Please renew before the end of this month or you will find that you are no longer entitled to membership benefits.
Still having trouble getting your renewal sorted? Finding the new online process baffling? Remember, if you’re struggling with it you can contact John Abbott (click for details) for some expert guidance. We really do need your feedback so we can make it super-easy for all members in future.
SAVING THE NUMBAT
Following on from our AGM in February*, Tony Friend gave us an excellent talk on numbat conservation. Tony works in the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA) as a Principal Research Scientist in the Animal Science Program. He conducts research projects aimed at improving the conservation status of specific threatened marsupials. Currently his main research effort is in the recovery program for Gilbert’s Potoroo, but he also supervises research aspects of the Dibbler and Numbat recovery programs.
Numbats are the sole members of their family, the Myrmecobiidae. They are exclusively diurnal, exclusively termite-eating marsupials without a true pouch. They scratch the ground to break into termite galleries and extract the insects—about 20,000 a day—using their long, sticky tongue. Termites are a dependable resource but not high-quality food. In winter, Numbats sleep in a bit and go to bed early, but in the hot months they take a midday siesta. A bit like some of us!
Mating takes place in January, and the young are born in summer and find their mother’s nipples. In August they are put into a burrow for a month or two. They then begin to emerge but stay close to mother and sleep with her until they are weaned in October and disperse in early summer. The females are mature after a year and the males after two years.
Tony talked about the changing status of the Numbat since European settlement. Numbats were once widespread in southern Australia, ranging from WA through SA and some way into NSW and the NT. But by the 1980s their distribution was reduced to two places, both in WA: Perup and Dryandra. In 1985 the total population was estimated to be only 300. Research was then initiated to find the reasons for this drastic decline.
Photo: Matt Willett
Prior to this, various possible reasons were put forward for the decline, but it wasn’t till the 1970s that foxes were recognised as the major cause. We are lucky in WA because our native animals have a high resistance to the poison ‘1080’ (because of its high concentration in some of our native pea plants) so it can be used to kill feral animals without affecting native ones. So 1080 was tried at Dryandra, beginning in 1981. Subsequently there was a big increase in Numbat sightings, and this led to the Western Shield program of 1080 fox baiting being launched in 1996. In Dryandra fox baiting proved to be a great success, increasing Numbat numbers dramatically with a peak in 1992, and Numbats were translocated from Dryandra to other reserves in WA and interstate.
However, after that there was a steep decline in numbers. By 2015 the numbers had declined back to the very low 1981 levels. By then, predation of Numbats by cats had been observed in Dryandra. Moreover, there was more cat predation in areas where foxes had been removed. A survey using collared Numbats showed that while they were preyed on by cats, foxes, pythons, raptors and Chuditch, 50 per cent of the dead Numbats had been killed by cats.
Tony then explained the difficulties and complexities of cat control, and the different methods that have been tried. These include shooting using spotlights or detector dogs, trapping and baiting. Farmers have been encouraged to shoot cats on their properties. Eradicat is a tasty, sausage-shaped bait laced with 1080 that can be dropped from aircraft. Trials of non-toxic Eradicat with fluorescent material were done to find out which animals take the bait, because the fluorescence shows up in their whiskers. It showed that Chuditch, Phascogales and Mardos rarely take the bait, fortunately, as the last two are not very tolerant of 1080. One solution was to raise the baits 60cm off the ground. When this is done, cats are more likely to take the bait than the native carnivores.
The good news is that since 2014 it seems that no Numbats have been taken by cats at Dryandra and that Numbat numbers have been increasing there in 2016 and 2017. Tony pointed out, however, that when dealing with small numbers of Numbats, there is no accurate way of counting them. Some have been translocated to Boyagin Nature Reserve. (Numbats require a territory of 25 to 50ha each, so small reserves such as Karakamia are not big enough to support a population of Numbats.) There is a Numbat captive breeding program at the zoo.
Tony suggested that members may like to check the website of Project Numbat, which promotes and assists the Numbat Recovery Program with objectives such as habitat management, population monitoring, feral predator control, education and fundraising for conservation.
This was a very interesting talk about a beautiful and unique animal that is well worth the complex and difficult work involved in its conservation.
*NOTE: the interim accounts from the AGM are now in the members section of our website.
FEBRUARY: SPINELESS WONDERS
It was a packed house at the DRB general meeting on 9th February, with about 75 people attending, including several visitors and children attracted via Facebook.
Our speaker was entomologist David Knowles from Spineless Wonders, talking on the topic of ‘The mysterious world of invertebrates’.
We received a general survey of the many invertebrates to be found on the scarp, particularly in Bungendore Park on the western edge of the Darling Scarp on the outskirts of the City of Armadale, where David has been employed to do a number of in-depth surveys. He demonstrated the wide variety of species and their often intricate beauty with a series of high quality photographs.
Then we had an interesting, interactive half-hour with live invertebrates—some quite large—being shown to the audience via our new document projector. The audience delighted in being able to watch on the screen when the creatures moved. Using this new device, there will be no problems in future being able to see what is on the nature table, no matter where you sit in the room.
Did you know that “macro-invertebrates” includes insects, spiders, scorpions, centipedes, millipedes and other fauna without backbones and that invertebrates comprise approximately 97 per cent of all animal species? There are so many of them: no wonder many of us find them hard to identify! David even spoke about some he had still not identified.
We also now have a new five-minute segment called “Kid’s Talks” and this month we watched a short “edumercial” on “Ravens and Cockatoos” led by one of our new members, Gwyneth Thomas, a volunteer at Kanyana. She draws and speaks while putting forward a conservation message. If you missed it you can watch it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lLdWoni9AuQ
The room was buzzing and it was a great start to DRB’s year.
WALK & BBQ at STAR SWAMP
The NSB held its customary January BBQ and walk in Star Swamp on Saturday 20th January 2018.
About 20 members spent most of the time socializing or talking about the heavy rain we had had a few days before. To conclude the evening Alex Saar gave everyone two walnuts and challenged us to crack them using only one hand. Easy once you know how!
ATLAS OF LIVING AUSTRALIA
We held a valuable first Atlas of Living Australia mentoring session on 17 February at the DRB. Each mentoring session is designed to give a small number of members, (maximum of 4), the opportunity to get practical, live coaching and instruction in the use of Bio-Collect and the Atlas of Living Australia (ALA) on their own or others’ computers, tablets or phones.
For this session, our first mentoring session followed our survey of the Kelmscott bush block Arbuthnot St. We had seen plenty of insects, flowers and birds and people were keen to know how to upload their photographs and their lists. Five people attended.
It was reassuring for people to find out that there is no need to fear making a mistake because they can go in at any time to correct and edit their data. Thus, if they don’t know the full identification at first this does not matter, and if they do find out later it can be added then. The same applies to their photographs: if the initial photograph is not as good as they would like, an improved version can be added later.
Understanding the connection between Bio-Collect and the ALA was found helpful, as was having a practise run with the others watching on. Sometimes, it isn’t until someone does it for real that the theoretical aspects sink in. It also helped clarify many points for everyone and there were lots of questions to be answered.
We all found it was easy to miss a detail somewhere, whether it was in forgetting to put in the coordinates, or not getting the name correct or missing off the time of the survey. There are certainly several points of information to include for each item. The coordinates are automatically taken care of if data is uploaded via phone or tablet directly in the field and this can make it easier. The Atlas also helps by providing correctly spelt and relevant scientific names.
People were pleased to find they could upload more than one photograph per item, as some had taken both close-up photographs and a picture of the item in context.
It was a great way to learn. This was an experiment which we will continue. There will be more mentoring sessions during the year. As they are held at Mike and Rachel’s home it is probably easiest to have them after each Kelmscott survey to reduce the need for people to travel twice. If you are a member of the DRB and would like to attend one just let Rachel know.
Crested Tern parent with whole fish; C Prickett
On December 10, a small band of six members caught the first ferry across to Penguin Island on a very warm morning. The popularity of the island as a day-trip destination was evident, with the number of passengers on board approaching full capacity. We also passed people in kayaks and even stand-up paddleboards making their way over to the island. Upon disembarking at the jetty we met Dr Nic Dunlop, who was waiting to meet some colleagues. He was camping on the island for a few days to capture and band terns. Nic indicated that there had been a lot of deaths of Silver Gulls on the island—possibly due to botulism at one of the local wetlands on the mainland. We did see a number of dead gulls during our visit. As we walked along the boardwalk from the jetty the air was filled with Crested Terns and Bridled Terns, together with Silver Gulls. A single Buff-banded Rail was spotted foraging near the edge of the grassed area as we passed the picnic area. We headed off towards the western side of the island.
While checking the shrubs for invertebrates, Daniel spotted a stick insect about 50mm long, later identified as a nymph of a Short-winged Stick Insect (Anophelepis telesphorus). A lookout that has views of the north end of the island was closed off at the time of our visit due to birds nesting in the area immediately past the lookout. In the past this has been the area where the Caspian Terns nest, though we were unable to confirm whether this was the case this year. As we walked down the steps to the beach we noted that it had been a good spring for the Wild Grape (Nitraria billardierei) with each bush heavy with seedpods. On the beach at the western side of the island we found a large group of Crested Tern chicks down on the beach, often with a parent nearby, waiting for a foraging parent to return with a fish for the chick. Crested Terns carry the small fish in their beaks and feed it whole to the chicks (see photo previous page.) This puts them in the position of being constantly harassed by Silver Gulls, often resulting in the loss of the fish to the ravenous gulls. One never tires of watching this spectacle, with Crested Terns flying in, constantly calling out and searching for their chicks before landing and quickly feeding the fish to the chick. Often they are set upon by a hoard of gulls, losing the fish in the ensuing free-for-all. We watched and photographed the Crested Terns for a while before continuing our walk along the beach to the next boardwalk.
On the beach Daniel found a Purple Swift-footed Shore Crab (Leptograpsus variegatus). As we climbed off the beach, Bridled Terns were active overhead. They did not appear to be feeding chicks yet, as none were seen bringing fish on their return from the sea.
From the lookout overlooking the southern end of the island we saw a group of Pelicans pushing a school of Whiting in towards the shore, though they did not follow through with the hunt and the fish escaped back out into deeper water. The view was stunning from this vantage point, out over the crystal-clear water of the bay towards the Pelican rookery at the southern tip of the island.
We then made our way back to the picnic area for a well-earned drink and snack. While enjoying morning tea we watched numerous large King’s Skinks approaching visitors in the hope of getting a free feed. The Buff-banded Rail made another appearance as well. Daniel continued to hunt for invertebrates and found several species of flies including a Tephritid with stellate wing markings (Trupanea or Austrotephritis), and a Ligyra sp. bee-fly; wasps including a large Sphex, numerous Podalonia tydei suspiciosa Cutworm Wasps, a Bembix Sand Wasp, and a Gasteruptiid wasp. We also found ants, including Valentine Ants (Crematogaster).
A ladybird larva was spotted climbing the trunk of a tree. The invasive Small Pointed Snail (Prietocella barbara) was present. Various spiders were spotted, including the Trapezoidal Crab Spider (Sidymella trapezia?) and a female Jumping Spider (of the Euophryinae subfamily). Photos of the invertebrates can be found on Bowerbird. Flowering shrubs seen on our walk included the Berry Saltbush (Rhagodia baccata), Coast Saltbush (Atriplex isatidea), Scaevola Crassifolia, Myoporum insulare, Coastal Pigface (Carpobrotus virescens), Frankenia pauciflora, and Prickle Lily (Acanthocarpus preissii). Other bird sightings included the Pied Oyster Catcher, Welcome Swallows, Eastern Osprey, Ravens, Singing Honeyeaters and Little Pied Cormorants. All too soon it was time to catch the ferry, which had again come over with a full load of passengers. It had been a great morning, thoroughly enjoyed by all.
Shark Attacks: Myths, Misunderstandings and Human Fear,
Blake Chapman; CSIRO Publishing, 2017, RRP $39.95
Blake Chapman’s new book provides a comprehensive exploration of shark attacks. She provides succinct and fascinating discussion of shark biology and natural history before looking at shark attacks from all angles. Chapman explains that shark attacks are extremely rare because humans are not targeted by any shark species. Sharks favour familiar prey with a much higher fat content and attacks can be considered cases of mistaken identity, typically taking the form of “hit and run” attacks in waters with poor visibility (eg. surf). Almost all attacks are non-fatal, usually resulting in a single bite to the legs.
As well as providing some tips for reducing the likelihood of being attacked (stick to water with good visibility, stay close to others), Chapman discusses the policies and mitigation strategies used in a number of regions, including Western Australia. Her view on the $33 million spent by WA governments since 2008 is that while this may be beneficial in reducing people’s fear, attack prevention strategies here and elsewhere have probably done very little to prevent attacks.
Policies that involve killing sharks, such as WA’s recent drum line trial, may do more harm than good. Globally, up to 100 million individual sharks are killed by humans every year. Of the 465 known species, more than 30% are endangered. This loss may be having a significant ecological impact. Chapman gives an example of the influence of migratory Tiger Sharks that pass through Shark Bay each year, forcing the local Dugongs to move out of their favoured seagrass and thus giving the seagrass beds relief from grazing and time to regrow and continue to support a wealth of other species, so the presence of these sharks contributes significantly to the broader biodiversity of this region.
While going into some detail throughout the book, this is a non-technical discussion of the topic that anyone interested will enjoy reading.
Australia’s Dangerous Snakes
Peter Mirtschin, Arne Rasmussen, Scott Weinstein; CSIRO publishing, 2017, Hardback, 280 p., RRP $120
This is a fascinating and informative journey into the lives of Australia’s dangerous snakes by three men who are undoubtedly Australia’s foremost experts in herpetology.
The photos, showing the different colour variations of each species—depending on their location and time of year—are excellent.
The number of both experienced and dedicated amateur and professional herpetologists who have contributed to this publication adds an incredible amount of firsthand knowledge gained over many years.
There is an interesting account of the effect of envenoming and the end result of anti-envenoming on the person, depending on the difference in age and health status at the time. It also takes account of the type of snake involved.
There are profiles of some leading Australian herpetologists; a few notable experts are Eric Worrell and Ken Slater. These give the reader a personal insight into the lives of the many who have dedicated their lives to the advancement of knowledge of our venomous snakes and the many problems the animals face—global warming, environmental degradation, habitat loss, cane toad encroachment and road fatalities.
This book is recommended reading for anyone interested in natural history who would like to further their knowledge of herpetology.
Researchers at The University of Adelaide are inviting us to take part in a survey of observations of unusual ecological phenomena.
The information collected will help researchers to understand what unusual ecological phenomena are being observed and how natural resource managers might respond to them. This information will help to inform conservation planning and policy.
The survey is open to anyone living in Australia who is 18 years or older. You are welcome to share this invitation with any of your friends or contacts who may be interested in participating.
Take the survey before Monday 5th of March 2018 to report your observations.
Survey Facebook page https://www.facebook.com/unusualecologicalphenomenasurveyaus/
If you have any questions or concerns please contact the researchers at email@example.com
The records of observations normally kept at Yunderup Field Station have been found. A member had taken them to work on compiling some historical information. It’s important to let the office know if you remove Club records from their usual storage place. Just give us a quick call or email, so we can make a note. Thanks!
Rob Waller, bless him, will be always be remembered by the ‘older generation’ of the Darling Range Branch of the Club for his joviality, easy to get on with personality and the many family campfire gatherings with him and his wife Margaret.
His yarns were frequently punctuated by quips, meaningless to the rest of us, in some African language (Africa being where his family spent much of their earlier lives) or many a pun extracted from comments made by one or more of his unsuspecting friends in conversation, resulting in laughs all round! Yes, languages were one of Rob’s many pursuits during his rich history that stretched from his first days in the UK to his much-loved ‘land of Oz’.
This year we are hoping to provide an interesting, varied and educational program of activities based around the theme of the Nyungar seasonal calendar. While we don’t have fixed dates as yet, the outline for the year looks like this:
- February: Darwin Day at Point Walter; snorkelling at Coogee (passed).
- March: Insect survey with the Northern Suburbs Branch; also, freshwater ecology (pond dipping)
- April: Bushwalk at Bold Park
- May: Camp (possibly Guilderton)
- June: Bushwalk at Kings Park
- July: Fungi Foray; also, a beach sweep.
- August: Spring bushwalk
- September: Frogs
- October: Camp (possibly Dryandra)
- November: Fossils
- December: Insect and night-stalk
Find out more by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Roz Hart & Steve Page
March: Long Weekend Camping Excursion Friday March 2 to Monday March 5 – Perup Field Study Centre east of Manjimup. Night time forest spotlighting, daytime walks, winery visit. $25 per person per night includes full facilities including camp kitchen and some separate bedrooms.
- March Meeting Thursday 8 – Pat Baker, WA Maritime Museum: Shipwrecks of the WA Coast.Guest presenter Nicole Lincoln, GeoCatch: Western Ringtail Tally project.
- Excursion Sunday 18 – Morning walk Bunker Bay to Lake Jingie, BYO morning tea or visit Bunkers Beach House Café. Meet 10.00am Bunker Bay car park.
- April: Meeting Thursday 12 – Prof Malcolm McCulloch, University of WA, Oceans Institute and School of Earth Sciences – Unveiling the Perth Deep Sea Canyon
- Excursion Sunday 22 – Balingup Golden Valley Tree Farm and short walks around Donnybrook. Leader: Chrissy Sharpe. 9am BUS.
- May: Meeting Thursday 10 – Simon Cherriman, biologist, filmmaker, environmental educator – Eagles in Sight: the latest research on Wedge-tailed Eagle movement ecology.
- Excursion Sunday 20 – Bunbury Astronomical Society or spotlighting in Manea Park if cloudy. 6.30pm BUS. $25/adult, $20/child includes Society fee. Bring binoculars if possible. Tea/coffee supplied.
- June: Meeting Thursday 14 – Mike Butcher, Animal Pest Management Services, Australind: Changing foxes size – can reducing fox and cat numbers lead to younger and less animals in the future?
- Excursion Sunday 17 – joint road verge tree planting with City of Busselton. Details to be advised.
- Excursion Sunday 24 – tree planting at Ambergate. Meet 9am at car park on corner Queen Elizabeth Avenue and Doyle Road. BYO picnic lunch if weather is kind. Bring gloves, secateurs, small shovels, etc.
- Pilbara Long-Range Camping Excursion June 27 to July 20 – Search for night parrots and gold! Meet 9.00am in front of Dalwallinu Caravan Park for departure to White Wells (Charles Darwin) Sanctuary. Visits to Horseshoe Range Honeymoon Pool, Night Parrot site near Newman, Mt Webber billabong. Leader: Bernie Masters
- July: Excursion Sunday 22 – Mid-Year Lunch at Dunsborough Country Club. BUS at 11.30am from Busselton. $25 includes 2 course meal, then walk along coast to visit areas revegetated by DCaLC volunteers over past 20 years. Bus cost to be advised.
- August: Meeting Thursday 9 – award-winning documentary: Secrets at Sunrise – the fate of the western ground parrot
- Excursion Sunday 19 – Boronia and Wildflowers Excursion, south of Capel. Self-drive – meet in Forrest Road, Capel, opposite Shire offices at 9.00am. Bring m/a-teas, picnic lunch.
- September: Long Range Camping Excursion to Helena and Aurora Ranges, Mt Elvire and Jaurdi Conservation Reserves, north east of Southern Cross. Meet at Southern Cross Caravan Park for 9.00am departure, then visits to Great Western Woodland, sites in the Wheatbelt including Bilardie Rock and 3 days at Dryandra near Narrogin to view numbats.
- October: Meeting Thursday 11 – Jenny Bevan: The Forgotten Explorers: pioneer geologists of Western Australia, 1826-1926
- Excursion Sunday 14 – Maintenance Morning on the Cape Naturaliste to Sugarloaf Rock section of Cape to Cape track. Meet 9am at Cape Naturaliste Lighthouse carpark. Bring gloves, secateurs, lunch, brushcutters, picnic lunch. 12.30pm BYO lunch.
- Excursion Sunday 21 – Wildflower Excursion to Ruabon Nature Reserve, Ruabon Tutunup railway reserve, Capel Nature Reserve, Yoongarillup reserve. 9am BUS from carpark of former visitor centre carpark on Peel Terrace.
- November: Committee Meeting Monday 5 – Planning Meeting for 2018.
- Meeting Thursday 8 – Grace Patorniti, DBCA – management plan for the Vasse Wonnerup Estuaries
- Excursion Sunday 18 – Health of Lower Vasse River, tour of the Busselton Community Garden. 1.7km walk along LVR, morning tea at Community Garden. Meet 9am at former visitor centre, Peel Terrace. Bring $10.00 for cuppa and cake.
- December: Meeting Thursday 13 – Christmas Party at Senior Citizens Centre from 6.00pm. Bring food and drinks. Entertainment, raffle, slides, Squashed Possum award, etc.
Most meetings start 7.30pm in the Senior Citizens Centre, 22 Peel Tce, on 2nd Thursday of the month. Most BUS excursions start 9am from former Busselton Visitor Centre car park on Peel Tce and cost $15. Check Busselton Dunsborough Mail for meeting details; listen to ABC Regional Radio. Email email@example.com or phone 9727 2474 to book a BUS seat. People attending Club activities do so entirely at their own risk. The Club and its members take all reasonable care, but attendees are ultimately responsible for their own safety.
Visit our website at www.busseltonnaturalists.org.au or like us on Facebook to be kept up to date with news and events.
Pauline Baker, Shoalwater Perth/Main
Heather Denham, Nedlands Perth/Main
Paul Orange, Hamersley Perth/Main
Vicki & Sean Darcy, Duncraig Perth/Main
Bella, Cate & Lili,
Cher & Joseph Rapanaro, Karnup KRMB
Gerhard Saueracker Mt Claremont Perth/Main
& Kath Fordham,
We welcome these members to our Club.