How do you regenerate Glossy habitat?

Read how Greening Australia is changing community perceptions and a predominantly agricultural landscape with $350,000 funding under a partnership between Saving our Species and the NSW Environmental Trust.

Glossy black cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami) feeding on seeds of belah

First, plant 15,000 trees at 45 sites – in this case, young she-oaks or Allocasuarina littoralis across the southern tablelands and highlands of New South Wales.

On World Environment Day, Saturday 5 June 2021, 150 volunteers planted 1500 trees in 2.5 hours on private property near Bungendore.

Glossy black-cockatoos are one of the more threatened cockatoo species in south-eastern Australia due to the clearing and degradation of habitat, which has been further impacted in recent decades by extreme drought and widespread fire.

 

The NSW Environmental Trust talks with Greening Australia's Lucy Wenger in year 4 of this 7-year project

Greening Australia staff member prepares planting supplies for volunteers on the day

The Trust: What can people expect at planting days? Run us through your planting event on World Environment Day.

Lucy Wenger: Saturday was a perfect sunny winter's day – thankfully – with beautiful views over the ranges to the east. From around 7.30am on Saturday, 5 of our fabulous Greening Australia staff were setting up on a private farm near Bungendore to ensure everything was ready for the amazing 150 people who had volunteered.

Volunteers started arriving at around 9.30am (both by self-driving and a free bus service we had arranged), signing on and registering on the NSW COVID app. Everyone was split up into groups of around 20, given a brief site and safety induction, and a planting demonstration (digging, planting, guarding and watering). Around 9.45am, the first volunteer group walked to the top of the hill where the 1500 plants, tree guards, tools and water were laid out. Groups continued to join them in a staggered fashion until 10.30am. One of our staff members directed groups to various locations around the site to start planting. For the next 2 hours, people planted along rip lines that the landholder had kindly prepared for us, with Greening Australia staff delivering supplies across the site.

It's always so impressive to see how quickly sites can get planted with so many people – you turn around for just a moment and then the site is complete. At 12pm, we asked all the volunteers to finish what they were doing and head over to the lunch area, a nicely sheltered spot near a grove of trees. We had tea, coffee, wraps, sandwiches and cakes set up on tables under a marquee, with stools for people to sit on. After a few thank you speeches and information on what we had achieved and why, everyone went happily on their way.

Planting is great fun and even newbies can do it with on-the-ground training provided

ET: Did planting volunteers need any particular experience or skills?

LW: No experience is needed to attend Greening Australia events, as we always give planting demonstrations at the start. Many participants had been to previous planting events, and even volunteer regularly with us, but there were still quite a lot of enthusiastic people who had never planted a tree before. Many are interested in the environment, and it's also a great social feel-good activity to do with friends.

ET: What has happened so far in the project?

LW: So far, this project has seen us plant around 11,000 food and habitat trees for the glossy black-cockatoo across 35 different private properties. The landowners have been incredible to work with. We have mostly planted Allocasuarina, glossies' primary food source, as well as a small number of eucalypts and acacias (to eventually provide hollows for nesting). We're aiming to plant 15,000 trees across 45 different properties, and raise awareness of glossies, especially regarding identification and habitat requirements. We have run several workshops to help with this.

Many hands made light work planting 1500 allocasuarinas in just 2.5 hours near Bungendore

ET: What have been the challenges?

LW: Well, last year we had quite a lot of challenges with COVID, because we often rely on our wonderful volunteers to help with planting at larger sites, and we weren't really able to run events. Luckily landholders were very supportive and understanding, and most of them were able to plant the trees without assistance.

Another challenge with restoring glossy habitat is that A.littoralis and A.verticillata are very palatable to grazing animals like kangaroos and wallabies, so the plants usually need to be well protected with tall tree guards in our region. But this past year has been nice and wet, so the kangaroos have had plenty of other food and have mostly left the trees alone.

ET: What has been interesting, surprising or uplifting?

LW: I was taken aback by how much interest there was in the project. When we first advertised the project through our networks, I was overwhelmed by inquiries from landholders interested in getting involved and planting trees on their property, which is a wonderful problem to have. I ended up having a waiting list of about 50 people, which is incredible.

Glossy black-cockatoos chewing on Allocasuarina cones to eat the seeds – this is the only food glossies eat

ET: Favourite Glossy photo and favourite Glossy moment?

LW: My favourite glossy photo is probably one that my colleague Graham Fifield took of a family group that appeared just outside Canberra in 2020, just after the bushfires. They quietly demolished the cones on a small planting site of about 30 A.distyla trees, and they stayed for over a month. This goes to show that even small planting sites can be worthwhile.

One of my favourite Glossy moments was on a bushwalk near Fitzroy Falls in the Southern Highlands. I was walking along the narrow track, looking at the incredible view over the cliffs, when I noticed all these chewed Allocasuarina cones on the ground. The bush was completely silent and asleep because it was nearing midday. I turned a corner and suddenly I could hear the characteristic clicking noises of Allocasuarina cones being cracked open, and a few soft calls. When I looked up, I saw an adorable family of glossies quietly feeding and minding their own business, completely undisturbed by my presence. That's one thing I love about glossies, how secretive they are and how privileged it makes you feel when you come across them.

ET: Do most people realise Glossies only have one main food source?

LW: No, they don't. To be honest, most people don't even know there are two different species of black-cockatoo in Southern NSW, the yellow-tailed black-cockatoo (which is much more common but no less impressive) and the glossy black-cockatoo. Teaching landholders how to tell the difference between them has been a large part of this project. Probably the easiest way distinguish the two is by the colour of their tail panels - red for the glossies and yellow for the yellow-tailed black-cockatoos.

Close-up of allocasurina cones, which can be anywhere from 1-3cm in length and contain dozens of tasty seeds
Cone chewings under trees give away glossies
A small sapling takes between 7 and 20 years to produce cones

ET: What would you like to tell people who are interested in supporting this project?

LW: If you have a property near Bungendore, Windellama, Tarago or Marulan and would like to plant Allocasuarina trees on your property (up on hilltops and slopes), please get in touch with Greening Australia. Although we have already received a lot of interest in the project, we are always keen to locate new sites so we can extend our glossy program into the future.

We are also really interested in any sightings of the birds within the region, to help us continue to improve our knowledge of their distribution and abundance. You can report sightings of the birds (as well as Allocasuarina chewings) at the Glossy Black-Cockatoo sighting survey.

And if you would like to volunteer at planting events, you can go to our website or Facebook page to look for any that are coming up, or contact our Canberra office so we can add you to our mailing list.

Many of the 150 volunteers who planted for Glossies on World Environment Day 5 June 2021