Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Fun with Phascogales – Jess Lawton’s Talk

Posted on 9 November, 2017 by Asha

 At their recent AGM, Newstead Landcare invited Jess Lawton along to talk about her research on Brush-tailed phascogales (Phascogale tapoatafa). She shared some facts above about this special species, along with some interesting results from her PhD research with Andrew Bennett from La Trobe University. Jess used camera traps and habitat surveys to gather information on the habitat requirements for phascogales across central Victoria. Fifty of these sites were in the Mount Alexander region at some of Connecting Country’s nest box sites.

Brush-tailed Phascogale cartoon by Jess Lawton

Jess set up two cameras at each site, pointing towards the ground where she set up a small bait station. She collected these again after 40 days, and found she had a total of 69,611 photos to go through! These included 488 phascogale records in the Mount Alexander region. One brown treecreeper also had some fun with a camera and took 952 selfies (CLICK HERE for GIF)!

Taking into account site factors such as the amount of native forest in an area, elevation, productivity, predators, tree species, number of large trees, structural complexity, logs, and leaf litter, Jess found that phascogales were present at 82% of sites. Interestingly, she found that the amount of native forest in an area was not a big influence over whether phascogales were present at a site or not. However, this could have been due to the time of year data was collected, when males may have been using sub-optimal habitat during breeding season.

The two biggest habitat factors that Jess found influenced phascogale detection were tree species (box versus gum) and leaf litter. Sites with more box species and/or more leaf litter had more phascogale records. This is probably because these provide habitat for invertebrates, which are a critical food source for phascogales.

Jess finished with some tips for landholders who wish to help with phascogale conservation:

  • Protect existing hollows and put up nest boxes.
  • Keep it messy – leaf litter, logs, and tree stumps and all important for phascogales.
  • Help reduce predator pressure by keeping pets inside at night and walking them on a lead.
  • Care for your local bush by getting involved with your local Landcare or Friends group.

Thank you Jess and Newstead Landcare for an interesting and engaging talk. Here are some pictures Jess provided from her camera traps – well worth a look!

Phascogale Facts!

I am a small nocturnal marsupial.

I am threatened species.

My range in Victoria has contracted.

My home range area is 40-100 hectares (40-50 hectares for females and 100 hectares for males).

I rely on large tree hollows with small entrances for nesting and breeding, and will use several hollows within my range.

Females of my species give birth to eight young each year. Once weaned, the litter will weigh three times the weight of the mother.

I belong to the Dasyurid family and feed mainly on invertebrates, such as insects, spiders and centipedes.

 

 

Tuan Talk by Jess Lawton – Newstead Landcare AGM

Posted on 17 October, 2017 by Asha

This Thursday evening, 19th October 2017, Newstead Landcare Group is hosting a presentation by PhD candidate Jess Lawton. Jess is studying the Tuan or Brush-tailed Phascogale, a threatened and declining species of the Box-Ironbark country. The presentation will start at 8pm at Newstead Community Centre and all are welcome. A gold coin donation would be appreciated.  Afterwards there will be supper and a brief AGM.

Jess says,

“The Brush-tailed Phascogale is a rare, threatened species, and is declining in Victoria. Our understanding of its conservation biology is limited because it is sparsely distributed, ‘trap-shy’, and has been difficult to survey using traditional techniques. We know that this species has a rapid reproductive cycle, whereby all males die of stress and exhaustion after their first breeding season. We also know that this species often has a large home range of up to 100 ha. Therefore, the current thinking is that it requires large areas of intact forest for a population to persist. However, this species still occurs in modified habitats, such as paddock trees, roadsides, and isolated remnant patches. The aim of my study is to see if the occurrence of the Brush-tailed Phascogale in a modified landscape relates to patch size and patch connectedness.

Connecting Country set 150 nest box sites in 2010 to provide habitat for this species through the Mount Alexander Shire. They have since monitored many of these nest box sites every two years, and now have a number of years of data on this species occurrence in the region. I selected 50 of these 150 sites, stratified according to landscape context (ie. the amount of tree cover surrounding each nest box site). Between April and June 2016, while Connecting Country conducted their nest-box checks, I set two cameras at each of these 50 sites.

In this study, I model the occurrence of Brush-tailed Phascogales in the Mount Alexander Shire with landscape attributes, such as the size of a forest patch, and a number of habitat attributes collected in the field, including forest productivity, forest structure, logs and leaf litter, and tree size and species.

One property near Axe Creek was home to a particularly active population of Brush-tailed Phascogales, and you can watch a video of the sort of footage we detected” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VTklMGskLyYc

 

Wetland Ecology and Training Courses: October 2017 – March 2018

Posted on 31 August, 2017 by Connecting Country

Registrations are now open for Rakali’s popular wetland courses commencing October 2017 through to March 2018. The courses are presented by SERA 2016 award winning ecologist Damien Cook and Elaine Bayes. Don’t hold off as the NEW courses may be a once off depending on level of attendance and it’s the last time the Wetland Plant ID will be held in the North Central region of Victoria. Click on the following headings to find out more:

NEW: THE WONDERFUL WETLAND ECOLOGY BUS TOUR, 12 & 13 OCT 2017

Join us on a bus tour through some of northern Victoria’s most ecologically diverse wetlands that will be looking their best because of recent rainfall and flooding. Learn how ecological drivers determine wetland ecology.  Dixie Patton, Barapa Traditional Owner will share knowledge on aboriginal uses of these amazing wetlands.  Other land managers will meet us along the way.

NEW: WETLAND RESTORATION AND MANAGEMENT, 16 & 17 NOV 2017

Learn about wetland restoration and management over 2 days with Damien Cook by visiting ‘Waterways’; a SERA 2016 award-winning wetland restoration project which he was involved in planning and implementing, followed by the 200 hectares of coastal park at the Victorian Desalination Plant, Wonthaggi.  Learn more about these projects here.

WETLAND PLANT IDENTIFICATION DAYS, STARTS OCT 2017 – MAR 2018

Learn to identify the most common wetland plants. In order to manage or restore a wetland you first have to thoroughly understand it.  Wetland plant species, condition and placement within a wetland can inform you as to what is going on. You can choose 1, 2 or all 3 days – Each day is timed to follow the wetting and drying of the stunning Reedy Lagoon at Gunbower Island or nearby wetlands so each plant guild can be seen in their splendor.

  • Day One:  Sedges, Grasses and Rushes
  • Day 2:      Aquatic Plants
  • Day 3:      Mudflat specialists.

Click here for more information and to REGISTER. Alternatively contact Elaine Bayes at  Rakali Consulting 0431 959 085 or email elaine@rakali.com.au. Each course can be done as an individual unit or as a complete package (ask Elaine about discounts).

Click here to read some articles on the importance of understanding wetland ecology and using plant knowledge for effective wetland management.