Wednesday, 26 April 2017

FOSI Newsletter, Issue #76, April 2017



Friends of Stradbroke Island
Issue #76 - April 2017
In this issue
Minjerribah's Wild Places
Rehabilitation Obligations Not Being Enforced By State Government
Island Conservation
Cyclone Side-effects
2017 Glossy Black-Cockatoo Survey
Bus Shelter Poetry
Nature Notes
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Minjerribah's Wild Places

A Nature Guide to North Stradbroke Island, Minjerribah.

Book review by Julie Kearney
Affectionately known to many as Straddie or Minjerribah, North Stradbroke Island has been a favourite holiday destination for south-east Queenslanders since it first began attracting boating parties to its shores in the nineteenth century. Millenia before this it was regularly visited by Indigenous mainlanders for similar purposes, as well as ritual business with the Quandamooka people. Now, hot off the press in 2017 we have A Nature Guide to North Stradbroke Island, Minjerribah, the first-ever comprehensive printed guide to the island's natural beauties.
As I turned the pages I found myself captivated by what I found. The book is beautifully formatted with over 700 quality photographs and 352 pages of up-to-date information on the island’s ecology and wildlife. At a retail price of $35.00 this represents good value in anyone’s estimation.       
A Nature Guide to North Stradbroke Island, Minjerribah was produced by Friends of Stradbroke Island, a non-profit community group dedicated to protecting the island's unique fragile environment. Two of their members, Sue Ellen Carew and Mary Barram, set about the painstaking task of planning, researching and co-ordinating the guidebook.
Their mission was to make the island’s flora and fauna accessible to everyone, not just the scientifically educated few. To this end they worked with people from different walks of life: bird-watchers, island-lovers, amateur and professional photographers, naturalists, bushwalkers, scientists, and the island’s traditional custodians, the Quandamooka people. With few exceptions all were happy to give freely of their time and knowledge in the preparation of the book. Specialist contributors include eminent scientists, yet the tone remains user-friendly, fulfilling the title’s promise to be a practical guide.
The book kicks off with 'A Place of Sand and Water', describing the island’s geological history up to the present. This is followed by 'Minjerribah’s Wild Places', which gives tips for understanding, respecting and exploring the shores, lakes and bushland. 'Beachcombing' introduces the creatures to be found along the seashore, while 'Wild Stradbroke Seasonal Guide' identifies the rhythms of the natural world as revealed through the behaviour of Straddie's  wildflowers and wildlife.
'Life in the Ocean' helps the reader spot and identify whales, dolphins and other marine creatures. 'Birds' describes the island's avian population, along with an excellent photographic guide. 'Aquatic animals of the wallum wetlands' focuses on the island's frogs and a fascinating cast of other freshwater inhabitants.
'Mammals' identifies koala, kangaroo and other marsupial species, some unique to the island. 'Island insects' introduces the reader to butterflies, dragonflies, damselflies and cicadas. Watch out for some superb photographs in this chapter, as indeed you will find throughout all sections.
Chapters on lizards and land snakes, and indigenous flora conclude the photographic and habitat guide. Straddie has long been famous for its wildflowers, many of which are of special scientific interest, such as the Swamp Daisy and Spike Rush, found nowhere else on earth. An easy to use reference chapter and indexes complete the Guide.
Clearly the book is a labour of love put together by people not prepared to compromise on its quality or usefulness to the public. To this end Barram and Carew consulted with experts and gave years of their own time and expertise, before bringing in Susan Hill as managing editor and the talented Michael Phillips as designer. With over 700 colour photos I assume that printing costs were considerable, yet Barram and Carew were able to keep the price affordable, thanks to funding through the Jani Haenke Charitable Trust.
Jani Haenke, whom I had the honour of knowing before her untimely death, is the unseen hero behind the making of this book. It was her love for the island and her desire to keep it safe from environmental degradation in any form, whether by mining operations or rapacious developers or simply through ignorance on the part of tourists, that led her to found Friends of Stradbroke Island in 1988. Later she established what became the Jani Haenke Trust. Barram and Carew dedicate the book to her, and if she could have known what a splendid job they have made of  it, I’m sure Jani would be pleased.
The book sets a high bench mark for future publications on the subject and will undoubtedly become a classic. It represents the cooperative effort of a broad community of Straddie lovers, but credit must go particularly to Mary Barram and Sue Ellen Carew for their inspiration and guiding influence in its creation. All income from sales goes towards the protection of Straddie's wild places.

Spoil a friend or buy your copy today!

  • Available online from FOSI at stradbroke-nature.myshopify.com/ 
  • Available for purchase from island outlets: Point Lookout News Agency, Manta Lodge and Scuba Centre, Moreton Bay Research Station and NSI Historical Museum at Dunwich. For sale at mainland bookshops including SLQ Library Shop South Bank, Avid Reader West End, Folio Books Brisbane city, New Farm Editions and Mary Ryan New Farm, Riverbend Books Bulimba, Books@Stones, Stones Corner and Indigiscapes Capalaba. 
  • Order by post by sending a cheque made out to Friends of Stradbroke Island PO Box 167 Point Lookout 4183. Postage is $5.00 or free for orders of 3 or more books.
A Nature Guide to North Stradbroke Island, Minjerribah. 2016. RRP - $35, Contributing Editors - Mary Barram & Sue Ellen Carew. Managing Editor – Susan Hill. Design – Michael Phillips. With contributions from many FOSI members.

Rehabilitation Obligations Not Being Enforced By State Government

In March this year a FOSI member took some revealing photos and a video showing the lack of progress in post-mining rehabilitation at the 'Yarraman' mine site near Point Lookout, 20 months after mining ended. The edge of the township can been seen in the photo. The mine was closed by Sibelco in August, 2015, after the supply of heavy minerals was exhausted. A short video is available here: http://savestraddie.com/wp-content/woo_uploads/2009/12/Yarraman-mine-March-2017.mov
Mining lease conditions require Sibelco to revegetate and rehabilitate mined landscape as far as possible to its pre-mined state. Also, Sibelco is legally obliged to rehabilitate progressively, not wait until a mine has closed. Some of the almost bare areas were mined several years ago. 
For obvious reasons, progressive rehabiliation is particularly important on a fragile, windswept, sand island landscape. In addition, the unnaturally coloured (polluted?) water bodies did not exist pre-mining. These are sub-water table mining voids, with bare, steep, dangerous banks. A Google earth examination reveals that they are larger than any natural, fresh water lakes on North Stradbroke. Best practice requires these mining voids to be filled in post-mining, and re-vegetated.
The evidence clearly indicates that the State Government is not enforcing rehabilitation requirements on Stradbroke. This is a State-wide problem, but that is no excuse because specific promises have been made by the politicians about requiring Sibelco to rehabilitate mine sites on North Stradbroke. 
The State Government could enforce rehabilitation obligations at the ‘Yarraman’ mine site if it wished. Unlike other situations, the mining company has not departed the area. It is still mining at the ’Enterprise’ mine, several kilometres down the Island. In 2011 expired mining leases were extended to allow mining to continue there until December, 2019.  But mining permission can be withdrawn by the State Government under the State's environmental laws. There is ample justification to take this necessary step if Sibelco does not promptly act to abide by its rehabilitation obligations. 

Island Conservation

In March this year a group of six FOSI members joined the Queensland Naturalist Club expedition to Lord Howe Island. As well as exploring the flora and fauna of this beautiful island we investigated the way in which the conservation challenges are dealt with. Our group undertook a series of strenuous guided walks and attended informative lectures conducted by Ian Hutton, naturalist and author of nature guides to Lord Howe.
This island’s spectacular mountainous landscape of volcanic origin, clad in vibrant green littoral rainforest surrounding a calm lagoon packed with coloured corals is everyone’s Pacific fantasy. Many unique and rare flora and fauna species inhabit the island including the Howea palm species, well known as Kentia palms and the endemic Woodhen, in recent years brought back from the brink of extinction, by cat predation, from 6 individuals to now 300.
Because of its position as the only land within a radius of hundreds of kilometres of open ocean, the island is a roosting and nesting spot for thousands of seabirds. Many of these pelagic species are rarely seen but abound on Lord Howe, including Providence Petrels, Kermadec Petrels (usually only spotted at Balls Pyramid, a tall, steep sided rock monolith 23kms SE of the island), Red-tailed Tropicbirds, White Terns, Black and Brown Noddies, Masked Boobies and Shearwater species.
In order to maintain the low impact nature-tourism industry the number of visitors is restricted to around 400 per week, walking is usual, cycling is common and motorised vehicles are few. The marvellous community museum showcases the island’s history and biodiversity and explains conservation challenges.
One of the greatest challenges for Lord Howe has been invasive feral animals. Brought by the first humans to inhabit the island (British settlers in the early 19th Century), pigs and goats were removed years ago and cats were phased out with a de-sexing program, a generational timeline for domestic cats and eradication of feral animals. Domestic dogs are carefully restrained by the few owners. Foxes were never introduced but ship’s rats took hold and have bred to the extent of an estimated current population of 70 000.
Four bird species have been driven to extinction by feral predation and various insects, snails, bats and plants have been impacted. The Lord Howe stick insect or Phasmid was thought extinct due to rat predation but a population was discovered at rat-free Ball’s Pyramid and is hoped to be reintroduced to Lord Howe when the rats have been eradicated.
To ensure preservation of the island’s Galapagos-like biodiversity a program to poison the rats has been pursued and is now intended to be ramped up with a new campaign. An incipient weed problem has been held back by ‘ecotourists’ themselves who have weeding included in their holiday program- repeat visitors are proud of their contribution.
There are lessons for Stradbroke from Lord Howe Island. This island would certainly benefit from traffic minimisation especially on our beaches and dunes where many shorebirds roost and nest. More walking and cycling tracks would help.
Low impact, small-scale, single level, cottage-style tourist accommodation set in natural gardens is a good recipe for any future development on Straddie – NOT multistorey blocks.
Feral animal control here needs to be ramped up with foxes and cats at the top of the list and the problems of cane toads, gambusia, common mynas and weeds recognised and dealt with.
Islands have a special magic that all Straddie lovers appreciate but they are also especially vulnerable to invasive species. Feral eradication should be a crucial factor in future conservation management of North Stradbroke Island.
Article by Sue Ellen Carew
Photo: Lord Howe Island, with Mounts Gower and Lidgbird by Richard Carew

Cyclone Side-effects

Ex-Tropical Cyclone Debbie led to rapid flooding of parts of southern Queensland and northern New South Wales in early April. Huge seas were whipped up off North Stradbroke Island and the inshore sea was contaminated by a plume of muddy water flowing north from the flooding rivers of SEQ and Northern NSW. Erosion at Cylinder Beach has led to the scouring of the beach with the swale washed away and water at hightide reaching the Cotton Trees. Flinders Beach has also suffered significant erosion while Frenchman’s Beach and Main Beach seem relatively unaffected.
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Cylinder Beach - 14 April 2017

2017 Glossy Black-Cockatoo Survey

A FOSI team will once again be participating in the annual SEQ Glossy Black-Cockatoo survey on Sunday 14 May. The Redlands survey is coordinated by Indigiscapes for the Glossy Black Conservancy, of which FOSI is a member.  On NSI last year, FOSI members recorded the largest number of these fantastic birds in the Redlands.  If you’d like to be part of this fun day searching for the beautiful cockatoos and their food trees please email FOSI at info@fosi.org.au.

Bus Shelter Poetry

Congratulations to the children and teachers of Dunwich State School for their poetry and artwork celebrating the island’s natural world now decorating many island bus shelters.
Artwork on Mooloomba Rd bus shelter, Pt Lookout

Nature Notes

Rare Sei Whale Spotted

Endangered Sei Whale
A Sei Whale (Balaenoptera borealis) was sighted off Point Lookout in late March. Staff at the Moreton Bay Research Centre identified the whale from a photo taken by a community member.  Sei Whales have been infrequently recorded in Australian waters. They are a type of baleen (or toothless) whale - slim and streamlined and thinner than a Humpback Whale, approximately 12–16m long when full grown and dark grey or blue-grey on their back and sides. The whale's name comes from the Norwegian word for pollock, a fish that appears off the coast of Norway at the same time of the year as the Sei Whale: both animals coming to feed on the abundant plankton that occurs at that time. Sei Whales are listed as Vulnerable under the Australian EPBC and Endangered by the IUCN. Like other whales it remains at risk from pollution, shipping strikes and entanglement in fishing gear and shark nets. However, it faces another threat, as although commercial whaling has been officially halted, endangered Sei Whales are targeted and killed each year in the North Pacific as part of Japan's ’scientific whaling’ programme for ‘research purposes’. In 2016, Japan announced that commencing in 2017 it planned to increase the number of Sei Whales hunted from 90 to 140!
Sei Whale
Credit - Screenshot via NOAA/FWS

Impressive Processions

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Mass of processionary caterpillars. This procession measured approximately 6m long. Pt Lookout April 2017
Imposing lines, reaching up to 10 metres in length, made up of thousands of ‘itchy grubs’ have been spotted around the island townships over March and April.  These hairy grubs are the processionary caterpillars of the Coastal Bag-Shelter Moth (Ochrogaster lunifer). The female moth lays her eggs at the base of a wattle tree – on the island usually a Black Wattle (Acacia concurrens) in late October/November. The eggs hatch into tiny caterpillars which go through a series of moults until they are ready to travel together - following each other head-to-tail - up into the wattle tree’s canopy to feed on the leaves. At the end of the day the caterpillars return to their nest – a brown,stocking-like nest of silk which gradually fills with their droppings and cast skins. By late April/May the caterpillars now fully grown are ready for the next stage of their life – they crawl away in processions to find a suitable spot to burrow into the ground where they form a chamber made of soil and a silk made from their long irritating hairs in which they spend the winter. In spring the caterpillars pupate and the adult moths emerge, flying in the late afternoon and early evening. The moths only live a few days and do not eat at all.  
As many of us learnt from painful experience as children, all stages - eggs, caterpillars and adults - of Bag-shelter Moths have extremely irritating hairs and should never be handled. The long thin hairs are very brittle and lined with barbs which contain a protein that causes painful itchy rashes and for some particularly susceptible people severe dermatitis and allergic reactions. Definitely a case of look, but don’t touch!
For further information about this fascinating-if slightly frightening insect–the Qld Museum has an excellent Fact Sheet on Bag-shelter Moths and Processionary Caterpillars on its website.

Have you considered making a donation to support FOSI’s work?

Friends of Stradbroke Island relies on the generosity of our members to fund our work.
All donations made to the Environment Fund are tax deductible. It is easy and secure to make a donation by bank transfer. Your donation will help fund our ongoing public information campaigns and support relevant scientific research affecting North Stradbroke Island on issues such as environmental damage caused by land clearing, sand mining, hydrological changes, plastic and feral animals.

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