Restoring landscapes across the Mount Alexander Region

Who’s in that nest box? WIRES fund our 2022 nest box monitoring

Posted on 2 February, 2022 by Jess

Connecting Country is thrilled to announce new funding support from WIRES, allowing us to monitor nest boxes in autumn 2022!

The Brush-tailed Phascogale is a carnivorous, hollow-dependent marsupial distinguished by its bushy tail. Once widespread through central Victoria, it is now a threatened species due to a serious decline in range and population. Our region’s forests are heavily degraded following a long history of disturbance by gold mining, wood cutting and clearing. Large old trees with hollows that provide essential shelter for phascogales are now scarce. However, recent research yielded surprising results, revealing our region is a stronghold for this species and important for its future survival.

In 2010-11 Connecting Country installed 450 phascogale nest boxes across the Mount Alexander region of central Victoria, aiming to provide shelter for phascogales and gain a better understanding of phascogale distribution and habitat preferences. As of 2021, 62% of our nest box sites have showed evidence of phascogale use, indicating nest boxes are a valuable resource in providing protection from predators and a place for phascogales to raise their young. 

Long-term rigorous scientific monitoring is essential to understand the phascogale’s current status and conservation needs. At Connecting Country, engaging community is also central to successful wildlife conservation. Initially we planned to monitor nest boxes annually, but due to funding limitations, we monitored nest boxes every couple of years between 2011-2018. In 2018 and 2021, our nest boxes were monitored by volunteers. We are very grateful for the support and hard work of our dedicated volunteers.

In our experience, citizen science projects (like nest box monitoring) work best when overseen by a funded coordinator to ensure they run smoothly. Connecting Country’s Engagement Coordinator helps keep our volunteers engaged, trained, equipped, safe and supported to collect good-quality data. With modest funding support we are able to collate records and check data carefully, and report back to landholders in a timely manner.

This is why we are thrilled to announce new funding from WIRES for nest box monitoring in 2022. WIRES (NSW Wildlife Information, Rescue and Education Service Inc.) is Australia’s largest wildlife rescue organisation.

In partnership with our volunteers, private landholders and Landcare groups, and thanks to a generous grant from the WIRES national grant program, we are pleased to confirm we can support volunteers to monitor nest box sites again in autumn 2022. The ‘Who’s in that Nest Box?’ project will provide logistical support to a team of skilled and enthusiastic volunteers to monitor phascogales. It provides volunteers with the training, equipment, and logistical support they need to monitor nest boxes safely and accurately. Thanks to this funding, we can coordinate data entry, reporting findings back to the community and share data via public databases, build closer relationships between citizen scientists, researchers, community groups and land managers. We hope this project will also inspire broader community involvement in phascogale preservation. 

We are very grateful to landholders and Landcare groups involved in the program who allow site access, and of course, to our volunteers for contributing their expertise and time to monitoring our nest boxes. We can’t wait to work with you all again soon!

2 responses to “Who’s in that nest box? WIRES fund our 2022 nest box monitoring”

  1. Kirsty Skilbeck says:

    We recently got to see one of these beautiful creatures in our gum tree. Is there a nest design you would recommend for them? We have no natural hollows on our property and I’d love to see them more often.

    • Jess says:

      Hi Kirsty, yes, it’s important that the nest boxes have a small entrance (~35 mm). This keeps predators and some competitors (e.g. ring-tailed possums) out and is just large enough for a phascogale to squeeze into! We purchase our nest boxes from Wildlife Nestboxes, who make a design for phascogales. They are good quality nest boxes and last well.

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