September B-mail 2016
Spring is here!
The days are getting longer, brighter and bursting with colour. It's the perfect time of year to take a closer look at the native animals making themselves at home in your backyard.
As we celebrate National Wattle Day on September 1, it seems that everywhere you look, there's a wattle in bloom.
Happy National Wattle Day!
Many species of wattles flower during the autumn and winter in Australia. They provide valuable food for birds, mammals and insects when most other native plants are devoid of blossoms. Leadbeater's Possum, for example, licks up the sap that oozes from silver and hickory wattles during winter when its regular food, eucalypt blossom, isn't available. Wattles are not just important in Australia's natural history, but also our cultural history - the association of wattle with our national identity goes back almost two centuries. Wattle was probably first worn back in 1838, when celebrations held in Hobart marked 50 years of British settlement in the Australian colonies.
During the First World War, huge armfuls of blooming Golden Wattle harvested in the bush and sold in the cities raised money for the Red Cross and the war effort. The Golden Wattle Acacia pycnantha became our national floral emblem in 1988, but not before a long battle with its rival, the Waratah. The Waratah's more spectacular flower made it the favourite, but the ubiquity of the wattle across almost all parts of Australia won it the title in the end. The green and gold colours of Australia's sporting teams also pay tribute to this most successful of native plants. There are over 1,000 different species of wattles living across the continent, from small shrubs to towering, long lived species more than two centuries old. With so many species, there is always a wattle flowering somewhere across Australia.
DID YOU KNOW When it comes to wattles, Australia is the Queen. Of the 1300 species of Acacia worldwide (the genus that wattle belongs to), Australia has over 1,000. After splitting of the Acacia genus into five, all wattles in Australia retain the name Acacia. The Australian plants tend not to have the large spines of their African relatives. The Kangaroo thorn, Acacia armata, of Central Australia is an exception, which has over time reduced its branches to short, hard thorns.
WHAT YOU CAN DO While wattles make a great addition to the garden, some species can escape, invade bushland and become a real pest. Check which wattles are best to plant in your area.
Caption: Golden Wattle (Acacia pycnantha) is a tree which flowers in late winter and spring, producing a mass of fragrant, fluffy, golden flowers. Photo: Tatiana Gerus.
Like to find out more about the Acacia species visit: http://www.plantatreeforme.org.au/habitats/acacia
The Bogong Moth Prepares to Migrate
Have you ever seen a mass of Bogong Moths invade your neighbourhood? Perhaps you have seen them in the house around your pantry or clothes cupboard?
If you live along their migratory path, Bogong Moths will visit your backyard on their way to the alpine region where they will spend summer.
As they don’t feed during their summer dormancy they need to eat lots of food on their journey. They love the nectar of your backyard flowers , like grevilleas and will feed on them at dusk. As the weather warms, your moths will continue their journey to the high country of the Snowy Mountains in southern New South Wales and the Victorian Alps.
During the day they will hide in the dark crevices in your backyard. Their wing pattern provides camouflage when they are resting. At their destination in the Australian Alps another unique Aussie animal eagerly awaits their arrival. The Bogong Moths are the main food source for the endangered Mountain Pygmy-possum.
Read about more Pygmy-possums by clicking here.
Feasting Time for Eastern Spinebills
Do you love visiting the farmer’s markets for fresh fruit at the first sight of spring? The Eastern Spinebill, like the juvenile pictured right, is also enjoying its springtime treat.
If you live on the east coast of Australia, you might be lucky enough to see it hovering, like a hummingbird, as it extracts nectar from your garden flowers.
The Eastern Spinebill is a honeyeater and feeds in the shrub-layer on nectar, but also on insects in your garden. You can recognise this elegant bird by its very long, fine, down-curved beak and energetic flight.
Its long narrow beak is well suited for extracting the nectar from tubular, nectar-bearing flowers such as correas, eremophilas and grevilleas. Research shows us that the honeyeaters relatives came from forests and as Australia became drier it adapted to more arid environments.
Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos Are Getting Ready For Spring Nesting
Have you noticed your resident Sulphur-crested Cockatoo has an increased tendency to chew at this time of year?
This is because it is busy building its nest...
When it gets together with its cockie friends it may attack your trees, deck and house in its crazy springtime antics. Cockatoos enjoy urban backyards and will stay in the same area all year round.
They are very entertaining to watch but if there are areas of your backyard you want to deter them from , you can:
- String up a kite that looks like a hawk or an eagle
- String fishing line over an area in need of protection, making it difficult for the cockatoo to land
- Spray the surfaces in your backyard with a mixture of hot chilli and water
Saving a threatened species in Australia's BIG Backyard
On Kangaroo Island in South Australia, the endangered Southern Brown Bandicoot is receiving some special attention to find out how many are left and what we can do to save their habitat.
There were once eight different species of bandicoot on Kangaroo Island—now there is just one.
They were once widely distributed on the Australian mainland but the species is now restricted to Kangaroo Island and two areas on the mainland of South Australia.
The Southern Brown Bandicoot is a medium-sized native nocturnal marsupial that is a similar size to a rabbit with a pointed snout, large rump and short, round ears. They have brownish fur with a pale underside. Although primarily nocturnal, bandicoots can also be seen during the day. Bandicoots are ground dwelling mammals that look for their food in leaf litter and soil.
They feed on insects, fungi, fruits, roots, tubers and seeds. The Southern Brown Bandicoot lives in dense vegetation and does not stray far from its habitat to search for food. Bandicoots prefer low, dense vegetation such as Yacca, Banksia, and Bracken Fern because they provide good cover and protection from predators such as cats, as well as nesting sites.
The Kangaroo Island project has had some great successes recording bandicoots on cameras in and around the town of Parndana and in some remote areas in the Flinders Chase National Park to the west of Kangaroo Island. A total of 86 people have been involved in the project so far, assisting with surveys or attending one of the field days or seminars that have been held.
Camera trapping surveys have been conducted at 12 sites across the island with bandicoots detected at four of those sites. At one of the sites in the middle of Parndana, the bandicoots are so numerous that they are the main Natural Resources Kangaroo Island Wildlife Project Manager, Robyn Molsher, said “because of the high numbers of bandicoots detected, we have been able to obtain information on their bait preference and the times when activity is highest which is really useful for other studies.”
“It was also great to see adults with their young and that the bandicoots are actively breeding in this area.”
For further information on this project and how to get involved, Please click here
Be a bandicoot buddy
- Try to:
- leave a section of your garden where the grasses can grow long for the bandicoot to nest in.
- encourage these helpful buddies into your backyard by placing a shallow dish of water in a shady, protected area for them to drink from on hot days.
- keep your pets inside as much as possible especially at night.
To download the Backyard Buddies Bandicoot Fact sheet visit: http://backyardbuddies.net.au/downloads/factsheets/mammals/bandicoot.pdf
I'm a Backyard Buddy - Black Cockatoos at Home
My name is Sebastian. I am 13 years old and I am home-schooled.
I am very passionate about the conservation of Forest Red-tailed, Baudin’s and Carnaby’s Black Cockatoos. They are endemic to WA and are vulnerable/endangered.
I have attached a photo I took on my property earlier this week, of a Redtail family (adult male, adult female and juvenile male). We have put a cockatoo nesting box on our property, and this family of cockatoos have made their home here.
I think it is really important for children and adults to know that these birds are threatened and only exist in WA.
At my place (a small farm down in Perth, Western Australia) we have Forest Red-Tailed and Carnaby's Black Cockatoos who visit regularly. We have many other species as well, including: Laughing Kookaburras, Ringneck Parrots, Grey Fantails, Splendid Fairy Wrens, New Holland Honeyeaters, Pacific Black Ducks, and the occasional Wedge-Tailed Eagle, just to name a few.
I am very passionate about supporting the Forest Red-tailed and Carnaby's Black Cockatoos, which are classed as endangered and vulnerable. I regularly take photos of the Cockatoos, and have been keeping a log of the sightings for 2 years.
Black Cockatoos mate for life and may return to the same hollow for many years. We have a pair of Red-tails that have been coming since last year. Recently, they had a baby who I think is a boy. I have taken some great photos of the baby, and of the father regurgitating food to feed it. This tells me that it is a fledgling, as it's still reliant on its parents for food.
I've put what's called a 'Cockatube' nesting box in a very large tree on our property. We are lucky that we also have trees old enough to provide natural hollows. Black Cockatoos require nests in large hollows from trees at least 120 years old. We put the 'Cockatube' up to give the birds the best possible chance of breeding.
They live up to 50 years but don’t breed until they are 7-8 years of age, and usually only one chick survives into adulthood. So, you could say they are slow breeders. Due to deforestation, they have lost many trees with suitable hollows. Sometimes they're driven out of their nesting hollows by other more aggressive parrots like Galahs and Corellas, as well as introduced honey bees. It would be invaluable for people to put up nesting boxes for the black cockatoos, as they need the 'real estate'.
We have also built a bird-friendly garden for all the birds that visit our property. Some of the plants are suitable for cockatoos, including Grevilleas and Honey bushes. Cockatoos also love Banksias, Marri and Jarrah nuts. Luckily, we have these naturally in our area, providing an invaluable food source. If councils and home owners could plant these types of plants, it would help feed the declining Black Cockatoo population.
I feel very lucky to have so many birds on my property including the wonderful Black Cockatoos.