Helping our wildlife survive during the drought

Dunbogan Bushcare coordinator and NPA member Sue Baker is appealing to residents across the North Coast to help our wildlife through the drought.

‘Everything from insects to large mammals is being affected. Doing it really tough are species that feed on nectar, fruit and seeds (birds, possums, gliders, bats) due to the failure of many trees and shrubs to flower; tree death and now bushfire,’ she said. ‘Bats are even feeding in the daytime and birds species turning up in areas they’re rarely seen in.

People can do much to help in small ways. Feeding wild birds is a contentious issue as it encourages dependence and lessens their ability to forage. Certainly human foods such as bread, cake, chips and cooked fish are an absolute no go zone for any kind of wildlife. Their digestive systems are not adapted to human food and many problems can result not the least of which is death. At the moment however, with such extreme conditions people in cat-free areas are putting out wild bird seed available from supermarkets and pet shops. 

Several wildlife agencies advise that sunflower seed is not advisable. It is reported as resulting in nutritional deficiency, poor bone and feather development. They have a high fat content that results in problems such as fatty liver.

Sue is appealing particularly for water to be made available.

‘Shallow bowls of water preferably sitting on top of something and placed in the shade will help birds,’ Sue said. ‘It’s important to bear in mind that small birds can drown in deep bowls. Keeping bowls and water fresh and clean is especially important for birds. Discarded water can be used around the base of pot or garden plants. Shallow bowls of water on the front lawn is a great idea in areas where kangaroos feed. For koalas the situation may be a little more difficult with water possibly needing to be placed in tree forks out of reach of cats and dogs. A small piece of cut fruit every few days and placed off the ground on a tree trunk or branch may help possums.’

Some local government areas and their communities are even taking a coordinated approach to putting out water bowls.’

Letting the lawn grow higher between mowings and not mowing too low helps not only lawn health through increased moisture content but also encourages insects and worms essential to birds such as magpies and kookaburras. Insect activity also helps lawn health by aerating the soil. Putting mulch or leaf mould around the garden will have the same effect and reduce the need for watering. Instead of throwing out grass clippings consider spreading them in small piles on the garden where insects can survive on the moisture while they rot down. Compost heaps are also great for insects.

Habitat can be created for insects and lizards by placing fallen branches around the garden with a little soil heaped up around the base or even putting a few old roof tiles or similar n a corner. 

And most important is to remember that stressed wildlife is on the move in search of food and water so care is needed when driving especially at night.

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