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

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.