There are a lot of tools out there to help you monitor the native and pest species on your property. The first step for any fauna monitoring activity is working out why you want to monitor. There are many reasons that you may have – from simply keeping a list of what wildlife you see in your land to seeing if a land management initiative (e.g. planting, pest control or fencing out stock) makes a difference to local wildlife.
Once you have worked out why you want to monitor wildlife, then you need to work out how to do it. ‘Survey Techniques for Citizen Scientists’, recently published by The National Parks Association of NSW, may be a helpful guide to work out how you are going to survey the species that you want to target. This book has clear instructions on how to survey a variety of native plants and animals (mammals, birds, bats, reptiles, frogs and insects).
Help with identifying species
Many people have trouble identifying species, especially if they are not familiar with them. There are many ways to get help with species identification:
- Field guide books are the best instrument for identifying species – they have clear diagrams, descriptions and distribution maps to help you out. A few good field guides that we have used are:
- “Field guide to the birds of Australia” by Ken Simpson and Nicholas Day
- “A field guide to the mammals of Australia” by Peter Menkhorst and Frank Knight
- “Tracks, scats and other traces: A field guide to Australian mammals” by Barbara Triggs
- Online field guides:
- Birds in the backyard have a bird finder tool which you can use to work out what bird species you have. You answer easy questions about the size, body shape and colour and the tool spits out options
- CSIRO’s ‘What bug is that?’ tool helps you identify insects to family level (not species – this is hard, even for experts) with the aid of a matrix key
- The Australian Museum has a smart phone app called ‘Field guide to NSW fauna‘ which has many common species profiles – but is missing less common ones.
- Many local councils and naturalists have local field guides which you can use
- Try and find local expert to help you – a good place to start may be your local Landcare group, local council or LLS office.
- You can generate a field guide from the Atlas of Living Australia from your area using the Atlas of Living Australia’s ‘explore your area’ function . Type in your property address, then click the download button. This will work well for areas that already have many species records in them, but not so well for more remote properties.
- The Australian Museum’s Search and Discover centre can help with identification of animals – you can email them photographs (email@example.com) or, if appropriate, post a specimen to them.
- There are so many nerds out there that love a challenge – so jump on social media! Try and find a Facebook group focuses on the group you need help with (e.g. NSW Native Plant identification) or post a photo up on twitter. Just remember to take these answers with a grain of salt.
The other aspect of monitoring on your property is keeping records. The key things to include whilst making a species record is an accurate species identification, accurate location (GPS location), date and evidence (e.g. photo, drawing, description, sample). You can make this as high or low tech as you like – either on paper, personal computer or uploaded online. If you are interested in uploading and contributing your biodiversity data to the wider community, then using the Atlas of Living Australia is your best bet. The Atlas of Living Australia is a collaborative project that aggregates biodiversity data from all over the country – from museums, government, universities and citizen scientists. The Atlas of Living Australia has a phone app, but in general the website works better.
The Atlas of Living Australia has some great functions. If you sign up for an account, then you can add your own species data. This data will be accessible to anyone using the Atlas of Living Australia’s database and is also a good way for you to keep an online list of what you have found. You can use the Atlas of Living Australia’s database to search through our people’s data and observations of species you are interested in. It also has great mapping tools where you can analyse species distribution and landscape/ecosystem attributes.
Other handy tools for landholders
Land for Wildlife is a voluntary land conservation scheme for private landholders. Land for Wildlife supports landholders with advice on wildlife and sustainable land management on the property. New participants will get a site assessment of the vegetation and habitat on the property as well as a sign to put on their front fence.
FeralScan is a landholder, community, industry, business and government collaboration to map pest species, damage and control over Australia. FeralScan has a phone app (Android and iPhone) which you can use to lodge sightings, damage or control sites out in the field with accurate GPS locations. If you are part of a group of landholders participating in pest control, you can set up a community portal to see what others in your group are doing. There is also a lot of resources on methods to control pests at FeralScan’s parent website, PestSmart.
Six Maps with Vegetation Map Viewer is resource for landholders to analyse/identify vegetation communities, latest satellite images and topography of their land. Additionally, you can search for lot and DP numbers, measure distance and area and print maps.