Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Owls and People: Barn Owls

Barn Owl by R Hollands

Only twice so far, in the years that I have lived in my house near the river, have I seen the actual owls that visit my backyard. The glimpses I got weren’t enough to tell me which species graced my backyard but I suspect they were both Barn Owls.

The Sooty and the Barking Owls are both greyish. Both my visitors were creamy white in the glare of my torch. With not very clearly defined masked faces when the Masked Owls do have clearly defined masks.

Barn Owls are a cosmopolitan species, they occur all over the world. As they name implies they are as happy making themselves at home in a human habitation, in a roof space or unused barn, as they are in a nest hollow. I expect that these birds will acclimatise themselves to nest-boxes very easily. 

I suspect they visit often. That one time I saw the smaller visitor take off from its perch on the rain gauge, the top of the gauge came off as the owl’s feet released their hold.

Now, whenever in the morning the gauge’s funnel top is lying on the grass, I know I have had a visitor. Barn Owls fly in the depths of the night. Their facial structuring collects sound and funnels it to their ears. Barn Owls and Masked Owls can hunt by star light. 

The larger visitor perches on the stem of the dead tree fern. It’s higher than the rain gauge and oversees a larger field of prospective food animals, mice and rats, scampering across the yard. 

If you have any dead trees or stumps in your yard, leave them up as long as they stay safe. They're great for birds to perch, to oversee their landscape. Go the POZIBLE Nest-boxes for Owls Project!

Barn Owl Flying, D Pearce

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Owls and People: The Barking Owl & Its Habitat.

Barking Owl by D Pearce of Byron Bird Buddies
Photo taken in the Byron ST Wetland (?)
The barking owl as a variety of hawk owl, is an agile and aggressive hunter of the dawn and dusk, taking a wide variety of birds as well as rabbits, possums, bats and rodents. Due to the variety of its prey one would think it an adaptable bird with a high likelihood of surviving human development.

Their favourite habitat on the east coast of Australia is open eucalyptus woodlands and the edges of forests, often adjacent to farmland. Roost sites, where owls sleep during the day, maybe located near waterways and wetlands. According to Hollands (2008) "Barking Owls have a strong liking for swampy country and small patches of woodland. It avoids dense close forest but likes old trees and large hollows for nesting."

Although Barking Owls are widely distributed through Australia with populations all along the wet east coast and through to the Kimberleys in the north west, loss of feeding, roosting and nesting opportunities in southeastern Australia has meant a marked decline. 

If in the whole of Victoria it is estimated that only 50 pairs still survive, according to the WIRES website, I can't imagine many pairs to be living in the remains of the riverine forests of the Northern NSW/Southeast Queensland BioRegion, where human development covers much of the same territory as the habitat that barking owls need. 

And yet, Barking Owls are reported to be tolerant of and seeming sometimes to be indifferent to the movement of people nearby. Holland reports a pair roosting near a busy post office in country Victoria, and nesting in the main street of a Queensland town. 

For owls, habitat loss it isn't just the loss of hollow-bearing trees and places to roost in the daytime. They need to hunt to sustain themselves. And to hunt they need the birds and small mammals that make up their food web. For habitat to be rich enough to sustain a diverse complement of animals it needs in its turn to be rich in a variety of plants and fungi. 

Firewood harvesting is another human activity with big impacts on biodiversity. A hole or slit no bigger than three fingers can hide a micro-bat. Dead paddock trees may have twenty little holes in them, where gliders for example might spend the day. 

Possums and parrots also nest in hollows. A log on the ground can hide insects, native rats, mice. A log on the ground usually will be consumed by fungi. Fungi fruiting bodies make good food for a variety of little animals that in their turn may feed a clutch of owl young. 

I quote from Wikipedia:  habitat is an ecological or environmental area that is inhabited by a particular species of animalplant, or other type of organism.[1][2] It is the natural environment in which an organism lives, or the physical environment that surrounds a species population.[3]

Owls, Frogmouths & Nightjars of Australia by David Hollands (2008) Blooming Books, Melb.

Check out Brunswick Valley Landcare on Facebook for more news about the POZIBLE project Nestboxes for Owls ....  https://www.facebook.com/groups/1506048359640096/ 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Pozible/LandcareNSW Environment Collection Launch Date

I might have let the owl out of its nesting box a bit early, see previous post, as the official launch date for the funding campaign is the 18th of September. Which is also the National Landcare Conference.

I've just now realised why 25 projects in the collection?

We're celebrating twenty-five years of Landcare of course. Duh.

As well as songbirds, and crows and ravens beginning in Australia (in the days when it was Gondwana), Landcare is an Australian invention. Real grass roots stuff.

The above is my favourite acronym at the moment. Below is the logo my group is using.