diamond firetail finch photo by Chris Tzaros
diamond firetail finch photo by Chris Tzaros

This year the grand finale of our tree linkage project was not even on our own land.  To complete the 3.9 kilometres (2.4 miles) of small plots that will allow birds like diamond firetails (stagonopleura guttata) and speckled warblers (chthonicola sagittata) to move around the landscape, we planted a larger area at the edge of the Dog Trap Road.  A paddock that actually belongs to our neighbour Suzanne.

In the last twenty years or so, much of the land at the corner of Kaveney’s Road and the Dog Trap Road has been divided into smaller farms, including some paddocks that used to belong to Adnamira.  The owners of those landholdings did what we hadn’t and planted trees and shrubs along the edge of the road, partly to protect the new houses from the dust of the sand trucks on gravel.   Altogether, those plantings add up to about 4 hectares (or ten acres) of mostly native plants, and has radically changed the bird life from when it was bare paddocks plus one driveway lined with exotic cypresses.Dog Trap Road plantings

The rule of thumb with linkage plantings for small birds, is that each small plot (20 metres square) needs to be within 100 metres of the next  one or existing trees (preferably 50 or 75 metres).  Those are the stepping stones.  But roughly every kilometre, there needs to be a larger area that will allow breeding.  That should preferably be about 10 hectares (25 acres).

Adnamira, Esdale and Carkella all plantings to 2015Our stepping stones start with the Mullion Creek and our Box-Gum woodland on Esdale (planted mostly last year and partly at Easter with help from Kosciuszko to Coast Foundation and Local Land Services),  and meet the Murrumbidgee river, which makes its own corridor and breeding area.  Then with a grant from the 25th Anniversary of Landcare and Greening Australia, we added six more hops to bring it up to the Dog Trap Road.  That’s over a kilometre from the river.

So at the top of the hill, by the road, we definitely needed to go bigger.  We fenced off 1.4 hectares (3.4 acres)of Carkella and arranged to plant it on the 30th of May, with a lot of help from wonderful volunteers.Linda Ren and Wilson

I’d tried to get lots of prickly plants such as bursaria spinosa, prickly wattle, prickly hakeas, because they help keep cats from attacking nesting animals.  Unfortunately, the prickly ones seem to be harder to propagate than others.   I’d decided on 450 plants because that would allow for windrows and gaps in a relatively natural style that would also allow for fire-fighting if necessary.tree seedlings2

We decided to try and get all 450 trees and shrubs into the ground in one day.  A big ask when the most we’d ever done was 250.  Our planting system is pretty intensive, including sturdy guards, mulching, weed mats, tree-starter fertilizer and mycorrhizae, plus twenty litres of water each.  We called in favours from all over: family, friends, Canberra Institute of Technology students, biologists and wonderful volunteers who contacted us through this site, plus our lovely neighbours.Andrew and Leonie Leonard planting Carkella 2015

The under-tens did a great job of helping out, entertaining the dogs, and (mostly) not disappearing into the long grass.

.planting big and littlelost in the grassGeorge and girls planting Carkella 2015

Fifty-five new yellow box came from  Justin Borevitz‘ genetic research lab at the Australian National University and were mostly planted along the Carkella Road.   As part of a project with researacher Tricia Copas, the saplings  been brought in as seed from Wagga Wagga (a warmer location) to see if they would add biodiversity and resilience to our paddocks and help with adapting to a changing climate.  Like the 36 we planted last year they’ve been doing well, after a bit of frost shock.

Justin and his team also logged the location of each research tree or shrub and mapped the whole plantation with a drone helicopter.  I’m still waiting on the results.drone takeoff

We also included twenty allocasuarina verticillata that were left over from the Glossy Black Cockatoo plantings on Esdale the week before.

Unfortunately, having dug the holes weeks earlier, they needed a lot of re-digging which slowed the pace of planting.  As the afternoon began to fade,  it seemed there was no way we would finish all the rows, then suddenly people working their way back from distant parts of the field found themselves converging at the top of the hill and working side by side with  the other teams.   Then competing for the last few plants.final push Carkella May 2015  Then, amazingly, they were all done.

The watering and mulching had to wait until the next day, and took seven loads of our tank.   That’s after I left the choke on and filthied up the spark plug and brought it to a stuttering halt..  A whole other story.watering crew

Meanwhile, we celebrated getting our biggest ever planting done.   I’d invited over a few of our neighbours, stoked up on lovely wine from our neighbours Greg and Libby Gallagher, to try and persuade them that adding to the native trees and shrubs on Dog Trap Road would be a good thing.

It turned out that wasn’t exactly necessary.  Vicky Divett from Benview mentioned that Greening Australia is putting in 25oo (!) in their gully on July 26th (National Tree Day).

Anyway,  the birds will have their ten hectares.    Thanks to all the people who made it possible, including the ones who are not in this photo.  You’re all wonderful!Carkella Crew May 30 2015


Add yours

  1. What a fantastic project. Thanks for the information about spacing and size of “stepping stones”. I recently saw (and amazingly got some photos of) of some red browed firetails in a weedy patch on my walk to work, so I must find out if their requirements are the same. Thanks, I really enjoy reading about what you do in your patch…


    1. Thanks for the support. I’m struggling to remember the name of the researcher whose talk I went to, at the Kosciuszko to Coast workshop in Queanbeyan, but she was an excellent presenter and I do remember the content. Basically, at fifty metre spacing, almost all small birds, plus some small mammals and lizards, can make it across the gap without being taken by a predator. And they are willing to try. As the distances get longer, some species won’t make the jump, until after 100 metres, few small ones will do so. Also, if they make it into an isolated clump, they won’t be able to breed, and will have difficulty getting anywhere else. It opened my eyes to the need to connect up the areas I’m planting sooner rather than later, and not just leave isolated patches to join up later. On the other hand, your connection doesn’t have to be continuous, so you can do it much more quickly and easily. You can really see in the landscape where the linking trees have gone down and the big old eucalypts are suffering from a lack of birds to protect them. Unfortunately, pine plantations like the one we have next door, do nothing helpful, so they count as open country when you’re calculating cover.


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