Tag Archives: land for wildlife

Enhancing Habitat Update

140 of our nest boxes are up in trees on Land for Wildlife properties from Darwin to Katherine! They are hoping to attract our Black-footed Tree-rats and food plants for them are also being planted on each nest box property.

After our fantastic workshops, members have been busy painting and installing the boxes. Boxes have also been installed at 3 schools- Girraween Primary, Howard Springs Primary School and Milkwood Steiner School.

Some members got friends and family together to install the boxes and soem even got a little help from Emma.

Emma (LFW coordinator) even got on the radio to talk about the project…

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These are just some of our nest boxes looking fabulous in their gorgeous host trees

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And then, the next exciting part has been checking out the boxes with our new especially designed nest box camera, with the help of the landholders and our Green Army team who are learning about surveying.

 

So far we have not caught any mammals live on camera but we have got Eucalyptus leaf nest material (very likely to be from the Black-footed Tree-rat), droppings that look like those of the Black-footed Tree-rat and some small identified fluff balls (to be sent for analysis).

We have also found some other gatecrashers using the nest boxes, including many geckos, grasshoppers, spiders and European honey bees.

Check out this amazing (non native) bee colony that took up a nest box at Alison and Mike’s property in Humpty Doo, and then moved on.

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So no live pictures of our Tree-rat friends but evidence of some and sightings from landholders of BFTRs outside the nest boxes! We are hoping to hear about motion sensing cameras we can lend to our landholders soon and will be checking on the boxes in 3 months time! All the data is being collated as well as a map of the location of every nest box!

Now we will wait and see if anything moves in over the next few months, while our Green Army are busy planting 15, 000 trees for the Black-footed Tree-rat ! (yes 15, 000) on Land for Wildlife Properties.

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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)

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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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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Revelations on Reptiles

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Another fantastic workshop, with a fauna focus was hosted especially for Land for Wildlife members at The Territory Wildlife Park. This workshop focussed on reptiles that are likely to be found in Top End landscapes and particularly properties of the rural Darwin area and how best to manage habitat for their success.

Nearly 30 Land for Wildlife members all boarded the train on another slightly sweaty but beautiful Saturday morning to meet Dion Wedd, curator of the collections at Territory Wildlife Park. In the nocturnal house Dion gave us a background to reptiles in the Top End and how we can look after their habitat, as well as all the participants having an opportunity to see and even handle some of the species themselves, including a Blue- tounged lizard (actually a skink), a Frill-necked lizard, a Tree frog and others.

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There are over 300 species of Lizards, snakes, turtles and frogs that can be found in the landscapes of the Top end region and about 1/3 of those in Darwin and rural region. Lizards include numerous small skinks which are common even in suburban gardens and rummage around in leaf litter, Dragons- Frill-necked Lizards (Chlamydosarus kingii), Tree Dragon (Gowidon temporalis) and Gilbert’s dragon (Lophognathus gilberti) gheckos and goannas, there are also Pygopods, which are legless lizards (and yes they look quite like a snake).

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Frill-necked lizard (photo  by Alice Buckle)

Northern Spadefoot Toad

Northern spade-foot toad (by Alice Buckle)

Mains frog

Mains frog (photo by Alice Buckle)

In wetter areas we find amphibians (frogs, toads and toadlets) in great numbers, turtles and water monitors. Many Land for Wildlife properties include inundated areas of Sandsheet, treed swamp or freshwater creeks.

And snakes, yep there are lots of them, over 40 species in the Top End region, many of the more common ones found in the Darwin region. Unfortunately there is a culture of humans in Australia fearing snakes and wanting to kill them, often without much knowledge of their behaviour or how harmful they are. Generally keeping a distance and letting them be is the best action.

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We joined Greg Mayo, Wildlife keeper in the monsoon rainforest, who told us a lot of amazing information about snakes, their behaviour and habitat and showed us a live Black-headed python (Aspdithes melancephalus). We were also informed of some snake first aid and who to call if a snake was too near.

Australia has 8 of the Top 10 deadliest snakes in the world, but only (on average) one person dies of a snake bite per year and almost always they were bitten when trying to catch it, handle it or had hurt it. Compared to other statics of how people die in Australia, that is pretty low on the list, we should be a lot more worried about cars, other humans and bad food or alcohol!

After our talks we had time to enjoy the reptile displays in the rainforest and got together at the main station for brunch and everyone got to share stories and tips on land management for reptiles on their own properties.

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The biggest threat to reptiles in our region are ‘inappropriate fire regimes’, Cane Toads and possibly at the Top of the list habitat loss (land clearing.) So good land management practice and the efforts of landholders (and our members) is of great importance.

“Inappropriate fire” is fire that is too widespread, too regular or too late in the season, or a combination of these factors. Most reptiles find it hard to get away from fire, they will try and find an underground or wet place or move to an unburnt area. If fire is later in the dry season (and enhanced with extra fuel from grassy weeds) it will often kill most lizard (and some mammal) species in the landscape. You will see birds of prey circling overhead ready to eat the grilled animals. IN addition to this, the leaf litter layer, where many smaller species thrive is taken away with fire.

On most small rural blocks, keeping fire out of the property with fire breaks and diligence is the best strategy.

Cane toads seem to have dented many reptile populations with competition and predation, although these populations have stabilised land managers can keep on top of cane toads by “disposing of them” as quickly and painlessly as possible…

Keep up the great work and a big Thanks to The Territory Wildlife Park staff for all their time and knowledge.

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