Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Blue Tongue Skink/Lizard


Blue Tongue Lizard in Bird Nest Fern
Spring brings out our reptiles. Over the years, Mullum Yard has hosted a couple of different Blue Tongue Lizards, as they are locally known, though they are a species of skink. Large-sized compared to the 8+/- cm garden skinks. 

This one is about 20 cm including her tail, a rough guess I must admit. I didn't want to spook her by coming too close. Maybe she'll get used to seeing me around. She has made her home in the now very large bird nest fern, almost 30 years old, featured in a previous post, http://mullumyard.blogspot.com.au/2011/02/birds-nest-fern-in-trouble.html 

Compared to other Blue Tongue Skinks I've had in the yard, this one has a very pale pattern. I wonder if it is a lizard version of albino?

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Monitoring the Nest-boxes

Nick and Mark have gone out and down their first time monitoring most of the thirty or so nest-
boxes they installed a couple of months ago. What surprised us all is the amazing strike rate, or occupancy, after being told by numerous experts that boxes often hang in the trees unoccupied for years. Six of the boxes were used by gliders as far as we can tell.

Antechinus Box
This first box though it is shaped to allow antechinus (a nocturnal carnivorous rat-shaped marsupial) to nest, and opens at the back so that the little animals can climb in from the tree trunk. Gliders prefer the same mode of entry and it was probably 'furnished' by a family of gliders (gliding possums) which use a number of hollows called dreys every night a different one through their range. 

The whole family helps bring in fresh leaves and then cuddle up together for the day. However in the above box, the leaves have been collected but don't look as if they've been used. Maybe they didn't smell right, they don't look like the kind they seem to like.

Glider Box
This one is a glider specific box, also opening at the back between the box and the tree trunk, to make it more difficult for predators to find. Snakes, goannas, crows are all dangerous nest stealers. This one has been 'furnished' with the eucalyptus leaves, and these look as though they have been used.

Small Parrot Box

This small parrot box has a family of gliders in residence. Little grey bodies, long brown tails, good to steer with while they glide from tree to tree. They sleep in the daytime, are active at night. 

Most small parrots ... we're talking lorikeets, cockatiels and the like ... prefer a deep box with a 'ladder' for the young to scrabble up to the entry hole on the front for access by flight.


Sunday, June 28, 2015

Why Does A Nestbox Lid Have a Metal Edge?

Three nestboxes for owls from Hollow Log Homes

Why do the lids have a metal edge?

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Enriching Habitat

As well as ten nest-boxes for owls, we have put up fourteen boxes for other hollow nesting birds and animals. About 20% of Australian wildlife are Obligate Hollow Users, meaning they don't nest or breed if they don't have hollows.

Owlet Nightjar in Existing Nestbox
Locally, among the birds, we have 6 owl species using nest hollows - boobook owls, barn owls, masked owls, sooty owls, barking owls and powerful owls. Of the parrots we have rosellas, rainbow lorikeets, scaly-breasted lorikeets,  Australian king parrots, yellow-tailed black cockatoos. We do also have white cockatoos and pink-and-grey galahs, both of which may be relative newcomers, but have made themselves at home in the Byron Shire. Then, still among the birds, there are kookaburras, kingfishers, wood ducks, owlet nightjars and pardalotes.

Family of gliders in Existing Nest-box
Mammal species using hollows are mostly nocturnal and include possums and gliders, carnivorous marsupials, micro-bats and rats.

This type of ants normally glue two large leaves together to make their nest.
Insects using hollows include Australian stingless bees as well as feral European honey bees, and ants.

These more common ants may be evicted if I have my way. 
Some of the places where we installed nest-boxes already had some, and these were added to the monitoring program. We decided to start the monitoring program with a baseline interior shot. Four of the boxes added to the program were occupied, see the photos for their occupants.

Friday, April 24, 2015

More Owl Hollows Going Up

A number of the installed nest-boxes for owls have been named this week.
The Hill-Hewitt Owl Hollow: Sophy Millard with a helping hand

The Hill-Hewitt Owl Hollow is mounted in a Flooded Gum (Eucalyptus tereticornis) in an area of old remnant trees in un-grazed grassland at Tyagarah near the coast, twenty metres from a flowing stream. There a number of National Parks and Reserves nearby.

The Brown-Mouse Owl Hollow: Being checked for its nesting materials, 15 metres up in the tree. 

The Brown-Mouse Owl Hollow has been installed in a Spotted Gum (Corymbia maculata) at a height of 15 metres. In an area of wet sclerophyll regrowth in the ranges backing Byron Shire, the property is near Jerusalem National Park.


Ryan's Owl Hollow: The box up in the Flooded Gum
Ryan’s Owl Hollow has been installed in a Tallow wood (Eucalyptus microcorys) at a height of 9 metres. With patches of wet sclerophyll regrowth among cleared lawns and gardens, this property abuts Jerusalem National Park in the ranges encircling Byron Shire. 






Friday, April 17, 2015

Owl Nest-Box Number Four!

We've been having some exciting action on the Nest-boxes for Owls Project this week. 

Sophy Millard, Owl Nestbox Project Officer with Nick Sanderson climbing, preparing to install Nest-box Number 4 in a tallow-wood at Wilson's Creek.
Sophy Millard & Nick Sanderson, photo by R Hartlieb

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Our First Owl Nestbox is Up!

Nestbox at Thompson's Hollow

We celebrated the installation of our first nest-box for owls with a re-planning session.

This one is four metres high, a lot lower than we originally thought necessary. Liaising with Southern Cross University's Natural Resources also working on a nest-box monitoring program, we discovered the possibility of the lower heights.

If the experts tell us owls are not so fussy, maybe just happy to get a hollow, we'll give that a go. The positives are too good to ignore.

a) The lower cost leading to greater numbers of nest-boxes b) The real possibility for landholders and nest-box guardians to get involved in the monitoring program.
c) Needing only a four metre ladder to get up to them, monitoring is a lot cheaper as well.

Point a) had us realising we'd be able to advance the program to a stage 2 situation right away.

Originally we thought we'd do use the POZIBLE crowdfunding support primarily for the first stage, getting from 6-10 nest-boxes for owls installed and monitoring them.

Stage Two ... who knew. It was still in the future.

But now, due to the funds suddenly being available, we're running the two stages alongside one another. We've ordered a bunch of varied nest-boxes, suitable for other hollow-nesting species to enrich our owl habitat.

We're inspecting our properties with the intention of 'playing monopoly' at some of them, by putting in the varied species nest-boxes. These places, as you can imagine will need some special characteristics. Not just a couple of tall trees, but a few hectares of forest. Not just a farm dam, but a proper wetland-woodland situation.

'Varied species' might include a box suitable for feathertail gliders (a type of possum), boxes suitable for small birds, kingfishers, and micro-bats.


As yet empty and unused nestbox at Thompson's Hollow

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

A Bank for Water Ferns.

A large plant pot with the hole at the bottom cemented shut, standing under the perpetual if random drip of the solar hotwater system overflow, has turned out to be the best place to propagate two mainstays of native Australian pond life. I call it my bank for Azolla and Nardoo.

Pot with Azolla and Nardoo Water Ferns

I don't have the pond situation straightened out yet, going to need a strong man to help me with that, and all my fish have died due to the heat we've been having. Even so, one of the sort of critters that caused my pond to die in the first place obviously is still doing well.

Snails ate every single green thing in the previous incarnation of a pond, barring two roots of the nardoo, and maybe three azolla leaves. I thought I'd lost both. Not many people know their wonderful qualities so normally people try to get rid of them.

Water-snail Grazing Atop Azolla Fern
Yes, I was as amazed as you are seeing what I thought was a water snail grazing on top of the azolla. Luckily this is happening in the sick, sickly-angled bath-tub pond. I can still do something about it as probably I will have to empty it to straighten it up.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

Autumn is Coming

Some of the critters living in my backyard seem to be saying that autumn is on the way. Ants are hard to keep out of the house. Some times I surprise a six lane highway of ants gathering crumbs in the kitchen. There are always a few scouts.

Ants looking for a way inside

A blue tongued skink has moved in. It lay so still I suspected a cat or dog had got to it but when I turned my back it rustled through the bushes and back into the drain pipe beside the garage.

Spiders are making their move indoors, a cushy life if you can evade the broom. I haven't seen any daddy-long-legs for a couple of summers.




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Monday, February 2, 2015

A Bunyah Pine Overview

It is the season that Bunyah Pines drop their humongous seed cones. A local row of Bunyahs has a sign nearby to warn you from getting too close to the trees, or parking your car underneath. The cones as big as a basket ball will weigh 4 or so kilos and they fall from 20 or so metres.

Row of Bunyah Pines with warning, tennis club house in distance.
No one has parked nearby as you can see. Nor am I getting too close when the evidence is lying around. 

Base of largest of the Bunyah Pines with broken cones

The dirt path beyond the tree goes to the boat ramp into the river. The grassy lawns denote a picnic area. 
The middle third of the Bunyah Pine. It divides into two trunks
Most of the Bunyah Pines in the Byron Shire have been planted, usually as Park trees,. They are native to the Bunyah Mountains in Queensland. With climate change and warming, they may migrate southward and naturalise. 

Top third of this tree.  

The top of a Bunyah Pine tends to be rounded as befits a tropical tree. Rather than the sharp triangular shape of northern hemisphere pines. A lot of new growth in the middle previously rather naked third of this tree may be indicative of dry years now over.



Thursday, January 15, 2015

Blue Quandong, continued

This Blue Quandong is approximately forty years old. It lives in Heritage Park, Mullumbimby. This tree is beginning to resemble the iconic buttressed rainforest tree of lowland and riverine forests.

The buttressed roots help it not to sink into the sometimes soggy ground and to keep its vast weight vertical to elevate its canopy of leaves to where they can access enough sunlight to make their food.

Buttress roots of Blue Quandong Tree
The buttress root system (also called plank roots) supports a veritable garden of plants, animals and fungi.

Microporus xanthopus fungi of several different ages on Blue
Quandong branches.
These tropical fungi are known to grow mainly on Blue Quandong tree litter where they help to break the woody remains into nutrients that may be used by other organisms. The brown ringed, rimmed with a faint white is the freshest, youngest of the quartet, a baby from December 2014. The almost white one at the top of the pic is probably from Autumn 2014.

Birds Nest Fern sheltering behind a root. 
Ferns of several different species, mosses of many species, lichens, fungi and hundreds of insects all live on the surface of the roots and in the hollows formed between the roots, consuming, composting and culturing in-blown forest litter, falling leaves and branches.

Blue Quandong seeds in the mossy fold of a root.

If these Blue Quandong seeds look familiar, it is because their sculptural beauty is much appreciated by natural jewellery artists. I often see 'our' Blue Quandong seeds in necklaces from places not graced by the tree itself.