Nesting box monitoring no. 1

Report background

The boxes have been out and left completely undisturbed for six months.

A wireless inspection camera was purchased to provide the least disturbance during monitoring.

All boxes are identified by GPS location (see map for full details).  22 boxes were monitored.

The squirrel glider will happily breed in boxes fairly low to the ground - here we see a box being inspected to see if there is any sign of it being used by gliders for breeding
The squirrel glider will happily breed in boxes fairly low to the ground.

Results

4 boxes contained only the original wood shavings – no signs were in evidence that any animals have been in or out.

1 box contained no wood shaving but had a large load of black ants.

2 boxes contained snakeskin remnants

1 box had a squirrel glider inside.  When the ladder was placed against the trunk of the tree it startled the glider which exited the box and fled swiftly up the tree.

0 boxes contained an actual completed nest or young gliders or lorikeets or eggs.

17 boxes contained a sizeable volume of eucalyptus leaves, often being bunches of leaves joined at the stems.  These leaves could not have fallen or blown in through the box opening.  Animals must be bringing these into the box, suggesting there is a reasonable amount of interest in the boxes.

Video report

Equipment and processes

The wireless camera performed well for inspecting inside dark boxes.

For nesting boxes that are low to the ground, the operator was able to stand on the ground and inspect.  However for around half the boxes, the length of the camera wire was insufficient, and the operator still needed to stand on a ladder.

The placement of the ladder against the tree caused one squirrel glider to exit the box.

What we learned.

We have come away from this first monitoring with many questions which is a good outcome.  Some of these questions will be answered by researching, some by further monitoring sessions and some by asking experts.  Information gathered and learned will continue to be posted on this blog.

We discovered that it will be well worth investing in an extendable pole arm for the wireless camera to avoid using ladders in the future.  There were two reasons for the benefit of this.  Firstly the more distance we can maintain from the box, the less we will disturb any wildlife nesting inside.  Secondly, avoiding the use of ladders completely will make monitoring a safer procedure, and avoid having to physically carry a ladder around the entire property.

We discovered that it is valuable to have the second person already zoomed in and videoing the box before the first person makes contact with the tree or box in order to catch evidence of any animals escaping the box.  This arose when a squirrel glider made a hasty exit from a box and all we got was one blurred photographic image.

I feel that it would be of great benefit to add a motion detection camera to the property and install it for one month at a time facing the entrance to nesting boxes to discover what kind of activity is occurring.  The boxes selected will be strategically selected according to those that appear to have the most activity from this monitoring, combined with having a clear entrance and location to mount the camera nearby.

Routine observation on a box

Cobwebs observed at opening to squirrel glider nesting box - during routine data collections.

During routine daily data collection across the property this squirrel glider nesting box (box no. 008) was observed to have cobwebs covering the opening.

The cobweb pattern has not changed over several months, so I am presuming there is zero activity in this box which will be confirmed when boxes are checked in June 2018

Little lorikeet box installation

Installation of one of twelve nesting boxes in a range of trees across Koala Gardens

The little lorikeet boxes were scattered mostly through open woodland areas of the property, with 2 boxes placed on the outskirts of the rainforest remnant.

Please refer to the project map to see distribution of all the boxes.

Boxes were placed on forest red gums or pink bloodwood trees.  Boxes were deliberately placed facing different aspects, and in a mixture of very open areas, to positions surrounded by shrub mid storey.  Results of use of boxes according to type of tree and position types will be noted in project reporting.

Little lorikeet nesting box on pink bloodwood facing north
Little lorikeet nesting box on pink bloodwood
Little lorikeet nesting box in mature forest red gum in middle of property facing east
Little lorikeet nesting box in mature forest red gum

Squirrel glider box installation

Installation of the boxes was done over 2 days with the squirrel glider boxes going in first on December 10, 2017.

Because squirrel gliders live in social groups, boxes are best placed out in groups of three.  A dozen boxes have been placed out providing for 4 possible social groups. Not all of the boxes will necessarily be used and it is common for gliders to switch boxes from year to year possibly to deal with parasites.

Check the project map to see how the boxes are placed property-wide and the video below to see each group of boxes.

Group one – in rainforest remnant. (boxes 001, 002, 003)

Group two – in rainforest remnant. (boxes 004, 005, 006)

Group three – at southern end of bloodwood gully. (boxes 007, 008, 009)

Group four – at northern end of bloodwood gully.  (boxes 010, 011, 012)

The final choice

The nesting boxes chosen for this project are being purchased ready made from Hollow Log Homes.

Their quality was highly recommended both for design and for the longevity of the materials.  It was felt that there was no point trying to save money and finding that the boxes were rotting after a few years.  It can take 2 -3 years for the target species to move in and start using boxes if they were not highly active in the location.  So the boxes needed to be high quality so that they would serve the animals for several generations.  The chosen boxes have a lifespan of 10-15 years.

squirrel glider boxes
squirrel glider boxes
Designed to allow for stretching with tree growth
Designed to allow for stretching with tree growth
Metal lip prevents other animals and weather from damaging the boxes
Metal lip prevents other animals and weather from damaging the boxes

Background research information and resources

Many thanks are offered to Ross Goldingay who is the regional expert on nesting boxes and gave his time and experience generously as the project plan was developed.

This expert advice was critical for deciding where to source the boxes, just how many boxes were appropriate and distribution decisions.

Feel free to examine the resources below:

Listen to Ross discuss his passions (very interesting)

Article on squirrel gliders in agricultural landscapes

Hollows for habitat forum proceedings

Use of artificial tree hollows by birds and bats

Squirrel glider education kit

 

In a nutshell …

What did all that long project description mean?

That was the official application so you can see exactly what is going on, but in a nutshell it means that during the 3 year life of this project the following will happen:

FUNDED by the Grant

  • Installation of 22 nesting boxes
    • 12 squirrel glider boxes
    • 10 little lorikeet boxes
  • Clean up the last zone of serious weed area
  • Maintain weed control throughout the property

CONTRIBUTIONS by Katrina, property owner

  • Coordination of all project activities and personnel
  • Ensure expert advice is sought and followed
  • Conduct feral animal eradication activities (cane toads)
  • Complete all reporting requirements.

Private Land Conservation Grant Project Description

Funded by the Foundation for National Parks and Wildlife .

The grant is for a 3 year project described below.

The project involves the following activities:

  • Nesting boxes
  • Bush regeneration including weed control
  • Activities supporting the recovery of threatened species, populations and/or ecological communities
  • Feral animal control as part of a coordinated program

Project background information

My husband (now deceased) and I (the property owner) commenced restoration of Koala Gardens when we purchased the property in 2010. Since 2011 I have been paying professional regenerators to assist me in my personal effort to restore and enhance the habitat and maximise opportunities to preserve threatened species.

Through small funding grants provided by Lismore City Council 700 mixed species trees were planted in 2011 and 2012 with a 90% success rate.

In 2015 a 25th Anniversary Landcare Grant became the catalyst for transforming the vision for the property. The property is a fundamental part of wildlife corridors in Tuckurimba. As part of the designated climate change corridor, it is also identified as important for long-term resilience.

A Property Management Plan was developed in 2015 to inform and guide future regeneration and habitat protection activities. The property has been described as having high ecological value, providing connectivity between north and south. An unexpected direct outcome was the decision to register a conservation agreement on the property. The agreement was registered with LPI NSW on 15/11/2016 and effective from 06/10/2016. Lodgement INV C858396

As noted in the conservation agreement biodiversity assessment developed by OEH, through Consultant David Charley, the property contains habitat for fourteen threatened fauna species and three threatened flora species. (Hairy Joint Grass, Thorny Pea, Sweet Myrtle, Wompoo Fruit-Dove, Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Little Lorikeet, Red-backed Button-Quail, Pale-vented Bush-hen, Grey-crowned Babble, Koala, Squirrel Glider, Grey-headed Flying-Fox, Southern Myotis, Little Bentwing-bat, Greater Broad-nosed Bat, Eastern Long-eared Bat, Spotted-tailed Quoll.) Confirmed on site are the Koala, Little Lorikeet and Hairy Joint Grass.

Over 2000 native trees have self sown and been nurtured as they have grown. These are predominately forest red gum and pink bloodwood.

The property owner began daily monitoring of koalas on the property using nose pattern recognition to identify individuals in 2014. Data is collected in a relational electronic database and reports are refined annually, providing information about the colony.   January 2017 saw record-breaking sighting numbers on the property with 90 koala sightings, where the previous year there had been 19. The high sighting numbers have continued and there are 8 resident koalas using the property. This information including photos is also used for community engagement and education via the KoalaGardens popular Facebook page.

Topography affects the presence of the open eucalypt canopy with diverse herbs, native grass and scattered shrubs in the understorey. Further down the gully, in the south east of the property, the species composition shifts to dry rainforest. The sclerophyll vegetation is associated with Aboriginal land management along walking trails in the Northern Rivers. This cultural landscape needs active maintenance as the lack of burning and removal of livestock is leading to an expansion of trees and shrubs. Consequently, without management, there could be a loss of grass habitat including that of the Hairy Joint Grass, which tends to appear in open areas near soaks.

PROJECT OUTCOME

The outcomes of this project are to ensure professional strategic management techniques as described in the Property Management Plan are followed to improve the stability of the ecosystem; and provide breeding opportunities for two threatened species – Little Lorikeet and Squirrel Glider.

DESCRIPTION OF THE PROJECT

The property owner already carries out a comprehensive weed control and maintenance work program on the property and will continue to do so in the future going forward. Project funding will be used to add to the personal commitment already made to pay a professional regenerator to attend the property. Works subject to this grant application and ongoing work on the property will be informed by the comprehensive activities plan that has been developed by experts at Southern Cross University, professional regenerators and ecologists involving:

    1. Eradicating weeds in western zone, which is identified as the highest priority as it is an in situ weeds source.
      1. Team prep day including hand control around native trees
      2. Spray remaining weeds
      3. Maintenance sprays at appropriate intervals
    2. Specialised weed control in sensitive areas such as rainforest and amongst young native trees including:
      1. Monthly spot spraying and hand removal in paddock areas
      2. Bi-monthly spot spraying and hand removal inside rainforest and gullies
      3. Tri-monthly spot spraying and hand removal in rainforest during winter.
      4. Hand clearing and stem injection of vines and woody weeds as required.
    3. Advising the property owner on priorities and strategies to be taken between each paid visit. This will empower the property owner to carry out routine weed control through expert advice and consultation regularly.
    4. Strategic placement of nesting boxes in consultation with Ross Goldingay of Southern Cross University. Ross has and will continue in an advisory capacity to provide pro bono email and phone support. Environmental Science student will install nesting boxes with the property owner as field assistant as follows:
      1. Four clusters of three glider boxes, 100m between clusters (twelve boxes)
      2. Ten individual little parrot boxes scattered across more open areas and into rainforest area
    5. Monitoring of nesting boxes byEnvironmental Science student , with property owner as field assistant under advice from Ross Goldingay as follows:
      1. Routine monitoring according to species with extra monitoring visit each year allowed for after severe weather if needed
      2. Monitoring will be conducted byEnvironmental Science student and field assistant with the use of an endoscope when appropriate for safety and minimal disturbance
      3. Other Southern Cross University students will be made welcome to observe or assist conducting monitoring activities