Recent activity at the revegetation plots at
Wanganella sandhill, Monimail and Gulpa

Philip Maher, 26 May 2014

Back in the early 2000s, a bloke dropped in off the highway one hot morning while I was handwatering plants at the Wanganella sandhill. He declared that it would be easier to turn around an ocean liner than revegetate this sandhill. It did appear a bit hopeless and had I known we were in for eight years of drought I might have abandoned the project. The Wang sandhill today demonstrates the power of doggedness and I don’t mind saying I’m very proud of the revegetation plot at Wang sandhill.

Some useful rain around Wanganella in late March/early April allowed me to kick off the planting season for 2014. I planted at the same time in 2013 to great success even though watering was required three times (by bucket!) as little rain fell from April to June. In contrast, most of the plants planted in September 2013 were lost due to spring turning horribly dry. Prior to 2013, plants were planted in the late winter/early spring. If planted earlier, the chill of winter rendered plants dormant for several months and frosts would kill the susceptible. Milder winters and less severe frosts in recent years have allowed plants to grow through the winter. Taller plastic tree guards have also helped ward off frost.

Around 1,500 plants were planted, watered and guarded between 4 April and 4 May at the Wanganella sandhill revegetation plot. Since the start of planting, there’s been about 50 mm of rain so they’re off to a good start.

The area is now well stocked with trees so the majority of plants put in this year at the Wanganella site are understory plants. These understory species included Acacias: rigens, brachybotrya, ligulata, calamiifolia, deanei, loderi and victoriae; as well as silver needlewood, narrow-leafed hopbush, fringe myrtle, showy daisy bush and a not yet identified Maireana sp. Trees included cypress pine, wilga, pittosporum, three species of mallee, native willow, boree and river cooba (latter two in clay areas), three species of emubush, quandong, rosewood, one sandlewood and two Banksia marginata.

The battle with rabbits has, for the moment, been won. I wouldn’t like to think how many rabbits I’ve eaten in the last few years.

On finishing at Wanganella, one hundred and ten plants were planted at the Monimail revegetation area and thirty at Gulpa including six rare Banksia marginata grown from progeny of the last Banksia marginata in the Riverina, which died in the late eighties.

Now that these areas are well established and attracting lots of species, it’s time to help things along a bit.

Three sandpits have been constructed for white-backed swallows to nest in. (Two constructed last year and another this year). A pair used one hole this last summer and I believe they raised some young. During April, many others joined them. Oddly, about twenty birds emerged from the hole used by the pair early one morning in April. Fourteen birds were milling around the sandpit one evening later in April, preparing to roost. Lately there have been just three or four about during the day. The best time to get an accurate count is early morning or in the evening.

It’s hoped that red-backed kingfisher and maybe rainbow bee-eater will also use the sandpits. Rainbow bee-eaters use the sandhill about two kilometres away. The Wang sandhill still has too much grass and weeds for the bee-eaters to nest so the sandpits or the accompanying pile of sand may suit them.

Nest hollows
Thirty-three nest hollows have been erected at the Wanganella sandhill (10), Monimail (15) and Gulpa (8) sites in the last week. I’m hoping for bluebonnets and owlet nightjars, and Major Mitchell cockatoo in the larger hollows at Monimail and Wang. Redrump parrot, eastern rosella and cockatiel could use the hollows in all three areas. Currently at Gulpa all the hollows are designed for pardalotes but more will go up for parrots, owlet nightjar and treecreepers.

The hollows were cut to the required size, the ends covered with form ply which had been cut with a jigsaw, the form ply attached with tech screws, the edges sealed with paint and then the hollows attached to trees with hoop iron, clouts and roofing nails. Thanks to my mates Sam Holden and Steve Seymore for their invaluable help with this project.


Bird baths
Last year, two shallow concrete troughs were constructed at Gulpa, and one each at the Monimail and Wang sandhill. Initially black plastic was laid on a slope to run rainwater into the trough. Not being UV resistant, the plastic quickly perished. Corrugated iron weighed down with old tyres did the job nicely (if not making for the most attractive bird bath around). Thin branches were positioned across the trough for perching. I’ve only seen silvereyes use the Gulpa troughs but there is sometimes water splashed about the Wang and Monimail ones so something is using them.

Wire-leaf, grey, slender-leaf and fleshy mistletoe berries were spread at Wang and Monimail in April and May. Quite a few specimens of fleshy, harlequin and wire-leaf had been established over the last couple of years although some fleshy and wire-leaf mistletoes succumbed to last January's heatwaves. Last summer a pair of mistletoebirds nested in a low Acacia hakeoides at Monimail. I found the nest recently while spreading mistletoe berries; it had been abandoned with three eggs in the nest. The last heatwave of February was probably the cause as mistletoebirds often nest late when grey mistletoe is in full fruit. (There were established grey mistletoes on mature boree at the Monimail when we started this project back in 2002).

Bird species using the Wanganella sandhill
Spiny-cheeked and singing honeyeaters, yellow-throated miner, pied butcherbird are now pretty much resident on the hill. White-winged fairywrens have always been in the nitre goosefoot around the plot’s perimeter. Lately yellow-rumped and black-faced cuckoo-shrikes have visited and a pair of kestrels has been hunting over the hill. The last new bird for the plot was a common bronzewing in April but only seen once.

Bird species using the Monimail plot.  
The resident species at Monimail (which always had some established native vegetation) include spiny-cheeked and singing honeyeaters (striped comes and goes), white-winged and variegated fairywrens (and superb fairywrens along the nearby channel). Grey-crowned babblers are almost resident. Species often visiting include bluebonnet (they like the seeds of old man saltbush), pied butcherbird, superb parrot during the autumn/winter (mainly flying over), noisy miner and eastern rosella.

Bird species using the Gulpa plot
South of town, the Gulpa vegetation plot is more mature, having been started in 1995. It also adjoins the forest (now Murray Valley NP) and had several mature trees when the project started. A lot of ruby and creeping saltbush is now established, a veritable feast for many species currently using the area, such as yellow-rumped, yellow, buff-rumped and chestnut-rumped thornbills, weebill, red-capped robin, scores of silvereyes, rufous and golden whistlers, white-throated tree-creeper, singing and white-plumed honeyeaters, common bronzewing, yellow rosella and mistletoebird.

Species planted in April—May 2014 at Wanganella sandhill revegetation site

  Acacia rigens
  Acacia brachybotrya
  Acacia ligulata
  Acacia calamiifolia
  Acacia deanei,
  Acacia loderi
  Acacia victoriae

Silver needlewood

Hakea leucoptera

Narrow-leaf hopbush

Dodonaea attenuata

Fringe myrtle

Calytrix tetragona

Showy daisy bush

Olearia pimeleoides

Cypress pine

Callitirs glaucophylla


Geijera parviflora


Pittosporum phyllireoides


Eucalyptus dumosa


Eucalyptus porosa


Eucalyptus socialis


Acacia pendula

River cooba

Acacia stenophylla

Native willow

Acacia salicina


Eremophila longifolia


Eremophila bignoniflora


Eremophila maculata


Santalum acuminatum


Santalum lanceolatum


Alectryon oleifolius

Mistletoe berries spread at Wanganella April—May 2014

Slender-leaf mistletoe (buloke)

Amyema linophyllum spp. orientale

Fleshy mistletoe

Amyema miraculosum spp. boormanii

Wire-leaf mistletoe

Amyema preissii

Grey mistletoe

Amyema quandong var. quandong

Harlequin mistletoe

Amyema exocarpi spp. exocarpi








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