Dangerous application in dry times

The ongoing dry conditions experienced over much of the state are cause for concern amongst land managers and gardeners for several reasons. The primary, and most obvious, concern is for the provision of adequate water and forage for the health and productivity of livestock.

Rain Return: Will your ground cover absorb a ‘gully raker’ when the drought breaks? When prolonged dry conditions break it is often with heavy a downpour.

Another cause for concern may be the disruption in the annual spray programmes to reduce weed species.

When plants are moisture stressed translocation and respiration slow dramatically, restricting the movement of herbicides to their sites of action. Plants experiencing high temperature, low humidity and low soil moisture conditions tend to have a thicker cuticle (the protective cover of the leaf) with more waxy deposits on the surface. This reduces the absorption of foliar herbicides.

The timing and amount of rainfall not only determines the moisture status of the plant but also removes dust from the leaves and modifies the leaf cuticle. Recent rainfall will therefore improve herbicide uptake.

Soil moisture influences soil microbial activity which assists in the breakdown of herbicides in the soil. Dry soil conditions prevent the biological and chemical processes that degrade herbicides, making them more likely to persist and injure subsequent germinations of perennial pasture plants.

When weeds are growing under extreme moisture stress it may be best to wait to apply herbicide until conditions improve.

Maintaining adequate groundcover is very important at all times of the year. Good groundcover protects the soil from extreme climatic conditions, supports biological activity within the soil, and reduces weed seed germination and growth through competition.

When prolonged dry conditions break it is often with heavy a downpour, especially if this occurs within the summer months. These ‘gully rakers’ can cause much damage to farm infrastructure if there is no groundcover to absorb the moisture or to slow the flow of water across the landscape. There would be many in the district who can remember when drought breaking rains have reduced farm dams to a stinking crust of animal manure and other organic matter.

Alternative methods of weed control might be looked for in prolonged dry periods. Annual plants can be slashed or mown before their flowers mature and perennials can be chipped, pulled up if numbers are small, or slashed several times. These methods are labour intensive and therefore more costly, however perennial pastures will be protected and persistent herbicide residue in the soil will not be an issue. An added benefit will be the mulch of slashed, chipped or mown weeds covering the soil, protecting it from extreme climatic conditions and providing soil organisms with a food source.

Attract birds to your garden

Native plants are a great way to attract birds to your garden, but the type of native you plant can greatly affect the types of birds it will attract.

The species you select will influence whether you favour seed-eaters, honeyeaters or insect-eaters, but they all like thick vegetation to nest, shelter and forage in, so density is key.

Aim for a multi-layered habitat, with lots of plants at different heights, and trees and shrubs that will provide year round food and shelter for many species.

“Plant selection is an important thing to consider when planting a garden if you want habitat for the smaller birds.” said botanist, Christine McRae.

“What you plant can shift the species diversity of birds.” she continued.

Larger birds like the wattle bird, which prefers nectar rich flowers such as the grevillea, can be very territorial and displace smaller bird species.

“To attract smaller birds plant less nectar rich and more small, spiky flowered plants” said Christine.

Small birds like finches rely on dense vegetation to provide protection from predators.

During dry conditions don’t forget to provide the birds with a drink. A bird bath or a dish regularly topped up with water can also help to attract birds to your garden.

Spring is the season when birds are most lively and visible and getting involved in the Aussie Backyard Bird Count is a great way to learn more about the feathered inhabitants of your neighbourhood.

BirdLife Australia and it’s Birds in Backyards program have created the Aussie Backyard Bird Count initiative to provide an important snapshot of the birds that live where people live.

The event was launched in 2014 and last year over 61,000 people participated and 1.4 million bird records were submitted.

The 2017 Aussie Backyard Bird Count runs from 23-29 October.

It’s easy to get involved, just head to the website to register as a Counter: http://aussiebirdcount.org.au/ (the website also contains some handy tips for designing a bird friendly garden).

It only takes 20 minutes and it’s a great activity to do with the family or a group of friends.

So register as a counter, grab a Field Guide and head out into the backyard, local park or your favourite green space and see how many of the 800 bird species present in Australia you can identify.

Honing your bird ID skills

Can you pick a Brown Treecreeper from a Whitethroated Treecreeper? Do you know what a Spotted Pardalote’s call sounds like? Want to know clues to finding the rare Regent Honeyeater?

Ever wanted to record what birds are in your area? Come and join a workshop on woodland bird identification and survey methods!

Central Tablelands LLS have invited BirdLife Australia’s Woodland Birds for Biodiversity project coordinator, Mick Roderick, to run a fun workshop focusing on many facets of woodland bird identification and monitoring in Mudgee on Tuesday 3 October.

“The diversity of birds within Woodland areas is an excellent indication of that remnant’s health. To be able to pick different species using sight and sound is a valuable skill for any land manager.” said Bruce Christie, Central Tablelands LLS Senior Land Services Officer.

“Mick Roderick from Birdlife is a valuable source of information and we are very lucky to have him available for this day.” he continued.

Topics covered on the day will include: temperate woodlands and why the birds that rely on them are so threatened; woodland bird identification basics; importance of call recognition; separating similar species by sight and sound; performing bird surveys for woodland birds; recording birds using an online portal or using an app on your phone; and targeting rare birds such as Regent Honeyeaters.

“The day will be a combination of presentations and a visit to a local site to develop our bird watching skills and practice some of the topics covered in the talk.” said Mr Christie.

“We will also record a bird survey in real-time on a smartphone using the BirdLife Australia Birdata app.” he continued.

It’s recommended that participants download the Birdata app prior to attending the workshop: http://birdata.birdlife.org.au/

Hooded Robin. Photo credit: Huw Evans

The workshop will be held on Tuesday 3 October from 8 to 11:30am at the Australian Rural Education Centre (AREC).

Tea/coffee will be available on arrival and morning tea will be provided. Please bring binoculars, notebook and pen, sunscreen, warm clothes, hat, enclosed walking shoes, drinking water and a bird field guide if you have one.

The workshop is free to attend but numbers are strictly limited, please register by Monday 25 September. For further details or to register contact Bruce Christie on 6378 1712 or by email: bruce.j.christie@lls.nsw.gov.au.

Environmental expo a success

The biggest event on Watershed Landcare’s calendar is over for another year.

The Green Day environmental expo for year 5 and 6 students from schools across our region was held at Mudgee Showground last Thursday.

“Everything ran very smoothly, which is no mean feat with coordinating nearly 600 kids from 13 schools and 20 workshops and presenters.” said Watershed Landcare Chairman, Craig Dennis.

The theme of this year’s Green Day was GoMAD – go make a difference – and the event coincided with Threatened Species Day and Outdoor Education Day.

“The students got plenty of fresh air and learned about biodiversity and what they can do in their home and school environments to help protect our native plants and animals.” said Mr Dennis.

Other workshops focused on the themes of reducing waste, water and energy consumption with presenters from Central Tablelands Local Land Services, Mid-Western Regional Council, Red Hill Environmental Education Centre, NetWaste, Niche Environment and Heritage, Barnson Pty Ltd, Royal Agricultural Society, Crave Natural and Rosby Sculptures in the Garden.

Students making horse sculptures at Green Day which will be exhibited at Rosby’s Sculptures in the Garden in October.

“The students were encouraged to take away lessons learned on the day by making pledges of what they can do at home or school to improve the environment and live more sustainably and to share the message with their friends and families.” said Mr Dennis.

Our keynote speaker, Ruben Meerman, delighted students and teachers alike with his spectacular science demonstrations. With the aid of liquid nitrogen, lasers and ordinary household items like food colouring and balloons, Ruben demonstrated simple scientific concepts like evaporation and condensation which helped to illustrate more complex ideas like water circulation in the atmosphere and how it affects climate.

“Green Day would not be possible without the generous support of our sponsors, because of them it continues to be a fully subsidised event and it means every child can attend.” said Mr Dennis.

“We would also like to thank all our volunteers for their hard work behind the scenes to make the event such a success; Mudgee High School students who acted as guides, the Peabody crew who prepared the kids lunches, our members and, last but not least, Viv Howard our Green Day Coordinator for bringing it all together.” he continued.

Watershed Landcare would like to acknowledge the support of Mid-Western Regional Council, Office of Environment and Heritage, Central Tablelands Local Land Services, Peabody Energy, Moolarben Coal, Red Hill Environmental Education Centre and Niche Environment and Heritage.

This event is supported by Watershed Landcare and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

The economics of street trees

We all know that trees improve air and water quality, capture and store carbon, provide shade, increase biodiversity, reduce winter temperature variances, reduce average heat wave temperatures and help to minimise stormwater damage.

But scientists and economists are just beginning to appreciate the multiple benefits and economic value that street trees provide in urban environments.

The value returned through improved amenity, reduced electricity consumption, infrastructure durability improvements due to greater shading, ecosystem services, increased property values, reduced heat stress affecting the community, impacts on health (especially cardiovascular health and obesity as tree lined streets encourage an outdoor lifestyle) is starting to be quantified and included in urban planning decisions.

An increase in canopy cover from 20% to 28% reduces air temperature by 4ºC and road and pavement temperatures by up to 14ºC in heat waves.

All these benefits and the value returned increase with increasing canopy cover. This means that when mature, trees have crowns large enough to interact with each other.

So what works best? The bigger the tree the better. A mix of deciduous and evergreen species is best and the more trees the better – regularly and tightly spaced along the street.

A recent report produced by infrastructure firm AECOM, Green Infrastructure, aimed to quantify the financial, social and environmental value of street trees in the Australian context.

The report recognised that while residents benefit most from the advantages provided by street trees, most of the costs and risks are borne by local governments and utility companies. Even with that taken into account, the report found that the net benefits significantly outweigh the underlying costs and a lot of these challenges can be overcome by selecting appropriate species, strategic planting and planning for ‘green infrastructure’ when designing new developments.

And we’re voting with our money – AECOM found that home buyers are prepared to pay a premium to live in green, leafy streets. Across 3 suburbs in the Greater Sydney area analysed for the report, buyers were prepared to pay an average of $50k more for a 10% increase in canopy cover in the street.

So whether we do it consciously or not we are certainly recognising that trees make our urban environments more livable.

Did you know that Mid-Western Council have a Street Tree Planting Policy and Council will supply and plant 2 street trees per urban block with a standard sized frontage? Just drop in to Council and submit a works request or contact Jenny Neely for more information on 6378 2745.

Get involved in Landcare

September 4-10 marks Landcare Week. Landcare Week is an annual celebration encouraging everyone, wherever they live and whatever they do, to get involved in the Landcare community and help protect and restore our country’s valuable natural resources.

Landcare became a national initiative in 1989 and has since grown into the largest environmental and land management movement in the country.

The Landcare movement has come a long way since it’s inception. From it’s humble beginnings in the 1980s as a loose collaboration between farmers and environmentalists to plant trees, it now boasts over 5,000 coastcare, bushcare and other landcare groups, all dedicated to managing environmental issues in local communities across Australia from coast to country.

Watershed Landcare is no exception. The group has been active in our region for 21 years, working with the community to encourage positive change and progress from a people, prosperity and environmental point of view.

Watershed Landcare Inc.

Our area covers approximately 900,000 ha (9000 km²) stretching to Gulgong in the north, Burrendong Dam in the west, the Turon River in the south and the Wollemi National Park in the east. Members include established landholders, town and village residents, land managers, people with country retreats and local businesses.

Landcare is a grassroots movement and we work together with our community to support an integrated, productive and sustainable approach to land management. Our activities, field days, workshops, seminars and projects focus on topics of importance to our members.

The Watershed Landcare Management Committee recently met with representatives from Mid-Western Regional Council, Central Tablelands Local Land Services and members of our community to plan it’s strategy for the next 12-18 months. The day was very successful with many great ideas flowing.

Raising awareness of issues relevant to our local environment and supporting people to create change through capacity building and sharing of knowledge and skills remain important core values to the organisation.

Watershed Landcare’s priorities will continue to focus on projects and activities that address sustainable agriculture, improving land and water management and, protecting threatened and vulnerable species and communities.

Engaging our urban community and waste management were also identified as important, new areas of attention.

Do you have a great idea for an event or project we could run, want to get involved or want to find out more about what we do?

Visit our website, www.watershedlandcare.com.au, or contact one of our Coordinators, Claudia Wythes on 0412 011 064 or Agness Knapik on 0435 055 493 or email: info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

Watershed makes waves

Watershed Landcare is very pleased to announce that we have confirmed our keynote speaker for our 9th annual Green Day event.

We have been fortunate to secure the services of Ruben Meerman, a.k.a the Surfing Scientist!

Ruben is a passionate science educator, who travels extensively throughout Australia running exciting and engaging science sessions for primary and high school students. He has featured on popular television shows including Catalyst, Sleek Geeks, Studio 3, Sunrise, Roller Coaster, and was the first ever resident scientist on Playschool. He recently authored Big Fat Myths, which explores common myths around weight loss and dieting.

Ruben will run three, one hour sessions focusing on our key themes of water, waste, biodiversity and energy, and focus particularly on the science behind the problems and solutions for key environmental challenges, including plastic pollution.

The theme of this year’s event is GoMAD, an acronym for Go Make A Difference. In addition to our keynote speaker, we will have 20 workshop sessions being delivered by a number of local businesses and organisations.

Green Day would not be possible without the support of Mid-Western Regional Council, Office of Environment and Heritage, Central Tablelands Local Land Services, Peabody Energy, Red Hill Environmental Education Centre and Niche Environment and Heritage.

These important sponsors and supporters mean that Watershed is able to plan and execute Green Day with no costs to schools and students. All aspects of the day including transport and lunch are provided.

We need you? We still need a couple more volunteers for the day. Roles might include assisting with the Sculptures in the Garden Waste to Art activity, tracking the time of different sessions or setting up or packing down before or after the event.

If you’re available to help on Thursday 7 September, or would like any additional information, please contact Vivien Howard on 0427 446 245 or email info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

This event is supported by Watershed Landcare and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

Going mad for our Green Day

Watershed Landcare is busy organising its 9th annual Green Day event, happening this year at Mudgee Showground on 7 September.

We’ve got record numbers for this year’s event with 625 students from 16 schools participating.

The theme of this year’s event is GoMAD, an acronym for Go Make A Difference, the theme aligns with a popular environmental education program undertaken by the NSW Department of Education.

“This year’s theme is all about taking action. Workshops will provide students with key take-home messages around the themes of biodiversity, energy, waste and water.” said Vivien Howard, Watershed Landcare’s Green Day Project Manager.

A total of 19 workshop presenters from a number of different local businesses and organisations will take part in this event. Students will learn about managing pest species, water quality, habitat protection and waste reduction.

“The workshop sessions are a vital part of the event, complimenting the keynote speaker and providing students with hands-on demonstrations from industry.” said Ms Howard.

“This year we have workshops from staff at Central Tablelands Local Land Services, Mid-Western Regional Council, Red Hill Environmental Education Centre, NetWaste, Niche Environment and Heritage, Barnson Pty Ltd, Royal Agricultural Society, Crave Natural and Rosby Sculptures in the Garden. We are very grateful for the participation of these businesses in our event.” she continued.

Keen to help out? We are always in need of volunteers at Green Day, this year we have a particular need for volunteers to help with the Waste to Art activity being run by Kay Norton-Knight of Rosby Sculptures in the Garden.

If you’re available to help, or would like any additional information about the event, please contact Vivien Howard on 0488 224 025 or email info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

This event is supported by Watershed Landcare and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

Getting the buzz on backyard beekeeping

Renowned beekeeper and industry expert, Bruce White OAM will be back in Mudgee in August for another beekeeping course.

Are you interested in learning about bees, or perhaps having your own hive but don’t know where to start?

The Mudgee Bee Group will be hosting the Backyard Beekeeping course and invite novice and experienced beekeepers, as well as people interested in starting up their first hives, to attended.

A retired apiary officer from the NSW Department of Agriculture and a hobby beekeeper, Mr White became fascinated with bees when he was in primary school. He got his first hive when he was 13 years old and now boasts over 60 years beekeeping experience.

Mr White has extensive knowledge of rural beekeeping and frequently delivers courses for the Local Land Services and the Amateur Beekeepers Association. He was awarded the Medal of the Order of Australia in 2011 for his service to the beekeeping industry.

The 2 day course will cover topics such as protective clothing, hive design, hive management, biosecurity, honey extraction and a whole lot more in a hands-on practical weekend.

The Mudgee Bee Group’s community hives will be available for participants to practise on and gain confidence in handling bees.

The course will be held on Saturday 12 and Sunday 13 August at the Straw Bale Shed , Australian Rural Education Centre (AREC).

Cost is $275 per person and includes course notes, lunch and morning tea on both days. A discount rate of $180 is available for Watershed Landcare and Mudgee Bee Group financial members.

Numbers are strictly limited and you must pay in full to secure your spot. If you’d like to participate send an expressions of interest to Claudia Wythes, Watershed Landcare Coordinator, on 0412 011 064 or claudia.wythes@watershedlandcare.com.au.

The Mudgee Bee Group and Watershed Landcare would like to acknowledge support from AREC, for hosting the Mudgee Bee Group hives and providing a venue for meetings and the course.

This event is supported by Watershed Landcare and is a part of the NSW Government’s Local Landcare Coordinators Initiative, supported through the partnership of Local Land Services and Landcare NSW.

A spinning spider’s good side

A healthy spider community means a healthy, biodiverse ecosystem.

How do you measure the health of something as diverse and complex as an entire ecosystem?

Ecologists use top-level, or apex, predators as an indirect measure of the biodiversity and functionality of the entire system.

The reasoning is that if those at the top of the food chain are healthy, diverse and resilient then that must also be the case for each link in the chain – other predators, herbivores, plants and algae, insects, soil microbes etc.

But did you know that you can apply the same principles on your own farm?

Spiders can act as indicators of ecosystem health and habitat quality. They play a critical role in agricultural pest management and you are never more than about one metre from a spider as they go about their business of consuming insects and other creepy crawlies. Having a healthy spider community on your farm means you have a healthy, biodiverse ecosystem.

As part of a research project on landholder collaboration for landscape-scale conservation and sustainable production lead by the University of Sydney and University of New South Wales, Watershed Landcare will be hosting a spider monitoring workshop in Mudgee.

We are very lucky to have a special guest speaker coming to the event. Dr Mary Whitehouse is a CSIRO scientist who has spent many years researching spider biodiversity particularly in crops.

Mary will be happy to identify spiders if anyone wishes to bring some along in a glass jar.

We will look at a cost-effective and easy-to-use method of monitoring spiders by using spiders’ webs as a substitute (the Web2Spider guide and supplementary material provided by the Australian Museum).

This workshop will cover:

  • How to identify and monitor spiders on your property
  • How spiders respond to good land management
  • Why working together on spider monitoring is beneficial
  • How to upload the information onto an online collaborative tool
  • How to use this data to make more informed land management decisions

The Mudgee Spider Monitoring workshop will be held on Tuesday Tuesday 8 August, 5:30-8pm in the Burrundulla Room, Mudgee Golf Club.
All welcome. The workshop is free to attend and dinner is included.

Please RSVP for catering purposes by Monday 31 July to Agness Knapik, Watershed Landcare Coordinator, on 0435 055 493 or info@watershedlandcare.com.au.

This event is supported by the University of Sydney, University of New South Wales and Watershed Landcare and is a part of the Landholder Collaboration Project funded by the NSW Environmental Trust.

More information on the project is available here.