Following a suggestion by the Friends of Samphire Cove, it was agreed that nest boxes for native fauna could make a valuable addition to the bushland at Samphire Cove Nature Reserve to encourage native birds and other wildlife to breed and find refuge here. By positioning the nest boxes in carefully selected trees, it’s hoped that nesting birds can be easily observed by the Friends of Group and members of the public who, in turn, can contribute to long-term monitoring records.
As part on its commitment to community engagement under PHCC’s Wetlands and People project, officers are in regular contact with local community groups to discuss on–going activities and project ideas for sites in and around the Ramsar 482 Peel-Yalgorup wetland system.
One such group is the Friends of Samphire Cove, who actively contribute to the maintenance and improvement of Samphire Cove Nature Reserve in a close partnership with managers, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions (DBCA). This special reserve is surrounded by residential land, canals, a major road system and the waters of the Peel-Harvey Estuary.
Although relatively small in area, Samphire Cove Nature Reserve contains samphire marshes, valuable feeding grounds for migratory shorebirds and listed as a Threatened Ecological Community. It is known to be used by a diverse range of bushland and wetland birds as well as several species of native reptiles and mammals.
Friends of Samphire Cove include many avid nature enthusiasts including bird watchers and photographers, and it was clear to them that nest boxes would not only encourage native species to breed here but would also allow members to potentially provide learning opportunities while at the same collecting long-term information on the species as citizen scientists. After a series of discussions involving DBCA, several “target” native species were decided on in the hope of encouraging them to nest at Samphire Cove. This included several birds such as the Regent Parrot, Sacred Kingfisher, Striated and Spotted Pardalotes and Red-capped Parrot, all of which are known to visit Samphire Cove at least occasionally. Mammals were not overlooked. Brush-tailed Phascogales (small tree-climbing marsupials with bushy tails), are known to use nest boxes if built correctly, and while not known to inhabit the reserve, are occasionally seen in bushland areas around Mandurah.
With the target species identified, the Pinjarra Community Men’s Shed was approached to build the boxes, and readily agreed. All boxes had to be built to detailed specifications suited to each species’ special needs, and designed to exclude pest species including feral honey bees and Galahs (both well-known regular invaders of nest boxes!). Two phascogale boxes had the unusual feature of entrance holes at the rear or on the side to accommodate their tree climbing habits.
The Pinjarra Community Men’s Shed set about constructing six nest boxes made to order, and in late April, had them all completed, painted and delivered as part of the service. In the meantime, DBCA gave a helping hand installing a smart lockable steel box to securely house a large notebook and pen for nature watchers to record future observations. Wayne Goring from Arboreal Tree Care was called to install the nest boxes in the selected trees. Alongside representatives from the DBCA and Friends of Group watched with interest as Wanye installed the boxes one by one on 30th April.
While it is important to consider the specific needs of birds and mammals when building or choosing nest boxes, there is rarely any certainty about what species will end up using them, and the Friends of Group members understand that it’s a case of “wait-and-see”. It’s usually a lottery of sorts! Australian Ringneck parrots (Twenty eights), Galahs and Western Corellas are all too often the lottery winners but all efforts have been made in the nestbox design to discourage them. It’s early days yet, but with the next breeding season approaching, one thing is certain, there will be many eyes watching in wait!
It is hoped that these specialised boxes will provide secure nest sites for at least some of the target species and possibly even a pleasant surprise or two!
PHCC acknowledges and thanks the Friends of Samphire Cove, the Department of Biodiversity, Conservation and Attractions, and the Pinjarra Community Men’s Shed. The project is funded by the Australian Government’s National Landcare Program.