Category Archives: wildlife

Top End Wildlife- Children’s Books- The Quoll

We have some very talented artists and story tellers in the Top End, and what better way to get the next generation to value our wildlife and landscapes and the connectivity between species,  than to intrigue and educate them through books, here is just the first of  a few great titles that we will feature.. .

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Sandra Kendall, Darwin resident and artist has written several books with a focus on loving our landscapes and the wildlife within-
My main aim is providing accessible images and stories for children about native wildlife to entertain and educate. The last couple of books have focused on urban wildlife to provide stories that Top End kids can claim particular affinity with with the hope that in turn this will stimulate interest in other local species. 

My first book “Quoll” (published by Windy Hollow Books 2008) was inspired by the Island Ark Project, a collaboration between Biodiversity North, The Territory Wildlife Park and The Gumurr Marthakal Rangers aiming to preserve a healthy population of Northern Quoll on offshore islands as the arrival of Cane Toads in Top End was pushing the species to the brink of extinction. The story of one quolls plight is told from the animals point of view as she tries to save her family from the Cane Toad ‘invasion’.

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(Scientific information about the Northern Quoll for the book was kindly provided by Dr John Woinarski in the info pages following the narrative)

The Northern Quoll (Dasyurus hallucatus) is a mammal native to northern Australia which weighs 300g- 1000g and has prominent white spots on its fur. It is carnivorous and eats a range of invertebrates including reptiles. It’s habitat is hollow logs, tree hollows and rock crevices.  

The Northern Quoll is listed as critically endangered in the Northern Territory and is listed as endangered within Australia as a whole. It has been recorded as rapidly declining in numbers over the last few decades. This decline is largely attributed to the introduction and spread of cane toads but also is affected by frequent and late season burning, which causes habitat loss.

In the Northern Territory the quoll is  restricted to the Top End. To assist its recovery private landholders can implement a Cane Toad eradication  program, prevent the loss of habitat, particularly tree hollows by protecting landscapes from hot fires and even create and place tree hollows with the property.


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For more information a fact sheet can be found here https://nt.gov.au/__data/assets/pdf_file/0005/205475/northern-quoll.pdf

The Connection of Seasons

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The connection of seasons
by Di Lucas, Land for Wildlife member and local author
It is Yegge, the seasonal name given to this time of year, by the Gun’djehmi speaking Aboriginal people of Kakadu and Western Arnhem Land.  It is the time of year when the climate starts to cool down, the humidity should drop soon and the nights will be noticeably cooler.  Wattles bloom, filling the air with a thick blossom scent.  Unfortunately for some people wattles bring sneezles!  I’m not one of those people, I like to peer into the flowers to see what insects visit and then I take deep breaths to pick up the strong scent of these flowers. It seems to be a time of celebration in the woodlands. With sprays of yellow flowers from various wattle species, Kapok flowers  – ‘andjed’ (Cochlospermum fraseri);  orange flowers of the Grevillea pteridifolia – ‘andjandjek’,  Eucalyptus miniata – ‘andjalen’; pink flowering shrubs of Turkey bush  – ‘anbandar’ (Calytrix exstipulata),  ‘angodjmong-mong’ Gomphrena canescens (papery daisy shrubs). The woodlands are in song with the calls of many birds and insects.  If you happen to camp around these trees you are in for a treat. The bees are working hard collecting nectar to make honey and birds and bats are busy gathering nectar and insects from the flowers.
 The spear grass fuel loads are getting burnt, which makes way for new growth as well as leaving an important feeding ground for animals and birds.  Goannas, Bandicoots, Kites, Falcons, Night birds, Bustards find victims of the fires, whilst Black Cockatoos feed on spear grass seeds and fruits now the grass has been burnt.
 Near the floodplains, early morning or late afternoon one often hears then sees a large flock of Sulphur crested Corellas, cackling amongst themselves and almost greeting everything they fly across.
 There is still plenty of water on the floodplains but as the dry winds blow the water begins to recede. At the edges, delicate yellow lilies and the white fringed lilies reappear.  The larger waterliles ( Nymphaea species) are also in bloom, over the next couple of months they flower on mass across the floodplains and billabongs, a wondrous sight and scent to be experienced.
Brilliant sunsets depart the day across the floodplains now the dry season fires are with us.  In Kakadu the Yellow-water boat cruises allow you to experience this, or just standing at the boat ramp and floodplain viewing platforms at Yellow-waters or Fogg Dam and Darwin beaches, anywhere really, the sunsets are beautiful!
The migratory birds have moved on. The Magpie geese have young babes, as do the Partridge pigeon (red eye pigeons).  Wedge-tailed Eagles are ready to breed.
If you are out walking in Woodland country, or just around your block, look out for Billy goat plums (Terminalia ferdinandiana) they still have lots of nice fruits to collect off the ground.
During Yegge treat yourself to some walks in the bush to see what is going on; smell the waterlilies across the floodplains and billabongs; Catch some fish; Watch the birds eating nectar, you could even dip your face into a low flowering Grevillea flower and lick the honey nectar to see why the birds go crazy for this food, I think it is delicious.
For more details about birds and animals of this season, look at Ian Morris’s book, “Kakadu”, Yegge section pages 77-99, and Diane Lucas’s book. ‘Walking with the Seasons in Kakadu’

Revelations on Reptiles

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Another fantastic workshop, with a fauna focus was hosted especially for Land for Wildlife members at The Territory Wildlife Park. This workshop focussed on reptiles that are likely to be found in Top End landscapes and particularly properties of the rural Darwin area and how best to manage habitat for their success.

Nearly 30 Land for Wildlife members all boarded the train on another slightly sweaty but beautiful Saturday morning to meet Dion Wedd, curator of the collections at Territory Wildlife Park. In the nocturnal house Dion gave us a background to reptiles in the Top End and how we can look after their habitat, as well as all the participants having an opportunity to see and even handle some of the species themselves, including a Blue- tounged lizard (actually a skink), a Frill-necked lizard, a Tree frog and others.

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There are over 300 species of Lizards, snakes, turtles and frogs that can be found in the landscapes of the Top end region and about 1/3 of those in Darwin and rural region. Lizards include numerous small skinks which are common even in suburban gardens and rummage around in leaf litter, Dragons- Frill-necked Lizards (Chlamydosarus kingii), Tree Dragon (Gowidon temporalis) and Gilbert’s dragon (Lophognathus gilberti) gheckos and goannas, there are also Pygopods, which are legless lizards (and yes they look quite like a snake).

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Frill-necked lizard (photo  by Alice Buckle)

Northern Spadefoot Toad

Northern spade-foot toad (by Alice Buckle)

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Mains frog (photo by Alice Buckle)

In wetter areas we find amphibians (frogs, toads and toadlets) in great numbers, turtles and water monitors. Many Land for Wildlife properties include inundated areas of Sandsheet, treed swamp or freshwater creeks.

And snakes, yep there are lots of them, over 40 species in the Top End region, many of the more common ones found in the Darwin region. Unfortunately there is a culture of humans in Australia fearing snakes and wanting to kill them, often without much knowledge of their behaviour or how harmful they are. Generally keeping a distance and letting them be is the best action.

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We joined Greg Mayo, Wildlife keeper in the monsoon rainforest, who told us a lot of amazing information about snakes, their behaviour and habitat and showed us a live Black-headed python (Aspdithes melancephalus). We were also informed of some snake first aid and who to call if a snake was too near.

Australia has 8 of the Top 10 deadliest snakes in the world, but only (on average) one person dies of a snake bite per year and almost always they were bitten when trying to catch it, handle it or had hurt it. Compared to other statics of how people die in Australia, that is pretty low on the list, we should be a lot more worried about cars, other humans and bad food or alcohol!

After our talks we had time to enjoy the reptile displays in the rainforest and got together at the main station for brunch and everyone got to share stories and tips on land management for reptiles on their own properties.

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The biggest threat to reptiles in our region are ‘inappropriate fire regimes’, Cane Toads and possibly at the Top of the list habitat loss (land clearing.) So good land management practice and the efforts of landholders (and our members) is of great importance.

“Inappropriate fire” is fire that is too widespread, too regular or too late in the season, or a combination of these factors. Most reptiles find it hard to get away from fire, they will try and find an underground or wet place or move to an unburnt area. If fire is later in the dry season (and enhanced with extra fuel from grassy weeds) it will often kill most lizard (and some mammal) species in the landscape. You will see birds of prey circling overhead ready to eat the grilled animals. IN addition to this, the leaf litter layer, where many smaller species thrive is taken away with fire.

On most small rural blocks, keeping fire out of the property with fire breaks and diligence is the best strategy.

Cane toads seem to have dented many reptile populations with competition and predation, although these populations have stabilised land managers can keep on top of cane toads by “disposing of them” as quickly and painlessly as possible…

Keep up the great work and a big Thanks to The Territory Wildlife Park staff for all their time and knowledge.

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Our Rainbow Pitta

The Rainbow Pitta. (Pitta iris)

Photographs by Land for Wildlife Member Jacinda Brown

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So It’s more than half way through Bird Week and we thought we would profile a favourite bird. We chose The Rainbow Pitta.

Why? It is a beautiful bird with great colouring and only found in The Top End of The Territory and Kimberley regions. It depends completely on Monsoon forest, which in these regions are restricted to very small patches where springs occur, or by rivers. It is the only Pitta in Australia that does not occur also in Asia and New Guinea.

This little bird is territorial, it often stays alone or in a pair in the same patch of forest year after year and its food source is mainly earthworms. Earthworms are more plentiful in the wet season when the Pitta breeds, laying its eggs between October and February in a domed shaped nest with a side entrance; these are usually built in the fork of a tree, about 5 metres above the ground.

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Although many patches of Monsoon forest have been cleared or reduced by grassy fires and weeds, many gardens in the suburbs and around houses in the rural area simulate damp forests and often are home to the Pitta, who can be seen foraging for worms on the ground.  It is important to manage any rainforest patches and manage weeds and fires to keep the habitat for many wildlife species, including these delicate birds.  

Information is from Birds of The Darwin region by McCrie and Noske and A Natural Field Guide to Australia’s Top End, by Ian Morris, Di Lucas, Noel Preece and Penny van Oosterzee.

Beautiful Birds of Bird Week

It’s bird week, Land for Wildlife ran some great bird focused events at the weekend and we thought we would share with you some Top End bird profiles during the week and some bird spotting tips.

Firstly here is a bird that we featured in our newsletter- the interesting and quirky Bowerbird. (photographs by Land for Wildlife member Jacinda Brown)

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The Bower bird is a curious bird,  grey with a brownish grey back, up to 40cm tall. This bird is usually solitary and has a lilac attractive nape crest, which is larger on males. The most distinctive feature of this bird is probably their bower, an open over arched mate magnet of twigs on the ground. These are usually found under low hanging shrubs such as Turkey Bush (Calytrix exstipulata) This is built by the males to attract females and is surrounded by found blue, green or sliver shiny luring objects like white shells, plastic bottle tops, green fruit and broken glass. It is here where the male will display by dancing and opening his tail and hopefully along with the shaking of his funky lilac head piece and shiny entrance ornaments tempt the female to mate with him.

JB_Bowerbird_Great_Chamydera nuchalis_20131002_09The female leaves the nest (more like a love den) after mating and then goes off to build her own nest and raise her young alone. The call of these birds has been described as someone vomiting violently or shredding paper and the birds can mimic sounds and human laughter.

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Bower birds are found across northern Australia in open woodland and the edges of mangroves or monsoon forest. Another interesting fact is they are noted to to eat Strychnos fruit (Stychnos lucida) which contains strychnine and are poisonous to other creatures.

Information is taken from the very useful book “A natural History and Field Guide to Australia’s To End” by Penny van Oosterzee, Ian Morris, Diane Lucas and Noel Preece and “Birds of Palmerston” by Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow

Bird Week and The Aussie Backyard Bird Count

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From October 19th to 25th 2015 it is Bird Week, which celebrates the fantastic diversity of birdlife in Australia.

Not only would we like you to join in by participating in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count (aussiebirdcount.org.au); we have organised 2 Top End bird watching events for our Land for Wildlife members. We would like to encourage novices and experienced bird watchers to join in.

The Aussie Backyard Bird Count is a citizen science project that encourages people all around the country to report the birds that spot in their backyards or gardens in a 20 minute period within the week. Register at www.aussiebirdcount.com

To help you out and let you meet others interested we have set up the following FREE events

Event 1)

Bird Watching for Beginners, hosted by The Territory Wildlife Park, Berry Springs, especially for Land for Wildlife members AND Friends of Land for Wildlife.

 

17th October 2015 At Goose Lagoon, Territory Wildlife Park

8.30- 10.30/ 11 am

with bird expert Denise Goodfellow (author of Birds of The Top End) and bird enthusiast and artist Jasmine Jan

TIME: Meet at 8:20 am to catch the 9:00am train.

(Train departs main station TWP on time)

Goose Lagoon Bird Hide. An intro to bird watching, Returning at 10:30 or 11am (see poster)

Reply to Jasmine Jan at TWP to register and for details – Jasmine.Jan@nt.gov.au

Open to Land for Wildlife members and friends of – limited to 20 adult spaces

Bird watching workshop 2015

 

Event 2)

Landholders walk and talk- Sunday sunset and bird watching with LFW members, hosted by Bird expert/ enthusiast Andrew Spiers

Enjoy a landholder’s tour, including a focused bird walk and talk on Andrew Spier’s 80 hectare propertyReply to Emma Lupin at Greening Australia to register and  for directions- elupin@greeningaustralia.org.au

Open to Land for Wildlife members and family

Pick up some bird watching and wildlife management tips and information on the Back yard bird count

Sunday 18th October 5- 7 pm, LFW property, Darwin River

Bird Week walk and talk

Please register with us and come along to the events or register with the Aussie Backyard Bird Count and showcase the great Top End Birdlife.

Jacinda Brown, Bachelor wildlife photographer shares her story.

JB_Parrot_Red-winged_Aprosmictus erythropterus_20141129_04Jacinda Brown, wildlife photographer and Land for Wildlife member shares her story-

Jacinda is a well-known photographer, who captures beautiful images of our native plants and wildlife. She has been a Land for Wildlife member since 2011 and lives on a bush block, 20 kms west of Bachelor with her family. The block is just over 50 acres (22 hectares) and the Finniss River runs through it. Jacinda describes the block as a biodiversity haven amongst surrounded by Gamba grass.

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The property has been cared for, for the last 15 years by Jacinda’s partner who has avidly managed the Gamba grass and other weeds like Hyptis and Mission Grass. Now the property is pretty weed free, but it is a continuous process to maintain it. They also use mosaic burning for fire management.

Jacinda moved to Darwin from the Yarra Valley in 2002. She lived in Darwin for a couple of years before moving out bush where she works from home, making children’s books in her beautiful bush studio to educate and showcase, the beauty of nature.

The land that Jacinda and her family care for acts as habitat for a huge array of wildlife species, including reptiles, birds, mammals and insects.

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“It is always a joy when the huge olive pythons visit especially since the cane toad invasion.” Jacinda says one interesting thing in this area is that bandicoots haven’t been seen for 7 years. There are various theories why – one being that bandicoots are really sensitive to fire and Batchelor has many hot fires because of all the Gamba Grass. That and the toads, are a huge knock back for all wildlife.

She adds “I am amazed at the amount of money spent on the recent Banana eradication, when none can be found to get rid of toads and very little for Gamba grass.”

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Jacinda loves the constant learning experience, encountering new wildlife and discovering which call belongs to which creature, “Our most recent residential discovery is the oh so cute, Owlet-nightjar.” She says “Artists are always trying to represent nature, but nature is the greatest artist. Having a bio-diverse property is a true inspiration and there are daily rewards for the work required in maintaining a healthy ecosystem.

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Jacinda has just launched a new website, where you can view a wonderful movie about her block http://www.jacindabrown.com/movies.html , choose the film “Nowearji, a celebration of biodiversity” and also check out the wonderful photo galleries.

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