Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve


Koala Mum and Joey Fox Gully Buschare

By: Michael Fox

Brisbane’s natural areas are a precious resource for both nature and people.

Please provide Council with feedback on the draft Brisbane Off-Road Cycling Strategy. The current strategy is putting large areas of our limited urban bushland at risk.

Email feedback to: parks@brisbane.qld.gov.au

Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve supports a healthy breeding populations of Koalas Phascolarctos cinereus and Squirrel Gliders Petaurus norfolcensis. The 66ha Reserve has 282 native plants which equals 20% of native plant species in the 22.6 million hectares of the United Kingdom. The Reserve also supports 62 bird, 49 butterfly, 12 native bee species and numerous beetles and bugs.

The Council’s Brisbane Off-Road Cycling Strategy which focuses on opening up bushland for mountain biking, may be a threat to special places like Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve.

In the past a small number of illegal mountain bikers ignoring Council signs have caused huge damage to the sensitive bushland our community members have spent thousands of hours restoring: 176 volunteers contributed 606 hours in the 2019/20 financial year.

Erosion caused by illegal mountain biking – Jan 2021

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While less of problem in 2021, illegal mountain bikers are still making new tracks destroying plants and causing erosion. Even riders on the fire roads can’t resist the temptation to go “off-road”. Riders using the Acacia Way maintenance track have caused erosion that is undermining a mature eucalypt tree.

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Branches and mulch used to close tracks

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Illegal tracks dramatically increase erosion on steep slopes as water is channelled down hill. Closing down and repairing illegal tracks is a labour intensive and costly exercise: closing one track has required several metres of mulch, hundreds of branches recovered from the bush and laid on the track to stop bikes and start restoring the ground by collecting silt before it is washed downhill.

Even with these efforts by Council staff are not enough. I received a report this morning of orange barrier fences being removed and a father and son riding though the bush from the Summit to Gertrude Petty Place. Repair work like this uses scarce Council funds that could be used for improving facilities for all visitors.

National Tree Day 2018

As a BCC ratepayer and volunteer Habitat Brisbane Bushcare leader I am very concerned that a small percentage of our community are lobbying for a “free-ride” with access our bushland reserves without accepting the cost of that access. (A free-rider problem is a type of market failure that occurs when those who benefit from resources, public goods (such as public roads or hospitals), or services of a communal nature do not pay for them.)

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National Tree Day 2015

Habitat Brisbane Bushcare volunteer contribution is typically $4 for every $1 invested by Council: provision of plants, tools and training. Bushcare is a very low risk activity which contributes to the health of our urban bushland while reducing maintenance costs for Council. On the other hand, off-road cycling is a relatively high risk recreational activity that damages bushland, increases maintenance costs and dramatically increases the potential for legal action against Council.

This article focuses on Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve because I have deep knowledge of this area with fourteen years actively restoring the Reserve, researching the flora and fauna and engaging an increasing number of community members in restoration or observing the dramatic increase community members walking in the bush. While I do not have the same knowledge of other Brisbane bushland reserves they will have same sensitive habitat and I can make general observations about the potential impact of off-road cycling on other reserves.

Signage: The current track no bikes signage is very small, very limited and ineffective for the target audience: typically young males riding fast and totally focused on riding not signs. Tourists are one group that definitely better signage: one rider I stopped going down the walking track from the Summit was a visitor from South America. Others simply claim they have not seen signs. Signs need to be larger and spread along the tracks so everyone is well aware of the rules: no excuses.

Vandalised no-bike sign

Fines with no Enforcement = no behaviour change: While off-ride cycling is illegal in the Reserve and subject to $500 fines enforcement appears to be non-existent. As I understand the situation the very Council Officers, Rangers / Habitat Brisbane Officers, who spend time on the ground in the Reserves are not allowed to even issue fines, let alone that stronger action.

The draft Brisbane Off-Road Cycling Strategy (BORCS) “seeks to reduce unauthorised [illegal] track construction” (page 6). It is hard to understand the logic of a strategy that manages illegal behaviour by rewarding the bad behaviour.

Most visitors to the Reserve are responsible however there are a small number that ignore the rules putting walkers at risk, damaging sensitive wildlife habitat, increasing maintenance costs, even vandalising the limited signage that exists.

The Off-Road Cycling Strategy suggests that “Increasing the authorised recreational use of natural areas will also increase casual surveillance which helps to deter illegal activity.” (BORCS page 11) While Cialdini’s Social proof is a valuable tool for influencing and changing behaviour, our experience using this to manage behaviour Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve has had mixed success. The very demographic we are dealing with: young males, means that our Bushcarers: typically retired and female, have to be very careful because violent verbal abuse is common. If this is an ongoing problem in a popular and busy Reserve like Mt Gravatt what control will there be in other reserves that do not have active Bushcare groups.

User Pays: Any football club or other community group that wants to uses Council land like parks and reserves are responsible for their own costs: lease fees, public liability insurance and property maintenance. While many and possibly most off-road cyclists are not part of a formal group that could provide public liability insurance and pay lease fees, they are still increasing costs and litigation risk. If the Council accepts this as a cost of providing valuable recreational activities this must not come out of limited environment budgets that are critical to habitat protection and restoration: “Council is continuing to invest in the protection and restoration of our city’s biodiversity, and we are on track to achieve the target of having 40% of Brisbane as natural habitat by 2031.” (BORCS page 8)

As a ratepayer I have contributed to Bushland Acquisition Program. I am concerned that land purchased to protect our urban bushland may now be “given” to a very small percentage of community members for their personal use. “More than 4300 hectares of land have been purchased and protected through Council’s Bushland Acquisition Program since 1990. The preservation and management of biodiversity within Brisbane’s natural areas is of vital importance.” (BORCS page 8)

Please provide Council with feedback on the draft Brisbane Off-Road Cycling Strategy.

Email feedback to: parks@brisbane.qld.gov.au

Koala Mum and Joey – Fox Gully Bushcare

By: Michael Fox

Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve has no permanent water and no safe access to water or breeding opportunities in surrounding bushland.

The Koala Drinker research is providing vital baseline information on the potential of providing water for wildlife to maintain and strengthen populations of  vulnerable Koala Phascolarctos cinereus and other species in isolated urban bushland habitats. The Koala Drinker Research Project is supported by Communities Environment Program and sponsored by Ross Vasta MP.

Combined with the excellent Koala fencing built by Department of Transport and Main Roads (Queensland) keeping Koalas from being killed on the Motorway water for wildlife drinkers will strengthen the Koala population in the Reserve.

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Concept Koala bridge – Cr Steven Huang

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We are also working with Cr Steve Huang on his concept for a wildlife bridge across Klumpp Road from the bottom of Fox Gully to the Hibiscus Sports Complex then Mimosa Creek.

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One very clear result of our research is how water for wildlife is valued by a wide range of species, particularly with over 6,000 visits by birds in a 6 month period. Special visitors are three bird species not previously identified in the Reserve: Brown Goshawk Accipiter fasciatus, White-throated Honeyeater Melithreptus albogularis and Yellow-faced Honeyeater Lichenostomus chrysops.

Some of birds using the Koala Drinkers:

Other regular visitors to the water include Lace Monitors Varanus varius, Sugar Gliders Petaurus breviceps, Brush-tail Possums Trichosurus vulpecula, Koalas Phascolarctos cinereus, Long-tailed Rat (Research required to identify). The wildlife cameras also captured Wallabies and a European Red Fox Vulpes vulpes.

White Throated Honeyeater is one of the species added to Flora and Fauna of Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve:

By: Michael Fox

2020 has been a difficult year with most of our Bushcare events cancelled. So I decided to check in with our partner “nature” to see what has been happening while we have been distracted by a COVID pandemic.

National Tree Day planting 2016 …………………….2021

2016 National Tree Day planting expanded the previous year’s planting of small forest bird habitat. A combination of Habitat Tripods and insect attracting plants to feed Fairy Wrens.

National Tree Day 2017 site ……………………………. 2021

Our 2017 National Tree Day site was a closed car park blocked off and overgrown with weeds. Cleared of weeds, mulched and replanted the site is starting to regenerate healthy habitat for Koalas and small forest birds. .

National Tree Day 2018 site prep …………………….. 2021

The 2018 National Tree Day site needed special preparation because the large amount of asbestos (fibro) dumped there. The BCC Habitat Brisbane team organised professional asbestos removal contractors to clear the site. We then covered the site in a thick layer of cardboard fridge boxes from Harvey Norman. The cardboard was then covered in mulch and planted so any residual asbestos will be locked in by plant roots.

National Tree Day 2019 planting ……………………… 2021

2019 National Tree Day was restoration of a very degraded area where BCC contractors had cleared a large area of Lantana Lantana camara. Plants were chosen to maintain the view while restoring native habitat. The special site has an amazing view out to the Bay Islands hence the track name: Eastern Outlook Track. A great spot to sit and enjoy the winter morning sun.

Australia China Youth Assoc. 2018 …………………… 2021

The Australian Chinese Youth Association are a diverse group of Griffith University students from China, Japan and Australia, all passionate about working with China. The students were studying a wide range of subjects including medical, business and environment. I have never worked with a group so good at finding wildlife: everything from spiders to bugs fascinated them. The group happily worked on a challenging steep site removing invasive Fishbone Fern Nephrolepis cordifolia and doing such a good job the fern has not returned while natural regeneration has already bought back native grasses including Creeping Beard Grass Oplismenus aemulus – butterfly caterpillar food and Poison Peach Trema tomentosa – feeds fruiting eating birds.

Clairvaux Bushcarers 2018

I missed working with our Clairvaux Mackillop College students over the past twelve months. The Clairvaux Bushcarers worked hard clearing weeds to allow natural regeneration to restore the habitat. The students with all their energy are a real pleasure to work alongside. It is always a pleasure to introduce our local wildlife to this fascinated audience. Everything interests them: Grey Butcherbird Cracticus torquatus, St Andrew’s Cross Spider Argiope Keyserlingi or learning that Ladybeetles have a larval stage Variable Ladybird Beetle Coelophora inaequalis: adult beetle and larvae (right). I am already working with the College to set event dates for 2021.

National Tree Day 2020 had to be cancelled however the BCC Natural Areas team stepped up and organised contractors to plant a large area at the Summit.

2021 is already looking good with Clean Up Australia on Sunday March 7th.

Find a full range of volunteer opportunities.

By: Michael Fox

Caper White – Belenois java

I am very lucky to live beside Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve so butterflies and birds are common in my garden. However, at the moment gardens all over Brisbane are welcoming butterflies in large numbers. “Why are there so many butterflies in Brisbane?”  Jessica HinchliffeABC Radio Brisbane

Splendid Ochre Trapezites symmomus

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The Caper Whites Belenois java kept moving not wanting to be photographed but I did get a couple of photos. But I did find a Splendid Ochre Trapezites symmomus which posed perfectly for a photo. Note the characteristic antenna clubs which help identify species.

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Cycad Blue Theclinesthes onycha laying eggs

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The Cycad Blue Theclinesthes onycha are back for their annual visit. People often worry about the damage to the leaves on their Cycads. However, even being attacked by caterpillars of these cute butterflies every year my Cycad is still thriving.

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Australian Wood Duck Chenonetta jubata

I have also had some special birds visiting.

A pair of Australian Wood Duck Chenonetta jubata have been visiting hoping to set up home. However, the Pied Butcherbirds Cracticus nigrogularis and Noisy Miners Manorina melanocephala have been chasing these special visitors away.

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Pale-heaed Rosellas Platycercus adscitus

A pair of Pale-heaed Rosellas Platycercus adscitus are also regular visitors. Today they were have a drink at one of the Koala Drinkers.

Invite birds, butterflies and bees to your garden by providing Water, Food and Shelter.

By: Michael Fox

Yesterday Laurie Deacon, my Co-president and I were honoured to welcome our state Environment Minster Hon. Leeanne Enoch to Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve. Minister Enoch was accompanied by our local MPs Corinne McMillan and Joe Kelly. We were also joined by Wayne Cameron, Bulimba Creek Catchment Co-ordinating Committee (B4C), Rob Janson and Greg Neill representing N4C and Coorparoo Finger Gullies Bushcare, and Greg Wellard, Mackenzie Bushcare.

Butterfly Hill-topping Site
Koala inspecting visitors

First stop on our tour is the butterfly speed dating site: look for the butterfly sign near the Summit Track entry. Some butterfly species practice “hilltopping behaviour” where males gather on in locations like the amphitheatre like space with the protection of trees along the edge for safety, all with the objective of attracting a female.

Our visitors were particularly interested in the Koala Phascolarctos cinereus population in the Reserve. One of our Koala Drinker team, Jake Slinger, spotted a Koala watching from the trees right where we were standing.

(l-r) Greg Wellard, Rob Janson, Greg Neill, Leeanne Enoch, Wayne Cameron, Corinne McMillan, Joe Kelly, Greg Neill, Laurie Deacon, Michael Fox

Our visitors were very impressed with restoration at the 2017 National Tree Day planting site.

I particularly complemented our political representatives on the impact of the Containers for Change initiative which has caused a very positive problem. When I look back at past CleanUp’s for comparison:

The reduction in rubbish meant our 2020 CleanUp not only had our largest team of volunteers but also our largest Weeding Team. A very positive problem!

Griffith Mates at work - 1 Mar 2020

Weeding Team in action

By: Michael Fox

I love our annual Clean Up when the community turns out to help maintain our special Reserve. Heather Woods, our event coordinator, registered our largest ever team:
  • 75 Volunteers;
  • 66 Adults; and
  • 9 Children (under 16)

Dainty Swallowtail - Papilio anactus - 1 Mar 2020

Dainty Swallowtail Papilio anactus

 

The reduction in rubbish to be cleaned up means the largest group joined the Weeding Team this year.

We are working with the Council Rangers and Habitat Brisbane team to prepare the site for the 2020 National Tree Day Planting on Sunday, 02 August. Special focus will be planting species that enhance the visitor experience by attracting butterflies, like the beautiful Dainty Swallowtail Papilio anactus, while maintaining the views to the city and Glass House Mountains.

Weeds cleared - 1 Mar 2020

Huge area of Guinea Grass and Creeping Lantana cleared

 

The weeding team did a great job clearing a huge area of Guinea Grass Panicum maximum, Creeping Lantana Lantana montevidensis and Glycine Neonotonia wightii. Clearing the weeds and removing trip hazards is the first step in site preparation for planting.

 

 

Blue Banded Bee - Amegilla cingulata - 1 Mar 2020

Blue Banded Bee visiting Blue Tongue flower

 

Species for planting will be based on our research for Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve. Blue Tongue or Native Lasiandra Melastoma affine, currently flowering at the Lookout, is very popular with the solitary native bees in the Reserve. Like Blue Banded Bees Amegilla cingulata

Other species observed on the day were Great Carpenter Bees Xylocopa sp., Stingless Native Bees Trigona sp., and caterpillars of Glasswing Acraea andromacha and Imperial Hairstreak Jalmenus evagoras butterflies and Pale Brown Hawk Moth Theretra latreillii.

Guide on Patrol 2 - 1 Mar 2020

Guide on Patrol

 

Meanwhile the Rubbish Teams were busy around the Summit and along the roadway collecting the usual fastfood packages and some strange parts fallen off cars.

 

 

 

Griffith Mates Team - 1 Mar 2020

Griffith Mates Bushcare Team

 

 

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Heather with rubbish collection

 

 

 

Thank you to all the community members, the Holland Park Girl Guides and Griffith Mates.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you to Heather Woods for organising the event.

By: Michael Fox

Sheamus O’Connor, Group Leader of Gertrude Petty Place Bushcare, reported on the Group’s first event for 2020 with sad news:

“Unfortunately, an injured koala was found about 50m down from GPP, up on the hill, sitting at the bottom of a tree. She had been bitten by a dog on her wrist and was very sick from infection. Angela, the local wildlife rescuer, collected her however has little hope in full recovery. Let’s hope she recovers.

We’ve got signs now but that is obviously not enough, people ignore them and continue to have their dogs off lead. What will it take for people to take responsibility for their pets?” Sheamus Dog Kills Koala - Feb 2020 adj

 

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As reported in the Southern Star this week the Koala Phascolarctos cinereus did not survive this dog attack.

It is very disappointing that irresponsible individuals still ignore the signs and let their dogs run loose in the Reserve.

Mt Gravatt Conservation Reserve is a special place with a wide diversity of flora and fauna including a healthy breeding population of Koalas appreciated by tourists, international students and even increasing property values in the area.

Dogs off-leash are also a problem for walkers with children or people walking their own dogs on-leash. For other people, even a well behaved dog off-leash creates uncertainty because they don’t know how that strange dog will behave around their children or their dog.

Unfortunately, we have reports that challenging walkers with dogs off-leash is often met with aggressive rudeness. So consider simply taking a photo, from a distance, and reporting to Brisbane City Council call centre on 07 3403 8888.

Dogs do love to run loose, so consider visiting the local Abbeville Street Park off-leash area or look for one of the other 150 City Council dog off-leash areas

 

 

Mates on trail - 9 Nov 2019

Fishbone Fighters on the trail

By: Michael Fox

Our Griffith Mates Bushcare team joined us again today to help eradicate the invasive Fishbone Fern Nephrolepis cordifolia from Fox Gully Bushcare Zone 10.

As always the team was an interesting mix of international students: Osaka Japan with its amazing aquarium, cold Gansu in north-west China where winter temperatures range from -13°C to a toasty 3°C, and a local student with a French heritage whose passion is environmentally sensitive urban planning.

 

Weed Busters - 9 Nov 2019

Fishbone Fighters hard at work

 

 

 

 

The Fishbone Fighters worked hard first cutting back the prickly Barbed Wire Vine Smilax australis which will tear an unsuspecting Bushcarer’s arms to pieces. However, Barbed Wire Vine is very hardy local native which can tolerate a hard cutback to allow access for weed removal.

Proud Bushcarers - 9 Nov 2018

Proud Fishbone Fighers

 

Thanks again to the extraordinary Griffith Mates Bushcare team who have been partnering with Mt Gravatt Environment Group since April 2013.

 

 

Koala spotting circle - 26 Oct 2019

Koala spotting

By: Michael Fox

Griffith Mates joined us again last Saturday for Bushcare. Always a pleasure to show off our forest even if there was not much in the way of flowers to show off in the dry conditions.

Koala mum and Joey - 26 Oct 2019

Koala Mum with Joey snuggled up

 

One surprise we could provide was a Koala Mum and Joey in a tree on Acacia Way.

Griffith Mates in action - 26 Oct 2019

Energy and laughter a great mix

 

 

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The Griffith Mates Bushcare team is always a ball of energy and laughter.

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Grin from ear to ear - 26 Oct 2019.

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Thank you team you are always help me remember the reason I do Bushcare work: the next generation.

First Chinese Scouts - 28 July 2019

Brisbane First Chinese Scout Group

By: Michael Fox

130 participants planted 450 native shrubs, vines and grasses … another successful National Tree Day and another large area of Fox Gully Bushcare restored.

 

As in past years many community groups returned for our 2019 event:

Shinnyoen - National Tree Day 2019, Mt Gravatt Environmental Group

Welcome to Resurge Digital Team … looking forward to meeting again in 2020

Planting Team - 28 July 2019

Holes ready: planting underway

Please accept my apologies if I got any names wrong or missed any groups. I normally do this report soon after the event.

Thank you to the BCC Habitat Brisbane team who organised the plants, mulch and holes for the planting.

National Tree Day is always an inspiration, having all these community members helping us restore the Reserve.

Weeding Team - 28 July 2019

Weeding team returns

The Weeding Team cleared a huge area of the invasive Fishbone Fern Nephrolepis cordifolia, Fishbone is a native but not to Brisbane bushland and parks where it is an invasive weed.

Thanks to the Teams work Fishbone is well on the way to be eradicated from another part of Fox Gully Bushcare.

Griffith Mates Team - 28 July 2019

Griffith Mates Team

 

 

 

 

 

 

Tree Day fun - 29 July 2019

Of course it is never all work and no play.

 

 

 

Jake and Georgia - 18 Oct 2019

Georgia (left) and Jake planting

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Three months on and thanks to the watering done by Jake, Georgia and Robyn while I was away, only four plants have  died, our best result ever. And click on the photos to see the amazing growth of Native Sarsaparilla Hardenbergia violacea which is already growing out the top of the green plant shelters.

Spangled Drongo - Dicrurus bracteatus - 18 Oct 2019

Spangled Drongo

 

 

 

Jake, Georgia and Griffith Mates have been working with me to finish the planting. Watched over by a Spangled Drongo Dicrurus bracteatus.

 

 

 

 

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