Thursday 21 November 2013

Parkerville Primary

This morning we went to Parkerville Primary with a lot of excitement, Simon in particular, as this was Simon's school when he was young. What fun we had there! We got directed to the new library, past all the great little hidey holes and tunnels through the gardens and under bushes where the kids had their "nature play" area - what a fantastic space. In the library we ran our presentations on hollow-using animals and waste to the whole school. 

One thing that always amazes and inspires us in our work is the fantastic questions kids throw at us, and their great understanding of how things work when we throw questions back. Parkerville Primary students were no exception - what a great bunch! Although we could only do the building part of the workshop with one class, the presentations we gave inspired other classes to conduct a cleanup of the school, their cross country track, and a whole lot of other ideas on new ways to recycle their waste. 

While Mrs Boyd's class was putting together seven nest boxes (two Black-Cockatoo, two parrot and three possum), some of the younger classes came in to see what all the fuss was about. We got some of the older students to describe what they were doing and why, much to the interest of everyone. Once all the boxes were assembled it was time to paint, and what better place to do it than out on the lawn under a big marri tree.

Finally it was time to start hanging the possum and parrot boxes, although we had barely got the first one in a tree when the bell rang. Thanks to the students who stayed back after school to help! Due to windy conditions we could not hang the larger Black-Cockatoo boxes on the day of the workshop, but that just gave us an excuse to come back! Under the supervision of a number of classes, Simon put them up when the conditions were safer. There was much excitement to see how he was going to get them up into the tall marri trees in the school ground.

We would like to thank Leonie Boyd for organising the day and the staff and students at Parkerville Primary for making us feel so welcome. We would especially like to thank the students involved in the workshop for their lovely letters of thanks! If any of the students from the school want to tell us what has been using their we would love to hear from you! Please put your comments below.

Tuesday 19 November 2013

Bull Creek PEAC

Back down the hill for another fun Re-Cyc-Ology day, this time to work with some PEAC (Primary Extension and Challenge program) kids who meet at Bull Creek Primary every fortnight. We started off the day talking about why we were building nest boxes for native wildlife and why they were mostly made out of recycled material. As usual this stimulated a lot of interesting discussion within the group about habitat conservation and waste.

Then it was outside and into making the boxes. This workshop was a little different from our usual school program as the nest boxes were not being put up at Bull Creek Primary. PEAC is made up of students from a number of different schools, so we made enough boxes for one to be taken back to each of the ten schools.

With everyone working in groups and only a little help from us we got the ten parrot boxes finished by lunchtime. After lunch it was painting time. The reason for painting the boxes is to give them an extra weather-proof coating (especially the cut edges), and so they blend more easily into the trees when they are hung, making them more attractive to the animals.

We would like to thank the PEAC coordinator Ellen Beemster for organising the day, and the kids for making it such a great day for us. If any of the students involved in the workshop or who have nest boxes at their school would like to let us know what is using their boxes, we would love to hear from you. Please write your comments below. 

Wednesday 9 October 2013

Nearer to Nature - Canning River Eco Education Centre

Another school holidays and we are back to the Canning River Eco Education Centre to run a Re-Cyc-Ology workshop as part of the Nearer to Nature school holiday program. This time we had nine kids and some parent helpers to make parrot nest boxes for everyone to take home and hang at the end of the day. Unfortunately one girl was sick and couldn't make it, but she did not totally miss out, we sent a nest box kit home with her brother for her to make when she felt better. 

There was lots of busy action out on the CREEC verandah while we got to work. We only had a few hours to get the boxes finished before parents returned. This meant that they could not be painted, but we sent them home with an information sheet on how to finish off their boxes and get them ready for hanging.

We would love to hear from any of the kids who came to the workshop. Put a comment below on what the workshop was like and if anything is in your box yet!

Thanks to the Nearer to Nature team, particularly Jill Francis and Berdina Ballast, for organising the workshop, and the Canning River Eco Education Centre for letting us use their facilities. Also a particularly big thank you to Mel and volunteer Carolyn for helping us out on the day.

Wednesday 18 September 2013

Helena College

"A twenty metre nest-box-installing climb into the vibrant crown of this giant, wonderful, incredible, colossal, ancient (200+ yr-old) Marri tree, which glowed in the afternoon sun and tempted me (Simon) up there like a cave full of glistening jewels, was the highlight of my day. And possibly year. We only met last week but we are now best of friends. Her arms cradled me with all the gentle care in the world, and the view she offered me (I could see Mt Dale 50km away!) was immense. To think that if she could talk, this tree would whisper tales of witnessing countless Nyoongar ceremonies, then one day seeing the first party of white explorers following the Helena River into the Darling Scarp, CHANGES THE GRAIN of the human mind."
This was one of eight beautiful Eucalypt trees Simon had the privilege of climbing to install nest boxes for Black Cockatoos at Helena College, made by students at the school as part of a community services project. The students were able to salvage demolition timber and plywood to apply our 're-cyc-ology' train of thought to their boxes. We spent the first two afternoons of their ten-week project getting them started on how to build a nest box for Black-Cockatoos. They then spent the rest of the term building their own and had completed ten boxes by the end - such a great effort, and wonderful idea for a community services project!! 
The eight boxes Simon has installed have a good chance of being used by cockies as just down the road in a private garden, several boxes are currently being used by both Red-tailed and Carnaby's Black-Cockatoos.

Our enormous thanks go to Margaret Hogan and Kate Abbott for asking us to assist with the project, and the school handymen Jason and Jason for their help providing guidance to the students during construction, and helping Simon with installation too.
Here's a cutting from the local Hills Gazette showing one of the boxes ready to be hoisted up!

Sunday 8 September 2013

Kwinana Men's Shed

A beautifully decked out workshop with all the tools we could possible need made a nice change to our humble toolkit normally used to build boxes in schools. The men (and woman) at the Kwinana Men's shed were raring to get going when we arrived on this September morning to run another Re-Cyc-Ology workshop.

Unlike the schools, we didn't need to teach these guys how to use their tools - they already make beautiful things out of wood such as pens, cutting boards and clocks which are sold to raise money for future Men's Shed projects. All we had to do was give them the plans for the different boxes and away we all went. By the end of the day we had put together ten boxes from scratch - two each for Black-Cockatoos, pardalotes and ducks (yes that is right many of our ducks nest in tree hollows) and three for parrots and three for possums/parrots. These all went up in trees local native bush reserves.

We would like to thank the City of Kwinana and Friends of Homestead Ridge for organising the workshop and providing funding, and Bert Pooley and the guys from Kwinana Men's Shed for making us feel so welcome.

If anyone from the Homestead Ridge area would like to post comments about progress of the nest boxes, please do so below.

Monday 26 August 2013

Millennium Kids - Kaarakin

Big kids and smaller kids alike joined in the fun at our Re-Cyc-Ology workshop run as part of the Millennium Kids program. Millennium Kids is a fantastic not for profit environment organisation, a "group of young people aged between 10 and 25 committed to improving the environment through constructive action". Their motto is "have fun, eat chocolate and care for the environment", and we certainly did all those three when we met at Kaarakin Black Cockatoo Conservation Centre on this fine morning.

As our focus was on building nest boxes for Black-Cockatoos what better way to start things off than meeting the birds we were trying to help. Paula the education officer from Kaarakin gave us a great talk about why all three species of Black-Cockatoo in the south west are listed as Threatened and we got to get up close and personal with her friend Chasey the Carnaby's Black-Cockatoo.

Then it was down to the serious business of box building. With lots of sawing, hammering, clipping and screwing the team put together three large (1-metre deep) boxes designed specifically with cockatoos in mind. The great thing about these workshops is that everyone gets to have a go and learn something during the day. This may be how to use different tools, what animals use different boxes, what special things need to be done to the boxes to make them safe and desirable for the target animals, or the wide array of information we get to learn from the people coming to the workshops.

Finally the boxes were ready to hang and we were ready for our chocolaty reward (it is part of the Millennium Kids program after all). Simon hung one box at Kaarakin in a tall Marri, with help from many of the kids to hoist it into position (see below). It is now in a prime location overlooking the centre and ready for some new tenants! We are hoping that the wild birds which get attracted into the area by calls of the captive birds undergoing rehabilitation will use this nest box in the future. The other two boxes are as we speak waiting for suitable places to put them.

A big thank you to Catrina Luz-Aniere from Millennium Kids for organising the day and to Cathy, Liam and Fiona for getting the kids to the workshop and all their hard work on the day. Thanks also to Paula for her wonderful talk and Phil from Kaarakin for letting us use the centre. Finally a big thank you to all the "kids" that came along and had fun, ate chocolate and cared for the environment.

Thursday 8 August 2013

Mardo Reserve - Mundaring Primary

NEST BOXES! This is what every person in this photograph yelled as the shutter clicked to take this photo! About 200 students and teachers assembled on the lawn to celebrate the completion of these 26 nesting boxes, designed for a variety of wildlife (bats, parrots, possums, cockatoos, ducks, owls and Mardo), with students from Mundaring Primary School.

This is part of an extensive project for which the school received state NRM funding to conduct environmental work in the bush reserve adjoining the school grounds. This block has just been renamed 'Mardo Reserve', taking its title from the local native marsupial, which is also called a Yellow-footed Antechinus (Antechinus flavipes). This species is relatively widespread but not very common close to residential areas lacking native bushland. However, a Mardo skeleton was found in the reserve, causing excitement that these mammals may still live here. 

The primary school's intention is to improve the habitat quality of Mardo Reserve, enhancing its value for species like the Mardo, and other local natives too. 

Apart from the installation of nest boxes, and replanting of native vegetation (which was conducted earlier this year), the project will involve spotlighting and fauna trapping to investigate which animals live in the reserve, and ongoing checks of the nest boxes. More information can be found on the Mardo Reserve Environment Project website.

Fingers crossed we make some exciting discoveries later this year!

Wednesday 31 July 2013

Samson Primary

Sir Frederick Samson Park is a beautiful native bush reserve full of tall Tuart trees and Banksia woodland in the suburb of Samson, Perth. Unfortunately, though, many tree-hollows in the large old Eucalypts have been taken over by feral Honey Bees, and are no longer available for native animals. The European Honey Bee (Apis melifera) was introduced into Australia about 190 years ago to pollinate crops and produce honey, but it did not take long for swarms of bees to escape from their hives and infiltrate hollows in native bush throughout much of the country. Not only do Honey Bees take over vital nesting and sleeping hollows, they also consume large amounts of nectar and pollen resources, depriving species like native bees and honeyeaters from their natural food.

The City of Fremantle decided something had to be done about the feral bees in Samson Park, and contacted us about nest boxes. It was decided that providing extra tree hollows (in the form of nest boxes) would increase the number of hollows available for native animals, and this in conjunction with feral bee control methods that the City of Fremantle is currently working on, might help. We anticipated that some of the nest boxes would get bees in because this reserve has such a high number of feral hives, but monitoring the boxes would be a key part of the project. And the other key part would be to engage some local children with the bush - so they could monitor the reserve too.

With funding from Conservation Volunteers Australia (CVA), we got together with Gary and his class at Samson Primary School to build some new hollow homes. For some kids this was the first time they had used tools like hammers and screw drivers, and they had great fun putting their new skills to the test. After a few hours we had ten boxes completed, and finished the day off by painting them. The next morning we met back at the school and headed off to the reserve, with all ten boxes: two each for Black-Cockatoos, micro bats and pardalotes, three for small parrots and one designed for owls or ducks (yes many ducks really do nest in tree hollows, check out Simon's 2010 news post to watch Australian Shelduck chicks leaving their hollow nest). We are hoping that the measures we took when building the boxes will be enough to keep the bees out!

We all then watched Simon as hauled the first Black-Cockatoo box into one of the smaller Tuart trees in the reserve. Those of us on the ground even got to see what Simon saw from way up high, using the GoPro camera on his head hooked up to an iPad the kids were holding on the ground. It was then time for the students to head home so Simon and Gill, with the help of Klara from CVA, could put the other nine boxes around the reserve ready for the kids to come back and find another day.

We would like to than Jake Tanner (City of Fremantle), and Steve Pearce and Aaron Jaggar (CVA) for helping organise and fund this Re-Cyc-Ology workshop. If any of the students from Samson Primary of visitors to Samson Park would like to let us know how the boxes are going and if they are being used we would love to hear from you! Please put your comments below.

Monday 8 July 2013

Corrigin Community Workshop

Another month, another nest box workshop! This weekend we headed to Corrigin in the WA Wheatbelt and had the pleasure of working with another fabulous, friendly and fun group of people to build nest boxes for a local bush reserve.
A picture is worth a thousand words they say, so rather than type up a summary about the workshop, Simon put together a few of the best photos of the workshop, taken by Gill's mum. Thanks to all the fantastic, fun and friendly people who make our time in Corrigin really enjoyable.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Toodyay Community Workshop - Black-Cockatoos

This weekend we had the privilege of running a nest-box building workshop in Toodyay, just east of Perth. Here's how the story went...

The hills were shrouded in mist and glistening dew-drops as we jumped in our vehicle, laden with recycled building material and tools, and followed the winding road heading east early on Saturday morning. After a compulsory coffee-stop in Toodyay, we arrived at a friend's property, surrounded by rolling hills of beautiful Wandoo woodland, to set our equipment up. Georgie Troup, who is a local sustainable agriculture officer with Wheatbelt NRM, was inspired to engage the community and provide some extra breeding sites for Carnaby's Black-Cockatoos. About 70 birds regularly visit the area and at least one breeding site was known. Given the success of Simon's boxes in the Porongurups in encouraging extra breeding pairs, we were as keen as mustard to see if this threatened species would use nest boxes in Toodyay.

About 11 local community members arrived (some of whom had brought work benches and tools galore!), and after a quick cuppa, we began the session with our presentation on tree hollows and creating nest boxes from recycled material. The woodwork soon commenced and the workshop was full of happy voices and the sounds of saws, hammers and drills as the first five boxes took shape. These were designed to be vertically orientated with a section of hollow log on the lid, and 'bee-proof' to prevent invasion by these feral pests. By lunchtime we had all 5 boxes completed and were ready for a great surprise.

Toodyay community members Greg and Vicki get stuck into the woodwork!
Even the kids were keen to be involved!
Phil and Lou from the Kaarakin Black Cockatoo Conservation Centre then surprised us with a lunchtime educational visit. Phil gave a fantastic detailed overview of the status quo of our three species of black cocky, which was made so much more real by having 'Chasey', a real Carnaby's Cockatoo, there in the flesh. Chasey also gave real meaning to our nest box construction - it's not every day you get to have the bird for whom you are building boxes there to watch!

Chasey shows us how Carnaby's Cockatoos dexterously feed on Marri fruit by holding them carefully in their fingers.
Enthusiasm once again filled the air and by late afternoon we had the last five boxes completed. A quick paint job and some afternoon tea to let it dry had us off to the neighbouring properties to hang the boxes. We are looking forward to the landholders keeping tabs on them and letting us know when they have their first residents.

Please put your comments about the day, or the use (by any species) of your nest box, below.

A big thanks to all the wonderful, dedicated people who came to the workshop and got involved, especially Rex who traveled all the way from Dowerin. Also, thanks to Georgie and Wheatbelt NRM for organising the day.