Thursday, November 28, 2019

Creating a wildlife-friendly garden

There are many reasons for attracting wildlife to your garden. A wildlife-friendly garden contributes to the diversity and health of its natural surroundings. Interacting with native plants and animals is rewarding. Many native animals and insects help with pollination and pest control.

The fundamental message of this post is that you can create a wildlife-friendly garden in three simple steps; add water, plant natives and lock up your cat!

Add Water
Eastern Rosella at a shady garden water bowl
A well-placed and maintained water bowl, or better still, several water bowls will attract birds, frogs and insects very quickly. Birds in particular will find a water source very readily. A water bowl is best located in the shade but not too concealed nor too open. Deep water bowls are probably best – the water stays cooler longer and evaporates less quickly. Place a rock or stick in a deep bowl to provide a means of escape for an animal that might slip into the water. Water bowls should be cleaned and topped up regularly. Allow the bowl to overflow from time to time onto some stones or rocks underneath and a frog will frequently move in.

(“A guide to helping our native animals with the heat this summer” – LINK Australian Geographic)

Plant Natives
Clockwise from top left - Ficifolia, Hakea sp, Bursaria sp, Wonga Vine
Native plants of course will be the best choice for attracting native wildlife. However, many native animals and insects are not too fussed about some non-native plants being their food source. Various garden variety herb species for example are excellent attractors of native bees. Honeyeaters will often be attracted to exotic flowering shrubs and trees. 

Honeyeaters love Grevilleas
  The best natural landscapes for attracting a diversity of wildlife generally occur in layers or strata – ground litter, ground cover plants, shrubs, understorey and canopy and a wildlife-friendly garden should try to emulate this even if in miniature. A canopy tree can be a problem in a small backyard but there might be a tree or two nearby on the nature strip or in a park that can be utilized into a garden design.

An idea gaining momentum in back-yard gardening circles at present is the growing of mallee eucalypts. Mallees are generally smaller and some will flower profusely for long periods. Species such as E. caesia are being developed and acclimatized to suit our Gippsland climate - worth a try!

(“The top ten Australian plants for attracting wildlife” – LINK Gardening With Angus)

Simple wildlife landscaping ideas - insect 'hotel', nest box, hollow logs.
 A hollow log and a small pile of rocks and sticks will often be suitable habitat for a range of reptiles and amphibians. Consider providing an insect-house for native bees and wasps – a block of wood with a variety of holes drilled part way through. Try erecting a nest box for birds, bats, possums or gliders. There is plenty of advice on the internet for wildlife landscape furniture designs.

Lock Up Your Cat
Credit - Audubon Society
In Australia, the ordinary domestic house cat is responsible for killing as many as 60 million birds a year. Each year, feral cats in our country kill a staggering 300 million birds! Add in the reptiles and the mammals taken by these felines and the numbers are astounding.

(Baw Baw Shire Council has an order imposed under the Community Local Law 2016, stating that all owners of cats are required to keep their cat securely confined to the property and not allow that cat to wander outside the owner’s premises.)

(“Cats kill 1 million Australian birds a day, study shows” – LINK The Guardian)

Should you offer wildlife supplementary food items?

Generally, in Australia, the advice is that native wildlife should not be offered supplementary food. The main reason for this is that the animals are not accustomed to artificial diets or processed foods. By feeding constantly at a feed table, the animal is not getting the nutritional benefits of a varied food source gathered in the wild.

In many other countries it is an accepted procedure however, and in some circles here, it is suggested that if kept to a minimum, a small amount of supplementary food offered for a short period at a regular time each day can be acceptable. Birds in particular soon learn that a seed tray is worth visiting for half an hour or so each day at a particular time. NEVER leave seed or other food items available all day long as this makes the animals reliant on your offerings, attracts pest species and generally is nutritionally deficient.

A well created wildlife-friendly garden should offer a variety of food sources 
and places to nest and hide.

“Habitat – A practical guide to creating a wildlife-friendly Australian garden”, A B Bishop, Murdoch Books.
“Birdscaping Australian Gardens – Using native plants to attract birds to your garden”, George Adams, Viking.

Thursday, November 7, 2019

Drouin bird surveys

The second bird survey for 2019 is almost complete. The October survey has taken a little longer this year due to some inclement weather – uncomfortable for the birds and the bird watchers!

A summary of some highlights include:
            Brown Gerygones and Crested Shrike-tits at Pryor Rd.
            Shining Bronze Cuckoo at Roberts Ct bush.
            Rufous Whistler at Thornell’s Reserve.
            51 species at Bellbird Park Wetlands.

Bellbird Park wetlands

Profiles of the Brown Gerygone, (link) and the Crested Shrike-tit, (link) can be viewed on Gouldiae’s Blog.

Lowlights include:
            Almost complete lack of Crimson Rosellas and very few Willy Wagtails.
            Dogs off-lead and free-ranging cats – as usual.

Where's willie?

As expected, wetlands and associated bushlands – Bellbird Park, Crystal Waters, Drouin sewerage ponds, etc - always had the greater variety of species and numbers of individual birds (hundreds of Pink-eared Ducks in Settlement Rd). About 40 baby Wood Ducks were recorded over five wetlands.

The ‘usual suspects’ Noisy Miners, Magpies, Rainbow Lorikeets and others were well represented. It has been pleasing to see that numbers of species such as Superb Fairy-wrens, Eastern Rosellas and one or two others have been maintained within our urban environment.

How lucky are we to have these in our back yards?

Our large eucalypts and their hollows are providing excellent habitat for Striated Pardalotes (link), corellas, cockatoos, rosellas, lorikeets and others. HOWEVER, most birds seen using hollows were either starlings or mynas!

When the survey is complete, results will be uploaded to eBird Australia.

BTW – the Eastern Koel has arrived again.

PS: The Friends of Drouin's Trees will be conducting another of their popular evening presentations, Monday 25th November, Drouin Library, 7pm. What's been happening? Spring has sprung, etc.

Monday, November 4, 2019

Tackling climate change

Tackling Climate Change in Victorian Communities is the topic for an Inquiry being held by the Environment Committee of the Victorian government Legislative Council with a Gippsland hearings held in Traralgon and Bairnsdale. 144 submissions from individuals, groups and organisations are listed on their web page.
On a previous Friends of Drouin’s Trees blog post it was noted that we “cannot halt global warming without reducing emissions and we cannot plant our way out of climate change”. Submissions can be found that favour one aspect over the other, that is, either tackling reduction of emissions or promoting the advantage of plants in reducing carbon in the atmosphere. 

Tackling climate change/global warming is a complicated task. The problem of climate change is something that has been either created by or exacerbated by humans and needs all the human ingenuity that can be mustered to turn the situation around. It seems that the matter is urgent as described by the United Nations Inter-Government Panel on Climate Change scientists. There have been mistakes made in attempting to ‘do something’ about it as noted in the previous blog mentioned above, and much research done, both of which are tools for learning about the best way forward.

A member of Friends of Drouin’s Trees noted that among the submissions there was no mention of urban trees as part of the arsenal for tackling climate change and was able to rectify this gap. Of course, there are many brilliant suggestions offered in the submissions, but urban forestry is an area that appears to be disconnected from other attempts to ameliorate the climate and biodiversity problems that are becoming increasingly apparent. This was seen also when other members of Friends of Drouin’s Trees were invited to speak at a Victorian State Landcare forum recently and participants came to the realisation that the model of grassroots care for urban trees/vegetation was of significance in the whole scheme of things and one that had been over-looked.

The United Nations General Assembly declared 2021 – 2030 theUN Decade on Ecosystem Restoration. It involves not just trees being planted, cared for and protected on farms, public spaces, roadsides, forests and in towns, but wetlands and seaweed restoration as well. “Ecosystem restoration is fundamental to achieving the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, mainly those on climate change, poverty eradication, food security, water   biodiversity conservation.”
While the initiative to restore ecosystems does not include reference to reducing emissions other Sustainable Development Goals cover this, for example Goal 7   is for “Affordable and clean energy” and Goal 17 encompasses all the others - we need to strengthen   the means of implementation and revitalize the global partnership for sustainable development.

 It has come to the stage in the existence of humanity on this planet that we need to use every tool at our disposal to tackle climate change and the more we work together and learn from mistakes and research the more hope we will have of success.
Contributed – thanks Joan.