Tag Archives: NT wildlife

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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Wildflowers Walk and Macropod Talk

“Landholder walk and talks” are a fabulous way to let Land for Wildlife members share their knowledge with other landholders by taking them on a walk of their property and pointing out how they manage and enhance wildlife habitat.

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 The assessment of our new members Ingrid and David spanned over a couple of days as their property is over 400 hectares. The first visit we took out to the property was during the drier part of the dry season, so we went back after some rain to get a more complete plant list and see the property at a different time of year. This was turned into an opportunity for all Land for Wildlife members and interested others to visit the property.

Greg Leach, Botanist was on hand to identify annual flowering plants and other vegetation for those on the walk. Landholder, Ingrid gave an insight into the hard work carried out by the landowners with weed control and fire abatement.

 

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We walked to a beautiful view point on the property to overlook this unique landscape, it really is a stunning part of The Top End and the view  at the top was worth a slightly sweaty climb and we rested for a chat under the trees.

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Back at base camp we were treated to a fascinating talk by Landholder, David,  about Macropods (Kangaroos and wallabies ), this was based on his lifelong studies and looked at their behaviours, biology and the species trends all over Australia and then focusing on northern Australia. It was really illustrated that in the north we are so lucky to have large amounts of landscapes fairly undisturbed that we have a large percentage of species in tact, particularly in rocky areas such as near Adelaide River.

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We finished off with a feast of shared food and a Barramundi barbeque!

Below are just some of the flowering annual plants we encountered to add to the species list of the property. All of these species are very important to the food source for a large list of insects, which in turn are a food source for other animals as well as pollinators.

From Left to right, Thecanthes punicea (red), Plectranthus scuttellaroides, (purple) Centranthera cochinchinensis (pink)

 

From Left to right; Hibiscus meraukensis, Buchnera linearis, Cartonema spicatum

 

From Left to right; Mitrasacme connata , Thysanotus chinensis, Spermacoceae calliantha

Thanks so much to Greg Leach and our hosts for their hospitality and amazing conservation efforts.

 

More Land for Wildlife near Adelaide River

A few months ago we welcomed Ingrid and David to the program who are added to the collection of Land for Wildlife properties in the Adelaide River and Robin Falls region. They have both spent their life-time as wildlife ecologists with a focus on macropods and  Ingrid managed a region of National Parks in NSW. First moving to the area in 2009 they are now committed to managing the incredible landscape they reside on permanently. Ingrid could not imagine living without a vast protected area of natural bush around her, as she has got so accustomed to this through her work. They have hosted wildlife studies on their property and hope to host LFW workshops in the future and build a network of like-minded people in the area.

Witte and Croft sign
Below are a few words that David has written about their property:

Our 427-ha lifestyle block is on scenic Dorat Road in the Robin Falls region near the township of Adelaide River in the NT. It comprises natural tropical woodland savannah that frames our multi-building habitation at the confluence of two Wet-season creeks. These are fed from the backdrop, a sandstone escarpment. We are remote and off-grid. Our challenges are wildfire, weeds and the variability of the intensity and duration of the Wet and Dry seasons.

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We cycle annually from drought to flooding rain. The severity of Dry-season drought on land management is compounded by the frequent threat of wild fire from arson, whether malevolent or misguided, or failure to contain management burns on some neighbouring properties. We have therefore strengthened our bounding fire breaks by grading and annual control of overgrowing vegetation with some strategic early Dry-season burning along the inner edges. We sacrifice a broad strip of ground-cover along our exposure to Dorat Road to reduce its attraction to arsonists. As this strategy has matured we have been able to exclude fire from most of our block and aim for a fire frequency of no more than once in five or more years. The floods of the Wet-season bring a burden of weeds, including WANS like Gamba and Mission grasses. We target Gamba and Perrenial Mission grasses across the block and remove these and other weeds from a large buffer around habitations. Our success in the latter endeavour has restored riparian vegetation and improved biodiversity in flora (mid-storey vegetation) and fauna (especially birds).

Our long-term goal is to provide wildlife-friendly habitat across our block by sustaining its natural diversity bred by a variable terrain, enhancing the diversity of ground cover and mid-storey vegetation by suppression of wildfire and weeds, and protecting wildlife from harm from hunting or adverse land uses.

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Beautiful Birds of Bird Week

It’s bird week, Land for Wildlife ran some great bird focused events at the weekend and we thought we would share with you some Top End bird profiles during the week and some bird spotting tips.

Firstly here is a bird that we featured in our newsletter- the interesting and quirky Bowerbird. (photographs by Land for Wildlife member Jacinda Brown)

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The Bower bird is a curious bird,  grey with a brownish grey back, up to 40cm tall. This bird is usually solitary and has a lilac attractive nape crest, which is larger on males. The most distinctive feature of this bird is probably their bower, an open over arched mate magnet of twigs on the ground. These are usually found under low hanging shrubs such as Turkey Bush (Calytrix exstipulata) This is built by the males to attract females and is surrounded by found blue, green or sliver shiny luring objects like white shells, plastic bottle tops, green fruit and broken glass. It is here where the male will display by dancing and opening his tail and hopefully along with the shaking of his funky lilac head piece and shiny entrance ornaments tempt the female to mate with him.

JB_Bowerbird_Great_Chamydera nuchalis_20131002_09The female leaves the nest (more like a love den) after mating and then goes off to build her own nest and raise her young alone. The call of these birds has been described as someone vomiting violently or shredding paper and the birds can mimic sounds and human laughter.

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Bower birds are found across northern Australia in open woodland and the edges of mangroves or monsoon forest. Another interesting fact is they are noted to to eat Strychnos fruit (Stychnos lucida) which contains strychnine and are poisonous to other creatures.

Information is taken from the very useful book “A natural History and Field Guide to Australia’s To End” by Penny van Oosterzee, Ian Morris, Diane Lucas and Noel Preece and “Birds of Palmerston” by Denise Lawungkurr Goodfellow

Wildlife Encounters Workshop

 

Group shotJust recently the Land for Wildlife program hosted a members’ workshop in partnership with the Territory Wildlife Park  with a focus on wildlife, in particular mammals. Above are just some of the 37 participants we managed to grab at the end to pose for a photo. It was a really good day, where members got to meet each other, learn from some presenters, very experienced in wildlife handling or research and some of the animals themselves. The workshop was designed for land mangers signed up to the program to find out more about the mammals likely to be found on their properties, their habitats and food sources and how best to manage landscape for them.Agile Wallaby

It is well known that mammal (and reptile) numbers have declined in the region and across northern Australia. There is a lot of research carried out to find out exactly why, but there are some basic management practices that enhance habitat and protect fauna.

There are 50 species of mammals in the Darwin Region and over 80 species of reptiles, including lizards, snakes, turtles and frogs. Some of the most common mammals found in the Darwin region are the Agile Wallaby, the Common Brush Tail Possum and the Northern Brown Bandicoot and  the flying fox and other bats. Many mammals have decreased in numbers over the last 20 years including the Northern Quoll and Black footed Tree Rat.

The workshop started with a quick introduction to the Territory Wildlife Park and its function in environmental education and  conservation. The park actually encompasses more land than just the area in exhibits, which is vast anyway and encompasses many landscape types. The Territory Wildlife Park is a Land for Wildlife member and partner and has a focus on Wildlife education, housing an array of native Top End species within their natural setting.

Participants then took a lovely dry season stroll through the mixed woodland area, lined with Turkey Bush and into the woodland walk area which is home to many tame Wallabies that have been taken in after being rescued, often after being found in the pouches of mothers hit by cars. Park keeper Rob Mcgregor met us in the area and gave an informative talk about the mammals in the Top End , their distribution, behaviours and habitats, while some wallabies joined the discussion.

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Rob describes the behaviour of Wallabies in the enclosure (above). He stresses that one of the most important aspects to conserve Top End mammals is to conserve habitat, by managing woodlands well, eradicating weeds, keeping out frequent fire, which allows a mid fruiting layer to be prominent, which is an important food source for many mammals. Having corridors of intact landscape and reducing fragmentation is also important. So if you are managing an area for conservation, encourage neighbouring land managers to also conserve habitat and manage it well (and join Land for Wildlife!)

Most mammals are active at night, so the best way to spot them is by spotlighting. Even if you try some are shy and very small, so the next best way is to be able to recognise their scats. We looked at an array of samples and matched them to common mammals (and pests) found on rural properties. To see a copy of this, click here.

Poo dunnit LFW Member KAte Kilgour and her son examine mammal scats, an easy way of detecting what species are in the landscape. Kebin describes wildlife on his blockLand for Wildlife member Kevin Maxwell describes the behaviour of mammals on his property (with some great hand actions) and other members discuss mammals seen on their block.

Kernick After this great hands on (poo) activity, members exchanged stories of different species on their blocks and then Brooke Rankmore of Greening Australia gave a presentation.

Brooke had carried out a PHD in Land Fragmentation in The Top End. This was a few years ago, but she found that many mammal species were more plentiful in the rural area than in Kakadu at the time. Some of this she attributed to firebreaks and the absence of fire in areas in subdivisions.

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Brooke talks Brooke described the species of mammals that are now in decline and listed at an NT level. You can find that list here.  We are working on more fact sheets in Land for Wildlife that cover many more fauna species that are also more common.

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All the participants then were lucky enough to have their own personal Territory Wildlife park guide through the nocturnal house to look at live exhibits of the mammals and some reptiles including The Black footed Tree Rat, the Water rat, the Northern Brown Badicoot and Common Brushtail Possum (pictured above in the hands of a volunteer).

Over some lunch everyone walked back through the woodland walk and was given a great tour of online resources that can help with land management. This was given by the very knowledgeable Brydie Hill who showed everyone the following-

NT Fauna Observations –  http://ntfaunaobs.nt.gov.au/

A site set up by The fauna division of DLRM that allows some “Citizen Science” and for landholders, or others to register and upload their native fauna sightings to the data base,. Here the records will be held and can be accessed.  To be involved you just need to set up a password and user name. If you would like more information contact us at Land for Wildlife or Brydie at DLRM.

Infonet  –  http://www.infonet.org.au/infonet2/

Infonet is a resource that has been developed with Territory Natural Resource Management and Charles Darwin University. It is a program that allows you to select an area of land on a map and generate reports about it. The reports can include as much or as little information as you wish on Soil, Flora and Fauna species, listed species, weed species, fire history and Wildlife Management. This is really quite easy to use, generates a useful and very professional looking report and is very useful for land managers. If you are interested in a small area of land (under 50 hectares) it is best to draw a larger boundary or give the area a buffer zone as the reports of species are made on held records and sightings which are not taken from every bit of land.

NR Maps –  http://nrmaps.nt.gov.au/

NR Maps is a mapping program holding different layers of Government information. If you like maps you will love this, although it is a little slow and you cannot hold your place yet. There is a side bar to the left which allows you to turn off and on different layers, including some vegetation, mining tenements and leases and Cadastre. Cadastre is who owns (or manages parcels of land). It will not tell you the name of private landholders, but will tell you whether the land is private, Vacant Crown Land, Pastoral or otherwise, how it is divided up and the size of each portion of land and its assigned portion number. This is really handy if you are wanting to know who is managing neighbouring land. If it is local council you can contact them with management issues.

NAFIhttp://www.firenorth.org.au/nafi3/

NAFI stands for Northern Australian Fire Information.

It allows you to track fires, look up fire history and fire scars and generate reports.  You can see when early or late fires are and the late ones (August on) are definitely not prescribed burning and detrimental to our landscapes and wildlife.

I hope these tools are useful and the information on mammals. Our next wildlife workshop series will focus on birds, insects and more reptiles. We would also like to encourage any members with knowledge to share this with others and help present some low key workshops or talks on there blocks. Get in touch!

Thanks again to all the amazing Territory Wildlife Park staff, including Damien, Rob,  Sarah and Jasmine and also presenters Brooke and Brydie.

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Wild Care care course

Wild Care and Land for Wildlife have a partnership, LFW members are asked if they would allow rescued and ready animals to be released on their properties, mainly “soft release”, those that are healthy and just need to be back in the bush .

There is a course coming up where you can learn to care for those animals that need a bit more intensive love. Below are the details-

Wildcare course