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Back Yard Bird Count in Katherine

The Aussie Backyard Bird count is 23- 29th October this year.

We will be hosting a guided bird watching walk and talk on a very large Land for Wildlife property in Katherine this year. Mick Jerram, local tour guide and manager of the land will be guiding the walk.

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Photograph courtesy of Top End Tourism.

Join Mick Jerram of Gecko canoeing on a beautiful Land for Wildlife property for a bird watching walk with one of Katherine’s most experienced wildlife tour guides. Find out more about birds in the Katherine region the Land for Wildlife program. This is part of Aussie Backyard Bird Count (https://aussiebirdcount.org.au/) And YES Gouldian finches have been recorded on the property- you never know!

Directions- Drive towards Nitmiluk Gorge from the stuart highway. 20.3 kms on the right there is a small turn off which will be marked. Map and further directions to be added. PLease park opposite Maude Creek Lodge.

Please bring water, hat and boots/ good foot wear and binoculars. Share cars if possible and tell your friends. The walk is 1 km.

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Mick Jerram on the Land for Wildlife property.

For more information email elupin@greeningaustralia.org.au

And look at all the other events that you can get involved in that weekend –

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Knowing Your Natives and Growing Your Own

Greening Australia (Darwin) is holding some community workshops in April and May about recognising and growing native plants; these workshops are open to anyone interested.

Each workshop is $40 or all 3 for $100 plus a free “Native Plants for Top End Gardens” book if you sign up to all of them.

All workshops run from 9am to 4pm (lunch included)

Please see the  flyer below.

Knowing Your Natives flyer

Workshop One      

Where- Greening Australia nursery and nearby bush location

When– Saturday 1st April

Content- Plant identification and seed collection

Learn how to identify plants through their features with a focus on natives and how to observe them in their natural vegetation communities (in a short excursion to local bushland) and how to make a herbarium specimen.

Learn the different types of seeds, the protocols for seed collection, how and when to collect seeds form different species and how to prepare and store them.

Workshop Two

Where- Greening Australia nursery

When- Saturday 22nd April

Content- An introduction to native plant propagation

Learn how to store and treat seed, how to sow, and the best time of the year to do this, to add success to growing your own native plants. Improve your techniques with growing from cuttings, how to propagate different plants. potting up plants and what medium to use.

Workshop Three

Where- A Darwin garden (TBC)

When- Saturday May 27th

Content – Designing and planting a small garden with native wildlife attracting and bush tucker plants

Learn about the best Top End native plant to choose for small gardens that are wildlife attracting or bush tucker plants. Learn how to design a small space with plant size, shape, texture, and water requirements in mind. Learn how to prepare and plant out a garden space.

Let any interested others also know.

Land for Wildlife is Branching Out

Our “Trees for Wildlife Program” got into the local news, with more tree plantings happening all the time through the monsoons with the Green Army helping with plantings….we will continue the program next year if more landholders would like to get involved. See the “Trees For Wildlife” Tab

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Enhancing Habitat- a project for landholders for the new year

There are many fauna species that are declining in number in the Top End region, often the reason is not completely understood or can be several reasons. As well as feral animal issues (including the Cane Toad invasion and feral cats) often the lack of hollows in trees and mid story fruiting trees cause animals to decline in number. One of the main reasons that hollows and the mid storey fruiting layer of the woodland landscapes disappear is fire (and of course land clearing). Fire that is too frequent, wide spread and late in the season drastically changes the composition of our woodland landscapes in the longer term as well as the more immediate death of wildlife such as young birds, lizards, in sects and some mammals.  Hollows which many nocturnal species depend on during the day are lost and although larger trees can recover after a hot fire, many of the mid story fruiting trees that many animals rely on as a food source do not survive.

In addition to having a good fire (and weed) management plan to avoid hot fires landholders can install nest boxes and enhance plant with food plants for wildlife. It takes many years for trees hollows to form and for mid story fruiting trees to mature, so in the interim shelter can be created by making and installing nest boxes which are created to house specifics species.

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To join the project landholders should be Land for Wildlife members.

  • The first step is to take part in a simple survey to count the tree hollows, canopy cover and presence of fruiting trees on the property, and recall the fire history, assistance will be given to do this.
  • Secondly there will be a chance to take part in a fire workshop, which is also open to others, to understand the effects of fire on wildlife.
  • Then comes the most exciting part, landholders and their families will be invited to attend a habitat creation day run in collaboration with Territory Wildlife Park to build their nest boxes (late wet/ early dry season). The nest boxes will be designed to a certain size and shape in the hope to house endangered species, but that can also be used by a variety of creatures and each property can receive up to 5 nest boxes. The templates will already be cut out and then just need assembling. Coming along will let participants know how to make nest boxes in the future and the best places to install them.
    Not only will the nest boxes be assembled in the workshop, but the team from Remote Area Tree Services will also give a demonstration of how to create habitat hollows from old dead trees with some chainsaw skills. There will be the chance to learn about and meet some of the creatures that will be housed.
  • Those involved can receive up to 50 habitat enhancing plants targeted towards their targeted fauna species.
  • The landholders will need to install the nest boxes and monitor them for uptake.

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TO REGISTER FOR THE PROGRAM PLEASE EMAIL_ elupin@greenignaustralia.org.au 
(there are limited spaces)

The date of the habitat creation workshop will be announced in the next couple of weeks.

This project is at no financial cost for the landholder as we are very thankful to have received funding from Territory NRM Threatened Species and Community Capacity Grants.

(Photo credit L. Mcmillian, Nest Box and E. Lupin Planchonia flower)

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

Weed Workshop for better Wildlife

 

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It really is fantastic that landholders are pledging to conserve and manage land as wildlife habitat, particularly as more land is subdivided and more people inhabit our rural areas and beyond. A lot of land is in the care of private landholders. Managing land and keeping it as beautiful intact vegetation to support a diversity of species is so rewarding, but not always easy. Management issues arise and the most commonly mentioned one on visits to new and existing member properties is that of weeds, shortly followed by fire, and often involving relations with nearby landholders.

Weed management is quite high up on everyone’s list, but can cause stress and aggravation. If you are busy, it may feel like a never ending task that you can’t get time to finish. It can be frustrating, particularly as negative energy is being targeted at plants, and if you love plants (I certainly do), that can be weird.  However weeds are plants out of place, this can mean different things dependent on the land manager’s perspective. If you are a pastoralist some “weed plants” may be seen as beneficial as they are food for cattle, so are not seen as weeds. Many other “weed plants” may be seen as food, medicine, or ornamentals that are beneficial to humans. If you are looking after land to keep its ecological integrity and support all wildlife species (plants and animals) and their interactions, then non-native plants that compete with natives and change the fire regime to degrade diversity are not welcome and are out of place.

The major weeds are grassy weeds that change the fire regime- with the highest priority to Gamba Grass. Mission grass comes in as another weed to tackle that can change fire regime and is very competitive and Rat’s Tail grass is now creeping up the list, but has not yet been declared. There are many other weeds which are highly vegetatively competitive and often are medium sized herbs. The most common seen on LFW properties are Snake Weed, Hyptis, Sida, Crotolaria, Neem and some other aquatic weeds when landholders have lagoons. We have some more info on our weeds page, and links to the  Weeds Branch website, which is very useful.

The idea of our Weed Workshop was to increase members’ weed awareness and ability to ID weeds, help participants access resources and assistance to aid weed management and allow members to share stories and strategies on weed management to assist one another.

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The main workshop was kindly hosted on Rod and Bhavini’s 9 acres (4 hectare) property in Humpty Doo. This property merges from Open Woodland into a Lagoon. The middle of the lagoon is 38 acre (17 hectare) zoned for conservation and managed by Litchfield Council. The landholders also own one neighbouring property and another LFW property is located across the north side of the lagoon. The majority of the host’s block goes underwater in a good wet season and its location backing on to the lagoon with minimal fencing gives it some great values in habitat connectivity, but also adds to the diversity of potential weed species.

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Over 30 Land for Wildlife members came along on this steamy Saturday morning to be involved. Some had some long term tried and tested weed strategies and others were new to the weeds found here, so a perfect balance to exchange information at a grass roots/ landholder level, as well as have a weed expert on hand.

We kicked of the session, after a quick intro, with members getting into small groups with people they had not met before to share where the property they managed was, what they loved about it, what weeds they had on it and how they felt about this right now. This is a bit like speed (weed) dating, but without the swapping over.

After this the host landholders took us on a tour of the property and familiarised us with some of the common weeds found on many rural properties and their management efforts, as well as pointing out some of the beautiful features.

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Rod purchased the property over 10 years ago and lived on it for several years, but then after marrying Bhavini moved to town and rented it out to friends, continuing to visit and stay on it to manage weeds (and monitor regrowth) The property had previously been mostly cleared around the house area, with some larger trees remaining and a huge infestation of Mission grass and some Gamba patches. Slowly after a lot of hand pulling and slashing, the wall of Mission grass on the margins of the lagoon started to disappear. An array of other smaller weeds continue to pop up in previously disturbed areas. Rod and Bhavini continue to come and stay at the property when no tenants are there to manage the weeds and enjoy the landscape. Rod works with Bush Tucker and Land Management projects in Arnhem Land.

Some top tips (from Rod and Bhavini)

  • Focus on manageable patches of weeds, put parameters or lines on an area and do not let weeds come back across the line and slowly progress through the chosen area. Maybe start with an area you can see, so you can feel good about it once weed free.
  • If you have any friends with some angry energy, maybe people just out of a broken relationship, get them to help out with the weed management (at the same time as perhaps offering refuge)- they can focus their energy on weed irradiation.
  • Use an integrated approach of hand pulling and spraying, where hand pulling is not efficient and there is a thick band of weed species and few natives that could be effected.
  • Keep consistently managing a focused weed area, rather than randomly trying to manage a large area. Prioritise which weeds and areas are the most important.
  • Come up with a plan after the weeds are gone to keep encourage native species, e.g. planting, mulching or seeding.
  • If renting out your property or away for a while for some reason, plan on some block amounts of time to come and manage weeds (before they go to seed or flower)
  • Look to weed management and hand pulling as a great work out, you can even include some funky stretches and dance moves to take it a step further.
  • Enjoy the beautiful bush and how you are helping it…

 

Some top tips from Emma

After our walk we looked over some of the weed species and their features. I highlighted the importance of getting to know your natives too.

  • If you learn to identify plants you can recognise them, like you learn to recognise different people from facial and body features. Look at growth habit, texture, smell of the leaves, leaf shape, flowers and fruit and bark if a larger plant.
  • If you get to know your native plants and what is likely to be found in the landscape naturally and not out of place, you can eliminate them and not mistake them as weeds
  • Often people find it hard to tell grass species apart an often some of our native vines are mistaken as weeds, particularly as they only appear and go crazy in the wet season. So get to know native grass features vs weed grasses. Native vines vs Weed vines

 

Grasses-

When flowering they are easy to tell apart, but before this it can be harder. Look at the clumping form of the grass, the blade shape, the leaf arrangement and the texture of the leaves, as well as colour and pattern.

Gamba grass is very hairy both sides of the leaf, it clumps from one wide base and has a distinct wide stripe down its leaves. The hairs are very distinct where the leaf separates from the stem and make a white fur. If the grass is second year (untreated) growth it will have browning inner leaves and dried flower stems.

A native grass that can look like last year’s Gamba is Heteropogon sp. as it also leaves similarly looking  dried flower stems of height. This grass however has a flat clumping base.

Native Cane grass can also be mistaken for Mission Grass as it has similar seed pods, but does not have a white stripe, or leaves that are as hairy.

Grass I D chart page oneGrass ID chart Page 3Grass ID chart page 2

Colopo, a climbing trifoliate weed also looks very similar to a native Desmodium species, but the weed has furry softer leaves.

A top tip to reduce weed presence is to minimise disturbance to an area. Weeds often occur along roadsides, where a house pad has been cleared, or where slashing or tracks have been made. Domestic animals such as horses or pigs also disturb the land and allow weed species to establish.

 

Weeds Branch assistance

After a great morning tea James Newman from weeds branch told us about the resources available for landholders.

There is a lot of information about how to make a weed management plan, including a guide and a weed management handbook, also weed decks. More info and links can be found here.There are some great pocket weed ID decks that everyone was given and also information on the Gamba Grass Eradication program and how get free glyphosate and application advice.

The weeds branch can also ID weeds, if you cannot ID them yourselves. You can send a photo to them, or to Land for Wildlife if you are a member.

James told us about the classification system which lists weeds in order of importance of threat to biodiversity. Anything in class A, should be reported to the weeds branch. 3 examples of these were bought by James so everyone could familiarise themselves with the weeds.

 

 

To wrap up, participants did some group work, sharing some top tips on weed management strategies, keeping positive and actions to take home.

Neighbours and working together

Working with neighbouring land holders is so important and weeds definitely cross boundaries, sometimes this can be pretty hard. On neighbouring land that has weed problems, offering to spray the fence line or a friendly chat about what you are trying to do and they have weeds is a good start.

Absent neighbours could be private landlords but also Vacant Crown Land or Council Land and reserve On Litchfield Council Land. These departments have stretched resources, but if a weed issue is pointed out and they are made aware that you are trying hard to manage your property for wildlife, they will try and send a ground team. Find the contacts on our weed page. You can check the landholder on NR Maps.

If you feel overwhelmed, you can organise working bees with other landholders, than swap and always throw in a fun barbeque and swim at the end. The nearer they live the better, this builds relationships and connectivity.

Helpex (Help exchange) is also a great program, where in exchange for food, somewhere to stay and snap shot of rural life on a beautiful bush block, travellers can help you with tasks for 4 hours a days.

Other properties visits

A few of the participants went on to visit the nearby Land for Wildlife property of Britt, who has been trying to get on top of her Gamba grass problem. She has had her property for just over 2 years and the previous owners had slashed most of the vegetation except large trees. The native vegetation is coming back, but along with large amounts of Gamba grass. This is a good example of how disturbance leads to weed infestations.

Britt has tried to keep on top of it by spraying it and has found it quite overwhelming. We shared some hints from the workshop, and in places the vegetation is coming back really well. We also gave out some native plants that can be planted in places that weed infestations have been overcome, to create shade and stop further re-establishment.

We also plan to have some more “Landholder walk and talks” on some properties of different sizes and in other locations, which will also cover weed management strategies, amongst other topics.

Thanks again to everyone for coming, to our hosts and to Weeds Branch.

 

Land For Wildlife online

Land for wildlife collageWe are pleased to share this  Land For Wildlife blog site with you, where newsletters, relevant information, land management tips and techniques, events and members stories can be posted.

All past newsletters can be found under the newsletter tab- just double click on the picture of the front page of the newsletter you wish to open.

LFW April 2014 cover

We are also keen to show the amazing wildlife that our native landscapes support- so if you have any photos that you would like used please send them to us (and we can credit you). By email to info@nt.greeningaustralia.org.au

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