Celebrating 25 years of service to the community

The Chandlers Hill Parkcare Group's 25th anniversary celebration with friends.

The Chandlers Hill Parkcare Group’s 25th anniversary celebration with friends.

I belong to a group of dedicated people who goes out every Monday morning to remove environmental weeds from the nearby Dandenong Ranges National Park. Our working area covers about 1,000 hectares of the southern part of the park, bordering on the suburbs of Ferntree Gully, Boronia and The Basin.

Today we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the formation of this group. Parks Victoria is organising a picnic in the national park for our group. We’ve invited former members of the group, friends and well-wishers to this event.

This part of the national park is looking good. After 25 years, and the removal of many thousands of weed plants, perhaps that shouldn’t be surprising. Our work is neverending, however, because weeds continue to invade the park from neighbouring suburban gardens, carried here by wind, animals, people and even vehicles. Plus the lingering remnant plants from former house sites now long gone.

Today the weather was good. Everyone had a good time, just enjoying the convivial company and the fresh air. A good time to be alive…

For more photos of this event, go here. An article about our anniversary in the November issue of the Victorian Environment Friends Network newsletter, here.

Here is a link to a video about the oldest surviving member of our group.

An echidna in my garden

It’s early summer now, and the birds and other animals are active in my garden. One of the nice things about living near a national park is that the local inhabitants sometimes come for a visit. Echidnas have been visiting my garden ever since I came to live here, in the eastern outer fringe of Melbourne.

This echidna was rather unafraid of my presence as I took its picture. Although its eyesight is poor, it definitely can hear and smell me. At one point it walked past my foot a few centimetres away, so close I could have reached out to pat it. I didn’t – do you see those spines?

I made a short movie of it as it ambled around my garden. See it here.

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Eddie the echidna. I tend to call all echidnas that visit my garden Eddie… To see a larger image click on the picture.

The tail continues…

I have a couple of possums living on top of a wall under the eaves of my house. My first account of them was written a while back – you can read it here.

These are not noisy or messy animals, so I let them stay where they are unmolested. Most of the time I don’t even notice they are there. Occasionally, I hear them going off foraging in the early evening and sometimes I woke up before dawn to hear them returning to their nest.

The young possums have grown bigger. Today I noticed a tail hanging down the wall when I was taking in my laundry. I decided to investigate further and noticed one of the possums is sleeping “rough” between 2 bricks outside the nest. Evidently the nest is now too small for both of them. (The bricks are there to weigh down the rolled up plastic trellis so a strong wind doesn’t blow it off the wall.)

One of the possums has been "pushed" out of the nest and is sleeping between 2 bricks in a most uncomfortable position.

One of the possums has been “pushed” out of the nest and is sleeping between 2 bricks in a most uncomfortable position.

I’m wondering what to do next. Ringtail possums are known to have more than one nest within their home range, so I guess one of them will have to move out. I could move the brick to make more space for the nest. Hmm.

To see the latest pictures of these ringtail possums go here.

To be continued…

What do rainbow lorikeets eat?

Well, I thought I knew the answer to that. They eat fruits, nuts and nectar. However, today 3 rainbow lorikeets landed on a paperbark tree in my garden which is flowering. They ignored the flowers and started to move among the branches, looking for all the world like they were searching for food.

But what? I haven’t a clue what they were finding and eating. It looked like they were using their beaks to dig something out from under the bark. Nope, I couldn’t see what it was.

If any reader knows what they were hunting for, please share your knowledge.

What is this rainbow lorikeet looking for? The paperbark tree is actually flowering, but it is ignoring those.

What is this rainbow lorikeet looking for? The paperbark tree is actually flowering, but it is ignoring those.

Found it!

Found it!

If only the eyes can see

The flower of Pittosporum bicolor or Banyalla, a native tree growing near the carpark on One Tree Hill.

The flower of Pittosporum bicolor or Banyalla, a native tree growing near the carpark on One Tree Hill.

I was walking along a track in the Dandenong Ranges National Park near Ferntree Gully when I met a couple of guys. They asked me if “there’s anything interesting to see” down the track from where I had just came. They wanted to know if there’s any interesting “scenery”, by which I thought they meant a lookout point. I said no, but there are lots of plants in flower at the moment and they might enjoy the sight. They looked nonplussed for a moment, and then turned to go back to their car.

I encounter many walkers and “tourists” in the national park. For many of them, the plants in the bush are just “background noise”, something they don’t really notice as they march up and down the tracks, seeking exercise and fresh air. They don’t see the tall, very old trees. They don’t notice the flowering wattles – or any sort of flowering plant. The occasionally encountered wallaby or echidna excites them though, but not plants. And that’s a shame.

I never used to appreciate the bush flora until I started photographing plants. Then I start to notice things. Plants growing among the rocks and nowhere else. Tiny plants hidden among the bracken and grass. Plants growing on one side of the hill but not on any other side. Flowers appearing at certain times of the year. On a fine day it’s a joy to walk off the track and wander along a hill slope, enjoying the folds of the landscape, noticing plants I have never seen before and listening to the wind rustling the leaves of the trees.

Can appreciation of the plants in the bush be somehow communicated to others, I wonder.

Is this really necessary?

"Honey, I'm going out to spray the weeds in the garden."

“Honey, I’m going out to spray the weeds in the garden!”

There are many ways to get rid of weeds. You can dig them up, burn them or poison them. For many people, the last method is ideal. They even do it when there’s just a handful of weeds to deal with. It’s quick and easy, right?

Let’s think about this for a moment.

Herbicides are toxic chemicals, and you don’t really want any of that to get into your body, regardless of how safe you think they are. Recently, Brazil’s public prosecutor wanted to ban the use of weedkillers containing glyphosate, commonly sold in stores as “Roundup” (read article here).

You need to handle any herbicides carefully. First, wear gloves (ones impermeable to chemicals) and appropriate clothing to prevent contact with your skin. If using a pressure sprayer you should also wear a mask because you don’t want to breathe in any microscopic droplets of herbicide. And eye protection. If diluting the herbicide, you will need to find a place which can be easily washed if spills occur. After use, you have to be sure to clean your gloves, clothing and the spraying equipment, ready for the next time you need them. And you have to do this safely, making sure not to splash chemicals around.

So, you still think spraying a weed is easier than just pulling or digging it out?