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 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.


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.

Monday, June 20, 2011

The Devil's Advocate - back to tackle all the thorny issues!

"Are you talkin' to me?"

This just in from Jimmy at Arid Lands Environment Centre... they're resurrecting their quarterly journal of all things sustainable and ecologically sensible - The Devil's Advocate. This will be an exciting publishing destination for any aspiring writers out there with ideas for suitable material - and astute advertisers.

Read Jimmy's blurb below and then get to work;

Devil's Advocate deadline

Got something you want to write about?

Get your Devil's Advocate articles in by July 15. We're looking for anything on environmental issues, urban and remote sustainability, peace and social justice issues.

Business sponsorship. ALEC members can advertise their services in the DA. Events will be promoted. Activities, workshops, reports, exclusives, investigations, scoops, photo essays and reviews - all are encouraged for the next edition.

500-700 words for feature articles
please provide high-res photos and captions. Poems and other prose is negotiable.


Please email to:

More info: Jimmy 8952 2497

SO..........GO ON...............GET WRITING!!

Black Kites on a Fire Front

Further to the last posting, here is some great footage of Black Kites doing what they do best on a fire line up near Katherine...

Fuel Reduction Burns at Simpson's Gap

The Land for Wildlife Coordinators and other staff from Low Ecological Services were busy last week helping rangers and Bushfires NT with some controlled burns out at Simpson's Gap.

This was the culmination of some training begun with the Basic Wildfire Awareness course. Getting the practical experience with the various techniques and equipment in the volunteer firefighter's arsenal was a great way to fully understand the nature of wildfires and their control.
Cold afternoon, light breeze - perfect for controlled burns. 

The fuel load throughout Central Australia is greater than it has been for many years and the various fire control authorities around the territory are busily burning in as many breaks as they can while the cool weather lasts. Fortunately the burns we did out at Simpson's Gap were all well-controlled and didn't even get big enough to show up as hot-spots on NAFI, the fire information website for northern Australia.

It was also interesting to see how the wildlife responded to the onset of fire. At the first whiff of smoke the birds were noticeably active. Fairy-wrens and Thornbills were on the move early to get out of the area. In the wake of the fire, Crested Bellbirds came in to work the scorched earth for invertebrate life that could be plucked out from the newly exposed ground. Above the fire front, Black Kites and Brown Falcons swooped after the myriad katydids and grasshoppers flushed by the heat and swept up into the air.
The fire hits a stand of Acacia victoriae. This species does well in disturbed areas and usually comes back very strongly following fires.
The flare-up doesn't last long.

Bushfires NT are always looking for more volunteers. This season may prove to be one of the worst fire seasons for Central Australia in many years. If you have the time, fitness and inclination, you should get in touch with Bushfires NT and learn about how you can help out.

Click here for Bushfires NT volunteer information.

Friday, June 17, 2011

Calculate Your Footprint

There's a lot of talk at the moment of "footprints" and how to reduce them. This has nothing to do with shoe size of course, but your ecological or carbon footprint.

There are many ways to visualise your footprint and all of them make it easier to see ways in which you can reduce yours. The "Happy Planet Index", started back in 2006, is an index of human well-being and the ecological impact of supporting it. It has its detractors and some obvious flaws, but as an easily accessible and crude measure of how much of your share of the planet's resources you are using, it is instructive. As an alternative to the standard measures of national well-being, GDP or HDI it is perhaps more useful for the individual. Remember; it isn't a measure of happiness, but the ecological cost of the pursuit of happiness.

You can take the Happy Planet Index survey here. It's a pretty short questionnaire and if you answer fairly honestly it should yield some interesting results. If you drive a car anywhere, or fly ever, you will find your impact is much larger than the majority of the world. Not to worry, the results of the survey will set out a bunch of steps you can take to reduce your footprint in different areas.

Every little helps!

Friday, June 10, 2011

Responsible cat ownership.

Cat with Major Mitchell's Cockatoo. Photo: Lisa Wilson, Wikicommons.
The cooler weather has arrived and this brings a lot of changes. Most of the reptile life that Alice Springs is famous for has gone underground to sleep out the cooler months. The small birds and mammals that are nocturnal or less active during the hot summer days, are now much more active through the middle of the day.

Unfortunately, this can sometimes bring wildlife into more frequent contact with diurnal pets, yielding predictable results. To understand the local side of this issue, the Alice Springs Town Council has some relevant information for pet owners available on their website - here.

Animal Welfare Week is approaching, and seeks to highlight the responsibilities of pet owners. These include all the usual things like making sure your pet is adequately fed, exercised, vaccinated, cleaned, and otherwise well-treated and looked after. An often overlooked responsibility of being a pet owner is confining your pet. In some parts of the country this is starting to appear in legislation - see here - but it really comes down to common sense. Cats have evolved as predators and, let free in the neighbourhood, will sometimes exercise their instinct to hunt.

There are now many companies online which construct cat-proof enclosures in cat owners' homes. These are fantastic looking structures which amount to an adventure playground for kitty, while keeping him from stalking possums and birds. The Victorian State Government has an excellent site - here - with information about constructing your own cat-proof enclosure which will still allow your cat plenty of exercise, stimulation, and outdoor access. For a great example of this sort of thing with a local flavour, you need go no further than the Garden for Wildlife story about "Jessie; The Enviro-cat". Jessie is owned by a long-standing Garden for Wildlife member who has constructed a safe and wildlife-friendly enclosure for her.

Also, the Land for Wildlife website has a fact sheet - here - which outlines the impact that feral cats can have on our wildlife once they have well and truly ceased to be domestic pets.

So if you must own a cat, I would urge you to ensure that it is well confined - day AND night. It's worth it to avoid the unpleasantness of having to explain the dwindling population of the neighbour's chook house.

Of course, if you will let your pets roam, it's not beyond some of our native wildlife to give as good as they take!


Monday, June 6, 2011

Animal Welfare Week

Animal Welfare Week is approaching at the end of the month to raise awareness of caring for and protecting the Territory's animals - pets and wildlife.

The good folks at Animal Welfare have just released a program of events for the week which includes plenty of fun and educational activities, down here in Alice, for animal lovers of all ages.

The program is available by clicking HERE.

More information is available on the Animal Welfare website...

...or by phoning; 1300 720 386.

Territory NRM Infonet - a great land management tool

Choose your site - choose the information you need - the website does the rest.
This week the Land for Wildlife coordinators were invited to an information session about the Territory NRM's very useful Infonet website.

This is a tool which has uses for many people, from managers of very large properties, down to interested folks keen to get species information and maps for their favourite camping or birdwatching spots. This is a powerful tool which is sure to save some people a lot of time. I'd urge any interested LfW and GfW members to get on the infonet site and have a poke around. It's very intuitive and easy to navigate.

It's another in a growing number of websites which are being set up as accessible databases for our collected information about surveyed areas. The long term goal is for many of these sites to feed off each other and be fully interactive, enabling ecologists and amateurs alike, to upload biological surveys to the database and thus flesh out our picture of the Territory's ecosystems - this fully networked capability is still a little way off though.

The infonet website currently works in conjunction with the NAFI system, providing up to date fire information for all areas. It is also linked in realtime to the NT Herbarium's database, so the botanical lists are very extensive and right up to date.

Once you get on the site there are detailed tutorials available to enable you to learn how to get what you need out of the site. You can get detailed flora and fauna maps, lists of threatened species for particular areas and you can isolate your search area according to a number of different parameters. Of particular interest is the "sites of conservation significance" search feature. In this drop-down menu, all of these sites are listed and comprehensive reports have been pre-drafted in PDF format. Otherwise you can select your search area by land parcel number, indigenous protected areas, IBRA bioregions, catchments, and several other options.

Once you generate your report, which includes management guidelines for the included species, the website will collate the information for you in a few seconds and then it is provided as a downloadable and saveable PDF file. This can be stored on your computer or printed out and consulted at your leisure. The information is beautifully presented and a particularly attractive option is the "threatened species booklet". If you select this option for your area, the website will compile a booklet of all the threatened species listed - again, packaged in an attractive booklet for printing or storing on your computer.

The infonet website can be visited at:

The designers are interested in your thoughts, so make sure you let them know if you have any suggestions. Some aspects of the site are still in the late stage of design and may be further refined based on user feedback.

Thursday, June 2, 2011

Brodifacoum - an interesting case study of when poison programs go wrong

The Bald Eagle - National Bird of the USA
 An interesting and topical article has appeared in Nature this year. The article details a disastrous rat eradication program on an Alaskan island which resulted in the deaths of 420 birds including 46 endangered Bald Eagles. Click here to read the article.

We have already warned of the potential dangers of using poison to control mice on your property, and this article refers to the same chemical found in household rat poisons - brodifacoum.

Of course, the complicating factors of a large scale eradication program like the one detailed in the article (and this one was also spectacularly mis-managed with several poor and inexplicable decisions made) are completely different to small-scale use in the home, but some principles remain the same.

Once the chemical is present in the food chain, it can accumulate and have unexpected effects.

Food for thought - the effects of Buffel Grass in the Sonoran Desert

Perhaps a biased piece of journalism but an interesting look at another community facing it's own problems with Buffel Grass.

The value of botanical gardens - are we preaching to the choir?

Eremophila christophori at OPBG
Chances are, if you're a Land for Wildlife/Garden for Wildlife member, you are already well and truly aware of the value of botanical gardens.

With that in mind, there is a free podcast available from ABC Radio of a fascinating chat between Richard Fidler and the curator of the Mt Coot-Tha Botanic Gardens in Brisbane, Ross McKinnon. One of the main topics they cover is the medicinal value of plants. This seems quite relevant in light of the abundance of traditional plant remedies on show at Olive Pink Botanic Gardens here in Alice.

Click this link to listen to this very entertaining and enlightening conversation.

Black-footed Rock Wallaby Workshop - 25/6/2011, all welcome!

Environmental scientists and volunteers in the forests of Gippsland in eastern Victoria are currently experiencing the first glimmers of success in their battle to bring the Brush-tailed Rock Wallaby back from the brink of extinction. You can read about this by clicking this link. Here in Alice we have our own rock wallabies, not quite as scarce as their southern cousins, but threatened nonetheless by habitat fragmentation, changes in vegetation communities, and introduced predators.

Black-footed Rock Wallaby, Petrogale lateralis.
The Land for Wildlife coordinators are busily setting and checking dog traps at the moment. We're monitoring four LfW properties which have BFRW populations in the hope of removing some introduced predators and giving the wallabies a chance to spread out and breed up.

The culmination of our trapping program, will be a workshop at the end of June. This is a chance for you to come along and learn more about this fascinating species and how we can look after and rehabilitate their habitat around town.

Expert mammalogist Clare Ciechanowicz from the Alice Springs Desert Park will be on hand to discuss the biology of the little wallabies and the LfW coordinators will have information about the successes of the dog trapping program. We'll be discussing habitat regeneration for all Central Australian gardens, so even if you don't have wallabies on your property there'll be plenty to learn about and take home to your garden.

Stay tuned for venue details, but the workshop will be on Saturday the 25th of June at 10am.