Sustainable Land Management Rebate Scheme

Applications Now Open!

Applications are now open for the City of Whittlesea’s Sustainable Land Management Rebate Scheme (SLMRS) for the 2019-2021 rating periods.

Properties in the City of Whittlesea in Green Wedge, Green Wedge A and Rural Conservation zones that are at least 8 hectares in size may apply to participate in the scheme.

To be eligible for the rebate landholders must be willing to:
▪ Commit to undertaking land management works / actions associated with a minimum of 2 sustainable land management actions, one of which must be noxious and environmental weed control.
▪ Agree to address high priority / significant land degradation issues (it is acknowledged that these works may span many years, so may not be completed within the 2 year period.)
▪ Address nominated works / actions as agreed upon with the Land Management Officer or Council representative.

Properties between 8 hectares and 50 hectares receive a rebate of 20% off the general or farm rate and properties over 50 hectares receive a rebate of 30%.

More information on the scheme can be found in the SLMRS Guidelines

Apply Now.

2019-21 SLMRS Application Form

If you want to discuss the scheme or ideas for projects please call Council’s Land Management & Biodiversity Team on ph: 9217 2323.

 

Australian owlet-nightjar

Text and photos by Suzi Duncan (unless otherwise specified)

 

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The Australian owlet-nightjar (Aegotheles cristatus) is a nocturnal bird.  It is colloquially known as the moth owl.

Not an owl not a nightjar but an owlet-nightjar.

It is found in open woodland across Australia and in southern New Guinea. It is the most common of the owlet-nightjars, and the best known of this secretive family. It is the smallest and possibly most common and widespread nocturnal bird in Australia, and despite suffering from predation and competition by introduced species it is not considered threatened. Grey upperparts and a white, barred front and a distinct dark and pale patterning on the head. In the north of Australia females can also have a rufous morph. The plumage is overall paler in desert populations. It is adapted to live in open woodland, with more pointed wings and larger feet, unlike most of the rest of the family that live in dense forest (though some can and do live in such habitat in Queensland and New Guinea) .

It is not a raptor.

The Owlet-nightjar is in many ways similar to a Frogmouth.

It feeds at night by diving from perches and snatching insects from the air, ground or off trunks and branches, its flight is very acrobatic similar to that of a flycatcher. It may also feed on the wing. It feeds on most insects, particularly beetlesgrasshoppers and ants. It grabs prey with its small flat broad beak. It does nor have the strong powerful legs and talons that a bird of prey has.

During the day they roost in hollows in trees, partly for protection from predators and partly to avoid being mobbed by other birds that mistake them for owls.

The Owlet-nightjar is easily harassed out of it’s hole by a number of bigger birds and even brushtail possums. This small bird has a tiny broad bill, cat like whiskers, pink feet and a longish tail. Its large brown eyes do not reflect light strongly unlike other Nightjars.

Although being common the Owlet-nightjar is not often seen because of spending its days roosting in a hollow. It can sometimes be seen peering curiously from the hollow or sitting in the entrance sunning itself, especially on cold, sunny winter mornings. Due to the markings on its head it is frequently mistaken for a Sugar glider.

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Note the similar facial pattern and colour between the Sugar Glider and the local Owlet Nightjar

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Sugar Glider. Source: unknown

 

On observation, every night for half an hour before leaving the hollow the Owlet-nightjar does exercises, stretching and flexing getting ready for flight. This was a nightly routine. Its departure is very quick. You do not actually register it with your own eyes. Departure and return to the hollow were never picked up by a trail camera nor was it caught by my own camera. The best I could get was a grey streak.

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Getting Ready to fly.

 

Mistletoe – Good or Bad?

 

Blog Post by Suzi Duncan

Many people think that Mistletoes are a pest killing the host tree and that they therefore should be removed.

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Male Scarlet Honeyeater. (Notice the size of the little bird compared to the size of the flowers.)
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Yellow-faced Honeyeater about to land on a flower

 

However, in a healthy bush environment Mistletoes are not a problem, due to the number of host trees available. On cleared land where there are few trees Mistletoe may cause a problem to the health of the plant due to heavy infestation on individual trees, or when trees are in a weakened state due to drought or disease.

Mistletoes are not a true parasite but rather a semi or hemi parasite. They do have chlorophyll in their leaves and can therefore manufacture their own food. The only reason they need a host is to provide water and support; they use the host as a root system.

The fruit of Mistletoes are generally brightly coloured and the flesh sweet. Birds enjoy the fruit but have to wipe the sticky coated seed off either their beaks or bottoms onto a branch where it rapidly germinates.

Some of the favourite host trees include Eucalypts, Banksias, Acacias, Allocasuarina and Melaleucas.

Despite what many people think about Mistletoes, they are actually very important for our wildlife biodiversity. Their flowers, fruit, nectar and leaves are all highly nutritious and a wide range of wildlife depend on the Mistletoe; koalas, sugar gliders, possums, birds and insects. The dense foliage also provides excellent roosting and nesting opportunities for birds, Ringtail possums and Sugar gliders.

Honeyeaters love the nectar of the Mistletoe.

The Mistletoe bird

The Mistletoebird is native to Australia and our only flowerpecker. Although not solely dependent on Mistletoe, the Mistletoe bird’s diet is heavily concentrated on its fruits. It has evolved so that it does not have the grinding gizzard of many other birds and so the seed can pass through without being destroyed.

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Male Mistletoe bird with the flesh of the fruit. The first fruit the Mistletoe bird ate it squeezed the fruit until the skin split so the flesh could be removed. The second fruit the little bird actually peeled bits of skin off, spitting them out, until the flesh was exposed.

 

I am certain that many people will not be convinced, however, partly due to the number of Mistletoe plants I have on the property, I have a wide diversity of wildlife and three new honeyeaters just this year. That makes 11 honeyeaters in total plus the Mistletoe bird. I also have trees that are many 100’s of years old that are heavily infested with Mistletoe and yet are exceptionally healthy.

Eden Park Bushfire Mitigation Plan

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A draft version of the Eden Park Bushfire Mitigation Plan is now available for comment (click on the plan above). Even if you can’t attend the consultation session next Monday, it would be great to have your feedback on the document if it is something you are interested in or have experience with.

Please send any feedback or questions to james.booth@whittlesea.vic.gov.au or ph: (03) 9217 2323

The Skinks in Your Garden

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Photo: Suzi Duncan

Article by Suzi Duncan from Eden Park

I have large numbers of skinks of all sizes on my rural property. In particular, there are two specific areas, one quite small, that are designated areas for frogs and reptiles.

This gives me many opportunities to observe the behaviour of the resident skinks. Their behaviour can range from comical and curious to timid and even very aggressive. The aggression can be within a species or between species.

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Photo: Suzi Duncan

Many of them are so curious that if you sit down they will actually come out just to check you out. A Grass Skink (Lampropholis guichenoti) walked up on my hand while I was sitting on the ground. Or if you put your finger near to where they are peeping out from a gap in old sleepers, they will come and touch your finger. They become very used to having a camera put right up close to them. They also love nothing better than to literally “kick back” and sunbake. If it is a cold but sunny day then it is a just a matter of finding a notch in an old piece of wood, especially an old sleeper, and kicking back in that protected spot  to absorb the warmth. You will also see two lying beside each other, one of them with an arm (sorry leg) on the other.

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Photo: Suzi Duncan

In the late afternoon they spend their time in a notch or crack in wood with just their head showing.

They never cease to amaze with how fast they can move and how high or far they can jump, especially when it means catching a small moth to eat.

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Photo: Suzi Duncan

On the other hand these beautiful gentle critters can fight so aggressively that you would be certain that neither one could survive. When it comes to aggression, size does not come into it. If a smaller skink wants to attack a larger one then it will approach from the rear run up the back of the larger skink and attack from that position.

Last week I observed a skink carrying another skink of similar size in it’s mouth. Going on the limpness and the eyes of the skink being carried, I am guessing it was dead.

On the weekend I observed yet a new behaviour. One skink was paddling/waving its back legs in the air above its body, while being watched by another similar sized skink. This behaviour went on for a good five minutes. I have not been able to determine what this behaviour meant.

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Photo: Suzi Duncan

Victorian biodiversity plan released

VicBiodiversityPlan

The Victorian Government has recently released its 20-year biodiversity plan `Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037’. This plan aims to stop the decline of our native plants and animals, and improve our natural environment so it is healthy, valued and actively cared for.

The plan establishes a long-term vision and goals, including that by 2037:

  • All Victorians are connecting with nature;
  • Five million Victorians are acting to protect the natural environment;
  • All Victorian Government organisations that manage environmental assets contribute to environmental-economic accounting;
  • No vulnerable or near-threatened species will have become endangered;
  • All critically endangered and endangered species will have at least one option available for being conserved ex situ or re-established in the wild (where feasible under climate change) should they need it; and
  • We have achieved a net gain of the overall extent and condition of habitats across terrestrial, waterway and marine environments.

An implementation plan to accompany Protecting Victoria’s Environment – Biodiversity 2037 is in development and due for release later this year.

Link to the plan: https://www.environment.vic.gov.au/biodiversity/biodiversity-plan

Life In a Box

RonLit

Sunday 26th March 2017 starting at 4pm

Strath Creek Hall, Pioneer Reserve, Strath Creek

Strath Creek Landcare’s Ron Litjens is well known in the Flowerdale/Strath Creek/Yea area for his entertaining, quirky, but informative presentations on a range of nature topics, including Powerful Owls, Rakali and, his pet subject, insects. Alias ronlit, he is a regular contributor to the Focus on Fauna blog which has a large following.

So, with limited detail divulged, but an assurance that you won’t be disappointed, come along and prepare to be surprised, delighted and educated by a passionate speaker.

Light refreshments provided afterwards.

$2 donation appreciated.

If you plan to come please contact Laurie on 5780 1225 or email: focusonfauna@gmail.com

Wedge-Tailed Eagle

Audrey from Eden Park has shared these pictures of Wedge-Tailed Eagles she observed recently. Audrey says she has observed adult and juvenile birds in the same location on previous years eating rabbits. Great observation.

The Wedge-Tailed Eagle is Australia’s largest and most common bird of prey with a wingspan up to 2.3m. Rabbits usually comprise 30%-70% of their diet but they will also prey on other birds, reptiles and dead animals.

For more information have a look at the birds in backyards website http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/species/Aquila-audax

Please get in touch if you have a photo, story or information to share on this blog.