‘Checking Biodiversity Matters’

We’d like to thank Mark for sending in this inspiring account of trials and tribulations of land management over nearly two decades in Beveridge..

“After building our house approximately 17 years ago we finally moved to our piece of paradise in East Beveridge hills on 21 Acres of mainly cleared land with north & east facing slopes 400m up in the winds….

We set about organizing the areas around the house &  fencing off areas in the paddock, got some cattle to hopefully keep the pastures in check & help pay the rates. It seemed like it should work even though we both had “real” day jobs…..

10 years later of drought, depleting pastures (to almost looking like desert in summer), trees falling over, growing kangaroo populations, the day jobs taking all our time (including travel ling away)  we realized if we wanted to live by the motto of “leave the land better than when you found it” we had to do something a lot better. We got rid of the cattle to start with.

Approximately 6 years ago we set about communicating with the council & learning their thoughts on what best to do to get the land repaired & back on track & perhaps even establish some agribusiness eventually. One step at a time & first things first.

We attended various landcare & council workshops/field days & applied for the EWG (Environmental Works Grant) to help revegetate remnant areas to provide flora & fauna pathways & shelterbelts also to connect gullies from neighbouring properties & repair the entire property.

We know it’s been proven building biodiversity helps the whole property to recover & build health again. We have planted around 2000 plants, fenced areas off revegetation to discourage kangaroos camping & encourage other flora fauna etc, repaired erosion & pastures.

Eastern Grey Kangaroo

After the daily mob of 100 kangaroos or so got used to things & stopped killing every plant we put in we saw some progress & noticed an increase in small lizards & birdlife numbers. Then we saw more echidnas & unfortunately wombats. We hadn’t seen jacky lizards for years especially after back Saturday & suddenly one day there was 3 of them sitting on the old fallen tree amongst our reveg area.

All of this got us interested on how we can measure the new growth in total biodiversity. We needed to benchmark from this point & monitor how things are going to see we are on the right track. After many a discussion with the council sustainability guys, other landholders & spotting the odd phascogale & sugar gliders we agreed for council to install their cameras for a couple of weeks to see what we could find. Much to everyone’s delight phascogales were photographed proving the new environment is supporting rare species & helping grow the balance needed for all to succeed.

Sugar Glider

We have monitored reveg areas growth with drone camera & are now monitoring areas with our own wildlife camera & it’s opened our eyes to exactly how much more wildlife other than wombats & kangaroos are around. We knew they were there but how many?

We have seen significant growth in both vegetation & wildlife mainly in the past 2-3 years after areas finally got established & have also seen pastures next to these areas improve as well with no application of lime or chemicals yet. We have discovered more critters are out there than we imagined & will now continue to monitor all areas of interest including installing nesting boxes (also available through EWG) for the phascogales & gliders, bats etc.

Thanks to the councils team who have been inspiring & encouraging all the way during this time.

The pests are still about…”

European Fox

All photos courtesy of M. Traynor

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