Tag Archives: conservation

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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Horses and Beef also cause extinction

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?

Squirrel Glider from a cardboard box.

squirrel glider in hand

A Squirrel Glider Petaurus norfolcensis (endangered in Victoria) held by Deb Fowler of Bohollow Wildlife Rescue, photographed  by me in Kotupna Victoria 2015. This little chap had been injured and was ready for release.

He’s some progress photos of how to make a Squirrel Glider from this…

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So here’s my progress so far:

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A basic shape

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Building up a shape

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Adding limbs and looking at posture

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Modifying head angle and increasing tail size

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Starting work on tail detail (very time consuming)

More about the species and some amazing efforts to minimise road casualties can be seen at: https://lifeontheverge.net/tag/road-ecology/

I will post more progress photos in the coming weeks.

The G.R.A.I.N. Store exhibition in Nathalia will be opened Sunday June 19th, 2016 4pm by John Kean https://www.australianbookreview.com.au/about/author/1170-johnkean

http://www.abc.net.au/classic/content/2015/01/29/4169599.htm

 

Great news from Sumatra!

Great to read this is happening in Sumatra especially considering pressures to develop and to grow palm oil.

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Pity Australia seems unable to make similar decisions in regard to the demise of our own unique species. Conservation science here works with almost no support from policy makers and a public generally unaware of imminent species loss. President Joko Widodo, Siti Nurbaya and people like Farwiza Farhan must be regarded as heroes and congratulated.   https://theconversation.com/good-news-for-the-only-place-on-earth-where-tigers-rhinos-orangutans-and-elephants-live-together-58777

 

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.

 

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.

 

Beauty and terror out west

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

greyfantail Rhipidura fuliginosa

Its a place where superb fairy wren families visit your picnic table if you move quietly, grey fantails and whiteplumed honeyeaters abound.

whiteplumed honeyeater

and yellow robins heal your soul by looking into your eyes.

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Silver eyes work the eucalypt flowers

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and stiated thornbills call from nearby bushes.

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I also saw a group of red-browed finches

yellow faced honeyeater

and white-faced honeyeaters visiting from Queensland for summer.

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fat lacewings provide food for thes birds and by their presence tell us the water quality is clean.

very large fat fly

Atriplex, in flower, attracted these very large flies which like huge bumble-bees zoomed through the bushes.

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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.

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Photo: Richard Daintree, 1859 (State Library of Vic)

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1896 Working Men’s College Photographic Club camp

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“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

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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..

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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.

 

 

 

 

 

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

wagtail juvenile

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..

 

Sniffing out Warru (black flanked rock wallaby) poo, Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara Lands

I’m on my way home from Anangu Pitjantjatjara Yankunytjatjara or ‘APY’ Lands in northern South Australia after spending a week working with Dr John Read counting warru cuna (scats). John’s ongoing research is the fine thread securing isolated populations of this threatened South Australian species. 

I first had to learn how to identify warru from euro scat, then learn to climb the rocky summits with a heavy lensed camera in one hand. EJohn and Delek

Dr John Read records scats with Delek. 

The Musgrave Range appears as a series of rock outcrops studded into an enormous plain, the sense of timelessness is overwhelming. We were climbing the ancient bones of an even more ancient mountain range.

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I was glad I wasn’t there by myself. Climb one peak and there’s another the same behind and another in the distance. Get lost here and whiteboy is cactus.

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But to the people who live here it’s their backyard. Climb into the Toyota they’ll take you around any of the Musgrave features. Our last scat count took us to the West Australian border and spitting distance to the Northern Territory.

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Try gowing your veges in this….

 

 

Ewurra habitat

Prime Warru habitat

Warru live in rock crevices away from plains predators such as cats. Try climbing this on a cool 36 degree day!  Understanding and documenting Petrogale lateralis is not for the faint hearted.

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Me with daypack & enthusiasm, but not much breath

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John and Matthew exchanging notes…I’ve no idea what about

 

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Jacob takes a picture with West Australia as a background.

Thanks to the people of APY who kindly allowed me to see their country first hand, also to John Read my host. Helen, Jacob and Matthew at Kalka I will definitely not forget, and a special thanks.