Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Sensational Spotlighting

On warm summer nights, much of our desert wildlife is at its most active and with the weather heating up, now is the perfect time to have a go at spotlighting. All you’ll need is a good torch or head lamp, a sturdy pair of walking shoes and a good patch of wildlife habitat, whether that’s your property or backyard, or whether you take a trip out bush.

Land for Wildlife coordinators were recently in Yulara and with footprint covered dunes and abundant spinifex seed surrounding the village, the temptation for a late night wander was too much to resist. The nights were quite cool, but clear, still and perfect for tracking down the creatures who’d left their prints all over the sand the previous night. Our hope was to spot some rarely seen night time geckos, such as the Knob Tails, that are not uncommon in the sand dune habitat. While the night was probably too cool for geckos, we did manage to view some other elusive Yulara residents.

Spinifex Hopping Mouse (Notomys alexis)
A juvenile Spinifex Hopping Mouse
Hopping mice are mouse to rat sized rodents that are distributed throughout Australia. There are 10 species, although several are now extinct and two, the Darling Downs Hopping Mouse and Broad Cheeked Hopping Mouse are only known from skeletal remains.

The Spinifex Hopping Mouse however remains common, although populations fluctuate widely according to climatic and resulting food conditions. Their preferred habitat is sandy deserts on dunes and swales with spinifex, but they also occur in mulga country.

It seems that these mice are in a boom cycle around Yulara at the moment. Several were seen while spotlighting and although they couldn’t be examined closely to determine age and sex, they ranged considerably in size, suggesting that many juveniles were present in the population.

Their tracks criss-crossed the dunes around the resort, creating well-worn pathways between spinifex clumps, even in disturbed areas close to houses. And it seems they were making good use of introduced Buffel Grass as well as the spinifex.

Dunnart (Sminthopsis sp)    
An unidentified Dunnart shelters under a spinifex clump
Although superficially similar to a mouse, especially when seen from a distance crawling through grasses and ground vegetation, Dunnarts are quite different. Carnivorous marsupials, they hunt on warm nights for arthropods and small vertebrates. Their small, pointed jaws are packed with tiny, sharp teeth ideal for dispatching prey.

There are seven species that occur in central Australia, including the endangered Long Tailed and Sandhill Dunnarts. The remaining five species remain at least locally common in appropriate habitats. Dunnarts are difficult to identify without close inspection of an animal. The most reliable method is to examine the footpads on the soles of the hind feet – every species has its own unique arrangement of pads.
 

Friday, November 18, 2011

Global Media - Local Action

Orange Roughy Hoplostethus atlanticus. A fascinating deep sea species that may live for over 150 years but has had its stocks severely depleted by over-fishing. This is a museum specimen. Picture by Peter Halasz, wikicommons.
Who would have thought that a deep sea fish living around sea mounts in the frigid Southern Ocean off Tasmania might owe a small part of its continued survival to a few knowledgeable, concerned, and connected folks in our desert town? A great example of local community consciousness-raising using global media has just come to a very satisfying conclusion.

Local marine biologist Matt Le Feuvre and Red Centre wildlife polymath Mark Carter, simultaneously posted their dismay on Facebook, at Alice Springs bar/lounge Monte's having the endangered Orange Roughy on their menu. To learn more about Orange Roughy have a look at the Australian Marine Conservation Society page here. The short version of the story is; if you see Orange Roughy for sale anywhere please don't buy it.

After less than 24 hours of  (polite) messages of disapproval in support of the original posts, the proprietors of Monte's Lounge promptly committed to removing the fish from the menu. Matt has offered his expertise to help them find a more sustainable replacement for the Orange Roughy so that fish and chips can still be a popular order at the bar for many years to come.

Congratulations to all concerned for bringing this to such a positive and happy conclusion. Well done!

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Nominate Significant Trees Online

Online nomination is now available for the NT Register of Significant Trees. You will find the online form at the link on the right of the page. None of the fields on the form are compulsory but please provide as much and as detailed information as you can; this will help to make the register a more complete and interesting historical document.

Friday, November 11, 2011

Wasp vs Spider - a backyard drama in miniature


The adversaries square off...
 Local biologist Holger Woyt photographed a great spectacle in his yard this week. Spider Wasps, family Pompilidae, are common enough around town but it is unusual to witness the full sequence of their hunting behaviour. In the picture above the wasp (on the right) is facing off against a wolf spider Lycosa sp. In these interactions the wasp is attempting to make a meal of the spider. If successful, the wasp's sting will paralyze the spider. Following paralysis, the wasp will either consume the prey or drag it off to a burrow. Here, the wasp will lay an egg in the abdomen of the paralyzed but still living spider. When the larva hatches the spider will then become sustenance for the infant wasp.
The wasp pounces and administers the paralyzing sting...

The immobilised spider is dragged off... 

The now thoroughly paralyzed spider is momentarily left to await its fate. The wasp returned shortly after this picture was taken to drag the spider to some cover beneath the leaf litter.

Friday, October 28, 2011

Online Sign Up - Available Now!

A bit of tinkering with the blog this week has resulted in a big advance with our application process. You can now apply for registration with Land for Wildlife or Garden for Wildlife - online.

The forms are accessed by clicking on the appropriate link at the top of the links column on the right of the page. You can very quickly fill in all the information that we will need to process your application and get in touch to arrange an assessment; no printing, no emailing - just fill in the form and click the "submit" button.

What could be easier?!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Spinifex Pigeons, Wolf Spiders, Rodents, Dasyurids, Macropods; a smorgasbord for wildlife lovers during annual biodiversity surveys

Poorly named? Caper Whites Belenois java, emerging from their chrysalis
Jesse and Chris have been conducting the annual biodiversity surveys lately on properties along Roe Creek. There is some stunning habitat through this area, and we have had a few interesting encounters.

Stripe-faced Dunnart Sminthopsis macroura. Cute and placid, but to the untrained eye, difficult to separate from some other small mammals. One of the most reliable techniques is to inspect the arrangement of pads on the soles of the feet...see below.
Stripe-faced Dunnarts Sminthopsis macroura, have been the most common mammals trapped but we have also had Long-haired Rats Rattus villosissimus, and the odd feral House Mouse Mus musculus. Apart from the small mammals, all of the properties also have healthy populations of Euro Macropus robustus, and at least two of the four properties surveyed also have colonies of the Black-footed Rock Wallaby Petrogale lateralis lateralis.

The sole of the hind foot of the Stripe-faced Dunnart. Markings and body measurements may change from individual to individual but the arrangement of the pads on the soles of the feet is consistent across the species.
Invertebrate life was booming across all the surveys sites, no doubt helped along by the onset of the warmer weather and a few light showers. We were lucky enough to witness a mass hatching of Caper Whites Belenois java. This is one of the more common butterflies in central Australia but it was exciting to see them all lining the stems and emerging to dry their wings at the same time. We found a few different species of wolf spider (family Lycosidae) in our pit traps but these are yet to be identified to species level. Several live specimens and a few empty shells of local land snail species were found. These are most likely all from the genus Sinumelon but may belong to two different species. Either way, it is always exciting to find land snails as so many of the species in central Australia are poorly known or undescribed.

A Centralian Land Snail - Sinumelon sp. Possibly bednalli or expositum.
The most unusual catch of the week was a lone Spinifex Pigeon Geophaps plumifera, that wandered in to make itself at home in one of our Elliott traps. This my not be a first for this largely terrestrial species but it was certainly a surprise for Jesse and Chris as they inspected the traps on the last morning.

A beautiful wolf spider of the family Lycosidae.
The skies were teeming with birdlife. Highlights included Wedge-tailed Eagles, Major Mitchell's Cockatoos, Sacred Kingfishers, Spinifex Pigeons, Dusky Grasswrens, and a Collared Sparrowhawk.

Spinifex Pigeon Geophaps plumifera. A surprising find in an Elliott trap.
These pictures are just a taster, but Jesse and Chris will complete the full report for these surveys over the next few weeks as they pick through all the results.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

LFW Alice Springs Wins NT Landcare Award


Sandhill Desert Fuschia Eremophila willsii.
Central Australia had outstanding representation at the NT Landcare awards held at Parliament House in Darwin last Friday evening.

Local Landcare hero Tim Collins was recognised for the tireless work he has put in over the years with the NT Landcarer of the Year award. This is a richly deserved gong for all of the time and effort Tim has committed to Alice Springs Landcare, but he was quick to redirect the limelight from himself to the organisation he has spent so many years building up and serving. We don't care what you say Tim, the award is all yours and well-earned - congratulations.

 The Centralian Land Management Association was also recognised with a highly commended award which was accepted by Glenis McBurnie for soil conservation activities and the many other ongoing projects that CLMA conducts throughout The Centre.

..and of course Land for Wildlife brought home our own piece of recognition; we won the Toshiba Community Group category. Jesse, Chris & Bill were all on hand to receive the award, but we think the award is rightly seen as recognition of the conservation efforts of all the members of the Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife programs across central Australia.  The scheme has expanded its membership again this year, and our members' properties now cover 16,404 hectares of central Australia from Tennant Creek in the north to the Alice Springs Correctional Centre in the south. We are currently in talks with a few large commercial properties that will add to the program considerably, and we have just received funding to extend Land for Wildlife into areas remote from Alice Springs.

So congratulations to all our members! Land for Wildlife is much more than just the sum of its parts, but every individual member is a crucial part of the success of the scheme as a whole.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

The Camel Song - camel control hip-hop straight outta the AP Lands by Lee Brady and Morganics...

An astonishing bit of collaboration has appeared on Youtube; this is a bit of hip-hop freestyling on the theme of camel control in the AP Lands by local elder Lee Brady, produced by Sydney-based hip-hop renaissance man, Morganics.

I particularly like the inclusion of some arabic flute in the background and the buzzing fly sample could be the best use of this sound since Monty Python's "Bruces" sketch.

There's not a whole lot more to say - just watch the video.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

Buffel Busting to Protect our Significant Trees

Further to our post yesterday about the Land for Wildlife Significant Tree Register, it is worth mentioning the great success of Alice Springs Landcare at their annual Buffel-Busting day last weekend. Arid lands eco guru Peter Latz was on hand to give his thoughts on the scourge of Buffel and came up with some interesting insights into the role of insects as a potential biological control of the grass. You can read a bit about this here.

Buffel control is a critical issue in relation to our significant trees. Older trees, surrounded by thick growths of Buffel are at greater risk during destructive fires. One of the important messages that Landcare's weekend activities related is that Buffel control around old trees should be considered a priority, especially during a heightened fire danger season.

Buffel control is by no means a new issue, but it is certainly one that is not going to go away without a lot of hard work and ingenuity. We can't afford to become complacent about Buffel control - the cost of letting it run rampant has already been high for many landscapes and ecosystems in Central Australia.

Another interesting read is this interview with Margaret Friedel and Peter Latz from way back in 2006.

The Fire Chief - all-in-one water tank/pump/hose unit

Click this picture for the full size brochure image.
This is an innovative bit of gear that has been developed by local Chris Newton. Most of the details are in the brochure image above.

We thought that as summer approached, this might be a useful unit for a few LfW properties. Easily manhandled into a ute or trailer when empty, the 1000l tank can be half filled at which weight it will still be possible to transport in most good trailers. At full capacity any decent trayback ute will cope with the weight.

Perhaps a group of neighbours could get together and share the cost of a unit for their area.

Contact Chris directly on 0429 207 974,

or email him, chrisnewton60@gmail.com

Monday, September 12, 2011

Significant Trees in Central Australia - where are yours?

"A society grows great when old men plant trees in whose shade they know they shall never sit."
Greek Proverb


Ghost Gum Corymbia apparerinja. Prince Roy, Wikicommons.
The ancient Greeks probably had it both figuratively and literally right with this proverb. What could be better than thinking ahead about future generations and the possible enjoyment they might derive from having beautiful, big trees throughout the community?

Land for Wildlife would like to find out where all those trees are that the old men and women of Centralian history planted. Maybe they didn't plant them, but protected and venerated them. Central Australia has a wealth of significant trees and we'd like to hear about trees that are significant to you. What are their special meanings? What are their stories? What is it that makes them so special?

Shortly, all Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife members will be sent a nomination form for a new register of significant trees that we are putting together. The hope is that this register can one day be integrated with a national database in partnership with the National Trust. The online and smartphone versions of the Victorian and NSW versions of the Trust Trees program are already impressive and useful tools for dendrophiles in those parts of the country. Have a look at the Victorian website here.

You can nominate almost any tree that fits the significance criteria. It doesn't need to be on your land, but we need to have as much information about the tree as possible to make it a worthwhile addition to the register; historical, cultural, and scientific information about the tree in question is crucial to supporting your nomination for the significance of a particular tree or stand of trees. The tree doesn't even need to be alive; dead trees still provide valuable wildlife habitat and many Centralian species are just as photogenic and magnificent in death as they were in life.

The criteria for nomination are all detailed on the nomination form and we would love to get as many as possible to get this register up and running before the end of the year.

Keep an eye out for your nomination form soon!

Friday, September 9, 2011

It's Beardy Season!

Central Bearded Dragon Pogona vitticeps.
Herp-aware gardeners are probably already noticing an increase in the amount of reptile activity at the moment. With the onset of warmer weather, all things reptilian are making their way out into the open to sun themselves and get energised for the breeding season ahead.

Probably the most obvious sign of the return of reptile-friendly weather is the Central Bearded Dragon Pogona vitticeps. These magnificent lizards are sprawled out over the roads at the moment and are an all too frequent victim of roadkill. They are able to slowly adjust the colour of their skin to help with the regulation of their body temperature which often makes them more difficult to see. From bright orange or yellow, to almost jet black and sometimes beautifully patterned they have a wide repertoire of colours which can also express changes in mood during threat displays or courtship.

They also have a subtle system of body signals used to communicate between males and females and between dominant and subordinate males. These consist mainly of different styles and speeds of head bobbing actions but they also use hand waving gestures, usually to signal submission during competition or courtship.

The most obvious tool for communication in the arsenal of the Central Bearded Dragon is the eponymous beard. The spikes look dangerous but are actually much softer to the touch than they appear; they serve to make the beard appear more frightening. During threat displays or displays of sexual dominance the beard can be erected and puffed up by a similar set of muscles used by the related Frill-necked Lizard Chlamydosaurus kingii to erect its famous adornment. Males can also make the beard significantly darker than the surrounding skin to increase the impact of the effect.

Of course, bearded dragons are not the only ones who can use a beard to great effect. Movember is just over the horizon. For the uninitiated, Movember is a charity event organised to raise awareness and funding for mens' health.  To participate all you need to do is cultivate your facial hair for the month of November. The rest of the details can be found on their website at; Movember.

Then if you'd like to take your facial hair to the world stage, perhaps you should have a look at this website; The World Beard Championships.

Who would have thought that "bearding" could be an international competition? Isn't the world an amazing place?

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

Alice Springs Correctional Centre registers as Land for Wildlife

Long-haired Rat Rattus villosissimus, just one of several uncommon species that may be found in the vicinity of ASCC.

The registration of the Alice Springs Correctional Centre with Land for Wildlife was finalised at 1pm on the 23rd of August. The Land for Wildlife coordinators handed over the final report produced from their property assessment conducted with Dr. Bill Low and Chief Horticultural Officer Shane Secombe.

Superintendent Bill Carroll has given enthusiastic support for the program’s values from the very beginning of the registration process. Land for Wildlife will now provide support and advice to maintain the conservation values of the property which contains several areas of remnant vegetation, aquatic habitat, and significant trees. The restorative power of spending increased amounts of time and working closer to nature has been well demonstrated by the work of Professor Doug Tallamy from the University of Delaware, and Audubon Medal recipient Richard Louv. Membership of LfW will help ASCC to protect habitat for wildlife and provide a more restorative environment for employees and inmates at the centre.

The LfW scheme also has the potential to open pathways for inmates into training and employment within the natural resource management industry. Shane Secombe already has a thriving horticultural program at the centre. This can be strengthened by LfW workshops and by using the large network of LfW members to distribute seeds and propagated plants from the centre nursery.

LfW in Alice Springs, now approaching our 10th year, currently has more than 350 member properties which accounts for more than 15,500ha of private and publicly owned land under the best sustainable and conservation management practices.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Controlled Burns on Airport Property This Evening

Matt Le Feuvre setting a line during the last controlled burns on airport land.
The fire season in Alice Springs is far from over and many land owners are now busily putting in breaks. One Land for Wildlife property that has been staying on top of their fire regulation compliance from the start, is the Alice Springs Airport.

Bushfires NT volunteers and Low Ecological Services staff have been out with airport employees on a few occasions already over the last few weeks, burning and grading in breaks across the property.

Today this work will continue, when Merv and Simon and the boys will again head out with volunteers from LES and staff from Bushfires NT to continue prescriptive burning to the north of Deep Well Rd and around the eastern parts of the airport property. It may be another long night, but all for a good cause and there may be time to bung a chop on a shovel over the nearest burning log if we're lucky; volunteering has to have its perks!

On a serious note, it's important that these breaks get put in before any more fires break out. Fire authorities and volunteer units have been working long hours to burn breaks in around Alice Springs. Larger fires can send burning embers to start spot fires kilometres from the fire front. In these situations, pre-burnt and accessible fire breaks are the best chance that fire crews will have to contain wildfires.

So don't be alarmed if there is a bit of smoke heading up from the Todd River end of the airport property - that'll just be us. The whole operation is expertly supervised and we are fully equipped with water tankers and grass fire units.

LfW Alice Springs on Twitter


What's all this twittering about?
We've searched high and low, far and wide, but it seems that Land for Wildlife in Alice Springs is now the first of the regional LfW groups to use Twitter.

It seems many of these social networking applications take some time to fully mature, but Twitter has been widely adopted by many in the conservation and NRM world so it was time that LfW took the plunge. It turns out to be a great way of receiving up-to-the-second information about community events and local news.

We're hoping that through our use of Twitter we'll be able to keep our members better in touch with relevant local issues and remain better connected to the NRM community in Alice. It is already proving its worth in spreading the word about the energetic work of voluntary conservationists in Central Australia; our account is being followed by Alice Springs Mayor, Damian Ryan and the Prime Minister of Australia, Julia Gillard. If nothing else, it will be nice to know that messages will be flashing across a screen somewhere in Canberra each day about Mexican Poppy control, buffel-busting, or wildlife corridors through our desert town.

If you're hooked up to Twitter already, you can follow us by looking for @LFW_Alice in your Twitter account - otherwise you can go and investigate by clicking this link to see our profile. If you're not already using Twitter, but might be interested, it's dead easy to sign up and doesn't cost a penny. You can have a look for yourself at http://www.twitter.com/

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Volunteers Needed for Biodiversity Surveys in October


Spencer's Burrowing Frog Opisthodon spenceri.
That's right folks! It's Land for Wildlife biodiversity survey time again and this year promises to be as interesting as ever. The project we have planned will involve 3 nights of trapping at 4 Land for Wildlife properties along Roe Creek - some with excellent Buffel control, and some with extensive Buffel growth. All of the properties around this area have had some interesting mammalian visitors this year so let's see what we find.

We'll start on Sunday the 9th of October and set traps each night through until the Tuesday and finish with our last check on the Wednesday morning. Volunteers with all levels of experience will be needed to help with the setting and checking of Elliot trap lines, pit traps, and funnel traps and the documentation of all that juicy data. Photographers are more than welcome as we will very likely find a few interesting critters along the way.

If you'd like to help out we'd love to hear from you. Give Jesse or Chris a call on 89 555 222 or email lfw@lowecol.com.au

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

Desert Snow!

No, it's not what you think. The weather hasn't gone that crazy - yet. Long time Garden for Wildlife supporter Dave Price has sent in some more of his stunning photographs, this time of an often overlooked desert flower known as Desert Snow Macgregoria racemigera.

Desert Snow Macgregoria racemigera - picture by Dave Price.
This is a species which grows on the sandplains after good rains and may also be found in small depressions that might have a bit of shallow ground water.

Dave tells us, "These little beauties are growing at Kirrirdi south of Yuendumu. I'm told they grow next to the haul road at the Granites and near the bore field. They're called ngapa-taraki-taraki in Warlpiri (ngapa means 'water' and also 'rain') and I'm told that they are an indication of water not far beneath the surface and worth the digging."

More Desert Snow by Dave Price.
Thanks again for some more great images Dave.

Monday, August 15, 2011

Fire Plans - have you got one for your property yet?


Volunteers from Low Ecological Services putting in fire breaks that have already proved crucial in fighting fires to the west of Alice Springs.
We've already seen predictions of large fires for Central Australia vindicated in the past few weeks. Many people have been donating their time and putting in long sleepless nights to protect private property and conservation reserves around Central Australia. Due to the tireless work of regular and volunteer firefighters, there have been no injuries resulting from any of these fires and no loss of housing. The fire season is far from over though, and we may have just received a taste of what is to come.

With the heavy fuel loads on the country at the moment, the destruction of older trees by fire is a more likely outcome. By progressively reducing this fuel through grading and burning breaks, the fires when they do come, are not only easier to get under control, but also less damaging to remnant habitat.
This should be no cause for alarm for property owners around Alice Springs, but should provide ample motivation for the production of fire plans for all properties.

Your fire plan should be simple to follow and known to everyone who is resident on the property. Information about fires in your area can be obtained by listening to ABC Local Radio (783 AM) or by checking the Bushfires NT website.

Land for Wildlife can help you to develop a fire plan for your property, but the important points to cover include;

1. In the event of a fire alert, will you stay on the property or leave - everyone should decide in advance.

2. If you need to evacuate, everyone should travel by the same, pre-determined, safe route.

3. Prevention is better than cure - your fire plan should include all relevant measures to protect your property from being threatened by fire in the first place; fuel reduction burns, fire breaks, and safe access routes.

4. In the event of small spot fires, the fire plan should detail the location of fire-fighting hand appliances and fire extinguishers.

5. The fire plan should have the phone numbers of all relevant emergency authorities that you might need to contact in the event of an emergency.

For more information you can visit the following websites;

Bushfires NT
http://www.nt.gov.au/nreta/natres/bushfires/index.html

North Australian Fire Information - NAFI
http://www.firenorth.org.au/nafi2/
The detailed spatial and temporal fire information that NAFI provides can be very useful in staying abreast of the changing situation at a local level.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Calling All Buffel Busters!!!


Alice Springs Landcare are having their 2nd Annual Buffel Busting Day on Sunday the 11th of September from 9am to 11am.

It's going to be happening at the Sturt Terraca Arboretum between the Stott Terrace Bridge and Undoolya Rd on the east bank of the Todd. This site has some regenerating native plants and the ongoing removal of Buffel Grass will help these along and allow them to become better established.

Local legend Peter Latz will be delivering one of his famous talks on controlling Buffel Grass. Tools and gloves will be provided and the morning will be spent ripping up weeds and removing litter. Following the Buffel Busting the ASL AGM will occur.

All you are required to bring is as many bodies as you can muster, a hat, water bottle and an enthusiastic Buffel Busting attitude!

Monday, August 8, 2011

Feral Photo Competition


Photo - Yanjing Lu, wikicommons
The Invasive Animals Centre for Cooperative Research has announced its Feral Photos competition. This is a great chance to learn more about how invasive animals impact the equilibrium of our ecosystems and perhaps win a little something along the way. The winning photo will be featured in the 2012 calendar.

All of the details can be found on the Invasive Animals CRC website at; http://www.invasiveanimals.com/feral-photos/

Briefly though, you just need to submit your photograph that features one of Australia's pest animals and its impact or even the monitoring and control measures targeting them. 

Surely someone out there can round up a great feral mouse photo from Alice Springs this season!

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Treasures of the Desert Knowledge Precinct

Land for Wildlife coordinators recently carried out a property assessment at the Desert Knowledge Precinct. As locals would know, the precinct is located on the Stuart Highway just south of Heavitree Gap and the town of Alice Springs. The property is large (72 Hectares) and managed as a multi-use property, with areas of landscaped gardens, open space and remnant vegetation. Built environments are composed of an education facility, cafe, solar power plant and offices occupied by staff of the Centre for Appropriate Technology.  
The property is situated on old floodplains of St Mary's Creek and the Todd River, with St Mary's Creek a prominent feature where the entry road fords this small tributary of the Todd River. The natural vegetation type of this landscape is Ironwood and Corkwood open woodland with an understorey of native grasses, although introduced Buffel Grass now predominates. River Red Gum and Bastard Coolabah line the channel of St Mary's Creek.
Although the property has a long history of grazing and other potentially degrading land uses, some treasures were uncovered during the assesssment, including:
    
    Ironwood
    
  • This huge Ironwood (Acacia estrophiolata). With a trunk diameter of 85cm, this tree must be several hundred years old. Keeping the area around the base of such trees free from the encroachment of Buffel Grass is important. Hot, frequent fires fueled by thick growth can kill these ancient trees.
  •  
    Scarlet Bracket Fungus
    
  • Scarlet Bracket Fungus (Pycnospora coccineus). A relatively common fungus occuring on dead timber throughout central australia. It varies in colour from bright scarlet, through orange to bleached white. Two colour varieties are shown here.
  •  
    Scarlet Bracket Fungus
    
  • Fork Leaved Corkwood (Hakea divaricata). Some very large and old examples of this species occur as part of open woodland communities. Most were in their early stages of flowering during the property assessment. This is one of two species of corkwood that are common around Alice Springs. It is easily recognised by the leaves that fork into several sharp pointed needles.

Fork Leaved Corkwood


The property already has a detailed land and fire management plan, that includes the protection of significant trees, control of Buffel Grass and the maintenance of fire breaks. Land for Wildlife is now developing further recommendations for the management of the property.

   

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

National Tree Day - Sunday 31st July


Ghost Gum - probably not suitable for every garden. Picture by Prince Roy, wikicommons.
National Tree Day is upon us again folks. Sunday week will be the day to head out to a site somewhere and plant a tree.

To locate a tree-planting site you can visit the National Tree Day website and enter your postcode for your nearest site. There's the rub - no sites appear in Alice Springs yet. Perfect!

This is your chance to register a site. It is quick and easy to do on the website and will enable organisers and other folks to see that Alice Springs folks are doing their bit on Tree Day.

If you'd like to know the best species to plant in your area, you can contact the Land for Wildlife coordinators who will provide extensive species lists for every area around Alice Springs, matched to your soil-type and drainage. lfw@lowecol.com.au

Monday, July 18, 2011

The Year of the Bat

Hill's Sheathtail Bat, Taphozous hilli. Pic: Michael Barritt.
This little beauty is Hill's Sheathtail Bat. While it might have a face that only a mother could love, these little mammals have a crucial role in our ecosystems. We have at least nine species of small insectivorous bats (microchiroptera) here in Alice and while you won't hear most of them, they are certainly present over much of our night skies.

Bats use high frequency sounds produced in their larynx to navigate and hunt their prey during the night. This is known as echolocation, and has been shown to be used by some bird species as well as bats. Most of these sounds are above the frequency range for most humans to hear.

Bats can call using frequencies of up to 200 kilohertz. Humans usually hear sound up to about 15 kilohertz. Some species of microbat commonly call using frequencies below 15 kilohertz and are therefore often heard by humans. These calls differ from one bat species to another, and using electronic bat detectors and computer software we are able to survey and identify these bats.

In Central Australia, the White-striped Freetail Bat, Tadarida australis, and Yellow-bellied Sheathtail Bat, Saccolaimus flaviventris, are the only two species which commonly call at frequencies audible to humans.

The UNEP Convention on Migratory Species (CMS) and The Agreement on the Conservation of Populations of European Bats (EUROBATS) have declared the Year of the Bat 2011-2012.

To find out more about our local bats you can start at the Australasian Bat Society webpage. The Year of the Bat has its own website and is a great resource for learning about bats worldwide.

Land for Wildlife will work towards holding another of its workshops about Centralian bats during this year of the bat. Keep in mind that Centralian bats are tiny and may be roosting around your property. They will commonly shelter under the bark on living and dead trees, in tree hollows and cracks, and in caves and rock crevices. They will also be found roosting in disused and even occupied buildings. Due to their delicate nature and sharp teeth, bats should not be handled by humans. If you have any questions about or photographs of bats on your property, the Land for Wildlife coordinators would love to hear/see them.

email: lfw@lowecol.com.au

Friday, July 15, 2011

Geoff & Denise Purdie's Alice Springs Bird Disc Project

Major Mitchell's Cockatoo - just one of the stunning species on the Alice Springs bird list.
Some exciting news today with the announcement of a new project initiated by Land for Wildlife stalwarts, The Purdies. Anyone who has had the fortune of visiting their beautiful property out in Ilparpa, will have noticed the abundant birdlife around their home. Geoff and Denise have fostered an interest in the birdlife of Alice Springs for as long as they can remember and it has found an outlet now in their great new project.

Geoff has already put in a lot of work collating his photos, videos, and sound recordings of local birds into a DVD film. Geoff has generously invited collaboration from any Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife members who have photos they'd like to contribute to the project. Ideally, the DVD will provide as complete a picture as possible of the birds that residents might be able to find in their backyards around Alice Springs. It'll be a great addition to the already comprehensive membership package that members receive on registration, and the disc will also be available to interested current members.

This is a great chance to get community spirit into a project that will prove to be a useful resource for new and long-term residents alike. If you have any photos that you'd like to contribute to the project then please send them through to the Land for Wildlife coordinators and we'll forward them on to Geoff and Denise. Of course, any of your pictures that get used will be fully credited in the final product.

Send all your photos to lfw@lowecol.com.au

Great idea Purdies!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Devil's Advocate Deadline Looms


Whoosh! Douglas Adams. Pic - Michael Hughes, wikicommons.
 Douglas Adams, the late, great, author of the Dirk Gently and Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy novels, was fond of saying how he loved deadlines. "I love the whooshing noise they make as they go past!"

Well, a deadline approaches. Before it gets to the point of making that lovely whooshing noise, get scribbling and submit your contributions for the rejuvenated Devils's Advocate, slated for publication quarterly, starting this August.

The Devil's Advocate was created by ALEC many moons ago and has fallen by the wayside during relocations, changes of staff, and the busy business of day to day life. It is rising, phoenix-like, from the ashes to again provide Centralians with an alternative publishing and advertising destination.

If you have a passion for any topics surrounding sustainability, the environment, arid-zone ecology, the arts, or anything else that might be juicy and interesting then Jimmy Cocking would love to hear from you.

The deadline is close of business on the 15th of July - that's this Friday! You can email your submissions to the editorial staff at devilsadvocate@alec.org.au Remember to accompany your text with high res photos, with captions. If you can limit your contributions to 500-700 words then you have a better chance of the folks at ALEC being able to fit it into the giant jigsaw that will be the August rebirth edition.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Got Snails?

A Semotrachia snail out and about in damp weather. Picture courtesy of Mark Carter.
Land for Wildlife is putting out the call this week to all friends and members who have fig trees on or near their properties. We've been talking with local land snail expert Mark Carter, and he says that these trees are a favourite haunt for many species of inland gastropod.

Here in Central Australia we have more than 80 species of endemic land snails. Some of these species are so specialised that they only exist under one or two fig trees in a single gorge in the ranges. The good news for Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife members is that some species are probably living right in your backyard.

We have feral snails here as well, but it is almost impossible for anyone but an expert to distinguish the difference between these and some of our native beauties. Mark has been to suburban properties in Alice Springs and found the beautiful Pleuroxia or Blue-horned Snail, and Sinumelon species. So if you find snails in your backyard, please don't squash them - it's no exaggeration to suggest that they may be the last of their kind!

Instead of squashing, we suggest snapping. We'd love to see any and all photographs you have of snails in your backyard or from when you've been out and about. This is a particularly understudied group of animals in Central Australia and new species could be found just about anywhere. If you have fig trees, Mark suggests giving them a bit of TLC to ensure that they remain healthy habitat for our snails. Clear heavy grass overgrowth (especially Buffel) from around the base, but leave the leaf litter undisturbed.

If you find the empty shells from ex-snails during your snooping, again we'd love to hear about them and see your pictures. Of course, the other animals that love fig trees are Western Bowerbirds, so if you have a bower around your garden it might be worth checking to see if there is a ready-made collection of old snail shells.

Happy hunting.

Friday, July 8, 2011

ECOFAIR Website up and running

Exciting news this morning with a message from Jimmy Cocking at ALEC to say that the Desert Smart Ecofair website is online.

We hope that you've all cleared your diaries from the 19th to the 21st of August, but in case you have forgotten, you can now go and check out the website. It comes complete with a free sneak peek at the impressive new television commercial which will be airing soon.

Great work ALEC!

Thursday, July 7, 2011

Show Weekend Draws New Members

The LfW/GfW stand at the show this year was a great success. Accommodated once again by the good folks at the Australian Plant Society, we had a steady stream of visitors and many new property owners interested in signing up to the program.

We are expecting to get about 20 new members out of the weekend, but we sent out a lot of brochures and are slowly receiving more enquiries as the week passes, so we may end up with more than 20.

Thanks to everyone who dropped by with kind words and helpful advice, and a special thank you to all of those who brought doughnuts and coffee with them.

Wednesday, June 29, 2011

Alice Springs Show - Roll Up! Roll Up!

It's that time of year again folks. The Land for Wildlife coordinators will again be down at the show all of Friday and Saturday, so please come down for a chat and let us know how your property is going. If you've got friends who'd like to find out about Garden for Wildlife or Land for Wildlife, then send them our way by all means. We'll have plenty of information available for new and old members alike.

You'll be able to find us co-located with the Australian Plant Society stall - and of course the jolly green diamond sign.

Hope to see you there!

Monday, June 27, 2011

Rock Wallaby Workshop

"See ya 'round!"
On Saturday the Land for Wildlife Rock Wallaby and Habitat Regeneration workshop was held at Olive Pink Botanic Gardens. The weather turned on a ripper of a morning for us, and the workshop was well attended with 22 folks showing up, including new and old members alike.

After a slightly late kick-off, the workshop went well with Clare Ciechanowicz delivering a biological summary of the Black-footed Rock Wallaby and fielding many questions about these fascinating marsupials and their habits around Alice Springs.

Following Clare's lead, the coordinators stepped in to deliver the rest of the presentation centering on the rehabilitation of rock wallaby habitat.

If you missed out on this workshop, never fear! Stay tuned for details on the next workshop Land for Wildlife will be running in October as part of Red Centre Bird Week on Birdwatching Basics.

Nightstalk 2011 - time to get your team together and scout a location

Grab your spottie!

Nightstalk 2011 is rapidly approaching. If you haven't heard about Nightstalk then you really need to head to the website and find out all about this exciting initiative. In summary, it is a chance for interested people around the country to survey the nocturnal wildlife in their area and submit this to a national database.

It is run by the Perth Zoo, but participation is encouraged right across the continent to get as complete a picture as possible of all the nocturnal wildlife around the country. Alice Springs has been well-represented in the past with surveys conducted in a few sites across town and out through the Western Macs and Hermannsburg. Anyone is welcome to run their own spotting team and the sooner you get organised the better.

The Nightstalk starts on the first of September and runs through until the 16th of October. Teams should do at least one survey during this period and, ideally, perhaps a few surveys spread throughout the period. Instructions for how to go about your surveys and submit you results are all on the Nightstalk website. Now is the time to be organising your team, and finding a good site to survey which has legal access and that you know well enough to navigate around after dark.

The LfW coordinators will be forming a team and we'd love to hear about the efforts of other LfW and GfW members doing the same. Once the data goes up on the web it will be very interesting to see a snapshot of our nocturnal wildlife during such a good season in The Centre.

Friday, June 24, 2011

Fat-tailed False Antechinus found on LfW property in Alice Springs

Fat-tailed False Antechinus, Pseudantechinus macdonnellensis. This bloke was only caught by his foot and was released without harm.
There was a bit of excitement in the Land for Wildlife offices this afternoon. Another interesting native animal has been found in a mouse trap on a Land for Wildlife property. The beautiful photograph above shows the Fat-tailed False Antechinus found on a property out in Ilparpa. This is one of the group of carnivorous marsupials know as dasyurids. The clear reddish or orange marks behind the ears are a good indicator of the identity of this species. The tail will grow fat when they have had a particularly good season of scoffing insects. The very fat tail on this one suggests that it's been a very good year indeed.

These can be fairly common around rocky areas in Central Australia, but are not commonly observed due to their mainly nocturnal habits.

While this one got away unharmed, it is yet another example of one of our beautiful locals getting caught in a trap set to catch feral mice. Ooldea Dunnart, Stripe-faced Dunnart, Spinifex Hopping Mouse, Sandy Inland Mouse; we've a long list of native species that haven't been so lucky in encounters with mouse traps this year.

If you want to set traps to keep the mice at bay around your home, there are plenty of alternatives to lethal spring traps. My favourite is the bucket trap; a wine bottle is set on its side with the neck overhanging the edge of a table. Put some peanut butter inside the neck of the bottle as bait and a bucket underneath to catch the mice as they slip off the glass neck. The conventional lethal version of this trap will have the bucket half filled with water to drown the mice, but it is just as effective if the bucket is empty. This way, if you get the occasional native, it can be released outdoors without harm. One Land for Wildlife member has six of these set up around their property and in one trap alone has caught 109 mice in one night! An extraordinary total, and a good indicator of the effectiveness of these traps. For this industrial scale operation the bucket has been swapped for an empty 44 gallon drum.

As always, keep an eye out for anything that looks or behaves a bit different to the everyday feral house mice. If you have something that you're unsure of, try to get some well lit, well focused photographs, from a varity of different angles. Email these to the Land for Wildlife coordinators at lfw@lowecol.com.au We'll get the boffins to work and get back to you with a name for your critter in short order.

Below are some links to a few websites which offer some alternatives to the non-lethal trap described above. As with everything, the design of a moustrap is limited only by your imagination. If you have your own special design of mouse trap that you've found to be effective, we'd love to see some pictures or hear of your success.

Click here for a simple explanation of the bucket trap design using a cardboard cylinder in place of the wine bottle.

Click here for some very elegant, even artistic, designs.

Some folks obviously have a lot of spare time.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Working Bee at Pitchi Richi Sanctuary

 
Head down for what promises to be an interesting day.
We received this invitation today from Domenico Pecorari at the Pitchi Richi Sanctuary. This is a great opportunity for any Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife members to get down to one of Alice Springs' historical institutions and lend a helping hand.
 
For those who have never been for a visit, I can guarantee you will be pleasantly surprised at how much there is to learn at this fascinating place.
 
Hello everyone


The Pitchi Richi sub-committee its holding another of its Working Bees at the Pitchi Richi Sanctuary this Sunday 26th June 2011, from 9.00AM to lunchtime.


Our first two Working Bees were well attended and as a result, the "meeting area" around the bough shelter has been cleared of rubbish, tidied up and is looking good.  Many thanks to all involved.


Work is spreading outwards, into the Sanctuary itself, clearing the areas around the statues and pathway to make the place more presentable for the planned Open Day to be held in early August.


Please excuse the short notice but, if you can spare the time, we'd love to see you there, at any time between 9.00 and noon and for as long as you wish to stay.


Regards


Domenico Pecorari
Chairman, Heritage Alice Springs Inc.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Junior Rangers get set for feral dove trapping

Jesse on flipping duties, and Jacelyn on crowd control.

 Saturday morning was beautiful, cool, and clear - perfect for a workshop. Jesse and Chris headed down to the Alice Springs Telegraph Station for a feral dove trapping workshop with the Alice Springs Junior Rangers.
Teamwork was the order of the day.

Undoubtably a highlight for many of the budding ecologists was.... pancakes for morning tea. What a way to start the workshop! An inspired move by the illustrious organiser, Jacelyn Anderson.
The trap building was a family affair from the very start.

Once the pancakes were all gone, it didn't take long for us to get down to business. After a short presentation about the impact of feral doves and the finer points of trapping ethics, we settled into some serious wire-working action.
The semi-cylinder was a popular design on the day.

The designs were many and varied - the junior rangers really put their imaginations to work in building some of the funkiest dove traps that Jesse and Chris have seen so far. Everyone who attended went away with a working dove trap to stick in their back yard to help reduce the feral population.
Tom puts the finishing touches to his masterpiece.

A big thank you to Jacelyn Anderson who organised the whole show - especially the pancakes - and thank you to all who attended and participated so energetically. Jesse and Chris look forward to counting up your catch records and hearing your tales of trapping adventures.