Notley Late Easter Camp at Dryandra

MAY 20 – 24

On the first day, twenty of us met for a briefing by our leader Mike Gregson. We learned that Jonica Foss lived here until she was 13 years old. Her dad, John Currie, was Officer-in-Charge for 35 years and Jonica shared some interesting facts with us. Dryandra was named after a Swedish botanist, Jonas Dryander. The diverse geology of the reserve supports varied floral communities, amongst them Wandoo woodlands. Both Eucalyptus wandoo and Eucaluptus accedens (Powderbark Wandoo) are present, as well as many other species such as Mallets. Mallet is a common name describing the growing habit of these small eucalypts, having a single trunk which then divides into multiple branches peripherally. The Mallet industry was started in the 1920s and Mr Currie harvested local seed from Eucalyptus astringens and established plantations of these as well as Blue and Silver Mallet. These trees were valuable for their bark, which was rich in tannin and used for tanning leather. This use played a big part in protecting the Wandoo woodlands from being converted into farmland. Mallet is sensitive to fire but a prolific regenerator after fire. The seeds are consumed by termites, which are an in turn an essential part of the Numbats’ diet.

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Wandoo woodland at Dryandra. Photo: M Gregson

We walked past the old mill dam and along the Wandoo Walk. Not much was flowering, although Astroloma epacridis with its red flowers was plentiful. Other plants included Weeping Quandong (Santalum murrayanum) with green fruit and previous years’ seeds and much evidence of feasting by some creature; Banksia (Dryandra) proteoides which have flowers on the inside to attract Honey-possums; two species of Petrophile; and Gastrolobium microcarpa (not in flower). We were excited to see several Rufous Tree-creepers (Climacteris rufa) and a large and beautiful Echidna (Tachyglossis aculeatus). During a night walk under a full moon our group saw a (probable) Brush Wallaby (Macropus irma). Frogs were heard and identified by sound as Helioporus albopunctatus (White-spotted Frog). Others heard Bush Stone-curlews (Burhinus grallarius) calling and saw a Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula). A Boobook (Ninox novaeseelandiae) was heard in the distance. 

On the Tuesday, everyone gathered at Marri Cottage in beautiful sunshine. Sightings for the morning included Western Rosella, New Holland Honeyeater, Australian Magpie, Laughing Kookaburra, Galah, Grey Fantail, Western Thornbill, Australian Raven and 28 Parrot. Having counted ourselves, we set off for the Ochre Walk. There were Dusky Woodswallows at the start. A Restless Flycatcher and a Willie Wagtail greeted us along the way as well as Western Thornbill, Rufous Treecreeper and Western Yellow Robins. On the way up we passed through beautiful Wandoo and Powderbark woodland. There was an old Malleefowl nest. Also seen were a Weebill and a Yellow-plumed Honeyeater. At the top of the hill, Jonica told the story of the various fire towers over the years and of Mr Price the ‘towerman’, a World War I veteran with what would now be considered PTSD. Orange lichen made a beautiful display. There were views across the valley from the ridge.

The track descended through a dense woodland of smallish Powderbarks. Part way down we came to the ochre pit, now filled in. Some climbed up to see the Aboriginal shield tree. Then we followed the trail back to the arboretum, passing a group of pine trees providing food to a large flock of Carnaby’s Cockatoos.

At the arboretum we found the unoccupied hole of a Mygalomorph spider with its perfectly round trapdoor folded back. We were all pretty tired by then, so we declared the afternoon free for private exploration. New birds reported were Scarlet Robin and Yellow-rumped Thornbill. In the early evening we went to Barna Mia Sanctuary, where we saw five Bilbies, two Quenda, one Mala, several Burrowing Bettongs and Woylies to give a total of 20 animals, plus one Brush-tailed Possum who’d found his way into the enclosure and joined in the feeding. The animals are fed up to four times a week in an amount not exceeding 10 per cent of their daily requirement.

Wednesday morning was again very cold and, after the morning meeting, the group headed to the start of the Lol Gray walk trail. This trail started on the hill that was used to spot fires and had a tree with a lookout. The land around was originally cleared so as not to obstruct the view but has now regenerated.

IMG_7116 fire lookout tree.JPG

An old water tank still exists. The tree originally had a more substantial cabin at the top. The trail was named after Lionel Gray, who worked for one of the farms around Dryandra. The trail was 3.2 km return and the walk took in Kwongan heathland.

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Notable Banksia species on the trail were
B. sphaerocarpa,
(left, L Myles)
B. sessilis and
B. noblis,
while a single Callitris (formerly Actinostrobus) was also noted.

The return journey was uphill. At one stage, two people appeared to be missing. However, they were found at the top, having forged ahead without anyone noticing!

Some of the group chose to have a late morning tea at the picnic area while others returned to the village to have lunch and a bit of a rest. Later in the day everyone was free to choose their own activities including a walk around the village.

Thursday was another beautiful day. In the morning, we drove up Gura Rd to ‘Fern Hill’, part of Woylie Walk, where the dark trunks of Allocasuarina huegeliana contributed to a different colour palette from the browns and creams of the more open Wandoo woodland. There were splashes of vigorous sedges; moss among stones was just starting to green up in places; and the first bright fronds of Cheilanthes ferns were beginning to uncoil. (A few Scarlet Bracket Fungi and a Woody Layered Bracket fungus were the only fungi sighted on the camp.)

We returned to Wandoo woodland, where Jonica showed us the remains of a Malleefowl mound which she remembers was active from her childhood until the early 70’s when foxes and cats wiped them out. She told us that although numbers of Woylies and Numbats have recovered somewhat, Malleefowl have not. However, recently, four have been released at Dryandra.

In the afternoon, Jonica lead us down a firebreak, where we noticed some Weeping Quandongs and single flowers on two of the thirteen species of Dryandra found here, to a large granite outcrop crusted with dry moss and lichens. On a boulder we saw an interesting (though unidentified) spider and some mud wasp nests.

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Tony Friend (DBCA) holding ‘Twilight’ the Numbat, M Gregson

Although we had not sighted any Numbats, Tony Friend, a zoologist with DBCA, was staying at the village whilst monitoring them. We were thrilled on our return to be introduced to ‘Twilight’, a young female with four babies firmly attached to her teats, before Tony returned her to the wild. Tony told us about her family history: her mother had been killed some years previously, probably by a Chuditch. (Cats and foxes seem to be largely under control here.)

In the evening, we enjoyed a shared barbecue dinner under the stars, serenaded by some passing Bush Stone-curlews, to conclude what had been a memorable camp.

A full list of bird sightings from the trip can be seen on page 2.

Joan Sharpe, Peter Foss, Lyn Myles and Jacquie Gregson