Brisbane Rainforest Action & Information Network

Wildlife Worries Wondrously Weakened

Chris Wiley

Like most people preparing to clear a weedy area for revegetation, we at the Jindalee Bushcare Group were initially concerned about what would happen to our wildlife if we removed all their protection.
We have recently cleared quite a large slab of exotic grasses and lantana from our local park at Mt Ommaney. The para grass, which used to dominate the site, was never particularly popular with wildlife as it seems to be too thick. However, the old clumps of lantana and guinea grass used to be home to fairywrens and finches. We simply assumed that these birds would have to move to other parts of the park, at least until our plantings had grown sufficiently.
But to our delight, the whole clearing process appears to have resulted in increased numbers of birds using the plot. This is probably due to the vegetation type in the rest of the park. The reserve is situated along the Brisbane River and is dominated by Eucalyptus tereticornis and a large variety of rainforest trees. Almost all open ground is covered by a thick, interlocking carpet of lantana, This means that, apart from the walking track passing through the park, there are very few areas of open ground for birds to forage. As a result of our clearing, a surprising variety of birds have made full use of the new open space we have created.
There are three species of fairywrens which always seem to be hanging around, preferring to forage in the pile of dead lantana. This has proved to us the importance of leaving debris and fallen branches on the site as fauna habitat. Since we poisoned the exotic grasses, there has been a constant stream of Red-browed Finches collecting the dead grass to build their nests in a nearby Kamala, Mallotus philippensis. In addition, the plot is permanently patrolled by Willie Wagtails and Grey Fantails, which like to perch on the stakes as they survey the area for food.
The mulching process also attracted additional avian visitors. The afternoon we spread the mulch, an enomous flock of swallows turned up to feed on all the tiny flies we were disturbing from the mulch heap. There were also the usual fantails and Willie Wagtails swooping at our feet as we flushed insects from the freshly-spread mulch. Some unexpected visitors were the Striated Pardatoles which could be seen the day after the mulch was spread. Pardalotes normally nest in burrows they dig into earth banks, which are obviously in short supply in most areas. The steep slope at one end of our site used to be covered in thick grasses which made it unsuitable as a pardalote breeding site. However, once the slope was cleared and mulched, half a dozen of these tiny birds could be observed digging and displaying to mates while they clambered all over our mulch!
Obviously, I am not encouraging all people to go out and clear all the vegetation from their local park in the belief that it will attract birds! The main reason our plot seems to be so well used is the fact that there is still plenty of cover nearby. SO if you are working in a park with adequate areas of thick understorey, then there are certainly advantages of having some open areas in which birds can forage.