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Worn Landscapes with Evergreen Lessons

I have often reflected that the European landscape has such a long history of being used primarily for agriculture, and that that must have meant that today’s custodians with their ever-growing appreciation for lost biodiversity, might treat every remaining biodiversity and landscape asset as being worth a lot more than we do in Australia (where we still have much to lose – despite the worst extinction rate for our unique mammals ON THIS PLANET).

When I visited Europe for the first time on a break from my PhD in the early 2000’s, I was struck by a particular feature of the agricultural landscape in France. There is not a spare square metre. Every metre is used for production…

So I am channeling Seinfeld now – “I can’t spare a square”…

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Majura Magic

Mount Majura presents the landscape entrance to the bush capital, framing the transition from the highway-in to Griffin’s Northbourne legacy.  How often have you driven past and not gone in?

The Canberra Times rated the walk up Mt Majura as one of the top 5 ‘uphill’ walks in Canberra. So being here a decade now we figured we should make the effort to find a starting point and give it a crack.

More than a heart-starter, the Mt Majura walk (also part of the Centenary Trail) showcases the bush capital landscape, from far-reaching vistas to a variety of bushland types that together build the fabric of the landscape.

The walk begins in critically endangered Box Gum Grassy Woodlands – of decent condition but absent of much fauna (200 years ago one might have encountered echidnas, bettongs, red-necked wallabies) – and ascends through one of the most significant patches of habitat for Glossy Black Cockatoos in the region.

A corridor of Allocasuarina has been supplemented by recent habitat restoration efforts. Although none of the elusive birds were on show today it must be one of the closest and most accessible places to happen across them.

The crackle of the Cockie’s cones echo their recent presence… channeling Robert Macfarlane’s Landmarks – perhaps the bed of half chewed casuarina cones could be called a ‘chewbed‘.

majura images

A walk well-worth repeating in the hope of encountering the elusive Cockatoo.

One Grateful Churchill Fellow

Great to be able to share some exciting news – I have been awarded a Churchill Fellowship to travel to the UK and explore the ins-and-outs of some of the most amazing conservation and community engagement projects in the world.

In later years of Winston Churchill’s life he was engaged significantly with the natural landscape, especially through his painted artworks.

I am most grateful and very excited to be able to experience first-hand some internationally renowned conservation initiatives.

My sense is that there is ALWAYS more to learn: I am particularly looking forward to meeting like-minded people and exploring sites, programs and facilities that can help shape the future of our equally exciting projects in Canberra and elsewhere in Australia.

While Europe has a longer history of environmental degradation than Australia, it also has a longer history of successful conservation programs and organisations.

In July-August next year (2017) I hope to visit organisations and sites as diverse as the Eden Project (their photos above), the Wildfowl and Wetlands Trust (including London and Slimbridge Wetlands Centres), Trees for Life, the Canal and River Trust, and the Borders Forest Trust.  I have begun the process of reaching out to these and some other amazing organizations to seek an invitation… fingers crossed.

Be stoked to see one of these....

Be stoked to see one of these….

These and other Trusts in the United Kingdom can provide insights into the right mixes of legislative, policy, business operations, partnership, land tenure, science and community support arrangements that enable the establishment of long-term and secure funding arrangements for biodiversity conservation in Australia.  This project will help better-inform the Australian conservation community about more efficient models that can add-value to existing government- and community-lead public good programs.

Thanks to the Churchill Trust for the opportunity, and to the referees who supported my application – Tony Peacock, Alison Russell-French, Peter Davey and [then Environment…] Minister Greg Hunt.

Of course I look forward to sharing my experience and insights gained for the betterment of biodiversity conservation in Australia…

A ‘Boy’s Own’ Hawaiian Eco-adventure

“In a nutshell the army has to adhere to the Endangered Species Act… nothing can go extinct on their their watch.”

This guest-post from my mate Graham Fifield (of Flick and Fly Journal) undertaking an internship in Hawaii, gives Australia great insights into how much communities will invest in saving species when they are [nearly] all gone…

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Lyrebirds – light on colour, heavy on soul

Minnamurra Falls must be the spiritual home of the Lyrebird (at least an adopted one anyway). Nestled in a sandstone ampitheatre, rainforest gullies provide a sheltered haven for these charismatic birds.

Foxes are known to take juvenile Lyrebirds (Ref 1), and there is also evidence that fox control enables populations to rebound (Ref 2). Gratefully, there is a high priority placed on fox control in the National Park by the Plan of Management (Ref 3), and this geographic harbour with a good control program would make a strong-hold. The sheer sandstone cliffs surrounding the gully make a natural barrier to fox incursion from over-the-top, meaning fox control in this locality is easier than more open sites [i.e. those open to reinvasion from all sides].

Seeing Lyrebirds foraging so easily, with their entourage of Yellow Robins and Scrub Wrens picking up the crumbs, inspired me to scrounge around for further info on this amazing creature. So here are some curios I uncovered scratching the surface of the literature litter…

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Western Rim Wanderings

Fitzroy Falls is really a showcase of waterfalls – from above, from on top, from the side and from afar. In fact it’s every way of experiencing waterfalls while staying dry. A great Winter waterfall way.

The Western Rim Walk is like a virtual tour guide of spectacular views and different perspectives of the waterfalls.  Fitzroy Falls, Twin Falls and the Grotto –  each tip from sheer sandstone edges forming the Yarrunga Creek, and ultimately flowing to the Kangeroo River. Metre-for-metre its got to be one of the best waterfall walks around…

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Searching for Glenn the Glow Worm

Glow Worms are like Fireflys that failed to launch. I’m sure there is a more apt technical description like ‘Glow Worms are the larvae of fungus gnats’.

In local colonies they present an astronomical Milky Way-like phenomenon in the right setting (like at Newnes). So it was we were searching for that starlight on the ceiling experience at the ‘Glow Worm Glen’ at Bundanoon in Morton National Park.

Whilst the parking and access arranged by the Council were not particularly welcoming, the interpretive signage from NPWS was right on one count…

It nearly takes longer to find a park than to get to Glenn’s home…

The experts recommended searching for Glenn over the Summer months – but we had an hour to kill and the need to burn energy in Ms 4 & 6.  While the sign said two hours return – we were “nah, that’s always overestimated”.

So it was “off we go kids – lets go find Glenn” – and we streaked down, down, down, the 1 km path to the Glen. A beautiful rapid stroll through urban interface, sclerophyll and into a rainforest gully.

The trail is easy and well-established and the boardwalk at the base is great. Ending in a sandstone room with a bubbling stream – the ideal place to find Glenn, Glenys and Grandaughter Guilfoyle hiding in the cracks.

Alas – the NPWS folks were right the best time to find Glenn is in summer-time.  We were back out in 50 minutes round-trip – meaning we have an hour and ten minutes up our sleeve to do it next time!

A beautiful bubbling rainforest stream awaits – with or without Glenn and Glenys

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