Wes, our new Australian correspondent, lives north of Sydney, a couple of miles inland from the ocean and next to a set of three interconnected saltwater lakes. In response to some questions from FFON, Wes writes:
Q: Australian wildlife is so beautiful; do people in Australia plant their gardens with wildlife in mind?
Certainly, Australia has some beautiful wildlife, especially the birds.
Here’s a couple of examples I photographed near home in the last few days:
A Superb Fairy Wren (generally known as a Blue Wren)
There certainly would be some people who directly do plant their gardens with wildlife in mind but I suspect not too many. I think, however, that people have been planting their gardens with flora which attracts wildlife but for different reasons.
Over the last few decades there has been a much greater emphasis on planting Aussie native plants, bushes & trees in people’s gardens (and public gardens as well). Here are some examples. These certainly do attract local native wildlife!The reasons for this change in planting are many and varied – a growing emphasis on our Aussie identity would be one reason and another reason would be our dry Aussie climate (and especially the drought that we’ve had over the last many years).
Much of the native Aussie flora is, of course, suited to our mostly dry climate and therefore doesn’t need consistent watering.
English flowers such as roses are still very popular here and many local gardens would have roses and similar English or European flowers (I have 5 or 6 rose bushes in my garden but I’m a hopeless gardener, so they never get watered other than when it rains – but they do survive).
Therefore, household gardens tend these days to have more natives in them (which, in turn, attract local wildlife). Some local government areas are now encouraging or even requiring a certain proportion of native plants be included in any new housing approvals. See the following from a neighbouring council: https://www.lakemac.com.au/For-residents/Sustainable-living/Backyard-Habitat-for-Wildlife
Q: We’ve heard feeding the birds is discouraged in Australia; is that true?
There’s no prohibition on this at all (to my knowledge) but I think there has been a growing view over the last few decades that native wildlife (including birds of course) should be left to forage for their own food, rather than have it provided by humans.
The obvious reason is that if the humans move away or stop the feeding program for any reason, the wildlife could lose their foraging or hunting skills. In addition, food provided by humans may not be appropriate for the particular type of animal or bird. It could also introduce diseases or have other adverse impacts.
There could well be other reasons for this happening, for example, people are busy with their own lives and interests, and feeding native wildlife isn’t necessarily part of that.
So the reasons might range between the altruistic (so that the wildlife retains its skills) through to the selfish.
Having said that, I know that there are bird feeding tables and similar along the lakefront where I live and I’m aware of others who do feed native birds.
For example, I have seen this Nankeen Kestrel being hand fed on occasions. This kestrel seems to approach the hand feeding in a similar way to its natural feeding process, so it appears not to have lost its natural feeding skills at all.
The Nankeen Kestrel is a raptor which is native to Australia and new Guinea.
One of the tourist entertainment activities about 15 minutes from home is a daily pelican feeding (this site gives some info and pics): http://www.theentrance.org.au/explore/pelican-feeding
Out of interest, during our recent local bushfires, some local wildlife support people did do some animal and bird feeding drops where the fires had burnt out their natural feeding areas. There actually was some concern that the volunteers might be entering areas that were still live bushfire zones, so perhaps it was “well meaning but not knowledgeable” people who took this on.
I hope these few thoughts give you some idea of the situation “down under”. They are, of course, purely personal opinions and are based solely on anecdotal observations – others may well have alternate views or opinions.
Written by Wes Hooper, our new Australian correspondent.
Wes has now retired from the financial services industry, where he worked for almost 40 years in a number of roles including IT, strategic planning, project management and executive management of operational activities. A particular specialisation was in the areas of the payments system and transaction processing.
As part of these roles, Wes also worked on banking industry boards & committees with other banks and the industry regulator. He was involved in establishing and then was a founding director of the Australian Payments Network Limited and was chair of the Australian Paper Clearing System Management Committee.
He has served in a variety of leadership , pastoral and administrative roles in his local church.
At one stage for several years, Wes played trumpet in the Sydney Anglican Cathedral orchestra and prepared musical arrangements for the orchestra and cathedral choir.
His hobbies include photography, writing short orchestral music pieces and family history research
This beautifully illustrated piece by Wes Hooper is a reminder of the life and work of John Gould FRS (1804 -1881). He was a naturalist and bird artist – British by birth, but generally considered the father of ornithology in Australia. Both the Gouldian finch and the Gould League in Australia are named after him. It was Gould who identified the birds now termed “Darwin’s finches” that played a significant role in the development of Charles Darwin’s (and Alfred Russel Wallace’s) theory of evolution by natural selection.
John and Margaret Cooper
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Thanks, John and Margaret for adding to Wes’s wonderful work.