Field Trip August 2013

Bernice Cohen

After a weather-induced postponement in June, the Friends of Mound Springs 2013 field trip finally hit the road on August 5th. The main purpose of the field trip was to look at possible strategies to manage springs and their vegetation communities. There was a particular focus on the proliferation of Phragmites around those springs that have been fenced to exclude stock. The observations made on this field trip will provide valuable input into an Natural Resources SA Arid Lands project that will investigate management strategies for South Australia’s mound springs (see above item). The field trip also provided FOMS with an opportunity to meet and discuss springs management with pastoral lessees and managers.

Of course, the trip also allowed us to spend time in some of the world’s outstanding landscapes and the privilege of viewing Aboriginal rock etchings and the great Palthiri Pithi grindstone quarry. In addition, we were able to commune with some of our wildlife – particularly the flies, but also the occasional bearded dragon, dingoes, emus, a lonely kangaroo or two, galahs, corellas and an occasional wedgie. At least one of us developed some affection for the Brahmin and Brahmin-cross cattle taking advantage of recent rains and green pick on Anna Creek Station. At night under the universe’s outstanding night skies, we had the opportunity to gaze into gidgee and coolibah fires, while occasionally savouring a nip of amber fluid.

Margie Barnett, Bernice Cohen, Colin Harris, Colin Greenfield and Bruce Gotch at Billa Kalina
Margie Barnett, Bernice Cohen, Colin Harris, Colin Greenfield and Bruce Gotch at Billa Kalina

Colin Harris, Simon Lewis, Bernice Cohen, Margie Barnett and Bruce Gotch made the trip through Billa Kalina, into Anna Creek, The Peake, Nilpinna and Allandale. We visited many springs, including Billa Kalina, Frances Swamp, Big Perry, the Fountain, Twelve Mile, Outside Springs, Big Cadna-owie, Old Nilpinna and Tarlton.

We met Colin Greenfield of Billa Kalina who has voluntarily fenced some springs. He showed us a spring that has a proliferation of Phragmites. No more than 100 metres away within the same exclosure, is a second spring with no Phragmites. Colin’s view is that this represents differences in water quality. He showed us other springs that cattle have access to. One of these has been trampled and polluted, but nevertheless has a diversity of vegetation, pools of clear water and is generally very attractive.

In addition, we caught up with Jodie and Nathan Keogh, managers of The Peake and had useful discussions with them about springs and general pastoral management.

Several interesting observations were made at the springs inspected by the group. Most still showed significant growth of Phragmites but, at the Fountain and Outside Springs, there was just a hint that the Phragmites in the main vent may be dying out, with open water observed at both locations. Progress at these springs will be watched with particular interest. At Twelve Mile, recent cattle intrusion has impacted upon the Phragmites, but there is fresh growth of bulrush, Typha, at the top vent.

At Old Nilpinna, the fenced spring has virtually ceased to flow and this seems to be the result of evapotranspiration associated with prolific bamboo growth. Just outside the fenced area, another spring is flowing well and supports a large wetland. Tarlton Spring, nestling in a beautiful setting in the foothills of the Peake and Denison Range, remains almost dry. Tarlton Spring is not an artesian spring as such, but a discharge spring from the adjacent ranges. We half expected a reasonable flow at Tarlton following recent good rainfall years but this was not to be. This may just be a factor of the time taken for seepage from the range to manifest at the spring.

In general, springs that had been fenced showed significant growth of Phragmites and little or no open water. Springs exposed to cattle had significant trampling and fouling, but some of these had a range of plant species, and none were clogged with Phragmites. Clearly fencing on the one hand and grazing on the other both create their own set of management issues.

Decisions on preferred future management regimes will depend to a large extent on the value the community places on criteria such as clear open water, plant diversity and rare or endemic plant and animal species.