Safe haven for the diamond firetail

Saturday 21 September, 2013

New hope for declining woodland birds like the diamond firetail is emerging at your Scottsdale Reserve, thanks to Bush Heritage supporters who are getting behind a visionary restoration project.

Diamond FiretailDiamon Firetail. Photo: Graeme Chapman

If you stand very still in the grassy woodlands on Scottsdale Reserve, you might get lucky enough to spot a diamond firetail. First, the brilliant crimson flash of the bird's rump will catch your eye. Then you might stop to admire the black band across its face and neck, and white spots - or diamonds - that dot its black flanks.

As well as protecting endangered grassy box gum woodlands and temperate grasslands, Scottsdale Reserve is also part of the Kosciuszko to Coast (K2C) partnership, which brings landholders in the region together in a joint effort to conserve the landscape and its native species.

A conservation and restoration "learning hub"

Lauren van Dyke, K2C Facilitator, has been involved with the K2C partnership for seven years, providing Bush Heritage with valuable support, and has witnessed significant changes to the conservation network around Scottsdale during that time. She sees restoration efforts on Scottsdale as having widespread conservation outcomes across the region, not only for reconnecting bushland, but also for sharing vital conservation techniques. "Scottsdale is a property where on‑ground conservation efforts can be shared and discussed, so it's like a learning hub," says Lauren.

Yellow box woodlandWith the planting of additional tree and understory species, yellow box woodland will shade out weeds such as African lovegrass. Photo: Matt Appleby

In particular, if our efforts to reduce the invasive weed African lovegrass are successful, Lauren believes many landholders will use some of the techniques on Scottsdale to suppress the weed on their own land. African lovegrass is a major challenge to conservation and threatens the survival of vulnerable birds like the diamond firetail.

According to Bush Heritage ecologist Dr Matt Appeleby, firetails like to feed on native tussock grasses, like wallaby and kangaroo grass, in an open woodland scattered with a few shrubs. They prefer an open ground layer where they can forage for seeds and insects in the spaces between the tussock grasses and they use the grass to build their nests. When threatened by predators such as birds of prey, they seek refuge in shrubs, so it's handy if there are a few close by. African lovegrass however, effectively renders the habitat unusable for firetails and many other ground‑foraging birds.

Working with nature

Volunteers Planting treesVolunteers hard at work during one of the volunteer tree planting events that are held several times each year at Scottsdale. Photo: Peter Saunders

Matt expects that planting an over‑storey of eucalypts and shrubs will not only restore bushland but also outcompete the weed. African lovegrass appears unable to grow under the canopy of yellow box trees, so it is expected that by increasing the density of yellow box, we will eventually exclude African lovegrass as well.

"The restoration work will benefit a wide range of birds," says Matt, "- from foliage feeders within the first five years, to ground foragers like the diamond firetail in the next ten to fifteen years, and then to canopy feeders beyond that. Finally, in 100 to 150 years, when the eucalypts have grown into mature trees and begin to form hollows, hollow‑dependent birds such as the threatened brown treecreeper will find a home for their nests."

Your support means Bush Heritage can provide a safe haven for birds far into the future. For the diamond firetail, this is very welcome news indeed.

Volunteer treeplanters carrying water Volunteers carry water to newly planted seedlings. Photo: Peter Saunders
Scottsdale is a property where on‑ground conservation efforts can be shared and discussed, so it's like a learning hub.

Help bring the bush back to health

Your support will help us fight African lovegrass, reduce pests and plant thousands of trees on Scottsdale Reserve. It will also support our work at your Monjebup North Reserve in WA, where our restoration project aims to restore 400 hectares of habitat for native fauna, at the cost of $2000 per hectare. Please donate today and help bring the bush back to health.


Acknowledgements

We gratefully acknowledge Greening Australia and the Federal Government's Caring for our Country and Biodiversity Fund schemes for their support of the Scottsdale restoration project. This project is supported through a generous private donation.

Scottsdale Reserve was purchased with the assistance of the Vincent Fairfax Family Foundation, David Rickards in memory of Helen Rickards, the Australian Government under the Natural Heritage Trust's National Reserve System Program.

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