Friday, 18 May 2012

The march of coal and CSG

Since moving to Queensland I have been both moved at the beauty around me but also by the scale of the environmental threats which seem to be most acute in this part of Australia.  Not only is there a threat to now 'endangered' species like the Koala from urbanisation,which I see regularly on my walks on the 'island' of Mt Gravatt, but there is a large and dark shadow looming over rural Australia extending its reach to the Great Barrier Reef: Open cut Coal and Coal Seam Gas (CSG) mining.  This video just released by GetUp! explains some of the threats from mining in a simple and accessible way:
Having now seen the Bimblebox documentary at a UQ screening I feel so motivated to try and take action and I couldn't resist to make a blog post about this.  So, what to do?! Well, besides GetUp!, Lock the Gate campaign is raising public awareness, particularly in rural areas, of the potential impact this will have (particularly CSG) on physical, social, environmental and economic wellbeing.  The strange law in Australia that one can own what is on the land's surface but the state retains rights to what is below (and so can transfer those rights literally from under the farmer to mining) is something that is making it easier for mining companies to put a lot of pressure on farmland and nature reserves.   I feel that just because it is there, does it mean we have to mine it? - surely there is a better way!  Beyond Zero Emissions is another worthy campaign that aims to provide a solution and blueprint to guide Australia to reduce emissions 'beyond zero' within a timespan of 10 years. I would love to see some of the big bucks from mining, defence etc. go into the shrinking budgets of our universities and scientific institutions to really crack the renewable energy problem and address other issues of sustainability like global food security.

I feel these 'grassroots' campaigns are beginning to make some ripples in the perception that Australia has boundless resources.  But is it too little too late?  Please wake up Australia to what is happening in your backyard... !

Saturday, 12 May 2012

A lone Koala on Mount Gravatt

Well, we are getting quite proud of our Koala spotting abilities, we have a 100% record for Koala spotting on Mt Gravatt since we first spotted the Koala family back in January! We went a little walk below the Federation lookout again where we have spotted them before, and came across this lone Koala in a tall tree near a bridge, pictured below.

The Koala was very high up in the large tree pictured above next to the path, so it was hard to get a clear picture.  I don't know which member of the Koala family it was, I'm pretty sure not the mother (as her ears were not very furry and she was more brown in colour, as well as her head seemed smaller - an indiation that this Koala is a male) so maybe it was the Dad, or it could be the Joey all grown up?! Anyhow, he looked very healthy and well fed.
When I tell people I've spotted a Koala they always ask 'what tree was it in'.  Unfortunately, 'Eucalyptus' is not a satisfactory answer - Koalas are rather fussy! Well, I have to confess, I've not been in Australia long enough yet to really appreciate the differences between Eucalypts, however I thought I'd take a picture of the tree trunk and some leaves (behind the Koala) below to make some attempt to identify the tree.  Any suggestions?!

With some internet research added to my limited knowledge, I've come up with:
- some kind of Stringybark Eucalyptus
- I looked at this very handy guide to the ID of Eucalypts in the Brisbane region (I will have to print it) and narrowed it down to being most likely one of the first three in the list as they are known to be Koala food:  Swamp Mahogany Eucalyptus robusta, Red mahogany/stringybark Eucalyptus resinifera or Tallowwood Eucalyptus microcorys.  
I'm pretty sure this is a different species to the Eucalypts we have seen the Koalas on previously as the tree bark was distinctly different.  I came across more detail on local Koala food trees on the DERM website.
In my internet search I was also interested to read on the Griffith University website (whose campus is on part of the mountain) that the Mt Gravatt reserve has some rather rare Eucalypt species: Eucalyptus Baileyana and Eucalyptus Planchoniana - now there is a challenge to try and find and identify one!  They are also Stringybark, so would look quite similar to this one.    

Monday, 7 May 2012

Glider Forest

Wildlife Queensland and their Glider Network  organised a morning for the public to help with nestbox monitoring in a patch of bushland called Glider Forest, in Larapinta (south Brisbane).  This included hunting for some nestboxes that were put up years ago but never monitored!  Gliders, like possums, are nocturnal and sleep during the day, so the nestboxes provide an important substitute for tree hollows in areas that have suffered from tree clearing.

We started out by looking for some nestboxes that had not been located with the GPS.  The group leader knew roughly where they were, making the task a bit easier, and a couple of the youngsters with us had keen eyes so we found them without too much trouble.  Then the fun began - we used a special camera to take a look inside the boxes!  Here is a video from Wildlife Queensland that explains how the remote camera works:
Here are 'the boys' wrestling with the telescopic pole trying to get the camera in the nestbox, bit like 'hook a duck'!

A lot of the boxes contained leaves in a little nest - which meant that Gliders are using the box but just not that day.  We didn't find any Gliders at first, but then we found a Brush-tail Possum Trichosurus vulpecula in one of the possum boxes!  There were several Microbat boxes too, although we couldn't see in them as the opening was too small.  However, it was obvious that there were no Microbats in one of them, as a Lace Monitor Varanus varius had decided to have a snooze there instead - we could just see the tail and foot sticking out!
It was getting to the end of our survey when we came across a box with some Glider inhabitats, the image on the screen wasn't too clear but the group leader thought they were Squirrel Gliders Petaurus norfolcensis (Gliders sleep socially, so there were a few in the nest!).  The Wildlife Queensland web link also had some audio on the noise they make!  Then, in the very last box we surveyed, we came across some Sugar Gliders  Petaurus breviceps and were able to see them clearly on the screen. Technology is amazing!