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A (short) Winter’s (birding)Tale

Some of our merry band – the Alpha women anyway. As for the men, Peter is taking the photo, and Syko is lurking behind the girls I think, and the other David has wandered away hoping for a pic of the elusive Rose Robin.

 

Ten of us, including David Neradil’s neighbour Peter, set off in glorious weather for the monthly bird adventure on August 9, this time to the Lower Beechmont Reserve at Clagiraba.  As we drove along the spine of Tamborine the mountains to the west stood out dusky blue against the more vivid blue of the winter sky.  When we turned east to descend Henri Robert Drive the ocean ahead of us glittered like a vast silvery-blue mirror.  Just a perfect day to go birdwatching!

Though even at 7.30, where we reached our stop at Clagiraba Creek, it was COLD! Down to seven degrees Celsius and the ground covered with a light frost.  So we stayed only long enough to pick up a few brave birds before driving the short distance to the reserve entrance.  Here we met Gold Coast birdo Shirley who had arranged to join us.

The silent trees soon offered us a few peeps and tweets and as the sun penetrated the canopy we soon found ourselves surrounded by Yellow Robins, Scarlet Honeyeaters and Brown and Striated Thornbills.  This was one of those expeditions where everyone in the group contributed to bird identification and soon the list began to grow.  Including a pair of Wedge-tailed Eagles which flew majestically and rather scornfully from their roost with several Sulphur-crested Cockatoos screeching in alarm.

It was a relief to get out of the trees and into the sunlit open area around the small lake.  Here we stopped for smoko and watched a White-faced Heron gracefully fishing around the edge of the water and an Azure Kingfisher obligingly flyin low from one perch to another so we could get good photos of it.  While some of us munched our snacks, David Neradil went off and found the much-desired Rose Robin. And David Sykes then hunted for the next part of the track, resulting in a scramble through the forest and across the creek with Julie muttering all the while that she was SURE there was a better track further along.  As indeed there proved to be, and in future we’ll know where it is.  There are several old and new well-marked tracks in the reserve today  and they deserve further exploration.

We followed the creek back down to join the main track and Kylie found a nesting Striated Pardalote while Shirley spotted White-throated Honeyeaters bathing in a rock pool.  A lot of birds were obviously taking advantage of the overall warm late-winter conditions to start their spring nesting; we found (and photographed) a lovely little Eastern Yellow Robin’s nest and other birds we saw ad heard were obviously in mating mood.

For once we kept to our schedule of a half day only and were home by noon, with a nice round number on the list of 50 birds for the morning – not bad for a leisurely five or so kilometre meander through a small area of limited habitat variation.

Our first stop by Clagiraba Creek and with all that frost on the ground a shivering Jan is begging for us to move on!

BIRD LIST

  1. Red-backed Fairy Wren (outside reserve)
  2. Superb Blue Fairy Wren
  3. Brown Cuckoo-dove
  4. Spotted Dove
  5. Bar-shouldered Dove
  6. Pied Butcherbird
  7. Magpie Lark
  8. Magpie
  9. Crow
  10. Pied Currawong
  11. Noisy Miner
  12. Olive-backed Oriole
  13. White-browed Scrubwren
  14. Large-billed Scrubwren
  15. Brown Thornbill
  16. Striated Thornbill
  17. White Ibis
  18. Whipbird
  19. King Parrot
  20. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
  21. Figbird
  22. Wood Duck
  23. Pacific Black Duck
  24. Australasian Grebe
  25. Scarlet Honeyeater
  26. White-throated Honeyeater
  27. Lewin’s Honeyeater
  28. Silvereye
  29. Striated Pardalote
  30. Spotted Pardalote
  31. Eastern Yellow Robin
  32. Rose Robin
  33. Varied Sitella
  34. Kookaburra
  35. Azure Kingfisher
  36. Grey Fantail
  37. Fantail Cuckoo
  38. Satin Bowerbird
  39. Mistletoe Bird
  40. Wedge-tailed Eagle
  41. Masked Lapwing
  42. Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike
  43. White-faced Heron
  44. Red-browed Finch
  45. Welcome Swallow
  46. Grey Shrike Thrush
  47. Golden Whistler
  48. Rainbow Bee-eater
  49. White-throated Treecreeper
  50. Cisticola

 

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Green Island in the Sky

our-beloved-mountain

Dainty flowers of the Blue Lilly Pilly

Dainty flowers of the Blue Lilly Pilly

At last – somebody has put together a book celebrating the beauty and diversity of the mountain I love to call home.

The adventurous and versatile medico/journalist/artist/photographer Jaap Vogel has created a work of great beauty, featuring his own photographs of Tamborine’s natural attractions and the works of several local artists which interpret nature in various ways.  It’s a truly lovely book and the name is perfect – we DO think of ourselves as an island up here, a green and peaceful place inhabited by as rich a mix of artists, musicians and writers as you’d find anywhere outside a major city.  Development and the urban horrors of the Gold Coast creep ever closer to the base of the mountain but still we remain islanders; invaded by tourist hordes each day, it’s true, but all our own between the hours of 4pm to 10 am.

Jaap has been involved in various community organisations in his years of association with Tamborine, and once brought a creative flair to his role as a president of Landcare that showed us how meetings could actually be fun.  He’s unusual in that he combines the role of artist with that of scientist…the very human embodiment of the fractal!…and can talk about sculpture and photography with the same enthusiasm as he brings to any discussion of artificial intelligence.

To learn more about Jaap and his book go to http://www.greenislandinthesky.com.au.

wallaby-2cameron-fallslizard

Growing lemon trees in pots

Lemon Lemon tree, very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet – but grow it in a pot and be prepared to face defeat! Well that’s my take on the old song, anyway.  And if I had a dollar for every time I’ve been asked “what’s wrong with my lemon tree” then I’d be a rich woman!  The Italians have been successfully growing citrus in pots for centuries but in the tropics and subtropics we rarely get it right.  This is because we’re challenging Nature by trying to grow a plant that thrives in dry climates with low winter rainfall and hot, dry summers.  Luckily most citrus bear fruit in the subtropical autumn/winter when it’s cool and dry but the soggy summers encourage pest and disease problems. So there are three main rules when growing a lemon tree (or any other citrus tree) in a pot:  The right environment, the right watering and fertilising program and the right care regime. ENVIRONMENT Choose a BIG pot that is wider at the top than at the bottom but not so small at the base that it can easily topple.  A lemon tree grows large and bushy and you don’t want to keep repotting so fill up any empty spaces with herbs that can be removed later. Choose a sunny position with plenty of space all around.  Citrus needs at least six hours full sun a day and an airy position discourages fungal diseases.  Perfect drainage is essential so put some gravel or small stones in the bottom of the pot, top with a 5 cm layer of coarse sand then fill the rest with a good quality potting mix. WATER AND FERTILISER Water thoroughly every two days; more in very hot weather.  Check regularly to see that the growing mix is neither soggy nor too dry.  Don’t spray the leaves because this encourages fungal diseases and sooty mould.  The potting mix will feed the plant for the first three months; after that apply a citrus fertiliser according to the instructions on the packet – usually every two months is enough. CARE Top up the potting mix every spring, first removing about one third of the old mix and flushing the rest with a hose at full strength.  Flushing breaks up a mix that is starting to harden and become too impacted around the roots.  It also gets rid of any build up of salts that come with regular fertilising. Lemon trees and other citrus are sadly prone to health problems and attack by insect pests. The leaves should always be a rick, deep green (darker in mandarins) and if they are not then start looking for problems. The most common health problems are due to incorrect nutrition and will show themselves by yellowing leaves or yellowing along the veins only.  If you are applying a complete citrus fertiliser regularly then this should not occur.  However, if older leaves develop yellow veins then dissolve a tablespoon of Epsom Salts in a 5 litre watering can and pour around the roots.  This problem is more common with citrus grown in ground than in pots.  Sooty mould is an unsightly black deposit on leaves and stems caused by the secretions (commonly called “honeydew”) from certain insects such as aphids and scale.  These are often found in association with ants so if you see ants all over the tree, check for their host insects and wash them off with soap and water.  This treatment also gets rid of the mould.  Adding some pesticidal oil such as Neem, or even a teaspoon of household disinfectant, will discourage the problem from re-occurring. The most common insect pests of citrus are Bronze Orange Bugs and Citrus Leaf Miner.  The former reveal themselves through a pungent, unpleasant smell and are either green (when very young) black or bright orange.  They can be picked off by hand but if the tree is badly infested use Pest Oil or Confidor.  If you handle them, they secrete a sticky, smelly liquid which is mildly corrosive.  Their sap sucking habit damages the branches and leaves.  Citrus Leaf Miner is the caterpillar of a moth that lays its eggs in new, tender young leaves.  The caterpillars leave pale, silvery trails through the leaves which become distorted and pallid.  Pest Oil discourages the moth from laying so be alert to the first signs and then spray the new growth and remove any leaves already affected.  This or any other insecticidal oil will kill off most insect pests.  However, it’s always safest to be sure so if your potted lemon tree looks unthrifty, with yellowing or distorted leaves, or blackening tips, get advice either on-line or from your local garden centre. Lemon trees grown in-ground in subtropical climates often show signs of citrus scab which are brownish lumps and patches on the fruit skin.  It looks bad but doesn’t harm the fruit.  However, as lemon trees are grown in pots for ornamental reasons you don’t want scabby, unsightly fruit so spray in mid-spring with a solution of copper oxychloride and white oil (available from nurseries/garden centres or hardware stores).  This stops the problem occurring and you should have lovely yellow unblemished lemons. Potted lemon trees need pruning, unlike those grown in the ground.  Lightly trim to shape as required but if you want flowers and fruit, don’t hard prune when flower buds start to appear.  Water shoots – the long, pale, branchlets with (usually) larger leaves than those on the main branches – grow from the base of the tree, below the graft mark, and should be removed.  If the branches in the centre of the tree are too thick and tangled, gently remove a few to open it up – this helps avoid fungus problems by letting more light into the centre of the canopy.  Always use sharp secateurs or pruning saws, and sterilise them first. After five years or so the constraints of being confined to a pot affect the roots of lemon trees and they begin to fail – symptoms are smaller leaves, leaf drop, fewer fruit or fruit drop.  The whole tree begins to look down at heel.  There are horticultural techniques to de-pot and trim the roots but these require a lot of skill and effort.  The obvious answer is to buy a bigger pot but if this is not feasible then just remove the tree and either plant it outside or just throw it away – you’ll have had plenty of value from it by then and no plant lives forever. Remember, if you want any more advice on this topic or any other, just email me at jrlakemedia@gmail.com and I’ll try to help.