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  • Writer's pictureIan

Letter from Istari - May 2022

Updated: May 22, 2022

The summer was, in one word, wet. The rain was regular and the ground just got more saturated. La Niña was promised and it rained. Sadly some living trees started falling over with the ground soaked and soft.

The storms became more frequent. As January progressed we ended up with 155mm of rain falling which is below the average of 170mm. The previous month delivered 249mm, a lot over the December average of 143mm.

February brought the first really hot day, getting up to 38ºC, followed by a big storm dropping 61mm of torrential rain in ninety minutes. The creeks and wetland rose rapidly with flash flooding.


This was the beginning of the wettest February ever recorded.


The Floods of 2022

I suppose the floods were inevitable but the scale is something else. These were the biggest floods we have seen and recorded.

We created two blogs, our first flood diary and The Floods of 2022, on the floods so I won't go into those details.

As February and the summer drew to an end the rain really started. Firstly it was storms and then rain events to beat all other rain events.


We had our first mini flood followed by the big one.

See the unfolding event with lots of photos in our first flood diary with lots of photos including the rescue of Jac our three legged goanna.

The floods that descended on us on those last days of February will not be forgotten. The record breaking flood nearly flooded our house and destroyed large sections of the north coast especially around Lismore.

By the end of February we had recorded an incredible 636mm of rain. But this wasn’t the end.

It just kept raining through March, keeping the ground totally saturated. Although we didn’t get lots of rain we had it almost every day, some days delivering a few millimetres or with a storm 30 to 60mm.

As March came to an end the rain came again along with the second huge flood.

The affect on the bush was amazing to see.

See our blog The Floods of 2022 for a full wrap up of the mini and major floods including Terry's journey to Lismore after the big flood.


Weeds

The plank is attached by wire to a star picket.  The plank got washed away in one of the floods, snapping the wire.
Plank bridge to cross the creek

In January, before the floods we went back to work slashing the annual weed growth on the other side of the creek. We could easily cross the creek with our plank bridge at the time.

The annual weeds were in full growth at that time reaching a couple of metres high after so much rain. We wanted to cut them down before they seeded and spent several days slashing them.

After the floods all those weeds we slashed died anyway after being completely submerged in flood water. You can’t tell the future.


Last year we managed to get a grant through the Land for Wildlife program to work on our cats claw creeper* infestation. The grant provided $2000 worth of work. We used a group through our local Clarence Environment Centre, to do the work. The effects were visible by January. It can take up to six weeks to see the results with cats claw. Terry and I also continued spraying after the team left. As is usual we missed some and some regrew.

Terry and I went back down to carry out a second round of spraying in January.

Cats claw is often difficult to see as the vine grows up the trunk only showing the leaves at the top of the tree. Sometimes these vines can grow to the diameter as thick as an persons leg. We found one that had grown up a young tree, curling around the tree and gradually embedding into the trunk as the small tree grew..


Cats claw vine embedded in a Lilly Pilly trunk

The vine trunk had been cut off at the base as is usual practice but we were astonished to see that the vine had not died above the cut. The vine had tapped into the tree to continue to get its nutrients!

We finally have been able to cross the creek after the flood. The floods have changed the area that we had sprayed but you can see where we did our second spraying.


For further information on Cats Claw Creeper see our blog Killing Cats Claw


Feral Pigs

The feral pigs are back. We had seen some presence of them over the summer but nothing consistent until now. The pigs reappeared in some numbers after the last flood. We ran our baiting program.



We started by feeding them grain in and around the bait station. First with the lid locked open on the bait station. Next we close the lid so only the pigs can access the grain. Finally we move to the placebo bait then the toxin bait. We managed to kill around ten feral pigs and piglets.

We also called our pig hunter who came out and removed two more fully grown feral pigs.

The program is highly successful and we have no further indication of pigs for the time being. Feral pigs do enormous damage to the native land, animals and plants.

For further information on feral pigs see our blog Feral Pig Baiting Program


Koala

We had another visit from a koala before the floods. This time it was very shy and didn’t like us around, climbing higher in the tree and circling the trunk to get out of our sight. We think it is a male due to the scent glad stain on its chest.


Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)
Koala (Phascolarctos cinereus)

We haven’t seen any koalas since the floods. We hope that is more about access to this area than suffering from the results of the floods.

See our blog on Koalas


Vale Jac the Goanna

Sadly our favourite goanna, Jac, died recently. We found her body near the wetland after the last floods. We think she is well over 25 years old which is pretty old for a goanna.

She is sorely missed. In her later days she spent a lot more time around the house. We had been feeding her a little but we think that she was blind as she didn’t see the food, only smell it with her tongue, as goannas do.


Jac our three legged goanna found dead near the flood
Jac our three legged goanna found dead near receded floodwater

During the first floods Terry even saved Jac as she was having difficulty swimming in the floodwater.

Check out our other blogs on Jac,


Dingo

Dingo (Canis familiaris) footprint in the flood mud
Dingo footprint in the mud

After the many dingo attacks on our chooks we only let them out for an hour or so in the afternoon. We generally keep a good watch for the dingo but one afternoon when we were both at the house the dingo struck again, taking another chook. We actually saw the attack. The canine must creep up and then pounce. The chook didn’t have time to even call out. We doubled down on our supervision making sure someone was checking at all times.


The dingo is still around and seems to have survived the floods as we have found footprints in the newly deposited layer of flood mud.



Tree Planting

With some wonderful help from friends we've been out planting trees.

Our paperbark forest had had a bad infestation of cats claw creeper vine which we have been managing for several years. We are gradually removing it. The old paperbarks have been badly affected as the cats claw was right through the trees and carpeting the ground. Very few young trees have managed to grow through the vine carpet so we have been planting young paperbarks and silky oaks. A big thanks to Richard and Jodie for their help planting.



We are really happy to say that nearly all these latest plantings have survived the floods and probably benefited from the layer of mud deposited. These trees where relocated and potted up from the wetland when it was completely dry.


Mountain Katydid

Before the floods came we noticed a female Mountain Katydid (Acripeza reticulata) sunbathing on one of our paths through the bush. Female katydids are flightless. Only the males have wings. We noticed this amazing creature in the same location several times.



The mountain katydid is heavily camouflaged in grey and brown colours and grows up to about 5cm long. When the female is disturbed she displays a warning lifting her outer wing casings to reveal vibrant colours. They feed on toxic plants like silk pod vine and fire weed making them unpleasant to be eaten by other animals.

Unfortunately we haven't seen these fascinating creatures since the floods and hope for their return.


Tree Troff®

During the drought Wires, our wildlife rescue organisation, started to put together a design for a tree high drinking station for arboreal animals like koalas, possums, gliders, birds, lizards and insects. The drought broke to everyone's great relief but the project continued in the sure knowledge that another dry spell is inevitable.

We applied for Tree Troff® through a grant and were pleased to finally receive ours earlier this year.

The Tree Troff® consists of a tank to hold water and a platform with a drinking trough all attached to a metal stand reaching about three metres up a tree.

Terry managed to put it together and install it successfully.


Stay turned for our blog showing more detail and hopefully some photos of the animals using it. There is so much rain at the moment so it might not get too much use just yet.


Cane Toads

Up to this point we have not seen or heard cane toads in this area. Unfortunately with all the

flooding and wet weather we have now heard them. They are not on our property but in neighbouring dams. Generally these pests have not liked this area as it is usually too dry.

Terry picked up their calls while out recording frog calls for the FrogID Australian Museum project and had it confirmed by FrogID. We reported these observations to the Department of Primary Industries and were soon contacted by Clarence Landcare. Their cane toad project person soon made a visit to see us. We arranged contact with our neighbours and Landcare went to check and collected eight cane toads from a dam.

We hosted an information session on cane toads. Clarence Landcare ran the session and Local Land Services were present along with neighbours and interested parties. Thanks to everyone who attended.


The bush

Everything has undergone a lot of change with the floods but Terry has still been taking some amazing photos of the wetland and Istari in general.







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