The Newsletter of Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife in Central Australia - November 2015
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Land for Wildlife

Garden for Wildlife

 

Central Australia


Newsletter November 2015



Taking some time out on one of the many hills surrounding Alice, going carefully, you might spot a surprise! An Echidna, doing its best to hide under a rock! Photo: Katie Degnian.
 

To the Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife family...

We hope you have had an interesting Spring season. What have you noticed about?

We have observed a general increase in moth abundance, various flowering Acacia spp. (murrayana, victoriae) and Melaleuca spp., along with a few extra puffs of smoke and frequency of windy-willys. We have also noticed increased reptile activity with a few snake sightings, geckos, blue-tongue lizards, bearded dragons and general increase in invertebrate abundance. 

As the weather warms up, it's a great time to take a stroll in the late afternoon or evening to explore for invertebrates and reptiles. You might spot something unusual and interesting (like an Echidna). Send us though your photograph!
 

Project update: Monitoring of domestic pet cats in Alice Springs.

Our TNRM supported project has recently received approval from the Animal Ethics Committee and we have begun collecting data on pet cat movements in Alice Springs. Thank you to those volunteers who have expressed interest in their cat being involved in the program. We will be collecting data from cats for the next eight months or so (at least) with a view to helping people to know where their cat gets to when they're out and about. 

If you are interested in your pet cat being involved in the program, get in touch: lfw@lowecol.com.au or 08 89555 222.


This project is supported by Territory Natural Resource Management, through funding from the Australian Government's National Landcare Programme.
 

What's On?

  • 10-12th November, Darwin. Territory Natural Resource Management Conference.

Interested in a new venture?

Business for sale: Larapinta Creative Camps, owners are keen to retire. For more information see their add on gumtree or get in touch with Deb or Charlie via their website.
 

Interested in taking care of injured or sick wildlife?

Get in touch with the volunteer Wildcare Inc. team in Alice Springs, they are always keen for new members.

Land for Wildlife / Garden for Wildlife of Central Australia are award finalists for the Industry TNRM awards, in the 'Best Urban NRM Group' category. The awards will be announced at the TNRM Conference in November.

Congratulations also to Bill Low (who was secretly nominated) and Peter Latz both of whom made it to the finalist for the National Landcare award category 'Australian Government Individual Landcarer'. 

Happy November!

Cheers,

Jen, Tim and Bill
LfW and GfW team
lfw@lowecol.com.au

Rabbits - current update


We have had a few queries lately about the current state of rabbits in Alice Springs. As many people have probably noticed rabbits popping up in increased numbers around their irrigated gardens. The dry winter conditions that we have experienced here in Alice, are not ideal for rabbits to breed as they prefer moisture and lots of fresh vegetation. [This of course is a different story when it comes to irrigated fields and lawn areas (another reason to consider reducing or removing irrigation)]. The few rabbits that you may have seen around have managed to take advantage of the limited moisture and vegetation that is around although unlikely to breed prolifically.

As rabbits have originated from Europe, they are well adapted to breed during the cool Australian winter, taking advantage of rain that encourages new vegetation growth. Therefore, a central Australian summer places extra strain on their ability to survive as energy stores are allocated to keeping cool as a priority over lactation and breeding.

In any case, monitoring rabbits on your property is still worth keeping in check. If you see one or two you may not be overly concerned. However, if there are dozens you may want to take more action. Any efforts you do now will reduce the potential adult breeders.

A few suggestions:
  • Remove piles of debris (corrugated iron, pavers, wire, left over building materials), as this removes potential sites to burrows under.
  • If you find burrows in the soil, you can place newspaper in the holes and fill in with dirt. This might deter them as they hate digging through it.
  • Consider trapping for rabbits (see image below).
If anyone is interested in being involved in the next release of Calicivirus contact PestSmart to register your property as a monitoring site.


Uric acid deposited on the sand in concentrated amounts indicates moisture stress in rabbits (image from January 2015).



Mark Hussy sets rabbit traps at the Alice Springs Steiner School biodynamic garden to prevent rabbits from taking more than their share!


Rabbits leave a unique and obvious track in soft  sand (direction of travel is to the left).

Are you over watering your garden?



Alkalinity is often a problem in arid gardens, which can be encouraged by over watering your garden. Let's get real about where we live and what our expectations ought to be for our gardens and outdoor spaces.

As the weather warms up, we encourage gardeners to remain conscious about their water consumption (for the environment and the pH of their soil).

Remember that Alice Springs town water has low levels of dissolved calcium carbonate and salt in it. Pouring this onto your soil will (over time) increase the presence of these minerals in the soil, increasing the alkalinity. To counteract alkalinity in the soil when planting a tube stock, Geoff Miers (our long-term patron) suggests, planting a tube stock with a native fertiliser tablet, a teaspoon of sulphur and potting mix (making the soil slightly acidic). This is will counteract the effects from initial watering. This may be as regular as an hour a day, with a 4/L dripper for 1-2 weeks. Then moving to watering every 3-4 days, then every 4-5 days for up to 3-4hrs. Of course there is no set recipe for watering, though its important to move towards a regime of watering deeply and less frequently. 

Establishing plants in this way will encourage roots to move deep into the soil, rather than remaining near the surface where roots are more susceptible to stress from warm weather. This strategy will help them to be resilient throughout the seasons and less dependent on any regular water regime.

Once native plants have established and survived a few seasons, a watering regime may consist of only four deep, long (8hr) soaks per year (August, November, February and May). If this comes from rainfall, so much the better, both for that plants and your bank account!

Of course, cultivating a native garden with plants local to the region will provide you with a low maintenance garden in the long term and require very little water once established. Remember, although particular plants such as frangipani and bougainvillea may produce aesthetically pleasing displays of flowers, the truth is, those plants have not adapted to the arid conditions and so will always require extra attention (frost protection, watering etc.). Why waste that energy on ornamental varieties when you can plant natives and offer habitat and potential food sources to native wildlife too!

If you suspect your soil may have an alkaline imbalance, you can check by buying a pH test kit from all terrific gardening shops in Alice. Ideally, you need to keep your soil at 7-7.5pH for ideal plant growing conditions. If the pH is over 8.5 it is probably too basic for most plants to grow well (Forth & Vinter, 2007).
 
Thank you to Geoff and Kaye Miers for their input into the development of this article.

For more information about strategic watering of native gardens check out the Central Australian water wise garden brochure (Power and Water).

Forth, F. & Vinter, A. (2007). Native plants for central Australian gardens. Greening Australia.

 

Biodiversity Matters Workshop


23rd - 26th September, 2015.

With the support of the Arid Lands Environment Center's (ALEC) Biodiversity Matters program, Land for Wildlife facilitated a fauna trapping and surveying workshop at a new Land for Wildlife property in Ragonessi Rd.

Thank you to the property owners (Rod and Anna) and their very helpful children (Atticus and Eli) for willing to have a team of volunteers visit their property morning and night over a three day period. We are also especially grateful to the volunteers who came to Part A of the workshop: this required a bit of physical effort to dig the pitfall traps and put up fence lines into clay-rich soil, (though we know the best way to learn is by doing), so now they are all experts! Part B of the workshop saw a great return of volunteers from the three days prior and also brought new interest.

We put out a total of 20 Elliott traps near the northern boundary of the property and three pitfall traps randomly distributed close by.  Traps were checked each morning over the three night period. Overnight temperatures were cool for the time of year with the minimum temperature falling to 2.9 (degrees Celcius) on Wednesday 23rd September (BOM, 2015).

The Land for Wildlife team aim to conduct at least two more biodiversity surveys on Land for Wildlife properties between mid November and December. Thank you to those landholders who have been in touch to express their interest to have a survey undertaken on their property. We will be in touch.

This Fat Tailed Gecko (Diplodactylus conspicillatus) was unexpectedly uncovered digging a pitfall trap! When aggravated, they often inflate their body with air and arch their spine, possibly to avoid being grasped from their burrow. They use their fat tail to block the entrance of spider burrows or other cracks in the soil where they like to hide/live (Gambold & Metters, 2003).


Volunteers dig a trench for a fence and Rod doesn't hesitate to dig one of three pitfall traps!


Tracks from a house mouse (Mus musculus) were detected on the morning of 25th September in a sand tracking bed.


A house mouse (Mus musculus) was captured on 25th September in an Elliott trap.



Atticus did a great job of collecting 'habitat' to place at the bottom of this pitfall trap.

Gambold, N. & Metters, D. (2003). Reptiles and Frogs of Alice Springs: a pictorial field guide to reptiles and frogs of the Alice Springs disctrict, Northern Territory.

 

Photos from our members and friends...



Pied Butcherbirds (Cracticus nigrogularis) use their hooked beak to carve prey precisely - usually pinned to a tree trunk. Photo: Max Rittner.


Black-faced woodswallows (Artamus cinereus) are an extension of their preferred habitat, well camouflaged from potential predators, such as Brown Goshawks. Photo: Max Rittner.

Extra reads...

Catching stick-nest rats, and weeding out the Bettongs! The team at Arid Recovery have had a win, link to article on Arid Recovery news.

Priorities for effective feral cat management have been identified from a recent National Feral Cat Workshop and you can read the media release here.

Kiwirrkurra cat-hunters have a highly sought after skill - hunting cats! This awesome media clip and article in The Australian is a terrific summary. 


 
Thanks for reading folks.

Keep your emails and phone calls flowing in. We always love to hear how our members are going and what interesting things might be happening on your block!

If you have a problem choosing or growing plants, or knowing where to enhance animal habitat or how to control ferals we may be able to help directly, or find an expert that can help.  We're always looking for new members and if your neighbour looks like they could use some advice, refer them to Land for Wildlife or Garden for Wildlife. 

Cheers,


Jen, Tim and Bill
November, 2015
Copyright © 2015 Low Ecological Services, All rights reserved.


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