The Newsletter of Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife in Central Australia - January 2014
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G'day LFWers, GFWers, and friends everywhere.

Welcome to 2014, and rain! Beautiful rain! We hope you've all enjoyed a break and are back on deck in similar condition to this Stimson's Python Antaresia stimsoni, out on the Mereenie Loop - alert, excited, and ready for anything. The year before us promises to be as busy as ever. The Alice Springs feral cat and fox trapping project is already underway and we will be asking for your participation at a number of workshops and seminars over the next 12 months. We'll have details of all these events released in plenty of time for you to get organised, but there is still plenty that you can do to help without leaving your own backyard:

a) Let us know regularly about the numbers of feral doves you are trapping and observing in your area;
b) Please keep an eye out for any feral cats and foxes around your area or signs of their activities. Cats are not so tricky to observe in the wild but foxes are probably present in much lower numbers and are notoriously shy. If we're to have any success in monitoring their movements and trapping any that are using Land for Wildlife properties we will need as many pairs of eyes out on the ground as possible;
c) Tread softly and carry a camera. On your property, or anywhere else you go bushwalking, please let us know what you find and share your pictures with us.

Workshops
As always, we'll be running workshops this year. This list is just a preliminary heads-up to give you a bit of notice, but it'd be great to see as many smiling faces at each of our workshops as possible.

March - Feral foxes: history, monitoring, and control.
May - Feral doves in the Red Centre: the reality of eradication.
July - Microbats: flying mammal diversity in The Centre. 
August - Property planning: designing land for wildlife.
October - Feral Cats: the role of private landholders in the control of a national ecological threat.

Welcome back, and we'll see you around the traps.
 
Foxes and Cats: ferals on the loose 
by Chris Watson


(above) Our target for this years monitoring and trapping project: the European Red Fox Vulpes vulpes. This innocent animal was photographed within its native range in Scotland - Chris Watson

This year Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife in Alice Springs will be conducting a project of feral cat and fox monitoring on participating properties in The Centre. The specific properties are yet to be identified, but if you'd like to volunteer, we'd love to hear from you. Even if you're not interested in volunteering your block to become one of our main monitoring and trapping sites, we are interested in your participation in the project.

Most of our readers will be aware of the spike we saw in cat numbers around town through the cooler months of last year. We had many members actively, and successfully trapping and destroying cats on their blocks and many kept excellent records of the dates, numbers, weights, and sizes of the cats they were removing. If anyone has records like this from their property from throughout 2013 we'd be very interested in comparing your data with our own over the period. This year we will be continuing the process of trapping and removing cats from Land for Wildlife properties


(above) With no pun intended, feral cats have had a catastrophic impact on Australian fauna - Chris Watson

Foxes are a different matter. Foxes are notoriously shy and cryptic. Anecdotal reports of activity around Alice Springs is infrequent and rarely does anyone produce photographs of them in the area. But they're certainly around. Exactly how many there are, and where they spend their time is what we will be hoping to discover over the next 12 months. 

Below are some links to relevant or interesting information on the Feralscan and Invasive Animals CRC websites. If you're interested in helping us learn more about the movements and distribution of these destructive feral predators please get in touch through the usual email address at lfw@lowecol.com.au 

FOXscan

Invasive Animals CRC

 
Goannas - when the eye is bigger than the stomach
By Chris Watson


(Above: a Sand Monitor in healthier times - Chris Watson)

Land for Wildlife coordinator Matt, made a gruesome discovery on one of his lunchtime constitutionals recently. There, by the back fence, was a dead Gould's Sand Monitor Varanus gouldii, with a reptilian tail protruding from its lifeless jaws. Initially we thought it might have been a snake that had proved too long for the monitor to eat, or eject, and so it might have choked or starved to death. On closer inspection though, the scales on the tail looked too coarse for a snake and then on even closer inspection (neither of us were too keen on getting too close due to the horrendous smell) a claw and then an entire hind foot could be seen further down the throat, making it clear that it was a fairly large lizard, the likely culprit being a Central Bearded Dragon Pogona vitticeps.


(above) The decomposing goanna still with its final meal - Chris Watson

These photos tell something of the possible demise of the larger lizard, but both animals were too decomposed for a satisfying necropsy, so precisely what transpired we'll never know; perhaps the dragon was still alive while being swallowed and gouged at the monitor's throat, or perhaps the puffed out beard proved too much for the monitor. Who knows?


(above) In this picture the curled nail-like protrusions from the lower jaw are the dessicated remains of the monitor's forked tongue - Chris Watson

Fortuitously, British palaeontologist and writer Darren Naish (whose excellent blog "Tetrapod Zoology" in Scientific American is recommended reading for anyone with an interest in wildlife encompassed within the broad scope of that title) has taken an interest in this phenomenon in the past and has covered other examples of "over-zealous swallowing". Memorably, there was the following example in the link below of a Perentie Varanus giganteus, which died trying to eat a Short-beaked Echidna Tachyglossus aculeatus. Below the story you'll find links to other examples.

A Perentie eats an echidna
Link to Darren Naish's article on Tetrapod Zoology 

Have you ever encountered anything similar around your block? Send us your photos for next month's newsletter and we'll do a summary of all the animals you've found with eyes bigger than their stomachs could handle. lfw@lowecol.com.au
What Frog is That?
by Chris Watson with photos from Nicola Hanrahan

Pine Creek is not strictly in Central Australia but it's been very froggy weather down here so we thought we could stretch our jurisdiction just a little bit. This frog was sent by Pine Creek correspondent Nicci Hanrahan and had a few of us in the office stumped for a while. Do you know which species it is?



Many in the Land for Wildlife offices were gunning for a weird colour variation on the widespread Green Tree Frog, Litoria caerulea. Structurally it looks very similar, but no-one had ever seen anything even close to this colour.



As usual, it was an expert to the rescue. Mike Tyler, who has written several excellent field guides on Australian amphibians, responded to Nicci's email with a confident identification of Roth's Tree Frog Litoria rothii. This is a species which more closely matches this frog but Mike was quick to add that he had never seen the species in quite such an extremely dappled colour scheme. It more commonly varies from a creamy uniform white to a stippled gravel pattern.

Anyway, another wildlife mystery solved and a great discovery in the back yard Nicci.

With recent rains in Alice Springs it has been excellent "frogging" weather if you're into that sort of thing. We'd love to see your pictures if you've been finding any of our amphibious friends out around your block. If you hear frogs out in the bush it is always a good idea to try and record their call as well. Most smartphones have a voice recorder capability that does a decent enough job of it to allow the calls to be identified later, and some frog species out our way haven;t been particularly well recorded so you never know when you might stumble on something new or interesting.

Send your frog pictures to us for the next edition at lfw@lowecol.com.au

Click on the link below for a story about a more local species, Main's Frog Cyclorana maini, from ABC's local reporter Emma Sleath with a sound recording by this author and photos from Samantha Hopley. After hearing the sound you'll appreciate why they are sometimes known as "sheep frogs".

Link to the story on the ABC web site.
From the bookshelf...


Field Guide to the Frogs of Australia: revised edition
by Michael J Tyler and Frank Knight


Something for every frog-lover during rainy weather. With a few rains passing over The Red Centre all sorts of amphibians begin to emerge and some can be tricky to identify. This widely used guide by one of the country's leading experts will make the task that much easier. With Frank Knight's clear illustrations, you'll soon know which species you've found.

Then all you'll need is a library of reference calls so you know what to listen for...




Tadpoles and Frogs of Australia
by Marion Anstis


This book is more for the serious froggers out there. Certainly not a field guide, this is more of a desktop reference... and what a reference. This long awaited tome was only released late last year and is already being hailed as the greatest guide to Australia's amphibians since the vaunted Cogger.

You won't get much change from $170, but the quality and scope of this work makes the asking price good value. The author has done a lot of original research for the book rather than just cobbling together what was already available scattered across the literature. That the photographs and illustrations cover every Australian species from spawn, through every life stage, up to adult animals is a genuine wonder and an astonishing achievement.



What have you been reading?
We'd love to feature more reviews from members and friends in this section. Have you read some good wildlife books lately? Maybe you have a favourite smartphone app relating to your natural history interests?

Put it all down in an email, and we'd love to include your input in future newsletters. 

 
On The Eco-net...

Emperor Penguin movements modelled using traffic jam mathematics

Link to article on Phys.org

Red Sprites: extraordinary weather phenomena photographed
Link to article in New Scientist

Even among ants, size matters more than shape
Link to article on The Conversation

Birds flying over 1000 miles choose the most efficient way to do it. Is this really a surprising result?
Link to article in The Age

Gunnar: The Quandong King of Alice Springs
Link to photo story on ABC Rural

What pelicans might tell us about the advance of a changing climate
Link to article in Summit County Citizens Voice

Main's Frog emergence in Alice Springs
Link to photo story on ABC online

Reintroduction of large mammals for landscape scale changes
Link to article on BBC News Magazine Monitor

Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology's eBird Project hits Australia
Link to Eremaea eBird website
Thanks for reading. Stay out of the heat, and we'll see you next month.

What would you like to see us cover in future newsletters? Is there a topic we have already covered that you would like to see revisited or covered in greater depth? Perhaps you have a wildlife article or photos of your own that might be relevant for inclusion. Get in touch before the next newsletter goes out and we'd be happy to include your contributions. 

Thanks again!

Jesse, Chris, Matt, & Bill.
January 2014
Copyright © 2014 Low Ecological Services, All rights reserved.


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