It was a warm overcast morning as the Reefcare group eagerly met for the first session of 2024. Today was forecast to be hot and humid, so we were well pleased to be greeted by a sea breeze and clouds to keep us cool. Also present was a huge ocean swell, which brought in surfers and onlookers, adding a vibe of energy and excitement to the morning.
Many bird spotters were also arriving, drawn by the presence of siberian sandpipers, ruddy turnstones and red-necked stints on the exposed foreshore. It seemed like Long Reef was the place to be this Saturday morning.
We were keen to start work before it got hotter, and keen to see how the site looked after the Christmas break.
As we walked down the track past the resident fairy-wrens, we spotted a blue-tongue lizard, basking in the open, seemingly unperturbed by all the birders, surfers, visitors, and bushcarers! We gently removed some asparagus fern nearby, without disturbing her morning sunbath.
Des, Brad, Merrilyn and Gen stayed on the high slopes as usual, tackling the asparagus fern and any new growth of Bitou, while Julie stayed on the fence line, removing the asparagus fern that was encroaching from higher ground. She also noticed that the asparagus ferns were dropping very small red berries, unlike the larger mature ones that are normally seen, and she did her best to collect these as well. Meanwhile, further down the slope, Lisa got to work on the fleabane, asthma-weed, and bidens before moving onto asparagus fern on the slope.
John and Alex were charged with inspecting the “nest” (an area surrounded by a ring of coastal rosemary). Armed with mattocks, they went to check on the turkey rhubarb infestation, which we had worked so hard to eradicate. The good news was that there were only two small rhubarb plants, which were easy to remove. Hoorah! The bad news was that the area had been taken over by blackberry nightshade, which was full of berries! Boo! So Lisa, John and Alex carefully removed these with an easy pull to the base of the plant and bagged the whole lot, trying to avoid dropping any berries. The rest of the area was looking good with Kennedia covering most of the nest.
Further down towards the sea are some very exposed and visible native Lomandras, that are infested with the noxious weed: turkey rhubarb. Previous attempts to remove it without damaging the Lomandras had failed. After wide consultation by Lisa, it was decided that glyphosate would be the best option, so our expert Kathy performed the scrape-and-paint operation, and also kindly showed other group members the technique.
The cooling breeze continued and by morning tea we took a well-earned break to catch up with what everyone had been doing over Christmas and New Year. We chatted about native bees, while enjoying Calippo ice-blocks which John kindly brought along and had kept in a bag of crushed ice under the Westringia. Paragliders sailed overhead, making the most of the onshore breeze, as did the usual ospreys, and even a pelican decided to do a bit of slope-soaring, gliding gracefully over us as we relaxed. Meanwhile, Brad examined a snail shell that Lisa had found near the track. It is a good chance that it is another specimen of the rare Maroubra woodland snail.
After morning tea, we continued working, as welcome swallows flitted around, picking up insects on the wing, and more paragliders arced overhead as the onshore breeze picked up. Kathy and Lisa removed non-native pigs face from the eastern dune and the top of the Southern hill, while Alex and Josh worked on the Western side of the site.
Thank you, Lisa, Des, Julie, Kathy, Brad, Merrilyn, Gen, Josh, Alex, and John – It was a productive and lovely morning.
Text by John Isles