On Friday 6th October 42 people, of which 9 were children, gathered at the Kyeamba Travelling Stock Reserve (where?? about 30 mins out of Wagga Wagga) in search of creatures in the night. The evening began with a BBQ dinner which, would you believe it, arrived on the back of a truck!
Over dinner Mason Crane and Clare Crane spoke about the value of travelling stock reserves (TSR’s) and paddock trees for biodiversity. Participants left with the following key take-home messages:
- TSR’s are some of the highest biodiverse areas in Australia – yes that’s right much higher than National Parks and State Parks. Why? Well during European settlement National Parks and State Parks were generally “the left-over bits”. That is, Parks were generally established on land that was not suitable for farming and therefore vegetation was not cleared. TSR’s on the other hand occurred on very productive land but were left relatively uncleared to allow for stock movement.
- Paddock trees are vital to the economic and environmental health of the land. Paddock trees are used by birds, bats, insects, cattle, sheep and other animals for resting, feeding, protection from predators, shade, and as ‘stepping stones’ to larger stands of trees and shrubs. Tree hollows, including those in dead trees are used for nesting while fallen timber provides habitat for small ground-dwelling animals such as reptiles.
- Paddock trees also provide an economic return by providing shelter from wind, heat and cold for pastures, crops and stock. For example, did you know that sheltered off-shear wethers require only about one third the amount of supplementary feed to maintain bodyweight compared to those that are unsheltered. Cold stress reduces wool growth, limits live weight gains and reduces dairy cattle milk yields. Heat stress limits live weight gain in cattle and reduces wool growth in sheep.
After dinner Mason positioned each participant at a “stag tree” (old, possibly dead and decaying tree that has formed nesting hollows) to watch for 30 minutes on dusk. As the TSR darkened participants sat quietly in the hope to see or hear a squirrel glider or possum to appear from one of the stag-hollows. And some did! Participants emerged from the darkness with stories of spotting microbats (Microchiroptera) and a squirrel glider (Petaurus norfolcensis)!
Supper and a hot drink was served before we headed off into the night equipped with torches on the search for more wildlife. We spotted more microbats, ring tail possums (Pseudocheirus peregrinus), brushtail possums (Trichosurus vulpecul) and two locally endangered squirrel gliders! It was such a great night that highlighted that the retention of good quality habitat, like the Kyeamba TSR, helps to support a diverse mix of arboreal mammals. Mason and Clare also commented that the surrounding paddock trees were great for squirrel glider movement and would have contributed to their living within the TSR.
If you want these important mammals and bats on your property remember to retain your larger stands of trees and shrubs, paddock trees and hollow-bearing dead trees. This will ensure shelter and food provision for many years to come.