Mist Netting and Bird Banding Workshop

Mist net glistening in the morning sunlight (Image C. Appleby).

As part of National Bird Week 2017 (inspired by the Birdlife Australia Aussie Backyard Bird Count), Land for Wildlife conducted a mist netting workshop for members on a rural property in White Gums. Bird banding is an activity that requires the bander to be trained to handle birds and trap them in an ethical and humane manner with mist nets. Bruce Pascoe, a local bird bander with an A-Class authority, conducted the mist netting and banding and explained the processes to the keen birders in attendance.

The mist netting workshop started shortly after sunrise, on a cool October morning, with the intention of seeing some birds up close and personal. A secondary intention was to observe and survey some of the species that can be found in the region. The final objective was to place band the captured birds so that they can be released and potentially recaptured down the line.

Three nets were set up from the evening before the workshop. On arrival, attendees were shown how to unfurl a net in preparation for a survey and the reasoning behind mist netting and banding captured birds. Mist netting and the subsequent bird banding allows us to see how many species and individuals reside in an area, their lifespan, migration habits, movement to feeding grounds and other long-term demographic questions. The data obtained is important for bird conservation, as well as help to guide habitat preservation activities.

Bird banding in Australia is governed by the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme (ABBBS), who supply numbered metal bands to registered and qualified banders. These bands are fitted around the tarsus (lower leg) of the captured bird. The process is painless and doesn’t cause distress to the birds. According to the ABBBS, over 2.6 million birds and bats have been banded Australia-wide, with 140,000 having been recaptured.

Bird bands ready to be applied to little legs (Image C. Appleby).

Other detailed information such as physical characteristics (sex, age, moult), and body length measurements (beak, wing) are obtained from the bird before it is released. For example, the head length can be used to determine sex in some species, but also age. The sex of a bird can also be determined from the plumage colouration or cloacal protuberance and brood patch shape. Feather wear and shape is a good indicator of the age of the bird, but many other characteristics can also be used. Anatomical features of birds, their moult and how to age birds can be found in an excellent section of Birds of the World.

Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater having some head measurements taken as part of the recent mist-netting survey (Image C. Heenan).

While the going was slow to start, a fourth net was set up to the north of the property and this was successful at capturing three birds – two Yellow-throated Miners (Manorina flavigula) and a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater (Acanthagenys rufogularis). Both species received size 05 alloy bands and measurements were taken. You can view summaries on the capture/recapture history of the Yellow-throated Miner and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater on the ABBBS website.

Two Yellow-throated Miners were captured in the mist nets in the recent Land for Wildlife survey (Image C. Heenan).

To learn more about the species biology, head to the Birdlife Australia listing for the Yellow-throated Miner and Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater.

Interested in birds and don’t know where to start your journey? Get in touch with Birdlife Central Australia (centralaustralia@birdlife.org.au) or follow their facebook page to keep posted about bird sightings in the Alice Springs area.

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). An A-Class bird banding ticket was held by Bruce Pascoe, who oversaw the survey.

We thank Cyd Holden and Peter Latz for allowing the Land for Wildlife team to visit and monitor the bird populations on their property. Appreciation goes to Bruce Pascoe for the use of mist nets and assisting with the workshop proceedings.

A thornbill, among many small birds that eluded the nets on the day of the survey (Image C. Heenan).

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.

Cat Trapping Success

Feral cats have contributed to the disappearance of many ground dwelling birds and mammals in the arid zone and continue to threaten the success of recovery programs for endangered species. It’s therefore a service to the native animals of the region to trap any feral cats you find roaming your property. Land for Wildlife loan out cat traps to members and can provide you with the information and advice needed to get you on your way to become a successful trapper.

Are you already trapping cats? Land for Wildlife would like to hear from you. We are in the process of gathering information on trapping success by Land for Wildlife members on their property. This information will be used to help the Alice Springs Town Council’s Environment Advisory Committee to assess the effectiveness of various trapping programs in the region.

We can determine trapping success by taking the ratio of the number of cats trapped to the number of trapping nights (successful and unsuccessful). If you are trapping feral cats on your property and are able to provide us with this information, we would appreciate it! Email us at lfw@lowecol.com.au with the two figures plus the suburb you are trapping in and we can collate the data from our members.

Wildlife Videos

Batchelor Institute Alice Springs camera trapping session in November 2016 shows a cat going into a trap for a feed and a couple of inquisitive crows.

 

Wedge-tailed Eagle (Aquila audax) seen feeding on some kill at the Alice Springs wastewater treatment ponds.

OPBG Green Army Graduation

Land for Wildlife has been involved in helping out the Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA) Green Army team at Olive Pink Botanic Garden (OPBG), a historic, well-established and active member of the Land for Wildlife program. The Green Army program focused on ecological works such as garden bed rejuvenation, Buffel Grass removal and feral animal management to support Black-footed Rock Wallaby habitat conservation. This was their last week in the program and Land for Wildlife was happy to see how far the team have come!

Land for Wildlife provided training and support for the six months of Feral Cat and Spotted Turtle-dove trapping (see blogs on the workshop and trapping successes. During their 20-week trapping program, they captured a total of six Cats (Felis catus) and 15 Spotted Turtle-Doves (Streptopelia chinensis). They also accidentally caught 3 Black-footed Rock Wallabies (Petrogale lateralis) in the cat trap… or one particular individual that had a taste for sardines (see the blogs for wallabies and doves caught in the cat trap).

Well done Green Army – great work on the feral animal trapping and Buffel-bashing. Good luck and all the best on your next adventure!

Fighting Feral Cats

Researchers and Rangers from around Australia descended on Alice Springs last week for the Australian Mammal Society’s annual conference, which included a symposium dedicated to feral cat research and management. It was great to hear about the actions being taken by dedicated individuals around Australia. Gregory Andrews, the Threatened Species Commissioner, spoke to the symposium attendees about the impact that feral cats are having on Australia’s wildlife and the need to control the feral cat population, stating “It’s not about demonising feral cats; it’s about loving our native wildlife enough to save it”. Shortly after, Brett Murphy outlined some staggering statistics about feral cat numbers in Australia – his team have used population density estimates and aridity patterns to extrapolate to 2.7 million feral cats across Australia!

With the spring weather warming up, the reptiles become more active and this means there is plenty of food available for feral cats. As a result, feral cats are also active and so it’s time to get trapping. The Alice Springs Town Council have been busy catching cats over the last few weeks and suggest that Land for Wildlife members consider joining in.

Land for Wildlife (Ph 8955 5222) has plenty of cat traps available for loan and can provide information and advice regarding trapping of feral kitties on your block. Already have a trap? Download the Cat Trapping information from the Land for Wildlife fact sheets page. The ASTC Rangers can assist you by collecting any cats caught (contact the ASTC: Ph 8950 0500) and delivering them to the Alice Springs Animal Shelter.

Green Army: OPBG Cat Trap Turns Up An Unusual Visitor

Thanks to the Green Army team at Land for Wildlife property Olive Pink Botanic Garden for sending in this photo of their recent catch – a Spotted Turtle-dove (Spilopelia chinensis). The unsuspecting wanderer ended up in a cat trap baited with sardines, while ignoring the nearby Spotted Turtle-dove trap set with seed (though didn’t partake in the dining experience). That’s right, caught in a cat trap. One must wonder…

Spotted Turtle-dove caught in a cat trap at Olive Pink Botanic Garden (Image C. Appleby)

Spotted Turtle-dove caught in a cat trap at Olive Pink Botanic Garden (Image C. Appleby)

Green Army: Feral Cat Trapping Progress

Land for Wildlife provided the Olive Pink Botanic Garden (OPBG) Green Army team with trapping assistance via a training workshop earlier this month (Read the workshop blog here). The team have been trialling a few trap locations within OPBG, with unexpected results.

They have had four occurrences of by-catch of Black-footed Rock Wallaby (Petrogale lateralis), who were looking for a free feed of sardines. The wallabies highlight the need for feral cat trapping as a method of protecting our native fauna. It also raises the question: What won’t wallabies eat?! The wallabies were released and the Green Army team have since moved their traps to new locations.

The team have since had their first success with a Cat (Felis catus) capture. The cat was taken to the Alice Springs Animal Shelter to determine whether it is a roaming domestic cat or a feral cat. Contact the Alice Springs Animal Shelter (Ph 08 8953 4430) if your tabby has gone missing. For more information on feral cats, view the Feral Cat factsheet. To learn about domestic cats roaming out and about, download our brochure Where Is Your Cat Now?

Wallaby

Black-footed Rock Wallaby (Petrogale lateralis) caught in a trap

 

Trapped Cat

Cat trapping success for OPBG’s Green Army team

Cat Trapping Tips and Tricks

Feral cats have contributed to the disappearance of many ground dwelling birds and mammals in the arid zone and continue to threaten the success of recovery programs for endangered species. As a result, they are listed as a key threatening process under the Commonwealth EPBC Act 1999.

Trapping for cats may be more successful in the cooler months due to the reduced food supply in the landscape (i.e. reptiles) during this time. Now that the air is developing more of a chill, it’s a great time to start thinking about trapping feral cats on your property.

Here are some tips for trapping feral cats:

  • Trap on your own property. If trapping elsewhere you must obtain written permission from the property owner.
  • Use fresh bait (chicken, raw meat or liver, smelly tinned fish).
  • Set traps in the evening and check early morning to avoid accidental by-catch of native wildlife during the day.
  • A cage trap placed in amongst vegetation (so that the opening is the only point available to be investigated) is likely to be more effective than placing it in open areas.
  • A trap may be fitted with shade cloth to prevent captured animals from stress during the warm months and to create curiosity for cats to enter at the entrance.
  • It is also thought that cats are less likely to walk on the cage floor, due to the texture of the mesh, so try covering with soil, sand, or vegetation.

Traps are available from the Alice Springs Town Council (Ph 08 8950 0500). Any captured cats can be taken to the Alice Springs Animal Shelter (Ph 08 8953 4430).

Trapped Cat

Feral cat caught in Connellan last week (J. Kreusser)