Wednesday 22 June 2016
Home sweet home
You may have looked up and noticed those wooden nesting boxes in the trees around USC and wondered who goes in there and what happens inside. Quite a lot it seems and you can catch some of the live action here on our webcam.
In all, there are 77 of these small animal quarters across the Sippy Downs campus. Each has a special guest in mind. Made of birch plywood, each nesting box is carefully designed and purpose built to accommodate different wildlife species. That's why they're different shapes, often with different entrance halls.
USC sits on a 100 hectare nature reserve with a strong commitment to environmental conservation. With all the development in Sippy Downs, USC has planted compensatory habitats and the nesting boxes are to help our hollow tree dependent fauna, such as possums, gliders, cockatoos, rainbow lorikeets, wood ducks and native bees.
These special abodes are based on research by Stacey and Alan Franks, who created the Queensland company, Hollow Log Homes, to help protect native fauna and meet their habitat needs. Stacey and Alan worked with universities and Government scientists to develop a comprehensive set of criteria for nest boxes unique for Australian wildlife.
The nest boxes can provide global positioning co-ordinates and generally have a lifespan of between 10-15 years. USC installed the nest boxes in three stages, beginning with 30 boxes in 2011; another 43 of them in 2014; and an extra 4 placed on campus in February last year.
For monitoring, each box is numbered and marked according to wildlife type. Here's how many boxes we have for different species:
Single chamber micro bats (4)
Double chamber micro bats (7)
Four chamber micro bats (3)
feather tail gliders (5)
Squirrel glider (rear entry)(15)
Squirrel glider (front entry) (2)
Black cockatoo (3)
Wood duck (3)
Small parrot (17)
In the 2015 audit, data was collected from 30 nest boxes which showed 17 of these either had animals present inside or there were signs of recent habitation.
- squirrel gliders were found living in 4 boxes. There were fresh eucalyptus leaves in 7 others suggesting the presence of more squirrel gliders;
- a wood duck hen sitting on eggs was in one box and a second box had evidence of a previous successful nesting with broken eggs shells inside.
- a ringtail possum was in one box. Scratch marks were noted on the lids and chew marks on the doorways of other boxes;
- a micro bat was living in one box;
- rainbow lorikeets had taken up lodgings in a small parrot box;
- an Asian house gecko lived in another small parrot box;
- eucalyptus leaves and scats in one box were consistent with Antechinus activity;
- one box housed a native stingless bee hive;
- feral species were evicted from two boxes and a hive of European honey bees found in another box was poisoned.
Careful, they might hear you
Great care is taken not to upset, frighten or disturb the wildlife inside the boxes during the monitoring process. For boxes with opening lids, the ladder is positioned very gently and carefully in the tree to allow for easy access to the lid and to open it quietly. Where the boxes are low enough, an extension pole is used to lift the lid, while a camera on another pole is used to photograph inside the box. Torches are used from the ground for the bat boxes with bottom openings and a photograph of bats will only be taken if the bats are sufficiently protected from the camera flash.
You can find more information on the nest box activity in the USC Nest Box Audit Report (PDF 1.2MB).