Tuesday 27 November 2018


Pied Currawongs arriving in the Clarence Valley each autumn and winter is a natural event, but recently their numbers have been increasing. They are also hanging around longer, with dire consequences for our smaller native birds.

Currawongs look like crows, but with white undertail and wing feathers in flight. Mainly they inhabit the Ranges, living on fruit, insects and lizards in the forested gullies But in the colder months when food becomes scarce, they flock and head to the coast, where exotic park and garden trees, garbage bins, and growing numbers of fruit farms keep them supplied until spring when they return home to breed.

Currawongs' beaks are ferocious weapons, once known for piercing foil lids on the early morning milk delivery, but now turned on late winter-nesting birds' eggs and chicks, and even the birds themselves. Small migratory birds like the Silvereye, which travels greater distances than any bird of its size, now competes with big Currawongs for fruit, but frequently becomes the lunch.

Currawongs can pick off red bull-ants, and even one or two toxic spit-fire grubs without ill effect, so defenceless little birds and their offspring become tender morsels, with more taken as the predators increase.

Where currawongs stay longer they can also breed, and have been found feeding their own chicks on flesh torn from threatened adult Gould's Petrel.

A study of regurgitation pellets by the Australian National University showed that while all leavings contained fruits and seeds, almost half contained remains of birds. In another study by the Australian Museum, fake Willy Wagtail eggs that retained beak and teeth imprints showed 64% of nests were attacked, with 63% of those by birds with large bills. In 134 situations currawongs were actually seen attacking the eggs.

It is also found that currawongs target the fruit of invasive privet, which massive effort and large sums of taxpayer funds finds virtually impossible to eradicate. 

It could in the end be up to individual landowners to discourage these birds, to force them to stay comfortably in the ranges where they naturally belong.

            - Patricia Edwards

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on November 26, 2018.  


Monday 19 November 2018


In a Media Release on November 14, North East Forest Alliance (NEFA) stated that logging of native forests was unacceptable and  had no social licence.  Part of the release is printed below:

The evidence is clear from a recent industry survey of over 12,000 Australians that the logging of public native forests has no social license and rather than logging of public native forests being entrenched for a further 20 years it must be phased out as soon as possible according to the North East Forest Alliance.
The Forestry and Wood Products report "Community perceptions of Australia’s forest, wood and paper industries: implications for social license to operate" surveyed  over 12,000 people from throughout Australia and found 70% of urban, and 65% of rural Australians find logging of native forests unacceptable, compared to just 10% of urban, and 17% of rural Australians finding it acceptable.
This reaffirms polling by Reachtel in northern NSW (Ballina and Lismore) late last year that showed that over 48% of people believe the most important value of State forests are the protection of wildlife, nature and trees, with another 23% considering it is the protection of water supplies, 10% carbon storage and 9% recreation. Only around 10% considered the best use was for logging, woodchiping or burning for electricity.
Continued logging of public native forests clearly does not have a social license and must be phased out as soon as possible, said NEFA spokesperson Dailan Pugh.
"Logging of native forests is a dinosaur industry, and with 87% of our sawn timber now coming from plantations there is no excuse to go on logging public native forests,
"Native forests are far more important for tourism jobs, recreation, water yields, mitigating climate change and saving our declining wildlife, such as Koalas.
"The NSW and Commonwealth Governments need to start listening to the community rather than the National Party, and refrain from the imminent intent to entrench logging of public native forests for a further 20 years in new Regional Forest Agreements while further increasing logging intensity and slashing environmental protections.
"Instead of increasing logging the Governments need to implement a strategy to rapidly phase it out, and begin repairing the damage they have inflicted on our irreplaceable public forests", Mr. Pugh said.

Wednesday 14 November 2018

EARTH MATTERS Monday 19th November

It's Not Just About Honey

The final Earth Matters session for this year will be held on Monday November 19 at 5.30 pm..
Laura Noble of Clarence Native Bees will be providing information on native bees - particularly the social stingless bee, Tetragonula carbonaria.  Her session will give advice on what people can do to be caring for the bees' survival.

The session will be held in the Staffroom at Grafton Primary School, Queen Street, Grafton from 5.30 – 7 p.m. on Monday November 19.

There will be time for questions and discussion.  Refreshments will follow.

For further information, contact Stan Mussared on 66449309.

Earth Matters is a session on the environment which is conducted every two months by the Clarence Valley Conservation Coalition ( clarencevcc@gmail.com ).

Closeup of part of a brood

Thursday 8 November 2018


Dirk Hartog Island, a National Park in the Shark Bay World Heritage Area, is Western Australia’s largest island.  It is 80 km long and 15 km at its widest point with an area of about 63,000 ha.

The island is named after its first European visitor, a captain with the Dutch East India Company,  who landed there in 1616.  Scientists have established that at that time there were 13 native mammal species living there.  These included the Woylie, Chuditch (Western Quoll), Dibbler and Western Barred Bandicoot.

The island became a pastoral lease in 1869. When it became a national park in 2009, there were only three of the native mammal species still living there.  The local extinctions were the result of human activity including the introduction of goats, sheep and cats. By 2009 the island’s goat population had expanded to an estimated 10,000 and the impact of these animals grazing and trampling on the native vegetation had been severe.

An ambitious twenty year project “Return to 1616” (costed at $16.3 million) has recently achieved its first major milestone – the removal of thousands of feral cats, goats and sheep. The way is now clear for the re-introduction of threatened native species to a sanctuary in which it is hoped they will thrive.

A fence was put across the island to divide it into two cells.  The island was then baited and the southern section was monitored to gauge its success and then this process was continued in the north.

The first native animals to be reintroduced were 140 Rufous and Banded Hare-wallabies from nearby Bernier and Dorre islands.  The remaining species will be reintroduced in the coming years.

Stephen Dawson, the WA Environment Minister, said that the project was part of a broader suite of measures the State Government was undertaking to create animal sanctuaries for threatened species around the state.

“Over the past 200 years, we’ve seen our species threatened because of land clearing, because of urbanisation, so to have arks like this available in the state where we can restore the animals is very important,” Mr Dawson said.        

            - Leonie Blain

 This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on October 22, 2018.  

Relocating Banded Hare Wallabies on Dirk Hartog Island

Thursday 1 November 2018


Polls show increasing community concern about climate change. This was reflected in the recent Wentworth byelection and is likely to become a major issue in next year’s federal election.
Unfortunately, the community concern is not resulting in any effective action from the federal government which is captive to climate change deniers and the coal lobby.

However, what is really positive is action from the third tier of government with some local councils responding to what they consider a climate emergency.

The first Australian council to do so was Darebin Council in Melbourne’s inner north.  Darebin, a 53 square km area with a population of over 140,000, includes the suburbs of Preston, Reservoir and Northcote. Last year after consultation with its community, it declared a climate emergency and prepared a Climate Emergency Plan for 2017 – 2022. 

The Plan’s introduction states: “Unless we restore a safe climate at emergency speed, there will be dramatic and negative impacts on our community and around the world.  We are already seeing more intense and frequent heatwaves, heavy rainfall and flooding, the bleaching of the Great Barrier Reef, extreme fire weather and more bushfires.”

Darebin had already taken action to reduce emissions -  including making Council’s buildings more energy-efficient, installing more energy-efficient street lights, and providing solar panels for 500 low-income and pensioner households and community groups. 

The Emergency Plan outlines a variety of improvements and modifications by Council as well as encouragement and education of its community so that it can reduce emissions and adapt to climate change.   It includes a commitment to double solar in the LGA over the next five years, explore how council can purchase renewable energy, review the fleet policy to upgrade to low-emissions vehicles, create awareness about divestment and related campaigns, and increase suitable tree canopy coverage to reduce the urban heat island effect.

Two other councils have recently followed suit – Moreland in Melbourne (which is adjacent to Darebin Council) and Byron Bay in the NSW Northern Rivers.

Of course these councils cannot restore a safe climate on their own but they are providing an example to other councils as well as to the moribund federal government.

            - Leonie Blain

This article was originally published in the VOICES FOR THE EARTH column in The Daily Examiner on October 29, 2018.