Bruny Cat Management Update – Dec 2020

A Community Forum on Dec 5th at Dennes Point provided information on the research and cat management activities planned for the next two years and discussed how the community can get involved. The work will focus on North Bruny as it is an important area in Tasmania for the threatened Eastern quoll and because of the relatively small number of feral cats present (compared to South Bruny).

Read the full report here, including the latest research and feral cat control measures.

Community Water Forum

Come along to another forum on Bruny’s water supply and the impact water supply may have on the Adventure Bay aquifer.

TasWater, along with BICA, BIEN and Kingborough Council are running the forum.

It builds upon an earlier forum held in 2019.

At the 2019 forum TasWater answered concerns and ideas arising from the community, and particularly from the Bruny Life survey. Notes from the meeting are available below.

Community Water Forum

 

Monitor for 40-spot presence and upload data

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.

Where

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.

How

  • 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.

Identify Manna gums

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

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.

To view the videos go to this link. https://www.kingborough.tas.gov.au/2018/03/inside-with-cats/

Identify 40-spots

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.

Birds in Backyards has some information on the 40-spot, not all of which is up-to-date, and DPIPWE also has an entry.

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 Spotted call is much bolder and high-pitched, with a 3-4 note “d-dee-dee” or “sleep-may-be”
  • 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).

40-spot Field day – Inala November 2020

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.

The hooked beak of the 40-spot is used to farm crystal ‘manna’ on white gums

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:

  • identify 40-spots
  • identify Manna gums
  • monitor for 40-spot presence and upload data
  • build your own nest boxes (or purchase them)
  • plant and protect new planting for habitat

Community trapping of stray cats

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.

For further information, or to loan traps please contact Kaylene Allan on 0439 885 803 or kallan@kingborough.tas.gov.au

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.

Feral cat trapping season starting again

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.

For further information see the Kingborough Council website.