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Weed Workshop for better Wildlife

 

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It really is fantastic that landholders are pledging to conserve and manage land as wildlife habitat, particularly as more land is subdivided and more people inhabit our rural areas and beyond. A lot of land is in the care of private landholders. Managing land and keeping it as beautiful intact vegetation to support a diversity of species is so rewarding, but not always easy. Management issues arise and the most commonly mentioned one on visits to new and existing member properties is that of weeds, shortly followed by fire, and often involving relations with nearby landholders.

Weed management is quite high up on everyone’s list, but can cause stress and aggravation. If you are busy, it may feel like a never ending task that you can’t get time to finish. It can be frustrating, particularly as negative energy is being targeted at plants, and if you love plants (I certainly do), that can be weird.  However weeds are plants out of place, this can mean different things dependent on the land manager’s perspective. If you are a pastoralist some “weed plants” may be seen as beneficial as they are food for cattle, so are not seen as weeds. Many other “weed plants” may be seen as food, medicine, or ornamentals that are beneficial to humans. If you are looking after land to keep its ecological integrity and support all wildlife species (plants and animals) and their interactions, then non-native plants that compete with natives and change the fire regime to degrade diversity are not welcome and are out of place.

The major weeds are grassy weeds that change the fire regime- with the highest priority to Gamba Grass. Mission grass comes in as another weed to tackle that can change fire regime and is very competitive and Rat’s Tail grass is now creeping up the list, but has not yet been declared. There are many other weeds which are highly vegetatively competitive and often are medium sized herbs. The most common seen on LFW properties are Snake Weed, Hyptis, Sida, Crotolaria, Neem and some other aquatic weeds when landholders have lagoons. We have some more info on our weeds page, and links to the  Weeds Branch website, which is very useful.

The idea of our Weed Workshop was to increase members’ weed awareness and ability to ID weeds, help participants access resources and assistance to aid weed management and allow members to share stories and strategies on weed management to assist one another.

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The main workshop was kindly hosted on Rod and Bhavini’s 9 acres (4 hectare) property in Humpty Doo. This property merges from Open Woodland into a Lagoon. The middle of the lagoon is 38 acre (17 hectare) zoned for conservation and managed by Litchfield Council. The landholders also own one neighbouring property and another LFW property is located across the north side of the lagoon. The majority of the host’s block goes underwater in a good wet season and its location backing on to the lagoon with minimal fencing gives it some great values in habitat connectivity, but also adds to the diversity of potential weed species.

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Over 30 Land for Wildlife members came along on this steamy Saturday morning to be involved. Some had some long term tried and tested weed strategies and others were new to the weeds found here, so a perfect balance to exchange information at a grass roots/ landholder level, as well as have a weed expert on hand.

We kicked of the session, after a quick intro, with members getting into small groups with people they had not met before to share where the property they managed was, what they loved about it, what weeds they had on it and how they felt about this right now. This is a bit like speed (weed) dating, but without the swapping over.

After this the host landholders took us on a tour of the property and familiarised us with some of the common weeds found on many rural properties and their management efforts, as well as pointing out some of the beautiful features.

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Rod purchased the property over 10 years ago and lived on it for several years, but then after marrying Bhavini moved to town and rented it out to friends, continuing to visit and stay on it to manage weeds (and monitor regrowth) The property had previously been mostly cleared around the house area, with some larger trees remaining and a huge infestation of Mission grass and some Gamba patches. Slowly after a lot of hand pulling and slashing, the wall of Mission grass on the margins of the lagoon started to disappear. An array of other smaller weeds continue to pop up in previously disturbed areas. Rod and Bhavini continue to come and stay at the property when no tenants are there to manage the weeds and enjoy the landscape. Rod works with Bush Tucker and Land Management projects in Arnhem Land.

Some top tips (from Rod and Bhavini)

  • Focus on manageable patches of weeds, put parameters or lines on an area and do not let weeds come back across the line and slowly progress through the chosen area. Maybe start with an area you can see, so you can feel good about it once weed free.
  • If you have any friends with some angry energy, maybe people just out of a broken relationship, get them to help out with the weed management (at the same time as perhaps offering refuge)- they can focus their energy on weed irradiation.
  • Use an integrated approach of hand pulling and spraying, where hand pulling is not efficient and there is a thick band of weed species and few natives that could be effected.
  • Keep consistently managing a focused weed area, rather than randomly trying to manage a large area. Prioritise which weeds and areas are the most important.
  • Come up with a plan after the weeds are gone to keep encourage native species, e.g. planting, mulching or seeding.
  • If renting out your property or away for a while for some reason, plan on some block amounts of time to come and manage weeds (before they go to seed or flower)
  • Look to weed management and hand pulling as a great work out, you can even include some funky stretches and dance moves to take it a step further.
  • Enjoy the beautiful bush and how you are helping it…

 

Some top tips from Emma

After our walk we looked over some of the weed species and their features. I highlighted the importance of getting to know your natives too.

  • If you learn to identify plants you can recognise them, like you learn to recognise different people from facial and body features. Look at growth habit, texture, smell of the leaves, leaf shape, flowers and fruit and bark if a larger plant.
  • If you get to know your native plants and what is likely to be found in the landscape naturally and not out of place, you can eliminate them and not mistake them as weeds
  • Often people find it hard to tell grass species apart an often some of our native vines are mistaken as weeds, particularly as they only appear and go crazy in the wet season. So get to know native grass features vs weed grasses. Native vines vs Weed vines

 

Grasses-

When flowering they are easy to tell apart, but before this it can be harder. Look at the clumping form of the grass, the blade shape, the leaf arrangement and the texture of the leaves, as well as colour and pattern.

Gamba grass is very hairy both sides of the leaf, it clumps from one wide base and has a distinct wide stripe down its leaves. The hairs are very distinct where the leaf separates from the stem and make a white fur. If the grass is second year (untreated) growth it will have browning inner leaves and dried flower stems.

A native grass that can look like last year’s Gamba is Heteropogon sp. as it also leaves similarly looking  dried flower stems of height. This grass however has a flat clumping base.

Native Cane grass can also be mistaken for Mission Grass as it has similar seed pods, but does not have a white stripe, or leaves that are as hairy.

Grass I D chart page oneGrass ID chart Page 3Grass ID chart page 2

Colopo, a climbing trifoliate weed also looks very similar to a native Desmodium species, but the weed has furry softer leaves.

A top tip to reduce weed presence is to minimise disturbance to an area. Weeds often occur along roadsides, where a house pad has been cleared, or where slashing or tracks have been made. Domestic animals such as horses or pigs also disturb the land and allow weed species to establish.

 

Weeds Branch assistance

After a great morning tea James Newman from weeds branch told us about the resources available for landholders.

There is a lot of information about how to make a weed management plan, including a guide and a weed management handbook, also weed decks. More info and links can be found here.There are some great pocket weed ID decks that everyone was given and also information on the Gamba Grass Eradication program and how get free glyphosate and application advice.

The weeds branch can also ID weeds, if you cannot ID them yourselves. You can send a photo to them, or to Land for Wildlife if you are a member.

James told us about the classification system which lists weeds in order of importance of threat to biodiversity. Anything in class A, should be reported to the weeds branch. 3 examples of these were bought by James so everyone could familiarise themselves with the weeds.

 

 

To wrap up, participants did some group work, sharing some top tips on weed management strategies, keeping positive and actions to take home.

Neighbours and working together

Working with neighbouring land holders is so important and weeds definitely cross boundaries, sometimes this can be pretty hard. On neighbouring land that has weed problems, offering to spray the fence line or a friendly chat about what you are trying to do and they have weeds is a good start.

Absent neighbours could be private landlords but also Vacant Crown Land or Council Land and reserve On Litchfield Council Land. These departments have stretched resources, but if a weed issue is pointed out and they are made aware that you are trying hard to manage your property for wildlife, they will try and send a ground team. Find the contacts on our weed page. You can check the landholder on NR Maps.

If you feel overwhelmed, you can organise working bees with other landholders, than swap and always throw in a fun barbeque and swim at the end. The nearer they live the better, this builds relationships and connectivity.

Helpex (Help exchange) is also a great program, where in exchange for food, somewhere to stay and snap shot of rural life on a beautiful bush block, travellers can help you with tasks for 4 hours a days.

Other properties visits

A few of the participants went on to visit the nearby Land for Wildlife property of Britt, who has been trying to get on top of her Gamba grass problem. She has had her property for just over 2 years and the previous owners had slashed most of the vegetation except large trees. The native vegetation is coming back, but along with large amounts of Gamba grass. This is a good example of how disturbance leads to weed infestations.

Britt has tried to keep on top of it by spraying it and has found it quite overwhelming. We shared some hints from the workshop, and in places the vegetation is coming back really well. We also gave out some native plants that can be planted in places that weed infestations have been overcome, to create shade and stop further re-establishment.

We also plan to have some more “Landholder walk and talks” on some properties of different sizes and in other locations, which will also cover weed management strategies, amongst other topics.

Thanks again to everyone for coming, to our hosts and to Weeds Branch.

 

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Land for Wildlife on the Sand Sheet

Last year Shayotte and Mark  pledged their little piece of paradise as Land for Wildlife habitat.

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We wrote a little of their story in our last newsletter-

Their property encompasses a large amount of the magical and fairy like Sand Sheet Heath. They have lived on this little bit of landscape for 15 years, which is 6.1 hectares (13.4 acres) and encompasses 4 hectares of Howard Sand Sheet and is adjacent to another large and beautiful section of Sand Sheet to the West of The Humpty Doo Golf Course. Shayotte and Mark love the Top End landscapes, and the incredible wildlife. They feel Humpty Doo is changing, with less people respecting the landscape and management issues include more wild dogs getting onto to their property. They have constant wonder for the plant and animal species, especially those in the Sand Sheet and have battled nearby properties who want to drain it – imagine that! A few years ago a hot fire burnt through which devastated them, but a lot of the Verticordias which were stumped for so long have flowered beautifully for the first time. I can’t wait to revisit in the wet and check out the flowering plants, particularly the Utricularias.

Verticordia

 

Shayotte walk

Verticordia blooms

 

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An Environmental Elder Leaves our Landscape

As the rain falls and new life flushes our wonderful landscapes a rich green colour, one special life has left our landscape. Here’s to Strider, an inspirational thinker, environmental activist, outspoken and quirky character and a friend to many.
I hope some of his incredible love for our native landscapes, plant knowledge and social justice lives on with others.
His detailed observations of changing seasons and ecological nuances of his home and the land he cared for underlined an in depth relationship that others can only aspire to. He was always dedicated to learning about the place we live and trying to protect it with a lust for life and people.

strides hat

May your onward journey be smooth and our landscapes continue to have people that connect with them and protect them and share their wonder with others.

Here’s to those who inspire and do not always conform.

 stride in bush

Strider acquainted me with numerous Top End plants and stories to go with them, he really was my first teacher of our amazing landscapes here in the Top End. I spent a lot of time in his company walking our landscapes with him, discussing, listening and enjoyed his insight and passion into life. I, as many others, were blessed to have his time and stories and observations. I hold with me some of these and hope I can remember them. I have so much respect that he stood up for what he believed in, and was never bent in to conform in certain ways that  many of us do; he observed so much with great intent. 

I was recently working with Strider to produce an article about observations and recent fire on his (Land for Wildlife) block which had not previously been purposefully burnt since 1979 to go into the Land for Wildlife Newsletter. I visited him regularly as he became unwell at the solar village, but amongst dinners and other conversations not all the details of the fire story are yet complete, but I will try my best for our upcoming newsletter and leave you with a couple more of the photos that were taken for the article and a few pearls of wisdom. 

Emma, Land for Wildlife Coordinator

 

 

Wildlife Encounters Workshop

 

Group shotJust recently the Land for Wildlife program hosted a members’ workshop in partnership with the Territory Wildlife Park  with a focus on wildlife, in particular mammals. Above are just some of the 37 participants we managed to grab at the end to pose for a photo. It was a really good day, where members got to meet each other, learn from some presenters, very experienced in wildlife handling or research and some of the animals themselves. The workshop was designed for land mangers signed up to the program to find out more about the mammals likely to be found on their properties, their habitats and food sources and how best to manage landscape for them.Agile Wallaby

It is well known that mammal (and reptile) numbers have declined in the region and across northern Australia. There is a lot of research carried out to find out exactly why, but there are some basic management practices that enhance habitat and protect fauna.

There are 50 species of mammals in the Darwin Region and over 80 species of reptiles, including lizards, snakes, turtles and frogs. Some of the most common mammals found in the Darwin region are the Agile Wallaby, the Common Brush Tail Possum and the Northern Brown Bandicoot and  the flying fox and other bats. Many mammals have decreased in numbers over the last 20 years including the Northern Quoll and Black footed Tree Rat.

The workshop started with a quick introduction to the Territory Wildlife Park and its function in environmental education and  conservation. The park actually encompasses more land than just the area in exhibits, which is vast anyway and encompasses many landscape types. The Territory Wildlife Park is a Land for Wildlife member and partner and has a focus on Wildlife education, housing an array of native Top End species within their natural setting.

Participants then took a lovely dry season stroll through the mixed woodland area, lined with Turkey Bush and into the woodland walk area which is home to many tame Wallabies that have been taken in after being rescued, often after being found in the pouches of mothers hit by cars. Park keeper Rob Mcgregor met us in the area and gave an informative talk about the mammals in the Top End , their distribution, behaviours and habitats, while some wallabies joined the discussion.

Rob talks too

Rob describes the behaviour of Wallabies in the enclosure (above). He stresses that one of the most important aspects to conserve Top End mammals is to conserve habitat, by managing woodlands well, eradicating weeds, keeping out frequent fire, which allows a mid fruiting layer to be prominent, which is an important food source for many mammals. Having corridors of intact landscape and reducing fragmentation is also important. So if you are managing an area for conservation, encourage neighbouring land managers to also conserve habitat and manage it well (and join Land for Wildlife!)

Most mammals are active at night, so the best way to spot them is by spotlighting. Even if you try some are shy and very small, so the next best way is to be able to recognise their scats. We looked at an array of samples and matched them to common mammals (and pests) found on rural properties. To see a copy of this, click here.

Poo dunnit LFW Member KAte Kilgour and her son examine mammal scats, an easy way of detecting what species are in the landscape. Kebin describes wildlife on his blockLand for Wildlife member Kevin Maxwell describes the behaviour of mammals on his property (with some great hand actions) and other members discuss mammals seen on their block.

Kernick After this great hands on (poo) activity, members exchanged stories of different species on their blocks and then Brooke Rankmore of Greening Australia gave a presentation.

Brooke had carried out a PHD in Land Fragmentation in The Top End. This was a few years ago, but she found that many mammal species were more plentiful in the rural area than in Kakadu at the time. Some of this she attributed to firebreaks and the absence of fire in areas in subdivisions.

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Brooke talks Brooke described the species of mammals that are now in decline and listed at an NT level. You can find that list here.  We are working on more fact sheets in Land for Wildlife that cover many more fauna species that are also more common.

Possum

All the participants then were lucky enough to have their own personal Territory Wildlife park guide through the nocturnal house to look at live exhibits of the mammals and some reptiles including The Black footed Tree Rat, the Water rat, the Northern Brown Badicoot and Common Brushtail Possum (pictured above in the hands of a volunteer).

Over some lunch everyone walked back through the woodland walk and was given a great tour of online resources that can help with land management. This was given by the very knowledgeable Brydie Hill who showed everyone the following-

NT Fauna Observations –  http://ntfaunaobs.nt.gov.au/

A site set up by The fauna division of DLRM that allows some “Citizen Science” and for landholders, or others to register and upload their native fauna sightings to the data base,. Here the records will be held and can be accessed.  To be involved you just need to set up a password and user name. If you would like more information contact us at Land for Wildlife or Brydie at DLRM.

Infonet  –  http://www.infonet.org.au/infonet2/

Infonet is a resource that has been developed with Territory Natural Resource Management and Charles Darwin University. It is a program that allows you to select an area of land on a map and generate reports about it. The reports can include as much or as little information as you wish on Soil, Flora and Fauna species, listed species, weed species, fire history and Wildlife Management. This is really quite easy to use, generates a useful and very professional looking report and is very useful for land managers. If you are interested in a small area of land (under 50 hectares) it is best to draw a larger boundary or give the area a buffer zone as the reports of species are made on held records and sightings which are not taken from every bit of land.

NR Maps –  http://nrmaps.nt.gov.au/

NR Maps is a mapping program holding different layers of Government information. If you like maps you will love this, although it is a little slow and you cannot hold your place yet. There is a side bar to the left which allows you to turn off and on different layers, including some vegetation, mining tenements and leases and Cadastre. Cadastre is who owns (or manages parcels of land). It will not tell you the name of private landholders, but will tell you whether the land is private, Vacant Crown Land, Pastoral or otherwise, how it is divided up and the size of each portion of land and its assigned portion number. This is really handy if you are wanting to know who is managing neighbouring land. If it is local council you can contact them with management issues.

NAFIhttp://www.firenorth.org.au/nafi3/

NAFI stands for Northern Australian Fire Information.

It allows you to track fires, look up fire history and fire scars and generate reports.  You can see when early or late fires are and the late ones (August on) are definitely not prescribed burning and detrimental to our landscapes and wildlife.

I hope these tools are useful and the information on mammals. Our next wildlife workshop series will focus on birds, insects and more reptiles. We would also like to encourage any members with knowledge to share this with others and help present some low key workshops or talks on there blocks. Get in touch!

Thanks again to all the amazing Territory Wildlife Park staff, including Damien, Rob,  Sarah and Jasmine and also presenters Brooke and Brydie.

Rob smilesDamien

Land For Wildlife NEWS

Check out our newsletter- it was released just before Christmas and has some fantastic stories from members or more.

If you haven’t seen it click below on the front page. TOP NOTES_final Dec  2014cover_Page_01There are heaps more great stories archived in the newsletter area of the website.

We look forward to more exciting happenings this year and new members!