A key part of the recovery team and BIEN’s role in helping the 40-spot survive and thrive is monitoring.
An example of the benefits of monitoring is at Inala, where Tonia and her crew watch closely what is going on in breeding season, and if potential nests become limiting to the colony, they put up new nest boxes. these are usually quickly colonised, thus expanding the colony.
The recovery team is identifying sites that should be monitored, but anywhere that nest-boxes have been erected should be monitored for 40-spot activity.
Typically, sites with the oldest or most white gums will already have nest boxes and are critical for monitoring. Sites must be 200m apart.
Collect observations on the ‘Birdata App’ downloaded on your mobile phone. Search in the AppStore or GooglePlay or follow the link above on your mobile phone.
You will need to register. This is free and the username and password will be sent out personally to you. (contact here to access username and password)
Standard protocol is 5 mins but 10 mins or longer is fine.
Use ‘Incidental Search’ survey method and set the time limit.
Ideally monitor at least 4 times per year but whenever and as often as you like is good. It is particularly rewarding to monitor during nesting and fledging (August – December), as you will see the birds servicing their partner, then the chicks, and eventually, the young fledglings emerging and starting to explore their surrounds.
The data is uploaded to BirdLife Australia and you retain a record on your phone. The recovery team will analyse the data and results will be mounted on BIEN website.
The App is free, annual membership of BirdLife Australia is~ $70 tax deductible.
White or Manna gums seem to be very rich. Insects, birds and fungus love them. The name “manna” comes from the sweet sticky exudate that forms naturally on the branches. It is this that the 40-spot prize, and even farm! Chicks and fledglings are fed this almost exclusively.
Their white, smooth bark with pendulous arching leaves unfortunately oft exhibit red and ginger stains, presaging their imminent death, as they seem sensitive to drought and plain ennui.
They can be quite small but typically are bigger and in moist environments grow to a massive forest tree. It has smooth bark, sometimes with rough bark near the base, lance-shaped to curved adult leaves, flower buds in groups of three or seven, white flowers and cup-shaped or hemispherical fruit.
It is typically quite a beautiful tree, relatively easily confused with Swamp gum (E. ovata) which is generally much more untidy and has green flower buds in groups of seven, white flowers and conical to bell-shaped fruit.
On Bruny other potential look-alikes are white peppermint (E. pulchella – much narrower leaves that smell of peppermint) and blue gum (E. globulus – whose huge nuts that can be found under the tree, with bigger leaves and twigs).
Inside with Cats is a partnership between Kingborough Council, Ten Lives Cat Centre, Tasmanian Conservation Trust and the Bruny Island Environment Network.
This series of 5 videos introduces six Kingborough cats (along with their humans), who are embracing life on the inside. Inside with Cats is not just about containing cats inside a house, it also explores the various options these owners have used for outdoor enclosures or walking harnesses, and how they keep their cats safe, happy and healthy.
Tiny, light olive green birds with white spots on their wings that move fast, but stick around the same area. Limited to Tasmania, some people like to call them the Tasmanian Pardalote, or even Gould’s Diamond as pardalotes are collectively known as ‘diamond birds’ because of their tiny, jewel-like appearance. The 40-spot is the dull cousin of the family.
Some people say they look a bit like moths – fasting fluttering wings – not flying very far, but quite acrobatic.
They are typically in manna or white gums (E. viminalis) or not very far away, except for the teenagers that are happy to party elsewhere for a little while after they have fledged in October – November. They typically return to the colony that they came from, but occasionally, they set up a new colony.
Their cousins are much showier – if you see a brightly colored pardalote, it is unlikely to be a 40-spot:
the Spotted has a crown of spots surmounting an ashen eyebrow on its head and quite bright breast and under-tail
The Striated has no spots at all, but a very dominant streaky eyebrow and is highly coloured
The calls are also very different:
the 40-spot has a soft, almost querulous call “where… where-where… ” usually only one or two notes. You need to be quite close by to hear it.
the Striated again is a dominant call, heard from far away, often repeated ad-infinitum “pick-it-up“, “pick-up”
The 40-spot breeds between August and December. Four to five eggs are laid with potential for a second clutch. Clutches are generally fledged by September-October. The incubation period is 16-20 days and fledging is approximately 25 days (DPIPWE, 2007).
Amongst the towering white gums on Inala, Bruny Land for Wildlife owners saw, heard and learnt about the cryptic Forty-spotted pardalotes from Dr Sally Bryant and our very own Tonia Cochran.
Hosted by BIEN, this training day marked the beginning of an exciting citizen science project that will focus initially on helping the 40-spots survive and thrive.
About 20 people from all over the island first learnt how to identify 40 spots and differentiate them from their two cousins – the Striated and the Spotted pardalotes – and also to identify the Manna or White gum (Eucalyptus viminalis) on which these little dears are completely dependent.
The 40-spots are very unusual animals in that they actually farm their food source. Close-up filming has revealed that these tiny birds use their hooked beak to wound the stalks of the Manna gum to promote manna – a sugary secretion that they eat.
Over the past 40 years, the population of the 40-spots has plummeted by 60%. Being completely dependent on Manna gum makes them very vulnerable and Manna gum is very sensitive to drought.
Huge swathes of Manna gum habitat has declined due to climate change and many former strongholds of the 40-spot are now empty of birds.
Off-shore islands now hold most of the 40-spot populations, and Bruny is of critical importance.
This is why BIEN is engaging with citizen scientists to help the birds survive and thrive.
We have reasonable ideas of where the 40-spots have been in the past, where people have put up nest boxes for them, and where people have planted white gums to encourage new colonies, and we are now asking people to monitor populations using the nest boxes and in suitable habitat.
We’ll feature here the best information about the 40-spots, how to:
Assistance is being offered to Bruny Islanders to trap stray cats on private land. By arrangement, traps can be borrowed and cats taken to the Cat Facility at Alonnah for assessment and care. We will particularly welcome help in our priority areas which include North Bruny and the Simpsons Bay, Alonnah and Adventure Bay areas.
If you are trapping feral cats in more remote areas then Conrad Daniels from Bruny Farming (ph 0409 804 340) can assist in their management.
Please remember that there is now a ban on the feeding of stray cats.This is an important part of the Bruny Island Cat By-law. Feeding stray cats can result in dense populations of unowned cats. So if you see any stray cat, please get in touch and we can arrange to trap and assess them. This is the best way to protect their welfare and to manage their numbers and impact.
Federal funds will soon be released to continue the fantastic work on controlling the impacts of feral cats on Bruny.
Whilst the release of funding has been slow, that has not stopped Tonia Cochran and her team at Inala from continuing to trap feral cats, with four being caught in autumn 2020.
Late autumn through winter is the peak of the trapping season, and Conrad Daniels and his team at Bruny Farming can start working the highest impacted areas of the Neck and Cape Queen Elizabeth bird colonies.
They are also available to deal with feral cats elsewhere, so please contact Conrad on 0409 804 340 to seek help.
The new three year project will be coordinated through NRM South. Kaylene Allan from Kingborough Council, who has steered this project for the last four years, will coordinate community engagement in the program and the management of domestic and stray cats.
Cyril Scomparin from the University of Tasmania is currently exploring how the different carnivores – the native eastern quoll and the introduced cat and black rat, interact, and what this may mean for cat control.
Multi-faceted and firmly based in science, this program leads the world in understanding how, and if, feral cat eradication on a large, populated island may proceed.
It is supported by a huge range of organizations, including the local businesses Pennicott Wilderness Journeys, Bruny Island Coastal retreats, and of course BIEN.
Sourced largely from automated analysis of satellite imagery, the report collated by the Centre for Water and Landscape Dynamics at the Australian National University draws together ground- and satellite data with environmental prediction models.
Using statistical areas (from the ABS) as the reporting region, this approach compares remote data with the averages since the turn of the century (2000).
Maybe surprisingly, the region, despite this precipitous drop, compares well with the nation’s average score of 0.8/10 – and this is prior to the calamities experienced by across the eastern seaboard on the 2019 bushfires, floods and droughts.
This should be a wake-up call for policy-makers, that our cherished environment is doing so badly.
Yet whilst world-wide emergency actions are precipitated by threats to human health of the Covid 19 pandemic, only persisently luke-warm responses are experienced to the much slower, but potentially more widespread lethality of global climate change, extinction and habitat loss.
Citizen scientists monitoring roadkill on Bruny roads over the past 7 months met with researcher Bruce Englefield, presenting the evidence of real hotspots where high rates of vehicle collisions resulted in many deaths.
With kill rates centred in south Bruny, it looks as though
the more you look, the more you find.
Bruce outlined the next phase of his roadkill research project,
seeing three years of monitoring to work out whether virtual fencing could stem
Presently, the virtual fence – a series of electronic devices placed along sections of road activated by headlights of approaching vehicles – emits flashing lights and single frequency beeps that require better adaptation to the ‘alarm response’ of the local critters, thus one line of the investigation is for more closely tailored options.
Avoiding animals on the road is pretty easy but rumour has
it that some drivers actively target animals and get some form of gratification
if they hit one.
Volunteers involved in this aspect of the Bruny Environmental
accounts simply photograph and upload roadkill found to the Roadkill App. with the
science being done in the background.
Carcasses are taken off the road to reduce secondary kill and pouches
checked for infants.
Some vollies have reported difficultly in focusing on the
maimed animals and are fervently hoping that people will take more care of animals
on the road, respecting other life.
Extending over three years, adaptations to the monitoring
system and to the virtual fencing are expected to give better results.