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Land for Wildlife

Garden for Wildlife

 

Central Australia


Newsletter May 2015

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Stray, domestic and feral cats are the focus for our remote cameras on urban GfW and LfW blocks around Alice Springs as part of our feral cat monitoring and management project. Our remote camera captured this tabby leaving its 'message' on the lure (cat feces and urine). Photo: Jen Kreusser.

G'day LfWers, GfWers and friends everywhere!

Firstly, welcome to our new LfW and GfW members! We are always excited to share enthusiasm throughout our networks from passionate new members (new to town, new to land management and/or new to nature conservation) as well as share enthusiasm and information from our ongoing long term members.

Thank you to the property owners who are involved in the feral cat monitoring and management program. We have undertaken one preliminary week of monitoring and propose to place cameras and some traps out for another six week block from the beginning of May.

As the weather cools, there are more changes to the landscape and fewer insects. Reptiles are changing their metabolism and entering aestivation to sit out the cooler weather. Micro-bats are adopting a similar adaptation called torpor, taking shelter and 'hanging- out' until the weather warms up.

This change in season brings on changes to available food supplies for predators too! You may have noticed an extra mouse or two about your place, possibly resulting from the January-rain inspired breeding frenzy. There are reports of fresh rabbit scats about the place too. Remember that feral cats enjoy rabbits and birds during the cooler weather -  as skinks and lizards are unavailable (Paltridge, 2002). 

Help us out - forward this newsletter to your friends and networks, they can subscribe too - for free!

Having trouble viewing this as an email? - remember to click the link above 'View this email in your browser'.

Cheers,

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

References
Paltridge, L. (2002). The diets of cats, foxes and dingoes in relation to prey availability in the Tanami Desert, Northern Territory. Wildlife Research, 29, 389-403.
Focused feral cat monitoring and awareness project

This month, the Land for Wildlife team supported students in the Cert. III Land and Conservation Management course at the Batchelor Institute with a week of feral cat monitoring and management.

Students were introduced to animal ethics, trapping methodology and how to use equipment for feral animal monitoring and management. Then the fun began! Students identified three sites along St Mary's Creek and two sites along nearby fire trails (within the Desert Knowledge Precinct, a LFW property since 2009). Cameras, cage traps and sand track beds were strategically placed with "Pongo" (a mixture of cat urine and feces)  as a lure, combined with animal offal as bait. Student rangers checked and closed traps each morning and identified tracks in the sand, making notes and recordings about the events from the previous evening.

A total of five traps were set each night over four nights, trapping two cats and recording two other individuals. Dogs were also recorded on the remote cameras that monitored for over 91 hours. 

We were excited to support and facilitate the practical, hands-on activities that were conducted over the week. Thank you to Batchelor Institute, particularly Andy Vinter, for inviting Land for Wildlife to be part of a productive and engaging week of feral cat monitoring and awareness raising.



Engaged students identify a trapping site along a fire trail at the Desert Knowledge Precinct. Photo: Jen Kreusser.



Teacher, Andy Vinter, and students from Cert III in Land and Conservation Management get their hands dirty carrying equipment for feral cat monitoring and trapping. Photo: Jen Kreusser.


Ranger students involved in preparing the sand for tracking 'visitors' and setting up the trap. Photo: Jen Kreusser.


A remote camera is a valuable monitoring tool. Photo: Jen Kreusser.


'Pongo' was used as a lure, combined with animal offal as bait. Photo: Jen Kreusser.


Ranger student weighs trapped cat before it was taken to the Animal Shelter (
Alice Springs - RSPCA). Photo: Andy Vinter.


Students from Batchelor Institute were involved in trapping a feral cat on the first night of the project! Photo: Jen Kreusser

If you would like to get involved in feral animal monitoring and management on your property get in touch (lfw@lowecol.com.au).

This project is supported by Territory Natural Resource Management, through funding from the Australian Government.
Photos from our members and friends...


Sacred Kingfishers Todiramphus sanctus: two juveniles (on left) watch and learn as an adult snaps a grasshopper, whilst hanging out in the Mulga at a local Garden for Wildlife property. Observed nesting for a second year in a favourite date palm. Photo: Sue Morrish.


A cunning Pied butcherbird Cracticus nigrogularis was snapped living up to its name, hooking a mouse Mus musculus to a small fork of an Ironwood Acacia estrophiolata, then using its sharp hook on the edge of its beak, to tear strips off it with delight! Photo: Damien Griffiths.


The noctural and threatened Plains mouse Pseudomys australis  is only found in two regions of the NT and enjoys living on the stony plains of the Simpson Desert with a preference for the cracking clay soils. One population survives in the southern reaches of Old Andado Station where it is currently being studied in a PhD research program. Photo: Lauren Young.
Land for Wildlife property: Leonard's Coolabah and Ironwood block

Passionate and committed to nature conservation, owners Carmel Leonard and husband Dave moved to Alice Springs with the intention of only staying for five years. 32 years later, there is a buffel free property providing a range of habitat, food supplies and shelter for a diversity of species to visit and make their home!

After first moving to the property in 1983 and seeing the buffel, the owners were not at all impressed. In fact they developed a very negative feeling towards buffel grass and subsequently spent the following six years removing it. During this process Dave developed the "buffel-removers" garden fork featured on pg 7 of the LfW newsletter in April 2003.

The buffel free property reduces competition for moisture and nutrients in the soil allowing native grasses and forbs to flourish.
 
The property offers striking examples of numerous local native trees, shrubs and ground plants and the Leonards, who were strong members of the Australian Plant Society, also established several uncommon and protected species including Round-leaved mallee Eucalyptus miniritchi, Shiny-leaved mallee  Eucalytpus lucens and the endangered Acacia peuce. The resulting biodiversity that exists is truly inspirational and we hope it motivates other owners to continue your efforts to control buffel and let nature do the rest!

Congratulations to the decades of voluntary commitment to nature conservation, just south east of Alice Springs. The property has recently been purchased by a lucky new owner. 


Yellow-keeled Purple pea flower Swainsonia flavicarinata on the property.


Large Green pussy-tails Ptilotus macrocephalus growing among a diversity of native grasses and forbs.


Acacia peuce (juvenile pictured) is listed as threatened in the Northern Territory and only found in a few places, such as Mac Clark Conservation Area. Its she-oak looking phyllodes give it a unique appearance. Apparently it can grow as high as 17m and is thought to survive for up to 500 years! The plant shown here is about 30 yrs old. 



The result of ongoing efforts of long-term land management: a diversity of native grasses, forbs, shrubs and emergent trees on the coolabah and Ironwood plain.

Point of erosion at a Land for Wildlife property in Ilparpa, Alice Springs.

by Tim Dowling

A small section of erosion is occurring at the end of a drainage channel as it passes through this property and exits underneath a fence and into crown land. It is becoming a problem as it opens the way for roaming dogs to enter the property, which backs onto the clay plans.


This is where the water disturbance likely started. Owners could remove the post or divert the channel around the  it, making the post part of the bank. Photo: Jen Kreusser.



Looking upstream from the fence shows the result of a small head wall scouring out the bottom the the drainage channel. Photo: Jen Kreusser.

The mid-stream fence post is creating turbulence in the flow of water. The increased turbulence is eating away at the soil. Once there is a pothole or section of scouring then this creates its own point of turbulence, with water cascading into a hole swirling about and taking sediment out with the exiting water. This creates what is known as a head wall and can, in the worst cases, eat away upstream till it hits bed rock. Head walls are notoriously difficult things to counteract or control.

The erosion is not serious but it is of concern. Here are some pointers that may help the owner and others with similar situations to address the problem.
  • With a shovel, smooth off the head wall and any sharp angles to minimise the water disturbance. The aim is to have the water flow smoothly and evenly. It is best to have a flat bottom on the drainage channel; not U or V-shaped as this will concentrate the flow more and therefore the scouring.
  • If needed bring in soil to fill in the pot holes and eroded sections. The type of soil is not necessarily important, however to make for consistency for plant roots and potential water-scour, source the local soil from nearby.
  • Divert the drain around the post slightly so that the water slips by. The post can then be part of the bank and not form any further problems.
  • If possible don’t contribute to the water volume in the drain. Prevent the water from the block entering the drain by building up along the margins of the drain. After all, it is good to have rainfall stay on your property for plant growth (but not too much so it comes in the house!).
  • Allow buffel grass to take root in this disturbed soil. It is a pest but can be useful in this situation to stabilise the soil and reduce further erosion. 
  • Stabilise the banks with deeper-rooted plants.
  • Sow native grass seed in the area to eventually take over from the buffel grass long term. There are native couch grasses that can be encouraged - Brachiaria sp. (now called Urochloa sp.), Brachyachne sp. and Old Man Beard Grass Chrysopogon fallax.
  • The gap below the fence can be addressed with steel mesh hung from the bottom rail while still allowing water through.
 
If you have any erosion problems that you are concerned about and want further advice, let us know and perhaps we can organise to hold a workshop on this subject (lfw@lowecol.com.au). 
 
Upcoming Events:
 
Recent activities:



Central Australian Flora: forbs and small shrubs

by the Australian Plants Society Alice Springs, the Alice Springs Field Naturalists Club and Olive Pink Botanical Garden, Alice Springs.
  • This month a much needed new resource was launched. A small, easy to interpret fold-out brochure, summarising forbs and small plants. With lovely photography and categorically formatted, it is an essential addition for any keen flora enthusiast. Available at Red Kangaroo Books, Olive Pink Botanical Gardens and various other retail outlets.  Get your (well priced) copy in time for winter exploring!

Australasian Bat Night was a great success as many people turned up in March and April for two nights of bat detective fever at the Telegraph Station. Thank you to the Parks and Wildlife Commission, NT for inviting Land for Wildlife to contribute and thank you to everyone who participated.

Nunner-na-na, nunner-na-na...Bat Night: hosted by Parks and Wildlife Commission NT and Land for Wildlife, Alice Springs. Photo: Susie Pendle.
Eco-links...
Environmental and wildlife news that's fit to re-print

Effect of culling cats doing more harm?
Link to ABC article

Feral cats and dingos coexist in complex environments
Link to ABC article

Calls for national approach to feral cat management Link to ABC rural



 
Thanks for reading folks.

We would like to welcome new readers this month and encourage you to share your stories and nature conservation efforts and updates with the Land for Wildlife team!

Thank you to all our members who continue to keep motivated and tinker away at projects on their property- gently encouraging more biodiversity to your block.

Happy Autumn!

Jen, Tim & Bill.
May 2015
 
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