Merri Creek Management Committee

Wildlife and Habitat Guide for Merriang Landholders

Stony Knolls - Rocky low rises in Grassland with shrubs and small trees

White-fronted Chat
Ephthianura albifrons

Description

Small birds, (a little larger than a sparrow) found in open country. The males of this species have a white face surrounded by a broad black ‘hood’. The bluish silver back is also distinctive. Females and immature males are brownish above and pale below. Females have a dark mark across the lower breast. The loose flocks fly low over grassland areas, perching on fence posts, shrubs or on the ground. They make raspy twanging contact calls.

Habitat needs

  • Shrubs or dense grass tussocks in which to nest.
  • Grasslands and Grassy wetlands for foraging.

Threats

  • Loss of shrub habitat (including too rapid destruction of exotic shrubs before indigenous plantings have established).
  • Fragmentation of wetlands, grasslands and native pasture.
  • Predation by foxes and cats.

Things to note

  • The species typically occurs in small flocks.
  • The species nest low to the ground, making it vulnerable to predators.

Things to do

  • Constrain domestic cats.
  • Predator control.
  • Stage removals of exotic woody weeds such as Gorse, allowing time for the establishment of replacement shrub habitat.
  • Fence and protect or re-establish Stony Knolls and Escarpment Shrub land vegetation.
  • Avoid timing removals in known breeding sites during the breeding season (winter-spring).
  Visit the Western Australian Museum’s FaunaBase to view an image and specimen map. Note: the specimen map does not accurately represent distribution within the Victorian volcanic plains.

 

Yellow-rumped Thornbill
Acanthiza chrysorrhoa

Description

A sparrow-sized bird, common in small flocks and usually feeding on the ground. It has a greyish back and pale front. A small crown of black feathers with white spots is visible when seen close up. A bright yellow rump is prominent as it flies away, leading to one common name, ‘Butter-bum’. Tinkling calls pass between members of the flock.
Other local Thornbill species (Brown, Yellow and Striated) lack a yellow rump and typically hunt for insects in trees and shrubs rather than on the ground.

Habitat needs

  • This species is perhaps one of the most common around paddocks and farm buildings, favouring open habitats with clumps of trees and shrubs. Scattered patches of trees or prickly shrubs for shelter and nesting are important features. Areas of dense, ungrazed pasture grasses tend to be avoided.

Threats

  • Clearing of environmental weeds such as Gorse that are providing shelter or nesting habitat before replacement plantings of indigenous shrubs are established may affect this species.
  • This species has been lost in some urban parklands following local extinction due to lack of connecting habitat suitable for faunal movement.
  • Introduced predators, in particular cats.

Things to note

  • Feeds on insects and seeds.
  • The amount of time spent on the ground makes this species particularly vulnerable to cats and foxes, perhaps accounting for its preference for open foraging areas such as tracks where approaching predators may be detected.

Things to do

  • Retain or enhance plantings of spiny indigenous shrubs. Reliable species in the Merri Creek area are Tree Violets, Sweet Bursaria and Hedge Wattle.
  • Keep all cats under strict control.
  Visit the Western Australian Museum’s FaunaBase to view an image and specimen map. Note: the specimen map does not accurately represent distribution within the Victorian volcanic plains.

Fat-tailed Dunnart
Sminthopsis crassicaudata

Near threatened Statewide

Description

A tiny, nocturnal, mouse-sized marsupial. Beige upperparts, white underparts. Very large ears and a fine, pointy muzzle. The tail is particularly short and is swollen with fat-deposits prior to winter. The above features should help distinguish it from the superficially similar House mouse.

Habitat needs

  • Plains Grassland and Stony Knolls. Nesting and shelter takes place under logs or rocks. It is particularly likely near dry-stone walls.

Threats

  • Insecticide use.
  • Removal of boulders and logs from the landscape.
  • Introduced predators including foxes and cats.

Things to note

  • This is a ferocious hunter of insects. This probably makes it vulnerable to traces of insecticide in its prey, multiplying the ingestion rate to harmful levels (‘biomagnification’).

Things to do

  • Retain logs and boulders on the ground wherever this is possible
  • Control foxes and cats.
  • Keep all cats under control, particularly at night.
  • Use insecticides responsibly, avoiding unnecessary use, particularly near rocky areas.
  Visit the Western Australian Museum’s FaunaBase to view an image and specimen map. Note: the specimen map does not accurately represent distribution within the Victorian volcanic plains.

Large Striped Skink
Ctenotus robustus

Description

A large skink to 20 cm. Tawny brown back, Black stripes edged with white occur down the back and sides.

Habitat needs

  • Open grassy habitat with rocks or logs for basking sites.

Threats

  • Foxes and cats
  • Illegal collection for the pet trade
  • Removal of boulders from grassland habitats

Things to note

  • Collection of reptiles is illegal
  • ‘Rock-rolling’ to detect reptiles and frogs is disturbing and potentially fatal to the animals. It should not be carried out for trivial purposes. Guidelines regarding the legalities and animal welfare aspects of handling wildlife may be sought from the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

Things to do

  • Retain boulders and logs on the ground.
  • Retain drystone walls in the landscape
  • Be on the lookout for illegal reptile collection in your area.
  • Control foxes and cats (even in the daytime when skinks are active).
  Visit the Western Australian Museum’s FaunaBase to view an image and specimen map. Note: the specimen map does not accurately represent distribution within the Victorian volcanic plains.

Bougainville’s Skink
Lerista bougainvillii

Description

A medium sized skink (approx 10cm) with tiny legs. The scales are so shiny the lizard appears permanently ‘wet’. A sharply defined black stripe runs along either side of the body.

Habitat needs

  • Open grassy habitat with rocks or logs

Threats

  • Foxes and cat predation
  • Illegal collection for the pet trade
  • Removal of boulders from grassland habitats

Things to note

  • Collection of reptiles is illegal
  • ‘Rock-rolling’ to detect reptiles and frogs is disturbing and potentially fatal to the animals. It should not be carried out for trivial purposes. Guidelines regarding the legalities and animal welfare aspects of handling wildlife may be sought from the Department of Sustainability and Environment.

Things to do

  • Retain boulders and logs on the ground.
  • Retain drystone walls in the landscape
  • Be on the lookout for illegal reptile collection in your area.
  • Control foxes and cats (even in the daytime when skinks are active).
  Visit the Western Australian Museum’s FaunaBase to view an image and specimen map. Note: the specimen map does not accurately represent distribution within the Victorian volcanic plains.