushcare volunteer: Fumihiko Suzuki. Mi Fu discovered a handsome Acacia Leaf Beetle Dicranosterna immaculata feeding on a Brisbane Wattle Acacia fimbriata.

Hairy Crab Spider Sidymella hirsuta

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The Queensland Pathways State College team joined us for Bushcare clearing Guinea Grass Megathyrsus maximus var. maximus and exploring local wildlife.

The team discovered three species for our research, starting with a very cute Hairy Crab Spider Sidymella hirsuta.

Oval Woodland Cockroach Platyzosteria kellyi

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Cockroaches are not normally a popular insect. However, worldwide 99% of cockroaches live in bushland and do not invade our homes. Our Australian bush cockroaches perform valuable services recycling leaf litter using gut enzymes that break down tough plant cellulose.

So discovering Oval Woodland Cockroach Platyzosteria kellyi working hard improving our bushland habitat is very exciting.

Yellow Soldier Beetle Chauliognathus flavipennis

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The Yellow Soldier Beetle Chauliognathus flavipennis is another interesting find which is typically found in south-east Queensland.

Atlas of Living Australia – species sightings

Share your sighting using iNaturalist app. Your sightings will be mapped in Atlas of Living Australia.

Tuesday Bushcare Team planting Basket Ferns

By: Michael Fox

Restoring the Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve habitat is one of the most satisfying projects I have ever undertaken. I realised this today when our newest volunteer, Eleanor, PHD student at Western Sydney University, commented on our National Tree Day planting.

Eloise helping me glue fern to log.

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Tuesday last week the team ‘planted” eighty Basket Ferns Drynaria rigidula. When I say “planted” we actually super-glued many of the ferns to rocks and logs. Basket Ferns naturally grow on top of rocks and logs so we decided experiment. The most successful approach seems to be wrapping the fern with woven coir matting with extra extra coir to improve water retention while the fern gets its roots into the rock or log. I always thought of ferns as plants you find in moist gullies not on top of mountains and particularly not on top of rocks.

Gorse bitter pea Daviesia ulicifolia

National Tree Day in a time of COVID has been challenging so it has been amazing to see the plants thriving with 95% survival rate, some flowering already and new growth on most. The Gorse Bitter Pea Daviesia ulicifolia, Hardenbergia violacea Native Sarsaparilla and Goodenia rotundifolia Star Goodenia are all flowering already.

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Plant Local to Feed Locals

The Poison Peach Trema tomentosa has new growth and is already Feeding Locals. This fast growing tree is an excellent pioneer plant for habitat restoration as it also food for caterpillars of Speckled Line-blue Catopyrops florinda butterflies, Splendid Ghost Moth Aenetus splendens and fruit eating birds like Australian King Parrot Alisterus scapularis and Pale-headed Rosella Platycercus adscitus

We have already found Lydia Lichen Moth Asura lydia and Brown White Banded Noctuid Donuca castalia on site. Today we found a Burton’s Legless Lizard Lialis burtonis.

COVID Safe Team Brief

By: Michael Fox

Saturday 10:30am: Site prepared – weeded and mulched, holes dug, water tank filled, soil and stakes on site. COVID Safe app set up, digital National Tree Day sign-on ready, plant info signs in-place, tables, fertiliser tabs, etc in car. Heather Woods and the Bush Monsters have helped me sort the plants and put in Seasol.

“Ok, I just need to put the plants in the car in the morning and go.” That’s when I received a message from my son in Canberra telling me: “Brisbane is in lockdown from 4pm!

We have five and half hours to lockdown. What can we do in that time?

I got on the phone to our National Tree Day team and started sending emails to notify registered participants that the Sunday event was cancelled but if they could join us we would be onsite at 12noon we aimed to save National Tree Day. Meanwhile, Heater Woods posted on the Wishart, Mansfield & Mount Gravatt Community 4122 Facebook Group.

First GSDVIA arrivals: more on the way

The community response was amazing.

Within minutes Michelle Lee, President (Volunteer), of the Global Sustainable Development Vision Innovative Association (GSDVIA) was on the phone telling me she would put a call out.

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Catch them young

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The number of community members who responded to the Facebook Group post was amazing.

Recruiting a mother, son and pup walking in the forest was particularly special. This family team planted a special bush food plant Sago Flower Ozothamnus diosmifolius which is a good substitute cooking herb Rosemary.

What a community. One hours notice and we have a team that saved National Tree Day with 450 native plants local to Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve.

Plant Local to Feed Locals. Download the GroNative app from Apple or Google Play to identify local natives for your garden.

Our Community Steps Up

By: Michael Fox

Some work spaces come with something special: like this morning as the fog started to lift at the our National Tree Day site.

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Square-tailed Kite – Lophoictinia isura

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Our Tuesday Bushcare team was lucky to be able to watch a pair of Square-tailed Kites Lophoictinia isura building their nest in a nearby eucalypt.

This is the second year nesting at this site. We watched while these awesome birds would fly in with long sticks in their beak which they would then weave into the nest.

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Koala Shelly and joey

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Cold on Tuesday morning so Koala Shelly had her joey wrapped up warm.

As part of our Koala research Pieter Demmers is developing a citizen science project to id and track Koalas in the Reserve and surrounds.

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This morning I watched an Australian Magpie Cracticus tibicen flying in with sticks to weave into their nest.

Mates on Patrol

By: Michael Fox

It is hard to beat spending a beautiful sunny winter morning in the bush with a group of energetic young people.

I joined the Griffith Mates team at Mt Gravatt Campus. Again a diverse group of students studying phycology, IT and environmental science.

Our first stop is one of the Koala Drinkers we are using to assess the value of providing water for wildlife to maintain and strengthen populations of vulnerable Koala Phascolarctos cinereus and other species in isolated urban bushland habitats.

I am really impressed when one of these sharp eyed nature lovers spotted a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets Trichoglossus haematodus entering a nest hollow in a dead tree. There is a shortage of tree hollows in the Reserve so it was a real pleasure to identify another active nest hollow.

Australia’s smallest flower?

Next stop, the curious Allocasuarinas: the male trees’ russet (red-brown) flowers on tips of leaves glowed in the winter sun and across the track a female tree with its red ball flowers growing directly from the branches. Looking very similar the Native Cherry Exocarpos cupressiformis has the smallest flowers I have ever seen and of course sharp young eyes spotted the tiny flowers and focused on an actual cherry fruit.

Headache Vine – Male flowers

Aside from the Native Cherry we found a surprising number of natives in flower. Like the attractive and versatile Headache Vine Clematis glycinoides scented flowers. Of course the immediate question was “Does it cure headaches or cause headaches?

Indigenous people crushed leaves and inhaled to relieve head pain. Research suggests that protoanemonin in crushed leaves acts on the mucous membranes creating an intense head clearing sensation: eye watering, nose smarting and head blowing. Some suggest that the experience is so intense you will probably forget your headache.

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Wattle species provide valuable in winter food for insects and brighten our day with beautiful flowers. Black Wattle Acacia leiocalyx has an attractive flower and enticing scent. It is fine to sniff our wattle flowers: despite common belief wattles are not a major cause of pollen allergies.

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Exploring the forest did not stop with native animals and plants. Most people don’t realise that we have fairies living in the Reserve.

Our visitors loved the idea that of a special home for local fairies.

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Enough exploring, time for work.

The team sets to with a will clearing Creeping Lantana Lantana montevidensis and Corky Passion Vine
Passiflora suberosa
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Proud Weed Busters

By: Michael Fox

Our 2021 National Tree Day is on:

Date: 1st August

Time: 8am to 12 noon

Register: Yourself or Your Team

Parking is limited at planting site so consider:

270 cu metres of mulch is being spread and 1,200 plants have been ordered so we need your help to transform, what was 1,800 sq metres of weeds, into habitat for Koalas, birds, butterflies and bees.

2018 National Tree Day started the transformation of Fox Gully Bushcare Zone 20

Before: April 2018

Today: June 2021

By: Michael Fox

Eleven Clairvaux MacKillop College students and two teachers joined me last Monday to clear weeds in preparation for our National Tree Day planting.

The first of three innovative events organised by Sandra Stadhams: Campus Minister with the theme Revive The Earth. It is an inspiring initiative founded on the words of Pope Francis:

We can change, and we can make a new start. The whole human family needs to work together to care for our planet earth so that we sow beauty, not pollution and destruction. So, let’s put love for the world and love for our neighbours, into action, by living together in harmony, and caring for nature.

The Revive The Earth program utilises the Shared Path Framework “… to go beyond mere surface-experience in our endeavours to develop students who are compassionately engaged human beings.”

The interrelated movements of the Framework are:

Movement 1: PREPARE
Attention of the Heart/Holding Space
How can we ground experiences in the here and now?

Movement 2: PARTNER
Receptive Presence/Connecting
How do we form authentic reciprocal relationships with the communities we are engaging with?

Movement 3: PERCEIVE
Critical Reflection/Seeing Beyond
How do we train the eye to see beyond the experience? How do we use reflective tools that mirror the pathway of incoming information through the brain?

Movement 4: PRACTICE
Reciprocal Intention/Discernment
How can we ensure that students aren’t developing pre-mature solutions to complex community challenges?

Movement 5: PARTICIPATE
Integration of Purpose/Transformation
How can this be placed to animate, orient and innovate a new way of being human and a new way of relationship which is radically open-hearted and transformational.

Leaning to use a hand saw.

On site the Team dived in with a will to subdue a forest of weeds: Guinea Grass Megathyrsus maximus var. maximus*, Cobblers Peg Bidens pilosa*, Corky Passion Vine Passiflora suberosa*.

The team also helped us trial a new tool to remove Guinea Grass by separating the plant crown from roots with minimal root disturbance. The diverse living organisms critical for soil health can be damaged by if the soil is disturbed, so we are working with the BCC Habitat Brisbane team to develop best practice techniques for habitat restoration.

It is also a pleasure sharing basic skills like using a hand saw safely.

I am looking forward to welcoming the Clairvaux Bushcare team back for my own learning. Observing how the students apply the Shared Path Framework will strengthen my skills with community engagement.

Griffith Mates Team in action

By: Michael Fox

Welcoming our Griffith Mates Bushcare Team back on Saturday was a real pleasure for me.

Young an energetic is obvious. What always blows me away is the diversity of study areas … nano-technology, business, education and of course environmental studies: undergrad and masters levels, and the diversity of family heritage with students from East Timor, Malaysia and PNG.

The Team worked with me clearing weeds: Guinea Grass Megathyrsus maximus var. maximus, Cobblers Pegs Bidens pilosa and Perennial Horse Gram Macrotyloma axillare var. axillare.

Congratulations Team. Great to have you back!

Saturday’s job was site prep for this year’s National Tree Day planting which will restore the missing mid-story habitat so vital for birds, butterflies and bees.

First step in preparing for our yearly planting clearing the site and the Team removed fifteen bags of weeds.

And we have found a couple of new Koala spotters … one was in a tree just above where we were working and another was spotted beside the track up to the Summit.

Thank you to our Griffith Mates partners. Together we are making a difference.