SAVING AND SAVOURING THE HELENA AND AURORA RANGE
Our speaker for February was our newly elected (or should that be cajoled?) President, Jolanda Keeble. Jolanda was the convenor of the club’s long-range excursion to the Helena and Aurora Range (HAR) in September 2017. Jolanda’s report on the excursion was published in the February 2018 edition of this newsletter, for those who want a comprehensive report.
A significant and pleasing event has occurred since the excursion. In late December, the Environment Minister made a final decision without appeal, that MRL’s mining proposal for the Helena-Aurora Range would not be allowed to proceed and that a Class-A Reserve could be created there to further preserve it from resource development.
This allowed us to view and savour Jolanda’s photos of the splendid scenery and wonderful flora (64) and fauna (8) knowing there is no need for us to rush to the site before it disappears.
The HAR is located in the Coolgardie Biogeographic Region and while the substrate for this region is generically described as ‘Granite strata of Yilgarn Craton with Archaen Greenstone intrusions in parallel belts’ it is the Banded Ironstone Formation (BIF) which sets it apart from most of the region.
Excursion participants were able to locate and photograph the two Declared Rare Flora (DRF), Tetratheca aphylla subsp.aphylla and Leucopogon spectabilis, both of which are endemic and BIF-dependent. The HAR is also the home of 14 Priority-listed plants, including the endemic species Acacia adinophylla (P1), Acacia shapelleae (P1) and Lepidosperma bungalbin (P1).
Leucopogon spectabilis (M Cliff)
Tetratheca aphylla subsp aphylla (J Keeble)
Anyone looking for Eremophila species would not have been disappointed, as Jolanda showed photos of at least a dozen that were identified. Similarly, at least four Dodonaeas and four Ptilotus species were found.
From the HAR the trip continued onto Pittosporum Rock, The Die Hardy Range Lookout and Pigeon Rocks and concluded with a visit to Ennuin Station. The route meant crossing several sand plains, which resulted in seeing different vegetation associations and some interesting taller vegetation. Callitris columellaris (above, A Keeble) was found north of the HAR while the P4 Eucalyptus formannii (below, J Keeble) was found on the sandplains between Mt Manning and Die Hardy Range.
In addition to the 382 flora taxa recorded for the HAR, of which 144 were identified by the excursion participants, there are 161 fauna species including the threaten Malleefowl (Leipoa ocellata)—unfortunately, not seen on this trip. However, 39 other bird species were seen, along with six reptiles, two bats, numerous invertebrates, and three fungi (yes it was wet—and very windy.)
Jolanda’s presentation, as always, was illustrated with numerous high-quality photos of the flora and fauna: 64 flowers, 4 birds, 3 reptiles and 5 insects—plus a very bogged Landcruiser!
FLORA & FAUNA OF THE USA
For the first meeting of 2018 there was a good turnout of members for a presentation by Geoff and Rosalie Barritt on the flora and fauna they encountered during a camping trip in the USA. They rented a motorhome (campervan) for their trip of almost two and a half months (June 6 to August 18, 2017), covering 15,320 kms. Starting in Houston, Texas, the trip took them through southwestern Texas, New Mexico, Colorado, Arizona, Utah, Wyoming, South Dakota and Nebraska.
Geoff opened the presentation by saying that they saw a large quantity and diversity of wildlife during their travels, commenting that they probably saw more on this trip than they would on a trip of similar length in Australia. This statement was certainly backed up by the photographs that Geoff showed; there were far too many to list them all in this report. Numerous bird species were sighted, including Common Flycatcher, Gold-fronted Woodpecker, Turkey Vultures, Black-fronted Sparrow and American Robin (the most common bird in parking areas in the various parks visited.) Also sighted were a Humming Bird (at a feeding station), Nuthatch, Blue Jay, Wild Turkey, Canada Geese, Sage Grouse, Sandhill Cranes and Trumpeter Swans. Reptile species were well represented with numerous species of dragons, skinks and snakes photographed. There were many photographs of small mammals in the presentation, including Ground Squirrels, Chipmunks and Marmots. Jack Rabbits made good photographic subjects with their extra-large ears. The smaller mammals appeared to be abundant despite the arid conditions found in most of the National and State Parks visited by Geoff and Rosalie. Larger mammals included Bison, a Black Bear, Bighorn Sheep and several Pronghorn.
Insects were also found during the trip, including colourful butterflies—such as the Orange Skimmer and the Zebra Swallowtail—Damselflies, Amber Wing Dragonflies and Jewel Beetles.
Flora photographs included a Yucca in flower and several species of cactus. Interspersed with the photos of flora and fauna were photographs of the spectacular landscape Geoff and Rosalie travelled through, such as Big Bend NP in Texas, Mesa Verde SP in Colorado, Grand Canyon, Bryce Canyon in Utah and the Grand Teton. The presentation had only covered around half the trip (Houston to the Grand Tetons in Wyoming) when it was time to wrap up for the evening. It had been a thoroughly enjoyable presentation and we look forward to seeing ‘part two’ at a future meeting.
SNORKELLING ON THE OMEO SHIPWRECK, COOGEE
A disappointing number of adult members and Young Nats came for this snorkelling excursion at a very exciting and popular dive site. It was a perfect day, despite the somewhat dubious looking sky and weather forecast for February 25.
We had a lovely time inspecting the wreck: an iron steamship, later converted to a sailing ship, which was wrecked there in 1905. There has been ample time for various encrusting algae, sponges, ascidians and molluscs to cover the original ship. There were many species of fish to be seen around the ship: Oldwives, Boarfish, Crested and Red-lipped Morwongs, Bullseyes, small Blennies and a Western Talma. Alice, our one representative from the Young Nats and having much better eyesight than older people it seemed, kept us all busy spotting three octopuses, along with various sponges and a very unusual Nudibranch.
Nudibranch (undescribed species of Hypselodoris, confirmed by WA Museum’s Nerida Wilson), J Keeble Baler Shell, A Keeble Organ-pipe Sponge, R Sharpe
Old Wife, J Keeble;
We all had a wonderful time and we were very fortunate that Rob and Joan Sharpe’s son Graeme and Leanna his girlfriend came, as they are accredited lifesavers through SLWA with many years’ involvement in water safety including the Avon Descent. Fortunately all their skills were not required.
I would like to thank the Sharpe family and Jolanda and Alan Keeble and also Tom Hallam and his daughter Alice from Young Nats for coming. I am thinking seriously of repeating this site for our snorkelling adventure next year, with many more people.
SNORKELLING EXCURSION REPORT by a YOUNG NATURALIST
I normally sleep in for a bit on Sunday mornings, but this time I had to get up early like it was a school day. We were on our way down to Coogee to do some snorkelling. I could hardly wait.
When I got there I was a bit scared and also very excited. I thought that there were going to be more kids there, but it turned out that I was the only one. We quickly got into our wetsuits and went down to the beach. The water was very cold! At first it was quite scary putting my head underwater. I kept thinking “I should be holding my breath, I shouldn’t be breathing.”
We swam out from the beach towards an old submerged wreck. My dad helped me to relax and I was soon enjoying the swim seeing lots of amazing things.
These included: two octopi [Dad says octopuses, but that’s not right is it?*], lots of species of fish of all sorts of sizes and colours, and I even saw a sea urchin well hidden in a rock hollow. It was so well hidden it took the adults ages to spot it. Others included nudibranchs, seastars, sponges and seaweed. The wreck teemed with life.
The well-hidden urchin
one of the octopuses (both by J Keeble)
As we started to get cold, we got out and dried ourselves off. I was the last to get out, even though I had goose bumps because of the cold. Dad had to bribe me with a drink and a jelly. It was one of the best experiences I’ve had with the Naturalists’ club. I’d love to do it again, but next time with a few more young Naturalists.
Alice Tanner (age 10)
KELMSCOTT BUSH BLOCK CONTINUES TO FASCINATE
The DRB completed its third survey of the bush block at Arbuthnot St, Kelmscott on February 17. It is a place where the scarp and flats intersect, which we are surveying for each of the six Nyoongar seasons. This time it was the season of Bunuru or Second Summer, from February to March. Considering the high humidity, the early start and the season of year, we had a great turnout of sixteen keen naturalists. We divided into a group for bird watching, led by Mike Green and Joff Start, an insect group led by Tony Start and John Abbott, and a flora group led by Kim Fletcher and Josette Loomes, ably assisted by several photographers. We separated and covered the block in different directions.
There were insects in abundance, but capturing them on camera was tricky. However, Tony managed to get photographs of a Paropsis sp.—a member of the Chrysomelidae family (above), a beautiful dragonfly Austrolestes analia (below), from the Lestidae family and two species of Pompilidae. A Blue-banded Bee was seen again too.
We were surprised not to see more reptiles and our reptile count across all surveys has been very low. Marilyn and Clint saw a one-and-only Fence Skink, (Cryptoblepharus virgatus.) The only mammal we identified this time was a dead bandicoot, although Clint also saw “a brown-blur mouse”—in other words one running too fast to be identified!
There were several species of flowers that were out, not least of which were many clumps of the Yellow Autumn Lilly (Tricoryne elatior)(above, R Green) and a stunning display of the Elegant Pronaya (Billardiera fraseri) (below, Joff Start).
The Narrow-leafed Mistletoe (Amyema preissii) (below, Joan Start) that was seen in the last survey had nearly finished flowering but there were plenty of birds in the Marri (Corymbia callophyalla) flowering nearby.
There was also an excellent example of a Marri tree and a Jarrah tree (Eucalyptus marginata) right next to each other showing how different their barks are (below, R Green.) This will be good to show the Year Six children on their next nature walk.
Twenty-three bird species were seen this time, our highest count across all three surveys, including for the first time the Mistletoe Bird (Dicaeum hirundinaceum). Other birds included, sadly, the Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haematodus) which seems to be becoming increasingly prevalent in the Kelmscott and Roleystone areas. Other birds, not previously seen were the Yellow-rumped Thornbill (Acanthiza chrysorrhoa), the Western Thornbill (Acanthiza inornata) and—just as we were finishing—a Square-tailed Kite (Lophoictinia isura) (below) was seen soaring right over our heads, which Joff captured on camera for us.
If you’d like to see the observations we’ve made so far please go to our project on the Atlas of Living Australia here: https://biocollect.ala.org.au/ala/project/index/0482b2b4-4cd8-4c49-ba38-549f944668ce
Our next survey date will be on Saturday 28 April, for the season of Djeran (Autumn; April-May.) Please join us and help us record the ever-changing seasons.
Despite a weather forecast for rain, possibly storms, it was mostly sunny on February 25 when ten members plus two visitors met up for our walk around the Point Peron Reserve. Point Peron is a much-loved scenic attraction for residents of Rockingham and surrounding areas. There is currently a community push to create a Coastal Park (a Kings Park of the southern suburbs) that would include some of the land that had been proposed for development in the now halted Mangles Bay Marina Project. The Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) has performed some improvement works over the past year, resulting in better paths for all users, making a visit an even more enjoyable experience.
As we set out along the path we glanced up to see a pair of Ospreys soaring overhead, a nice start to the walk. Singing Honeyeaters were active in the trees lining the path, probably hunting for insects as few of the trees were in flower. Many of the wattles alongside the paths had webs covering the ends of branches, which upon closer inspection were protecting small caterpillars. Despite the protection of the web, the caterpillars would quickly retreat to a refuge when approached.
Being late summer, very few plants were flowering but all vegetation, with new growth since the summer rain, looked very healthy for the late summer. One plant that was in flower was Alyxia buxifolia; which had both flowers and fruit. Its common name is ‘Dysentery Bush’ and it was used to treat this disorder. A member tried the fruit but it was found to be quite unpalatable. Frankenia pauciflora, with delicate white flowers (some with a pink tinge) was flowering on the most exposed cliffs. Scaevola crassifolia was found with only a few flowers; the plants were all well shaped due to the ‘wind pruning’ on the exposed headland. Tetragonia decumbens was in flower and covered with yellow flowers along stems. The common name is Sea Spinach as it is often used as a substitute for garden spinach.
Although they had mostly finished flowering Pittosporum ligustrifolium, with orange fruit, and Rhagodia baccata with many sprays of red berries, provided a splash of colour.
White-cheeked Honeyeater; Osprey (below), C. Prickett A good range of insects was observed flying around but unfortunately few stopped long enough to allow identification. They were mostly from the order Hymenoptera, including Crematogaster sp. (Valentine Ants), and Iridomyrmex sp. (Meat Ants.) There was also a diverse range of wasps including Scoliids such as the Black Hairy Flower Wasp (Austroscolia soror), and Yellow Hairy Flower Wasps that used to be grouped in Campsomeris but have since been split into other genera. There were also large Spider Wasps (Pompilidae) including one of the Huntsman Hunters, Cryptocheilus sp. The European Paper Wasp, Polistes dominula (Vespidae), was also spotted. Another sighting was a Hellula hydralis, a pest of cabbages, so goodness knows what one was doing out on Point Peron.
Out towards the point we kept an eye out for Oystercatchers (both Pied and Sooty are frequently found here) but surprisingly none were spotted. But we did have some other good bird sightings, including a Buff-banded Rail foraging at the side of a path and three Ruddy Turnstones were feeding on a bed of seaweed that had been washed up onto the rocks. Looking out to sea from the cliff tops we spotted Fairy Terns feeding, Crested Terns, Silver Gulls and Little Pied Cormorants. In the shrubbery we noticed Brown Honeyeaters, White-cheeked Honeyeaters, White-browed Scrubwrens, Willy Wagtails, Ravens and Spotted Doves. Feral Rock Doves were also present on the rocky cliffs. In all a total of sixteen bird species were seen.
Mindful of the weather forecast we did not stop for very long at any one point along the way. At the Point itself we could see storm clouds approaching (above, C Prickett), with the occasional bolt of lightning, reinforcing the need to not dither. Arriving back at the car park and preparing to enjoy a well-earned morning tea before departing for our homes, we looked out towards Garden Island to see a rapidly approaching storm front. It had moved in from the horizon in the short time it took for us to walk from the point back to the car park. We decided to pack up and make a hasty retreat as it started to rain very heavily. A few of us were in our cars at the Safety Bay Road intersection when the worst of the storm hit. All at once visibility was down to zero as hail, torrential rain and strong winds hit. Others decided to pull over and wait until the storm passed—a wise choice. The storm only lasted 10 minutes but caused significant damage in a narrow strip through the Rockingham shorefront, including ripping roofs off buildings, causing havoc on the al fresco dining strip and knocking down large trees. During the storm my thoughts were with Pauline Dilley who had left us early in an attempt to ride her bike to her home in nearby Shoalwater before the storm arrived. I spoke to her a few days later and asked how she went and was told that she was saturated by the rain but otherwise made it home okay. Understandably she didn’t wish to shelter under any trees along the way. It was certainly a dramatic ending to an otherwise enjoyable morning.
05/03/1938 – 29/09/2017
It is with sadness that the Kwinana Rockingham Mandurah Branch (KRMB) reports the passing of Stan Telford last September. Stan was a foundation member of the KRMB and was involved with the WA Naturalists’ Club since 1980. He was a very active member and at one time served as Vice-Chairman of KRMB.
A passionate conservationist and a skilled nature photographer he gave many talks to the Club, always supported by his beautiful photographs. Stan was a major contributor to the book A guide to the flora and fauna of the Rockingham Offshore Islands and Cape Peron published by KRMB in 1988 (and subsequently republished in 2010), providing many of the photographs. Stan, together with his wife Margaret, raised funds for KRMB by setting up a table of books and magazines for sale at each KRMB meeting. They also manned a stall promoting the WA Naturalists’ Club at local fairs and the annual Environment Festival at Naragebup. Stan, together with Margaret, was involved with tree planting round Lake Richmond and in the Wheatbelt. He was also actively involved in the rehabilitation and conservation activities of the Lake Mealup Preservation Society, the Friends of Forrestdale and also at Goodale Sanctuary.
In 2016 both Stan and Margaret received awards from the then Department of Parks and Wildlife for long service volunteers and also awards for outstanding service. Stan is survived by his wife Margaret. He will be sadly missed by all at KRMB, in particular—and by the wider network of naturalists in Western Australia.