The Changing Seasons: Winter to Spring

As August wraps up, Land for Wildlife members should be looking to have any wildflower seedlings in the ground ready for the new growth that spring brings. There has been some significantly frosty weather of late so seedlings could remain protected for another couple of weeks until the warmth sets in. In the wildlife arena, caterpillars will become more active and you may see some damage to plants. If this begins to annoy you, remember to admire their role in the ecosystem: caterpillars transform into butterflies and moths, which are important pollinators of native plants. Damage from hungry caterpillars is usually temporary and the emerging variety of moths/butterflies is a great reward for your patience. Wanting to attract caterpillars to your garden? Check out this useful resource from the Australian Plants Society Inc.

Hawk Moth Caterpillar (Sphingidae Family)

Hawk Moth Caterpillar (Sphingidae Family)

 

Hawk Moth Caterpillar (Sphingidae Family)

Hawk Moth Caterpillar (Sphingidae Family)

This caterpillar was spotted at Ellery Creek Big Hole in the West MacDonnell Ranges earlier in the year. It appears to be the larvae of a Hawk Moth (Sphingidae Family), though which of the 65 Australian species it belongs is unknown to us at the moment. It was found feeding on the leaves of Smooth Spiderbush (Clerodendrum floribundum) to the edge of the waterhole. One species of Hawk Moth or Tar Vine Caterpillar in Arrernte is ‘Yeperenye / Yipirinya’ and is the focal piece of Jukurrpa (Dreaming) for Mparntwe (Alice Springs) Arrernte, along with ‘Ntyarlke’ (Elephant Grub) and ‘Utnerrengatye’ (Emu Bush Grub). Listen to the Yipirinya Jukurrpa or learn about other stories in A Town Like Mparntwe.

Central Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps).

Central Bearded Dragon (Pogona vitticeps).

The warmer weather will also bring out more reptiles, such as Central Bearded Dragons (Pogona vitticeps) and Sand Goannas (Varanus gouldii)… among others! Be sure to take care on the roads to prevent accidental flattening of reptiles when they are sunning themselves (I’ve noticed quite a few victims this week following warm mornings). This Central Bearded Dragon was found near the Land for Wildlife office a couple of weeks ago. Following the removal of a tick, it went on its way to a sunny area for some basking.

Enjoy the warmer weather and get out planting some natives! Not sure what to plant? Head down to the Alice Springs Nursery on Saturday 27th of August for their event ‘Spring into Spring’ to grab some local natives and visit the Land for Wildlife / Garden for Wildlife stall to ask us about your vegetation type.

Entomologists to the Rescue!?

Seeking entomologists that can identify this fun little friend for us! This golden and glorious fly was found at Newhaven Sanctuary, north-west of Alice Springs, on a recent trip by the Land for Wildlife coordinator. We think he’s pretty excellent and would love to know what he is. Feel free to forward this to friends far and wide who may be able to give us an answer.

A golden fly found at Newhaven Sanctuary in the Northern Territory.

A golden fly found at Newhaven Sanctuary in the Northern Territory.

Pool Conversion: Creating a Freshwater Ecosystem

By Jen Kreusser

There are many people in Alice Springs who are considering turning their once-loved swimming pool into an oasis of a different variety, or perhaps installing an old child sand pit or pool, in the hope of creating a self-sustaining water-feature and extending the attraction to a diverse range of feathered visitors. Smaller features can be created by using old bathtubs or similar, which I have seen to be effective. The question is: How to do this in an arid, urban backyard?

Call out to our readers: We would like to hear from LfW members that have done this, or at least experimented with the concept – get in touch!

In the first instance, it largely depends on what your ambitions are – and the space and resources you have available. In order for the water to be attractive for birds and other animals to visit, access will need to be created. Creating shallow areas for waterbirds to stand and placement of low branches (old or living) near the water’s edge will encourage birds to come and drink.

Pros: Once established, it is likely to be visually aesthetic – creating a unique habitat for residents to enjoy and observe. It is also an opportunity to grow a variety of water plants (which will attract a greater diversity of insects, birds, frogs and reptiles).

Cons: Available fresh water is likely to attract predators, especially in hot dry summers (such as unwanted cats and snakes). Evaporation rates during summer are significant (similar to a regular swimming pool) and regular additions of water would be required (tank water is best).

It may take some time to establish and convert the pool into a safe and healthy water supply. Like many water ecosystems, it’s about balance! Keeping onto the balance of microorganisms (algae, bacteria) will be important as time goes on and you may wish to consider purchasing a pH testing kit to help. We are not experts on creating freshwater systems, though we would really love to hear from our members that have created these and we can share more in our next newsletter.

Of course, if you are a lover of the arid zone, you may wish to consider filling in the swimming pool space for creating a new arid (dry) landscape feature such as a sand dune or rocky garden. Remember, when considering which plants to include in the space it’s worth checking out Native Plants for Central Australian Gardens (Forth & Vinter, 2007).

– Jen Kreusser

desertSMART EcoFair

Land for Wildlife had a huge weekend at the desertSMART EcoFair (organised by the Arid Lands Environment Centre), which is Central Australia’s leading science and sustainability event. The event kicked off on Friday with the Eco-Science Schools Day at Olive Pink Botanic Garden (OPBG), who has been a registered and highly active Land for Wildlife property for nearly ten years.

Costa Georgiadis had the students all revved up for a weekend of learning about science and the environment, linking into National Science Week. Various groups hosted workshops on the day, including Parks and Wildlife Commission NT, Shell Questacon Science Circus, Engineers Without Borders Australia, Alice Springs Town Council and Live & Learn.

Land for Wildlife was joined by four school groups on the day: Araluen Christian College classes seven and nine, Yipirinya class six and various home school students from around the region. The session involved a walk around OPBG to 12 positioned letters (spelling ‘Biodiversity’), where each letter represented an aspect of flora and fauna. For example, the letter ‘V’ stood for variety, where students were asked to see how many species they could find in the vicinity. Upon completion, students rearranged the letters – what a smart bunch!

The weekend was full of EcoFair events and activities, but finished up on Sunday at the Alice Springs Desert Park with the Eco-Markets. Land for Wildlife was there to talk to market-goers about the programme and our current projects. Thanks to ALEC for organising another great event!

Students get ready for an action-packed EcoFair Schools Day

Students get ready for an action-packed EcoFair Schools Day

 

Costa and the students in fits of laughter

Costa and the students in fits of laughter

 

Costa Georgiadis, Jimmy Cocking (ALEC) and Carmel Vandermolen (ALEC) kick off events at the EcoFair 2016.

Costa Georgiadis, Jimmy Cocking (ALEC) and Carmel Vandermolen (ALEC) kick off events at the EcoFair 2016.

 

Students rearrange letters to spell 'Biodiversity'

Students rearrange letters to spell ‘Biodiversity’

 

Yipirinya students learn about biodiversity

Yipirinya students learn about biodiversity

 

Yipirinya student showing some skills

Yipirinya student showing some skills

 

Costa Georgiadis learning about the current projects at Land for Wildlife

Costa Georgiadis learning about the current projects at Land for Wildlife

 

Ntaria Junior Rangers

Land for Wildlife was invited out to the Ntaria Junior Rangers Camp with the Tjuwanpa Women Rangers last week. The Tjuwanpa Women Rangers care for country, managing fire, feral animals and weeds, at the Finke Gorge National Park. Their aim is to have “Akarkutja Warnka Mabaka Kaltjithika”, which means “older women and younger women all learning together” (ABC). Part of this aim is to work with the Ntaria Junior Rangers and encourage other groups to get involved in teaching the younger generation about the importance of managing country appropriately.

The Ntaria Junior Rangers camped at Palm Valley and the team from ABC Back Roads were there to document their learning journey. Land for Wildlife spoke to the group about the changing world, as part of their current curriculum – covering topics such as extreme weather and human-induced changes to the environment. We were also lucky to have been involved with a story-telling session by a Ntaria ‘Tjilpi‘ the previous night, given in both Arrernte and English.

 

Junior Rangers getting together for filming

Junior Rangers getting together for filming

 

Tjuwanpa Women Rangers help to translate bird names into Arrernte for coordinator Gerard Lessels

Tjuwanpa Women Rangers help to translate bird names into Arrernte for coordinator Gerard Lessels

 

Assistant to Land for Wildlife, Emma Smith, helps the Junior Rangers find ways to minimise their impact on the environment

Assistant to Land for Wildlife, Emma Smith, helps the Junior Rangers find ways to minimise their impact on the environment

 

Junior Ranger responses in the LFW session booklet

Junior Ranger responses in the LFW session booklet

 

Keep an Eye to the Sky: Nesting White-Plumed Honeyeaters

A bougainvillea in my yard has been home to some breeding White-plumed Honeyeaters (Lichenostomus penicillatus) over the last couple of weeks. The nest is a delicate hanging cup made of grasses and spider web, lined with miscellaneous fur. I only discovered them when they were a few days old and in a little over a week they left the nest, sitting about right with the 14 day nestling period. The parents had kept things quiet over the incubation period (also 14 days) but as the chicks approached their fledging time they made an absolute racket (despite attempts by the parents to pipe them down). This attracted a lot of attention from a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike (Coracina novaehollandiae), but the parents defended the nest with vigour and the offending visitor got a few blows to the head before retreating to a safe distance. The parents were kept busy with regular feeding intervals, searching high and low for new sources of food to satiate the young ones. The two chicks left the nest a day apart and stayed nearby in a Ghost Gum while they strengthened their wings. Now they are off and exploring their new world!

This week is an eventful one in the bird world, with plenty of activities taking place for the Red Centre Bird Festival – Check out the  Program to see how you can get involved!

 

White-plumed Honeyeaters at approximately 4 days old

White-plumed Honeyeaters at approximately 4 days old

 

White-plumed Honeyeaters at approximately 13 days old

White-plumed Honeyeaters at approximately 13 days old

 

White-plumed Honeyeater adult guarding the nest

White-plumed Honeyeater adult guarding the nest

 

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike retreating after getting too close to a White-plumed Honeyeater nest

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike retreating after getting too close to a White-plumed Honeyeater nest

 

Still Seeking Rural Cats

Land for Wildlife is still seeking cat owners from the rural areas to take part in the next Domestic Cat Monitoring and Awareness programme. The study involves tracking domestic cats with a GPS, monitoring their activities with kitty-cams and scat analysis to see what they are eating when out and about. If you have a cat and live in Ross, Connellan, Ilparpa/White Gums – please get in touch at lfw@lowecol.com.au or on 08 8955 5222.

Check out the article from the Centralian Advocate last week!

Centralian Advocate - 12th August 2016

Centralian Advocate – 12th August 2016

Video: Rufous Whistler

A Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris) was snapped by the Land for Wildlife coordinator at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary, while on a trip with the Alice Springs Field Naturalists Club. Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary is one of Australia’s largest non-government protected areas, covering 262,000 hectares. Newhaven is renowned as a key arid zone bird watching destination. Supporting 170 species of birds, the property was originally purchased by Birdlife Australia before being transferred to the Australian Wildlife Conservancy in 2006.

Considered as one of Australia’s fanciest songsters, the Rufous Whistler has a variety of calls which consist of a series of ringing notes. Described by Birdlife “The song is characterised by repeated whip-cracks interspersed with a variety of whistles and trills given at various volumes, rhythms and tempos”. Two types of call from the male can be seen in the video.

Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris) calling in a tree at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary

Rufous Whistler (Pachycephala rufiventris) calling in a tree at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary

Are you interested in taking part in Newhaven’s annual bird survey from 11-25 March 2017? Get in touch with the Newhaven Bird Survey Coordinator (0437549301; puffin_54@hotmail.com) to express interest.