On Sunday 23rd April 2023, Mitta Valley Landcare (MVL) together with the Fernvale Recreation Reserve & Soldiers Memorial Committee hosted a free community event at Fernvale Hall. The Frog Habitat & Wetlands event was very popular, with over 50 local landholders and community members coming to hear Dr. Anna Turner, PhD Research Associate Charles Sturt University. Anna presented the recent 2022 Mitta Valley frog survey results as well as previous study years that have been specifically looking for the declining Sothern Bell Frog.
Southern Bell frogs (Litoria raniformis) were once very common across south-eastern Australia. Their decline is mostly due to habitat loss from intensive farming, barriers to water movement, predation from invasive pest (foxes), and fungi disease. The Southern Bell frog is listed as endangered in NSW (Threatened species conservation Act 1995) and threatened in Victoria (Flora and Fauna Guarantee Act 1988). The last (3) years of surveying did not detect any evidence of the Southern Bell Frog. If you believe you may have heard this now rare amphibian, you are encouraged to record their call via the FrogID app for a virtual identification by frog call experts from the Australian Museum. The FrogID app is a citizen science project that enables registered users with a smartphone to submit audio recording of frogs. Alternatively, Anna is very open to engaging with anyone who needs help identifying any frogs you may find, she can be contacted on 0499 266 290 or via email email@example.com.
Following on from Anna’s presentation, Dr. Alexandra Knight, Lecturer in Environmental Management Charles Sturt University, lead a wetland walk on the Mitta River flats below the hall where Libbe Paton has established a small wetland restoration area, and was very fortunate to record a Bibron’s Toadlet (Pseudophryne bibronii) earlier in April. Anna and Alex’s knowledge was well received throughout the day with many questions on frog species and how to create wetlands on farm.
MVL would like to thank their members and the Fernvale Hall Committee for catering the event, and to Ben Teek and Simon Feillafe for cooking the spit roast lunch of venison and Banimboola Beef. A special thank you to Paula Sheenan of Holbrook Landcare who keep all kids busy, and to local stall holders Mitta Brewery, Mitta Hub shop, Harker’s Creek Hazelnuts, and Hillview Garlic & Produce, who added an Eat Local Sunday vibe to the day.
author: Robyn Scales
With all this water you may have noticed the nighttime chorus of frog calls. Spring flooding and increased nighttime temperature means you will hear new species start calling that were quiet over winter. Around the Mitta Valley, during the winter months, common frogs such as the eastern sign-bearing froglet (Crinia parinsignifera) or the common eastern froglet (Crinia signifera) can be heard calling from around farm dams, creeks and wetlands. The spotted marsh frog (Limnodynastes tasmaniensis) is also a common one to hear. The eastern banjo frog (Limnodynastes dumerilii), also known as Pobblebonk, makes a wonderful chorus of ‘bonking’ noises in late winter through to spring and summer. If you have frogs inside fence posts, down-pipes or climbing on your windows, they are most likely a Peron’s tree frog (Litoria peronii), check their back for emerald colour sparkles and their cross shaped pupil (rather than a slit). Other tree frogs include the whistling tree frog (Litoria verreauxii) and the brown tree frog (Litoria ewingii).
There are a number of other species which you may come across and the best way to find out what they are is to use the Australia Museum ‘FrogID’ app or check out the website http://www.frogid.net.au. This app is free to download and create an account. You can filter to species to ‘frogs near me’ and see pictures of them and listen to recordings of their calls. You can also submit a recording to the FrogID team and you will receive an email of what species are calling. This week is actually FrogID week and everyone is encouraged to get out in their local areas and record the frogs that are contributing to the nighttime chorus.
The Mitta Valley Landcare in collaboration with Charles Sturt University are conducting frog surveys in the Mitta Valley over the coming weeks. These are a continuation of frog surveys which were conducted in 2019 and 2020 in search of the southern bell frog (Litoria raniformis), a large and iconic frog species which is listed as endangered and hasn’t been seen in the Mitta Valley since 2009. Whilst the species hasn’t been detected in recent surveys, it is great to learn more about what species are present in the Mitta Valley to help guide conservation efforts in the region. Make sure to keep an ear out as the bell frogs have a distinct guttural call, much like a motorbike revving its engine.
We will keep you updated on the results of our surveys and if you have some interesting frogs on your property, are interested in learning more about the upcoming surveys, or just want to get in touch. Contact Anna Turner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
author: Dr Anna Turner
On a windy, rainy, Wednesday June 1st, Mitta Valley Landcare and Agriculture Victoria held a free AgTech Field Day at Eskdale Recreation Reserve. The well-attended event attracted people from across Towong Shire and neighboring areas. The day was an opportunity to learn relevant information for using drones on farm, and started with hearing why attendees wanted to learn more about the technology, some of the comments were:
“Employees are hard to find, drones could cover some jobs”
“Interested to start using drones”
“Monitoring on farm pest activity for pigs, deer, and wild dogs”
“Applying drones to daily farm operation”
“Learning how to operate, and fit [the equipment] into farming operations”
“The barrier of learning the technology”
The first speaker was Erica Schelfhorst from Boort Best Wool Best Lamb group, presenting results from a recent three-year on-farm study using drones for livestock monitoring in sheep operations. She touched on the pros and cons of using the early model Phantom and DJI Mavic and how far AgTech has progressed in the last four years. She also showed examples of using the equipment for checking pasture, troughs, fences, irrigation, and as an integrated tool in farm management.
The second speaker was Casper Kenworthy from the University of NSW Canberra, who was a part of a recent research project, Sky Shepard, that compared using dogs vs drones in sheep mustering. Those in the room were able to ask him questions around the study such as, can different sounds [i.e., a dog bark] be uploaded into the drone? Was there a difference in results when mustering between different breeds of sheep? Can sound association for the animal be a positive or negative? Casper mentioned that the perception of mustering with a powered drone and having to change over the batteries is like taking multiple dogs for the day and rotating them, and the barrier of learning the AgTech can be overcome by purchasing equipment that comes with on-farm training.
The third speaker was Alastair Tame from Field Master Systems, a commercial company focused on intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance for government using remotely piloted aircraft systems. A great visual presentation gave an update on just how far AgTech has progressed, and the results his company are achieving utilising drones for spraying in inaccessible areas, and for observation to capture data on invasive pest movements. He spoke on mapping GPS flight paths, connectivity, CASA rules, industry compliance, flying tips, personal expectations around usage, and the importance of having some photography skill or gaining practice with attachment camera lenses if you plan on using drones just for digital use. Alastair highlighted the benefits of using a drone to capture information for legal assistance to fight illegal activity such as trespassers cutting fences to gain access. He had two drones on display giving a flying demonstration of the spraying DJI Agras T10, and the DJI Maivc 3 that was set up with photographic, thermal, and laser lenses. The Mavic 3 was suggested as a great all rounder drone for farm use. He highly recommended that new users should buy the cheapest drone they can find, practice flying before investing into high tech equipment, and to be persistent in your learning, stating that we had to learn to drive the tractor before we could operate the tractor!
The final speaker Ben Costin from Agriculture Victoria gave an interesting talk on the information gathered from a local Soil Moisture Monitoring Station, a piece of equipment permanently installed in your paddock to collect data, allowing the user to compare overall season averages. This AgTech tool can use soil water meters and pinpoint the opportune time to sow crops and improve pastures, by autonomously monitoring ground temperatures.
Our local farming area gained some regional coverage thanks to journalist Annie Brown reporting on the day for ABC Goulburn Murray’s Country Hour. Thank you to Margie Tobin for ensuring the function room was toasty warm and the urn was ready for morning coffee top ups! And to Robyn Scales and Irene Lewis for their legendary catering, and Karen Moroney’s help in the kitchen. Thanks to all who attended and I’m sure everyone left with new information and valuable knowledge to navigate their journey using drones on farm and in business.
Frog surveys targeting the Southern Bell Frog Litoria raniformis were conducted along the Mitta Mitta River during the 2019-2020 breeding season (Oct-Dec) and the 2020-21 breeding season (Dec-Jan).