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PLEG Annual Picnic 6th January 2019

PLEG’s annual picnic for 2018 was held on Sunday 6th January 2019

Our picnic/BBQ was originally planned for Sunday 16th December but this was cancelled due to the deteriorating weather forecast. It was considered that in the event of forecast heavy rains the access track would be muddy and slippery. Also, old growth woodlands are unsafe in thunderstorms due to the possibility of falling trees and branches. The warnings indeed proved true to the dramatic predictions as heavy rains and wind hit at about lunch time. The planned BBQ was also cancelled considering the dryness of the Forest and as summer is now quite advanced. A picnic was considered more appropriate instead, due to the dryness of the Forest and the advanced summer.

Fourteen people participated in the picnic, including Frances, Irene, Rosemary, Loraine & Simon, Bronwyn, Tom, Annabelle and Evelyn, Pam and Mick, David (PPW CMA) & his daughter Alexis, and Daryl.

After lunch we decided on a walk in the Forest. We decided to see if we could find the Koala that regularly visits the water trough at night. Lorraine offered a reward of $20 to whoever found the Koala. The three kids immediately took off into the bush searching for the Koala. After about half an hour the adults went for a walk in the bush. As we approached the old eagles’ nest Lorraine called out: “I found the Koala, I get to keep my $20!” 

The Koala was seen high in a tree, looking puzzled by the attention. Its small size meant that is was probably the same Koala that often visits the water trough near the Green Shed. 

We noted the water trough that is a hotspot for wildlife activity. This water trough, initially placed to provide water for livestock, is irresistible to native wildlife also. The water has been provided in the forest as livestock are brought in to graze from time to time for environmental purposes. Sheep are introduced to control exotic annual weed grasses in spring, grazing them before they set seed. This also prevents the proliferation of spring-flowering exotic annuals from becoming a fire hazard later in summer. The water trough provided for livestock also provides water for thirsty native wildlife. An example of pastoral activities complementing protecting the native environment. 

Numbers of birds come to drink here during the day. These include Eastern Rosellas, Galahs, White Cockatoos, Noisy Miners, White-plumed Honeyeaters, Magpies, Magpie Larks, Mynahs, Starlings & a Kookaburra. Curiously no Corellas seem to visit the trough. By night the water point is visited by Brush-tailed Possums, a Koala, sheep and the occasional Kangaroo. The occasional Boobook Owl also visits to bathe in the water on hoy nights. We have an impressive collection of wildlife photos, taken by our camera, both night and day. 

Simon noticed a small native bees visiting plates of food. Bronwyn observed the tiny bee flying into a small hole in the ground beside the picnic table. She also observed that they resembled the small Homalictis bees that burrow into her patio in Bacchus Marsh. At times they seemed to black the entrance to the burrow with their heads. However they appeared somewhat larger (8mm) than the ones seen in her patio (5mm). Several bees were observed returning to the burrow with pollen beneath their ‘elbows’. Swags of yellow pollen could be attached to their sides, beneath their wings, in a similar manner to the Homalictis bees in Bacchus Marsh. Unfortunately they were too quick for the camera, which managed to capture the burrow entrance but not the actual bees.

Ken Walker wrote in June 2015, when he identified the Bacchus Marsh bees as Homalictis: ‘There is only one group of native bees in Australia that carry their pollen load on the underneath of their abdomen (as shown arrowed below) – most carry pollen on their legs. ‘This abdomen pollen carrying group belongs to the Family Halictidae & in the genus Homalictus. ‘ https://natureoutwest.wordpress.com/…/native-bees-homalict…/;