Welcoming a new addition to the Gumnut Team: Jayden Walsh

Jayden Walsh is a passionate aspiring Ecologist and Wildlife Photographer from Sydney. Having recently completed his HSC, he now spends his time searching for rare and threatened wildlife in an attempt to protect important areas of bush and increase our understanding of the ecology of elusive and threatened species. Jayden is highly experienced in fauna identification and location. He has extensive experience leading and assisting Birdwatching and Spotlighting tours to engage the local community and the younger generation to explore the world around them, as we are only willing to protect what we understand and appreciate.

jayden-with-sah

Some Wildlife highlights for Jayden having included finding Critically Endangered Swift Parrots and Regent Honeyeaters, the threatened and elusive Barking Owl, Masked Owl, Powerful Owl, Greater Sooty Owl and Red-Crowned Toadlet along with the first sighting of a Common Dunnart for the Northern Beaches, first New Holland mouse for 13 years in Northern Sydney and 2 Southern Brown Bandicoots which were speculated to be recently extinct in all of NSW except for near Eden.  Welcome to the team Jayden!

To view the past tour and presentation Jayden has done and to stay up to date with upcoming tours and presentation he will be involved in, click here and scroll down to Jaydens section.

 

 





 

 

Where to have lunch with Mareeba Rock Wallabies

The Mareeba Rock Wallaby is a small species of macropod which are only found in a small area west of Cairns and centralised around Mareeba. These adorable wallabies spend their lives foraging and frolicking around the large smoothed granite boulders which characterise this area known as Granite Gorge.

Mareeba Rock Wallaby (Petrogale mareeba)

If you have friends or family recently travel up to Cairns, its likely that you have seen them with pictures of the Mareeba Rock Wallaby. If you are wondering where you would be able to get such photos, you must look no further than the Granite Gorge Nature Park in Mareeba. For $12, you can spend the day in the nature park and even have lunch with the rock wallabies. Special pellets are given out so you can feed them, but be cautious, the wallabies can be quite crafty and mischievous! This park provides active conservation of the rock wallaby and also provides funding to further protect and enhance the habitat within the park.

Mareeba Rock Wallaby -Mother with joey | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

Mareeba Rock Wallaby -Mother with joey | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

There are also other interesting sites and species to enjoy. The park has beautiful examples of the granite rock outcrops of the Granite Gorge. It is also host to a suite of different bird species and reptiles. Below are some critters we found on the day. Follow the link at the end of this post to the official website.

Tommy Roundhead (Diporiphora australis) | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

Tommy Roundhead (Diporiphora australis) | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

Yellow Honeyeater (Stomioptera flavus)




Squatter Pigeon (Geophaps scripta)

 

Click this link for the website of Granite Gorge Nature Reserve.

 

 

Banksias: The no. 1 plant for attracting wildlife

I have a Coastal Banksia (Banksia integrefolia) in my backyard and it has attracting some awesome bird species to my garden over the years. Just a month ago I was surprised to find a female Bowerbird stopping over in this tree. While I don’t think it was feeding off it, it certainly used the wiry branches of the Banksia as protection from aggressive birds such as minas. Its remarkable as the nearest bush is still a few blocks away. Another avian highlight was a few years ago when I discovered a Scaly-breasted Lorrikeet pair feeding off the Banksia pollen. At the stage I was quite new to birds and was confused as to why a Rainbow Lorikeet was all green. I took photos and later discovered to my amazement that we had just had a pair of the rarer Scaly-breasted Lorikeets visiting.

Scaley-breasted Lorikeet (Trichoglossus chlorolepidopus) feeding off my backyard Banksia | Copyright Chad Beraneki 2013)

Scaley-breasted Lorikeet (Trichoglossus chlorolepidopus) feeding off my backyard Banksia | Copyright Chad Beraneki 2013)

Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haemotodus) feeding off the same Banksia | Copright Chad Beranek 2016

Rainbow Lorikeet (Trichoglossus haemotodus) feeding off the same Banksia | Copright Chad Beranek 2016

While the obvious candidates to be attracted to Banksias are animals that feed off the nectar and use the plant for protection, there are even more potential species which can be attracted by these plants. The other night I was marveling and some of the ‘flow-on’ attracting powers it has. And what I mean by flow-on is how attracting one animal species might attract another. We have had lots of Grey-headed Flying Foxes visiting lately which have been enjoying the last remains of the Banksia nectar for this season. Their presence attracted a very large and menacing backyard resident which has not been recorded in my garden yet…

An adorable Grey-headed Flying Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) having a Banksia pollen feed | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

An adorable Grey-headed Flying Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) having a Banksia pollen feed | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016


The resident they attracted was the local Powerful Owl who has a few roosting sites and nesting hollows scattered around Sutherland Shire (sometimes you can catch them at Camelia Gardens). I was actually coming home late from a party that night and heard the flying foxes make their usual playful chatter among the foliage of our Banksia. But then I caught a glance of the silhouette of a large bird sitting on my neighbors aerial. Straight away I knew that the only bird it could be is a Powerful Owl, due to the size. I stayed up late observing him eyeing off the flying foxes, waiting for them to make one wrong move. Fortunately they didn’t cross paths with the owl and didn’t seem to even notice it.

Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) sitting on my neighbours aerial eyeing off flying foxes | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) sitting on my neighbours aerial eyeing off flying foxes | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

This is just one example of some flow-on attracting powers the Banksia has. There are plenty more animals that can potentially be attracting by this plant which cover all animal groups. Some old school naturalists back in the day have stated that Perons Tree Frogs will sleep in the bark and small hollows of Banksia so they are even good for attracting local hylid tree frogs. The amount of animals that will be attracted to Banksias increases ten-fold if you are close to bushland, with rather critters likely to make an appearance, including Pigmy Possums, Feathertailed Gliders, Antechinus, Sugar Gliders and countless nectar feeding birds. You might get lucky and attract some really rare nectar feeding birds.

Brush-tailed Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) climbing the nearby Paperbark after having a Banksia feed | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

Brush-tailed Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) climbing the nearby Paperbark after having a Banksia feed | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

 

 

Comment below if you have a Banksia in the backyard and have noticed any Australian animals using the Banksia for food or habitat!

 

Manly Vale Public School upgrade threatens local extinction of endangered species

The cover image is copyright of Stephen Mahony and this article is written by Chad Beranek

 

Manly Vale Public school is praised as being an innovative pioneer in regards to teaching their students the importance of the environment and sustainability. One of the reasons this school is able to to achieve such success in this area is because of its location. The school is located next to well kept remnant bushland which forms a linkage to Manly Dam Reserve which has further linkages that reach Garigal National Park and beyond. This unique setting allows students of Manly Vale Public School to immerse with the Australian wilderness and learn about the plants and animals which dwell there. This is a crucially important experience for children to have during their development. This enables them to form an early respect and understanding of the natural heritage of Australia, as well as a toolkit for survival and an early embodiment of adventure and joy of the wilderness.

Despite boasting being one of the few school in Sydney lucky enough to be surrounded by pristine Sydney sandstone woodland and being the forefront in primary education of sustainability, the department of education have decided to expand the school in a very unsustainable manner. Much of the  4.37 hectares of bushland proposed for “removal” will be on Department of Education land including the schools own “nature area”- used to teach generations of children about the environment. Clearing for the Asset Protection Zone requires compulsory acquisition of land into  Condover and Manly Dam Reserves. The latter being a living memorial to those who served in two world wars.

Now lets make this clear, I’m not against the expansion. I want this school to expand so it’s environmental education can reach more students. However, it can expand it’s facilities in a much more sustainable way. In this article I will describe what animals and plants of interest call this bushland-to-be-developed home and the inherent threats these species face.

The threatened Red-crowned Toadlet (Pseudophryne australis) | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

The threatened Red-crowned Toadlet (Pseudophryne australis) | Copyright Chad Beranek 2016

The threatened Red-crowned Toadlet is the first in line to be completely wiped out from this area if this development proceeds. As I have described in the Backyard Conservation Fact Sheet for this species, the Red-crowned Toadlet is vulnerable to development which occurs on the ridge top above where they live. This is because Red-crowned Toadlets are always found on sandstone slopes in trickling tributaries and soaks. Development which occurs on the ridge top causes altered storm water regimes which always causes surplus of water discharges down these trickles and soaks which end up washing away the nests of these rare frogs.

Red-crowned Toadlets are usually only found in large reserves and national parks, so the fact that they are occurring in this comparatively small tract of bush next to Manly Vale Public School is a testament to how healthy and biodiverse this bush patch is. The proposed expansion of the school sees buildings to be constructed on the ridge above the known Red-crowned Toadlets populations and alarmingly close. These population will unfortunately be entirely extirpated from this bushland if the proposed development proceeds.

Eastern Pigmy Possum (Cercartetus nanus)

As with the Red-crowned Toadlets, the Eastern Pygmy Possum also faces local extinction if the current proposal is allowed to go through. The Eastern Pygmy Possum (the one depicted in the cover photo) is one of the smallest possums in the world and is just an adorable animal. Unfortunately often comes out second best in the face of urban expansion. In the case of Manly Vale, the remnant bushland next to the school appears to contain one of the most urban situated populations, which just further highlights how valuable and diverse this relatively small strip of bushland is. Experts have said that this population appears to be the remnant stronghold for pygmy possums in Manly Vale. Any further encroachment can and will eliminate pygmy possums from this area and surrounding areas.

Powerful Owl chick

Powerful Owl chick. These birds threatened and naturally rare. They are very picky in choosing their nesting hollow. Cutting down a chosen nesting tree will eliminate them from the surrounding landscape.

There are many more animals at threat  from the proposed expansion, including Bandicoots, Edichnas and Wallabies, but I have just touched on the threatened rare species. There has even been Powerful Owls found nesting on site. In addition to the threatened animals that face local extinction, there are also potential for threatened plants occurring on this site which also face annihilation. The plants include the Sunshine Wattle (Acacia terminalis spp. terminalis), Pimelea curviflora var. curviflora, Seaforth Mintbush (Prostanthera marifolia), and  Tetratheca glandulosa. This surprisingly diverse little bush hosts a wide array of many other  plants which once again highlight just how biodiverse it is. Thanks can be given to the hard working bush regeneration volunteers of this area which have labored thousands of hours keeping this bush clean and weed free. Unfortunately the proposed development would see all this work undone.

Sunshine Wattle (Acacia terminalis) | Copyright Chad Beranek 2014

Sunshine Wattle (Acacia terminalis) | Copyright Chad Beranek 2014

The fact is that there is enough space on school grounds which don’t contain bush to start development there. The proposed bush smashing can be undone with a smarter, more sustainable and less fragmenting development design. Any decrease in the destruction of Sydney sandstone woodland is huge in conserving the nature in Sydney as this biome is constantly under threat because it is situated in the most urbanised area of Australia. This is a very similar to a case to the Spring Gully threat. Both of these land clearances are proposed to be occurring within Sydney sandstone woodland, and in both instances we need to realise that we cannot negotiate the already limited pristine bushland within the Sydney region. There are always smarter and more sustainable ways of achieving development.

Pimelea curvifolia var. glabrata, a close and more common relative of Pimelea curviflora var. curviflora | Copyright Chad Beranek 2014

Pimelea curvifolia var. glabrata, a close and more common relative of Pimelea curviflora var. curviflora | Copyright Chad Beranek 2014

 

Overall we need to understand that we live in an age with an ever expanding population and thus very limited resources. Our strength is being the most intelligent species in the world. We need to use this intelligence and realise that unsustainable destruction of nature will only have negative compounding influences in the future. If the directors of the expansion of Manly Vale Public School can’t wake up and see just how unsustainable and unproductive the proposed development is, they will undo all the good work this school has been striving to achieve in the fronts of sustainability, the environment and the very future of the next generation of innovators and pioneers.




To help out and stay informed please visit, like this page and voice your opinion. Every voice counts, with enough of us we can call out ill-informed bad practices like this and ensure a sustainable and prosperous future for all. You can find out more information on the Wild About blog.

The video below provides more information on this bushland:

Bird Behaviour Breakdown – Double-eyed Fig-parrots

Birds have one of the most evolved and complex behavioral systems of any animal group. This is due to the extra dynamics birds face living in the skies in comparison to terrestrial animals. Birds need to keep a high metabolism, with higher body temperatures than most terrestrial animals, to upkeep their insatiably high activity rates. Birds also need to keep their feathers in the utmost perfect conditions to ensure that their are no problems during flight. If a bird has damaged wing feathers and attempts to fly, it can cost them their lives.

However during my travels I have observed quite interesting and less obvious behaviors of birds, which often left me scratching my head with confusion until I researched it a bit. The first odd and memorable behavior  I witnessed was that from a Double-eyed Fig-parrot (Cyclopsitta ) I was taking photos of at Gordonvale just south of Cairns.
Cyclopsitta diophthalma race macleayana - Double-eyed Fig-Parrot

At first I though this fig-parrot was eating something growing on the branch of this rainforest tree. I thought it was most likely the lichen. But even from the limited knowledge I knew of Double-eyed Fig-parrots, I knew this could not be the case. Fig-parrots like other parrots, are mainly granivores, meaning they mostly eat seeds.

IMG_0698As I went through the photos it became apparent that the parrot was chewing on the wooden structures of the branch and not actually consuming anything. This is actually a behavior that most bird keepers would know well. In captivity, bird keepers are required to include a cuddle-bone shell for their bird to sharpen their beak on. Wild birds however do not have access to a cuddle-bone and prefer to sharpen their beaks on branches.

IMG_0697This behavior I observed of the Double-eyed Fig-parrots is completely normal for wild birds and not as bizarre as I initially suspected. This parrot was prepping his beak ready to crack some rainforest plant seed shells. Which rainforest plant seed does this parrot species prefer? Figs ofcourse! This is where the Double-eyed Fig-parrot gets its common name from.

There is one other explanation of this behavior, which is more exciting! Fig parrots actually chew holes in trees to make their nests. Instead of waiting for fungi and termites to erode away a tree hollow they take it upon themselves to masterfully excavate their own tree hollow. This fig parrot could have been testing the branch to find dampened weak spots to dig a tree hollow in.

Based of the fact this parrot was gnawing on on both the branch and the twig jutting out from the branch, I’d say we were observing the first behavior. It’s still exciting to decipher and ponder this rarely seen behavior in wild birds!

Double-eyed Fig-Parrot (Cyclopsitta diophthalma)

To find out the next strange behavior I encountered, follow the link at the end of this post.




Click here for the next bird behavior breakdown!