Our Festive Flora- Mistletoe

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This festive time of year is a busy time not only for us, but also for the beautiful flowers that are in bloom during the holiday season. It always seems a bit obscure when you see snow covered cards, northern pine trees and log fires decorating shops and houses as we are either sweating it out or in the middle of a Tropical down pour here in the Top End. We do have some more appropriate and surprisingly parallel flora of those stemming from European traditions.

We are lucky enough to have our own native species of mistletoe (Amyema sanguineum var. pulchrum) that has stunning yellow-orange to red flowers and adds a burst of festive colour to the landscape. Australia has 90 species of mistletoe, the large majority of which are native. The arid-zone of the Northern Territory is home to 17 species, with 11 occurring in the Alice Springs region. Surprisingly, in Britain and Europe where the image of mistletoe was made iconic to that of Christmas, there is only one species! This semi-parasitic plant can be found in the canopy of several Eucalyptus host species and their flowers, fruit and nectar provide an important source of food for wildlife such as gliders, possums, insects and birds. The fire-breasted Mistletoe bird has evolved alongside this plant, feeding and digesting the berries while distributing the unharmed seed. The mistletoe’s distribution includes the Victoria River, Katherine and Gulf regions, Arnhem Land, Barkley Tablelands and Central Northern and Southern regions.

 (Photo credit: Craig Nieminski) Written by Land for Wildlife volunteer, Emma Barrett

Land for Wildlife in Katherine

We are very excited to announce that this year our “Land for Wildlife Top End” program welcomed an 888 Hectare property just outside of Katherine into the program. The property is on Gorge Road and is managed by Mick Jerram for the owners who recently acquired the property. Mick is a very knowledgeable tour guide in the area who operates “Gecko Canoeing and Tours”.

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The beautiful property is now our largest Land for Wildlife property in private ownership and includes the Maude Creek. The landholders have appointed Mick to be their land manager and would like to manage the land as a wildlife refuge and possibly run an eco-tourism enterprise that would support the upkeep.

Land for Wildlife coordinator and botanist (and former coordinator) Greg Leach headed down to Katherine to assess the property and look at its wildlife habitat assets. This was done over 2 days and being such a large property only some of it was visited on the accessible tracks, which is why we ended up down there in the steamy build up- trying to catch as much of the property before it was too boggy!

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The property includes rocky sloping hills with open Eucalypt woodland and a variety of stunning Bloodwoods, hosting many birds and lizards and further diversity of creatures within the rock crevices and floodplain areas. Maude Creek keeps water in it all year with lush riverine plants along its banks, and there are additional wet season creeks and overflows throughout the property.

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There is a likelihood that the Gouldian Finch could populate the area, with its grassy lower areas and rocky hills, and Mick is looking for assistance to try and document what fauna species are definitely found within the properties. Major priorities include the eradication of wild Buffallo and cows.

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The fabulous tract of land joins surrounding properties which are intact and vast in size, including the Nitmiluk National Park, which is managed and protected under conservation legislation; it is also actively managed. All of the above set the property as a very significant area for wildlife conservation and an important tract of land which connects and creates large scale conservation corridors.

There are a couple of LFW registered properties in the Katherine area, from the days when Greening Australia had an office in the town. With this most recent membership LFW has a significant representation, so we have set about to see how we can get more Land for Wildlife involvement in the area and held an information session for interested others.

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Mick would love to have management based training on the newly joined property and many landholders and the Landcare group were interested in getting involved. There was a call out for information on native plant propagation, fauna likely to be found and fire management information. At this stage we hope to host workshops next dry season and team up with the Landcare group to carry out new assessments, the idea is to set up a Katherine interest group made of community members..… so watch this space.

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A Brilliant Bird Week

Bird week is such a great way to show case our feathered friends that are so abundant in the Top End; we put together a couple of small events for members and friends of Land for Wildlife, back in October. A hot and in one case wet time of year, we still had a great group of people along at both events.

The best things always come with collaboration and a guided walk of Fogg Dam was hosted for Land for Wildlife members and friends of in association with Parks and Wildlife at Fogg Dam. After low rainfalls last wet season the dam was at low levels, but started filling up as we were talking our guided walk- with some of the first rains of the year. We were joined by ‘Friends of Fogg Dam’ members Mary and Janis who talked about their work, the birds and take stunning photos of the birdlife.

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After a drive across the dam wall, a talk on looking after bird habitat and a good soaking we went into the very wonderful woodland walk to see what else we could spot. We ended up with a great list of wetland and woodland birds. I would love to thank Jo Scott, who helped organise the event and sadly has since left the role of Community engagement Officer at PWC.

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We held a small “Landholder’s walk and talk” with Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow who has written ‘Birds of Australia’s Top End’ and ‘Birds of Palmerston’ with her partner Michael. They have a 20 acre (8 hectare) property with some wonderful flooded Sandsheet and wet season creek areas in Darwin River. Denise tells some great stories and emphasises that watching birds is about sitting with country and watching behaviour, not just ticking them from a checklist; it is about getting to know them and their habitat.

Thanks Denise and Michael for your great contribution to wildlife education.

Bird Week Competition

It’s  bird week (17-23rd Oct) and to celebrate we have a great prize to give away for Land for Wildlife members and friends of..
The prize is a “Counting with Birds”- a beautiful book by  by Jasmine Jan featuring her wonderful paintings, a notecard pack of incredible Top End bird cards by Jasmine Jan (http://www.jasminejan.com.au/)
Also a backyard biodiversity pack of 6 bird attracting plants from Greening Australia.
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To enter
1) Let us know your favourite Top End bird species and why you love them (under our Facebook competition post )
2) Bonus points for a photo or drawing or extra info
3) LIKE THE FACEBOOK POST (and page) AND SHARE…….
 COMPETITION ENDS Monday 26TH October
If you  are a non face-booker, you can enter by emailing in your response (to elupin@greeningaustralia.org.au)
Good luck and don’t forget to get involved with the Backyard bird count and events in the area https://landforwildlifetopend.com/2016/10/13/bird-week-events-coming-up/
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Bird Week events

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It’s that time of year again; next week is Bird Week and The Backyard Aussie Bird Count 17th -23rd October 2016. You can register for the bird count and become part of this great citizen science project here http://aussiebirdcount.org.au/

So let’s celebrate and get involved, especially as we are lucky enough to live in one of the most fantastic regions in Australia for bird species, bird watching and intact bird habitat. At Land for Wildlife we also and have a whole list of fantastic members in our program who manage their land to support wildlife, including our wonderful birdlife.

Land for Wildlife has organised 2 special events next week for members and friends of the program in the Darwin ‘rural’ area:

On Thursday 20th October from 5- 7pm join author of “Birds of Australia’s Top End region” and “Birds of Palmerston” on her property in Darwin River for some laid back evening bird watching. She will give an overview of bird  life in the region, bird behaviours and how best to attract birds and manage bird habitat. This will be followed by light refreshments and info on how to take part in the bird count.  RSVP (elupin@greeningaustralia.org.au) for directions.

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On Saturday 22nd October from 8- 10am join Parks staff and friends of Fogg Dam at Fogg Dam Conservation Reserve for some morning bird watching, an introduction to bird species and habitats in the rural area. This event is for Land for Wildlife members, friends of and interested others and is run in collaboration with Parks and Wildlife (please RSVP to confirm- see the poster below).

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Other great events happening in the Darwin region include

A bird watching cycling tour at East Point in Darwin on Sunday 16th October at 8am bike-tour

A whole host of Events including Bird art at CDU-

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and lots more, so take this great opportunity to learn more about our bird life.

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

Schools for Wildlife

Local Rural Artist and Land for Wildlife member has been working with Howard Springs Primary School to create a giant wildlife mural. The beautiful mural is in the bold and colourful style typical of Marnie’s work and depicts a woodland and billabong habitat with many well known and loved native animals of the rural area making an appearance in their own funky style throughout the painting.  These include dingoes, wallabies, brolgas, emus, Comb-crested Jacanas, and Magpie geese and the lagoon is based on Girraween lagoon.

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The mural is 7m x 2mto and was made to encourage the appreciation and preservation of our local environment and animals that live around us. 5 students were chosen to assist with the project and went to the Wildlife Park to research our wonderful wildlife and a series of workshops were undertaken for them to draw and paint their selected critters for the scene.

The mural took 5 months to create and was opened on the 30th July by Gerry Woods. There were great local craft stalls, and Land for Wildlife had an information stall.

It is fantastic to see a school embrace such fantastic projects to pass on the message to love and appreciate the wildlife around us. The principle, Julie is very supportive and further art and wildlife projects are being designed.

img_9597The school has also joined up to Land for Wildlife as an educational member in the Growing Towards Category. Next year the students will be taking part in the Trees for Wildlife program and planting trees to restore and create Black-footed Tree-Rat habitat and learn all about these fantastic creatures and how to enhance habitat for mammals and other wildlife.IMG_9593.JPG

We are looking for other rural schools to join in with Land for Wildlife activities, particularly tree planting and creating nest boxes- so if you are involved in a school and would like to get everyone involved get in touch and we can provide more details of how this can work.

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Voluntary Conservation for Top End Native landscapes