Tag Archives: Australia

Why we need Flying foxes

These are Little Red Flying Foxes, the smallest of our  “fruitbats”, an endemic species of northern and eastern mainland Australia.

Flying Foxes are considered by many people as simply obnoxious pests. They can settle in suburban backyards in thousands, but these beautiful flying mammals serve a critical role especially in northern Australia by pollinating a wide range of plant species. They are the ‘bees’ of the tropical north, a place which is largely shunned by European honey bees. Besides pollination they also distribute seeds of native fruiting trees far and wide, a service indispensable to native forests.

Science is just beginning to understand the behaviour of these animals and with this knowledge managers will have the ability to persuade colonies to avoid areas of human habitation and agribusiness.

We have no idea whether these animals are increasing or decreasing in number,  they a very nomadic and move over huge distances. One thing is certain however an that is their habitat is being increasingly lost to ‘development’ . The American Passenger Pigeon once blacked the sky in mid-western US states but is now gone forever. Lets not treat our Flying foxes the same way.

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Go see “Extinction” a play by Hannie Rayson, if you get a chance.

The show is currently showing at Geelong Performing Arts Centre and will tour Canberra and Melbourne in coming months. See details here.

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Redstitch Theatre & GPAC have bravely and successfully launched the extinction theme into the public arena, something which desperately needs to happen if change is to take place in this country.

Director Nadia Tass said in an after show ‘question and answer’ that the large production houses had not shown interest which doesn’t surprise me. Extinction as a theme is certainly not in the public mind so it would not be considered  a commercial proposition, but from my observation if any arts production can do this, this show will. It was beautifully timed and crafted and almost filmic in style using computer generated graphics projected as a backdrop. This kept the audience aware of what was happening in the forest simultaneously with phone screen events or even skyped international callers.

Driving back to Melbourne I thought how easily the play could be made as a movie production for a wider audience.

I’ve been thinking along the lines of the writers and producers of this work for some time so it was great to see artists putting up their hands and taking the necessary risks.

 

Most effective way to save small Australian mammals

The most effective way to save  endangered Australian mammals, birds and biodiversity without spending one conservation dollar.  It might seem weird but the release of Rabbit Hemorrhage Disease Virus reduced cat and fox impacts. http://www.abc.net.au/news/2016-02-17/rabbit-control-research-rhdv-threatened-mammals-south-australia/7177600#

rabbitIt’s easy to photograph rabbits even if you live in a major Australian city. This one 10km from Melb CBD.

Lead researcher Reece Pedler from Natural Resources SA Arid Lands said the results were compelling.“We found that three threatened mammals, the dusky hopping mouse, the plains mouse and the crest-tailed mulgara, had undergone huge changes in their distribution,” Mr Pedler said…“Some of those species have increased their extent of occurrence by between 250 and 350 per cent, so they have made massive increases in their range.”

And in Rabbit biocontrol and landscape-scale recovery
of threatened desert mammals
Reece D. Pedler,∗ ¶ Robert Brandle,∗ John L. Read,†‡ Richard Southgate,§ Peter Bird,∗∗
and Katherine E. Moseby†‡
“In an era of increasing conservation crisis, costefficiency
in conservation planning and investment is
critical (Carwardine et al. 2012; McDonald et al. 2015).
Well-considered actions that simultaneously abate threats
relevant to multiple species and ecosystems are keys
to maximizing conservation outcomes (Auerbach et al.
2014). Despite this, many celebrated conservation successes
feature intense single-species captive breeding
and reintroduction programs for endangered flagship
mammals. Some expensive examples include recovery
actions for the black-footed ferret (Mustela nigripes) in
North America, which have involved nearly 50 government
agencies in the captive breeding of 6000 individuals
(Jachowski et al. 2011), with 100 wild-released animals
costing US$29,100/individual (Bodenchuk et al.
2000). Similarly, recovery of the golden lion tamarin
(Leontopithecus rosalia) has involved intense captive
breeding and wild-population translocation, requiring
millions of dollars in investment sustained over 4
decades (Kierulff et al. 2012). Although these examples
may represent extreme cases, where extinction
risk is high, they highlight the high costs of 11th hour
intensive conservation intervention compared with preventative
measures implemented at earlier stages.
Within our study area, single-species-focused conservation
actions for small mammals have also gained much
emphasis, but these costly species recovery plans are
seldom funded and are perhaps too narrowly focused
and unrealistic in sparsely populated regions (Southgate
2014). Single-species recovery planning for the plains
mouse prescribes research and small-scale habitat protection
costing AU$895,000 over 5 years (Moseby 2011).
Four-year recovery actions for the crest-tailed mulgara
(published in the same year as RHDV’s introduction)
were estimated at AU$852,000 (Morris et al. 1996). Few
of these identified actions were funded or enacted, and revised
actions have since been identified (Woinarski et al.
2014). In the meantime, both species have recovered significantly
because of action that (somewhat fortuitously)
addressed common threatening processes that simultaneously
benefited other species, ecosystems, and important
agricultural industries on a continent wide scale (Cox
et al. 2013). This multispecies recovery provided by rabbit
biocontrol arguably costs nothing, as the AU$12 million
cost to introduce RHDV has been recouped many
times over by the AU$350 million annual benefit to agriculture
alone (Saunders et al. 2010).
In arid inland Australia, the release of the rabbit
biocontrol agent RHDV has been the single most
important and cost-effective conservation action for
small threatened mammals (and a range of other taxa and
ecosystems) in recent decades. This result highlights the
power of harnessing trophic cascades as a wide-reaching
conservation tool. Although the scale of RHDV’s benefits
was not foreseen at the time of its introduction, these
changes were detected through multiple long-term monitoring
data sets, without which the important applied
conservation lessons may have been missed. Sustained recovery
depends on the continued suppression of rabbits
and by extension of cats and foxes through adaptation
and release of new rabbit biocontrol agents. The
associated benefits to agricultural industries alone
would provide substantial net economic gain from
this relatively cheap yet wide-reaching action. Such
broad-scale conservation management initiatives with
appropriate long-term monitoring should be prioritized
over single-species-focused recovery actions or smallscale
intensive programs.”

 

 

 

 

 

Cardboard Redgums and half-cooked creatures

We have been in residence at Nathalia Grainstore now for one and a half weeks and our redgum (which had to be finished before the weekend due to size limitations) is well on the way.

393A6142.JPG CARDBOARD GLUE GESSO AND PAINT PLUS LOTS OF EFFORT.

Tomorrow is another day and we will be seeing 20 pre-schoolers who will be making superb parrots which will be included in the final installation. Superb parrots are a rare and diminishing species and this part of the country is major habitat, red gums near water seem to be a favourite place for them to find nesting hollows.

Ian with kookaburra

Local lad and workshop participant Ian Bolton heads off with his masterpiece. However not everyone sees benefit in maintaining species and habitat..

THIS IS A HAPPY LITTLE SIGN WE GET TO READ EVERY MORNING ON OUR WAY INTO TOWN.

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I could not have achieved what I have without the help of my partner and lover Heather, who has shown her graphic skills are still up to par.

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Three days remain for my residency and still so much to do. Exhibition is scheduled for June.

 

My Nathalia artist-in-residency; endangered species

I am currently working on a community-based arts project which aims to increase public awareness and ecological response to species/habitat declines in the Goulburn/Broken/ Barmah system. 393A5501.JPG

The Grainstore Community Arts Centre is sponsering my 2 week residency which so far has been amazing.

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Philippa Schapper (left) has been wonderful, and Heather my partner has offered to help with some 2D works.

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So far I have the beginnings of a Squirrel Glider, a species special to this part of Victoria and…

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…. a River Red Gum, the majestic and iconic Australian water-course tree. Unfortunately most of the  old trees have been destroyed in years past as part of forestry practice and many ancient ringbarked stumps are in evidence.

My residency will I hope shed some light on the importance of hollows and the need to retain what ancient trees remain.

Katrina who is visiting from Greece (centre) was amazed by the light and primeaval look of the forest at Hutt Lake on dusk.

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to be continued…soon.

 

 

Arid Australia at the Garden Show, video

Our arid garden installation at the Melbourne International Garden Show seemed to be the only ‘garden’ example not related to people and their leisure activities. We noticed it was those people who had travelled to inland Australia who most appreciated our efforts and who had an interest in how many of our small mammal species are under threat.

 

Do You See Jesus in your morning toast?

Do you see Jesus in your morning toast?

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Monsters in floorboard woodgrain?  “Researchers used MRI technology to monitor brain activity and determined that the frontal cortex, where expectations are generated, sent signals to the posterior visual cortex, which processes the…” blah blah… it’s just letting imagination flow. Nothing abnormal about this, artists (and scientists) should use this ability daily.

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I’m waiting to hear of a robot which has…. imagination.

Today I’m making arid-land escarpment ‘rocks’ for our MIFGS installation, from cardboard. How? By using my imagination. Children with instruction do this all the time.

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Sadly most people seem to lose this ability as they age. Adults these days require computer generated props or gaming software in order to learn to play. Commercial game makers have become a billion dollar industry by usurping adult imagination.

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Life generally is governed by silent rules e.g. choosing which side of the road to drive, how to speak in a civil way, how to eat with ‘manners.’

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This is something which is governed very much by culture. In China slurping as you eat and messing the table is considered appreciative of a meal, not so in the West. Nose blowing with handkerchief however, is not considered etiquette in the East. I sometimes think a lack of understanding of ‘foreign’ body language is an under-examined cause of conflict.

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Making artwork is one happy place where rules do not apply, in fact artists have a habit of purposefully abandoning accepted ‘rules ‘or ‘manners’ to extend an idea, or experiment on audience reaction. The naked human body is an example of this and has been used by generations of artists in every conceivable manifestation. e.g. Stelarc hangs his naked body on hooks http://stelarc.org/?catID=20325

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If asked how I make or why use a particular method, my answer is inevitably; I use what works for me. Power-saws, hammers and even boots are used to achieve shape. Or, how to determine shape, colour or surface?

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Look at nature; it’s there for the asking.

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So if you see Jesus in your morning toast, don’t despair, you may be an afflicted artist too.

MIFGS, Melbourne International Flower and Garden Show opens at Exhibition Buildings Melbourne, and surrounding gardens, 16th  – 20th March 2016. We will be in the Boutique Garden section.

Remote north-western South Australia

Dr John Read and I entered APY Lands in early November 2015. This was a routine trip for him but was a first for me. Very few people in Australia will have been to this part of the country, a permit is required on entry.camel3It didn’t take me long to realize  was in a different country from the one I was used to.  John allowed me to spend some free time wandering across huge ancient boulders of the Musgrave Range. 393A2794

As I neared the top of the range the silence and remoteness seemed almost palpable. The danger of losing direction in unfamiliar country was both clear and frightening.

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Yet the rugged beauty was enticing,  I wanted to see a little more of what lay beyond, but had only two hours and we had work to do.

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Dragon lizards are always present,

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Crested bellbird glimpse, a bird of arid mulga and…

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Splendid Fairy-wren, turquoise form…

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Western bower-bird, a fig eater with  habitat in north-western SouthAustralia.

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Ubiquitious white-plumed honeyeater, the inland bird seems finer to me and has more yellow on face.

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Rufous whistler and..

singing honeyeater

Singing honeyeater made their presence known with song.

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Desert oak (note the bottle-brush shaped young trees behind)

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and even ferns!

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and lichen! Enormous lichen.This was something I hadn’t expected. It seemed that at every turn I was seeing something new.

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This native with succulent leaves

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turns the plain purple, but I have lost its name. So if you recognize it please inform me.

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Hakea shedding seeds

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Figs which grow on bare hot rock, roots not touching the ground,  a bonsai in a desert with no water. All a bit astounding.

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John was more interested in the termites which ate this patch of grass to the ground. More about this shortly.

 

 

 

 

 

Twitching in arid South Australia

I don’t really see myself as a ‘twitcher’ but I admit to spending time observing birds with camera in hand. My recordings are logged to the Atlas of Living Australia at http://www.ala.org.au/    ALA records  all Australian species and is used for research etc.

Birds can be viewed as the canary in the coalmine, they readily indicate how habitat is being altered or alternately, conserved for future generations.

Travelling north in South Australia means moving into arid country,  a landscape type called Mallee. 100 kms north of Port Augusta I made camp but soon had my camera operational. In the following hour I photographed what I think was a mixed species flock. Small bush birds in Australia sometimes travel this way maybe as a protection strategy. black-capped sitella female

Sitella (male) Daphoenositta (Neositta) chrysoptera pileata is now listed as threatened in NSW due to habitat loss. This widespread but not often seen species is a very active tree trunk forager so tree loss means no food.black-capped sittella

The female Daphoenositta (Neositta) chrysoptera pileata with a black cap seems a more striking bird to me, but I don’t see the world in ultraviolet as birds do, their colour receptors are much more advanced than our mammal eyesight.

purple backed wren

Variegated Fairy-wren Malurus (Leggeornis) lamberti was in on the fun, as was his missus with that strange eye make-up…purple backed wren female

Malurus (Leggeornis) lamberti (female)

chestnut tailed thornbill

This LBJ (little brown job) is the Inland Thornbill Acanthiza (Acanthiza) apicalis but  I could be mistaken. This thornbill was feeding on the ground and in low bushes, behaviour which together with light eye-colour,  helps in identification.

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If you look hard you will see a crested bellbird running across the sand, this was my first sighting of this inland bird hence the poor quality photo. According to Birdlife Australia ” Sometimes they occur in mixed feeding flocks with Chestnut-rumped Thornbills and Red-capped Robins.” So it seems I was right. This species is listed as now endangered in Victoria where it should inhabit the Big Desert.

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The Mulga Parrot Psephotus (Psephotus) varius also made its presence known.

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I was heading to Coober, so soon I was to enter true arid Australia.

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From here on its a good idea to carry extra water!

Bird observations in southern Flinders Ranges, South Australia

 

November is nesting season in the southern Flinders Ranges, so almost all the following observations included adults and juveniles in various stages of fledging.

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Rainbow bee-eater Merops (Merops) ornatus , a most beautiful bird

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Brown tree-creeper Climacteris (Climacteris) picumnus

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Adelaide or western rosella Platycercus adelaidae up there with the most beautiful parrots…. and young below

adelaide juvenile

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White-browed Babbler Pomatostomus (Morganornis) superciliosus…. and teaching feeding to young below

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Dusky Woodswallow Artamus (Angroyan) cyanopterus…… and young below

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Willie wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys

Willie wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys…… and nestlings below

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From the Flinders I travelled up to Coober Pedy where I was to meet Dr John Read.

Storm north of Port Augusta

North of the gulf and Port Augusta the weather was unusually wet and stormy, and the vegetation  reduced to  treeless arid. The normally dry salt lakes contained water!

Hart Lake

To be continued..