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!

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A virgin Virginia Block

David Rolfe2

Land for Wildlife member David Rolfe tells the story of his 2 hectare block in Virginia-

In 1992 this was an undeveloped block of 2 hectares with a surprising range of habitats; a very rocky ridge with low savannah, a steep slope over a tumble of rocks, a sheltered area beneath the rocks and a wet season lagoon with a variety of melaleucas.

Rolfe 2

It adjoins two largely uncleared bocks, one is 2 hectares, another is 11 hectares, and both of which include the lagoon area as well.

Most of the block is uncleared. With some difficulty a part of the block on the ridge was cleared for the house, a shed and enough of a landscaped area to see the snakes coming across the lawn! Sadly, some of the original species (snakes, goannas and quolls) have disappeared because of cane toads, and development of course. There was also a lot of feral grasses which had to be eliminated, but this also meant that finches lost a source of food, and they are now not common.

However, there are plenty of wallabies and bandicoots, and a great variety of honeyeaters and fruit eating birds. Scrub fowls have also set up a mound at the edge of the garden and owls frequent the rainforest trees. There are a variety of flycatchers and varied trillers regularly visit. Seasonal visitors are the Emerald Ground Pigeon and the Torres Strait Pigeon. In the wet season swamp Rajah Sheldrake ducks and grebes nest and raise young.

Some areas have been planted with rainforest and native fruit trees, and these are now nearly mature. As far as possible native plants from the NT or north Australia are used for planting. There is a shade house used for propagation and for vegetables and fruit trees such a bananas and paw paws.

Rolfe

Two small ponds have been established and a bog. Another small bog is to be completed.

Some future plantings will involve understory plants, grasses to attract finches and plants to sustain and develop habitat for butterflies and moths. Ongoing maintenance includes the removal of invasive trees that threaten to overrun the original vegetation or with other adverse effects: Black Wattle, Cassia, Alphitonia, Neem tree and Curry tree.

David signed up to Land for Wildlife in 2013

Jasmine Jan- A member’s and artist’s story

Jasmine has allowed us to use her fabulous art work to promote our Land for Wildlife, Top End program. Most recently Jasmine hosted our aquatic plant workshop. We have a made some posters featuring her (above painting) to go out in the rural area to tell people about the program and what those gate signs mean! Here is her members story –

northern long neck turtle2

 An obsession with wildlife, a love of the bush and a desire to own a property with a natural water feature was the drive behind searching the weekend newspapers real estate guide for years. Then one day a small ad appears in the classifieds section and reads “105 acres at Lambells lagoon, bushblock with wet season waterhole. Put your house in the middle and never see the neighbours”.

 

We got in the 4WD drove out to the place and discovered it literally was just a bushblock with no development on it at all. For me it was like a blank canvas or a fresh clean sheet of watercolour paper just waiting for an artist to create something with it.

 Fresh water prawns

This block was a bushland oasis completely surrounded by mango farms and market gardens. We drove the 4WD onto the property following a natural clearing through the bush as there was no driveway or track in. It turns out the natural clearing was a drainage line for the wet season waterhole. We pulled up on the edge of an amazing flooded paperbark billabong that was bristling with white waterlilies and our jaws literally dropped.

 Jasmin Jan- Honey EAters

It was three years before we started building on the block. It was the best thing we ever did. The block is just a mecca for wildlife and as a wildlife artist I was soaking up inspiration from every direction. It is not unusual for me to experience a David Attenborough moment whilst working in my studio/gallery which sits on the edge of the Paperbark billabong and acts as a huge bird hide. One highlight was watching a pair of Black-necked Storks teaching their young one how to fish in the shallows of the billabong literally 8 metres away from my studio verandah. Another memorable moment was canoeing in amongst the reeds and waterlilies to discover a pair of Green Pygmy Geese leading their group of 6 ducklings away from me.

 

It is fascinating to see the changes taking place at this waterhole from the dry season to the build-up and into the wet season. Not a day goes by without me feeling grateful for the amazing lifestyle that we enjoy living on this piece of paradise.

 burdekin ducks

One of the things we do enjoy is showing people our little piece of paradise. It almost seems criminal to not share our amazing place with others who can appreciate and enjoy the joys that a natural bush block can bring.

Check out Jasmine’s website at http://www.jasminejan.com.au/

Member’s story- Chris Bink’s Howard Spring Block

Chris Binks

This is the first in a series we will post to the website of member stories! Chris only joined this year, but has helped at our stall at The Tropical Garden Spectacular and come to both workshops and wrote this story for the last newsletter. It is great to hear about people’s land and how they manage and love it, so here you go, We would love your stories  too-

Chris Binks- Howard Springs, Joined Land for Wildlife 2014

I purchased 5 acres in Howard Springs approximately 10 years ago. The block was predominately cleared and had maybe a dozen mango trees on it. It was choked with mission grass which aided an intense fire which killed off some of the mangoes and burnt 4/5 of the block and nearly the pre-existing shack.

Grevillea

Through trial and error, speaking with various people and groups, (including the Bushfire Council) I slowly but surely all but eradicated the mission grass as well as hiptus and the odd clump of gamba grass. Spear grass is now the dominate grass species. Concurrently I also stopped getting the block slashed, possibly the vector which introduced the foreign grasses in the first place. Many native trees started appearing on their own accord when the slashing had stopped, they say the Australian Bush has a long memory.

Grevillea flower

I’ve planted 60 to 80 native trees and shrubs a year for the last 5 years, as well as a few other non-native trees such as tamarind and mango. I like to plant mainly natives as they are often hardy, water wise and quick growing. I’ll generally water the new plants either by hand or by reticulation for a Dry or two but after that you’re on your own. Having dug post holes in the Dry I know there is moisture in the soil from about 600mm down, a layer of clay below this aiding the water retention. If they can get their roots into this they’re generally away.

It is not my intention to try and return the block into what it must of looked like prior to being cleared. I do like the orange grevillea and Pandanas which appear to dominate the area when the land is allowed to rejuvenate on its own accord, but if I was to remain true to what was originally here that means I couldn’t plant beauty leaf or salmon gums or many other species that I’ve taken a liking too but aren’t endemic to the area. I feel it is easier and more cost effective to protect what natural bush we have left rather than trying to recreate what has gone. Often I feel intact native land is cleared haphazardly, all tied into politics, bureaucracy and kowtowing to big business.

 

I remember the neighbour, who had been there for 25 years, saying he wished he had planted natives, his house being obscured by towering Poinciana’s and African mahoganies. For me the middle road is best, I love many of the native trees but I also don’t mind eating a mango straight from the tree in season, the flying foxes don’t seem to mind them either.

Aquatic landscape and propagation workshop!

lagoonAquatic-Weeds-Poster-2013_webLast Saturday a fantastic workshop was attended by over 30 Land for Wildlife members, held at Jasmin Jan’s beautiful 105 acre bush block, between Humpty Doo and Lambell’s lagoon.  It was a pretty warm day, but the venue and serenity of the drying lagoon was very unique. We all now have rain and aquatics landscapes in mind, after being inspired by the talks and demos- so lets hope it rains soon!

IMG_9162

The block is in a horticultural zoning and was saved from being bulldozed about 12 years ago by local member Gerry Woods (and others). When it could not be used for horticulture it was sold in a private newspaper advert and Jasmin and her partner became the lucky owners. They  have slowly built a dwelling and a studio over looking the large lagoon that takes up about 20 acres. They have worked tirelessly at managing the land, keeping it free of weeds and feral animals such as pigs, which damage the water margins and eat many water plants that other native animals rely on. Pig hunters can also be an issue and they try and keep these away too! There are still many cane toads,  but the lagoon is a refugee to a huge number of native water birds, turtles, fish and many other animals. Jasmin feels very strongly about protecting native wildlife and the block is not fenced.

Walk at JAsmins

We started the workshop with a walk along the lagoon edge to see the different landscape types within the block and to hear about some of the management issues and tasks and enjoy the feel and composition of the land.  We then came back to the art studio area, which is surrounded by wonderful art pieces inspired by nature and wildlife..

bbath

Dave Wilson, aquatic plant expert then gave us a talk about the various local aquatic plants used in ornamental or functional ponds, including native Taro (Colocasia esculenta) , an edible fern (Ceratopteris thalictroides) and many other wondrous plants of our waterways. His website www.aquagreen.com.au has stacks of information, species lists and articles.

NAtive taroHe also talked about the importance of  not letting non native fish into our water systems and  how to have a pond with non natives, if desired, and not let them into the local environment. A great point of interest was how to make natural swimming pools with various different filter plants . Dave has sent us a detailed document he wrote on Natural swimming pools. Click here to read it.  They look amazing! This is an example below-

Sustainable-Pools-06-1-Kind-Design

 Belinda Townend from weeds branch and Greg Leach from Greening Australia then gave a presentation on aquatic weeds, how to identify them, how they spread and why they are good to manage, and what a view from the studio- over the lagoon!

Prop workshop

After smoko, we had a fantastic session about propagation techniques from Yvette Brady and looked at marginal and other plants, sowing seed, but particularly at cuttings.

Yvettte presents too

Yvette plant

All topped off with lunch and a chance for members to meet each other. We can’t wait for the next workshop and would like to thanks Jasmin Jan for hosting and her constant support of the program and allowing us to use her art work in the website and promotions. We would also like to thanks all of our presenters who gave up their Saturday!Sterculia seeds

chair

Establishing and enhancing aquatic areas and plant propagation workshop

We are pleased to announce our next Land for Wildlife workshop for our landholder members.

Aquatic plants and plant propagation Aquatic plants and plant propagation

As our weather is  building up and the land generally is becoming a little crunchy, we will refresh ourselves and look forward to the wet season and talk about aquatic zones, as well as some marginal and general plant propagation.

The workshop will be kindly hosted on the beautiful 42 hectare property of amazing local artist and Land for Wildlife member Jasmin Jan. The day will start with a short walking tour of the lagoon side and intro by our host.

We will then invite Dave Wilson, a long-time local aquatic specialist to run a session on establishing or enhancing a wetland or aquatic zone, including water quality and plant selection. Greg Leach, our very own botanist, will also fill us in on common aquatic weeds, how to ID them and treat them.

After feedback from members, we are including a general native propagation work shop with our nursery consultant and training specialist from Greening Australia- Yvette Brady, who is a wealth of knowledge and will demonstrate and talk about the propagation of some selected native plants.

We will top off this wonderful morning with a light lunch/ brunch and a session of question and answers- your chance to ask all present about land management issues, bring plants to id, and share stories.

We really hope you join us. Please RSVP as there are limited places. Preference will go to Land For Wildlife members, but we are happy to accommodate interested others…

NT Field Guide App for smart phones

field guideSo, apologies if you don’t have a smart phone, and we know it isn’t for everyone, but if you do have one this is a really wonderful ‘app’ that saves dragging various books out and about to identify wildlife.

This app, along with others for different states, has been developed by Museum Victoria.  It features full descriptions of over 600 species with photos and artwork, sound recording for birds and frogs, and distribution maps depicting where best to look for them.  This could keep you amused for hours.

We would love anyone that does have a smart phone (Android or Apple) to down load it, give it a go and feedback to us, so we can review it in our next newsletter.  Find out more about downloading it here or search in the ”App store” on your phone

If you are more of a book person, then the Environment Centre NT are working on a project to produce a Field Guide- Wildlife of the Top End.

Click the picture below to read the flyer

ECNT field guide flyer

Voluntary Conservation for Top End Native landscapes