A Blue Banded Bee – Amegilla cingulata getting nectar from one of our special Bottle Brush Grass Tree – Xanthorrhoea macronema.

It is particularly pleasing to photograph my first Blue Banded Bee today because I am currently writing an article on Pollinator Links for the Southside Community News. Pollinator Links are a form of wildlife corridor that has potential to work in our fragmented urban landscape and they are a key strategy in our Mt Gravatt Showgrounds Precinct Landscape Plan.

Blue Banded Bees are an Australian native bee and an important pollinator of our food crops like tomatoes. Some plants will only release pollen when the flower is vibrated rapidly – buzz pollination.

The importance of these and other native buzz pollinators is highlighted by the fact that the commercial honey bee – Apis mellifera, cannot perform buzz pollination. The Blue Banded Bees website cites significant benefits for crops such as tomatoes, kiwi fruit, eggplants and chillies. Blue Banded Bees are thought to improve yields in Australia by at least 30% overall.

I also managed to photograph one of our beautiful Variegated Fairy Wrens Malurus lamberti. A male in full breeding colour. There was a least one female around but she would not sit still for a photo. These delicate little birds like scrubby areas where they are safe from predators, often Lantana. So part of our bush restoration work is ensuring there is that there is replacement habitat established before we remove large areas of Lantana. As we establish Pollinator Links we aim to bring special birds like these back into our community backyards.

Brett with Koala Mum in background (top right)


We know that Koalas are breeding on Mt Gravatt. We are getting regular reports of sightings from all around the mountain and I have even woken to find a young male climbing onto the deck at night. However, today, our Rover Street Bushcare co-ordinator, Brett Dugdale, shared something I have never seen before: a mother and joey together.

In Mt Gravatt we live only ten kilometres from Brisbane CBD and we have Koalas in our “backyard”. As a community we are stewards of a truly unique piece of Australian bush habitat.

I am honoured to know Brett. He is not only passionate about protecting and restoring the mountain habitat; he also brings a wealth of practical restoration experience gained working with Bulimba Creek Catchment Co-ordinating Committee (B4C).

Brett notes that the Brisbane City Council fox eradication program – seven foxes have been removed from Mt Gravatt Reserve in the last twelve months – is having a positive effect on the mountain wildlife. However, as Koala numbers increase,  conflict with domestic pets will become an increasing problem: a young Koalawas attacked by a dog in a local backyard last week. That lucky Koala was OK after being checked out by RSPCA vets and returned to the mountain.

Please keep your dogs on-leash when walking in the Reserve and of course carry bags for dog droppings. Koalas tend to avoid areas where they can smell dog droppings so if we want to encourage Koalas we need to clean up after our dogs.

If you find any injured wildlife in the Brisbane area you can call the BCC Wildlife Ambulance – BCC Call Centre 3403 8888.

Andrea, from Griffith University, has reported that two Spectacled Monarchs Monarcha trivigatus were sighted  on the mountain over a couple of days last week. They’re normally found in wet forest and rainforest, so this is an unexpected sighting.

Andrea is keen to know if there have been any other sightings of this special bird. Please email any sightings of Monarchs to megoutlook@gmail.com  – photos are great however even date, time and approximate location are valuable.

Other wildlife sightings are also welcome: like the Koala Amanda spotted crossing the Motorway onramp last week. He made it safely across the road and quickly climbed the nearest tree.

Echidna - Photo Bill Semple

Phil Reeves
, State Member for Mansfield, has now confirmed funding for our key research project: Flora and Fauna Assessment – Management Issue Identification and Fauna Movement Solutions.

This research,  to be conducted by respected professionals at Biodiversity Assessment and Management Pty Ltd, is a key part of our Mimosa Creek Precinct Landscape Plan. The southern face of Mt Gravatt, adjoining Klumpp Road, includes three strategic wildlife corridors which have the potential to link Mt Gravatt Reserve with Mimosa/Bulimba Creek and Toohey Forest habitats.

Imperial Hairstreak - Photo Sue Jones

Environmental restoration and long-term protection of our mountain habitat will strengthen existing populations of Koalas, Echidnas, Gliders and a wide diversity of birds and butterflies. A unique bushland experience right in our suburbs and only ten minutes from Brisbane CBD.

Mt Gravatt Environment Group is developing long term strategic plans for restoration and protection of Mt Gravatt Reserve through consolidation of existing habitat parcels and creation of wildlife links between habitat parcels. Queensland Government funding for this research will complement the strong community commitment represented by over 4,000 hours of volunteer labour and commitment of sixteen private property owners to restoration of their land in the Fox Gully and Firefly Gully wildlife corridors.

(l-r) Hon Kate Jones, Helen Schwencke, Michael Fox, Hon Phil Reeves

On behalf of our Mountain community, I thank Phil Reeves and his electoral office team for their ongoing support and encouragement. I also thank the Hon Kate Jones, Member for Ashgrove, who in her role as Minister for Environment and Resource Management visited Mt Gravatt Outlook then approved our research funding. In her letter, Kate acknowledged “The strong commitment and efforts of the community group for restoring, strengthening and linking Mimosa Creek, Roly Chapman Reserve and Mt Gravatt Reserve.”

We can all be proud of the strong community we are building with the support of our government representatives.  Reading Mt Gravatt Then and Now, Mt Gravatt Historical Society, tells us that this strong community spirit has a long history with the Queensland Premier acknowledging the community commitment in July 1893 when announcing the establishment of Mt Gravatt as an environmental reserve.

2:30am Still can’t go back to sleep because our visitor is exploring the deck trying to find a tree to climb down. Read about 11:40am visit.

We thought he was ok when he started to climb down on the corner post but he could not figure out how to get his butt over the projecting deck planks. Then it was exploring along the 50mm edge outside the wire … no good … mmmm …. let’s slide backwards through the wire back onto the deck. Now we can sit back and think …. perhaps the other corner post.

At this point we decided he was just going to hurt himself and we needed to move him on. So thick jumper and heavy coat to protect my arms, did I mention the claws, and thick leather bushcare gloves to protect my hands. Koalas look cute and cuddly but they must be 80% muscle, 18% teeth and claws, and 2% everything else. I had to remove Koalas from our property on two occasions when we lived at Victoria Point in Redlands City, so I knew from experience that it would be like wrestling a tiger with the bite of a crocodile.

So much growling, biting and scratching as I scooped him up, carried him through the house, downstairs and out to the backyard. Out through the fence, straight up the Eucalyptus grandis and we were able to get back to sleep.

When I checked this morning, our midnight visitor was asleep in the highest possible branch in the Grandis. He woke up for a few minutes when some of the neighbourhood kids came see then tucked his head back down and back to sleep.

11.40 p.m…What is that scratching sound outside on the deck? A Possum?

Certainly the scratching of claws on the metal railing sounded possum-like. Imagine our surprise when, on turning on the deck lights, we saw this young male koala. He had clambered up the timber post, nearly coming to grief on the stainless steel wires, coming to rest with his butt on the metal rail.

From there, he allowed a couple of photos until we tried to get Jian into the picture too…that was enough and he  continued up the post, finding at ceiling height, that he had reached his limit.

We tried unsuccessfully a few times to help him down, but as cuddly as he looked, those claws are ferocious and he warned us off any further attempts with ‘stay clear’ growls and grunts.  Not wanting to stress him, that is where he is staying for now…..hopefully he can find his own way down by morning…or we’ll have to build a tree for him to climb down.

Read Koala update: the morning after.

Shanghai student Jian meets a local

Sue Jones and I (Mike Fox) attended the BCC Creek Ranger Forum today at Walkabout Creek Conference Centre. An ideal location for a workshop discussing environmental restoration, with Butcher Birds, Bell Minors (Bellbirds), Kookaburras and Whipbirds providing a background for our presenters.

The presence of Councillor Peter Matic: Chair of the Environment, Parks and Sustainability Committee, was a stong statement about the political commitment to our restoration work. However, for me Peter’s welcome was overshadowed by the welcome to country and amazing didgeridoo playing of a young nephew of Maroochy Barambah: Turrbal Association. My apologies, I did not make a note of his name, so you will have to contact Maroochy if you want to hear a didgeridoo do things I did not know was possible. I have heard about the concept of circular breathing and I have heard didgeridoos being played but not only was there no pause for breath, it sounded like two didgeridoos playing harmony!

The key note speaker was Simon Warner: CEO of SEQ Catchments Ltd, a community not-for-profit with the vision: to deliver a sustainable future for our community. It was heartening to listen to such a business-like pragmatic analysis of the issues of managing south-east Queensland growth, without destroying the very environment that underpins our business economy and the very communities where we live. Simon is very clear-eyed about about the complexity of driving change, acknowledging that the SEQ Natural Resource Management Plan is not perfect just the most comprehensive plan and targets of any region in Australia. Importantly, he recognises that plans converted to legislation are not enough, so implementation and monitoring of the SEQ NRM Plan is driven by the Chief Executive Officer’s Committee for Natural Resource Management in SEQ which reports to the Minister for Infrastructure and Planning.

Maggie Scattini, of private company Brisbane Bushcare gave a very practical presentation based on a decade of contracting in ecosystem restoration. I particularly liked the way Maggie layered up our understanding of the complex relationships starting with soil: my next article for the Southside Community News will have to be about Maggie’s insights on dirt, moving onto the role of  fungi in the forest, then fauna: apparently our glow-in-the-dark mushrooms are actually food for Rainforest Snails. Leave them to the snails, they are poisonous to people. Talking to Maggie and Bill (her husband) we discovered that Brisbane Bushcare was involved in some of the very first bushcare work on the mountain: at what is now the Rover Street Bushcare site.

The final two speakers, Adrian Caneris of Biodiversity Assessment and Management BAAM, and Prof. Carla Catterall of School of Environment, Griffith University, are both strong supporters of Mt Gravatt Environment Group work.

Mike, Sue, Adrian (L-R)

Adrian gave us a guided walk to the shore of Enoggera Reservoir where he helped us see the significant differences in  four habitat types and how that will change what fauna will use each habitat.

Adrian’s presentation then provided a valuable and fascinating insight into the equipment and techniques in researching fauna living in a particular habitat. Everything from pit traps to scats (animal droppings) have a role in identifying fauna.

Carla Catterall passion for her research is imediately apparent when she stands in front of an audience!

Carla’s presentation introduced some challenging ideas derived from research into habitat recovery after cyclone Larry in 2006, also cyclone Yasi and the floods this year. The most surprising for me was the Connell diversity hypothesis which proposes that maximum species diversity depends on some disturbance: fire, flood, cyclone.

This was particularly challenging when reflecting on Maggie’s recommendation to minimise any disturbance of the soil at our bushcare sites and Adrian’s caution to minimise any disturbance of fauna in research activities. The relationships in nature are complex and we need to draw on the expertise of the amazing people. Carla provided a valuable link to research: Griffith Environmental Futures Centre.

Another amazing critter in our bushland: Mottled Cup Moth caterpillar Doratifera vulnerans.

I have seen capsules on trees and wondered what they are. They look just like a gum nuts in the wrong place on the tree.

Yesterday I was asked to identify two caterpillars from a local bushcare site. My bushcare colleague had a painful encounter with the stinging spines on these otherwise pretty caterpillars so I put on disposable gloves before I opened the container to photograph these strange creatures.

Butterfly expert Helen Schwenchke put me on the right track when she suggested looking up Cup Moths on the Australian caterpillar identification site. These intriguing pink yellow spiky critters are caterpillars of the Mottled Cup Moth Doratifera vulnerans.

Back to the caterpillars for a real surprise. One had carefully stripped a piece of the eucalypt branch and started spinning silky threads: it was building it chrysalis while I watched!

This process took about 70 minutes with the caterpillar curled tight and completely covered in silk thread.

By  morning the chrysalis had hardened, shrunk to less than half the size and created this capsule that looks just like the gum nuts of the eucalypt trees the caterpillars feed on. See the picture at the top: the chrysalis is the one on the right.

Do you want to help clean up the home of these unique creatures? Register for Summit Cleanup on Sunday 6th March.

Home to koalas, echidnas, gliders, frogs, fireflies, forty-two butterfly species and two hundred and fifty-one native plant species Mt Gravatt Reserve is a unique haven in our city only 10 km from Brisbane CBD.

I realised just how valuable this resource is when we visited Wivenhoe Outlook picnic area in Brisbane Forest Park. Approximately 60 minutes from the CBD, via a slow winding road the Outlook is still definitely worth a visit. However, even protected by 25,000 hectares of national park, the first plant I noticed when I got out of the car was the familiar Cobblers Peg Bidens pilosa, a common weed on Mt Gravatt.  Seeing this familiar weed actually gave me a perverse sense of optimism. We have similar weeds but we have a tiny fraction of the area to restore and we have a growing population, read: potential bushcare workforce, only a few minutes walk from the mountain.

Mt Gravatt Reserve is only 66 hectares however the native plant diversity is equal to 10% of all plant species in the 22,600,000 hectares of Great Britain. This extraordinary level of plant diversity is also why we have a wide range of native animal species living just across our back fences. The opportunity exists right now, to strengthen and grow something that could never be recreated in places like Great Britain or Europe.

Something truly unique to our Mt Gravatt community: waking with Kookaburras, walking with echidnas, reading by firefly light. Ok, that last one is a stretch however we do have fireflies in our gullies so keep your eyes open. Thanks to Carol Kloske for these photos of these surprising insects. Firefly Luciola nigra

Population growth is putting pressure on our natural areas and in particular the expected population growth outlined in the Mt Gravatt Corridor Neighbourhood Plan will impact on how we relate to Mt Gravatt Reserve.

How is MEG working to turn population growth into a powerful positive for Mt Gravatt Reserve?

Active restoration work:

  • MEG has four bushcare groups: Gertrude Petty Place, Rover Street, Fox Gully and Roly Chapman Reserve. For details see: 2011 MEG Calendar
  • Restoration focused on:
    • edges of the Reserve to reduce edge-effect of private gardens
    • wildlife corridors linking Reserve with other habitat

Build awareness and change damaging behaviour:

  • MEG focuses on reducing three key threats:
    • Weeds, garden waste and rubbish dumping
    • Downhill mountain biking, trail bikes & unofficial tracks
    • Feral and domestic animals
  • Flora & Fauna of Mt Gravatt Reserve – available on CD from B4C Nursery
  • Environmental Workshop in Spring – details available closer to date

As our community members start to really “see” what is around them every day they will discover a miniture Brisbane Forest Park just over their back fence.

Thanks to Bill and Alison Semple we have photographic evidence that echidnas are still active on the Mountain.

Alison photographed this prickly character foraging for food last week. Bill and Alison were walking on the mountain when they were made this special find.

Echidnas Tachyglossus aculeatus is one the few ground dwelling mammals found in the Reserve. Commonly called Spiny Anteater, for obvious reasons, dig into ants nests and termite mounds using their long tongue to search out dinner. Like the platypus these fascinating mammals lay eggs like reptiles then nurture their young in a pouch feeding them on mother’s milk. It never ceases to amaze me that we can find special animals like this only ten minutes from Brisbane CBD.