How to make your Wildlife Sightings impactful in NSW

How to make your wildlife sightings impactful in NSW

Since becoming interested and involved in wildlife ecology 4 years ago I immediately realised that there is a distinct lack of reporting done by everyday people, Naturalists and all interested in Wildlife Watching and Wildlife Photography. Whilst this might seem like an insignificant issue compared to Climate Change, Habitat Loss, Threatened Species and Feral Species however the lack of reporting in fact influences the decisions we make regarding the aforementioned issues.

Rainforest GN

Habitat of the threatened Davies’ Tree Frog, Noisy Scrubbird, Greater Sooty Owl, Spot-tailed Quoll, Broad Toothed Mouse and Yellow-Bellied Glider

The issues with a lack of records

  1. Threatened species can get destroyed by urban development
  2. It can result in local extinctions going un-noticed
  3. It alters land management strategies in a potentially inappropriate manner

The fundamental issue with not reporting your sightings is that if a Threatened species lives in an area but has not been detected or recorded by humans it can become locally extinct. However, If you report this sighting it is more difficult for the land to be developed and your sighting could save that species and all others within the area. Additionally, reported sightings of any animal influence land management decisions, no matter how common the species is.

The final (and purely selfish) benefit of current and regular records is that it allows everyone to know where to find their “target species”. Whilst this isn’t the key benefit, it is great as when people are actively out looking for animals that they are targeting, other species are inevitably detected further enhancing our knowledge of wildlife.

How to make your sightings count

The most powerful way to make your sightings worthwhile is to report them to NSW Bionet (http://www.bionet.nsw.gov.au/). BioNet is a portal for accessing and submitting government-held information about plants and animals in NSW. Before a large-scale development occurs developers are legally required to access Bionet NSW data to determine whether Threatened Species are present on the land and if they are there are further actions required to be taken. Anyone can do it so to get started visit http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/atlaspublicapp/Registration.aspx, it is super easy and definitely worth doing!!

 

The Glossy Black Cockatoo is a Threatened Species which can be saved from development by the upload of sightings into the Bionet database. I found this one (and 4 more) feeding recently in Ku-ring-gai Chase NP.

Ultimately, across NSW wildlife enthusiasts of all kinds are engaged, formally or informally, in spotting wildlife, however most of this valuable data is lost, as it is not translated into records, thus I encourage you to give back to the environment and make your sightings count by submitting your sightings to Bionet NSW.

If you have any questions or comment email me at gumnutmail@gmail.com

Jayden Walsh

Wildlife of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park

Wildlife of KCNP: Where to find it and how to protect it

With the Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park Plan of Management up for review (to comment, visit: https://engage.environment.nsw.gov.au/ku-ring-gai-chase-national-park-consultation ) I thought it’d be important for local residents and stakeholders to know exactly why KCNP is so important from a faunal point of view. Recently, I gave a lecture to a booked out crowd of 90 people, on the Wildlife of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park however if you couldn’t make it to that lecture or would like a refresher, the information below will help you gain a greater understanding of the importance of Ku-ring-gai Chase NP.

At 14,997 hectares in size Ku-ring-gai Chase NP acts as a refuge away from most human disturbance, allowing wildlife to persist uninfluenced by growing human pressures. The large size of the National Park means that there are patches of land that are unexplored by humans. Conversely, the West Head and Bobbin Head sections of the National Park are easily accessible and allow visitors to interact and reconnect with nature, something that I believe to be crucial if we plan on tackling Climate Change and other key environmental issues.

Birds

Birds are by far the most commonly seen class of animals within the National Park and indeed within our daily lives. Birds are so abundant and diverse meaning that per hour of searching you will sight more species than any other terrestrial class. This diversity is extremely evident within Ku-ring-gai Chase and it only takes a walk down Chiltern Trail or along the creek at Gibberagong Track to realise this. Commonly encountered families include Honeyeaters, Insectivores, Birds of Prey and Parrots.

The Eastern Yellow Robin is a commonly found bird species in KCNP

The Eastern Yellow Robin is a commonly found bird species in KCNP

 

Key Birds Species of KCNP Where to find them
Glossy Black Cockatoo Commonly encountered Vulnerable species often seen at McCarrs Creek Reserve or any trail along West Head Road. Feed on Allocasuarina and Casuarina species.
White Throated Nightjar Nocturnal species found in low abundance all throughout the National Park in the spring/summer months. Loud, distinctive call
Swift Parrot Critically Endangered winter migrant. Occasionally visits the National Park near West Head lookout and Chiltern Trail
Yellow-Tufted Honeyeater Rare in Sydney found at Chiltern Trail and Bobbin Head.
Chestnut-Rumped Heathwren All trails throughout the National Park. Secretive bird often heard during their breeding season but less frequently seen.
Rockwarbler Only bird which is endemic to NSW. Found anywhere there is Sandstone. Try Waratah Track and West Head lookout but present throughout.
Square-Tailed Kite Vulnerable bird of prey becoming increasingly abundant. Look for this species at Waratah or Elvina Track.

 

Mammals

Mammals are by far the most infrequently encountered Class by the general public. This is predominantly due to the nocturnal habits of most mammals as well as they’re general secrecy. Within KCNP there are several very rare and threatened mammal species and some of my best finds have been of the mammalian variety. In order to find these interesting animals I encourage you to spotlight – i.e. go out at night with a torch to look for these nocturnal mammals. All up, 42 Terrestrial Mammals have been recorded in the NP. Ku-ring-gai Chase NP’s claim to fame is that the New Holland Mouse was thought to be extinct until it was rediscovered in 1967, in Ku-ring-gai Chase NP!

 

Grey Headed Flying Fox

Grey Headed Flying Fox

 

 

Jayden Walsh’s Best Mammal Finds in KCNP Info
Common Dunnart 1st record for Northern Beaches. ~10th Record for Sydney. 1 individual crossing West Head Rd near Duckholes Picnic Ground on December 11th 2015.
Yellow Footed Antechinus 1st record for Northern Beaches. 1 in May 2015 at Chiltern Trail on sandstone ledge warming up during early morning.
New Holland Mouse Vulnerable Species: 1st record in Northern Sydney in 13 years. 1 found roadkill in late 2016, 1 seen in early 2017 and 1 seen 2 weeks later.
Southern Brown Bandicoot Endangered Species: 1 seen in May 2015 at Chiltern Trail and 1 found dead at Waratah Track in late 2015

 

Reptiles

KCNP is one of the best spots to see reptiles in all of Sydney however as discussed in my lecture, reptiles have a very bad, undeserved reputation. Unfortunately reptiles are the class most commonly found as roadkill within the National Park accounting for over 80% of total fatalities. In order to reduce the level of roadkill actions must be implemented immediately such as the installation of speedbumps. 44 species of reptile call the National Park home including 13 species of snake and the Threatened Rosenberg’s Goanna. Over the past 2 years I’ve seen all the species listed below plus many more.

  • Southern Death Adder
  • Bandy Bandy
  • Tiger Snake
  • Cunningham’s Skink
  • Elegant Snake-Eyed Skink
  • Common Scaly Foot
  • Rosenberg’s Goanna
  • Eastern Stone Gecko
  • Lace Monitor
  • Burton’s Legless Lizard
  • Diamond Python
  • Brown Tree Snake
  • White’ Skink
  • Eastern Brown Snake
  • Yellow Faced Whipsnake
  • Red-Throated Skink
  • Weasel Skink

 

Southern Death Adder - the fastest striking snake in the world! Often found on the move at night time during Spring

Southern Death Adder – the fastest striking snake in the world! Often found on the move at night time during Spring

 

Amphibians

13 species of Amphibian reside within the NP however there is the possibility that 4 other species occur. Amphibians are a species that is mainly seen at night time, so again, I would encourage you to spotlight in order to see them. Try McCarrs Creek near Duckholes picnic area for species such as Striped Marsh Frog, Common Eastern Froglet, Green Stream Frog and Eastern Sedge Frog.

Two other amphibian highlights of the national park are the Vulnerable Giant Burrowing Frog and Red-Crowned Toadlet.

  • Giant Burrowing Frog: lives on ridge tops where there are deep beds of sand and sandstone. Spring and autumn breeder. Sometimes referred to as the Eastern Owl Frog due to it’s hooting call. Widespread on the West Head landmass. My highest count of Giant Burrowing Frog’s in one night was 26 individuals!
  • Red-Crowned Toadlet: tends to live on the side of Sandstone escarpments and under leaf-litter where there is moisture year round. Like other pseudophryne species they make a nest of eggs with tadpoles that complete part of their development in this egg, once rain arrives they then complete the rest of their development in a puddle/body of water. The Red-Crowned Toadlet has a fascinating call that sounds a bit like a baby crocodile!
Giant Burrowing Frog bioblitz

Giant Burrowing Frog on Elvina Trail

 

 

ISSUES WITHIN THE NP

Issues Required Action
Lack of Funding for NPWS Automate both the gate closure at West Head Rd and all ticket offices
Lack of Funding for NPWS + Community Engagement Run guided wildlife tours within the NP that are low impact and educational
Roadkill Installation of regular speedbumps to control speed of vehicles throughout the NP
Roadkill Close West Head Rd gate 30 minutes earlier all year round to reduce risk of roadkill (predominantly occurs at dusk and night-time)
Lack of current information regarding Threatened Species within the NP Contract local, skilled ecologists/Naturalists to conduct regular fauna surveys within the NP
Community Engagement Install additional interpretive signage regarding wildlife of KCNP and install additional seating
Possible Development I strongly object to any development within the NP.

 

In conclusion, I strongly recommend that you comment upon the Plan of Management in order to protect the Wildlife of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park. It is imperative to the long-term survival of the NP that the wildlife is the key concern of Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park and all management decisions must revolve around the protection, preservation and restoration of the wildlife and its habitat. Your voice has the power to determine the fate of our bushland. Finally, I urge you to go out and visit Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, to discover for yourself just how amazing it is!

To comment, visit: https://engage.environment.nsw.gov.au/ku-ring-gai-chase-national-park-consultation

If you have any questions or comments feel free to email me at gumnutmail@gmail.com

Jayden Walsh

 

Sydney’s Secret Swamp

Sydney's secret swamp 4 GN

Melaleuca linariifolia and Livistonia australis within the ‘Secret Swamp’

Sydney is Australia’s most populated city and as such most things are known about the area. Despite this, I am constantly reminded of the lack of knowledge regarding the Wildlife of Sydney, thus new discoveries are always possible and make bushwalking all the more exciting!

About 2 years ago I stumbled across a Swamp on Quaternary Alluvium that has likely had less than 10 visitors since Europeans colonised Australia. The swamp itself is known by NPWS however little is available on its whereabouts and wildlife diversity, thus the remoteness of the location coupled with its lack of public knowledge make it an exceptional location to see wildlife. Even more surprising is that it is resemblant of the monsoon wetlands and paperbark forests of Darwin some 4000km away!

Sydney's ectre swamp 3 GN

Secret Swamp

Looking down into the Swamp

When looking at why fauna occurs where you have to first look at the soil type. The unique alluvium soil in conjunction with the topography of the area is why there is such unique flora and thus fauna. Species of tree present at the swamp that are not often recorded in the area include Large-Fruited Red Mahogany, Swamp Mahogany, Blackbutt, Melaleuca … Woolbutt and large stands of Lilly Pilly and as such a unique array of animals call this swamp home.

Superb Lyebird for GN

The Superb Lyrebird is a common sight foraging amongst the leaf litter of the swamp

Currently, some of the most interesting fauna species I have recorded in this ‘Secret Swamp’ include (but are not limited to) White Headed Pigeon, Bassian Thrush, Brown Antechinus, Red Bellied Black Snake, Whistling Tree Frog, Eastern Sedge Frog, Rose Robin and Diamond Python however additional surveying is required in order to better understand the fauna assemblage of the area.

Following are a list of species which have a possibility of occurring in the swamp and adjacent area: Tyler’s Tree Frog, Green Tree Frog, Platypus, Brush-tailed Phascogale, Greater Sooty Owl, Masked Owl, King Quail, Greater Glider, Squirrel Glider, Tiger Snake and Australasian Bittern.

Bassian Thrush GN

The Bassian Thrush is a shy species that breeds within the swamp

 

In September-November I plan on surveying this area more extensively particularly for amphibians and mammals,if you’d like to assist with surveying at this location please send us a facebook message or email us at gumnutmail@gmail.com

Finally, above the swamp I made an interesting historical discovery. Whilst bushbashing – about 800m from the nearest track – I discovered an assortment of alcohol, milk and medicine jars in a small cave overlooking the valley. Whilst I am unsure of the exact date of these items it appears that they are from the 1930s or 1940s! Sydney's Secret Swamp GN 1

 

Ultimately, I encourage you to go out this weekend and visit a location that not many people go to. Once you’re there, record a list of all the animals you see and we’d love it if you email it to us – gumnutmail@gmail.com – so we can build up a database of wildlife in remote and little visited locations!

Jayden

 

 

South Coast Wildlife Tour

On the weekend of the 12th – 14th, Gumnut Naturalist will be touring the south coast. Check below for a list of events and how to get involved. This is our second south coast tour! Last time was a great success, we got to see an awesome amount of animals! See the videos at the bottom of this page to see what adventures we got up to last time! We would love you to join us this time and see what spectacular creatures we encounter this time.

 

Friday 12th May

11:30 am – 12:30 pm – Frogs of the Illawarra by Chad. Venue: Shoalhaven Heads Bowling Club. FREE! RSVP by Tuesday 9th May. Contact Andrew Britton on 0408 050 748 or andrew.britton@lls.nsw.gov.au.

 

Saturday 13th May

3:30 pm – 5 pm – Frogs of the Illawarra Workshop by Chad. Venue: Jervis Bay Maritime Museum. FREE! Includes light refreshments. RSVP and get more information by contacting 02 4228 9246 or wollongong@cva.org.au.

5 pm – 6 pm – Frog field spotlighting tour by Chad and Jayden. Location: Wirreecoo Walking Trail. FREE! RSVP and get more information by contacting 02 4228 9246 or wollongong@cva.org.au.
Previews of finds for the last south coast tour

Previews of the frogs of the Illawarra talks

Cassowaries need to be helped, not feared!

Who said dinosaurs went extinct? The Southern Cassowary certainly doesn’t think so…

 

Deep in the rainforests – and occasionally patrolling the beaches, roads and campgrounds of Far North Queensland – an ancient creature struts its stuff. A tall casque sits atop its head whilst two wattles droop from it’s neck – yes, it’s a Southern Cassowary. The Southern Cassowary (Casuarius casuaris) is a large flightless bird found in North Queensland and Papua New Guinea. They forage on the Forest Floor for fruits, of which some can only be digested by the Southern Cassowary; hence the importance of protecting this federally listed endangered species.

The cassowary has coarse hair-like feathers which give it a glossy and rough appearance when seen close up. Its wing stubs carry a small number of long, modified quills which curve around the body and appear rather imposing but serve little function other than decoration. Each heavy, well-muscled leg has three toes, with the inside toe bearing a large 12cm long dagger-shaped claw  used for fighting other birds, not humans as we have been led to believe. Newly-hatched chicks are striped dark brown and creamy white for approximately 6 months then the stripes fade and the plumage changes to plain brown. As the young mature, the plumage darkens, the wattles and casque develop and the skin colour on the neck and wattles brighten.




There are 5 factors in the decline in numbers of the Southern Cassowary, that have made it an Endangered species:

  • Ongoing loss of habitat through clearing for residential development and agricultural expansion
  • Fragmented habitat – ever decreasing forest size (especially from roads and subdivisions)
  • Car strikes – road kills are the number one cause of adult cassowary deaths
  • Feral pigs – impact on their habitat and eat eggs
  • Dogs – attack cassowaries and can often cause death because they are especially aggressive to chicks and juveniles. This also leads to a dislike of Cassowaries by civilians as it encourages a mentality of ‘the Cassowary attacked my poor dog’ regardless of the truth of the situation in which the dog most likely initiated conflict and the Cassowary is a native Endangered species whilst dogs are declared a pest when feral.

 

 

Unfortunately the media does not portray any species of Cassowary in a positive light but as I discovered on my trip to Cape York, the Southern Cassowary is one of the most curious, inquisitive and pleasant birds to share company with, and certainly not deserving of the reputation it has been given. The only time to exhibit extreme caution around the Southern Cassowary is when the Male is taking care of young chicks and even in this situation if you give them room to move you will be fine. If you do stumble across one with young, and it does get defensive, the best option is to hide behind an object, like a tree, or try to appear taller than you are by putting your hands in the air.

I encourage you to slow down when driving through the bush no matter where you are in Australia but also treat yourself and go looking for Cassowary this year, if you’d like to see Southern Cassowary in the wild feel free to contact us on Facebook or at gumnutmail@gmail.com and we can recommend locations to see these ancient and misunderstood birds.