Urochloa humidicola- Tully grass- Introduced pasture grass!

Urochloa humidicola– Tully grass- Introduced pasture grass!

Just last weekend a Land for Wildlife Assessment was on a property with a lot of this grass. This is not a declared weed but can outcompete native plants in wetter areas and its presence is goring in the rural area of Darwin. I dug out this short article that Pete Mcfdden, a weed contractor that works in the area wrote last year- (and hope to get some better photos soon!)

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Another introduced pasture plant gone feral is the introduced species Humidicola. Present on many road verges in the rural areas it forms a dense stoloniferous mat and as an environmental weed can invade undisturbed bush land. Favouring wet areas it has even been considered as a “choking plant” to control Mimosa pigra.

Humidicola stays green most of the year and when it burns it produces very dense smoke that reduces visibility to almost zero. Humidicola has a thick root mass to feed underground fires that can burn for days until they break through the surface, producing new runaway wildfires. The ground can become so hot that it sterilises the soil, destroying other plants and seeds (NT Bushfire Volunteers)

Urochloa humidicola

The main mode of distribution is by root stolon growth and the plant steadily creeps along. Seed production is reportedly limited at lower latitudes and the vegetative reproduction is the main mode of propagation /spread.

Control with Glyphosate is effective but does require good coverage of all leaf areas and may require a follow up application. Recent experience at McMinns Lagoon Reserve confirms that control can be achieved in one season and no regrowth has been recorded from soil seed-banks or reshooting. As Humidicola prefers wet and innundative areas control is best achieved early in the wet season when access is easier.

When using any herbicide please read the label and use any appropriate personal protective equipment required.

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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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Black footed Tree Rat

The black-footed tree-rat Mesembriomys gouldii is one of the largest rodents in Australia, weighing up to 830 g. It is an attractive solid rodent with long shaggy medium grey to black fur on top, pale underside, large black ears and a distinctive long hairy tail with a white tip. The Black-footed Tree-rat is largely arboreal (tree-dwelling), using its long tail for balance. Typical habitat is tall forests of Darwin Woollybutt and Darwin Stringybark, with a moderately dense mid-storey of shrubs and small trees and grassy understorey.  They are fairly solitary, nocturnal animals, sheltering in tree hollows and pandanus stands during the day. Hard fruits and seeds are a major component of their diet, supplemented by grass and invertebrates and other seasonal resources such as nectar rich flowers. Breeding can occur year-round with a peak of births in the late dry season. Litter size is small (1-3 young).

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The black-footed tree rat is one species that appears to have remained relatively abundant in the Darwin rural area, perhaps because of fire regimes. Recurrent intense fires reduce the abundance of fleshy-fruited shrubs favoured by Black-footed Tree Rats, as well as the availability of hollow trees. Clearing for agriculture has reduced the extent of their habitat in localised areas including north-east Queensland and parts of the Northern Territory. Perhaps you have seen one on your block?

Member’s story- Ray and Sue from Dundee Beach!

IMG_0123Ray and Sue joined Land for Wildlife after hearing about the scheme through Ray’s work colleague. He thought it sounded like a great idea and the couple joined up their block at Dundee Beach. Their block is in fact 2 blocks, one is 25 acres (around 10.8 hectares), where there are a couple of dongas made into a good sturdy bush dwelling with a deck which the couple bought in 2009. The other block, just next door and about 22 acres, (around 9 hectares) Ray and Sue purchased as a buffer block just over a year later, so they didn’t have to have any neighbours really near! They are pretty lucky as the lower end of their blocks becomes more low lying and lead into Melaleuca swampland which is in reserve. On one warm build up day Greg Leach and I from Land for Wildlife drove out to Dundee to see the block and make an assessment and join them up.

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Ray explains why they love being out bush on their block, even though they live in Darwin a lot of the time. “We just love being in the bush, if you are in town and a storm rolls in, you can’t really appreciate it, but here we can see the whole skyline and the storm roll past, you can see the pink light of sunset in the clouds.” “We can sit out and have a fire and watch the whole sky, the kids love coming out, it’s what it’s all about; we love the bush and the lifestyle.”

Sue said they started looking for a bush block a few years ago, they looked in Adelaide River and wanted something far away, but loved Dundee. “This is a special spot, when the old folks come up we watch the sunset, and we love that the sea is near, I am a mad keen fisho too”, Ray adds.

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A LFW assessment involves visiting the land to be put into the Land for Wildlife scheme and meeting the land managers, the vegetation types are present and intact, and the percentages of the land these make up,

We walked right around the blocks and down into reserve and found an array of bush tucker plants flowering or in fruit, including Buchanania obavata and Syzygium suborbicular

The land becomes thick with new Melaleca species and then into the reserve and swamp with large and beautiful Melaleuca viridiflora, casting huge shadows and making a wonderful cooler refuge. The whole block also has good breezes coming through. “I love my swamp, some people thought we were mad, but I love it.”” ”We don’t want to do anything with it, just have bush. My father in Victoria used to know all the tree names and I wasn’t so interested, but now I am older I am really into interested and want to know more.

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Amazing Cycads were flushing with new velvety grey leaves and orange mid ribs, they are quite sort after and seem a few have been pinched. The woodland is dense in some areas, from fire being kept out and all the mid story fruiting shrubs are a perfect refuge for wildlife.

Weeds –mimosa. “ I didn’t have a mission, but now I do, I am going to get rid of that mimosa.”

Sue and Ray say the only problems they have really are not being here all the time, so when they want to plant some shade trees in the cleared patch around the house they cannot water them. We suggest just fencing off a patch and letting natural regen do its thing.

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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!

A virgin Virginia Block

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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.

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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.

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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 –

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 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.

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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.

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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/

Voluntary Conservation for Top End Native landscapes