Here’s a little competition about bird species (for non-birder people, so butt out if you are an expert). If you can identify please add via “comment”. I am in the Northern Territory, Australia, so they may be a bit different from what you are used to. All the photos taken by me over the last 3 weeks. I have an interest in just how much we know about our own Australian species. Most of these are fairly common. I will add some more unusual species in a later post. Please share, and kids welcome!
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.
Here’s a little (unfinished) video which I shot and edited on the run in the Northern Territory, Australia. The location is about one hour drive east of Alice Springs, known as Ross Creek. “Arid” is a description which covers more than 90% of this country, water is the most precious commodity.
We call places where water naturally occurs a rock-hole, a waterhole, a soak or a well. They were revered and cared for for thousands of years by the first Australians. In the middle east they would be called oases. What WE do is use them to water stock (and make money). This is achieved by simply running stock on land with unrestricted access to natural waterholes. This video is an attempt to show the results of this practice. Native species have to cope with what is left, a stinking brew of warm mud, urine and faeces.
One can only wonder how much of our wonderful wildlife is slowly being poisoned on a daily basis. They have no choice but to drink what is left.
Homesteaders proudly describe their properties by the square kilometer, holdings are huge by any standard. Beef cattle raising is one of very few ways money can be made from these arid lands, but at what cost?
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#
It’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
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.
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.
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.
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.
Three days remain for my residency and still so much to do. Exhibition is scheduled for June.
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.
The Grainstore Community Arts Centre is sponsering my 2 week residency which so far has been amazing.
Philippa Schapper (left) has been wonderful, and Heather my partner has offered to help with some 2D works.
So far I have the beginnings of a Squirrel Glider, a species special to this part of Victoria and…
…. 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.
to be continued…soon.
This week Heather and I have been installing a ‘garden’as part of the MIFGUS event, Carlton Gardens, Melbourne. I am using this opportunity to introduce the subject of loss of mammal species to a large audience. Here’s some photos of our week’s work. The rock outcrop is in fact made of recycled cardboard, so lets hope it doesn’t rain!
By Saturday 3pm, the garden instal is starting to gel, but we are all gardened out!
120,000 people attend this event.
FOUR DAYS LATER….the installation is finished. Here’s how it looks for opening day (Wednesday 16th March)
Thanks for all the likes and comments..Peter
Werribee Gorge State Park would have to be the most underated and under-appreciated piece of wildlife realestate within one hour of Melbourne. My guess it’s partly because its on the arse-end (western) side of the city, just past all those factories and thistle paddocks. For bell-birds, tall mountain-ash forests and fern glades, go east. We western suburbs boys and girls prefer a landscape with guts, no namby pamby waterfall walks with carpark kiosk here.
But if you love ‘Rugged mountain ranges and droughts with flooding rains’ and ‘Her beauty and her terror’ the you’ll appreciate this place.
The gorge sits on the fault line which demarcates the sinking basin on which Melbourne lies, and the upland plateau of Ballarat etc. It’s the reason Port Phillip Bay exists. The river, which is really only a stream, has over millions of years cut through the rocks and exposed the underlying sandstone which has been compressed and forced into a serpentine buckle by continental plate action in the ancient past. The power which created this feature must have been unimaginable.
The gorge also is the only place I know which shows signs of glaciation, unusual for Australia.
The ‘plum-pudding’ deposits of mixed striated rocks show they have been transported in ice and dropped into an ancient sea at time of melt.
Striated parrallel gouging is proof of ice embedded rock erosion. Its likely that from where I took the photographs there where icebergs melting above my head! But that was in the times of Gondwana.
Werribee gorge is great place for city people to escape for an hour or two of quiet and a chance to see wild species.
Its a place where superb fairy wren families visit your picnic table if you move quietly, grey fantails and whiteplumed honeyeaters abound.
and yellow robins heal your soul by looking into your eyes.
Silver eyes work the eucalypt flowers
and stiated thornbills call from nearby bushes.
I also saw a group of red-browed finches
and white-faced honeyeaters visiting from Queensland for summer.
fat lacewings provide food for thes birds and by their presence tell us the water quality is clean.
Atriplex, in flower, attracted these very large flies which like huge bumble-bees zoomed through the bushes.
The significance of the gorge was understood over 100 years ago when it was declared a “site for a Public Park” in 1907, but no-one has yet found a way to remove the goats (photographed Feb 2016) which destroy the fragile plants growing in inaccessable places, pity. Goats are also rampant in nearby Lerderderg Gorge.
Photo: Richard Daintree, 1859 (State Library of Vic)
1896 Working Men’s College Photographic Club camp
“Taking a Boobook Owls Nest”, 1890 A.J. Campbell featured in “Nests and Birds of Australia”. The nest was quickly chopped out and three eggs taken therefrom. We may feel shocked by this portrayal of whitefella history, but we have learned nothing, people STILL burn hollows for ‘pleasure’ see https://open.abc.net.au/explore/57124
November is nesting season in the southern Flinders Ranges, so almost all the following observations included adults and juveniles in various stages of fledging.
Rainbow bee-eater Merops (Merops) ornatus , a most beautiful bird
Brown tree-creeper Climacteris (Climacteris) picumnus
Adelaide or western rosella Platycercus adelaidae up there with the most beautiful parrots…. and young below
White-browed Babbler Pomatostomus (Morganornis) superciliosus…. and teaching feeding to young below
Dusky Woodswallow Artamus (Angroyan) cyanopterus…… and young below
Willie wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys…… and nestlings below
From the Flinders I travelled up to Coober Pedy where I was to meet Dr John Read.
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!
To be continued..
I photographed this sequence last week at Carnarvon gorge National Park Qld, patience and a lucky break. Words are not really necessary, but standing in the creek with camera the bird flew to within 1.5 meters, an experience of a lifetime. This bird hovers with a whirr of wings just like the hummingbird of the Americas, prior to dropping vertically when fishing