Lark Hill Reserve

KRMB October Excursion

The outing to the Lark Hill Reserve, between Port Kennedy and Secret Harbour, was on October 21. The reserve is located in an area known as the Becher Plain, which has been formed through the accumulation of Holocene sediments over a period of around 7000 years. The reserve consists of a system of old sand dunes that include the Threatened Ecological Community ‘Sedgelands in Holocene Dune Swales’. The community occurs in linear damplands and occasionally sumplands, between Holocene dunes. Typical and common native species are the shrubs Acacia rostellifera, Acacia saligna, Xanthorrhoea preissii, the sedges Baumea juncea, Ficinia nodosa, Lepidosperma gladiatum, and the grass Poa porphyroclados. The Lark Hill Nature Reserve takes in a linear, north-south oriented swale with constructed walking tracks around the swale, and two elevated walkways that cross the swale, providing good visitor viewing access while simultaneously protecting the TEC.

A hardy group of eight attendees met in the sports complex car park on a grey morning with rain forecast. Unfortunately the forecasters got it right and several heavy rainsqualls were to blow in during our walk, so wet weather jackets and umbrellas were put to good use. We set off from the car park through a cultivated area of honeyeater-friendly, native garden where we saw New Holland Honeyeaters and Singing Honeyeaters feeding. Our walk took us away from the sports complex to the southern end of the nature reserve that borders its eastern side. Shortly after commencing our walk we noticed a nice display of the Silky Scaevola (Scaevola anchusifolia) (below left, D. Poynton). Anne Bellman commented that it was one of the nicest displays of this plant that she has seen. While examining this plant we came across a very large Bobtail Skink (Tiliqua rugosa) soaking up what little sunshine there was—its large girth suggested it may have been a pregnant female soon to give birth to live young. Along the track we also spotted False Boronia (Phyllanthus calycinus), Myoporum insulare, Melaleuca systena, Conostylis sp. and Logania vaginalis in flower. On the side of the tracks we saw moss and the tiny red flowers of a Stone Crop, though later identification indicates it may be the introduced species Crassula glomerata. Daniel Heald was busy surveying the shrubs for invertebrates and was able to find two species of Weevils, including the Belid Weevil (Rhinotia suturalis) and a larger, unidentified Weevil. Some small Bull-ants were also spotted amongst the foliage of the shrubs and many different galls were also found on the shrubs.

The track took us to the first of the elevated crossovers where we found a nice stand of Swamp Paperbarks (Melaleuca rhaphiophylla) within the swale dampland—one of many such stands in the extended Lark Hill area. As we progressed towards the northern end of the reserve Grass Trees (Xanthorroea preissii) (above right, C. Prickett-spring 2017) became more prevalent. The Grass Trees are really outstanding in this reserve, as big as any most of our group has seen. The City of Rockingham brochure (Lark Hill Nature Trails, available from their website ) states that many are over 600 years old. Flower spikes were developing but none were in flower as yet. In a good flowering year, such as the spring of 2017, they make a beautiful sight and a wonderful resource for nectar feeding birds and insects. The skirts of the Grass Trees form an ecosystem in themselves and Daniel was hoping to see some pseudo-scorpions that are often found in this type of habitat, but had no luck on this occasion. However, a Mud-dauber Wasp (below, C. Prickett) had taken advantage of the shelter provided by one of the skirts to construct its nest.

At the second elevated platform a large group of flowering Stackhousia monogyna stood out amongst the grasses, as did a group of the Blue Grass Lily (Agrostocrinum stypandroides). A bit further along the track several Yellow Tailflowers (Anthocercis littorea) were in flower. This species normally appears after a fire but there has been no fire in this reserve for many years. Unfortunately there were also weed species to be seen, including a large clump of Pretty Betsy (Centranthus ruber)—a garden escapee that appears to be present in a number of reserves this year. Feral fauna are also present, as indicated by the quantity of rabbit droppings encountered during our walk. Our walk took us up to the ruins of an old homestead, a relic of when this area was farmed. This spot enables 360o views, including over the reserve and sports complex to the southwest and the horse racing training facilities to the northeast. From this vantage spot we spotted a Swamp Harrier gliding low over the reserve.

Other bird sightings for the day included Australian Raven, Banded Lapwing (on one of the ovals), Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike, Galah, Grey Butcherbird, Little Corella, Magpie Lark, Nankeen Kestrel, New Holland Honeyeater, Silvereye, Singing Honeyeater, Splendid Fairy Wren and Willie Wagtail.

After enjoying the view from the homestead for a while we decided we had had enough of the rain and took the short route back to the car park. We then headed for the cover provided by one of the grandstands for morning tea and a review of the excursion. Most attendees indicated that they were impressed with the reserve (though apart from me, no one else had been to the reserve before) and the facilities provided by the City of Rockingham—though the informative signage was starting to fade and in need of replacement. Despite the rainy conditions it had been an enjoyable morning.

Colin Prickett

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