Living with creatures great and small

Posted on February 8, 2016 | Comments Off on Living with creatures great and small

apple debris left by the Yellow tailed Black cockatoos

Lunchtime: apple debris left by the Yellow-tailed Black cockatoos. Image Kylie Treble.

Welcome to Food for Thought with Kylie Treble. Kylie is creating a sustainable living environment on her property at Port Campbell – The Place of Wonder. Kylie has a degree in horticulture and is completing a Masters in Sustainability. The Place of Wonder also offers workshops. Visit the wesbite here. 
Last Wednesday, as the mid morning sun rose high in the sky, we were greeted with a cackle and flutter of wing as seven Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos came to roost in our large Cypress trees.

Majestic birds that seem to enjoy a conversation, a high perch and immature apple seeds!

As the morning progressed, the flock methodically visited many of my apple trees (preferring the Golden Delicious and Royal Gala) stripping them of their immature apples, pulling each apple apart and feasting only the seeds within.

Although I am happy to share, I do like the apples from each of these varieties and so employed Katie as guard dog tethering her near one tree.  Much to Katie’s horror, the cockatoos teased her by visiting all but her tree. Jess and I also took turns shooing them from the trees at which point they would return to their Cypress perch and look down upon us with animated dexterity.

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Needless to say they all but stripped the Golden Delicious trees.  I was initially dejected but upon reflection realised a few home truths, firstly we share our space with more creatures than we know and rather than outright rebelling, it is far better to get to know their habits so that we can foster living together.

Secondly, diversity is a perpetual winner as not only were the Johnathon apples untouched but the Golden Delicious trees planted amongst black currant shrubs were effectively disguised and remain untouched and, thirdly, a reality check: I still have apples and my goat has a feast!

There are other garden creatures I live with….

Brown Tree frog

Coming eye to eye with one of several frog species at The Place of Wonder, a sweet brown tree frog. Image Kylie Treble.

I have at least four different species of frog, but by far the most common vegetable garden dweller is the Brown Tree Frog.

It is a gorgeous little guy identified by a dark brown stripe running from his nose to his eye. Their colour varies according their surroundings as sometimes they are light brown and other times dark.

The Brown Tree Frog likes to eat a wide range of mobile insects (crickets, slaters, beetles) seeming to thrive on the chase.  At this time of year they hang out in the top layer of damp soil, but when it rains they climb into the folds of the silver beet and rhubarb or other high places and I can often stare eye-to-eye with them through the house windows.

The we have the Bush and Swamp Rats. Katie loves them, but I’m not so sure that I share her adoration.

The Swamp rat is a secretive little fellow that makes tunnels in and around my tomato plants preferring shelter and ground cover.  Their tunnels are a work of art, as they chew through any roots and debris to make their way around my garden.

They love to eat most vegetables including parsnips, zucchini, tomatoes and even eggplants. Mostly we share the space, but if I need them to move on, I simply clear an area as they are reluctant to risk being seen by the Brown Hawk in temporary residence.

Bush rats tend to dwell in my Cypress trees or in holes in the ground: they also visit my compost and live with the chooks.  If you could call a rat cute, I think these are the cuter of the two as they are smaller bodied with large ears.  These guys will eat plants and grains, but mostly prefer insects such as crickets and beetles.

a Suberb Fariy wren nest in an ox-tongue thistle

Location, location: a Suberb Fairy wren nesting in the safety of an ox-tongue thistle. Image Kylie Treble.

The most political creatures that I share space with are the Superb Fairy wrens.

They bounce, hop and flutter to protect their territories and are particularly miffed when I enter to harvest, weed or plant.

They live in family groups with one dominant male who is bright blue when mating, several brown coloured females and a range of young teenage birds of both sexes.  You can tell if they are not happy with you by their high pitched rapid calls and erect twitching tail.  They nest at chest height in anything prickly, so in my garden they prefer the ox tongue thistle where they make a beautiful nest ball with an upper entrance.

Common Garden Skink

Rotting logs and old farm machinery are perfect places for the common garden skink who seeks a quiet, warm life. Image Kylie Treble.

When you visit my garden there are many garden habits and features that may have you scratching your heads and an obvious one are the old logs scattered around.

These are part of my habitat diversification strategy and are aimed at providing a home for Common Garden Skinks.  These fast moving little reptiles eat a range of insects, slug and snail eggs (see why they are great to have around?).  However they are not so keen on tilled soil and generally prefer a quiet space with somewhere to sun themselves.  They drop their tails when alarmed.

There is no doubt that I am a fan of these little guys and their stop-start log dancing.

What creatures have you ‘befriended’ in your garden?

Kylie Treble is starting a new venture, Local Meal Box, where you can collect fresh, locally sourced food and matching recipes at a location near you in the south-west. See our earlier story here on how to join.



newsletter Art Music StonesCatch up on Kylie’s earlier columns here…


Putting out the welcome mat for weeds

Living in a laundry and lemon tree tips

Losing a kitchen, opening your mind

Making boredom illegal

Secateurs and pruning the unusuals

Smart soil, asian greens and winter tips

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