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

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

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!

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.

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.

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!

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.