2019 Branch Report

Capricorn Branch Report for 2019..

Despite our small committee and only a very few active members we had another good year. In essence we stuck with building on events and partnerships that have proven successful over recent years.

Mangrove Discovery Day
Wildlife Queensland Capricorn Branch supported by the Fitzroy Basin Association and Capricorn Coast and Catchments held a Ross Creek Discovery Day in April.
We combined with the Yeppoon Inlet Association and our local Landcare Group to showcase features and values that mangrove communities provide to people communities.
The mangrove lined channel towards the mouth of Ross Creek is within close cooee of the centre of Town in Yeppoon.
The Discovery Day was a mini carnival with a variety of local conservation groups including, Yeppoon Inlet Association, Capricorn Coast Landcare, Birdlife Capricornia, Native Plants Capricornia, the FBA and CCC and a local bat carer group having displays.
WPSQ Capricorn Branch’s display featured aquariums with various live species of mangrove marine life including hermit crabs, mud skippers and hermit crabs which Janelle temporarily collected from the adjacent mangroves earlier. Janelle managed to collect a beautiful pink mangrove lobster – a rarely seen mangrove inhabitant that burrows deep in the mangrove mud which seems to mostly come out at night. This along with a nice size male mud crab were stars of our critter display.
We also gave out back issues of Wildlife Australia Magazine in the hope of increasing subscriptions.
Arthur Hunt from the Yeppoon Inlet Association and John McCabe from WPSQ led a series of guided Mangrove Discovery Walk around the edge of the mangrove community identifying and pointing out various features of the 8 species of mangroves as well as other plants that are growing there. Quite impressive to have such a high diversity in a small area so close to town. With a crowd of about 90 attending, tours were staged so that groups of about 15 people went on each tour. It was a great effort by John and Arthur to run the half a dozen or so tours that enabled everyone to have a good look at what nature has to offer.
The Discovery Day was held in a park adjacent to the mangroves. Once people finished the Mangrove Discovery Walk they proceeded to an outdoor mini amphitheatre under a big fig tree where they were treated to an enthusiastic presentation by Dr John McGrath from Koorana Crocodile Farm on Flying Foxes and the ecological services they provide. The nightly fly outs of flying foxes from their camps in the mangroves at Yeppoon are a spectacular evening feature.

Butterfly Day
Our annual Lammermor Native Gardens Butterfly Day was a great success. We co-host this event in conjunction with The Friends of Lammermoor Native Gardens with supoort from, Capricornia Catchments and the Livingstone Shire Council. This event continues to grow in popularity each year with this year’s event attracting over 200 enthusiastic butterfly spotters of all ages on a beautiful May morning. Butterfly expert Peter Vallentine travelled down from the Wet Tropics to lead the butterfly walk. Peter was assisted by Sharlize, one of our young eco warriors. Sharlize was a wizz with the buttefly nets, swooping up butterflies and handing them to Peter to describe and giving butterfly spotters a chance to have a close up look .

Catering for morning tea included a special batch of beautifully decorated Butterfly Cakes made by a local baker. Unfortunatly the number of attendess exceeded the number of cakes. Nonethless those that didn’t eat a cake at least had the opportunity to see some of the many beautiful species of butterfly that visit the patch of remnant beach scrub/meleluca woodland.
While we were packing up a young butterfly spotter, probably about 4 years old came up with a live butterfly on her shirt and another perched on her fingers and said “Thank you – this has been the best day ever!”

Duckpond Environmental Reserve
The Capricorn Branch, as one of the trustees for the Duckpond Environmental Reserve, still maintains an active interest in onground management of the Reserve. The absence of significant flood events since Cyclone Debbie in 2017 has brought on drying conditions in the wetland and surrounding floodplain. Adjoining grazing paddocks are virtually destocked and bare of ground cover but the well fenced reserve still supports the usual complement of grassland and wetland birds. A recent visit saw half a dozen black swans swimming, a pair of white bellied sea eagles nesting and families of red-backed fairy wrens and finches feeding on native grass seeds.
The drying of the wetland channel and edges has enabled a weed gang to treat previously inaccessible hymenachne and water hyacinth and mop up a scattered outbreak of prickly acacia, the seeds of which can retain viability for at least 20 years. The Duckpond looks a picture with plenty of waterbirds seeking refuge while other areas further west are so dry. We have had little, if any incidents of illegal dumping since we finished the fencing at the entrance. The Rockhampton Regional Council have also fenced off and put a gate across the bridge restricting the final 50 metres of road access to the Duckpond, this has probably further helped to reduce incidents of dumping. The recenly formed Environment Section of Rockhampton Regional Council has expressed interest in further engagement on management of the Reserve.

Vine Scrub and Ghost Bats
Last year we reported on the hard work by John McCabe and Steve Elson who for many years have supported volunteer groups planting a significant area of Semi-Evergreen Vine Thicket (SEVT) on old mine disturbed areas within Mt Etna National Park. The work included planting of nearly thirteen thousand trees as well as providing conditions for natural generation to occur. Besides restoring bands of endangered SEVT habitat on Mount Etna and Limestone Ridge a project objective was also to enhance habitat for foraging Ghost Bats as well as unadorned rock wallabies and many other vine scrub dependent species.
Unfortunately, after 12 months and following three rain deprived seasons an out of control bushfire tore under the first ever Catastrophic Fire Danger conditions in Queensland tore through The Caves district and the National Park including the entire planted site. Initial inspection of the blackened landscape suggested a total loss of the new plantings as well as many mature trees. Further inspections, after minimal wet season rainfall revealed a surprising extent of regeneration of the recently planted trees, but these were only located after dense post fire weedy grasses were removed. A record of species which best recovered from the wild fire is being compiled along with advice on planting and management techniques. The working group has also supported restorations works on fire damaged SEVT communities at nearby tourist caves.

Capricorn Coast Marine Turtle volunteers
Several members continue to assist with monitoring of marine turtle nesting on mainland and island beaches as part of a Fitzroy Basin Association sponsored program for the, Capricorn and Curtis Coasts. Mainland nesting, is largely Flatback Turtle, and sparsely spread along about 80 km of coastline but activities have expanded to include responses and reporting on marine standings of all species in any month of the year. Other activities have included reporting to local council on inappropriate lighting spilling on to beaches, and restoration works which may include design of walkways or using dune vegetation for retention of optimum nesting sites.

Janelle Lowry
WPSQ Capricorn Branch.

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