The Newsletter of Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife in Central Australia - March, 2016
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Our latest Garden for Wildlife member, Meg Greaney, gets creative with displaying their sign on a regenerating Eucalyptus camaldulensis (River Red Gum). J. Kreusser.

Land for Wildlife

Garden for Wildlife


Central Australia

Newsletter March 2016

Hi there Land for Wildlifer's, Garden for Wildlifer's and the broader community...

There's plenty of activity and events happening about town as energy abounds and business and planning is well underway for 2016. 
  • Thursday March 10th - 5.30-7pm 'A Chat about cats..': Thursday March 10th, 5.30-7pm. Andy McNeil Room, Alice Springs Town Council Building. Refreshments provided. RSVP:
  • Tuesday March 15th - 5.30pm - 6.30pm - Free Composting Workshop @ Alice Springs Community Garden.
  • Saturday 9th April - 8am. HUGE Plant sale - Olive Pink Botanic Garden. This is a really popular annual event and if you are serious about buying a plant or two (that have been locally propagated by the Australian Plants Society in conjunction with the Alice Springs Desert Park) then punctuality is the key. Have a look at the vegetation maps for your block/suburb and the corresponding vegetation list - for considering plants you may wish to buy!
  • Wednesday April 13th - 7.00pm - Presentation by Rex Neindorf of the Alice Springs Reptile Centre, Alice Springs Field Naturalists meeting. Charles Darwin Higher Education Building.
  • Interested in Conservation and Land Management training? - Charles Darwin University have put together an enticing schedule covering a range of topic areas for 2016, including an evening Plant Propagation workshop (over 10 weeks) - here in Alice! Get in touch with Kath Watson at CDU for more information about the training schedule for 2016 ( or 08 8959 5268).

Interested in Citizen Science?

We have been asked to help collect feral cat tissue for Dr. Jamie Gorrell (University of New England) who is developing a research project to help control feral cats by using genomics to study feral population structure and interbreeding with domestic cats. If you are trapping or shooting feral cats at the moment (or over the next 6-12months), get in touch and we can organise to take a tissue sample from the feral cat before it is destroyed. 

Olive Pink Botanic Garden and Alice Springs Australian Plant Society HUGE Plant Sale has a terrific reputation for selling a range or local, native propagated plants for Alice Springs gardens as shown in this blast from the past 2007 photo. Where are those plants now? Sale on Sat April 9th, see notice above for more info.

Welcome new Land for Wildlife member: Ms Brittain and son, Gabe.

Fig.1. This LfW property is represented by stands of Mulga (Acacia aneura), Witchetty bush (Acacia kempeana), Ironwood (Acacia estrophiolata), Fork-leaved Corkwood (Hakea divaricata) over perennial and annual grasses and herbs such as Woolybutt (Eragrostis eriopoda), Native Oat-grass (Enneapogon avenaceus), Lambstail Ptilotus (Ptilotus polystachyus) and Parakeelya (Calandrinia polyandra).

Fig. 2. This new Land for Wildlife property at Greatorex Road adds to the mosaic of other LfW properties in Ilparpa. Is your property highlighted here? If not, check out the web site to see how to become a member. 

I spy with my little eye.....something beginning with 'T'.

Have you seen any tree hollows acting as nesting sites?

My name is Erin Westerhuis and I'm starting a PhD at CDU focused on birds and bats in central Australian river red gums. A major part of this will be assessing trends in biodiversity relative to tree health and abundance of important river red gum characteristics such as productive canopies, logs, coarse debris and tree hollows. There is widespread concern that increasing fire in riverine areas is damaging and often destroying very large old trees that may have been hundreds of years in the making. So, I'm hoping to harness the power of the central Australian Land for Wildlife people to help gather data on known hollow nesting\roosting sites in river red gums. If you see any tree hollow related activity in the Finke, Hugh, Todd and Hale rivers or any creeks in between and would like to share it with me you can contact me at:

Any activity past and present would be useful especially if you had any details that could help me locate the tree to take measurements such as diameter at breast height, the hollow entrance dimensions and (if the tree is not in use) the internal dimensions of the hollow. That is the main thing - that I can find the tree and measure these characteristics to calculate at what size central Australian river red gums form hollows suitable for any particular species. Also the success of any nesting attempt. I am interested in site fidelity too so if you know of hollows being used year to year that would be good info, or alternatively if a particular tree was used for long term and stopped being used.

I think the more I have to work with the better! Thanks 

Gallahs (Eolophus roseicapilla), like many other small to medium sized birds, prefer to nest in the tree hollows of River Red Gums (Eucalyptus camaldulensis). Have you seen any about? E. Westerhuis.

Alice Springs get up and out: it's time to slash, graze and control buffel!


What can you do?

For large infestations:

We recommend slashing plants to reduce fuel loads and this will also prevent any further seed development. 
After slashing, new green shoots may develop, which can then be managed with glyphosate. Best to wait until the green, active shoots are at least 10-15cm long. Remember also that buffel grass burns hotter than native grasses and therefore contributes to hotter and more intense fires, which increases the fire threat to any established upper storey trees.

For small infestations:

Hand pulling or chipping can be effective, however these sites will require follow up efforts as (buffel and other native forbs/grass) seed in the soil will likely germinate after the next rain or heavy dew. Pullout the Buffel grass seedlings which show the characteristic pink tinge at the base. Only spray if your seedling ID is accurate.

Following the late February rains plants are actively growing (green) again and if they were slashed will have enough green growth to absorb glyphosate and spraying is likely to be effective, unlike the plant in the following photo.

Mature Buffel grass in March 2016 which contains a large amount of dried off leaves as well as new green growth. This will not respond to glyphosate poisoning. In many areas around Alice Springs it's time to slash or graze for control. 

Buffel Grass Management Survey

We have been contacted by researcher and ecologist, John Read from South Australia, who is estimating the amount of resource spent on buffel grass management. 

We know many of our members spend time and money controlling buffel. 
Can you answer some simple questions and email an answer back at

1. What is your property size?

2. Where do you live (just the state/territory is fine eg NT, SA, etc)?

3. How much time have you spent on controlling buffel over the past 12 months (whether it was successful or not)?  [Think of how much time you spent last week doing it?  Was that typical? We will put in your time as a default $30/hr. If it is any different then let us know].

4. How much money over the last 12 months have you spent on chemicals, tools, contractors etc?

Thank you for emailing your response to:
We will collate all your answers and pass them onto John.

Spent coffee grounds on our gardens 

by Tim Dowling

What is your blend? Arabica, Robusta or…decaf? Whichever it is, what do you do with the spent grounds?
I was having a discussion with Jen about what to do with the grounds from the coffee pot or machine. Do we put them in the garden? Is it really any good for the garden? I remembered that it causes a nitrogen drawdown and decreases growth. It prompted me to go back and find out what I had read that made me adamant that it should be composted prior to being spread on the garden. 

Published in the Sustainable Gardening Australia (SGA) online newsletter Cuttings, Dr Stephen Livesley and Sarah Hardgrove, have a slightly different story.
Sarah, who has just completed her Master of Urban Horticulture at the University of Melbourne’s Burnley campus, has put together a terrific article from her research on the effect of un-composted coffee grounds on garden plants.
I have summarised Sarah’s article below or you can read it here, complete with references.

What effects do spent coffee grounds have on our gardens? Is it a good soil conditioner that some claim?
Experiments were run to test this. A variety of plants (broccoli, radish, leek, viola and sunflower) were grown in a substrate treated with varying amounts of coffee grounds. The results were conclusive!  More coffee in the soil means less growth.
There were two possible reasons for this: nitrogen drawdown and phytotoxicity.
Further testing revealed that nitrogen drawdown could not explain the reduced growth. This leaves phytotoxicity as the most likely explanation for the decreased plant growth.  However the exact mechanism remains unclear.
What is phytotoxicity?  It is the poisoning that results from materials that affect plant growth. It could be too much salt, urea, aluminium or manganese.  For coffee it is tannins, caffeine, polyphenols and lignins. Any or all may be the culprit - further testing is needed.
Sarah’s research suggests that coffee grounds should be composted so that the tannins, caffeine, polyphenols and lignins are broken down. Sarah puts it better: the composting “allows for the decomposition of toxic components”.

So what about tea leaves? Are they best composted too?
Tea leaves have a high proportion of tannin; that is why we drink it. Used tea leaves still have this leaching out of them. To empty the tea pot onto the same plant time after time is asking for trouble. I have the feeling that it would be a similar situation as coffee. It may cause some level of stress to the plant. 
Be a little moderate to your plants and distribute it around the garden or compost it first.
For more on composting in Alice Springs - check out the FREE composting workshop on March 15th

Photos and stories from our members and friends...

This plunging bird nest in the drooping branches of a River Red Gum (Eucalyptus camaldulensis) is likely the effort of a White-plumed Honeyeater, spotted in a Garden for Wildlife property. M. Greaney.


Shorebird Count at the Ponds February, 2016. 

Barb Gilfiedder

Every six months a group of interested birders, armed with telescopes, binoculars, cameras and notebooks, gather at the Alice Springs sewage ponds to count the birds.

They are mainly looking at the Shorebirds - waders, many of them migratory. These birds spend our Summer with us in Alice, flying enormous distances to reach their far away breeding grounds for the northern hemisphere Summer, some as far north as the Arctic Circle. They enjoy our local sewage ponds from September to March, so will be leaving soon.

The count this summer, (Sunday February 28th) attracted sixteen birders, who in two hours counted 1903 birds across 47 species. This time we counted all birds; permanent residents as well as migrants.

The detailed information is shared between shorebird research and conservation groups around the world, to assist in the development, implementation and monitoring of shorebird conservation projects globally.

It was a real treat this summer as unfortunately Power and Water have found it necessary to have the ponds closed since November 2015.

Birders are hoping  they will be open again soon.

Land for Wildlife acknowledges the commitment from local birders who continue to remind us of the amazing habitat for a huge range of birds - particularly shorebirds, at the Alice Springs 'wetlands' (Sewage Treatment Plant).  S. Sinclair. 

Resources and articles:

  • Pet cat 'Ruby' on the run is found at Desert Knowledge Precinct after an 18 month adventure away from an Eastside residence. Read the article on ABC News.
  • Our Territory NRM supported project 'Monitoring of domestic cats in and around Alice Springs', has received a bit of interest from a recent Facebook post by ABC Radio post (Alice Springs host and local cat owner involved in the project). 


  • Do you have a smartphone or tablet and want to learn more about Western Arrarnta plants and bushfoods? italk library, in conjunction with Western Arrarnta people, have prepared this relevant, context specific and accessible app, available for Apple and Android. Let us know what you think. (We are in the process of updating our technology and are unable to access it at this time to offer a specific review, though we know there are plenty of members who use tablets and smartphones regularly and have had some positive feedback).

  • The recent launch of the 'Sites and Trails NT' App, as part of the Sustainable Science Trail, is now available for locals, tourists and educators alike! The developers are open to feedback as this is the first version - let them know what you think.

Thanks for reading folks.

We are busy as ever and are always delighted to hear from our members and friends. Thanks for keeping us posted about the subtle changes that are happening at your place as Autumn advances over the next few months.

A note to our readers: Jen is reducing her capacity with the Land for Wildlife program and would like to say a very big thank you to all the volunteer members, friends, colleagues (at LowEcol and other organisations) for your support, encouragement and contributions to a dynamic and engaging experience during the last 16 months. You may be happy to know I am staying in Alice within the natural resource management industry and contributing to the LfW team but in a somewhat reduced capacity. Stay tuned for the next episode as we will introduce new LfW staff in the next newsletter!. 

See you soon and keep your contributions coming. 


Jen, Tim and Bill
March, 2016
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