Fiona Hamer hosted a ‘Who’s living on my land?’ workshop at her beautiful property ‘Esdale’ along the Murrumbidgee River near Yass. Thirty-nine landholders attended the workshop and borrowed 16 cameras to find out ‘Who’s living on my land?’
Over the two week survey of properties in and around the Yass Valley, we identified 20 species from 34,038 photographs.
The most commonly identified native mammal species was the Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolor). We additionally observed two other macropod species – Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus) and Red-necked Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus). All three of these macropods have previously been recorded in publically accessible database, Atlas of Living Australia (ALA), in the Yass Valley Region, although there have been low numbers recorded for Swamp Wallabies (n = 11) and Red-necked Wallabies (n = 8).
As well as macropods, we observed two other species of herbivorous marsupials: Common Wombats (Vombatus ursinus) and Common Brushtail Possums (Trichosurus vulpecula). While Common Wombats are relatively abundant in the Yass Valley region, there are only two recordings of Common Brushtail Possums.
Eastern Grey Kangaroo
Common Brushtail Possum
We detected eight native bird species in this ‘Who’s living on my land?’ survey – most of which were only detected at one property. The low number of bird species may be due to camera set up, which targets ground dwelling mammals. The Australian Magpie (Cracticus tibicen) was the only bird species that we saw at multiple properties. All of the eight native bird species recorded in this survey are common around Yass.
White Winged Chough
Superb Fairy Wren (Female)
Foxes (Vulpes vulpes) were the most common species found in the Yass 2017 survey, being recorded, at least once at eight of the thirteen properties. We detected five other introduced species, although these were only recorded at one or two of the properties surveyed. This included hares (Lepus sp.) and rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus), and two introduced rodents – Black Rats (Rattus rattus) and the House Mouse (Mus musculus).
One of our citizen scientist landholders from the Tocal ‘Who’s living on my land?’ survey thought she had Koalas on her property and had a tree with Koala scratching. So, she put her camera up at the base of the tree and crossed her fingers for a Koala to walk on by!
She was in luck!
Koalas (Phascolarctos cinereus) are one of Australia’s most iconic species. This tree-dwelling marsupial inhabits a range of eucalyptus-dominated environments spanning the length of the Australian continent from the far northern tropical rainforests of Queensland right through to the semi-arid communities of South Australia.
Koalas occur naturally in four states – Queensland, New South Wales, Victoria and South Australia – but the health and status of koala populations differ substantially across the continent. Victoria and South Australia have large and thriving koala populations, unlike Queensland and New South Wales where koala populations are in decline and are listed as vulnerable under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
Threats to Koalas
The main threat to Koala population survival is habitat loss and land clearing. This habitat loss decreases the area of suitable habitat available for koalas, and decreases the connectivity between quality habitat. When valuable feed and shelter trees are lost to land clearing; koalas have to travel further on the ground between trees. Koalas are most vulnerable on the ground, where they are susceptible to predator attack, particularly from dogs, and car collisions. Man-made and natural structures (e.g. roads, urban landuse, large rivers) can act as barriers to dispersal limiting connectivity. Climate change is another significant threat to Koalas, as it may accelerate extreme weather events like bushfires and heat waves. Some Koala populations have a high incidence of chlamydia which can lead to infertility. In the Hunter Region, groundwater extraction has also been recorded as a threat to koala populations as the activity affects some of their primary feed trees.
Koalas in the Hunter Region
The dramatic land clearing in the Lower Hunter Region since European settlement (e.g. approx. 75% reduction in koala habitat in Port Stephens LGA) has been attributed to the decline, and presumed local extinction, of koala populations in the Lower Hunter region.
While the koala population at Port Stephens is well researched and population estimates can be calculated, poor data from the other LGAs in the Lower Hunter has led to significant information gaps about the presence and prevalence of koalas in these areas. In Port Stephens, the koala presence increases with amount of habitat available and decreases with increasing density of roads. Consequently, a 2013 report Lower Hunter Koala Study called for the following conservation actions:
‘Conserving patches of greater than 100 ha with koala feed and roosting tree species; and
‘seeking to incorporate connective between patches for koalas’
The home ranges of koala within the study region is not consistent, with koalas having relatively small home ranges (10 ha) in high quality habitat areas like Port Stephens, but requiring much larger home ranges (approx. 80 ha) in low quality habitat areas. The availability of feed trees is related to the quality of habitat available for koalas, however not all feed trees are used equality, with the leaf chemistry of individual trees being an important determinant of their use. In general, highly fertile soils produce feed trees which are used more. However, these highly fertile areas are also prioritised for agricultural use, particularly on the valley floors of the Hunter region. Interestingly, recent studies have concluded that feed trees are not the only type of important vegetation for koalas. During extreme temperatures, they also rely on other species of ‘cool’ trees to provide shelter from the heat. In Port Stephens, koalas were reported using tree species like Angophora costata, Eucalyptus signata and Corymbia gummifera as shelter trees.
The Lower Hunter Koala Study classified the study area into four classes based on their suitability as koala habitat. 1) Lower koala habitat value; 2) Moderate koala habitat value; 3) High koala habitat value; and 4) Very high koala habitat value. The site in our study where the koala was recorded (Figure 5) was on the boundary between Lower and Moderate koala habitat. This demonstrates that even in areas which have been classified as Lower or Moderate koala habitat, efforts to conserve or rehabilitate areas can have positive outcomes for koalas.
It is important for landholders to conserve and rehabilitate areas on their land which could be good habitat for koalas. Although the current reserve system officially protects some areas of Very high and High koala habitat value land, over 75% of the land classified under these two categories in the Lower Hunter Region are on private land, or land not maintained for conservation purposes.
Hunter Region koala information from: Eco Logical Australia 2013. Lower Hunter Koala Study. Prepared for the Dept Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities.
Twenty landholders from Berrima learned how to use infrared cameras to survey their land for wildlife at a workshop in Berrima on the 25th of February 2017. Eight properties, mostly along the Wingecarribee river, participated in the two week ground dwelling mammal survey.
What did we find?
The Berrima landholders took 2,500 images in their wildlife survey and we sorted through all the images and identified twelve species.
The Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus) was the most common species found in the ‘Who’s living on my land?’ survey. The majority of native mammal species were macropods: Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolor), Red-necked Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus) and Common Wallaroo (Macropus robustus).
The Eastern Grey Kangaroo and Swamp Wallaby are relatively common species in the Southern Highlands. The Red-necked Wallaby and Common Wallaroo are less commonly seen and these are the first recorded sightings in the Berrima district.
We found no small native mammals in our survey (e.g. antechinus, bandicoots, possums, echidnas) even though they are relatively common in other ‘Who’s living on my land?’ surveys conducted in the Southern Highlands.
Only three native bird species were detected in this ‘Who’s living on my land?’ survey: Australian Magpie (Cracticus tibicen), Pied Currawong (Strepera graculina) and Magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca); and all three birds were sighted at the same property. The low number of birds species may be due to the camera set up, which targets ground dwelling mammals.
Foxes were the most common species found in the Berrima ‘Who’s living on my land?’ survey, found at seven of the eight participating properties. Rabbits and Hares were found at half of the properties and only one property detected the introduced Black Rat.
In good news, we did not find other feral animals common to the Southern Highlands in this survey – including Deer, Pigs and Cats.
Some fantastic images of Australia’s native wildlife were captured by landholders following the November workshop in Penrose. Twelve landholders rose to the challenge to find out what animals were living in their backyards.
Native Animals Detected:
A flock of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, a Red-necked Wallaby, a juvenile Crimson Rosella and a camera shy Emu were among the many exciting animals found living on peoples properties. Overall, 20 species of native animals were photographed using camera traps!
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos
Common Brushtailed Possum
Introduced Species to Look Out For:
Five introduced species were detected in the Penrose area. The European Red Fox was the most prevalent occurring in half of the properties that participated. Two young feral pigs were also attracted to the lure set up in front of the camera on one property. Other species included the Feral Cat, European Rabbit and Black Rat. Landholders are encouraged to work with South East Local Land Services to help manage pests on their property.
We are very excited to see a Dusky Antechinus (Antechinus swainsonii) in our August ‘Who’s living on my land?’ survey in Berry! Dusky Antechinus are one of few marsupial carnivores.
It is the largest Antechinus species with males weighing about 65 grams (average) and females up to 45 grams (average). The diet of a Dusky Antechinus includes a range of insects, lizards, worms, small birds and vegetable matter. This nocturnal species is often active throughout the day and is highly territorial (which is unusual for an Antechinus). They are also unusually vocal with hissing and chattering, compared to the other Antechinus species.
The Dusky Antechinus is mostly found on the coastal regions of mainland Australia. Suitable habitats include alpine heath, tall open forest, moist sclerophyll forest, and rainforests with a thick understorey. A Dusky Antechinus uses eucalypt leaves to construct nests which is either balled up in tree hollows or placed on ground vegetation among thick understorey.
This species mate vigorously for a short time and the male individuals “die-off” soon after. The “die-off” occurs due to high stress levels and severe injuries sustained during the mating frenzy.
Native mammal we found in Berry
Twelve of the fourteen properties participating in the survey found a native mammal species on their property, with the Swamp Wallaby and Common Wombat being the most ubiquitous.
Nine properties participated in the Bredbo ‘Who’s living on my land?’ wildlife survey. Twenty-two species were detected from 10,167 photographs, including eight native mammal species, eight native bird species and six introduced species.
Native Mammal Results
All of the properties detected a native mammal species on their property. The most commonly identified was the Common Wombat (Vombatus ursinus).
We identified four macropod species – Eastern Grey Kangaroo (Macropus giganteus), Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolor), Red-necked Wallaby (Macropus rufogriseus) and a Wallaroo (Macropus robustus). We observed adults and joeys of most of the species.
One the same property, we observed two species of possums – the Brushtail Possum (Trichosurus vulpecula) and Ringtail Possum (Pseudocheirus peregrinus). We also spotted a Short-beaked Echidna (Tachyglossus aculeatus).
Eastern Grey Kangaroo
Native Bird Results
We detected eight native bird species in this ‘Who’s living on my land?’ survey – most of which were only detected at one property. The low numbers of bird species are expected as this camera survey is targeting ground dwelling mammals. We were very excited to spot the Speckled Warbler (Chthonicola sagittata) which is listed as a vulnerable species in NSW. The Speckled Warbler forages in leaf litter for insects and seeds and is generally found in grassy Eucalypt or Cypress woodlands. The Speckled Warbler is in decline due to habitat fragmentation, fallen timber removal, weed incursion and predation by foxes and cats.
The Australian Magpie (Cracticus tibicen) was the only bird species that we saw at multiple properties, but we also saw another large passerine: the Pied Currawong (Strepera graculina). Australia’s largest Bird of Prey, the Wedge Tailed Eagle (Aquila audax), landed at a camera site where a Kangaroo carcass was nearby. Other bird species identified in the ‘Who’s living on my land?’ survey included the Common Bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera), Grey Shrike Thrush (Colluricincla harmonica), Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae) and the Superb Lyrebird (Menura novaehollandiae).
Grey Shrike Thrush
Wedge Tailed Eagle
Australian Magpie in the snow
Wedge Tailed Eagle
Introduced Species Results
We detected six introduced species in the in the Bredbo ‘Who’s living on my land?’ survey. The European Red Fox (Vuples vulpes) was the most commonly observed invasive species. The other introduced carnivore observed in the survey was feral cats (Felis catus). We also found key prey species of foxes: hares (Lepus europaeus) and rabbits (Oryctolagus cuniculus). Feral pigs was the only hooved animal detected in the survey. We found Black Rats (Rattus rattus) at one property which, interestingly, was far from human habitation..
Twenty five landholders braved the wintry weather for our workshop in Bredbo on the 9th of July. Margot Law, from ‘Who’s living on my land?’, trained everyone to survey their land for wildlife with infrared cameras and lent out sixteen cameras – watch this space for the results!
The workshop also covered a range of topics, with a focus on land management for wildlife:
Land For wildlife
Lesley Peden from Kosciuszko to Coast kicked of the day with a presentation on the Land for Wildlife program which offers free property assessments to support nature conservation on private land. Lesley shared her wealth of knowledge on sustainable land management and funding opportunities available to assist landholders protect and improve their property’s biodiversity value.
Biodiversity on grazing properties
Jo Powells from South East Local Land Services described their work on investigating the effect of soil fertility and grazing on native grasslands in the Monaro. You can read more about her interesting research in this scientific paper. She also pointed out a new smart phone app ‘NSW Weed Wise‘ which is a great resource to help landholders manage weeds on their property.
Georgeanna Story, the new coordinator for Upper Murrumbidgee Landcare, brought along a bunch of native animal samples that she has collected – including bones and scats – to show what kind of signs you can look for on your property to identify animal species. Georgeanna is more than happy to help landholders from the Upper Murrumbidgee region identify animal signs – just send a photo (with a scale) and location to firstname.lastname@example.org
Drone demonstration and Bush Heritage tour
After lunch we headed out to Bush Heritage’s Scottsdale Reserve for a drone demonstration and a tour of the nursery and property. It was really interesting and inspiring to see their different techniques for restoring their grassy woodland and native grasslands!
The star of the Canyonleigh ‘Who’s living on my land? survey was a Koala strolling by the camera in a rocky woodland!
Koalas have a long history in the Southern Highlands. The name Koala is derived from the local Aboriginal word for them – ‘Colo’ – and the first European sighting of a Koala was from the Bargo region in 1798. Since then, their population has been affected by land clearing for urban and agricultural development, bushfires and chlamydia.
The Southern Highlands Koala Conservation Project has been researching local Koalas since 2013 in partnership with the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage, Wingecarribee Shire Council, The University of Sydney and The Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife. The project monitors the Southern Highlands Koala population, how they move through the landscape and where their high quality habitat is. Their research will help authorities inform land management decisions to ensure Koalas populations are protected. To stay up to date, or to report a Koala sighting – like their Facebook page!
Nine properties participated in the Canyonleigh ‘Who’s living on my land?’ wildlife survey. We identified 24 species from 10,739 photographs, including 8 native mammal species, 10 native bird species and 6 introduced species. You can read all the nitty gritty detail in our Canyonleigh ‘Who’s living on my land?’ report.
‘Who’s living on my land?’ teamed up with Hunter Local Land Services to deliver a workshop in Quorrobolong as part of the ‘Lower Hunter Biodiversity on Small Properties Program’. Landholders from twenty properties and Lake Macquarie Council participated in the workshop and generated 4,264 photographs of 19 species.
Twenty two people came along to the Berry “Who’s living on my land?” workshop at the Berry Showgrounds on the 5/March. This is the second time that “Who’s living on my land?” has run a wildlife survey in the Berry area (first one was in 2013) and half of the landholders participated in both workshops. Highlights from the survey include Boxing Eastern Grey Kangaroos and a Grey Goshawk!
Photo highlights from Berry
Boxing Eastern Grey Kangaroos
Brown Cuckoo Dove
Mountain Brushtail Possum
Eastern Yellow Robin
European Red Fox
Red-necked Wallaby and joey
You can read a detailed results on the Berry ‘Who’s living on my land?’ workshop in our Berry 2016 report