Wednesday, 30 October 2013

RMIT student strategies to make Riddells Creek Landcare stronger

We're some months on from our project with RMIT, where students doing a strategic management unit used RCL as a case study. They invented strategies for us. We sat and listened to some of their presentations, then read some of the better reports.

What did we learn? There were three big messages—

  • support our members,
  • invite in more members,
  • form alliances for protection of Barrm Birrm.

 Support our members

  1. Give your members opportunities to do the things they want to do. Keep the focus on protection of native flora and fauna, and education.

  1. Support members in forming into teams around specific projects that they manage themselves.

  2. Make the most of the skills and innovations within RCL, in particular its knowledge of and tools for recording flora and fauna.  Do a skills audit to understand what members can bring to RCL.

  1. Keep track of how happy members are in their projects, because enthusiastic people will spread the word about RCL, and bring in new ideas.

Invite in more members

  1. Reach out to residents of Riddells who aren’t yet members, and invite them into your activities.

  1. Emphasise the values and beliefs behind what you do – that we have a responsibility to look after our environment, and that learning about the flora and fauna of Riddells is enjoyable and part of being a true resident of this place.

  1. Learn from what we do, feeding back from each project to all members and to the community – think of ourselves as a learning organisation.

Form alliances for protection of Barrm Birrm

  1. Find corporate partners willing to fund you (or resource you with their expertise eg RMIT) for several years to make BB part of a wider wildlife corridor. Don’t wait for government funding to start this process.

  1. Build alliances with other groups working on large scale landscape protection, like Deep Creek Landcare & Australian Wildlife Society.
This gives us plenty to work on as we head into the new year (after our AGM). Thanks to all at RMIT, and especially Jason Downs, who believed in the value of giving students real-world experience and supported the students right through. Thanks also to Russell Best and Ross Colliver for presenting Riddells Creek to the students, to Bill Hall for making the connection with RMIT School of Management, and to Gill Best for urging us on and coming to the final presentation of strategies.

Friday, 18 October 2013

A 4mm long peacock may be lurking in your backyard

It is not a bird and it is not a flea

Male peacock spider (Maratas pavonis), the species known from Victoria / Jurgen Otto photograph 

Following on from an episode in tonight's ABC Quantum program (17/10/2013) on Jurgen Otto's studies of the marvelous courtship displays of the tiny little peacock jumping spiders of the genus Marata, I had to learn more about them. The name of the Victorian species, pavonis, refers to Pavo - the peacock (bird). The video below is one of a series of 9 showing the behaviors of several different species that Otto has placed on YouTube, so you will see why my sudden interest.


My first question was, are these fascinating creatures likely to be found in Riddells Creek? So, I checked Natureshare and found only two observations of Maratus pavonis: One by Wendy M from Murray Street, Coburg, and the other by Jody Jackson from near Malcolm Creek in Cragiburn:

Exploring further, I found that peacock spiders are only known from Australia and range in size from 3.5 mm to 7 mm. Mosquito sized males have a multicolored wing-like flaps that they normally hold wrapped around their abdomens.

Darlington's peacock spider from the Stirling Ranges, WA on someone's finger (Jurgen Otto). His wing flaps are wrapped around his abdomen

Spider with his cape extended and gesturing with his third legs..

For more than 100 years, it was was popularly believed that these flaps were used to help the spider fly or glide. Waldock (1993, 2007) discovered that the cape was actually used like the male peacock's tail as a display to females.

The World Spider Catalog lists 35 species. Otto and Hill (2011) provide fabulous diagnostic photographs of 11 species, including 3 that have not yet been formally described. Otto and Hill also note that Julianne M. Waldock of the Western Australian Museum, who is reviewing and revising the genus, has said that there are probably around 15 more species from Western Australia that still have not been described.

Given that these mosquito sized guys can even be found in urban backyards in Coburg and Cragieburn, the conclusion I draw from this is that peacock jumping spiders can probably be found in Riddells Creek if you keep your eyes open for little jumping spiders. There may well even be more than one species here - especially in areas of remnant vegetation like Barrm birrm. If you find one that doesn't look like the Natureshare pictures, it is probably an undescribed species.

Keep a lookout for the little guys - they may well surprise you, and you might even get to name a new species!


Thursday, 17 October 2013

Australia's Most Annoying Pest

Not rabbits, not cane toads, not foxes. What gets up the noses of more Australians than any other pest is the Indian Myna bird. Introduced to Melbourne in the 1860s to combat insects in market gardens, they are agressive, noisy, smart and out-compete native birds.

Researcher Kate Grarock found the introduction of mynas had led to significant falls in the abundance of 11 bird species in an ruban area. Crimson rosella numbers had fallen from 5.9 per square kilometre to 2.4. Sulphur crested cockatoo numbers had fallen by 2 per square kilometre and kookaburras by about 0.4. (See The Age)

 And they're spreading here in Riddells Creek.

Riddells resident Stephanie Schabe has had enough. What was one pair has now grown to a small flock of six, and she taking action. Stephanie phoned Landcare this week asking if we were doing anything about Indian Mynas. No we aren't, but we'll back Stephanie by letting our members know about what she's doing.

To catch Indian Mynas, get a specially constructed cage (plans available, Mens Shed may build, or buy them for $50), then put food in the cage with easy access in and out, so the Mynas get used to coming and going. Then set the cage so they can get in, but not out. Last step - kill the birds, and drop them in your waste bin. It's the killing that's hardest for many people, and a big barrier to taking action. Bill Hall has pointed me to a workshop program that Wollongong City Council offers its ratepayers on how to dispose of caught mynas, and asks if Macedon Ranges offers similar. Not that we know of, but no harm in asking. 

If you want to get rid of Mynas around your residence, and claim back space for native birds, contact Stephanie Schade on 0419366117, or