Citizen Science, On-ground

Languishing in lockdown? Try Landcare!

Living close to two ecological gems within urban Canberra was the inspiration for Julia Raine to establish two local Landcare groups – Friends of Flea Bog Flat and Friends of Gossan Hill

Volunteer with: ParkCare, Parks and Places

Contributed by: Julia Raine and Molly Folkard

Julia has lived in South Bruce for over ten years, but it was lockdown last year that prompted her to mobilise the nearby Bruce community to start conservation work in their local reserve and urban park, as well as learn more about their local environment.

Flea Bog Flat is a bush block south of Gossan Hill in Bruce, containing areas of box gum woodland and ephemeral wetlands.  Wanting to preserve the native vegetation close to their suburb, the South Bruce community successfully lobbied the ACT Government to protect the block in the early 2000s. It was this community effort which highlighted the natural values of the site, with residents compiling a diverse plant species list and identifying its rich birdlife.

The Friends of Flea Bog Flat was established as a Landcare group in mid-2020, one of the many Urban Parks and Places volunteer groups working on land managed by Transport Canberra and City Services. Prior to this in 2019, it began life as a heritage group, researching the remnant of the Old Weetangera Road which runs through the block and associated stories. 

Julia Raine. Photo: OCSE

Flea Bog Flat got its unique name from early European settlers because of its often-boggy conditions. The old roadway can still be seen today, as well as drainage ditches running along its eastern edge that continue to channel water away from the road. The group’s heritage research continues in collaboration with the Canberra and Region Heritage Researchers group.

Friends of Flea Bog Flat’s environmental work kicked off last September with a clean-up day which yielded a truckload of rubbish including some beer bottles from the 1950s. Since then, the group has been working hard to remove woody weeds, with support from the Parks and Places volunteer coordinators and their chainsaw.

Julia says ‘We’ve been amazed by the wonderful spring wildflower display at Flea Bog Flat – Early Nancies and Bulbine Lilies took their turn to flower, Yam Daisies and orchids have sprung up in odd spots, as well as Chocolate and Fringe Lilies’. Flea Bog Flat has also impressed the birders, with the Canberra Ornithologists group holding its first bird walk on the site in February enjoying the sights and sounds of wrens, finches, silvereyes and weebills.

Weebill. Photo: Raw Shorty

The group was especially pleased to have been successful in this year’s ACT Environment Grant round.  The Grant project will support the Friends of Flea Bog Flat to protect and restore the site and inform ongoing conservation actions. The Friends will bring in expert support to prepare a Biodiversity Management Plan which will identify areas of high conservation value and prioritise options for future volunteer activities to maintain and improve the health of the woodlands and riparian areas. The project will also involve training for volunteers in plant identification and monitoring. It will enable the group to identify where to focus their efforts and to really make a difference.

Julia also restarted the Friends of Gossan Hill ParkCare group after a long pause since the 1990s. It is made up largely of local residents, including a few of the original members! She proudly lists the diversity of work the group have done so far, from weed management to running guided walks for the community to discover more about local flora and birdlife.  

 ‘It’s wonderful to open people’s eyes up to different things in the environment. People are more likely to understand why they should stay on tracks and trails if they learn more about the Reserve and its amazing floristic diversity.’

With many of the group enjoying this small reserve for their daily exercise, they’ve been able to keep an eye on weed patches that need attention and notify the PCS rangers about fallen trees and other issues of concern.

Julia doesn’t have a background in ecology but is quick to draw on the skills and knowledge of other group members and reach out to her local environment volunteering community and Ginninderra Catchment Group staff.

‘I am very grateful to the many local Landcarers who have offered me their time and shared their knowledge of the environment. They’ve always been willing to offer help and advice’. 

The Friends of Flea Bog Flat has already enlisted the help of local groups, with Friends of Grasslands helping update the species list, the Canberra Ornithologists Group undertaking monthly bird surveys, and the Friends of Gossan Hill organising local experts to lead wildflower and bird walks.

The story of Flea Bog Flat and Gossan Hill shows that when a community take an interest in an area of land, they can work to protect it. With the right approach, anyone can contribute to better management and conservation of Canberra’s green spaces, regardless of their background.