Category Archives: Wildlife photography

The fabulous Frilly

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The Australian Frilled Lizard is one of our most remarkable lizard species with their showy frill that is used for defence and communication. It is also the animal logo for the Territory Wildlife Park.

The preferred habitat of this iconic Lizard is semi-arid grassy woodlands either open shrubby woodland or woodland with a tussock grass understorey.

“Frillies” as they are affectionately known are generally solitary and territorial. They spend a lot of their time in trees and will feed on spiders, cicadas and other tree dwelling insects.

They also come down to the ground to hunt for ants, small mammals, lizards and amphibians (they will eat small toads, which is lethal for them).

Frillies tend to stay up in trees during the dry season and are well camouflaged and less active in the cooler months.

During the build-up and wet season months as the temperature and humidity increases they become more visible as they actively display and seek mates to breed with.

Mating takes place around September with females laying 8-23 eggs in a hollow in the ground in November.

The eggs are tiny and only weigh 3-5 grams. The tiny frilled hatchlings will emerge in February and are independent from the day they hatch. Hatching during the wet season is the perfect time for baby Frillies as there will be plenty of insects (food) available for them to catch.

 

The main predators for Frilled lizards are birds of prey (such as eagles, hawks and owls), snakes, bigger lizards, dogs and cats. The biggest threats to Frillies in the Top End are land clearing, habitat destruction, feral cats and Cane Toads.

As a Land for Wildlife member you can help our Frillies in the following ways:

  1. Maintain open shrubby woodland and a tussock grass understory on your property.
  2. With areas that have been cleared, re-vegetate and create a “Lizard lounge” using a combination of native trees, shrubs and grasses.
  3. Leave dead trees (that are not a hazard), fallen logs and rotting timber. This provides habitat for the animals that Frillies will feed on.
  4. Restrict your pets (both cats and dogs) access to these habitat areas.
  5. Trap and remove feral cats and Cane Toads (which are toxic and lethal to Frillies) from your property
  6. Avoid using pesticides on your property as these may be killing the Frillies food source. Let natures pest exterminator do the job for you.
  7. Slow down when you spot a Frilly on the road. They tend to hold their position and not get out of the way which has resulted in many Frillies being hit and killed on roads.

Share what you know about Frillies with others and encourage them to also make their properties Frilly Friendly.

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Flora for Fauna- Plant of The Month of March (Loving our “Lolly bush”)

IMG_0364 (Medium)There are so many wonderful plants fruiting and flowering at the moment in The Top End with abundant food for fauna that it is hard to choose just one, but here is one that I have observed many birds eating and is truly beautiful to the human eye, as it looks like a love heart, and also can be eaten by humans. I have seen it on Land for Wildlife blocks in creeks at Humpty Doo, Bees Creek, Noonamah and on the Blackmore River too.

Cyclophyllum shultzii, also known as “Lolly Bush” and formerly Canthium lucidum is in the family Rubiaceae and a great local native and source of food for fauna.

It is a small thin tree or shrub that is found along rivers, in spring fed rainforest and in wetter areas, but is also popular as a wildlife attracting plant in gardens.

It has opposite leaves and tiny white and yellow flowers, these are loved by an array of insects and slowly form into  little love-heart red juicy fruits in January to March. These are loved by a huge array of birds including Bower birds, Dollar birds,  Honey Eaters, Rainbow Lorikeets and I am sure many more. Black-footed tree rats and other small mammals and even larger lizards would love these fruit too.

I have not managed to capture a bird in action, but here is the wonderful fruit itself, which have 2 little seeds that are in each half of the heart. IMG_0558 (Medium)

We love this plant and so does wildlife..

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You can propagate these plants fairly easily by seed and often small seedlings are found under the tree that have been dropped by birds. The leaves can yellow off a little if they get too much sun or dry out.

Emma, Land for Wildlife Coordinator

Flora for Fauna- plant of the month

(Chrysopogon- Late February)

Chryso abstractThis season (and always) our theme is connectivity. As we all know everything is interconnected in this world. If you are a landholder this connectivity relates to landholders next door and their land use and your relationship with them. It also ranges from creating wildlife corridors to the ecology of a landscape and how each species is reliant on others in a complex web, including humans (although many forget this!).

At Greening Australia we often focus on plants, and this is in many instances the basis of food for many fauna species. Plants themselves are interconnected, with research highlighting that plants communicate with one another and are more interactive than we may think.

In our theme of interconnectedness, we have decided to feature a flora for fauna, to raise awareness that plants and animals and their interactions are of amazing importance.

February seemed to slip by pretty quickly, with its lack of days- but this Plant is the late February to early March feature. The landscape is absolutely full of beautiful flowering grasses, so we have chosen a  grass, which often are over looked or unwanted by landholders. This may be so they can see the country and somehow feel safer or because they may hold snakes, or often grasses are mistaken as weeds, but grasses are incredibly important habitat and food for a huge array of species.

This is Chrysopogon fallax and is flowering crazily in our (savannah) woodland landscapes right now. The flowers are loved by a huge variety of insects including our native bee (Trigonia melipes) pictured  here collecting pollen from the flowers,  which I captured just the other day on a Land for Wildlife Assessment in Tumbling Waters.

Chrysopogon fallax native bee

The finches love any grass seed heads, including those that form on the Chrysopogon. Small rodents such as Grassland Melomys would also use these seeds as food and probably many parrots such as red wing and even red tail black cockatoo after fires when the roasted seeds are on ground.

Chrysopogon fallax native bee 2Small grass nesting birds such as finches and wrens  use the plants for nesting. Some butterfly larvae also feed on grasses. Reptiles and probably bandicoots would use tussocks for shelter too.

Chrysopogon falax

The grass to tree ratio is the fundamental balance in our Savannah Woodlands and as fire changes this, so does the ecology of all those species dependent on either grasses or other non-grass species such as shrubs and trees.

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If you have any photos of wildlife getting amongst our fabulous grasses, let us know.

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

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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