180 To Protect and Preserve

A report on the invited visit to the Unity Water tree plant and northern wetlands areas on the Maleny Community Precinct on Thursday 5th June 2014 by Les Hall.



Tree plant:

In the area we visited below the pump house, above the wetlands, the recently planted trees were growing well and there appeared to be very few losses.  It was explained by Tree Crop Technologies (the tree planters) that it was a sequential planting of trees – in that not all trees are planted at once, and follow-up planting fills in the gaps.  This is in contrast to our (Green Hills/Barung/SCRC) method of fully planting out all trees at the beginning so that fast-growing pioneer species would protect slower growing and large-leafed species from sunburn and frost.  Some discussion followed but it is out of my realm of expertise and should be followed up by appropriate experts. 

It was suggested to Unity Water that they should prepare a press release showing their healthy trees and explaining the sequential planting technique – to alleviate fears of community members who have participated in the mass planting technique.


Wetlands:  

The wetlands are now providing a wonderful habitat for a range of species and are contributing to the biodiversity of the Maleny Community Precinct.  The wetlands are covered by a mixture of rushes and sedges and are a good example of a palustrine wetland (vegetated swamp) which is a Threatened Regional Ecosystem.  No weed species could be seen in the wetlands proper.  Fears that there has been an incursion of pasture grass into the wetlands were not supported as the access road around the wetlands provides an effective barrier to invading grasses and weeds.  The small zone of thick grass between the road and wetlands provides a highly suitable habitat for nesting and shelter for a number of species. Unity Water are following the design protocols set by Water and Carbon (wetland designers) in relation to managing the water levels for grass and weed control.

As the inspection was conducted at 11am, the fauna that was observed was mainly birds.  It would be desirable to survey the area at night for frogs and possibly do some small mammal trapping for Water rats (Hydromys chrysogaster) and Swamp rats (R. lutreolus) to see if they have colonised the area from the nearby Southern wetland and Obi Obi Creek where the two species have been found.  The presence of a Black-shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris) perched on the raptor roost on the nest box poles on several previous occasions suggests that Swamp rats may be present as this rat can be one of the kite’s main food sources.  Also, it would be desirable to survey and monitor fish and aquatic fauna in the wetlands.  It will be interesting to record the number of Latham’s Snipes (Gallinago hardwickii) inhabiting the wetlands when they return from the northern hemisphere in September.  The presence of cryptic bird species dependant on wetlands, such as Bitterns, Rails and Crakes will require specialised surveys and could add significantly to the biodiversity of the area.

The list of bird species observed during the present visit is presented below.  A list of bird species occupying the wetlands area prior to Unity Water’s involvement is available from Green Hills.

Eastern Swamphen (Porphyrio porphyrio).  There were many of these birds seen and heard in the wetlands.  Previously only single birds were seen in an area along the creek closer to Obi Obi Creek.

Eurasian Coot (Fulica atra).  Several of these were seen flying over the wetland.

Pacific Black Duck (Anas supercilliosa). Several.

White-faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae).  One on wetlands’ bank.

Swamp Harrier (Circus approximans).  One foraging over the wetlands.  Regular sightings of this species foraging over the wetlands have been reported by tree planting groups since late 2013.

Golden-headed Cisticola (Cisticola exilus).  Several.

Willie Wagtail (Ripidura leucophrys).  Several.

Pee Wee (Grallina cyanoleuca).   Several on the road around the wetlands.

Notes: There were a number of other bird species seen during the inspection that were not associated with the wetlands. Several days before the inspection a flock (about 15) of Magpie Geese were seen circling over the wetlands but it was unclear whether they actually landed in the wetlands.  The current regular sightings of the Swamp Harrier are good news as this species has only been recorded previously on several occasions on the precinct, despite regular raptor surveys by Greg Czechura (Qld Museum) since the 1980’s.

 

Maleny District Green Hills Fund

A local environmental organisation

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