Newsletter of Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife in Central Australia
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G'day LFWers, GFWers, and friends everywhere. Welcome to the bumper mid-year edition. There was just too much happening to fit it all in one edition, so we have expanded the newsletter out to cover May and June.

To kick it all off, this is a beautiful photograph taken by Holger Woyt of one of the new Land for Wildlife signs, proudly spreading the message around one of our national icons, Uluru. The resort down at Yulara has been an enthusiastic LFW member for over 12 months now, and surely this will warm the hearts of those Victorian birdwatchers who started LFW over thirty years ago, to see that it has spread all the way to the very centre of the continent.



Inside, Jesse takes us through some of the best-loved desert plants for your garden - the eremophilas. Chris takes a look at the feral cat population around town and how LFW and GFW members have been playing their part in controlling their numbers. Matt and Chris have included a story with some artwork following their recent trip to Hermannsburg to help the Tjuwampa Rangers with a workshop with the Junior Rangers from Ntaria School. For a bit of interest further afield there's also a guest contribution from our LFW friends in the west. 

Your newsletter has undergone yet another minor change, in that we have changed from a dark to a light background to make it easier to print. We're always interested to in finding out how you read your newsletter each month - do you read it in your email, in your browser, or do you print it out rather than read from the screen? Drop us a line and let us know.


Eremophilas; Wildlife-friendly Desert Lovers for Backyards
Story and pictures by Jesse Carpenter

Eremophila is an endemic genus of Australian plants belonging to the Scrophulariaceae 
family. Often known by common names of Emu Bush, Poverty Bush or Desert or Native Fuchsia,  they occur in a vast array of forms from low ground covers through shrubs to small trees. There are over 200 species, most of which are found in arid and semi-arid environments in inland areas. 

Eremophilas fall  into one of two broad groups; those who use insects as pollinators and those who use birds. You can tell which pollinator a species prefers by looking closely at the flower shape and colour. Species that prefer insects generally have purple or white blooms. The lower petals of the flower project forwards, providing a convenient landing pad for flying insects, while the stamens are tucked deep inside the corolla. Bird attracting eremophilas have red, orange, yellow or green flowers. Lower petals point downwards to discourage insects and long stamens protrude beyond the petals; anointing nectar-seeking birds with pollen as they feed.

There are many eremophila species native to Alice Springs and central Australia. There are species that prefer rocky scree slopes of the MacDonnell Ranges, dune fields of the south-west to clay pans and  mulga woodlands. They're great for those who want colourful displays in the garden while saving water and attracting wildlife. Many  species have strongly aromatic foliage that was used as a treatment for various ailments by local Aboriginal people.

If you visit a nursery, you'll likely find a confusing array of eremophila species and cultivars for sale. Some popular nursery varieties are not native to central Australia at all, coming from Western Australia or heath lands of the south. Below are just a few examples of local species to help you select the most appropriate eremophila for your Garden for Wildlife. 

Long-leaved Emu Bush (Eremophila longifolia)


A great Aussie survivor, the Long-leaved Emu Bush can be found throughout the semi-arid zone. Growing to a large shrub or small tree (above, C), birds love visiting the red or pink blossoms (above, A) for nectar. This species is common in the loamy soils of Acacia woodlands around Alice Springs and often forms an upper-shrub layer beneath Mulga (Acacia aneura) or Ironwood (Acacia estrophiolata).

This species readily produces suckers from roots of established plants, particularly after fires, and many Land for Wildlife properties have small groves of root suckers around their properties.  Photograph B (above) shows the fruit of this species; a typical drupe common to eremophila species. Birds, including emus, love these berries when they're ripe; hence the common name 'emu bush'.


Latrobe's Desert Fuchsia (Eremophila latrobei)


The classic bird-pollinated type, Latrobe's Desert Fuchsia grows in similar habitats to the species above, but also occurs on rocky hills and ranges and clay soils. It exists in several different forms, including grey-leaved (above, A), narrow green-leaved (above, B) and broader green-leaved (above, C); all present in bushland around Alice Springs.

Despite foliage differences, all forms display these bright pink-red flowers, with down-turned lower petals and protruding stamens. A large bulbous swelling at the base of the flower tube holds a drip of nectar that honeyeaters just love. After flowers are finished, green bracts (above, C) often remain on the plant for some time.

A smaller bushy shrub than Long-leaved Emu Bush, this species is also a great bird attracting plant to plant under a taller tree layer.


Giles' Desert Fuchsia (Eremophila gilesi)


Giles' Desert Fuchsia is one of a long list whose common and latin names commemorate European explorers of Australia's deserts. It grows on red earth plains in Mulga woodlands, especially north of Alice Springs on the Burt Plain and Plenty and Sandover regions, where these photos were taken.

Growing to a small, compact and dense shrub (above, B), it has strongly aromatic foliage. In good seasons, the plants quickly spring to life and can bloom profusely (above, A). This is one of the insect pollinated group, with the 'landing pad' beautifully displayed in photo C above.


A closely related species, Rock Fuchsia (Eremophila freelingii) grows on rocky sites in central Australia. This species looks similar, but has broader aromatic leaves. It was used as a medicine to treat skin conditions by Aboriginal people and would be a great addition to a wildlife garden on dry, rocky sites.

Wills' Desert Fuchsia (Eremophila willsii)


A low shrub usually no more than knee high, Wills' Desert Fuchsia is a plant of the dune fields of the Simpson, Gibson and Great Victoria Deserts. Common in the Desert Oak (Allocasuarina decaisneana) woodlands around Uluru, deep red sand is the key to finding this species. Closer to town, it occurs in dune fields at Owen Springs and along the Old South Road.

Another insect pollinated species, the stamens are deep within the flower tube, not visible in the photographs above. Insects are doused with pollen as they crawl inside the flower in search of nectar.


The above is by no means an exhaustive list; there are many other eremophila species that grow naturally in and around Alice Springs. If you'd like more information on species suitable for your property, drop us a line at the Land for Wildlife office, lfw@lowecol.com.au, or download a plant list from our website www.lowecol.com.au.

How much can you eat?
This is an interstate contribution from our friends at Land for Wildlife in Western Australia. The WA coordinator Penny Hussey has kindly forwarded on this story with all text and pics by Avril Baxter and Ned Crossley. 

Rabbits are on the increase in the wheatbelt in recent years and providing a food source for feral and native animals.

When Ned was working in his shed, he heard squeaking outside and witnessed our resident Rosenberg’s Monitor flush out and kill three baby rabbits in rapid succession.  Was it a killing frenzy or was he going to eat the lot?





The monitor was pretty skinny and obviously hungry and proceeded to squash and gradually swallow the first rabbit.   Monitors can move their upper jaw independently of the rest of their skull which helps them gradually swallow their prey.  Mobile hyoid apparatus (a group of bones just below the tongue) helps move the prey into their throat and twisting their neck side to side helps push it down even further.





They can also ram the food down their throat, this monitor used bolts on a verandah post stirrup and a low log to help force the rabbit down.




Having swallowed the baby rabbit whole he then rested up against a tree trunk and used gravity to help the rabbit slip down into his stomach. He looked really full and we thought he would be having a bit of a nap after that, but no, after a rest he proceeded to down the second and then the third rabbit!




By this stage the monitor had a really distended stomach and waddled off tail held outright as a counterbalance to the weight in his stomach. Maybe now it was time for a long nap?

We asked Dr Peter Mawson the Director of Animal Health and Research at Perth Zoo how long such a meal would last.  Peter said that the monitor would be unlikely to eat for another few weeks and that the rate of digestion is influenced by temperature, the warmer the weather the faster the food is digested.

Ntaria Junior Rangers at Kuprilya Springs
Matt and Chris were lucky enough to head out to Kuprilya Springs with the students from Ntaria School  this month. The junior rangers were being assisted by the Tjuwampa Rangers to take some water samples for quality testing, clearing up litter, and working on their field identification skills for some of the local birds. Before the field activities began, LFW Quandong expert Matt Digby, had 10 minutes to impart a bit of his knowledge on this now rare species of native fruit. This plant was once present around the springs but the last plant had recently gone by the wayside after an unfortunate encounter with a grader. At the conclusion of the afternoon's activities, we were lucky enough to be handed some of the junior rangers' artwork as a memento of the day. 



(above) Tyrius made this perfect interpretation of the colours of the Australian Ringneck

After a bit of tuition and a walk around the site, the junior rangers dove into some colouring activities to confirm that they knew what to look for when out birdwatching in the bush. The colourful pictures that you see here are the happy result. While perhaps not all of the plumage details are perfectly right, I think the rangers got the gist of it, and the artistic license is more than justified.



(above) Tyron's creative interpretation of the Wedge-tailed Eagle's plumage.

Thank you to the Tjuwampa Rangers for the invitation to come out and help, and thanks also to Caddie Brain from ABC Radio 783 Alice Springs, for accompanying us and conducting interviews with some of the students and teachers.




Feral Cats - a widespread problem



Anyone who has spent some time out bush or even out in the garden in the last couple of months will probably have noticed a feral cat or two. Even driving through the middle of town, they have been quite common and obvious, brazenly loitering in car parks and mooching about waste disposal units. At the sewage ponds here in Alice Springs, Power & Water have been busily removing feral cats (and dogs) at a prodigious rate from all of their facilities, some of which are important wildlife refuges.



Out bush they've been more obvious than most of us can recall in years, and the problem is not limited to Central Australia. A few years of good rains in western Queensland seem to have had a similar effect on cat abundance and rangers in the Top End have been getting a lot of attention for their cat management program by the massive size of some of the animals they have been catching in Arnhem Land.  see this link:> http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-06-04/huge-feral-cats-arnhem-land/4731696

In Queensland the Conservation & Wildlife Management division of the Sporting Shooters Association of Australia have been involved in intensive and urgent cat control at Astrebla Downs National Park, one of the last strongholds of Greater Bilby in that state. The newsletter story at the following link features some confronting, but enlightening photographs from this program. It seems that the bilbies in that part of the world are really struggling with the introduced predators. It makes me wonder how bilbies in the NT in areas with little or no vertebrate pest management might be faring at the moment. See this link:> http://cwm.ssaaqld.org.au/2013/documents/newsletters/CWM-Newsletter-June-2013.pdf



Back at a more local level, Land for Wildlife members have been an important part of controlling the numbers of feral cats around Alice Springs. Jon & Nicole Raveney have been bombarding the LFW office with almost daily notifications of another mad moggy awaiting removal from their back yard trap. It seems they may be on something of a cat highway, as they are catching cats as fast as their trap can be emptied. A crucial part of our trap-loan program has been the cooperation and tireless work of Alice Springs Town Council ranger veterinarian, Lisa Treatch. Whenever it has been too difficult to deliver feral cats to the RSPCA for humane euthanasia, Lisa has made the time for house calls, enabling our traps to be back in operation more quickly. 

All of the LFW loan traps are out being put to good use at the moment but if you find yourself in need of a trap and the Alice Springs Town Council don't have any loaners left either, perhaps you could consider investing in your own trap. These can be bought quite cheaply from a number of suppliers and may be a worthwhile long-term investment for many rural property owners who value their wildlife. Here's a couple of links to some suppliers that might be able to help you out, but a web search will quickly locate plenty of other suppliers.

Professional Trapping Supplies - http://www.traps.com.au/cattraps.htm

WA Poultry Equipment - http://www.wapoultryequipment.net.au/products/Cage-Trap-90cm-Cats-Possums
Bookshelf...
 
Australian Bird Names; a Complete Guide
Ian Fraser & Jeannie Gray


This book is aimed at anyone with an interest in birds, words, or the history of Australian biology and bird-watching. It discusses common and scientific names of every Australian bird, to tease out the meanings, which may be useful, useless or downright misleading!
The authors examine every species: its often many-and-varied common names, its full scientific name, with derivation, translation and a guide to pronunciation. Stories behind the name are included, as well as relevant aspects of biology, conservation and history. Original descriptions, translated by the authors, have been sourced for most species.


Life Everlasting; The Animal Way of Death
Bernd Heinrich


How does the animal world deal with death? And what ecological and spiritual lessons can we learn from examining this? Bernd Heinrich has long been fascinated by these questions, and when a good friend with a terminal illness asked if he might have his “green burial” at Heinrich’s hunting camp in Maine, it inspired the acclaimed biologist and author to investigate. Life Everlasting is the fruit of those investigations, illuminating what happens to animals great and small after death.
From beetles to bald eagles, ravens to wolves, Heinrich reveals the fascinating and mostly hidden post-death world that occurs around us constantly, while examining the ancient and important role we too play as scavengers, connecting death to life.




Webwatch...

The Biggest News - Night Parrot finally photographed alive for the first time in history

http://www.theaustralian.com.au/news/health-science/tweets-in-the-night-a-flash-of-green-is-this-our-most-elusive-bird/story-e6frg8y6-1226671683508

http://www.australiangeographic.com.au/journal/night-parrot-seen-alive-again-after-30-years.htm

http://comebirdwatching.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/night-parrot-pezoporus-occidentalis.html

Did you notice that there had been a bird sighting of national significance in Alice Springs during May?
The first ever occurrence of Forest Wagtail (and Asian species) on the Australian mainland discovered in Alice Springs.

MEGA MOGGIES - feral cats in Arnhem land. 
http://www.abc.net.au/news/2013-06-04/huge-feral-cats-arnhem-land/4731696

Pied Honeyeaters hit The Centre in numbers.
http://rwsboa2011.blogspot.com.au/2013/06/pied-honeyeaters-at-papunya-finally.html

Wow! The new Australian citizen science website is live... and it's alive!!!
The Bowerbird.
Photo Competition...
Entries for the photo competition have been a little bit slow. Be careful that you don't leave your run too late. The competition will end the week before the Alice Springs Show, to allow us judging time so we can present the prize at the show.



Thanks for your comments and contributions folks. Stay in touch, and we'll see you next month!


Jesse, Chris, Matt & Bill.
May 2013.
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