Nov 17, 2009

Birds in Franke Scrub

contributed by Lesley Beaton, a local birdwatcher.

I went down to Franke Scrub one morning recently, though not very good birding weather. However I flushed a Southern Boobook which was very nice to see. It was in the thickest scrub towards the bottom of the gully and only flew to another tree close by. So I skirted around that bit so as not to disturb it any further. The Double‑barred Finches and Rufous Fantails were very active, but it was too windy for the honeyeaters. I didn't see a one! There were a pair of Rufous Fantails following me along the track. They are such an attractive bird.

A male Double‑bar was courting. He sat on a mid‑canopy dead branch flicking a dangling wisp of grass. As soon as the female appeared lower down on the branch, he gave the grass one more flick, dropped it and went over to the female. He wiped his beak on the branch a couple of times and fluffed up her neck feathers, she lay low, and he mounted her. This only happened once. He then wiped his beak on the branch again, she flew of, he wiped his beak a further time and flew off in the opposite direction. The bird books say he does a bit of a dance and sings to the female but I saw and heard none of this behaviour.


Southern Boobook S

Sacred Kingfisher S

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike S

Rufous Fantail S

White-browed Scrubwren S

Weebill S

Brown Thornbill S

Lewin’s Honeyeater S

Silvereye S

Double-barred Finch S

Grey Butcherbird S

Australian Magpie S

Torresian Crow S

Road reserve

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike S

White-browed Scrubwren S

Lewin’s Honeyeater S

Silvereye S

House Sparrow S

Double-barred Finch S

Grey Butcherbird S

Australian Magpie S

Overhead/adjacent paddocks

Straw-necked Ibis S

Ground Cuckoo-shrike S

Torresian Crow S

16 species

NOTE: At the time of these observations, there was no water in the scrub, but the farm dam next to it was full.

Nov 12, 2009

Working Bee, 2nd December

9.00am to midday (Morning tea break at 10.30)
The asparagus fern is flowering now, making the plants in the trees particularly easy to find at
present. Let's hope it's still as conspicuous by the working bee date, as getting those plants down from the trees before they set seed will be out highest priority this time. there are not too many. We may be able to get most of not all of the plants which are mature enough to produce seed, if we make this our focus this time.
* Cutting and digging tools
* Your own safety gear - boots, gloves, sunscreen, insect repellent, etc.
* Morning tea and a chair
I look forward to seeing you there!

Oct 1, 2009

Spring flowers, birds and butterflies

Two mistletoes are flowering beautifully at Franke scrub this week.

Lucas's mistletoe (Amyema lucasii) is making a great show with its bright yellow flowers, on our favourite leopard ash (Flindersia collina). The Flindersia itself is also flowering, though only
moderately this year.
And the "variable mistletoe", Amyema congener was quite conspicuous.

This plant loves growing on the Boonaree (Alectryon diversifolium) with its holly-like leaves. However it also grows on several other species in the scrub.The flowers on our local Amyema congener are a darker shade of red than the more common variety seen elsewhere.
Expect to see honeyeaters coming for the nectar from these flowers - and, later in the year, mistletoe birds coming for the fruits. Those special butterflies, the beautiful jezebels, which depend on mistletoes for their survival, are beginning to appear in the scrub again as the
weather warms up.
The sandalwoods (Santalum lanceolatum) under the leopard ash are in bud, so we can expect to see flowers there over the next few weeks. It looks as though they will be putting out a good crop of their dark red (edible but please don't eat them) fruits this year.

Sep 30, 2009

A chipping hoe for weeds

Today we had a visit from Ian who brought his Root Blade tool to show us how well it works on noxious weeds, and we got a lot of useful work out of him!
Normally he uses it on privet and lantana with Friends of the Escarpment Parks in Toowoomba and you can see the Brothers Grimm in action on this website.
We showed him how we were more targeted to the asparagus vine in our diverse and otherwise relatively weed-free environment, taking care of surrounding plants.
Looking at those videos, it looks like we could combine forces with those fellows, if only to introduce a bit of mixed company!
We also had a visit from Evan Prentice from Torrington Nursery who happened to be passing. This is another place where you can get local native plants for your garden.

Sep 28, 2009

Future Working Bees

The next "fifth Wednesday" is in December. Probably not a good day for many people.
I wonder if we should have one on the first Wednesday in December as well / instead?
However we seem to be organising a lot of working bees on days which suit too few of our members! I'd really like to hear some suggestions from you as to which day or days would suit you, between now and the end of the year.

Sep 24, 2009

September working bees

The Scrub was looking good at this morning's working bee (or what we could see of it through the dust storm!).

There were quite a lot of scrambling caper plants (Capparis sarmentosa) flowering beautifully, and with lots of buds. They should look even better next week. The scrambling lily (Geitonoplesium cymosum) was also in flower.
Jamie Pukallus and his team got a lot of the bigger asparagus vines out of the upper end of the scrub, and the rest of us (there were only three) got more, as well as a lot of smaller plants. It looks so different from the scrub of a few years ago, with all those enormous plants up in the canopy, so we are making progress!
We need to keep our collective eye out for any larger plants that have still escaped us, as those are the ones that keep producing seed - but we can now start working on eliminating the next generation of plants, some of which are starting to climb.
We inspected the cats claw corner and got down the few bits that had escaped up into the trees again. I'm hoping that Steve will be able to have another go at poisoning the roots before too long. His last effort was very successful, knocking it back considerably, so it's not nearly as extensive as it once was. However, I did find another small plant in the centre of the scrub. Although I got most of the tubers out, I think I missed a few - so that's something we'll also have to watch out for. It would be a disaster of the cats claw spread through the scrub.
We'll have another, unofficial one, next Wednesday (30 September). No representatives from the council will be there, but some of our members will be spending the morning working. Will you join us?

Sep 16, 2009

It's on again soon!

Spring and September are rushing on and our next working bee will be held next week on Wednesday 23rd. It has been suggested that we do not work very hard! We certainly enjoy it and this time of year will be great.
If you can't make it next week, there are some who are going to be there on the 30th as well. Same time and same place.
We hope to see you then!

Aug 10, 2009

A spring meeting

We are planning to have our next working bee on Wednesday 23rd September.
This is a date in the U3A and school holidays, which may enable more friends to be there. Please let others know, who might be interested. The reserve is coming on nicely and Spring promises to be a lovely time to be there.
We'll start at 9.00am (or earlier if you prefer), pause for morning tea at 10.30, (so bring a little something and a chair) and we'll go on from 11.00am for those who want to make a full morning of it. For those who have done enough work, this is a nice time to stroll around, listen to the birds and see what is happening in the way of growth and flowers.
Bring the usual tools, not forgetting gloves to protect you from prickles, and something suitable for digging up little asparagus plants - a sharp trowel or an old blunt knife.
Secateurs are essential of course, and those who haven't yet equipped yourselves with a mini-mattock will find them selling inexpensively at BMS hardware (and probably other places as well).
September is lovely time of year to be out in the bush, and we will probably see the scrub at its spring best, with flowering at its peak.
Expect good perfume and lots of butterflies!

Jul 30, 2009

Planting Plumbagos

We had a good day today. We are still finding asparagus vine in the canopy and removing some large ones, but in most areas we have made a real difference to the canopy and are finding an interesting range of young plants coming away.

Pic 1: Alison Balke and Toowoomba Regional Council Bushcare officer Steve Plant study a mutant asparagus fern removed during the July working bee at Franke Scrub at Cawdor.

Pic 2: Friends of Franke Scrub members Rosalie Eustace (left) and Sally Steel plant native plumbago seedlings from Crows Nest Nursery at the Franke Scrub reclamation project at Cawdor. These plants were grown from seed collected at Franke Scrub.
Thank you Gary Alcorn for these photos.

Jul 20, 2009

July working bee reminder

July is almost over and our regular working bee will be held next week on Wednesday 29th July.
Despite wet weather on the preceding day in June, our last meeting turned out to be delightful weather in the scrub. It was sunny and quite sheltered.
The asparagus vine continues to grow so there is still plenty of work to do, in fact we are still finding some large vines which we must eliminate before spring.

Jul 1, 2009

At the working bee

There were several plants of interest in Franke Scrub last week.
The hairy boonaree, Alectryon pubescens, was putting out a few of its showy fruits. This is not a common plant in this district, and one of the things which makes Franke Scrub special. It resembles the closely related common scrub boonaree, but has larger leaves and fruits.

The key distinguishing factor is the hairiness of the capsule. Here you can see how it has been burst open by the swelling of the red “cockscomb” aril.

This muttonwood (Rapanea variabilis) is covered with buds, which will take months to ripen into brownish flowers, then be followed by pretty purple-blue fruits - all clinging to the branchlet in the distinctive muttonwood way.

One of the scrub wilgas (Geijera salicifolia) was putting out a few flowers, too. We’ll see more of these over the next few months.
Lots of little birds are to be seen in the scrub at the moment, attracted by the pools of water down in the creek. They will appreciate the food provided by the wilgas, whose fragrant flowers attract little insects.
Trish Gardner

Jun 1, 2009

A June meeting

We are having an extra working bee on Wednesday 24th June.
Every fifth Wednesday just does not come around often enough for some of us.
We will of course still be meeting on Wednesday 29th July as scheduled, so we hope you can make it to one or both of these.
As usual we start around 9 am or earlier if you wish.
Bring a chipping/chopping implement, secateurs, gloves, bag for weeds and your morning tea. Cameras are also welcome, to record interesting things happening in the scrub.

Apr 29, 2009

April at Franke Scrub

We had a good turn out today in lovely autumn weather, despite several of our stalwarts being away this week. Sarah Hood from the Condamine Alliance came to talk to us about the range of expertise among volunteer retirees in groups in the Condamine catchment.

We talked about raising awareness of our remnant vegetation and enjoying spending time in it. Meanwhile the wrens were busy providing background music in adjoining trees.
Despite the major impact we have had in clearing asparagus fern from the canopy, we were disappointed to find some fruit on vines, so there is more to be done.

We might need to schedule an extra morning before our next fifth Wednesday which will be on 29th July. As Greg pointed out, it is a nice time of year to spend more time there. A picnic lunch in winter has also been suggested with Alison offering tempting beverage.
Steve will be bringing some plants from the Crows Nest Nursery, for sale, next time we meet. We can grow this local remnant vegetation in our own gardens thanks to his propagating skills.

Mar 10, 2009

Press release for Open Day

Franke Scrub Open day reveals ancient treasures

More than 100 curious people met a 300-year-old neighbour during the inaugural Open Day at Franke Scrub remnant dry rainforest at Cawdor north of Toowoomba on March 7.

Friends of Franke Scrub (FoFS) group leader Patricia Gardner introduced guests to an ancient but very healthy specimen of Hill Leopard Ash (Flindersia collina) which may well have been a mature tree when Captain Cook discovered Australia.

It stands on the margin of a small, steep gully head on Franke Rd reserve near the Cawdor-Highfields boundary.

"This 'scrub' is really a tiny piece of dry rainforest, of the type known as 'semi-evergreen vine thicket'," Mrs Gardener said.

"It is one of the very few remaining local examples of this endangered ecosystem type."

"Because of all the clearing across this region since settlement began almost 160 years ago, these ecosystems are now very rare," she said.

The Open Day was run jointly by FoFS and Steve Plant, Natural Resource Management Officer (Northern Region) Toowoomba Regional Council, with assistance from Bushcare Officer Kristie Jenkinson.

Other TRC support staff included Jamie Pukallus and Wayne Bennett who helped market the tubed plants struck from seed harvested from Franke Scrub specimens.

During the guided tours guests were introduced to about 55 dry rainforest tree and shrub species and 15 climbers including the fascinating toothache tree (Melicope micrococca), blind-your-eye bush Excoecaria dallachyana) and the hairy lolly bush (Clerodendrum tomentosum).

Visitors were able to choose from more than 300 examples of most of the rare species found in Franke Scrub reserve as $2 and $4 tube plants thanks to the green thumb of Steve Plant, who operates the Crows Nest Community Nursery with the help of part-time staff and volunteers.

This nursery in Cows Nest is open to the public every Thursday from 9am till noon.

Mrs Gardner invited neighbouring Gowrie and Highfields districts' residents to help clean up and protect this endangered ecosystem by participating in weed removal campaigns on the fifth Wednesday of the month.

"We work hard to control foreign invaders such as cat's claw and asparagus fern which are competing aggressively for moisture and light with the indigenous plant communities.

"Our group always welcomes more volunteers to dedicate a couple of hours to removing these pest species and help maintain the integrity of Franke Scrub which is really a small but thriving oasis and not a barren scrub," she said.

FoFS will meet on-site on April 29 from 9am. Volunteers should bring their own smoko and a weeding tool. Weed bags are provided – all welcome.

For further information contact Patricia Gardner ph 46308505, or access the group's blogsite at

Thank you Gary Alcorn for providing this press release and photos.

A great success

The Open Day was a great success with a large number of visitors. Thank you to all those who worked to make this such a good day.
Would anyone like to add some comments or photos?

Feb 17, 2009

Open Day at the Scrub

An open day will be held at Franke Scrub on Saturday 7 March 10.00am to 1.00pm, to give local people a chance to see what much of Highfields’ vegetation once looked like. Many of the plants will be labelled, so that you can learn their names.
There will be a PLANT SALE of these hard-to-get local native species, so that you can grow some genuine indigenous plants in your own garden. Most of them will be shrubs and trees suitable for small gardens.
For more information contact Steve Plant 0417 193 665

Jan 30, 2009

Maps and Site Plan

Aerial views of Franke Road and Remnant Scrub with proposed location of road.

Jan 29, 2009

Working bee and meeting

We had a large attendance at our working bee held on Wednesday 28th January.
Jed Brennan, Toowoomba Regional Council’s Director of Engineering, showed us maps and plans of the proposed road development and how it might impact on the Reserve and we came away feeling that our efforts to protect and care for this special patch were well worth continuing.