Postal Address: P.O. Box 8663
Alice Springs, Northern Territory
Higher Education Building at Charles Darwin University.
The next newsletter will be published in February 2017.
Please ensure photos and articles get to Barb by 28 January
Star of Bethlehem, Calectasia narragara is a woody perennial which has a
rhizomatous root and forms clumps. With a Christmas name like that, I couldn’t
resist putting it on the December newsletter cover. One of the stunning flowers
enjoyed by ANN get-‐together participants in WA.
Photo: Rosalie Breen
Alice Springs Field Naturalists Club
December 2016 ANN
The Australian Naturalists Network get together in October 2016 was
by Jocelyn Davies
The Western Australian Naturalists’ Club hosted ANN 2016 with aplomb. ANN stands for Australian Naturalists Network,
October together with a great offering of pre-‐and post-‐
tours. Just over 80 people attended ANN16 and another 25 or more local people were involved as guides and evening speakers.
It was a great credit to the organisers that the itineraries for each day’s field trip went so smoothly. As far as I know, no one
missed a bus and no one missed out on lunch, and the special food requirements and requests of various people were all met
The ANN symbol, an Echidna, is a good choice because, like many naturalists, Echidnas are somewhat cryptic as well as quirky.
Also like naturalists they are found all over Australia in diverse habitats. Interstate ANN16 participants came from Tasmania
(where the previous ANN was held), Victoria, and Queensland including a big contingent from Chinchilla where the ANN10 was
held. From Alice Springs Rhondda Tomlinson, Rosalie Breen, Charlie Carter, Deb Clarke and I participated. Leoni Read, who is
now living in Tasmania, was also given honorary Alice affiliation by the rest of us. It was notable that four of the five current
Alice residents who participated in ANN16 live in the same street – one could be forgiven for concluding ours is a very small
South West WA is a botanical province with high endemism and a great proliferation of plant species. The meeting was well
timed for spring flowering and this spring was cool with plenty of rain. This helped to ensure that the floral displays were
superlative. Each day of the gathering had field trips in which we were introduced to a great cross section of the local floral
diversity, as well as to reading the landforms and understanding the deep geological time span of the region. Most participants
stayed at the Woodman Point Recreation Camp, which once quarantined passengers off ships who arrived in Freemantle with
notified communicable diseases. We were comfortably accommodated two to a room with shared bathrooms, although
elephants heard tromping the corridors at night were sometimes a little disturbing.
Perth sprawls along the coast – lots of its new suburbs have chased sea breezes and sea views. Our first day was in coastal
vegetation remnants in northern Perth in the satellite city of Joondalup. Coastcare groups, chaired by Dr Marjorie Apthorpe
and the ANN16 Treasurer Don Poynton, are working tirelessly to conserve and manage a narrow coastal strip that includes
Banksia woodlands recently recognised as an endangered ecological community; Melaleuca heathlands; and good habitat for
Fairy-‐wrens and Quendas (just one of the local mammal names we
learnt: the Southern Brown Bandicoot, (Isoodon obesulus). Judging by
the number of walkers and joggers on the footpaths that the local
council has built through the coastal reserve, this thin green line of
bushland is much appreciated by many. When people in the multi-‐
million dollar ‘mcmansions’ that are closest to the coast are suspected of
chopping trees down to improve their view, council erects billboard-‐sized
signs in front of their houses asking anyone with information on tree
vandalism to report it. I liked that. Nevertheless, more and more and
more of the small coastal bushland areas—whether or not they contain
threatened ecological communities—are disappearing under new
suburbs on the one hand, coastal erosion on the other, and multiple
weed species in-‐between. Not to mention Phytophthora dieback.
Phytophthora cinnamomi is a colourless microbe, a fungus that lives in
soil and in plant tissues and also can move around in water. A serious
plant pathogen worldwide, it almost certainly was introduced to WA
shortly after colonisation. It kills trees and shrubs. Plants in the family
Proteacea (including all those endemic WA Banksias) and Jarrah
(Eucalyptus marginata) are among the most susceptible but over 40% of
native plant species in South West WA are considered to be at risk.
Phytophthora is a very serious problem in WA’s most humid climates
(>800mm pa), in parts of the South West. Its impact in these regions is
exacerbated when plants are drought-‐stressed. It is also a serious
problem in moist micro habitats of drier regions, such as in run-‐on areas
around the base of the granite rocks that emerge along the Darling
escarpment and in the southern wheat belt. No cure exists although
injections of phosphite, a salt of
to protect individual plants. This is
ironic given that phosphorus
toxicity characterises some of the
more susceptible plants, which
are adapted to growing in very
low P soils. However phosphite
injections are obviously not a
broad-‐scale solution and WA is
doing a lot to educate people and
to manage the spread of dieback
visited, our vigilant guides and
bus drivers set up boot cleaning
stations. Still, we wondered how
effective this is, especially since
many visitors to these places
would not take the same
precautions. In any case, the
organism is spreading
autonomously, even uphill at a
meter a year via root to root
contact between infected plants,
and faster downhill due to water
. How much will forests and
understories change as this
dieback spreads and special plants
On the second ANN day we
travelled over the Darling escarpment to Wongamine Nature Reserve, 200 hectares of woodland growing in the lateritised soils
formed in the deeply weathered granites of the Yilgarn Craton. More than 200 species of native plants grow in the reserve,
which is a bush remnant surrounded by rolling hills that are pretty much cleared of native vegetation, growing Wheat and
Canola. The understory, below Wandoo and Powder Wandoo (Eucalyptus wandoo and E. ascendens) and seven other Eucalypts,
had a huge diversity of plants all in full flower showing off pinks, yellows and oranges. Proteaceae species growing there
included five Grevilleas, seven Hakeas and ten Banksias while there were five Hibbertia species (Guinea Flowers) and nine
Gastrolobium species (Peas/Poison peas). The ground cover was also a treat with myriad kinds of Orchids, loads of different
Drosera and Trigger Plants (Stylidium spp). Apparently, 150 species
of Trigger Plant occur in southern WA. No wonder there seemed to
be no end to their diverse and elegant forms and colours.
For example, see
This unhealthy Banksia, on a hillside in the Ellis Brook valley, looked to be suffering Phytophthora
One other highlight of this day was the morning and afternoon tea
Toodyay. Needless to say the treats were abundant and very tasty.
While enjoying CWA cakes, we were visited by an orphaned Woylie
(Brush-‐tailed Bettong, Bettongia ogilbyi) and a Black-‐gloved Wallaby
(Macropus irma) who were both being raised by Toodyay naturalists
and farmers Brian and Chris Foley.
Another mammal highlight of the day almost slipped through
unremarked, except by Alice people. When Leoni Read found some
scat that contained termite remains, she asked one local guide if
they might be numbat (Myrmecobius fasciatus).
“I wish”, he said, “but they are Echidna”.
A little later, Leoni showed Charlie Carter the scat. Charlie was
adamant they were not the very distinctive-‐shaped scat that
Echidna make. I heard the story later that night and then showed
Leoni and Charlie a photo of Numbat scat I had collected some
weeks earlier in Boyagin Rock Nature Reserve, about 150 km east of
Perth, which includes a reintroduced population of Numbats. Leoni
and Charlie agreed that the scat that she had found really did look
like it was from a Numbat. Perhaps the persistence or re-‐
colonisation of Boyagin by Numbats is not as far-‐fetched as it might
seem given that the Woylie that Brian and Chris Foley were hand-‐
rearing was an orphan from a population that had persisted in the
area, against all odds. Also the Wandoo/Powder Wandoo
open forest in Wongamine NR is prime Numbat habitat!
Tuesday was our trip to Rottnest Island. The voyage took
Fremantle, with the distant company of some Humpback
Whales. We split into two groups to either bus around the
island or walk, swapping activities in the afternoon.
My highlights while walking in a small group with Mike and Mandy
Bamford and looking out for birds included a very close up study of a
Western Gerygone, and the sight of a pair of Shelducks with a grand
total of 18 half-‐grown young. Mike suggested that the Shelduck pair
might have collected some of this brood from other Shelduck nests,
though we wondered why they would do this. To boost their prestige
with the other Shelducks? Or as insurance in case some of the young
Toodyay naturalist and farmer Brian Foley with an orphaned
juvenile Woylie (Bettongia ogilbyi) that he has been hand-‐
Scat left by foraging numbats, Boyagin Rock Nature Reserve (but note that
the left-‐most scat is less definitely Numbat than the others). The Numbat
is WA’s fauna emblem and was the emblem for ANN16. Numbat, or
Walpiti in Yankunyatjatjara and Pitjantjatjara, used to also occur in
Quokka, Rottnest Island. Cuteness factor: extreme.
Walking around also gave us a chance to observe the island’s Quokkas (Setonix brachyurus) up close. Quokkas also persist in one
island as densely wooded Cypress Pine (Callitris preissii), Teatree (Melaleuca lanceolata) and Tuart (Eucalyptus gomphocephala),
but much of the island is now a low heathland, maintained by Quokka grazing. Quokkas have to be fenced out where tree
revegetation is in progress. A hurried bus trip around the island’s 25km perimeter road enabled us to also see its NZ Fur Seal
colony, rocks where Australian Sea-‐lions haul out, and pair of Osprey on the nest they have used for many years which is a cone
of interlocked sticks more than a metre high on a windswept rocky promontory.
Wednesday was a ‘rest day’ with local walks
in the morning close to Woodman Point, and
a visit to Kanyana Wildlife Rehabilitation
Centre in the afternoon/evening. This busy
not for profit centre was established by
volunteers and continues to depend of
volunteers and donations for its work in
treating hundreds of orphaned and injured
animals each year. One of their ancillary
functions is education for which they keep a
small number of animals that are not fit for
return to wild living. For us, as for hundreds
of school kids each year, it was a chance to
see some special species, including Red-‐
tailed Black Cockatoo, Echidna and Tawny
Frogmouth, up very close. Kanyana also
manages two breeding programs for
endangered species, Bilbies and Woylies, as
part of implementation of national recovery
plans. Animals bred here are used in the
restocking of those WA conservation
reserves, where introduced predators are
being controlled, efforts that are extensive
and apparently well-‐resourced on both
government-‐managed and privately-‐
managed nature reserves in WA.
In the following days we visited several bushland reserves close to
Perth. Some were on the old podsolised Bassendean sand dunes and
in the perched wetlands of these and younger more coastward dune
systems. Others were in the granites and lateritic soils of the Darling
scarp and its foothills. One highlight for me was in the Ellis Brook
Valley: a great show by a Square-‐tailed Kite being harassed by a
Goshawk. The valley also lived up to its reputation as a fantastic place
for wildflowers. Another highlight was learning when a
Xanthorrhoea is not a Xanthorrhoea – the answer is when it’s a
Kingia! The leaves and trunk of Kingia australis look very much like
around Perth. But the Kingia is not closely related, being in the
endemic Australian (predominantly Western Australian) family
Kingia australis, whose leaves and trunk resemble Xanthorrhoea spp but
remnant, surrounded by suburbs and a prospective industrial development, we learnt from plant physiologist Dr Hans Lambers
about mechanisms that enable Banksias to prosper in extremely nutrient poor soils. Adaptations include channelling all the
available phosphorus into building the structure of new shoots and leaves. Activation of chlorophyll production and
photosynthesis is delayed in those new tissues, hence they show red colour. The next day, in WA’s oldest protected area, John
Forrest National Park, geologist Mike Freeman gave a great explanation of the development of the lateritic profile of the Darling
Scarp during millions of years of weathering of the Yilgarn Craton granites. He then guided walkers in how to interpret the
parks’ geological features en-‐route to one of the two waterfalls we visited that morning. Mike lived and worked in Alice Springs
for a decade and some might remember him.
Field trips on this ANN were complemented by fabulous evening talks by experts in their field. Kingsley Dixon, former director of
Kings Park Botanical Gardens, opened the get together with a photographic exploration of the drivers of WA’s extraordinary
biodiversity. Later in the week, David Knowles presented amazing photo-‐montages of invertebrates and some living samples;
and Ron Johnstone introduced us to the world of WA’s three species of Black Cockatoos, their adaptations and serious
challenges for their future prosperity including competition for nest sites from other parrots and feral bees.
The week wound-‐up with visits to some Perth icons including Kings Park, where much of the spectacle of diverse WA endemics
in rampant flower is conveniently arranged in families. Another visit was to the Shipwreck Gallery of the WA Museum in
Fremantle. Its display of salvaged boat timber and relics from the Dutch East India Company ship Batavia, which ran aground on
the Houtman Abrolhos Islands in 1629, book-‐ended the experiences that Rhondda, Charlie, Deb and I had had when we visited
the Abrolhos Islands on an ANN16 field trip in the last week of September. The story of the massacre of more than a hundred
Batavia passengers by some of the ship’s crew—mutineers—on an island in the Abrolhos archipelago is well known to Western
Australians. Most of the rest of us only knew the story dimly, if at all, which served to remind us that WA is different to more
eastern parts of Australia historically, socially and culturally, as well as biologically.
A continuing committee was elected during the week to take ANN forward to the next get together, in Victoria in two years
time. Jeff Campbell was elected as Chair. Since none of us present from Alice nominated for the committee, there remains an
opportunity for others from Alice, or Darwin or elsewhere in the NT, to do so. Most of the work of organising the ANN falls to
the host state/local groups with the national committee providing oversight and continuity. In other words, the role of NT
representative is not likely to be onerous.
For all its great experiences and good organisation, I felt there was a missing element at ANN16, which was encouragement and
opportunity for those present to think collectively about the future of ANN. There is no doubt that it is an aging network, which
means it has a short future unless younger people join in. There are plenty of younger people involved with the natural
environment but they are less involved with naturalist groups and more with conservation action, environmental advocacy,
bushwalking, bird watching and in para-‐professional roles. ANN16 was a missed opportunity for participants to share their
thoughts about whether and how the network could be broadened, strengthened and rejuvenated.
From left: Two of the three species of Feather Flower (Verticordia spp, in Myrtaceae) that grow in the Ellis Brook valley. The flowers of V.
huegellii start out white and turn pink after ferilization; Chorizema ilicifolium (Holly Flame-‐pea) in John Forrest National Park; Lechenaultia
biloba in Wongamine Nature Reserve
WHERE TO NEST …
By Rhondda Tomlinson
Being birds, you would think it would be easy to find a
suitable nesting place in such a remote area as the Abrolhos
Islands off Geraldton, Western Australia.
However, Wooded Island as you can see, is a bit crowded.
East Wallabi Island seemed a good possibility but the signs for
land horizon) is more than 40 years old and has been
maintained and even re-‐built by several different pairs of
Osprey. At present it is home to a monogamous pair of breeding
Ospreys who use the nest to sleep, breed and raise their young.
The nest is an integral part of their life cycle.
This does not solve our problem.
Moving on to West Wallabi Island, we found an abandoned
back to a serviceable condition. Besides those tourists and
their cameras would be so inconvenient.
Pigeon Island may provide the solution, a
friend said, as they had just moved into the
Success at last, even though you might not
The local fishermen have come to an
arrangement so that we do not build where it
is inconvenient for them. They have erected
poles with sort of baskets on top. We are free
to use these for nesting and to observe our
We are sure our new home is going to be an
ideal spot to raise
Blue is my favourite colour. At the ANN get together in
WA, while travelling by bus on excursions looking out
the window, we passed clouds of intense blue on the
ground among the shrubland and woodland. It made a
lasting and delightful impression on me. These clouds
were bushes of blue Lechenaultia biloba, plentiful and in
many different habitats. So different to see so much
blue in the bush. In central Australia, we have
Lechenaultia divaricarta, a low straggly wiry looking bush
with no leaves and yellow and white flowers. WA’s is a
prostrate herbaceous plant, the green leaves
complementing the blue of the many five petalled
flowers. Each of these corolla lobes are divided into two
joined lobes. Quite distinctive.
So that started a mission to take note of more blue. The
most obvious were the humans many of whom were
wearing blue jackets, a badge of Perth ANN and easy to
spot. Seriously though, there are many species of
From the top: Blue leschenaultia, Lechnanaultia biloba:
a wander in the Wongamine ; Blue Sqill, Chamaescilla
is open to some argument. It was named after Leschenaultia
de la Tour, a botanist who visited Australia in 1802-‐3.
However, when Robert Brown, an early botanist first
published the name he spelt it Lechenaultia, omitting the 's'.
The spelling without the 's' is considered valid by Australian
taxonomists. However, The ‘s’ is often included in the
better, has blue Hybanthus calycinus, called appropriately Wild
Violet. We have a stunning pink Calytrix , WA has one that is
smothered in blue flowers with five petals and prominent yellow
stamens turning red with age, (probably Calytrix fraseri). Other new
ones were the Hoveas, a number of species of shrubs with clusters
of blue or purple pea flowers. Tantalizing and very photogenic was
Blue Squill, Chamaescilla corymbosa. It is a lily of sorts with a
multiple of three petals. Perhaps the prettiest flower was Blue
Tinsel Lily, Calectasia narragara, blue with a splash of red and
(see photo on front cover)
The name comes from
Greek calos meaning beautiful, and ectasia, meaning stretching
out, referring to the star-‐shaped petals. Narragara is a composite
Nyoongar (the local aboriginal inhabitants) name for a star, chosen
for its common name “Star of Bethlehem”. The species C. cyanea is
rare and endemic to around Albany. Of course many of the
hundreds of orchids are blue too. Not quite blue but mauve
Melaleuca radula, Graceful Honey Myrtle surely can be included
too. In Kings Park gardens I met the brilliant blue daisy,
River daisy. So many and varied flowers to see and discover, I was
a bit overwhelmed.
Blue colour in nature is not common. Less than 10%of the
280.000 species of flowering plants are blue. The pigments in
flowers are mostly carotenoids or flavonoids. Blue colour is
shown when the red anthocyanin pigment has been modified by
the plant and the reflected light from this gives us blue.
Anthocyanins are strong antioxidants and plants high in these are
recommended for healthy eating. Blue in flower language was
used to convey special or secret messages to someone. The colour
stands for desire or love. It symbolized hope and beauty or peace
and tranquillity. So my love of blue helps me relax and slow
down. Peace to you too!
Photos from the top: Wild Violet, Hybanthus calycinus; a blue
Fringe Myrtle, Calytrix sp.; Graceful Honey Myrtle, Melaleuca
Daisy, Brachyscome iberidifolia
The Abrolhos Island trip
by Deb Clarke and Charlie Carter
(Pre ANN get-‐together tour)
After two and a half weeks on the road via Kintore, Kunawarritji, Marble Bar,
Karijini, Ningaloo, Shark Bay and Kalbarri we arrived at Geraldton for our ANN
Abrolhos trip. Along the way we experienced the most stunning wildflower
display, from Glen Helen to Marble Bar was Ptilotus Land, including Ptilotus
At Geraldton, the first thing we found was that most things are shut on Sundays,
the Shipwreck museum.
The most famous of the wrecks is the Batavia, run aground on a reef in the
We boarded our boat late afternoon spent the night on board, and headed off to
Our skipper and owner, Jay had been a cray fisherman, and knows the islands, the
people and the history. The crew were friendly and helpful and the tucker good
and plentiful. Jay’s laidback style almost concealed his quiet efficiency, and we
covered a lot of ground (and sea) over the 4 days.
Uninhabited islands in the Pelsaert group were a trove of birdlife, and we had a
islands was accomplished in glass-‐bottom boats so we could enjoy the corals and
fish on the way.
Next day the Easter group included Rat and Little Rat islands packed with cray
Jay’s friends gave us a rundown on the life and the industry. Jay is actively trying
to get the two groups to cooperate, and to get some crayfish available for visitors
at a reasonable price. Currently they all get flown to Asia @ $90 / kilo.
The cooks made a delicious Pavlova ‘birthday cake’ for Deb’s birthday, and made
Sailing on to the Wallabi group we saw whales and dolphins right beside the boat
and on Beacon the remains of the Batavia survivors occupation
and the gruesome history.
On the beaches were Sea Lions, very quiet and up close, and we had a chance to
as various reptiles also inhabit these islands. The islands are all low-‐lying, and
surrounded by reefs giving a palette of beautiful colours in the water and on the
The last night was spent back at the wharf in Geraldton, with breakfast on shore
group going to the museum and then the bus trip south to the ANN.
From the top: Ptilotus rotundifolius; our boat; fish and coral; cray fishermens’ huts; activity near Big Rat Island; Dolphin and Whales.
Baby Sea Lion
Daisies among the coral
Group walking on the beach
Pacific Gull nest
The sky full of birds
Jocelyn beside a fishermens’ marker
Baby Sea Lion suckling
Storm from Big Rat Island
Incredible colours of the water and land
Other Odd Thoughts about ANN Perth
by Rosalie Breen
First I‘d like to add my congratulations to the steering committee and their many helpers for a well
around Perth. Much appreciated was the comprehensive booklet, which contained as well as our
program plant and bird lists for the different places we visited, with a brief overview of each
environment, and an explanation of why the South West is a “biodiversity hotspot”. Our cloth bag
had a wonderful picture of a numbat designed by Mike Bamford. Thanks to all.
Apart from blue flowers another favourite of mine, were Feather Flowers. Their genus Verticordia
means “turner of hearts”. It is well deserving of its name, providing a stunning display. The bushes
were thick with delicate feathery flower petals sure to impress everyone with their
glory. Yellows were everywhere in the heath lands of Ellis Brook Valley. There are also
crimson and combinations of white and pinks. These after pollination change to red
colours. My favourite was the white and burgundy Verticordia huegelii, Variegated
Also plantwise, I was amazed at the number and variety of Trigger
Banksias are iconic in WA because
there so many different shapes, sizes
and colours. Most produce their
flowers and cones high in the tree or
bush, making it convenient for
pollination by birds (and possums) seeking nectar. But many have their
flowers at ground level. Strange? No! These are pollinated by small
marsupials, such as bandicoots, and rodents. But a worry is that many of
these smaller animals are endangered. Who will take on the pollinator job?
Radio Hill in Fremantle, an easy place to visit and with expansive views, had a great
display of many different species of orchids in a self-‐guided Wildflower Walk, with
many signs indicating the names of flowering plants too. The WA floral emblem, the
red and green Kangaroo Paw, Anigozanthos manglessii was present in its vivid velvet
colours. The orange Cats Paw, Anigozanthos humilis was numerous too, since it
tends to appear after soil disturbance, or fire as in this case.
Every nature reserve we visited seems to have an active Friends group who helped
care for the place. These provided our many and enthusiastic, knowledgeable guides.
We were so lucky to have local experts so willing to share their love of the bush.
Invasive weeds are a major problem for the volunteers. Most noticeable weeds
were the Pink Gladiolus and the (I thought) attractive Blowfly Grass. Many were the
same as appear here in central Australia.
As we know bird beaks are adapted to the food they need to collect. A major food source for cockatoos and parrots in the
Southwest is the Marri tree, a bloodwood, Corymbia calophylla. Interestingly, Marri is from the Nyoongar word for blood. This
and Jarrah and Karri are the well-‐known forest trees. The birds chew the big nuts, called honkey nuts, to obtain the seeds, and
can be identified by the pattern of chew marks on the nuts, dependent on the shape of the lower jaw of their beak (mandible).
Below: Hirono Kami, our guide for the visit to Lightning Swamp showing a chart of chewed Marri nuts; Nuts chewed by the
Forest Red-‐tailed Black Cockatoo.