By Jan Hewett & Joan Jones, Trust For Nature Covenanters
The fire that started in Barnawartha and swept through the Indigo Valley just before Christmas severely impacted our 53 hectare property. There was a high mortality rate amongst the wildlife and extensive damage to our native vegetation, particularly the mature trees.
A significant loss has been the total destruction of fourteen nest boxes. We have no way of knowing if the occupants survived. We have monitored these boxes for many years, recording and photographing the occupants, mainly Squirrel Gliders, the occasional native bird and once, a Brush tailed Phascogale or Tuan.
Trust for Nature set up a camera to observe the Phascogale and there were interesting results. At night it showed a female gathering nesting material. Ringtail and Brushtail Possums investigated the box. Squirrel Gliders showed an interest until they realised it was occupied. During the day a young Goanna tried to force its way in.
Why the need for nest boxes? Despite the property being well treed there was a significant lack of hollows. There had been widespread clearing in the seventies and too few mature trees survived. It takes one hundred years for hollows to develop that can accommodate smaller mammals, such as Squirrel Gliders and birds, two hundred years for hollows big enough for Possums, Kookaburras or Falcons, and three hundred years for hollows that can be occupied by large raptors and owls.
This is why it is so important to preserve our mature trees, even dead ones. The removal of hollow bearing trees can have a devastating effect on native wild life. Three hundred of Australian vertebrate species use hollows. They need them for breeding, shelter and protection from predators. Some species, such as Squirrel Gliders, use up to six different hollows over a twelve month period.
Loss of habitat can cause displacement and localised extinction, losing insect eating species and pollinators who assist agriculture.
Too often older trees are harvested for firewood as well as fallen ones that can provide protection for echidnas, lizards and reptiles. The recent fire has caused a significant clean up problem but some trees must be left to maintain the diversity of wild life.
Nest boxes can be used in residential areas as well as rural. They are an invaluable tool to help preserve our native wild life.
Thanks to the Indigo Shire and Trust for Nature we have twelve new boxes. Let’s hope they will be occupied very soon.