Ep.27 Trees As Habitat - Dr John Martin (Hollows As Homes, RBGS / Wildlife Assist)

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You're on the plants grow here podcast. I'm Daniel Fuller. Come along with me as we enter a hidden world of deep horticultural, ecological and landscape gardening knowledge with featured experts, industry professionals and enthusiasts. Trees and other plants are an incredibly important natural ecological resource that provide homes for a range of animals. In this episode, we're lucky enough to have on dr. john Martin aka wing tags, who manages hollows as homes which is a Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney project, which is transitioning to wildlife assist in conjunction with the Taronga Conservation Society, which you may know better as the Taronga Zoo, as well as a range of other partners across the country. Currently, horloges. Holmes works with community and land managers to assess the availability of tree hollows in urban and agricultural areas. Good. JOHN, welcome to the show.
Daniel, great to be chatting.
Yeah, no workers. So can you start by telling us a little bit about hollows as homes and this transition into wildlife assist?
Yeah, well, across Australia, we have over 300 native vertebrates. So that's all the mammals and birds and reptiles, etc, that, that need tree hollows, has habitat for them to be breeding. Some of them use them for shelter as well. But a lot of those species actually use them seasonally just to breed. And then beyond those vertebrates, there's all the non vertebrates, which of course, these are the obvious one that a lot of people will think of all the insects and spiders and things that also use tree hollows as habitat. So trail is a really important across the landscape. And one of the things that it's may not be blatantly obvious, but most people will appreciate, of course, that generally you're going to see tree hollows in larger older trees. And that's because they take time to fall, there are a couple of different processes where they fall. But in a lot of urban areas, we don't see a lot of these big old trees. And that means that there's less likely to be those habitats, and therefore less likely to be those species in our urban areas. in agricultural areas. As I think a lot of us would be familiar, there's generally a lot more trees, and generally some bigger older trees. But that depends on the type of agriculture and some agricultural landscapes, of course, have have removed a lot of trees for different cropping practices and stocking practices. So this is an issue across a huge part of Australia, where we've altered the landscape and particularly removing trees, it's also a bit of an issue in some of our national parks as well. And that can be in relation to fire having burned a large proportion of areas and actually killed old trees and the time it takes for new hollows and new trades to form. So of course, dead trees can provide hollows and they are really valuable, but they're often not retained, particularly in urban areas because of the risk of trees collapsing on cars, and people in houses and these sorts of things. So there's always a balance with respect to this sort of stuff. And one of the things that we'll touch on throughout our chat is nest boxes. And there's a lot of people who have a range of programs that are using nest boxes to try and provide the supplementary habitat for our native species to replace those missing travelers. And so the holiday homes project, which is going to be rebranded as wildlife assist is a citizen science project where you and I everyone listening can contribute to our understanding of tree hollows in the landscape, and in particular, the wildlife that use them. So you can report tree hollows and nest boxes and the wildlife that you see using those habitat so we can actually learn more about them and one of the so we knew that it was a really small scope, you can do it in your backyard or your local park, if that's what you're doing. There's tricolor there, if you chose to put up a nest box are also really keen to be working with regional groups, and that could be councils or lancair. And these different groups that are actively putting out boxes, targeting different wildlife and trying to learn about how we can do best to maximize the provision of habitat for our native species. Fantastic.
And you mentioned that the tree hollows are an incredibly important sort of source of homes. But are there other places in trees that are also good for Habitat for animals?
Absolutely. One of the groups of mammals that use tree hollows microbots and you might be familiar that These can be really tiny, as small as four grams, and you know, like half the size of your thumb with this middle, you know, 1510 centimeter wingspan, and in a range of trees that actually even just shelter under the bark of the tree, or even in the folds of branches. So, particularly fig trees are a really good example where you can see odd shapes in the growth of the tree. And they sort of form these little, almost more like little pocket rather than as a hollow. And so I've certainly seen micro batch sheltering in in a range of different habitats, from Pavan like a crack that's formed from tree growing, or from lightning strike or something like this. So things that aren't actually what we would consider a form of hollow. And so a range of different species are going to be taking advantage of those opportunities as they present themselves,
I suppose, as well within natural environments, the trees, the plants, or the plants, you know, fungus animals, these are all evolving together within an ecosystem over vast periods of time.
They absolutely are. Yes, it's something that's probably very difficult for a lot of us to comprehend those interactions and in the diversity of species that sort of form an ecosystem and, and how those species are interacting. But uh, yeah, so it's, it's a tough one, one of the funghi comment, there's a really interesting one. So in Australia, we don't have any primary hollow makers. So things like a woodpecker. So large parts, the majority of the rest of the world has woodpeckers. And they actually create hollows in trees, physically, what the key process for hollow formation in Australia that we predominantly say is actually funny, and the end, so that's actually the tree being attacked by the fungus. And so it's been decaying. And something like the the branch color, and the branch collapses, and you get this bit of fungal decay. In the actual trunk of the tree, what you'll often see is something like a cockatoo come and pull out that decayed wood, and that that fungal attack, and that fungal decay of that tree might have been going on for 10 years or you know, a few years. And so it's it's not a quick process. So there are a range of other processes like termites and fire and even things like lightning that can cause hot create hollows. But none of these things are an overnight process, they take time. And you mentioned the branch color there as being a great spot for tree holders to be formed. Can
you explain what that means the branch color?
Absolutely. So everyone will put your right arm out in the air, have a look at your shoulder. And you can sort of see a little bit of a bulge around your shoulder because you've got a bit more bone and muscle there. When you look at a tree branch where it connects to the actual tree trunk, you'll often see a little bolt as well. And that's the branch collar. So it provides a bit of structural integrity. When arborists are removing a branch they'll they'll cut to the branch collar on the outside rather than cutting to the flat surface of the tree trunk. And so you'll often see there's sort of a small, few centimeters 510 centimeters in a big example of a color that's retained if a branch is removed from a tree. And I'll just jump to a type of tree hollow that is relatively new, it's been around for probably about 20 years, but has been receiving a lot of attention in the last say five to 10 years. And these are chainsaw hollows of cutting hollows. And so just thinking about that example, again, if your three year army out in the air and you're looking at it, there is a branch analog, if you cut the arm off at the, at the elbow, and then you've got this sort of section of wood there, it's now it's no longer a load bearing section of wood. So there's no risk of that failing because of the weight on that bit of wood. But if you then cut into that bit of wood with a chainsaw to create a more naturalistic tree hollow rather than a box that's external, you can actually create a hollow that's got thicker wood around it. So in theory, it should have better thermal properties, it's not going to get as hot, it's not going to get as cold. And you can actually carve that in and just, you know, you can make your own decision on okay, I want it to be this big and this small, much like you would with a box depending on how big the branches and so they're really interesting sort of evolution of the nest box. Of course they can only be used in certain circumstances we don't want to be going cutting branches off trees, left, right and center and they need to be done in a safe way and it's very skilled action to be a plunging a chainsaw into pieces of wood and carving out those hollow so it's not something that everyone should be doing. The other key thing is we don't necessarily Have great ecological data to say that this is the method that's appropriate for all situations. And that's one of the reasons why citizen science is such a powerful methodology for us to learn more about what works for different animals. And so it's, it's certainly something I'd encourage people to be reporting, where they're, they're trialing these different methods. And, and, you know, we collaboratively learn to advise future actions so that we're, you know, doing the best we can to help our native species.
And can you give us some examples of how different animals and sort of different organisms prefer certain species? Yeah, so
that's an interesting one. So the idea of different tree species, we don't actually have a hell of a lot of data about that. I guess, a key point would be that we certainly see that the GM trees are the predominant, hollow forming trees in the Australian landscape. Of course, they're hugely diverse, with the eucalyptus, the Caribbean's and in gophers in there. So then the challenge is really about where those hollows are, are they the right size, you know, do they provide the actual habitat that the different species are after. So that's, that's really one of the key challenges, particularly if you think about altered landscapes, like agricultural and urban landscapes, where you've got less trees around, and you're going to have, therefore less hollows and less hollows of different sizes and diversity. So that's really quite challenging num. I think, a good analog of that is, is also just thinking about different species. So if you think about something quite small, like a rainbow, Laura kings not tiny, but it's not huge. You know, it's ultimately about the size of your fist, and in generally uses hollow, that's quite the longest, so you could put your arm into the, onto the elbow, but where is something that's much larger, like brushtail possum, which is, you know, sort of the size of a medium sized cat, household cat, they're using a range of different hollows that are that are much larger, more, you know, the size of the small box and, and, of course, things like a possum, they're sheltering in the hollow throughout the day, all day, every day, because they're not turned on. So whilst they do use them for breeding, they're actually mainly using them, you know, 365 days a year for shelter. So that's, that's quite valuable habitat for them. And of course, is one of the reasons why they've adapted in urban areas to jump in people's going to get roof cavities, because they provide a giant tree hollow. Yeah.
So I guess maybe they're not quite as picky as what you might think a lot of the time unless you've got like microbots. Who may be, well, I guess, even microbots aren't just going to go for figs only they're going to go for any fold. It might just be that that fig tends to have that sort of hobbit habitat that it likes.
Yeah, absolutely. So that's one of the really interesting things that we we'd like to learn more about is the diversity of hollows. And, and we actually the more we receive information, and the more we go out and collect information, we do see that there are species and using a diversity of habitats, they're pretty flexible. An important point on that is also how much there's a choice. In some habitats. There may not be too many choices. So you make do we certainly know that, particularly in urban areas, there's been some research monitoring, tree hollows, and lots of different species are inspecting that habitat. And then you'll also see sometimes competition so you know, a glass might have chosen to start nesting in a certain hollow and then they get kicked out by the sulphur crested cockatoos, which are bigger and stronger and sometimes throw their weight around. Equally, they might have been kicked out by brushtail. possum. So, you know, there's, it can be tough out there. But I would also just say, you know, putting out boxes everywhere isn't necessarily the solution into those situations. So those bases that I've mentioned, they're all actually quite common species, having a lot more of glass and soft critical attitudes and brushtail possums is an ecologically very valuable, what we really need is to be thinking about the species we're targeting and trying to support those rare species in our habitat and particularly where they occurred. The threatened species, they're the ones that are most vulnerable to this lack of habitat.
So in maintenance gardening, the usual advice is to remove all of the dead wood from a tree. Would you mind speaking on that for a little bit?
Terrible idea. dead wood is certainly an issue where there are risks to people and property, those sorts of things. Deadwood does provide habitat, including when it's on the ground. So with the new project while Life assist. One of the the category we talked about is shelter. So it's not just hollows in nest boxes, one of the things that I've seen people doing for a range of species is creating hides, and little patches of shelter for things like bilbies to be hiding in. Of course, with things like bush regeneration, it's quite common that when you're removing some of the weeds, you actually pile them up. And that provides a hide for some of the smaller birds to be seeking shelter in and other species to get away from some of the larger species. So one of the challenges we have, and it depends on the situation is that in a best case scenario, we're trying to replicate the natural world, of course, we can't just take the National Park and put it into everyone's backyard and on to every local park, that's not going to be appropriate for every situation. And so therefore, Deadwood, you know, if it's a risk, yep, I appreciate that it gets managed. One of the things with the Deadwood is, it's often going to be an indicator of where hollow is forming depends on the size of that of that Deadwood. But as you can imagine, something like a spotted potluck, which is a nine grand bird, the size of your thumb, next to a tree Haller is, is going to need a very small hollow. So you might only have a one or two inch piece of dead wood that's that's actually decaying and is decaying into the color that is not necessarily on the trunk that where maybe it's died halfway along the branch, and you still got some live wood, and it might be decaying back into that live wood. Once that disappears, you've got a little hollow there. And so sometimes when we get the chainsaw out and clean everything up and have perfect smooth edges, we actually remove the potential for some of those habitats to naturally fall through time that it naturally takes. So that's the challenge. These things aren't quick. So it's all about getting the balance, right.
We had john Parker on who's the director of the arboricultural Association in the UK, and he was sort of saying we need to be thinking in tree time rather than human time. Hmm,
I love it. Yeah. And so it's really interesting one you'll see in a range of different whether it's government or various other educational material that tree hollows can take even a couple of 100 years to grow. The reality is we actually don't have great data about a lot of that. We know that those trees can be several 100 years old. And then how long is that hollow been in that tree? How long did it take to form? Yeah, it may have taken years, it may have taken decades to form. And yes, it may stand and be used by Wildlife for even a century or longer, you know, that trees is able to be standing and living audit for that matter. So yeah, I think that's a perfect frame of mind to be thinking about some of these things, particularly when it comes to to hollows and looking at, I think it's actually a relevant point to touch on with respect to things like nest boxes. And the point here is, I've certainly seen a lot of people put up nest boxes and think job's done, you know, that's installed. But when you go and look at these nest boxes, even five years later, a lot of them functional at all, they no longer have a roof for sight. So, you know, if we're talking about tree time, and we want to say, well, we want this nest box to last even 20 years, or if we want to go really serious 50 or 100 years, you know, those are timescales that are sort of heading towards trade timescales. And so when we, when we aren't achieving those outcomes, if we're putting up a box, and it's lasting only a couple of years, then then maybe that's great for a very short time, but we need to obviously be having an active program where we're maintaining and fixing and replacing if we want to provide those habitats at tree timescales. And this is actually one of the key points that we think there's real value in people getting involved in the citizen science aspect of, of monitoring, because it lets you know that it's whether or not it's working, so if a species is using it, and also in that same breath is, is are the species you you want to be using it using the habitat that you've provided. And, and so that's an important component. And then of course, you if you're doing monitoring, and that might be something you only do once or twice a year, you're able to go Alright, I can see it needs a little repair, I'm going to go fix that or it needs replacing, and I'm going to replace it because I know it's being used by the species that I wanted to be using it. So yeah, it's true time sounds like a philosophy we should all be thinking about when it comes to conservation. How our contributions,
how are they going to last? Yeah, and I love how you've also balanced that out with sometimes trees aren't safe. Or maybe you might even have an ornamental tree there, that's really important to you. And so you sort of sacrificed a habitat in that tree to get rid of the Deadwood, because some of that fungus might sort of travel back into the tree and cause damage there.
Yes, absolutely. Look, this, this, if we're talking about particularly urban areas, you know, by definition, they are designed for humans. And so you, that's probably the first thing you want to factor in. And then you go, alright, well, where can we get some wins in different patches within this landscape, and that can be the local park, it can be your backyard, it can be district trade. But ultimately, of course, when we look at these landscapes, they are predominantly designed for humans, and therefore they need to be safe and enjoyable. And, you know, that's one of the reasons why we encourage people, you know, with respect to something like citizen science is to actually be engaging with their local environment, their local biodiversity. So I don't know how many people listening just absolute tree lovers, you know, you walk down the street, you see a great tree and take a moment and appreciate it, it's, it's, it's something that would be nice if we all actually could do that a little bit more. And, and, you know, you don't need to know the species or appreciate how old it necessarily is, it's sometimes it's just, hey, it's nice and cool under this shade, and it's a hot day. So it's nice and cool in the shade under this tree, you know, and it's a hot date, like, I certainly can appreciate that, and don't need to know anything more than the fact that I'm standing under a tree. And so I'll just segue for a second. There's another project that I'm involved in, which is called the urban field naturalist. And it's a project where we actually asked you to share those little stories, like, you know, you walked out on your street and new enjoyed the shade underneath the gum tree, and you have to look up and the chairman, Bill cook, who was getting mobbed by magpies, and corones and noisy miners, this actually happened to me the other day. And it's, it's, you know, the idea is you write a little 200 word story, you can send in a photo or a little video, or you know, if you're so inclined and you want to you can send in a drawing or you know, a sketch, whatever your your art form is, and the idea there is about connection to nature. And it's not that you need to know that they were noisy miners or common miners, whatever, you know, the difference isn't the important bit, the important bit is that you actually enjoyed a moment and experienced a moment where you connected to nature and shared it and, and I, I say to a lot of people a really good example, that one's obviously pretty, just a lot of us do that all day, every day that you last time you were in a moment in nature, where you actually subsequently told some friends about it, you might have been having a coffee with a mate, and you're like, you won't believe what happened the other day, you know. So I encourage everyone to go and have a look at the urban field naturalist website or social media and share some stories. But
sorry, to digress. No, that's great. So the urban field naturalist is definitely a resource that I would be open to using and I'm going to leave a link in the show notes for our listeners to sort of seek that one out and join it. I'd like to share an experience that I had the other day. So I met my parents property at the moment in chermside. So in terms out in Brisbane, we have some beautiful sort of scrub land that you can walk through. And the other day when I was walking through, I saw a tree. And it was it was very interesting the way that half of it when you split it down, they still had all the backup. So it was a it was some kind of box, box Myrtle some kind. And yeah, it was almost you could draw a straight line straight down the middle. And it looked like to face from the Batman series. So half of it was all alive, I had leaves and stuff coming off and head back going up. And the other side was completely dead. And it was just like a mirror image of Yeah, just a very interesting thing that I saw.
I like it. That's really cool. And I also would encourage more stories about plants. I think a lot of people get fixated on the animals. And you know, what you've described there as is really unique that sews like just walking down my street and seeing a whole heap of, you know, 10 different types of hibiscus with all different flower colors. And you know, they can be such little things that you appreciate. And yeah, that one sounds really quite interesting. And quite beautiful.
Yeah. And I bet he probably had quite a lot of habitat in that one.
Well, you have to go back in let's do an assessment.
I can look from that time.
Well, look at the thing with the that open field analysis is we actually sort of encouraged people to I can be opportunistic, you know, you were just there you're walking around and caught you. But you can actively go Alright, I'm, I'm going to the park. I'm going to you know, read my book, but I'm going to actually just sit down for a minute and I'm going to just watch and listen. And yeah, it might be that you're walking and you do not Notice that there are a lot of trees and there's some shrubs underneath and flower. You know, it can be as simple as that. But a lot of the time, I think a lot of us, we don't pay attention. It's just the background, and we're focused on what we're doing. And so yeah, the idea is to make us, I guess, be a bit more aware of what's around us. And that goes back to, you know, obviously things like tree hollows and the wildlife that are using them and the different trees that actually do provide those habitats. I've certainly learned a lot over the last 10 years with respect to tree hollows. I knew a bit about it through studies and reading and whatnot. But the more I just even keep my eyes open and I'm walking down the street and I'm looking for things like okay, I can see this software crested cockatoos around, I know that nesting trailers at the moment, I'm hearing the chicks begging food and being fed by their parents, which means they've nested successfully in a tree hollow, arguably not too far away. You know, that could be a few kilometers. But as I walk around the street, I'm just looking in I very rarely in the urban suburbs that I live in see true colors, they are exceptionally rare when you actually start looking closer. And there's this really baffling scenario because, you know, urban areas and so I'm in Sydney, we have sulphur crested cockatoos, Rainbow lorikeets. In really large numbers, we also see little corellas long billed corellas other parts of the of the city, you'll seek allies, other parts, you're getting King, parrots, Crimson rosellas, Eastern rosellas, Red Rock, parrot, all of these species nest in tree hollows. And that's just a selection of parrots and you've got a bunch of other different species and it's like, it sort of doesn't make sense that some of the most abundant species in urban areas record reliance on tree hollows when they're actually quite scarce in the landscape. And the concerning thing is that we know with a lot of parrots, they can be quite long lived. So with some of the research I've done on soft crested cockatoos, we Um, so I've got another project called Big City birds and it asks people to report sightings of soft crested cockatoos and curlers and brush turkeys and white Ibis and, and their behaviors and where they're nesting. And if they're feeding chicks and a range of different things, the wing tags as you mentioned earlier, that's we've got individually marked birds so we can learn about, you know, what Daniel does from day to day and what john does from day to day. And, and so, when we look at a flock of say, 80 sulphur crested cockatoos, we might see that only eight pairs, so only 16 birds are actually breeding out of that flock. Sometimes we see that a third of those birds are juveniles. So soft crested cockatoos aren't sexually mature until they're seven years old. So there's, you know, there's a time lag there. In captivity, we know these birds can live, you know, to be as old as humans. In the wild, we actually don't know how they live in the wild. So if they're living for 50 or 60 years in the wild, you know, are these breeding birds that old or another all these sort of 30 year old cockatoos that are still waiting to get all over the United States is one of the parents going to move out? So yeah, and a good friend of mine that Adrian Davis who did some research on this, he published a paper talking about the housing crisis for hollow nesting species and, and the competition. So, you know, we obviously talk a lot about the heart of the housing crisis for young Australians and housing affordability and all this sort of stuff. But it's going to take 200 years for a tree to grow. And and then if you're lucky, it forms a hollow because not every tree forms a hollow, you know, that's a hell of a housing crisis. But these species are common. So hence, it's confusing. And it's the less common species that are even of greater concern, because they're the ones that we're not seeing in the Sydney region or other regions, or we're only seeing very sparsely so yeah, there's, there's a lot to learn in this space. But until we get back to where I started, I'd encourage you to just next time you walk in the park or down your street, just keep an eye out for the big trees and tree hollows and just try and see how many seats because they're rarer than you probably anticipate.
Totally, and I guess we've talked about trees a lot as habitat but they're also can provide a food source for animals as well.
Yes, absolutely. Look, I mentioned with the cockatoos, we do some research on them. We've seen with the sulphur crested cockatoos just in the Sydney region and foraging that over 100 different different plant species and that ranges from eating like fruit or a range of different fruits to eating seeds, flowers leaves me They're digging in the ground and eating the roots of grass that actually see them eat bindeez and all sorts of little things that are just growing on the ground. So, you know, it's not that they're just limited to the big seeds and things like this. So, and a lot of those foods aren't native so they can be ornamental plants that have been planted in the landscape and you know, seasonally flowering, even to the point of eating Jacaranda flowers and if you've ever picked some Jacaranda flowers, and given them a little squeeze, you have a little millimeter of of watsapp that comes out the base, I wouldn't have thought that would be particularly good doing that anyway. Yeah, I mean, trees, of course, is so important for so many reasons. And even to that, that effect of climate control. So in our cities, we see that they we have the heat island effect, or the concrete or the bitumen, you know that Asheville heats up and retains the heat. So we actually are hotter than we would if we were in a bush land environment where the plants are absorbing that heat and dispersing it. So you know, the suburbs that have more trees are cooler. Of course, those trees are providing habitat, not just in the hollows, but also on so many species will be just seeking shelter and always building a stickiness for a lot of bird species. The leaf litter I mentioned my good friends, the brush, turkeys course they're raking up all the leaf litter in the sticks to build their nest mounds to lay their eggs. And of course, the food they're providing. So yeah, the flowers, the fruit, the leaves, everything's, you know, a tree is a buffet, particularly for right time of year. One of my favorite observations, and hopefully everyone listening has appreciated this or will go out and appreciate it, just to go and look at pour jacks and feeds or Morton Bay things. In particular, those two spaces are ones that I see this most commonly. And you'll see, you know, a flock of might be five or 10. But welcome swallows flying over the top of the fig tree just circling, hovering, hovering, diving and diving in. And then suddenly eating the fake wasps which of course, they have an amazing life cycle where the female clients into the the young fig and Paula lays eggs. As she dies in the fig. Those eggs hatch in the fig. You've got the female and my wasps inside the fig. And there's, you know, several 100 flowers that are flowering inside the feet. It's all internal, the males and females mate. And then the females bore their way out and fly into another fig. And so the males are still in it. So you know those wasps that bore out are then flying around looking for another thing. And yeah, it's something I regularly enjoy observing is just the welcome swallows buzzing around the tops of the fig trees. And it's invisible, because those are only one to two mil size wasps. And these obviously working swallows are quite small, smaller than you know your hands there. And yeah, just watching them eating invisible food.
A lot of people will be interested to know that what you think of as a fig is not actually a pollinated fruit. It's basically like an inside out mulberry. Absolutely.
Yeah. And it's really cool. You can if you stop and have a close look, generally there's a conveyor belt of fields of different ages. And so you'll see the really young ones and, and so you'll see that there, you can actually see the PDO that the wasp will climb into at the apex of the thi and then the older ones, you'll see that's actually closed over. And you can actually see on the much brighter things just before the change color to be the edible color, which is generally red. So when there's still a bit orange, if you have a close look, you'll actually see a couple of pinpricks around the side which is where they bought their way out. And then if you crack that open, you generally will see some wasps inside their dead because there'll be the males that have done their their life cycle already they've lived power for longer this model will be a few days or a couple of weeks inside a on site and a few days off to check with a colleague of mine who does some research on that mutualistic relationship between the feeds and the feed was such a cool just tiny little world in and of itself. Yeah,
well I hope our listeners don't get too grossed out next time you eating a fig because they are delicious, but you are eating dead wasps every time you eat a fig
delicious dead waffles. Yes, delicious.
So we talked a little bit about manmade possum boxes and we also talked about how skilled arborists can create habitat in trees using a chainsaw. What are some of the other ways that our listeners can make their own habitat in their home for any kind of animal or insect?
Hmm, yeah, look, the first and foremost thing that I always encourage is if you have the capability is to grow those plants. And so for most of us, that means growing some shrubs and grasses and in that provide habitat as part of the matrix of the landscape, you know, a lot of us don't necessarily have the space to be growing big trees. And of course, there's a time scale factor there tree time. So the the Generally, the quickest response is to be looking at growing a native habitat garden. The reason why I'm not necessarily pushing the hotels and nest boxes is because they're not always the right solution. And they can actually be a negative. So, you know, if you're putting up a box, and you're getting rainbow lorikeets breeding in it, that's not necessarily a great outcome, because they're already very common. And they're actually competing in areas for the limited tree hollows with less common species. So, and things like bee hotels, I know they're very popular. But there's some really interesting research from that 10 year old years ago in Canada, showing that they were pretty much wasp hotels, and that they weren't actually really achieving the outcomes that are after Now, of course, that's Canada, it's not Australia, there is some research going on in Australia to investigate these. And what's happening here. So this is one of those challenges. We don't always have the answers. And we don't always have, we're not always successful at replicating these natural habitats and processes, we're actually often create a whole different habitat and interactions because it's generally a variety of species that are available in these little patches, as opposed to in the natural environments have that haven't been disturbed and altered. So yeah, I would certainly encourage the more than 80 shrubs, I'll also throw in a massive caveat here to avoid the mass flowering things like the grevilleas and Corinthians that you'll see a lot of people favoring and so even our beloved bottle brushes. Well, I love those flowers on all of them. But one of the two of the most common species in many urban areas are regular periods and noisy miners. And then you can depending where you are, you know, there's there's going to be a couple of different of those honey Ada species, and these sugar buffets that were creating that flower all year round, artificially supporting that diversity, or sorry, that almost monoculture that lack of diversity of native species. And if you're familiar with the the native noisy minor, they're a, we describe them as a despotic species that harasses other native species, including not just birds, so mountains and other things, excluding them from your backyard. So you know, this, this whole thing of our wearable, the small birds gone, part of it is loss of habitat part of the competition. So it's, it's a really, you know, if you want to replicate the native bush lead, the native bush thing doesn't flow all year round. It's not the buffet of nectar. Now, there will be food resources throughout the year, but there'll be from different species, as opposed to something like a hybrid grevillea that's just pumping out nectar every day, almost every day of the year. So I hear your pain, Daniel, but from an ecological standpoint, there's cause and effect. And so one of the key things with having a native habitat gun is actually that it provides a range of food sources and shelter for native species. And that can include things like having logs on the ground, if you've got reptiles, or some rock piles, you know, these sorts of features that you naturally see when you go for a bush walk or go to your local patches of habitat, wherever that may be. It might be heathland, it might be sand dunes, whatever it is. So yeah, it's, I encourage people to go to those native areas and look at what's there and how it's actually functioning. And then think about what works for them in
their space. And I agree, it's your backyard, it doesn't have to be strictly the native habitat. But um, just as maybe, Daniel, you were so big on on the scenario of the mass flowering species and how they're, they're supporting different different species and not others. So that's, that's a pretty common thing that and I should probably just add, I'm not sure you've spoken about this much before. But of course, there's the noisy minor, which we're talking about here, which is a gray bird has been a yellow on the face and a yellow beak. And then there's the common minor, which is a brown bird, and also has a yellow beak that has pretty much dark brown, almost black head. Now that is a species that used to be called the Indian line or the brown one. And so it's not a native species. And ecologically, it actually nests in tree Hello. So it's Competing with native species for treehouse. So that's where it gets across against its name ecologically, but from a biodiversity perspective, particularly in an urban environment, they are not the species that are harassing and excluding those smaller native birds and other animals. It's actually the native noisy miner. And there's been some recent research and effort to have noisy miners listed as a threatening process to other native species in parts of New South Wales, because of the fact that they actually have been shown to be decreasing the diversity of smaller birds in the area. And to be frank, they don't just harass, small, harass, powerful hours, which, you know, biggest owl in the country. Yeah, they're, they're an amazing species Don't get me wrong, but they're simply successful and they're exploiting the landscape that we've created and altered and I talked to people like common is the urban environment is ultimately the golf course of nature. So it's, it's perfect for noisy miners, there's trees, there's open spaces, there's lots of flowering, that's, you know, pretty much how you make a golf course. And, and that's what most urban areas are. So you look through that lens, and suddenly you go, alright, this doesn't really provide great habitat for something like a support for rent, which again, is a little 10 grand, but the size of your thumb that hops around on the ground and flips into dense vegetation to escape anything it perceives as a threat. You know, as soon as there isn't that dense vegetation, particularly around level, it's now vulnerable. And they they're a little like an egg, their body shape isn't that aerodynamic, they don't really fly like a jet plane, and easily noisy mind has dollar bombing in them, they've got no chance, even less, they can get to that dense vegetation. So that's the other thing about good vegetation, just to two final points, and they're not always great for your backyard. But the first one is, when you go to your local native patch of vegetation and check it out, you're probably gonna realize it's really spiking or, or, you know, at the very least scratchy. The other thing is, you generally can't walk through it really easily, you have to pick your way and weave through it. That is when I say to people, that's an example of travie habitat, you know, whereas, of course, what we predominately want in our backyards are lawns that we can just stroll on, keep the ball on and lay on it. And that's perfectly acceptable as well as about laying the balance.
Yeah, and I think knowledge is power to john, I agree. Is there anything else that you'd like our listeners to know about?
I mentioned that through through the through our chat. So wildlife assist is the rebranding of hollows as homes and it's actually going to expand on that project. So it'd be great to get people to get involved and have a look at the wildlife assist dotnet website, I mentioned the big city birds select about bird behavior, so people can go and check out that, download that app and report sightings and get on our social media and learn more about it as well on the website. And then lastly, I also had mentioned that urban field naturalist, again, get involved. There's so many things people can do. The first is to value the plants and animals and the ecosystems around them. So things like freshwater, you know, really important freshwater fresh air. And if you can grow a little habitat garden, that's great. Yeah. So encourage people to get involved in things like bush regeneration or bushcare. And also things like citizen science, which is what the big city birds and wildlife is to start their citizen science projects. But there's a range of things that people can get involved in in citizen science as simple as I naturalist, which is a photo based project or ebird. reporting the birds you see in your backyard or your local park. So there's there's something for everyone out there if you're interested in nature.
Absolutely. Thank you so much for coming on. JOHN. That was an incredible couple of episodes.
Yeah, so I should have warned you, Daniel that I'm quite the gas bag. But anyway, yeah. Cool. We'll be in touch I
yeah, absolutely. Yeah, you're well, you're welcome on anytime. So it makes sense, right? Trees make habitat for animals and other organisms. I hope you guys learned a lot and found a lot of value in that episode, because I think this is a really important subject for people to know about. Before john and i started talking about trees as habitat, I actually managed to record a previous conversation that just happened spontaneously and I'm going to be releasing that this Sunday. So make sure you keep an eye out for that. Tell your friends and family about the plants grow here podcast. Listen to our back catalogue of episodes. And if you have an Apple device, it would mean so much to us. If you could leave us a five star review on iTunes with a nice little comment. Don't To get that throughout February, we're going to be releasing two episodes per week.

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