Bye Bye Birdies

 

Millions of shore birds will be tweeting “See you later, Australia!” as they hightail it out of here in search of warmer weather. Having spent the summer in Victoria’s wetlands and saltmarshes, most will be gone by the 10th May. Shorebirds’ bodies have gone through a series of changes in the lead up to their long journey north. Fatter bodies, skinny legs, bigger heart muscles and brains wired to be half asleep and half awake at the same time will help these birds on their continuous journey north.

Where can I spot a shorebird before it leaves?

Victoria is proud to have eleven internationally significant wetlands. Test your bird spotting skills at one of these sites and create your own pair of wetland stilts in honour of their journey. You can also learn more about migratory birds at http://farewellshorebirds.org.au/

Rare animal sightings at Grampians National Park

PotorooQuoll

Two rare nocturnal animals have recently been spotted in the Grampians National Park. In December, cameras set up in the bush captured pictures of a Long Nosed Potoroo (left). Then in February they also caught a glimpse of a Spotted-tail Quoll (right). Both these animals are very rare, with the Spotted-tail Quoll thought to be extinct for the last 140 years.

This is very good news for the animals living in the Grampians National Park because it suggests the environment is healthy and there aren’t too many pests or predators hanging around. “We have been undertaking extensive fox control and other conservation works across this landscape for decades, and we know those efforts are paying off” says Ranger in Charge Dave Roberts.

Potoroos and Quolls are nocturnal, meaning they are awake at night hunting for food and sleep all day. While you might not see these rare animals in person, you can still search for clues that they were there by looking for their footprints, shown in the picture above.

Which other animals you find in your local park? Check out our Wildlife Detective activity to help hone your skills and find hard to spot animals.

 

New breath holding record! (don’t try this at home)

Whale Conran Sat 5 June 2010 no  3

 

Cuvier’s Beaked Whale has just won the title of Deep-Dive Champion, with a record breaking dive of 3km holding its breath for a staggering 137 minutes.

Extreme breath holders – Why and how do they do it?

Deep dives are usually in search for delicious squid and fish. Finding food at the bottom of the ocean isn’t easy though, especially for an animal that is used to spending most its time at the ocean’s surface. Deep down temperatures are much colder and there is a lot of pressure pushing on thier body, plus mammals can’t breathe underwater!

Marine mammals have special ways of dealing with these tough conditions. For example, whales send all their blood closer to their brain, keeping the most important parts warm. Some marine mammals also have collapsible lungs to cope with the high pressure. Thier lungs spring back when they return to the ocean’s surface, just like opening your drink bottle after putting it in the fridge for a while. Cuvier’s Beaked Whale also has a special way to store oxygen in their muscles, meaning they don’t have to breathe as much as usual.

These adaptions mean that marine mammals can dive incredible depths and hold their breath for extreme lengths of time – they’d certainly have an unfair advantage at your beach party!

The best time to catch the whales along the Victorian coastline is between June and September. This is when the whales come north to escape the icy cold Antarctic winter. One of the best spots to catch a glimpse is along the Warrnambool coastline, or in the Twelve Apostles Marine National Park.

Walk on the wild side with… Koalas

Koala

Image courtesy of Paul Rushworth

Although Koalas are just as cute as bears they are actually more closely related to wombats! Like wombats, koalas are marsupial mammals – that means the female koala carries its young in a pouch.

The name koala comes from the Aboriginal word meaning “no drink” as koalas get over 90% of their water from eucalyptus leaves. Koalas only drink when they are sick or during times of drought when there is insufficient moisture in the leaves they eat.

Koalas have broad, flat heads with large round hairy ears, flat noses, short, stocky bodies, short legs and large feet with very sharp claws. They are covered in thick ash-grey fur with white on their chest, forelimbs and rump. Koalas that live in the cooler southern parts of Australia have a thicker coat of fur. Their bodies are rounded due to the capacity of their large intestines required to digest eucalyptus leaves.

FASCINATING FACT! Koalas spend 20+ hours each day SLEEPING and resing due to the low amount of energy they obtain from their leafy diet. It’s not just laziness!

They are generally more active at night and communicate using loud grunts and squeals.

Koalas are often called fussy eaters as they feed almost entirely on only fifty of the 500+ species of eucalypt leaves. An adult koala will eat up to ONE KILOGRAM of leaves each night. Different species of eucalypts grow in different parts of Australia, so a koala in Victoria would have a very different diet from one in Queensland.

KOALA SPOTTING! These school holidays you can spot Koalas living in many parks including the Great Otway National Park, Mt Eccles National Park, Grampians National Park, Barmah National Park and French Island National Park. Take a photo and send it into the JR gallery!

Brimbank Playscape Launch

Brimbank kids

Thanks to the Keilor Primary School students who helped to officially open the new playscape at Brimbank Park earlier this year. We’re glad you’ve given it the big thumbs up and look forward to seeing lots more kids and families enjoying this wonderful place with heaps to explore and discover.

The playscape is great for children of all abilities. It features a giant Bunjil’s nest for children to climb, a maze with many elements to discover, and a ‘build-your-own’ cubby house structure.

Pest plants!

124_bridal_creeper

Bridal Creeper

A weed is a plant that is growing where it’s not wanted. Weeds cause problems in our parks for many reasons:

  • They reduce the amount of land available for native plants and animals by taking over bushland
  • They may be poisonous to animals if eaten and can lead to allergies in humans
  • They can also threaten farming industries
  • Some exotic grasses can create high fuel loads that can cause greater bushfire intensity

Did you know that Many weeds can produce large amounts of seed which help their spread via wind, waterways, people (bottom of shoes), vehicles, birds and other animals. Willow trees for example have winged seeds that are carried on the wind tens of kilometres from their source.

When weeds become a problem in your school or garden it can be very helpful to develop a weed management plan. Things to include in a weed management plan include: learning about weeds in your area and how they are spread. Tell people about weeds and discuss problems and solutions. For more information, replacement plant ideas and disposal methods:

Fire and parks

Ranger Deb Cross at Gil Groggin Fire north of Buchan

Ranger Deb Cross at Gil Groggin Fire north of Buchan

Fire, both as a natural event and its use by Aboriginal people has been a part of the Australian environment for thousands of years. It has shaped our plants and animals into the unique ecosystems we have today; its effects in many areas of Victoria are important for the health of our plants and animals. But is it good or Bad?

Well – it can depend. Most major parks in Victoria require periodic fire to ensure the survival of certain plants and animals. A number of native plants and animals have developed specific ways of surviving fire, in fact many including plants such as banksias and grass trees rely on fire to regenerate seeds and survive.

Prescribed Burning

Today the term ‘prescribed burning’ refers to the use of fire to achieve planned land and resource management objectives. Depending on the environment type, some parks need more frequent fire than others.
There are two main reasons that Parks Victoria and the Department of Sustainability conduct prescribed burns in Victoria’s parks:

  • Fuel management – to reduce the risk and intensity of bushfires in areas surrounding towns and important assets.
  • Flora and fauna management – to maintain species diversity and encourage fire dependant species like banksias and Grass Trees to regenerate.

Prescribed burns are usually conducted in autumn or spring when the weather is milder. Keep an eye out when you’re travelling around at this time of year for the large plumes of smoke coming from the burns.

Beautiful but deadly

Blue Ringed Octopus

Blue Ringed Octopus

This beautiful but deadly blue-ring octopus was photographed near Skenes Creek by Ranger Sylvia.

Rockpool rambling is a favourite Summer acitvity for many families and there are plenty of wonders to be found along Victoria’s rocky shores. Just remember to keep your fingers where you can see them to prevent any nasty surprises, avoid handling any plants or animals, and leave everything just as you found it.