Spring – The Perfect Season for Dove Control

The introduced Spotted Turtle Dove
A steady trickle of feral Spotted Turtle Dove trapping records continues to make its way to the Land for Wildlife office. It’s pleasing to see that the community is continuing to target this avian invader. Recent figures include 50 trapped for the year thus far from a Garden for Wildlife member in Eastside and 37 in the last three months in LfW coordinator Jesse’s backyard in Northside.
The bad news is that these high numbers show that the feral doves are continuing to make Alice Springs a stronghold, displacing native birds and causing a nuisance as they do so.
Building dove traps

Breeding season (now!) is a great time to target feral doves, so if you’re not involved in the trapping program and would like to be, contact Chris, Matt or Jesse at Land for Wildlife. And remember to send us your catch figures so we can update our data to!

If you’re not thrilled about the idea of trapping birds, there are more passive methods to deter Spotted Turtle Doves from your backyard. If you have thick shrubbery and vegetation at your place, have a look around for any nesting doves. Turtle doves love to build their nests in dense, non-native vegetation such as palm fronds, rank Bouganvillea thickets and Pepper Trees. By removing such habitat and replacing it with native trees and shrubs, you can transform your garden from a haven for feral pests to a paradise for native birds and wildlife.

 Turtle Dove nest and egg. Photo; J.M. Garg

Alternatively, if you enjoy the shade your Pepper Tree provides in the hot weather, simply carryout regular ‘nest inspections’ in likely places. If you find a Turtle Dove nest (a very simple platform of sticks placed on a branch), remove it. Tip out any eggs that might’ve been laid. After several attempts and constant disturbance, the birds will soon get the message and move elsewhere. 

If you find any Turtle Dove nests or eggs, let us know. The information will help us build a picture of where the strongholds of this introduced species are in Alice Springs.

Survey 2012 – Biodiversity on Land for Wildlife Properties

Hi there Land for Wildlifers.

Well, it’s been a while since our last post, with a busy field season taking up most of coordinators’ time over the past few months. LfW has been recording a few milestones in Alice Springs however, with a third coordinator, Matt Digby, taken on to help ease the work load and some prominent properties, including Ayers Rock Resort and the Alice Springs Golf Club, signing up to the program.

Before the hot summer weather really hits us however, we have one outstanding project to get done – our annual LfW biodiversity survey. Every year, properties are selected from amongst our growing membership base for a detailed four day flora, fauna and landscape survey. This project involves trapping and observing wildlife on properties, recording flora species present in remnant vegetation and mapping of landscapes and land units. This data is then collated and presented in a report which is accessible to LfW and GfW members and anyone else who may be interested.

The information we collect is a valuable tool in determining if management practices carried out by property owners are effective in encouraging the diversity of wildlife and vegetation on rural properties in Alice Springs.

The 2012 survey is scheduled to take place at Fenn Gap west of Simpson’s Gap on Larapinta Drive. This year, the survey is happening in cooperation with the Arid Lands Environment Centre’s Biodiversity Matters program of workshops (http://alec.org.au/programs-2/healthy-arid-lands/biodiversity-conservation.html).

On Saturday 13th October, LfW coordinators together with ALEC will hold the final workshop in the Biodiversity Matters program, centred around surveying techniques and data collection, giving you the opportunity to be involved in important biological field work.

For more information or to get involved with this year’s survey, contact Chris, Jesse or Matt at LfW on 89 555 222 or email lfw@lowecol.com.au If you’d like to know more about the Arid Lands Environment Centre (ALEC) and Biodiversity Matters go to alec.org.au and follow the links.

At left are some images of the 2010 and 2011 surveys. Pictured from top are Golden Everlasting daisies (Bracteantha bracteata), Red-chested Button Quail (Turnix pyrrhothorax), Silky Glycine (Glycine canescens), Euro (Macropus robustus) and the blossom of a Bush Orange (Capparis mitchellii).

 

Publishing Opportunity: A call for contributions from the Northern Territory Naturalist

A request has come down from the Top End for a greater contribution of natural history literature from Central Australia. While Alice Springs probably punches well above its weight in publication in a variety of journals, apparently we are not well represented in Northern Territory Naturalist. We thought we should put out the call to all naturalists, professional and otherwise, in the Land for Wildlife network.
The following email, received from Chief Editor Dr. Michael Braby, provides the details;
The Northern Territory Naturalist is a registered, peer-reviewed journal (ISSN 0155-4093) for original research and publishes works concerning any aspect of the natural history and ecology of the Northern Territory or adjacent areas of northern Australia (e.g. Kimberley, western Queensland, Timor). Authors may submit material in the form of Reviews, Research Articles, Short Notes, Species Profiles or Book Reviews.
Contributors include a range of field naturalists and scientists who are not necessarily members of the NT Field Naturalist Club. There are no page charges, and inclusion of colour figures is also free of charge. This year we are moving towards making all articles accessible (open access) as PDF’s on the Clubs web site.
The journal is sent to Thomson’s Zoological Record for abstracting, and electronic versions are indexed and distributed through the Informit platform. The journal is also currently listed by the Australian Research Council as a Category C publication, and all papers will soon be included in Scopus, Elsevier’s bibliographic database containing abstracts and cited references of over 19,000 scientific titles from more than 5,000 publishers. Hence, academics and other researchers receive official recognition for publishing with us.
The success of the journal in recent years is reflected by the number of high quality refereed papers published (46 in the past 5 years), which span a broad range of topics in natural history and ecology. Since 2007, the journal has been produced on an annual basis.
  
For more information regarding author instructions please see our home page:

Centralian Rainbow Spider?

Black House Spider Badumna insignis.

No not really. Local arachnid expert Robbie Henderson has been kind enough to identify this spider for us as the Black House Spider Badumna insignis. This is a common spider around Alice Springs.

It is a smallish spider which grows to a total legspan of about 3cms. I asked Robbie to identify this one for us due to its superficial similarity to a funnel-web spider. While the Black House Spider is venomous it is not considered dangerous, and is described as being generally timid and unlikely to bite.
They tend to stick to one little area and maintain a messy looking little web in a corner of a building or among rough tree bark. The entire spider is covered with hairs, and the rainbow colours visible on the lower half of the abdomen are just a trick of the light – the flash from the camera refracting through the hairs. In natural light the spider is a uniform dark grey or black.

BUFFEL FREE ZONE – SHORT-TERM PAIN FOR LONG-TERM GAIN!

A Guest Member Post from Buffel Free Champion, Debbie Page.

In 2000 when our family relocated from basic residential living in Alice Springs to Heenan Road, our main goal was to put some ‘space’ between our neighbours and our family of four young boys.  Initially, our 5 acre property was quite desolate but with a few good seasons that followed we soon found ourselves surrounded by acres of dense healthy Buffel; up to a metre high in spots.  Like many of our neighbours, we spend most of our spare time and many weekends mowing and slashing and dreaming of the day we could afford the luxury of a ‘ride-on mower’ like the ones we looked longingly at while pushing our old victa round and round the paddocks!
In 2003 a friend suggested I investigate Land for Wildlife, as their pilot program promoted and encouraged local landholders to manage their property for nature conservation with an emphasis on awareness of natural vegetation, local wildlife and sustainable management.
Looking back, I was a bit nervous about my scheduled 2 hour appointment with Bill Low and even considered offloading our menagerie of domestic animals for the day rather than take a ‘beating’ , particularly if I was about to become a ‘Greenie” myself!
Fortunately, our property assessment went without a hitch and somewhere between, following Bill around our property (some areas I had never even stepped foot on) and listening attentively to his spiel on each and every ‘alive and growing’ specimen and the following few weeks, my appreciation of where I was living and my level of awareness of the local flora and fauna that surrounded me, was enlightening. You could say our 5 acres of ‘Bush and Buffel’ turned overnight in my mind into a ‘vision’ of sustainable land for Flora and Fauna conservation. Even in the early days this seemed a much better option than spending the rest of my spare time ‘mowing & slashing’ Buffel and consequently destroying any hope of native grasses, wildflowers and shrubs to rejuvenate.
So up went the green diamond (Land for Wildlife) on the front fence and off I went into town with a new dream and focus to buy a weed sprayer and a few litres of weedkiller; much easier on the pocket than the ‘ride-on mower’ I had previously pined for!  I learned the ‘window of opportunity’ for spraying was after rainfall, so I dedicated as much time as I could afford, to spraying during these periods, particularly when the young plants were smaller, prior to seeding and in a rampant growing stage.  Looking back, I certainly can not remember spending more than 2 hours at any one time on my new passion and I often had a few days break in between sessions while I waited for the sprayed grass to yellow and therefore spot the missed patches.  Now days, after rain it is exciting to fill up the sprayer and set off hunting for the odd Buffel plant, not to mention the joy of keeping in close contact with every corner of our property, always learning and discovering some new flora or fauna has moved in to reward our efforts.
Right from an early stage, eradicating Buffel was extremely rewarding and never really felt like ‘hard work’.  Native grasses quickly filled in the blank spaces, wild flowers and native shrubs seemed to rush in to re-claim their favourite spots and local birds steadily increased their presence and variety; I personally believe this is due to the abundant food and shelter now on offer.  A large family of Blue Wrens came to stay last year (perhaps 20-30) they enjoyed living here so much they raised a new generation of little ones before moving on just recently.  Somehow, I just know they will return later in the year because everything they need for a happy life is here!
Debbie Page, “Snakegully”

Heenan Road

Four-spotted Cup Moth

Larva of the Four-spotted Cup Moth Doratifera quadriguttata.

Land for Wildlife member Uwe Path has sent in another great photo from the ever-growing menagerie that can be found on his property. This caterpillar had us stumped initially but in the search for a positive identification, we found a very useful website.

The Coffs Harbour Butterfly House website has a resource for anyone trying to identify caterpillars, moths or butterflies. If you’re ever trying to pin down the identity of a caterpillar in your yard try visiting http://lepidoptera.butterflyhouse.com.au/

The database here is by no means exhaustive but provides a fair cross-section of the more common species that you might come across.

Land for Wildlife Workshop: Rabbit Monitoring and Control – 10 am Saturday, 31st of March at Olive Pink Botanic Gardens

The infamous star of the show – Oryctolagus cuniculus. Pic. JJ Harrison

The 2012 series of Land for Wildlife workshops will commence on Saturday the 31st of March, with a workshop on rabbits and their control. The workshop will be held at Olive Pink Botanic Gardens in the meeting room beside the cafe. The information session will commence at 10am, and should run for about 20 minutes. The Land for Wildlife coordinators will be available after the information session for any questions relating to rabbits on your property.

Dr. Bill Low will be in attendance to provide an introduction to the history of rabbits and rabbit control measures in the NT.

Central Australian Bats with Dennis Matthews

Gould’s Wattled Bat Chalinolobus gouldii. The prettiest of the bunch, and about the most widespread species in Australia.

Bats are one type of wildlife which we don’t often get to have a close look at here in Alice Springs. They’re certainly about and are actually quite common. This was conclusively shown by a recent workshop that we were able to hold at the Land for Wildlife offices. Renowned bat expert Dennis Matthews was in town and had just enough time to run an information session for members and interested locals.

Dennis Matthews explains the ingenious harp trap. The aluminium frame supports taut vertical filaments. The bats fly into these filaments and slide down to roost in the layers of canvas beneath.

After a very educational presentation indoors, Dennis led us into the garden to demonstrate some survey techniques. We had a look at some ANABAT recording devices in action and then a couple of harp traps were set up and left overnight to see what species we have fluttering around our office at night.

Lesser Long-eared Bat Nyctophilus geoffroyi.

In the morning we were rewarded with 9 bats from 4 different species. On the recorders the previous night we had identified a further two species in the area that we didn’t manage to catch in the traps.

Inland Freetail Bat Mormopterus planiceps.

We mainly get insectivorous microbats here, with only occasional visits from the Little Red Flying Fox following particularly wet seasons in The Centre. Microbats mostly call well above the range of human hearing and can be difficult to track in a torch beam due to their fast flight and small size. So it was a genuine treat to get up so close and have a good look. Thanks Dennis!

Spectacled Hare-wallaby Roadkill in The Tanami…

Spectacled Hare-wallaby Lagorchestes conspicillatus. Just north of Rabbit Flats, Tanami Rd, NT. Photo: Dave Price.

Some bittersweet news this morning when I got into the office. Dave Price, photographer extraordinaire and regular contributor to our newsletters and blog posts, has sent in some more pics. Unfortunately, he and wife Bess found a roadkilled Spectacled Hare-wallaby Lagorchestes conspicillatus, just north of Rabbit Flats on the Tanami Road. Initially they thought it might have been a Mala Lagorchestes hirsutus, but these are sadly now almost certainly gone from the wild in this area. The Spectacled Hare-wallaby is still holding out though. This is a slightly larger animal which is easily identified by the prominent rufous “spectacles” for which it is named.

Interestingly, in 1997 a population of Spectacled Hare-wallabies was discovered in the south-west of Papua New Guinea, making it one of very few macropods that isn’t endemic to Australia.

Spectacled Hare-wallaby. Photo: Dave Price.

It’s always a shame to see wildlife killed on the road, but I guess it at least shows us that they’re still out there and gives us a chance to see some of these more elusive animals close up. We’d love to hear from anyone else that has found an out-of-the-ordinary roadkill. If you do a bit of driving and find anything of interest drop us a line and let us know about your discovery.

lfw@lowecol.com.au