Land for Wildlife 
Garden for Wildlife

Central Australia
Newsletter June 2015


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In a flat landscape, the blue shadow of the earth is easily seen in the east during a (somewhat reflective) sunset experience, near Mac Clarke Conservation Area, highlighting the endangered Acacia peuce. Photo: Jen Kreusser. 
 

G'day LFWers, GFWers, and friends everywhere!


June is always a busy month - get your diary out:
  • Evening presentation - 'Cunning, curious, carnivorous cats' - June 10th @ 7pm -  by Land for Wildlife (Jen Kreusser). CDU higher education building, opp. Desert Lantern. Hosted by Alice Springs Field Naturalist Club. All welcome.
 
  • Biodiversity matters hosts: Palm monitoring and surveying - overnight field trip - June 13th - 14th - Fink Gorge National Park. Facilitated by NT Parks and Wildlife Service. All welcome, RSVP required.
 
  • Spotted-turtle dove making workshop - June 20th - Saturday afternoon 1pm - 2pm - Olive Pink Botanic Gardens. Facilitated by Land for Wildlife. (RSVP: lfw@lowecol.com.au).
 
  •  Alice Springs Show - July 3rd-4th - Blatherskite Park, Alice Springs.
We look forward to meeting more of the community at one of our events or workshops over the next few months. Thanks for your support.

Cheers,

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

Junior Rangers scat detective workshop!

Tjuwanpa Women's Rangers and Ntaria (Hermannsburg) Junior Rangers were involved in a workshop on feral cats facilitated by Land for Wildlife this month.

Ecological terms and concepts were discussed and practiced: such as carnivore, herbivore, predator and prey as the junior rangers put on their detective eyes to find evidence of animals visiting the Finke River (south of Hermannsburg). 

Comparisons were easily made between herbivores (horse, euro) and carnivores (dog, cats) to highlight how scats vary between species and provide an indication of what animals eat.

Junior rangers learnt about what to do with pet cats to prevent them from running around the community all night searching for food.
1. Keep pet cats indoors at night AND
2. Give your cat enough food AND
3. Get your cat desexed.
4. Although cats may be great companions for some, it's important to only get a cat if you can take responsibility for it.

Various activities were undertaken to 'act' out the impact of feral cats on the ecosystem. Highlighting that cats are instinctive, nocturnal hunters eating birds, mammals and reptiles.

Junior rangers had the opportunity to build their own feral cat scat from play-dough with pieces of bird (feather), mammal (fur/hair) and reptile (bones) (see photos). A fun and engaging activity!

Practicing being a detective in the bush helps junior rangers to build confidence and skills about looking for evidence of animals and understanding the relationships that exist between them and the influence of key threatening processes - such as feral cats.



Junior rangers do a great job constructing 'scats', learning about features of a scat from a carnivore.


Junior rangers get creative 'building' a scat from play-dough, feathers, hair and bones to show how cats prey on mammals, reptiles and birds.



Female feral cat skull, about 10 months old.


Feral cat scats may contain fragments of hair, feather and bones which can be collected and analysed to determine species that have been eaten.

Photos from our members and friends...


Feathers from likely cat kills at an urban site in Alice Springs. An Australian ring-neck parrot (green-blue feathers) and probably a Crested pigeon (black-white feathers). Photo: Lisa White.


Plains mice (Pseudomys australis)  have large ears like other arid-zone nocturnal mammals, perfect for cooling the body and listening for threats. Photo: Tim Dowling.


Reptiles are still about in May. This Woma python (Aspidites ramsayi) was snapped by a colleague north-west of Yuendumu. Photo: Katie Degnian.

Who is visiting your block?

There are various ways to find out which species visit your property using monitoring techniques such as spotlighting, looking for scats and tracks as well as observations during daylight hours. We always encourage Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife members to take time to browse their property frequently and keep a record of species on your block.

Scientists also use a variety of methods to collect data on species present in an area and might include the use of remote cameras, radio collars, Elliott traps, pitfall traps, sand traps and hair tubes.  These techniques for collecting data are widely used.  When data collection involves some level of interference with wildlife (however subtle)  animal ethics approval must first be sought and permits obtained from Parks and Wildlife and an overarching licence from the NT Government to "interfere with" native wildlife.

GPS, satellite and radio methods may be used to obtain data about species location, movements and frequency of visits to different sites. Lauren Young is undertaking a focused study on the threatened Plains Mouse (Pseudomys australis) as part of her PhD. One method of data collection includes placing radio collars on individuals to obtain home range data. The individuals are initially lured into Elliott traps by the delicious smell of peanut butter mixed with rolled oats. Mature individuals able enough to carry the tiny peanut-sized radio collar may be fitted the device for a short period of time, they can then be tracked throughout evenings (when mice are active) to obtain and manually record location data.

VHF radio receivers can be used to locate individuals with radio collars emitting a specific frequency. 


Elliott traps are commonly used to capture ground dwelling mammals that can be lured in by the smell of peanut butter and oats for bait!


Plains mice (Pseudomys australis) are threatened in the Northern Territory and prefer to burrow in the friable, cracking clay soils surrounded by exposed gibber plains and sand dunes. Photo: Lauren Young.

There are a variety of mammals that may be found on your block.

We encourage you to pull out the report for your block and have a read through the suggested/likely species to be found. Then, get out a bright torch and your sharp eyes and have a spotlight walk on your block. We would love to hear about what you have found and in particular feel free to send us any photos and we can share them in the next newsletter (lfw@lowecol.com.au)!
 

Volunteer your property for a formal biodiversity survey!

  • Land for Wildlife are seeking expressions of interest from landholders who would like to be part of a biodiversity survey later in the year. If you are interested, please get in touch via email: lfw@lowecol.com.au or phone 08 89 555 222.

Spot the difference...


One of our Land for Wildlife members has consistently chipped buffel on more than half of her property over the last four years to reveal a diversity of grasses and forbs. We thought it was worth sharing the comparison, to keep you motivated and inspired about managing buffel on your block. Patience is important, it may take a while to get native plants regrowing as seed may have been depleted by insects. Truly a terrific effort! 



Buffel grass dominates the understorey, outcompeting native grasses and forbes giving rise to a monoculture and limited food supply, habitat and an increased fire risk.


A diversity of grasses, forbs and shrubs naturally establish after buffel grass is removed, creating habitat diversity and a variety of food sources for visiting wildlife = biodiversity!

 Feel like being inspired? 


As GfW and LfW members your efforts contribute to the construction of nature corridors in urban and suburban Alice Springs, supporting its natural systems and processes. The significance of the urban ecosystem is often overlooked, and major events and phenomena happen right under our very noses!

A presentation by Fiona Walsh at the Field Naturalists meeting this month showcased some inspiring, creative and thought provoking clips about people and place of the arid zone, in particular. This concept has been captured from the massive moth event earlier this year. Fiona highlights the urban ecosystem in the heart of Alice Springs in this short clip titled:
 'A cycle of life in a desert town' available from ABC Open.


 

Interested in more reads?


GPS on domestic cats reveals they are travelling further than expected
Link to article on ABC online
 

Recent Events...

  • Pets on Parade


The Pets on Parade was a huge success, especially with our new team member pictured above (taxidermied feral cat), helping to raise awareness about the transition from domestic cats to feral cats and encouraging responsible pet ownership. Thanks to TNRM for helping us make it happen.
  • 'Bilby's Ring' book launch (Kaye Kessing)

A new novel trilogy that sets to promote a key nature conservation message about feral animals was launched this month as part of a 'mini' Bilby festival at the Olive Pink Botanical Gardens. Kay Kessings 'Bilby's Ring Trilogy' was supported by various stall holders including Friends of the Desert Park, Alice Springs Plants Society, Peter Latz, Rachel Paltridge and Kate Crossing (Desert Wildlife Services). There were plenty of structured activities for younger ones, making for a fun-filled afternoon of learning and creativity. Thanks for inviting Land for Wildlife (pictured below) to join in the promotion of the pressures feral cats place on native wildlife in central Australia!


 Katie Degnian shares her passion for native wildlife with the next generation, pointing out the 'evidence' found in a feral cat scat!
  • Where is the Bilby? - short clip

For those of you who were unable to make it, Wanja Mankaar? Where is the bilby? was also showcased (by Fiona Walsh), conducting a powerful and simple message about the pressure feral cats place on the Greater bilby (Macrotis lagotis) in Martu country (WA). 

(Image: Kanyirninpa Jukurrpa website: www.kj.org.au/mankarr-bilby/)

 

 

LFW extending to Tennant Creek!!

One of our colleauges, Angela Carpenter, has recently establish in Tennant Creek and will be promoting the LfW and GfW programs to that area where we already have two members - the Tennant Creek Airport and the Tennant Creek Pistol Club. If you are in Tennant Ck or know someone who is, get in touch with the Alice Springs office and we'll pass on your details.
 

Thanks for reading folks.

We look forward to meeting more members over the next few months, as we will be out and about at various community events (listed at the beginning of the newsletter). Come and say G'day and tell us what is happening at your place.

Enjoy!

Jen, Tim, Katie & Bill. 
email: lfw@lowcol.com.au
web: www.wildlife.lowecol.com.au
June 2015
Copyright © 2015 Low Ecological Services, All rights reserved.


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