Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife take out Fairfax Landcare Community Group Award at the NT Landcare Awards

LFW Central Australia Significant Trees Officer, Candice Appleby, and LFW Central Australia Coordinator, Caragh Heenan, receive the award for Fairfax Landcare Community Group. Image credit: Territory Natural Resource Management

 

Land for Wildlife is proud to announce that we have taken the prize for Fairfax Landcare Community Group award at the NT Landcare Awards in Darwin!

Appreciation goes to Bill Low of Low Ecological Services for the ongoing support and assistance as host of the program. Thanks to all our funding providers (Parks and Wildlife Commission NT and the Alice Springs Town Council) and project supporters (Territory Natural Resource Management) for enabling the work we do to be so successful.

The biggest of thanks go to the Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife members that put so much effort into conserving wildlife habitat through land management initiatives, revegetation activities, weed removal, feral animal control and the creation of habitat spaces. The Land for Wildlife program is voluntary and relies on private landholders to protect, conserve and restore habitat with often limited resources. As coordinator of Land for Wildlife, my role to provide information resources, engage and educate the masses, and connect like-minded individuals with the greater network is the easy part – the rest is up to our members! So well done to our 101 Land for Wildlife and 137 Garden for Wildlife members for the tireless work you do to protect wildlife habitat across central Australia.

Thanks go to Territory NRM and NT Landcare for the lovely recognition of all of the hard work we have carried out through the program. Land for Wildlife Central Australia has had a huge year, taking on a number of projects in Alice Springs and the surrounding region. Some of the activities we have been involved in this year include:

  • Signing up many new eager members and connecting with existing members.
  • Producing monthly newsletters to provide members with articles of interest.
  • We celebrated the 15th birthday of Land for Wildlife and the 10th birthday of Garden for Wildlife which was supported by TNRM and Olive Pink Botanic Garden and included a range of workshops, such as seed collection by Samantha Hussey from Charles Darwin University and Bat box making by John Tyne from Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife.
  • Engaging cat owners with the Domestic Cat Monitoring Project and developing a range of resources to encourage responsible cat management. This project was supported by TNRM and funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme.
  • The NT Register of Significant Trees (initiated by the National Trust of Australia (NT) and Greening Australia) was updated and converted to an online format for central Australia (and the top end is next).
  • Launched the latest edition of the Reptiles and Frogs of Alice Springs guide by Nic Gambold and Deb Metters, by hosting a workshop by Rex Neindorf at Alice Springs Reptile Centre.
  • Helped to organise and run a Buffel busting tour of Alice Springs, coordinated by Arid Lands Environment Centre, to inspire residents to remove buffel from their properties and encourage native forbs and grasses to grow.
  • Began developing a grass identification book for central Australia with permission from AusGrass2 via the Queensland Herbarium.
  • Encouraged members to learn about the birds in their backyards by running a Bird Bath Biodiversity Survey with camera traps at bird baths, as well as a mist netting survey with assistance from Bruce Pascoe. This was inspired by BirdLife Australia’s Aussie Backyard Bird Count.
  • Ran Biodiversity and Habitat workshops for school groups at the DesertSmart EcoFair schools day as part of National Science Week.
  • Worked with the Bachelor Institute and Centralian Senior Secondary College to do biodiversity surveys and understand the impact of feral species.
  • Ran a workshop for Conservation Volunteers Australia Green Army at Olive Pink Botanic Garden.
  • Hosted stalls at many of the local events in Alice Springs to engage the wider community about the program.
  • Continued to work with the Alice Springs Town Council on environmental management through the advisory committee.
  • Feral cat and spotted turtle dove traps have been booked out all year with eager members trapping invasive species with our support.

To top it off, all of our work has been well supported and encouraged by ABC Alice Springs as well as local community groups such as the Alice Springs Field Naturalists and Australian Plants Society Alice Springs Inc.

Congratulations to all of the other winners and finalists! There were so many deserving groups and individuals – a great set of enthusiastic and passionate people working towards NRM in the central Australian and top end region. Land for Wildlife Top End was also hugely successful this year, taking out two awards for Australian Government Partnerships for Landcare (NT Landcare Awards) and People’s Choice Award (Territory NRM Awards). This goes to show the level of interest in such a great program across the Northern Territory and proves that we are doing something right. At a local level, congratulations go to the Tjuwanpa Women Rangers for their well-deserved award for Indigenous NRM Group in the Territory NRM awards. Land for Wildlife is proud to be able to support the great work done by the ranger team and look forward to assisting with a biodiversity survey out their way next year.

We look forward now to taking on the big guns at the National Landcare Awards next year, going up against the winners from around Australia.

Well done team!

Land for Wildlife Top End and Central Australia. L-R: LFW Top End member Jo-Anne Scott, LFW Top End Coordinator Emma Lupin, LFW Central Australia Significant Trees Officer Candice Appleby and LFW Central Australia Coordinator Caragh Heenan. Image credit: Land for Wildlife Top End

Bird Bath Biodiversity Survey 2017

A hawk (Accipiter sp.) visits a Garden for Wildlife bird bath while a Kangaroo watches on.

Land for Wildlife has conducted biodiversity surveys on member properties since 2007. They are an important tool in determining the success of land management activities carried out and to create a better understanding of species population dynamics in areas of mixed land use. The information gathered from the surveys adds to the knowledge of species distributions in areas that may otherwise pose access issues to do with land tenure and ownership.

Traditionally, the biodiversity surveys are conducted on Land for Wildlife properties only and involve trapping for a range of wildlife, including reptiles, frogs, mammals and invertebrates, as well as conducting visual transect surveys for birds. In 2017, as part of National Bird Week, Land for Wildlife took the aim of conducting a biodiversity survey targeted only at birds that visit the water baths provided on both rural and urban blocks so that Garden for Wildlife members would have an opportunity to take part in the process.

The survey was conducted using camera traps, which are small cameras housed within a pelican case that is responsive to movement. The camera is operated through infra-red sensors that detect movement and initiate recording. Three brands of camera trap were used for the survey, which included Reconyx (4), Bushnell (7) and Faunatech (1). Reconyx cameras were capable of taking still images, and were set to take 10 consecutive images following the detection of movement. Bushnell and Faunatech cameras were capable of taking moving footage, and were set to take 30 seconds of consecutive footage following the detection of movement. While Reconyx, Bushnell and Faunatech cameras are often called camera traps, they do not in fact capture the animal, but rather record its presence.

Cameras were set to run for a full day for each property. A total of 12 Garden for Wildlife members (including six in Eastside, three in Braitling/Northside, two in Larapinta, and one in Desert Springs) and seven Land for Wildlife members (including three at Ross, three at Ilparpa and one at Connellan) took part in the Bird Bath Biodiversity Survey 2017.

The Bird Bath Biodiversity Survey 2017 was an interesting exercise, highlighting the diversity of avian species that visit artificial or semi-natural water sources provided on urban, peri-urban and rural properties. A total of 566 visits to bird baths were recorded over the monitoring period. Overall, 22 species were observed in the camera traps, of which 16 were observed visiting Garden for Wildlife bird baths and 14 were observed visiting Land for Wildlife bird baths. The most common visitor to bird baths was the White-plumed Honeyeater and the Crested Pigeon, recorded at 10 properties each, whereas the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater was the most persistent visitor to bird baths, visiting 111 times across all properties.

Table 1. Avian species visiting Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife bird baths (^ Indicates an introduced species). Number of properties visited by species is recorded as all properties (Garden for Wildlife properties, Land for Wildlife properties). The list is ranked according to the number of properties visited.

Common Name Scientific Nomenclature Number of Properties Visited by the Species Total Number of Visits to Bird Baths Across All Properties
Grey Shrike-thrush Colluricincla harmonica 1 (1,0) 1
Grey-headed Honeyeater Lichenostomus keartlandi 1 (0,1) 1
Variegated Fairy-wren Malurus lamberti 1 (0,1) 1
Mulga Parrot Psephotus varius 1 (0,1) 1
Hawk Accipiter sp. 1 (1,0) 2
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike Coracina novaehollandiae 1 (1,0) 2
Diamond Dove Geopelia cuneata 1 (0,1) 2
Willie Wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys 1 (0,1) 3
Galah Eolophus roseicapillus 1 (1,0) 12
Zebra Finch Taeniopygia guttata 1 (0,1) 12
Australian Ringneck Barnardius zonarius 2 (1,1) 4
Magpie-lark Grallina cyanoleuca 2 (2,0) 85
Peaceful Dove Geopelia placida 3 (1,2) 4
Crow Corvus sp. 3 (3,0) 8
Western Bowerbird Ptilonorhynchus guttatus 4 (4,0) 10
Singing Honeyeater Lichenostomus virescens 4 (2,2) 11
Brown Honeyeater Lichmera indistincta 4 (3,1) 67
Spotted Turtle-dove ^ Streptopelia chinensis 6 (6,0) 22
Yellow-throated Miner Manorina flavigula 6 (3,3) 33
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater Acanthagenys rufogularis 9 (7,2) 111
White-plumed honeyeater Lichenostomus penicillatus 10 (7,3) 64
Crested Pigeon Ocyphaps lophotes 10 (5,5) 110
Total Species Count 22 (16,14)
Total Visits to Bird Baths 566

The Spotted Turtle-dove, an introduced species, was ranked 5th most common visitor at bird baths, recorded at six of the Garden for Wildlife properties monitored. Garden for Wildlife members can loan traps for free to help actively manage feral bird populations, as well as receiving instructions on how to make your own. Head to our website to see more information on feral dove control.

Several species were observed on only one property, which included four visiting Garden for Wildlife properties and six visiting Land for Wildlife properties. Of the species that visited several bird baths, the Western Bowerbird and the Spotted Turtle-dove were the only ones to visit Garden for Wildlife bird baths only. While the Western Bowerbird is known to visit rural bird baths, it wasn’t observed in this case. On the other hand, Spotted Turtle-doves are rarely seen south of Heavitree Gap and therefore their presence at the Land for Wildlife bird baths is not expected.

Garden for Wildlife properties recorded 10 species on a single property, with the Crouch and Heller properties coming out on top. The Land for Wildlife properties recorded 11 species on a single property, with the Kenna property taking the lead. While it is sometimes expected that there would be fewer species observed in urban areas, this was shown not to be the case in this survey. The Sweeney property received the most visits by birds to Garden for Wildlife properties, totalling 101 visits, irrespective of species. The Kenna property took the prize for most visits to Land for Wildlife properties, totalling 171 visits.

Full details on the Biodiversity Survey 2017, including images and species summaries for individual properties can be found in the survey report.

All the birds recorded in 20-minute intervals on Garden for Wildlife properties were entered into the Birdlife Australia Aussie Backyard Bird Count to provide the national group with some interesting data from our little central Australian town.

The Bird Bath Biodiversity Survey 2017 showed that there is a range of species that visited bird baths around the Alice Springs area within a one-day monitoring period. However there are over 200 species that can be found in and around Alice Springs. A comprehensive list of birds likely to be observed in the region is given in the Land for Wildlife fauna list.

If you feel that you could be attracting more birds to your garden, you could try some of the hints and tips from Land for Wildlife on the biodiversity fact sheet.

Are you interested in taking part in the next Land for Wildlife or Garden for Wildlife biodiversity survey? Head to the Land for Wildlife Biodiversity Surveys Page to find out more information.

Until next time, happy bird watching!

This biodiversity survey was conducted with Animal Ethics approval (Charles Darwin University Animal Ethics 12006 Landscape, fauna and flora survey and impact assessment in relation to mineral and petroleum exploration, infrastructure development and conservation initiatives throughout the Northern Territory), a Parks and Wildlife Commission NT permit (60855 Permit to Interfere with Protected Wildlife) and a Department of Primary Industry and Resources permit (026 Licence to Use Premises for Teaching or Research Involving Animals).

We thank the survey participants for allowing the Land for Wildlife team to visit and monitor the bird baths on their property. Appreciation goes to Parks and Wildlife Commission NT for use of several additional camera traps. Thanks also go to Birdlife Central Australia for identifying several bird species.

Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife Central Australia: Celebrating 15 years of Wildlife Habitat Preservation, Enhancement and Restoration

Land for Wildlife is celebrating 15 years of the program in central Australia, and Garden for Wildlife is celebrating 10 years of the program! We hope that the two complementary programs have been beneficial to our members and we look forward to continuing to support local landholders to preserve, enhance and restore wildlife habitat on private properties in the years to come.

Thanks to our host Low Ecological Services and current funding partners (Northern Territory Parks and Wildlife, Alice Springs Town Council, Territory NRM), as well as those that have funded and supported us in the past (so many!). We couldn’t have done it without you!

Many thanks to all Land for Wildlife coordinators past and present for building the program up to be what it is and providing expert assistance to landholders throughout central Australia. Thanks also go to the local organisations and groups that have supported us over the years to get the word out and assist us with the program at large.

Land for Wildlife celebrated the occasion with an event at the end of September, held at Olive Pink Botanic Garden (a long standing LFW member themselves who were gracious to provide assistance with the event venue). The event was very successful with roughly 35 LFW and GFW members in attendance for a range of great workshops and presentations. Presentations included a summary of the program, a property planning for wildlife presentation, an NT register of significant trees update, a seed collection workshop by Charles Darwin University, a bat box building workshop by Parks and Wildlife Commission NT, and a documentary Wild Brumby Run. The event included catering for morning tea, as well as lunch, provided by the Land for Wildlife team.

Thanks to Territory Natural Resource Management for supporting the event through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme. In addition, Olive Pink Botanic Garden provided in kind support towards the fabulous venue. Local groups provided door prizes as in kind support, including books from Land for Wildlife, two vouchers from Red Kangaroo Books and two vouchers from Alice Springs Desert Park. The lucky recipients were drawn at random from those present—we hope that the vouchers and books are well received (they are certainly well deserved!).

There has been some excellent feedback from the event, with many of the attendees showing great appreciation for the informative workshops and a chance to mingle with other members. As part of the 15th birthday event, we provided some background and a summary on the Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife program in central Australia (presented below).

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Land for Wildlife is a not-for-profit program that runs in various capacities throughout Australia. Land for Wildlife is aimed at assisting landholders in peri-urban and rural areas to preserve, enhance and recreate wildlife habitat.  A parallel program, Garden for Wildlife, was developed in the biodiverse hotspot Alice Springs to assist members residing on urban blocks. The programs rely on voluntary and non-legally binding efforts from local landholders.

Land for Wildlife as a brand was established in 1981 by the Victorian government and Bird Observer’s Club of Australia. Land for Wildlife in Alice Springs and its partner program Garden for Wildlife have been running successfully for fifteen years, and ten years, respectively. They have been hugely successful programs and are widely regarded in the Alice Springs region. The program was initially run through the Alice Springs Town Council on a three year federal government grant. The Alice Springs Town Council ran it for a year, with Low Ecological Services taking up the remainder of the contract and hosting the program ever since and seeking grant moneys from a variety of agencies. The program is currently funded locally through Parks and Wildlife NT and the Alice Springs Town Council remains a sponsor. The program also has funding for individual projects through support from Territory Natural Resource Management and funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare programme. Additional previous funding bodies include Territory Eco-Link, Territory Natural Resource Management, Caring for Country, Landcare, Natural Heritage Trust, Envirofund, PowerWater and Low Ecological Services with in kind support and endurance.

Many of the member properties are situated within the MacDonnell Ranges Bioregion, containing the highest number of vulnerable and rare species listed with conservation status nationally and at the NT level. As a result, preserving even small patches of vegetation is a worthwhile venture in terms of providing habitat for native fauna species (and protecting the local native flora species themselves).

The member base extends to Yulara in the south-west, Andado Station and Ross River in the south-east, Narwietooma Station to the north-west and Tennant Creek Airport to the north. Cumulative property area covered by the 103 Land for Wildlife and 156 Garden for Wildlife members is 291,531 hectares, and rising.

Collaboration with private landholders is a successful method of conserving habitats and nature corridors, to address the challenge of species decline though habitat loss. This is achieved through regular engagement activities (workshops, participation in public events and monthly newsletters), providing networking opportunities, as well as providing on-going support and management advice specific to each block.

When signing up a new Land for Wildlife member, an assessment is conducted on the property, which includes identifying the flora and checking for tracks or scats of fauna, as well as identifying special value habitats and any management issues the property may have. An assessment report is then prepared for the property owner, which includes detailed information about the assessment, property management concerns and suggested methods for going forward. Ongoing assistance in the form of support, advice, information resources and links to other professionals and specialist organisations in the region is provided. Garden for Wildlife is more informal and membership does not include an assessment or report, but rather a resource package and informal site visit to assist with development planning, any queries and plant identification.

Attention in both programs is given to encouraging landholders to plant local native plant species, as these species are self-reliant and there is a subsequent reduction in water use in our water-limited semi-arid zone. Retaining and protecting remnant vegetation is recommended to members. To allow regeneration of habitat, members are advised to fence areas from livestock and restrict the access of livestock to ephemeral rivers and drainage systems. Encouraging distribution of run-off and controlling erosion is oft-needed advice. Members are encouraged to control weed and feral species, such as removal of Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) to allow room for native grasses, and trapping feral cats (Felis catus) to limit the predation pressure on native mammals and reptiles. Protecting various elements of wildlife habitat, such as fallen wood, leaf litter and dead branches and trees with hollows are also encouraged.

While the programs have been successful for many long-term members, Alice Springs has a notoriously transient population. While this has benefits in people taking ‘the message’ with them to other regions, it also makes maintaining contact with member properties and their current owners an ongoing challenge. This challenge has been overcome through a combination of efforts, such as the use of MailChimp as an online newsletter mailing tool – bouncing emails promote impetus to contact members to clarify their current status, regular interaction with members to stay up to date with their conservation efforts and the encouragement of communication through the monthly newsletter. The small community of Alice Springs has the benefit that networking with members through chance meetings around town is a useful tool.

As well as the transient membership, the coordinator position has been run by many energetic and qualified specialists over the period of the program in central Australia.  While this can be a challenge for members with respect to different levels of engagement, each coordinator comes with a different focus, drive and experience – which can be a benefit in that the information and energy is kept fresh. A potential benefit for incoming coordinators and for LFW members is the amazing expertise and experience available amongst the LfW landholders and their willingness to share that expertise.

Land for Wildlife has been incredibly successful and is a much-loved program in the region. One of the major avenues of communicating with and engaging members and the wider community is through the monthly newsletter and social media posts. Newsletters contain relevant and current information on hot topics, which members can use to manage their properties. The newsletter also provides opportunities for members to share their experience and wildlife snapshots with other members. The website blog and social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, give multi-media savvy members avenues of staying engaged with Land for Wildlife on a more regular basis between newsletters – whether it be through the posting of a photo from a member, sharing upcoming events, or posting an article relevant to the day. It also gives Land for Wildlife members the ability to interact as much or as little as they wish, without intensive moderation from the coordinator. Social media followers are steadily increasing with regular interaction. Social media also enables Land for Wildlife to engage with people that are outside of the membership network – the Alice Springs community, Australia and internationally.

Land for Wildlife collaborates with many government agencies, which provides a conduit to gain and pass on information – such as PowerWater for water conservation, Department of Land and Resource Management for weed management and erosion control information, and Parks and Wildlife for flora and fauna information. The experience of the LfW coordinators and the networks provided by the role means that the coordinator is able to handle a wide variety of issues.

Engagement with the youth of Alice Springs occurs through a range of community events, with the DesertSmart EcoFair providing one very useful lead. Land for Wildlife ran a ‘Biodiversity’ workshop to four school groups at this year’s EcoFair, with positive feedback coming from all involved. Exposure is gained from our involvement in other community events such as the Olive Pink Botanic Garden Plant Sales, EcoFair markets, Pets on Parade, Alice Springs Show and Mini Bilby Festival.

Collaboration with the Tjuwanpa Women Rangers and the Ntaria Junior Rangers on a regular basis has resulted in the development of a good working relationship with the indigenous communities in the West MacDonnell Ranges, as well as cross-cultural information transferral regarding important NRM issues of the region.

The land assessments give the property owners knowledge regarding the flora present on their block. Many members find plant identification a challenge and are hesitant to do extensive weed control at the risk of removing natives. With a little guidance regarding plant identification, members are much more willing to get active in the garden removing the pesky species, resulting in a healthy garden full of local natives. Land for Wildlife encourages nurseries to provide local native plants and encourages the nursery association to assist in spreading the word, but maintaining those connections is always a challenge due to the transient nature of Alice Springs.

Several properties are now Buffel grass free and only require minimal maintenance to keep the Buffel at bay, and some property owners have even made their way out onto the verge to clear the buffel. Consequently, many native forbs and flowering annuals have returned, providing fruit, seed and foraging vegetation cover for native birds and other fauna.

Erosion control and education has been a priority, which has been extremely helpful for members and other residents in the rural area of Ilparpa.

A long-term success on central Australian Land for Wildlife properties has been the ongoing trapping support given to members for feral animals such as cats, rabbits and spotted turtle doves. Members can borrow traps and get the information resources necessary to assist them in their trapping journey.

In the last couple of years, Land for Wildlife has been running a domestic cat monitoring project in Alice Springs. This is supported by Territory Natural Resource Management, through funding from the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme. The project focuses on engaging domestic cat owners regarding responsible pet management by tracking the movements of pet cats with a GPS tracker. The project has been picked up by the local media on several occasions and has gained a huge amount of interest in the community.

The NT Register of Significant Trees was conceived in 1982 by the National Trust and Greening Australia and is now management by Land for Wildlife central Australia. It includes central Australia, Katherine and the Darwin region. Candice Appleby has been working hard to revitalise the register and convert it to an online format.

Land for Wildlife/Garden for Wildlife has won many awards over the years, including: Best Urban NRM Group (TNRM Awards 2015 and 2016), Toshiba Leading Information Award Community Group (NT Landcare Awards 2011), Community Award (Melaleuca Awards 2010), Urban Landcare Award (NT Landcare Awards 2009), and Merit Award (NT Landcare Awards 2007).

Our success has come from a combination of all efforts that have been put in, from workshops and attending events, newsletters, social media interaction to personalised engagement and advice. Overall, Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife have been hugely successful in central Australia for engaging the community regarding the importance of preserving and revegetating wildlife habitat on private as well as public lands and we look forward to another 15 strong years of the program.

Cat Owners Feline Fine About Domestic Cat Monitoring and Awareness in Alice Springs Results

As the Domestic Cat Monitoring and Awareness in Alice Springs project starts to wrap up, we have been engaging with domestic cat owners that took part in the project regarding the monitoring results. We conducted a workshop this month on the findings from the cat monitoring, which will be officially released in a report next month. The owners had positive feedback from the monitoring and were genuinely interested about the results from the GPS-tracking, video surveillance and scat analysis.

The video surveillance is the first item on the agenda for the public and has been released on our YouTube channel. Head there to see all Land for Wildlife videos or go and watch the videos as a playlist.

Stay posted for the official release of the monitoring results – coming soon!

Domestic cat owners receive their results from the monitoring and awareness program (Image C. Appleby).

 

Book Launch: Reptiles and Frogs of Alice Springs

Land for Wildlife launched the second edition of Reptiles and Frogs of Alice Springs by Nic Gambold and Deborah Metters at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre this month. The launch was attended by 20 keen Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife members, who were treated to a presentation by Rex Neindorf on the biology and habits of legless lizards (Family PYGOPODIDAE).

Legless lizards at the Alice Springs Reptile Centre

Rex explained how members can identify the differences between some of the common legless lizards and small venomous snakes. He showed an example of an Excitable Delma or Excitable Snake Lizard (Delma tincta), which can often be confused with a baby brown snake. The two reptiles have a similar colour, both lay eggs and both slither along the ground. However, there are some clear differences, which were explained in detail and shown to those attending the event.

When the Excitable Delma was released onto the ground, the reason for its name became obvious. The legless lizard launched its body around on the ground with a huge amount of excitement. This was a great way to distinguish the difference between this particular legless lizard and snake. Rule 1: Snakes don’t jump. They do slither along the ground and they can launch their head and front third of their body, but they are not jumpers. Excitable Delmas are able to jump several centimetres off the ground, using their whole body.

Legless lizards have ears and some have eyelids and snakes do not have either. This is an easy way to tell the difference between the two types of reptiles, if you can get close enough without putting yourself or others in danger. Snakes can’t blink, instead they have a thin transparent scale that covers the eye, which are known as spectacles and are replaced when the snake sheds its skin. Snakes don’t have visible ear openings, but rather their inner ear is connected directly to the jawbone, which senses vibrations. Many legless lizards have small ear openings behind the jaw. Legless lizards may have lost their legs as large extensions over evolutionary time, however they do possess small residual nodules to the rear where the hind legs would have been. Keep an eye on the tongue of the reptile when it licks the air. Snakes have a very distinctly forked tongue, which is quite long and slim, whereas legless lizards have a fatter tongue that lacks a defined fork.

Legless lizards have the ability to drop their tail as a life-saving protection mechanism from predators, known as caudal autotomy. Many land owners are tricked this way when they are frightened, thinking they have found a snake and take to the individual with a shovel, only to find the animal does not die (quite the opposite for a snake, but we do not recommend testing this theory as we are pro-life for all reptiles!). Many legless lizards have a very small body and a large tail and hence are not killed when sliced in half. The tail will then regenerate given enough time and cause no discomfort to the individual. The regenerating tail has a slight colour difference in comparison to the rest of the body and so a shearing point can be found on some legless lizards that have undergone regeneration. Snakes do not regenerate a tail and therefore similar patternation can be found down the length of the body.

Some other distinguishing characteristics are less easy to identify in a hurry. For example, if you can get the reptile to roll over (good luck), you can check the ventral pattern of the scales. In venomous snakes, the ventral scales are wide, extending along the width of the belly and continue in such a way down the length of the body. In legless lizards, the scales on the underbelly are much like those on the rest of the body. Snakes are able to use their belly and side scales to move in an S-shape along the ground, whereas legless lizards can only use their sides. This means that if a legless lizard moves onto a completely smooth surface, it will lose its ability to move (important to note if you see one on the road – take care and drive around it if possible). If you happen to keep an eye on it long enough to find it feeding, legless lizards are not able to unlock their jaws to swallow large prey so they will generally go for smaller food items than snakes will.

Differences between venomous and non-venomous snakes include the size of the body scales (large in venomous snakes and small in non-venomous snakes), patterning of the body (non-intricate in venomous snakes and intricate in non-venomous snakes), tail movement (non-prehensile tail in venomous snakes, prehensile in non-venomous snakes) and loreal scales (no loreal scales in venomous snakes, loreal scales in non-venomous snakes).

Rex also explained about the snake catching service provided by the Alice Springs Reptile Centre.  He noted that they have caught fewer snakes than usual this year since there has been a lot of rain so the snakes can’t be seen amongst the grass as easily, though the catch levels were still higher than we expected.

If you notice a venomous snake on your property, you can call the Alice Springs Reptile Centre call-out number on 0407 983 276. Keep an eye on the snake and they will attend to collect it as soon as possible. Snakes are then released at several sites around Alice Springs in the rural area, depending on the required habitat of the caught individual.

The Alice Springs Reptile Centre is selling snake bandages that have indicator boxes to determine the correct application of tension to prevent the venom spreading. If you are updating your first aid kit, you may wish to visit Rex and his team to discuss suitable bandage options.

Thanks go to Rex Neindorf for launching the Reptiles and Frogs of Alice Springs booklet and providing such an informative presentation!

Land for Wildlife host Bill Low opens the launch, which included a presentation by Rex Neindorf

The Reptiles and Frogs of Alice Springs booklet can be purchased from Land for Wildlife Central Australia for $15 at any of our upcoming stalls at local events. You can also grab copies from Arid Lands Environment Centre and Red Kangaroo Books.

Biodiversity Matters: Buffel Busters Tour Video

Land for Wildlife assisted Arid Lands Environment Centre to run a Biodiversity Matters: Buffel Busters Tour on the 18th of February 2017. You can read more about the event at our Blog:

Biodiversity Matters: Buffel Busters Tour of Alice Springs

Land for Wildlife were there to assist the Land for Wildlife properties to showcase the natural values of their properties, identifying plants for those on tour and we had a camera to capture the day. It was quite a windy day, according to the camera, so we have learnt that a microphone is sometimes a necessary tool (we must never stop learning!). Apologies for the windy moments towards the start, but it’s worth persisting. I’ve included some subtitles in places to help you out. It includes some presentations by the Buffel Busters on the day, photographs of the event and some of the wildlife spotted at the Buffel-free sites.

You can view the video below, and share it through the link: https://youtu.be/xzyi6D1OZFE

Still want to learn more about Buffel Grass? Head to our Resources web page for links to a range of handy fact sheets.

Thanks to the supporters: Arid Lands Environment Centre, Territory Natural Resource Management, Desert Knowledge Australia, Alice Springs Landcare Inc and Olive Pink Botanic Garden. Thanks to everyone that came along to the event and especially to all of the Buffel Busters that shared their experience, knowledge and wisdom (Peter Latz, Bruce Simmons, Debbie Page, Jude Prichard from Alice Springs Landcare Inc, and Doug McDougall from Olive Pink Botanic Garden).

Frog Frenzy for World Wetlands Day

Simpsons Gap: These Waterways are home to a range of amphibians, invertebrates and other fauna.

Simpsons Gap: These Waterways are home to a range of amphibians, invertebrates and other fauna.

Land for Wildlife went along to the Territory NRM World Wetlands Day Event on February 1st at Simpsons Gap and were delighted to see all the frogs that have emerged following recent rains. Three species were present at the TNRM hosted event, including the Centralian Tree Frog (Litoria gilleni), Red Tree Frog (Litoria rubella) and Spencer’s Burrowing Frog (Platyplectrum spenceri). The Centralian Tree Frog is distinguished by its green colour and white spots on the back, while the Red Tree Frog is much smaller, can be grey to brown in colour and possesses a broad black stripe running down the side of the body. Spencer’s Burrowing Frog has large and irregular splotches of dark brown on a lighter fawn body, and has a somewhat distinctive shield or plate behind the back of the head.

There are two main lineages of frogs in Central Australia, the first two species observed belong to the Family Hylidae (or tree frogs) and the third belongs to the Family Limnodynastidae (the Australian ground frogs). While Spencer’s Burrowing Frog spends most of its life underground to avoid dehydration, and emerges only for short periods after rains, the Centralian Tree Frog and Red Tree Frog are unable to burrow and climb into humid microhabitats such as crevices and tree hollows close to permanent water.

Centralian Tree Frog (Litoria gilleni)

Centralian Tree Frog (Litoria gilleni)

 

Red Tree Frog (Litoria rubella)

Red Tree Frog (Litoria rubella)

 

Spencer’s Burrowing Frog (Platyplectrum spenceri)

Spencer’s Burrowing Frog (Platyplectrum spenceri)

 

Tadpole

 

Centralian Tree Frog (Litoria gilleni)

Centralian Tree Frog (Litoria gilleni)

 

Parks and Wildlife NT are running a host of Frog Nights throughout February – get along to a session to see the diversity of amphibians in our local waterways.

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To learn more about World Wetlands Day (2nd February 2017), head to http://www.worldwetlandsday.org/

Are there frogs in your yard? Want to identify them? Pick up a copy of the Land for Wildlife production ‘Reptiles and Frogs of Alice Springs’ by Nic Gambold and Deborah Metters at any of our upcoming stalls and events. To find out more about this publication head to our Books for Sale webpage.

Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife: Best Urban NRM Group

Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife has been successful at the Northern Territory Natural Resource Management Awards, hosted by TNRM, for the second year in a row – taking out the top spot for Best Urban NRM Group. Thanks to all of our hard-working Land for Wildlife and Garden for Wildlife members for your efforts conserving wildlife habitat in central Australia! This award goes to show that your cumulative efforts are being recognised throughout the state as worthwhile contributions to natural resource management. The program relies on funding from the Parks and Wildlife Commission of the NT, Alice Springs Town Council and the Australian Government’s National Landcare Programme (supported by Territory Natural Resource Management) – thanks to all the support and making the work we do possible.

Land for Wildlife was up against two very worthy groups in the finals, which included Friends of the Desert Park and Ludmilla Creek Landcare Group. Other local winners include Curtin Springs for the Agricultural NRM award and Josephine Grant from the Central Land Council as Indigenous NRM Champion for her work as a regional support officer. Congratulations to all the winners and well done on all the hard work in the natural resource management space!

Land for Wildlife coordinator, Caragh Heenan, with the sparkling new trophy for Best Urban NRM Group award at the NT NRM Awards 16.

Land for Wildlife coordinator, Caragh Heenan, with the sparkling new trophy for Best Urban NRM Group award at the NT NRM Awards 16.

A Month for Considering the World Around Us

September has seen a host of days dedicated to recognising the world around us – National Wattle Day, National Threatened Species Day, National Bilby Day and National Landcare Week. September is also Biodiversity month!

Residents of Alice Springs are fortunate to live in such a unique region with undeveloped landscapes on our doorstep, threatened species such as the black-footed rock wallaby in our backyard, and a host of rare plants that set down their roots in central Australia. Alice Springs gardens support a huge variety of insects, which have a hugely important role in pollinating flowers, breaking down nutrients in the soil and providing a food source for other animals in the food web. The range of native birds in central Australian gardens is also high, with residents commonly observing Australian Ringnecks (Barnardius zonarius), White-Plumed Honeyeaters (Lichenostomus penicillatus) and Western Bowerbirds (Ptilonorhynchus guttatus). Pet-free yards tend to possess a huge range of reptiles, such as geckos, skinks, dragons and snakes. While, very few of the small mammals persist around human habitation, the Sandy Inland Mouse (Pseudomys hermannsburgensis) is occasionally seen visiting some of the blocks that contain diverse habitats. Macropods often frequent properties with a decent amount of green pickings, especially those that back onto the ranges. Check out the list of the native fauna of Alice Springs to see what could be calling your property home. Alice Springs also has a diverse plant-life, consisting of 27 recognised vegetation types (thanks to some diligent mapping by Albrecht and Pitts, 2004) and 680 distinct plant species.

Despite the extensive list of amazing wildlife in the region, there is a seemingly never-ending list of factors putting pressure on the environment and threatening biodiversity. Introduced weeds such as Buffel Grass (Cenchrus ciliaris) can impact biodiversity by favouring more frequent and hotter fires and outcompeting native grasses or forbs for space, sunlight and nutrients. High on the threat list are feral cats (Felis catus), which can impact biodiversity by increasing the predation pressure on small to medium-sized native mammals. Even the seemingly harmless Spotted Turtle-dove (Spilopelia chinensis) can out-compete native birds for food and nesting resources. Humans too, have their place in the system of change. A horde of animals have joined the threatened species list in the last few decades.

Many areas such as Ilparpa Valley retain high biodiversity values, and even the smallest of blocks can be species-rich – and it’s worth preserving! There are a number of positive actions that landholders across Alice Springs can take to preserve biodiversity:

  • Planting local native plants will provide food and shelter for native birds, mammals and reptiles, while sustaining natural interactions with other plants.
  • Creating multiple layers of habitat will attract a diversity of wildlife – from the top of tall trees, to shrubs, herbs and ground cover.
  • Controlling weeds or other invasive plants will allow natives to naturally re-seed and establish.
  • Allowing native mistletoe to establish in low numbers will provide nectar and berries for a range of birds and insects.
  • Avoid using chemicals for weed control, or choose a bio-friendly alternative.
  • Retaining dead trees, fallen logs, rocks and leaf litter will provide habitat for a range of fauna.
  • Providing a water source in a predator-free safe place will attract wildlife such as frogs and birds.
  • Consider responsible pet ownership to minimise their impact on wildlife.
  • Minimise water use and consider installing a rainwater tank.
  • Take up a feral animal trapping program to reduce the impact that ferals have on the system.
  • Maintain fire-breaks to manage the frequency that wildfire burns the habitat on your block.

What actions are you taking to preserve Biodiversity?

Wildflowers at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary

Wildflowers at Newhaven Wildlife Sanctuary

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