A member’s Story

A Voice for Members
by David Klessa

We have been members of Land for Wildlife for nearly 8 years and remain committed to the broad objectives of ‘caring for country’ (aspects of which I shall return to later in this article). Having the sign on our gate is not so much a badge of honour, although we feel privileged to be members; rather, for us at least, it is a statement that we consider wildlife conservation and the protection of habitat to be a responsibility we have in choosing rural residency and lifestyle in the Top End. Not that we would have taken our responsibility any differently had we not joined Land for Wildlife; weed eradication, toad control and general upkeep would have continued as before but shared experience and the enrichment it brings by being members would have been missing.

Bird life

Retirement brings the advantage of more time at home to observe but, paradoxically it seems, less time for upkeep (falling energy levels!). We certainly saw new visitors to our place this year and our bird population was more diverse and greater (with the notable exception of magpie geese). Over the last 10 years or so, a section of our property has hosted hundreds of magpie geese generally from late October until late December which night roost in the tops of mature E.tetradonta and provide the safest spots. Watching them land in flocks at dusk is fun because it resembles a car dodgem show because it inevitably leads to bump offs and much noise. But there were much fewer this year and they left in late November. With the wetter start to build-up this year on top of our third highest annual rainfall last year, I suspect the floodplains have provided an earlier yield of wild rice and Eleocharis for grazing.

Amongst the newcomers was a pair of raptors and juvenile (grey wing feathers). One of these magnificent adults is shown in Photo 1 perched on our upstairs verandah rail. We think it is a Collared Sparrowhawk -can anyone confirm?

We have also been delighted to have a nesting pair of Rainbow Pittas for the first time. They seem to like the area around our pool which is densely shaded and has copious leaf litter under the tree canopy where they have built two nests (Photo 2). It’s fun watching them hopping about collect sticks and leaves for nesting with the size of the bundle in their beaks often dwarfing their heads – or is it only the male that collects and builds the nest? – can anyone help?

At the bottom of our drive, last month, we saw the arrival of a flock of around 20 Crimson Finches which spent time alternating between pandanus trees and a conveniently located puddle that served as a bird bath. We haven’t seen them for some years, so it was pleasing to have them visit us.
Weeds
Dealing with weeds at near ground level might be relatively straight-forward –  albeit hard work and, at times, back-breaking but what if the weed dwarfs all other surrounding trees rising to well over 30 m and throws out suckers which extend as far as 50-100 m from the parent tree. Yes, sounds like a nightmare and it has been with the presence of an African Tulip tree which was planted before we bought our property 20 years ago.

Photo 1: Mature Collared Sparrowhawk (?), February 2017 (© Meera Klessa)

Photo 2: Rainbow Pitta nest, December 2017

Not only does it have an incredibly high growth rate in the tropics (ie of up to 5cm in trunk diameter/year), their wood is spongey, weak, and prone to break in storms. There are also reports that the pollen of their attractive flowers is poisonous to wild bees. Under Queensland legislation (Biosecurity Act, 2014) the African Tulip tree is classed as a restricted invasive plant. If it has not been banned for sale or planting in the NT, it ought to be.
So, this year with time on her hands, we decided to act and were spurned on by meeting the tree surgeons who so aptly demonstrated their skills at the nesting box programme organised by Emma and Land for Wildlife earlier this year. The tree was duly felled in June and it was great to watch these guys working with crampons, rope, and chainsaws. All the wood was retained on site and placed to provide habitat/refuges for wildlife. The trunk was sawn to near ground-level and treated with glyphosate which has been successful in killing the root system of the parent tree. Before and after shots are shown in Photos 3 & 4.

Photo 3: Before

Photo 4: After (beer drunk purely to demonstrate scale)

A Voice for Wildlife and Self-Help

I am sure I share the sentiments of Land for Wildlife members when I say that I was disappointed to learn about how devastating the fires around the Berry Springs/Darwin River areas were this year and how hard work in establishing and conserving habitat (and nest boxes) can be so easily destroyed and undermined by repeated annual hot fires. It is unacceptable that some members experienced damage to their properties and wildlife conservation by trespass. Likewise, it is intolerable that some cat owners should choose to allow their pets to roam freely with the resulting devastation to wildlife everywhere but especially on neighbouring Land for Wildlifeproperties. Lack of weed control by some land owners continues to cause problems to some of us but also to the greater environment.

I do not believe ‘the voice’ in support of wildlife conservation and everything associated with good decision making in land use planning, and sustainable practices in land management, is strong enough. However, I want to quickly add that ‘the voice’ should not come from Land for Wildlife itself, but from us……it needs to be ‘our voice’ as individuals, as an independent group, including non-members who also share our values and objectives. Land for Wildlife, as an organisation relying upon government funding, cannot do that job for us, and must not.
I have always been struck by how successful other interest groups such as the fishos and hunters have been, and continue to be, in putting forward their views and in fighting issues that might affect their lifestyles in pursuit of their interests. They gain media time and attention. We simply don’t.

So, I would like to propose a meeting of like minds, should they exist! I would be delighted to organise a meeting in February/March 2018 at which we might discuss the concept of self-help and its development, but I suggest we would need a quorum of at least 10 attendees to get the ball rolling. If you are interested, or simply want to comment, please send an email to humptydooer@hotmail.com marked ‘Self-help’ in the message title.

Have a great holiday, and all the best in the New Year.

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Regrowing land for Wildlife walk and workshop

Troy and Peter have been working on the 5 acre property in Leanyer over the last 2 years to restore it to native habitat, complete with beautifully landscaped paths using found rubble from the property. They also salvaged fill from construction sites and have planted over 500 plants. This hasn’t been easy and has involved a lot of hard work, removing vast amounts of Coffee bush, grassy weeds including Gamba and Mission Grass and concrete rubble; in fact many of the large native trees including beautiful Ghost gums and Milkwoods were only discovered on removal of the Coffee Bush.

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The 500 plants were mainly grown at the Greening Australia nursery but Pete and Troy have also been growing many plants themselves after attending propagation workshops, with successful acacias and native peanut trees popping up from the seed of trees planted just one year ago!

The difference in one year is incredible, with plants being planted with assistance from the Green Army in December 2016 and December 2017.

 

IN December during a guided walk and talk, a group of 16 people, including those also involved in the replanting program enjoyed a walk and landholder story. This was followed by seed collecting and propagating workshop by the pool and landholders got to practice and take plants home.

Last Photograph by Tissa Ratnayeke (NT Field Nats)

Green Army Graduation

8000 trees have been planted for wildlife!
5000 trees were planted in the wet season 2016-2017 and now 3000 more have been planted so far this wet season on Land for Wildlife properties with more to be put in the ground over the next few weeks. 
The plants are grown by the Greening Australia plant nursery, that were chosen as a food source or habitat plant for the endangered Black-footed tree-rat (Mesembriomys gouldii), an NT native rodent which has been in decline over the last decade, and have been planted on over 20 participating Land for Wildlife properties which have cleared or degraded land. These properties are found in Darwin, Howard Springs, Humpty Doo, McMinns Lagoon and Darwin River.

The program is assisted by the Green Army who have collected seed, propagated plants and planted them, as well as doing some weed management on properties involved in the enhancement program.

In August our 3rd Green Army team joined up and helped the program and landholders, with some familiar faces returning!
The team learn to collect seed for the project

Shay sorting seeds

The last day of planting for the year

At the graduation

Meeting the Black-footed tree-rat at the Territory Wildlife Park
I wish all our participants the best for the future and that all our trees grow and propser and support the Black-footed tree-rat and other wonderful creatures

Here are some Thank you notes from our members- 
Hi Gang,
Just wanted to say a huge massive thank you for all your hard work over the last 3 days on my property. I have embarked on a huge job, the weather has been very hot and humid but you have turned up every day and planted, mulched and water the plants with out complaining. Over 700 trees were planted so well done. If I can you give you one piece of advice on buying a property. Do not buy a cleared block, it’s way too much  work. buy a natural block.All the best for the future. I hope you find your dream job and thank you once again for your hard work.
Muchly appreciated
Jodie and Chris

I would like to say THANKYOU for your fantastic contributions, not only to our block in your help with mission grass eradication, but your efforts across the top end. Don’t underestimate the value of your hard work and sweat! It is these efforts that have a lasting impact on ensuring high biodiversity in flora and fauna here in the NT.
Whether you choose to continue in the field of land management or completely different endeavours in the future, the skills and knowledge you have gained can be used, built upon and shared with others around you to the benefit of our natural environment. I wish you all the best.
Gaia

Please pass on our thanks and best wishes to the Green Army Team.
Their work at  Leanyer Drive is really appreciated.
All plants are still alive from earlier this month.
Pete
I also would like to thank the green army for there dedication and commitment to community and the environment. Thank you Emma and the Land for Wildlife team for your tireless work. It is always appreciated in the rural blocks xx
Cathy
Lakeside Drive Community Garden wishes to thank the Green Army for planting and watering the native trees at our site this year. We appreciate your hard work, professionalism and enthusiasm. We look forward to seeing the trees grow over the wet and maybe even spotting a Black-footed tree rat. Best wishes for 2018.
Georgia Glen

TNRM conference

Land for Wildlife Coordinator (Emma Lupin) presented at 2 forums over the TNRM conference-

Among some amazing presenters with a focus on mammal decline our Land for Wildlife programs were represented at a forum, we presented on the Black-footed Tree-rat and our programs to assist awareness and habitat enhancement.

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There was even a visit from our great friends at the Wildlife Park

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About Gamba grass and the trials and triumphs of landholders in the program

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We are continuing to work with the PEW trust with their focus on Gamba management.

Bird Watching Walk and Plant Propagation Katherine

We spent some of bird week in Katherine, and Mick Jerram, Land for Wildlfie member and well renowned bird specialist hosted a Bird Watching tour on the 888 hectare Gorge Road property that he helps manage. A beautiful group of around 20 Katherine locals joined us to check out the property and birds.

We have been working together with Clare Pearce from Katherine Landcare group, who also double as Parks and Wildlife Community engagement officer. While we were there we also jointly hosted a plant propagation workshop and signed up another wonderful property on Gorge Road to Land for Wildlife, as well as checking nest boxes.


There are some fantastic residents down in Katherine with  more joining the program and we are looking towards a set up where Landcare Katherine can assist landholders in the region.
The Pickering family who have a wonderful property backing onto the Katherine River showed us their area of wildlife habitat and I showed Clare how we conduct an assessment. There are a few nest boxes on our properties in the area and we hope to run more events this year.

(Re)growing Land for Wildlife- Property Tour, walk, talk and workshop

Pretty shot .jpgLand for Wildlife members Peter and Troy have been working hard to re-grow wildlife habitat on their 5 acre property in Leanyer.

Peter and Troy

Come and share their landholders’ story of re-vegetating their block towards a beautifully landscaped wildlife habitat (from a previously big disturbed mess of Coffee Bush and grassy weeds). Be inspired by their hard work and also learn more about re-vegetation techniques, simple propagation techniques and the Black-footed Tree-rat enhancing habitat projects that Land for Wildlife are running.

Landscape view

Saturday 9th December

9 am- 11 am (or just after)

181 Leanyer Drive. An orange “Growing Towards Land for Wildlife” sign is on the gate.

Please park on the road. Dress ready for a short walk outside in the sun and bring a water bottle.

 

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A Green Army member, Anais and landholder Peter replacing any plants that did not make it through the dry season. Nov 2017.

Please RSVP if possible landforwildlife@greeningaustralia.org.au

Land for Wildlife Top End scoops 2 NT Environmental Awards

Land for Wildlife Top End scoops 2 NT Environmental Awards, for collaboration and “People’s Choice”- indicating that working together is a key to success and the program is greatly supported by members, partners and friends of the program. 

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Before I carry on I would like to say a huge THANK YOU to the supporters of the Land for Wildlife Top End program, members who are hard at work managing their land for wildlife habitat and all the partners who have made our programs possible, including the Territory Wildlife Park, Palmerston’s Mens Shed, Green Army, Leigh- Ann Woolley and the other scientists at RIEL and our funding partners.

 

I spent some days at the Territory NRM conference, giving a presentation about our Black-footed Tree-rat program alongside 7 other amazing speakers presenting on this subject. I also presented in a Gamba grass forum about our program and shared some great examples of Landholder victories as well as their frustrations.

At times when it can be disheartening working to conserve our native landscapes and inspire or  others, when there is a push for development and our natural environments often seem to be low down on the priority  list. It has been inspiring to attend the Territory NRM conference and see the work of some amazing people and organisations working in Land Management across the Northern Territory and I believe the strength we have is in working together and in collaboration. Our “People’s Choice” award was voted for by our members, partners, friends and supporters of the program. It obviously shows we have good support and is a great message, particularly to landholders and educational partners to keep up the great work.

Thank-you, Emma (Land for Wildlife Top End, program coordinator)

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With Land for Wildlife Landholders and managers in Humpty Doo sharing the award love

 

PRESS RELEASE

Land for Wildlife Top End has scooped up two environmental awards. The program was awarded “Australian Government Partnerships for Landcare” award in the NT Landcare Awards and “People’s Choice Award” in the Territory NRM Awards, where the program was a finalist in the “Collaborations in NRM”. The People’s Choice was voted upon by the public and our program was awarded it, we received huge support from members, partners and friends of the program. If anything this is a great message that the work of landholders and educational members is greatly appreciated, and the small amount of work by many is important, especially as Darwin expands and more bushland is developed. So keep up the great work, and we will keep telling the story and inspiring others. Let us spread the message to everyone that our native wildlife is important and amazing.

Land for Wildlife is a voluntary conservation program, supporting landholders to provide wildlife habitat through nature conservation, land management and promoting wildlife awareness and education. Land For Wildlife Top End is managed by environmental NGO Greening Australia. The program is run throughout different regions in Australia, managed by various organisations.

A growing number of landholders are joining the program which already has a diverse group of over 250 member properties covering 8,000 hectares of land in the greater Darwin region and into the Katherine area. The program has been expanding its work with other organisations to enhance land management outcomes with its members, to inspire and engage the greater community to appreciate and conserve wildlife and to mutually benefit other organisations. The power of collaboration enhances the overall effectiveness of habitat conservation and wildlife awareness objectives in the Top End utilising field experts to provide educational workshops and projects to engage landholders.

A recent focus on the enhancement of habitat for arboreal mammals, particularly the black-footed tree-rat has helped landholders and educational members install 150 nest boxes and plant over 5000 plants as food and habitat to provide benefits to this endangered species. Collaborators in these programs have included the Green Army (through Conservation Volunteers Australia), The Palmerston’s Men Shed, Researchers from RIEL at Charles Darwin University, specialists at the Department of Natural Resource Management, The Territory Wildlife Park, Remote Area Tree Services, Bush Fires NT and NTFRS, Landcare NT and of course the many landholders involved, including 3 primary schools, a reserve, and a Scout Camp.

The program is supported with some funding from Parks and Wildlife Commission Northern Territory and more recently has been able to carry out focused programs on enhancing habitat for the threatened Black-footed Tree-rat, installing nest boxes and planting trees with Land for Wildlife members with funding from Territory NRM and the Federal Government’s 20 Million Tree Program.

Land for Wildlife Top End was awarded for its collaboration with its landholders and partners with the ‘Australian Government Partnerships for Landcare Award’ for the program (NT Landcare Awards), as well as the “People’s Choice Award” in the Territory NRM Awards, in which the program was a finalist in “Best Collaboration in NRM Award”.

“These awards are a real acknowledgement of the work and key role our dedicated members play. It is ultimately because of them that Land for Wildlife is such a success. This program is a great example of how collective impact can achieve real and lasting change, and is well supported by landholders, partners and friends of the program” says Emma Lupin, Land for Wildlife Top End coordinator.

Land for Wildlife Top End is becoming increasingly important as wildlife habitat around Darwin is lost to development and remaining tracts of key native habitat is owned by private landholders.

Greening Australia is seeking additional funding to expand Land for Wildlife Top End to meet the growing demand.

For more information contact Emma Lupin, coordinator of the program at Greening Australia on landforwildlife@greeningaustralia.org.au or 0448 214 716.

(And congratulations to Land for Wildlife Central Australia, run through environmental consultants Low Ecological Services, who also received a Landcare award for “Best Community Group” in the NT Landcare Awards)

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At the Awards night with Land for Wildlife Central Australia. L to right- Land for Wildlife member Jo-Anne Scott, Land for Wildlife Top End Coordinator Emma Lupin, Land for Wildlife project officer and coordinator, Candice and Caragh from Alice Springs.

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Photograph from Territory NRM Award night.

 

 

 

Voluntary Conservation for Top End Native landscapes