All posts by emlupingsky

Back Yard Bird Count in Katherine

The Aussie Backyard Bird count is 23- 29th October this year.

We will be hosting a guided bird watching walk and talk on a very large Land for Wildlife property in Katherine this year. Mick Jerram, local tour guide and manager of the land will be guiding the walk.

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Photograph courtesy of Top End Tourism.

Join Mick Jerram of Gecko canoeing on a beautiful Land for Wildlife property for a bird watching walk with one of Katherine’s most experienced wildlife tour guides. Find out more about birds in the Katherine region the Land for Wildlife program. This is part of Aussie Backyard Bird Count (https://aussiebirdcount.org.au/) And YES Gouldian finches have been recorded on the property- you never know!

Directions- Drive towards Nitmiluk Gorge from the stuart highway. 20.3 kms on the right there is a small turn off which will be marked. Map and further directions to be added. PLease park opposite Maude Creek Lodge.

Please bring water, hat and boots/ good foot wear and binoculars. Share cars if possible and tell your friends. The walk is 1 km.

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Mick Jerram on the Land for Wildlife property.

For more information email elupin@greeningaustralia.org.au

And look at all the other events that you can get involved in that weekend –

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A New Top End Wildlife Book

As we all know Australia’s Top End is home to an amazing array of unique and rare wildlife, and many of Australia’s most iconic National Parks.

A new wildlife book has now been released by the Environment Centre NT.

LAND FOR WILDLIFE DISCOUNT – It usually sells for $60 direct from ECNT. You can purchase it for $55 if you are a Land for Wildlife member!

This is a user-friendly and comprehensive field guide to the animals that live in one of the world’s wildlife hot-spots and the places visitors can go to see them.

Wildlife ECNT Book

The easy-to-use full colour guide features 700 species of wildlife. With over 2000 images this is a photographic showcase of unpresented quality. Every species is illustrated by one to three images, depicting different colour forms, juveniles, in flight etc. Concise, detailed information covers distinguishing features, habitats, and distribution and conservation status.

Watching wildlife, an ever-increasing activity, is made easy with the sections on national parks and protected areas.

A range of experts contribute in depth information on topics of current interest, such as crocodiles and cane toads.

WildWatch- report your wildlife!

If you are living or visiting your “Land for Wildlife” property or out and about and see any unusual wildlife, we would love you to report it to WildWatch- an especially adapted citizen science application to record wildlife sightings!

Anything can be uploaded, but more useful are sightings of species that are listed threatened species, or species becoming less common.

This information helps understand wildlife and its distribution and is really important when it comes to planning and clearing applications. Scientists are of course out and about collecting data, but they cannot be everywhere.

SUBMIT HERE- (click the link or picture) 

www.wildwatch.nt.gov.au

Wildwatch page

If you are part of Land for Wildlife’s “Enhancing habitat” nest box program, then we (LFW) will submit anything recording on a nest box survey.

If you would like us to enter a sighting for you that we have a WildWatch account and can do it on your behalf- get in touch

Submit your bird, mammal, reptile and frog records here. All records will be entered into the N.T. Fauna Atlas. Fauna Atlas records can be accessed via NR Maps and the Atlas of Living Australia. Personal datasets of fauna observation can also be submitted to the Fauna Atlas by emailing you data to Biodiversity@nt.gov.au.

 

WHAT RAT IS THAT?

DON”T KILL RANDOM RATS!– The photograph below is a Black- footed Tree-rat (Mesembriomys gouldii). A dead one, accidentally killed by a resident in Howard Springs who mistook it for a Rattus rattus (our common introduced pest rat).

BFTR dead

Please pass on the message that before killing rats that you are think are pests- make sure that they are not our natives!

Rat-sack, snap traps and other methods do not discriminate! If you are unsure if you have natives then you can live trap and then re-release if they are.

Keeping pets (in particular dogs and cats) under control and not allowed out at night when these nocturnal animals are out and about eating fruit.

This is a juvenile rat (pictured above), but generally they are larger than our pest rat, with darker ears and black feet and their tail looks like it is dipped in white paint.

These gorgeous creatures are endangered and although seemingly common in the Darwin and rural area they are declining greatly in numbers elsewhere- so let’s look after them!

ENHANCE THEIR HABITAT (like in our member’s program) is always helpful- plan some more of  their favorite native fruit trees, and install nest boxes. In addition to try and retain, or begin to grow old growth trees that can harbor hollows by keeping any uncontrolled and hot fires out of your property and further landscapes.

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REPORT IF YOU SEE THEM
Many members and people in the rural area say they often see the Black-footed Tree-rat or that they live in an old car or roof.

If you can positively identify these fantastic rats and have seen them recently- then let everyone know. They are endangered and a lot less common further away from Darwin and the rural area. The more data on them the better.
Similarly any other species of native fauna, such as echidnas, sugar gliders and phascogales can be recorded.

You can upload your sightings of any native fauna species to the NT’s Wildwatch. Your sightings will be recorded in official records and be able to be viewed by others via NR Maps. Check out www.wildwatch.nt.org.au  

If you are in our nest box program and the species are in the nest box we will be submitting this information for you. 

Schools for Wildlife

We are delighted to be engaging schools in Land for Wildlife. Three schools keen to engage in wildlife awareness activities and enhancing habitat on their grounds are signed up to the program and taking part in our ‘Enhancing habitat’ for the Black-footed Tree-rats.

The schools currently involved are Howard Springs Primary School, Girraween Primary School and Milkwood Steiner School. All schools have received native trees that enhance habitat for the Black-footed Tree-rat and other wildlife who love fleshy fruits and nuts.

The Green Army and Emma (Land for Wildlife Coordinator) helped plant trees earlier in the year at both Girraween and Howard Springs schools and gave presentations to the classes.

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Land for Wildlife also has given the schools nest boxes and spent time at Milkwood Steiner, where they painted the boxes and then were helped to install them in their bushland area, where they will be monitored by students.

Getting boxes ready

 A class at Howard Springs School spent their whole term researching about the Black-footed Tree-rat and even held an information stall at Girraween Sustainability day.

The newly planted trees get watered in at Howard Springs. These initial trees have been planted as part of the 20 Million Tree Program, funded by the federal Government, along with 5000 other trees planted on Land for Wildlife properties this year.

Land for Wildlife will continue to work with the schools and assist with wildlife enhancement projects and information

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Workshop- Wildlife and Fire

Land for Wildlife hosted a Fire Workshop back in May with a focus on Fire and the effects on wildlife, particularly arboreal mammals.
The subject is of course complex and controversial but vital to the management of our landscapes and the ecology of our native species.
To try a give a balanced perspective we organised a very well known fire ecologist Alan Andersen to present alongside Natalie Rossiter on the findings of fire experiments that have been conducted over several years in bushland at the Territory Wildlife Park and then for participants to be given an insight into the effect of fire on Wildlife and landscapes from a land manager’s point of view with Andrew Spiers giving a walk and talk, who also has many years of land management experience from National Parks and teaching and observing in the field.  There are of course many other experts in fire and many studies and perspectives to consider.

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Over 20 people attended the workshop, including fire volunteer and land managers. They were shown the fire plots at The Territory Wildlife Park and then invited for a walk and talk on Andrew Spier’s property on the nearby Blackmore River flood plain. Greg Miles also attended and offered his perspective from being a long term ranger and Land Manager in Kakadu as well as managing his own Land for Wildlife property.

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Often it is perceived that there is too much fire in our landscapes in the Top End. Commonly there are fires started with insufficient knowledge of fire ecology and the effects of burning and many people start fires who are not undertaking planned fire management.  Many preventative “prescribed” burns are carried out to induce an early (dry season) cool burn rather than a later hotter “accidental” burn when winds are higher and fuel load is drier.
Gamba grass is a huge factor in affecting the fire regime. (see below). Fire management or regime involves the factors of frequency, patch size and shape burnt and fuel load (related to time of year) and conditions (dew point, wind etc. also related to time of year)
In Summary-
  • Savannah Landscapes have been shaped by fire over a very long time in Australia to be dominant in species with fire survival mechanisms that thrive with fire such as Eucalypts and grasses.
  • Riverine areas, Monsoon forests and wet lands are more sensitive areas of vegetation and frequent fire does not allow them to regenerate as a Savannah landscape does. Often as these landscapes are bordered by woodland there can be a knock on or edge effect.
  • Gamba grass is a considerable factor in adding to fuel load and curing only to burn later, when fire is hot and to intense for other native species to recover.
  • The fire experiments have found that burns on the same area of bushland every 4 years (early or even later on) creates greater biodiversity (Andrew Andersen)
  • The longer term ecological interactions of  species is the important factor that fire effects rather than the immediate effect on wildlife (Andrew Andersen)
  • Fire effects different species differently, there are some winners and some losers (Andrew Andersen)
  • Generally when fire is absent the tree layer becomes more mature and dense and fire sensitive species start to colonise, the grass layer reduces.
  • In the case of arboreal mammals, the absence of fire is favorable as mid-story fruiting plants, rainforest fruiting plants are more abundant as a food source and old growth trees stand for longer and harbour hollows.
  • It is very difficult to manage fire on a large property as there are many “wild fires” which are uninvited. Many flowering plants are lost when this happens on the floodplains.
  • It really is down to the land manager to decide how they shape the landscape they manage with (or without) fire
  • Greg Miles introduced the idea of wet season burning, which we may invite LFW members to learn more about later in the year, below is a short summary:
Wet Season Burning

by Greg Miles
Most land managers have adopted the advice of fire experts and been doing early dry season burning (EDS) for the protection of assets and to prevent destructive late season fires (LDS) later in the year.  While there are very good reasons to use EDS for this purpose, I would argue that what suites asset protection may not suit the natural ecology.  After 40 years of involvement in natural area fire management I have come to the view that EDS burning is cumulatively killing the woodlands of the Top End.  There is a mountain of circumstantial evidence to support this hypothesis, but it is contradicted in part by some research findings, especially CSIRO’s Kapalga Fire Experiment of the 1980’s.  But it is clear to me that frequent EDS burning promotes annual grasses, especially native speargrass.  Burning encourages more grassy fuel which encourages hotter burning which encourages more grass – ad infinitum.  Thus a “grass fire cycle” is created.  This cycle is improving the hunting success of cats and is slowly killing the pre-European ecology of the woodlands.  Add in Cane Toads and invasive African Grasses and you have the perfect storm.  But there is a way to break the grass fuel cycle.  In my view the solution is to reduce the amount of EDS burning and instead, dramatically increase the amount of early wet season burning (EWS).  Sure there are many practical problems with doing this, but they can be managed.  WSB is more intellectually demanding than EDS burning, but that should not be seen as a reason not to do it.  My prediction is that if land managers were to switch from EDS to EWS burning they would see a rapid turn around in the ecological health of the natural woodlands landscape.

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Trees for Wildlife- An update

 5000 trees have been planted on Land for Wildlife properties within our program to enhance habitat for the Black-footed Tree-rat
Over the wet season, mostly in January and February of this year we planted out over 5,000 tree species, 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.
The project is run in collaboration with the Green Army and this fabulous team of young people helped plant out on 20 Land for Wildlife properties. The team also collected seed, propagated plants, assisted in the nursery and helped Land for Wildlife members in the program with some weed management.

We had a wonderful wet season and so the plants were given a good start and watering in. Landholders have also signed an agreement to look after the plants, keeping them watered until established and working on weed and fire management within the areas.

Above: The grand kids of Land for Wildlife members Margi and Digby, help a Green Army team member plant new trees at Howard Springs.


The team after another full day of Tree planting with Land for Wildlife members.


Land for Wildlife member Shelly from Herbert happy to receive her plants to re-vegetate a previously under cleared area.


The Green Army team at work planting at another property in Howard Springs


Land for Wildlife member Vanesha helps the team plant at her Humpty Doo property
There are over 20 native plant species being planted, including the Red Bush Apple (Syzygium suborbiculare), Green Plum (Buchananaia obovata), Billy Goat Plum (Terminalia ferdinandiana), Pandanus (Pandanus spiralis)Planchonia careya and various Eucalypts and Acacias. This first property backs on to the Leanyer Swamp, some of which is set aside for conservation, making it a great wildlife corridor.

After 9 months of helping collect seed, propagate, care for plants and undertake nursery operations, the Green Army team met landholders and planted out the trees. The team learnt not only practical skills, but social ones too and they had the chance to hear the stories and see a snippet of the lives of many land managers and how they all interact and care for the natural world.