Monday, March 28, 2011

Tangentyerre Nursery Open Day serves up a wealth of opportunities

Tangentyerre Nursery held their open day on Saturday and Alice Springs turned on a beautiful March morning for the event. Jesse and I were there early to set up the Land for Wildlife/Garden for Wildlife stall and to be honest, there is nowhere else I would have rather been.

A big family of Variegated Fairy-wrens were playing in the cool morning air and Mistletoebirds were busy pecking ripe berries from clumps of mistletoe in the Acacias.  A lone Sacred Kingfisher paid the garden a visit and Grey-crowned Babblers were living up to their name around the edges of the nursery. It was a beautiful morning.

Once a few people had started arriving the Land for Wildlife stall got plenty of attention. In addition to getting several new interested landholders from around the region we re-established contact with one long term member who had lost contact due to the difficulties of living overseas for a period and changing email addresses.

By the end of the day, Land for Wildlife had received applications from 3 new properties. These three new properties will mean another ~16 000 acres of country coming under voluntary conservation management and the guidance of the Land for Wildlife program. The Garden for Wildlife program received a similar amount of interest with at least three new properties joining up and becoming part of our network of wildlife corridors criss-crossing the town.

One of the great things to see at the open day was how well the nursery itself is going. Mick is continuing his great work there with a fantastic range of healthy local plants available to fill your gardens with birds and other wildlife right through the winter. Tangentyerre collects all its seed from nearby properties and is a great business to support when you are doing some planting in your garden.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Wildcare Alice Springs plans to reduce the impact of discarded aluminium cans as a long-term killer of wildlife

A Spiny-tailed Monitor, Varanus acanthurus found dead at the base of Mt. Gillen with its head stuck in an aluminium can which may have been discarded many years ago.
This is a sad, but all too common story. Aluminium cans seem to have a unique ability to become death-traps for curious wildlife. The aluminium can featured in this picture is so old and faded that the branding is barely visible. A discarded aluminium can may sit in the landscape for decades before claiming a victim like this. They can trap moisture or small invertebrates and act as an effective trap for ground foraging reptiles. I've seen many different snakes and lizards trapped in exactly this way and it is a real shame.

Rex Neindorf from the Alice Springs Reptile Centre has had 8 Varanid lizards handed in with their heads trapped in cans like this in just the last 2 weeks. As he pointed out, if there are this many being found and brought into organisations like Wildcare, imagine how many hundreds or even thousands of these animals are out in the country dying slow deaths as a result of thoughtless littering along roads and in towns.

In an effort to reduce this problem and raise much needed funds, Wildcare Alice Springs are encouraging folks to recycle as much as they can, and have started their own service to help out. For people who don't have the ability to cart their recycling collections out to the processing centre to collect their refund, Wildcare will come to your home and collect your recycling for you and take it to the processing centre. This is a free service of course, but relies on Wildcare being able to keep your refund in return for their efforts.

They hope that this will encourage more people to recycle thus reducing the sort of impact on wildlife depicted above. As a bonus it will trickle a few more dollars into a busy and important community organisation which can really use them.

To register your interest and get your recycling picked up by Wildcare, they can be contacted on;

0419 221 128

Give them a ring now and keep those cans away from our wildlife.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Congratulations LfW members - we're all part of the solution

This fantastic short film has appeared on with Professor Harry Recher discussing his fears for the future of Australia's small bird populations. The good news is that all of the positive steps mentioned are encapsulated in the values and actions exhibited by Land for Wildlife members in their conservation efforts on their properties. Watch this great little video...

Click the Crimson Chat (Epthianura tricolor) to watch the film.

We'll keep pushing on this subject, and we have plans for some bird identification workshops in the near future to help you make the most of the bush birds around your property. In conjunction with this we're interested in getting members to conduct monthly surveys of the birdlife around their properties.

This will be a highly pleasurable endeavour and need not take too much of your time, but if we can harness the enthusiasm and interests of all our members we may be able to compile some useful data about the state of bird populations around the different habitats of Alice Springs.

If you're interested in getting a head start on your local bird knowledge you can visit the Birds Central website for news and information about local birds and birdwatching events around Alice Springs. You don't need to be a trained ecologist, and you don't even need a pair of binoculars. As Harry says in the film, even if all you can do is go outside and listen to the birds, then you will be raising awareness and that's a step in the right direction.

We'll finish with a relevant quotation from the late, great, Eubie Blake:-

"There are four important things to remember in life;

1. Pay thunder no mind;
2. Be grateful for luck;
3. Don't hate nobody;
4. Listen to the birds."

Eubie Blake (1887 - 1983)
Jazz Pianist, Composer, Philosopher, US.

Monday, March 14, 2011

Extraordinary wet continues...

The Todd flows....again.
So we didn't quite cap the record rainfall of 1974 last year but we came very close. Back in '74 we had 782.5mm recorded for the calendar year. In 2010 we came in at 769.6mm - so close.

However, it is instructive to look at the bigger picture. With rainfall stats just out for February the calendar year 2010 plus the first two months of 2011 gives us a total rainfall of 945mm. The same period for '74/'75 gives only 883.7mm so there can be no doubt that we are experiencing a record breaking wet season of considerable proportions.

There has been moderate flooding to the north of Alice Springs and swamps and wetlands have been filled to overflowing. Gilbert Swamp south of Tennant creek has received its best filling for decades, as has Wycliffe Well, Stirling Swamp, and Napperby Creek.

Perhaps its a good time to check those erosion barriers?

Friday, March 11, 2011

Peach-faced Lovebirds - the next bird pest for Alice?

Apapornis roseicollis, Peach-faced or Rosy-faced Lovebird. This photograph was taken on Dixon Rd but the birds have also been reported from Eastside and Larapinta.
Could this be the next avian invader for Alice Springs? The Peach-faced Lovebird, a popular and very attractive pet bird, is native to arid parts of the south-west of Africa around Namibia.

It is a hollow nesting species and we are right in the middle of their breeding season now. There is a small flock which has been resident around Braitling for several weeks now and there is a risk that they may be breeding.

Please keep an eye out for this, or any other feral bird species that you notice around your gardens. Notify the authorities and let us know so we can get the word out. Coming from an area with quite similar climate to Alice, this species could potentially be a greater danger of spreading out further from town than the Spotted Turtle-dove.

We're beginning to get on top of the feral Spotted Turtle-dove problem so the last thing we need is to have another outbreak of feral birds.


Thursday, March 10, 2011

Succinea Snails at Ilparpa Swamp

Succinea sp. Amber snail.
This little beauty was found down at Ilparpa Swamp during some routine water sampling. There are many species withing the Succinea genus, but it would require dissecting the little bloke to identify exactly which species this is.

Thanks to Red Centre malacologist Mark Carter who was happy to identify this as Succinea for us - no snails needed to be harmed. Commonly known as Amber Snails, the entire genus are air-breathing land snails.
With a 5 cent piece for scale you can appreciate how delicate these snails are. The current drizzly weather is perfect for heading out to find some of our local native snails.

If you're interested in learning more then this website might be a good starting place..

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Rabbit Scan Website

Click this image to visit the Feralscan website
 G'day folks, here is a great way that you can contribute to citizen science and help with the eradication of one of the worst feral threats in the country. have just got the rabbit scan part of their project up and running. This is a website where you can register and start recording your sightings of rabbits. These get plotted on a map and entered into a national database to inform the next logical step which is control.

Feralscan have several other projects on the way including feral mapping sites for camels, foxes, Common Mynas, and pigs.

I visited the site this morning and found it to be quite user-friendly. With a minimum of fuss you can register to participate in the project. Once you have registered, it is quick and easy to log in and record your sightings. The website also has a wealth of other interesting information about the history of feral infestation in Australia.

If this sort of project sounds like your cup of tea then there may be some other web-based citizen science projects you'll be interested in;

The Birds Australia Atlas of Australian Birds- dedicated to Australian birdlife and mapping their expanding or diminishing distribution over time.

You can view lots of great information about our birds on this site without being a member, but if you want to contribute your sightings you will need to join - I can't think of a better excuse!

The Atlas of Living Australia - this is a much larger project with the lofty aim of creating an atlas of all organisms in Australia. The website is just a viewing portal at present but is showing great promise.

Monday, March 7, 2011

Bananas From a Horse Paddock!

Last week, Land for Wildlife coordinators went to assess a new property for membership. The property, in the racecourse/winery rural area, had some nice specimens of remnant Ironwood and Fork-leaved Corkwood trees. A portion of the property, however, had been used for horse grazing in the past and showed signs of its grazing history, with shrubs eaten below 'horse height'.
Bush Banana fruit in an old horse paddock
 A low diversity of grasses and herbs occurred, with the understorey dominated by Buffel Grass.Imagine our surprise then when we stumbled across this gem in the middle of the old horse paddock! A healthy Bush Banana (Marsdenia australia) twining up an old Ironwood stump.
The Bush Banana can be found in semi-arid woodland and mulga in Central Australia. It is often inconspicuous as its thin, woody stems wind their way up taller trees and shrubs and its foliage is often lost amongst that of the supporting plant.

The most obvious and unmistakable part of the plant are its fruit. They are large and pear shaped and often occur within a month of good rainfall. This was an important plant to Aboriginal people across the region, with most parts of the plant being eaten at some stage. The unripe fruit can be eaten raw, while the ripe fruit can be eaten after being cooked. The inconspicuous, cream coloured flowers can also be eaten.
No fruit yet, but this bush banana was
found growing in an urban backyard
The ripe fruits split open to reveal many seeds with light, feathery attachments like a dandelion. They can be spread some distance by the wind. This dispersal technique allows them to turn up any where around Alice Springs, provided germinating plants are protected from grazing by stock and feral animals. A specimen was also found in a Garden for Wildlife property in Eastside recently.
So if you find any straggly, not very interesting looking vines tangling their way up a tree (or even a stump) in your backyard, don't pull it out! Let it grow for a while, or send us a picture for ID, it might be a Bush Banana!