Saturday, 13 October 2018 12:08

The Wonder of Waterbugs

Gunning District Landcare’s latest school holiday activity on ‘Waterbugs’ had everyone captivated. The tranquil waters of Meadow Creek yielded an impressive range of weird and wonderful critters, including fresh water shrimp, baby yabbies, snails, blood worms, ‘fluffy bums’ and lots more. After an introductory chat in Gunning Library, most of the session was spent in Barbour Park, where aquatic ecologist Cecil Ellis demonstrated how to catch and identify waterbugs. Cecil was very impressed with level of keen interest among all participants, who ranged from 7 to 15 years old. The more tech-savvy amongst the group were quick to find their way around The Waterbug App, which is freely available to download to smart phones and other digital devices. Cecil explained that monitoring waterbugs is an important way to gauge the health of rivers and other waterways. The National Waterbug Blitz is a citizen science initiative that has begun this year, and everyone is welcome to take part. It is a great way to contribute to practical environmental science, and as we discovered last week, getting to know waterbugs is also heaps of fun!

At the end of the activity, all waterbugs were released safely back into the Meadow Creek.

A big thanks goes to Cecil Ellis, Gunning Library for hosting these activities, Janet Heffernan for suggesting the activity and providing the yummy snacks, and Acciona Energy for providing funding.

Sunday, 16 September 2018 08:17

Aquatic Plants for Healthy Dam Habitats

Wild windy weather did not hamper enthusiasm at the Aquatic Plant Workshop on 11th August. Janet Heffernan, committee member of Gunning District Landcare, led the workshop and inspired participants with her ‘get-in-there-and-have-a-go’ approach to planting and protecting aquatic plants. The day was aimed at equipping people with the skills and confidence to improve the biodiversity and habitat values of their dams (which also results in improved water quality for stock and domestic use).

The day started at the Gunning Golf Course where several people donned waders and ventured into one of the dams to get their hands wet and dirty planting in the mud. Others were busy with pliers and wire netting, making up cages to protect the new plants from the destructive habits of water birds. Following a delicious sausage sizzle provided by the Lions Club of Gunning, we drove to Janet’s property to see the impressive work that she has been doing on her dams. There was a high level of interest throughout the day, and as one participant said at the end: “I can't wait to get stuck into my own project now!!”

With a mix of submerged, emergent and ephemeral plants, healthy dams can become important refuges for local native fish, frogs and other wildlife. The Southern Pygmy Perch is one species that will benefit from Gunning District Landcare’s ‘refuge dam’ project; funds have been provided to a number of landholders to establish appropriate aquatic and terrestrial plants, and fence off from stock where necessary. These dams will then be able to host populations of the threatened fish if needed.  

A big thanks to Janet Heffernan, the Gunning Golf Course, the Lions Club of Gunning, and all the wonderful participants on the day!

In the last week of school holidays, an enthusiastic group of children and a handful of parents gathered in the Gunning Library to learn about Ngunnawal bush tucker from Aaron Chatfield of Greening Australia.

Over tens of thousands of years, Indigenous people in this region have acquired an intimate knowledge of the plants, animals and landscapes that sustain their lives and culture. And as we discovered, children and adults alike in the Gunning district are eager to learn about how they can identify the native foods that grow on their farms and in their gardens.

Aaron displayed and talked us through a variety of Indigenous plants and tools, before offering samples of some delicious morsels. Roasted Bulbine and Chocolate Lily roots were popular, as was the Hardenbergia tea. The Mountain Pepper had a few people hopping on the spot! The children then helped to plant out a bush tucker garden between the library and the post office – keep your eye out as the plants grow bigger through the spring. Soap from Blackwood wattle leaves helped to clean dirty hands, and there were plenty of smiles as everyone left with a Chocolate Lily to plant in their own gardens.

An extra treat on the day was the presence of Aaron’s father, Greg Chatfield. Greg was involved in the production of the excellent book ‘Ngunnawal Plant Use’, two copies of which are now in Gunning Library.

Many thanks to the Gunning Library stuff who are unfailing friendly and helpful! 

Wednesday, 02 May 2018 13:55

How truly wondrous are frogs!?!?

Anke Maria Hoefer from Frogwatch ACT had us all captivated with her interesting, entertaining and interactive presentation on frogs. Around 15 children and a handful of adults learned all about frogs’ lifecycle, everything frogs need to lead healthy lives, and what we can do to help look after them.

We heard how frogs use their eyes to ‘stamp’ on the food in their mouths; how males are the singers and females are the listeners in the frog world; how desert-dwelling frogs survive years of hibernation underground; how frogs are a bit partial to eating to one another; and plenty of other fascinating facts. Anke Maria was very impressed with the level of knowledge about frogs in the room, with many young participants offering up their insights too.

After filling up on all the interesting information, we got hands on – with some plastic pull-apart frog anatomy to put back together, and some great crafty projects. All the while a live Green and Golden Bell Frog watched on from the safety of its container.

There was lots of enthusiasm for more school holiday fun – feel free to pitch in your ideas for future events!

Tuesday, 17 April 2018 16:28

Latest news on Southern Pygmy Perch

Wondering what’s the latest news on Southern Pygmy Perch? As we’ve covered previously, Gunning District Landcare is working to conserve the endangered Southern Pygmy Perch and its habitat in our region. Southern Pygmy Perch is now only found in a very few locations in NSW, and we are very fortunate to be one of them. This means we have an opportunity (and responsibility!) to ensure that this local endangered fish does not go extinct.

Southern Pygmy Perch was originally native to large areas in the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee and Murray river catchments, but its distribution has been severely affected by the introduction of exotic fish, the spread of disease, and habitat modification and loss. Southern Pygmy Perch is also likely to be vulnerable to the effects of a warming climate. 

In 2017, we commissioned fish experts Mark Lintermans and Luke Pearce to prepare a Local Action Plan to help guide local conservation efforts for Southern Pygmy Perch. Consistent with their recommendations, in March-April 2018 we organised for Mark Lintermans to survey fish in several local waterways. He was not only looking for Southern Pygmy Perch, but also for other fish (especially Redfin Perch) that are predators of Southern Pygmy Perch. This information is important when considering which sections of our creeks and rivers may be suitable for re-introduction attempts in the future. We will provide an update on the results of Mark’s monitoring work in the coming months.

We plan to continue monitoring local populations of Southern Pygmy Perch in the future and hope to involve community members to help with annual fish surveys — please get in touch if you are interested to be involved.

Also in March-April 2018, we engaged riparian expert Lori Gould to undertake habitat mapping along local waterways, and to assess nominated farm dams for their suitability as refuge sites for Southern Pygmy Perch. Many landholders in the Gunning region jumped at the chance to help conserve the endangered fish by nominating their damns as potential refuge sites. Lori has been kept busy speaking to landholders and visiting numerous properties. It is going to be very difficult to decide which dams will be selected to receive support in this round, but we are actively looking for more funding to expand this work into the future. So if you missed out this time, you will still be on the register and we will be able to consider you down the track.

If you are interested in improving the habitat qualities of your farm dams and riparian areas, you might be interested in the information below taken from our local action plan for Southern Pygmy Perch. There is also more detailed information available in this excellent brochure from the NSW Government.

What makes a suitable refuge dam for Southern Pygmy Perch?

Essential criteria:

  • Permanent water, even during extreme droughts
  • Abundance of aquatic plants – especially those that are emerged, submerged and floating
  • No predatory or alien fish species present
  • Good water quality

Desirable criteria

  • No or limited stock access / dam fenced to exclude stock
  • Abundant fringing vegetation, reeds, grass, shrubs and trees
  • Dam not used as water supply
  • Dam has a catchment in good condition. That is, good ground cover is maintained year round
  • Additional habitat in the form of logs, rocks etc.


What makes a potential stream stocking location for Southern Pygmy Perch?

Essential criteria:

  • Permanent water, even during extreme droughts
  • Abundance of aquatic plants – especially those that are emerged, submerged and floating
  • No predatory or alien fish species present
  • Barriers to prevent alien fish invading
  • Good water quality.

Desirable criteria

  • No or limited stock access / stream fenced to exclude stock
  • Abundant fringing vegetation, reeds, grass, shrubs and trees
  • Low or no erosion
  • Stream has a catchment in good condition. That is, good ground cover is maintained year round
  • Low sediment loads
  • Cooperative landholders and neighbours
  • Few or no weeds, particularly blackberry and willows.

Wow! What talent there is in the Gunning District! Eagles, goannas, echidnas, dolls and even snakes. All created with some straw, some wool and whatever was found lying around. Ronnie Jordan from Thunderstone Aboriginal Cultural Services showed our Junior Landcare members how people used to make toys from the very basic materials available at the time. And our participants rolled up their sleeves and got right into it!

After some refuelling at morning tea, they then served up some traditional aboriginal dancing. Again our kids demonstrated incredible talent and enthusiasm to get involved, have a go and serve up a couple of very entertaining performances.

“It was great to see the kids enjoying themselves and getting into it. These School Holiday events are turning out to be very popular.” Said Gunning District Landcare Committee Member Janet Heffernan. “And today, what a boomer!”

Keep an eye out for what’s coming up in April, or even better, become a Junior Gunning District Landcare member and receive priority notification.

Monday, 13 November 2017 16:33

Weeds are the Healers

Gunning District Landcare hosted the Gunning Garden Weeds Workshop this weekend.

This interactive and fun workshop looked at various techniques to manage backyard weeds. Alison Elvin from Natural Capital identified and array of wild and mysterious plants participants bought in. Each participant had the opportunity to explain and discuss their individual weed situation, which often was common to several people attending.

Alison explained the role of weeds in the landscape as the healers.  They prepare bare ground for other, often what we consider more desirable, plants to move in.  Plants can also be seen as messengers. Telling us what nutrients and minerals are deficient in our soil. Explaining a story of ground than is repeatedly bared out or compacted. By observing and seeking to understand there is much information laid out in plain sight, for those who look. And many hidden benefits to weeds we can take advantage of.

Once we understand the system, we are much better place to work with it to achieve the positive outcomes we are looking for.

A very enjoyable morning!

Friday, 03 November 2017 21:57

Feral Pigs Beware

Gunning District Landcare hosted a very informative day at Dalton Anglican Church Hall recently. Speakers from Local Land Services included biosecurity Officers Scott Schlunke and Gina Guinane who explained feral pig biology and behaviour, as well as early warning signs indicating if pigs are active in your area. Local Land Services District Veterinarian Alex Stephens discussed important health concerns we all need to be aware of and simple precautions we can take like wearing eye protection, face mask and gloves when handling feral animal carcases.

Mick Calleja from the Rural Police squad explained where a landholder stands in regard to illegal hunting, the use of CCTV cameras and trespassing. Mick also gave some tips to help protect your property from thief. Peter West from the Invasive Animals CRC (DPI), and the developer of FERALSCAN, explained how FERALSCAN can be used to track and monitor feral animal populations and options to restrict this information to a private group. Monitoring cameras were also discussed in detail, including what models suit what purpose, placement, and others tips and tricks for successful use.

Participants learnt what methods of control are available and saw some practical demonstrations explaining how to bait and trap effectively.

A jam packed morning that delivered some excellent and practical information. If we work together as a community, we can keep pigs in low and manageable numbers.

Wednesday, 30 August 2017 16:37

Gunning District’s Esteemed Resident

With increased sedimentation, vegetation clearing and exotic fish populating our waterways – it’s a wonder we have any native fish left. But we do! Here - in the paradise of Gunning District – we have a population of Southern Pygmy Perch. This population is one of only 3 known remaining populations in NSW.

Southern Pygmy Perch once inhabited waterways far and wide throughout NSW, including the Lachlan, Murrumbidgee and Murray river systems. They were once so plentiful people would catch them in large numbers and use them as bait fish. Now they are listed as an endangered species.

It is a classic tale of big fish eating medium fish, and then medium fish eating small fish, small fish eating tiny fish and so on. Southern Pygmy Perch may be small but their ongoing survival is important for the survival of many other fish species. Not to mention any loss in biodiversity across our landscape leaves us all the poorer.

Southern Pygmy Perch live amongst the aquatic vegetation growing in creeks, dams, billabongs and wetlands. They are carnivorous, eating a range of aquatic crustaceans and insects. They grow to between about 6 to 8cm long.

The main threats to Southern Pygmy Perch survival is loss of habitat. Seen as loss of riparian and aquatic vegetation, as well as wetland drainage and regulation. Predation is also a major threat and the main culprit in the Gunning area is the introduced red fin. These aggressive fish compete with Southern Pygmy Perch for habitat but are also known to eat Southern Pygmy Perch.

The long, scruffy grass growing along your creeks and around the edges of your dam may look far from manicured, but to Southern Pygmy Perch this is home sweet home! They need vegetation to shelter in, hunt, regulate water temperature and breed. Gunning district is so fortunate to still have a Southern Pygmy Perch population. However, if we don’t turn around the habitat loss, it may not be for long. Wouldn’t it be great if rather than holding on to our small population, it could grow!

Wednesday, 25 January 2017 15:11

The Truth About Trees

Gunning and Yass District Landcare and friends will present: THE TRUTH ABOUT TREES - Harness the Power of Nature to Increase Your Production, Profit and Pleasure.

Whether you are contemplating a complete farm makeover, renovating a dam or just bunging in a small shelter belt, this free, fully catered expo is not to be missed.

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