I'm only gardening for the birds

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Shirley Hardy
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Well, now that that's over.....here's an update on my garden with pics. We've been getting some decent rain lately and all the plants are growing madly and flowering at the same time. Even all my succulents and cacti are flowering and coming into flower. I'm excited. I tidied up my garden beds, weeded it, pruned a bush back to almost ground zero, and pulled out some flowers yesterday. I now know where all the house flies live - in amongst my garden. I was being attacked by tens of flies when weeding my garden. And I thought slugs were responsible for eating my silverbeet. Turned out just to be just house sparrows  I spied a female house sparrow eating the silverbeet recently. Yum!

The one thing I've learnt about bees, native and honey bees, is they love onion flowers. I never harvest my onions and I've had them growing for many years now in the same pot. I just love looking at the onion flowers and seeing the bees all over them. Every year they flower and every year the bees come. I just love it. After they've flowered I'm going to repot them into a bigger pot.

I've lost a few plants this year to frosts and to hot weather but 98% of them are surviving. My callistemons, wattle and a few other plants took time out to adapt to the climate and soil conditions and are now putting on a growth spurt and flower display. I've found that given 12 months to adapt, native plants will thrive if you plant them deeper than normal. It seems to make them more stronger and healthier.

I thought I lost a weeping bottlebrush (tubestock) due to heat stress but I've kept it watered inside and there is new growth happening. It is determined to live.

My frost damaged plants are adapting and putting on green growth. Looks like even the weakest of plants will survive.

My ground cover that I had in a pot for years has gone mad on me. I'm now training it's tendrils? to wind through the wire fence, and it is still growing. 

I plan on letting my celery plants continue to grow after they have flowered. Like onions and silverbeet, I want to see if they will continue to grow after they have flowered. Silverbeet and onion plants will grow for at least 7 years, given the opportunity. I'll only pull out a plant if it's dead on the surface, or chop it back to see if it will reshoot. It entirely depends upon how strong the root system is.

So here's what my part of the garden looks like now and the Red Wattlebirds and Yellow Thornbills? are taking more of an interest in it. Not sure if its the bottlebrush or the ground cover the Red Wattlebirds are interested in, or both, but I do know the groundcover gets a lot of heavy traffic from birds treading on it and snapping tendrils/branches. The groundcover is covered in yellow flowers and still producing a lot more flower buds enmasse. It also has the odd white flower on it. 

On a weird note, my Pink Champagne bottlebrushes are two different species. The one on the right of my footpath (last photo added in this comment) is just acting weird. There's only one plant but 2 separate branches to the tree. The flower on the right branch is a light pink colour. The flower on the left branch is a hot pink colour. They both have no further colouration to them. However, the 2 pink champagne trees on the left of my footpath are a sort of coral pink colour tipped with a golden yellow colour. Not much seems to be eating it's nectar though, that I've seen. 

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

zosterops
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Groundcover looks like a Lonicera species, if it's pic #3

Shirley Hardy
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Yes, zosterops, the groundcover is pic number 3, and I think it is a honeysuckle (or a jasmine). I've forgotten what my neighbour told me what it was. I'm thinking honeysuckle, if I really think about it. I've seen Eastern Spinebills eat the nectar on the original plant.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

I haven't been doing much gardening of late, except pulling cooch grass out of my garden beds and the odd weed. We've been getting good amounts of rain here for the passed month or two and I haven't watered the garden in probably 2 months. I've had a few more plant deaths since the rains started but generally the rest of the garden is growing like crazy and my celery is almost as tall as I am (I'm 5'2") and flowering/going to seed. Haven't lost any trees yet which is a good sign. They seem to be loving all the rain we've been getting. My honeysuckle groundcover is still going crazy, and turns out it can climb and cling onto the fence and small plants. I'm training it to climb over the fence when it's tendrils can reach the fence but also parts of it to run along the ground too.

I've had some success in bringing a callistemon viminalis back from the brink of death. Its been repotted up and is doing well. Its adapted to indoor shade conditions so I won't begin to put it outside until the end of summer, so it can begin to adapt to the frosts and cold weather. 

On an even better front my walking stick palms are thriving inside, with the organic matter I give them and lots of water. They don't even mind sitting in water for weeks on end, and they seem to enjoy cold showers too. 

What nurseries say about walking stick palms being delicate and don't like sitting in water or don't like wind is a load of cods wallop. I often, daily actually, have the pedestal fan blasting away and the palms seem to like it. Mind you it is very humid in my bedroom without plants in it. With my palms in my bedroom its even more humid. 

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Woko
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Weather conditions at your place seem to have turned around markedly since you last wrote of the drought you were experiencing. Do you think conditons are becoming more erratic these days?

Shirley Hardy
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Erratic weather conditions? I knew something was up when it snowed 2-3 times in the area back in July this year. It always only snows just once a year in the area. That's one day out of 365 days of the year. We had about 5 days of snow in total, including the icy cold winds. Snowing more than its supposed to is a good indication of erratic weather. Then I noticed the other day something else was odd. In summer we get low pressure systems come through the area and they begin to develope tornados. We don't get the actual tornados though, just the beginning of the formation of one. The other day I noticed the storm came in quite fast, with low level clouds moving in multiple directions with rotation of the bottom half of these clouds. Then a white wall of cloud was above and behind these clouds - it came in too fast. Then as I was watching the western clouds rotate, all of a sudden they moved rapidly in a north then a north-east direction. The low level cloud with rotation was gone in less time that it took me to walk out the front to the corner of the property and back again (the distance it travelled in that time was from the western horizon to the north-east horizon). I've never seen low level cloud move that fast before, EVER. And the colour of the wall of cloud was too white. It was just weird and a little bit scary , 'cause it was like the low level rotating cloud had to quickly get out of the way of the icy cold wind and rain as it was about to bucket down. In a few minutes it did just that.

What scared me was not the potential tornado but the icy cold wind and the extremely fast low level wind pushing the rotating cloud. I instantly knew that this was a storm system being pushed/created by upper atmospheric conditions. It almost felt like the upper atmosphere wind speeds dropped to the low level clouds. 

A few years back during a supercell thunderstorm that we experienced here in town I started freaking out big time. Storms don't generally freak me out but this one did. It came from the east and headed west but before the hail and rain and wind something happened that I've never expereinced before or since. The air pressure dropped to ground level whilst I was outside in the storm within seconds. And within a few minutes of that happening the sound came - the sound of what sounded like a freight train moving rapidly toward you - it was just the sound of the hail hitting the rooves of houses but was echoeing as there isn't THAT MANY houses around - and each passing second the sound got louder and louder. I almost ran inside and I then hid in my daughter's bedroom on the west side on the flat and stayed away from the window.

All I can conclude about the weather these days is, the regular rain is probably being induced by upper atmospheric conditions that are forcing the rain and wind to the ground more regularly. I'm dreading to think what else the upper atmosphere will force to the ground. A sudden ice age is possible. I say that because the air has been colder than normal when it rains of late. I'm not a meteorologist but I do know the upper atmosphere drives our weather but when the upper atmosphere IS THE WEATHER then you'd better start praying for the weather to stay "up there" and not "down here". It only takes one vortex to open from the upper atmosphere to the ground and we're all dead. Instant ice age. It happened in the past and it will happen again. Its just a matter of time and we're over due for one. 

Sorry, I have every right to panic. Do you know how the wooly mammoths died during the last ice age? They instantly froze to death, from the inside out, and as quickly as the amount of time it takes to have a single breath. Research it. It's on the internet. 

We say wars, domestic violence, etc is scary, which they are but an instant ice age is a whole lot scarier and more sudden and more permanent. They're deadlier than atomic bombs dropping and longer lasting. Nature is scary. Life on the Earth's surface is so fragile and vulnerable to nature itself.

I've seen some freaky s*** in my time, Woko, and you know something is wrong when you start seeing mega-giant ants. About 10-14 years ago I saw this giant 30cm long bright green ant with pincers at my front doorstep. I killed it. Six months later another giant green ant showed up on my doorstep (same species) but this one was 40cms long. I killed that one too. I'm not bullsh***ing about this, and I wasn't on drugs nor consuming alcohol either. Nor was I hallucinating. Giant ants - WTF? I killed them both for the simple reason that if they found each other and mated and had millions of kids as ants do, Tenterfield would be inundated by monster ants that would eat every living thing here, probably including people. Just a dozen of these ants could kill a person and eat you alive right where you stand. They stood about 15-20cm tall. Where the heck did these ants come from and are there more of them around? I killed 2 of them but haven't encountered them since nor seen any large ants in town since. Scientific discovery my ar**. I thought about that, for about 2 seconds, then killed the ants. You'd need a swat team (or an entire platoon of the Army) just to eliminate a nest of these ants. Ants that are big enough to shoot with a gun. How the heck did that happen?

Erratic weather indeed!

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

zosterops
zosterops's picture

an interesting invertebrate discovery, shirley.

could it have possibly been a centipede or stick insect or similar?

i'd have taken a photo or sent the dead specimen to a research centre... 

Shirley Hardy
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zosterops wrote:

an interesting invertebrate discovery, shirley.

could it have possibly been a centipede or stick insect or similar?

i'd have taken a photo or sent the dead specimen to a research centre... 

No, it was definitely an ant on both accounts. This giant insect had 6 legs, a head, a stomach area, and a butt area, and 2 antannaes  - just like a regular ant. It had eyes on the side of it's head like an ant but it looked straight ahead right at me, and a pincer which was black in colour where it's mouth was. It stood upright on it's legs like ants do, and it moved like an ant did. You just know what an ant looks like when there's millions of them on your front lawn. They might be small and tiny to look at down close at their level, but you get an overall perception of their body shapes and it sticks in your memory as "this is what an ant generally looks like". You'd know what an ant looked like no matter the species you see and no matter the size of it.

Their deaths were also shrouded in mystery because their squished bodies disappeared within an hour where they lay dead. They both left green fluid (guts) stains on the concrete and even that disappeared within a short period of time. My local ants were numerous and there were at least 4 species of them (and normal tiny sized), and did start devouring the giant ant after I killed one of them. There's no way the little ants could've carried off the giant ant's carcass in such a short time. It would've taken the ants 2 days or more to remove the carcass - I've watched ants long enough and know how they do stuff. But I never saw the carcass be removed at all, not even in part. Perhaps birds ate the ants - who knows but that doesn't explain the guts stains on the concrete disappearing as well.

This occurred back before I had a digital camera, and I didn't have the money to buy film for my camera otherwise I probably would've taken some photos of it/them. The entire area of the ants' dead carcasses had been cleaned up and not by me. As I said, even the guts stain were gone after an hour in both cases. 

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

zosterops
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sounds like an alien encounter, shirley.. 

Shirley Hardy
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Woko, the rain has died off again and now it's just hot weather, blue skies and no rain in sight. Its only good for plant growth and not good for humans at all.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

Alien as in "extraterrestrial" or alien as in "an introduced species from somewhere else on the planet", zosterops? I have had numerous extraterrestrial encounters, too many to count, between 1986 and 2008. I did think about the possibility the ants may have been extraterrestrials but couldn't prove they were or not. I killed them too quickly before thinking about such things as extraterrestrials. That and the fact there was no buildup to an extraterrestrial encounter made me think the ants were just some giant mutated Earth ant. 

I do have a theory though about these ants? Want to hear it?

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

zosterops
zosterops's picture

well i don't think ants of that magnitude have been described in the scientific literature yet shirley, i believe the consensus if that insect exoskeletons only allow for certain dimensions, but who knows what's out there with so many species yet to be discovered. 

I was thinking moreso along the lines of an exterrestrial what with the mysterious disappearing bodies of the ants... 

Yes i'd be interested in hearing of your theory as to their provenance..

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

My theory about the ants is, during an extraterrestrial encounter, or extraterrestrials travelling to Earth then landing upon the Earth somewhere in my immediate area, an ant, unbeknown to them hitched a ride from the ETs' homeworld and escaped to my homeworld after the ETs opened their vehicle and went venturing on foot. I see it as something like how mice, rats, spiders, etc on Earth get unknowingly relocated because they get into fruit, vegetables, vehicles, etc. Man comes along not seeing them, and suddenly the new location has these invasive species. Its possible that this could've happened with the giant ants. They got inside a ufo that was left open on the ground on their homeworld but got out of the vehicle once it found it's way to an exit and then escaped. If this indeed was the case then the extraterrestrials found out and quickly removed the deceased ants and cleaned up all traces of the carcass, blood and guts, to prevent me from sending it/them to be researched or autopsied on. Or, perhaps, me killing 2 of their ants made the extraterrestrials realise they had to be more careful not to introduce "their native fauna" onto our planet - which might explain why it hasn't happened again after the second time. Its all just theory and can't be proved but it kinda feels right, logically, to me. There's no explanation for 30-40cm long ants existing. Even back in prehistoric times on Earth ants were small.

Perhaps I should've called out to any extraterrestrial visiting Earth (at the time) who has giant green ants on their homeworld, to come right then and there to take the ants home - in my mind. I felt bad about killing the ants actually as they never tried attacking me. What's done is done.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

It has been a while since I last updated this post? And how has my garden faired in that time? It's went mental on me. I learnt two things. When celery has gone to seed and you cook the stalks its like trying to eat sticks. And 2 - don't let celery go to seed as you'll be pulling up celery seedlings for months on end, as I'm doing now.

After ripping out some plants here and there, the celery, and almost daily weaving the honeysuckle into the fence, I now have a 1/4 decent garden. It still looks like a mess but the growth rate of the plants has impressed me of the ones that survived. There's some new additions to the garden but the ones that got sunburnt are recovering and putting on new growth (mostly the Koda trees and Camellias). The bonus is there is less grass/lawn I need to rip out every time I weed the establishing garden beds. The garden has been weeded since these photos were taken a few weeks ago.

Here's a few recent pics of how the garden has grown in the last 4 months.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

oconnore51
oconnore51's picture

You are a really talented gardener, I am very impressed. I live in Dept of housing flat, and there is a lot of cement (apart from a lot of large eucalypts and other trees).

Elizabeth

elizabeth

Shirley Hardy
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Thanks for the compliment, Elizabeth. Concrete is something I absolutely hate but even worse than that is coarse gravel which hurts one's feet when walked on. And there's lots of that on the property, too, in the driveways and carports. I don't think I'm talented with gardening though but I would call myself "a persistent gardener". I've probably lost about 1/2 the plants I bought due to various conditions. It's all trial and error and it is costing me a lot of money to buy the plants myself. I rent the flat I'm in and 2 lots of landlords have destroyed/demolished gardens I've created on this property. My current way of thinking is if I plant 10 times more plants the current owners will less likely to demolish the garden as it'll be too expensive for them to get someone to do it. And if the garden is bigger than just a strip out the front some landlord may actually like it. That's why I'm adding ferns, palms and a whole variety of different plants to the garden. And to top that off I carry rocks, big and small, home from more than a km away in a bag. I also bring leaves, bark, sticks and sometimes (when they've fallen down) small branches from trees home too. I often do this whilst carrying shopping home in plastic bags. I don't have a car.

A gum tree wouldn't last 2 minutes on this property as I know someone would chop it down, along with any fruit trees. There once was a plum tree growing on the property but it was chopped down and poisoned as it's roots interfered with the foundations of the flats. I miss that tree. There's also a lawn mower guy that comes regularly to mow the place and infrequently sprays the edges of the garden beds and the fence line with poison. I reduce his need to spray with poison by pulling out grass by hand where I can. 

Gum trees are hard to grow plants underneath them due to the toxins in their leaves. Usually wattle trees indigenious to your area are a good starting plant as they normally grow under/amongst gum trees in the wild anyway. 

There is a funny side to my garden adventures and activity, and that is watching the neighbours across the road stare across the road at my garden. They attempt to plant new plants, infrequently, only for 8 out of 10 of the plants to die on them. They don't attend to their plants to get them established. They also rarely water them. They've chopped more plants down than I've bought in the last 3 years and wonder why there's been more snakes on their property than normal. They mow grass, and lots of it, and have livestock now, plus a dog that will eventually need to be put down as it will attack someone, if their female cow or a snake or someone else doesn't kill it first. I think my neighbours across the road are envious of how well my garden is growing and their plants aren't growing. What else do you expect when they just sit on their butts drinking alcihol for most of the day, day in and day out? I have to laugh. 

You know the saying "keep up with the Joneses", well the female's last name across the road is, ironically, "Jones". I don't think so. Gardening wise its "keep up with the "Hardy's" in this street. Hardy is my last name. 

I still have a lot of gardening to do, a lot more plants to buy and am still constructing garden beds. I've just run out of large rocks to use so have to use what I can find on the property and in town just laying around the place. A lack of soil is my biggest problem at the moment so all organic matter is going into the garden beds that I can find and use. Slugs break it all down for me or it eventually rots down. I've a major slug problem at my place so I'm putting them to work at the moment and they're staying in the garden beds now and are leaving the plants alone. 

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

I've kind of left the garden alone since Autumn started. The House Sparrows have not been eating the silverbeet and have instead started contributing to controlling insect numbers especially amongst the callistemons and grevilleas. I've tried eating some of the silverbeet and I felt a bit sick from it. The silverbeet must be producing tanin in slightly higher than normal doses. Insect numbers are beginning to increase which is attracting the Swallows, Restless Flycatchers, Willy Wagtails, and Superb Fairy Wrens when they are around. 

The grass has become lusher and greener because of the additional native plant life in the garden and humidity levels out the front have dropped dramatically. The plants all seem to be doing fine and are growing but some are still frost sensitive and may lose one of my Walking Stick Palms to the frost. I'm trying to prevent that and yesterday I bought some lilac blue flowers to plant next to the frost bitten Walking Stick Palm, for some shelter. If the Snow Peas and Sweet Peas take off it will have half the protection from frosts and summer heat it needs to survive. 

There is still a high number of Indian Mynahs and Common/metallic Starlings hanging around. This is mostly due to the availability of rain water laying around and human food. Introduced bird species don't seem to bother native species or other introduced species at all here. They just flock together and mind their own business. Its actually the native bird species that harasses the introduced species probably because they are in such large numbers here. Just yesterday I saw the adult male resident magpie attack some Indian Mynahs attempting to access our front garden, from the footpath. Then the magpie turned on it's own kind. 

The Indian Mynahs and Starlings just want the rain water. Human food is a bonus to them. Once the rain water puddle dries up the Indian Mynahs, Starlings and most of the other birds with the exception of the resident birds, will disappear and only come back for insects and any human food ocassionally.

The garden in general is doing fine and all the plants are showing signs of growing still. Not much is in flower at the moment, but the grevilleas should be flowering again soon. I'm still trying to find winter flowering native (or indigenous) plants but not much is available right now that I haven't already added to the garden. I'm trying to add as many different plant species as I can find locally that are at least native to New South Wales. Its difficult when mostly exotic species are sold locally.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Woko
Woko's picture

Just a comment on the introduced birds not bothering the native birds, Shirley: They might not be harrassing them but they're almost certainly taking up an ecological niche or two or three which were once occupied by native birds.

Shirley Hardy
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Yeah, I know what you mean, Woko. Like the native birds< Indian Mynahs and Starlings do tend to eat insects and stuff, not just human food. So they travel around the town searching for insects, etc. They're rarely in one place for very long anyway.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

You know, Woko, I'm surprised by the way Pied Currawongs and Indian Mynahs interact with each other. Not only do they not fight over food with each other, they will actually eat side by side without fighting for the food. I'm talking about human food here. But throw an Australian Magpie in the midst and WWIII breaks out. The Magpies chase every bird away, native and non-native. The human food is all natural food by the way. The "raw ingredients" type of food. 

Currently there are red/orange berried plants in fruit in town, something like a latana but I think its native, and the currawongs and Indian Mynahs are dispersing the seeds everywhere, especially on this property - everywhere but in the garden beds. The seeds travel long distances, more than 400 metres away from the parent plants. At least there is plenty of bird fertiliser around so I don't have to fertilise my native plants.

On the upside of things I believe my Native Frangipani (3) tree seedlings are beginning to adapt. The 2 biggest ones are dropping some leaves. As the weather has ceased being frosty, for the time being, the plants in my garden are settling down for the winter. At least leaf burn from the frosts has stopped. I just hope all my plants toughen up over winter in preparation for another hot summer. My Fringed Wattle seems to be doing better than it did last year. It does look better, only had minor new tip frost burn. It adapted to the extreme heat better than it's first year, so it is looking promising. 

I'm still holding out on watering my garden but the plants have to adapt to low water (rainfall) conditions in winter. They haven't really had a chance to adapt to low rainfall conditions so winter is the best time to do it whilst they are still young. 

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Woko
Woko's picture

It would be interesting to contemplate the reasons for the Magpies' aggressive behaviour compared with the more passive behaviour of the Currawomgs & Mynahs. Perhaps the Magpies are more prone to fighting for resources other than food. E.g., territory. 

Shirley, I'd be interested in seeing a photo of the plant with the red/orange berries. It sounds suspiciously like Cotoneaster, an horrific invader of Australian bushland but grown widely by Australians in their gardens. 

It seems that a number of your plants now have deep roots, the better to survive drought.

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

Woko wrote:

It would be interesting to contemplate the reasons for the Magpies' aggressive behaviour compared with the more passive behaviour of the Currawomgs & Mynahs. Perhaps the Magpies are more prone to fighting for resources other than food. E.g., territory. 

Shirley, I'd be interested in seeing a photo of the plant with the red/orange berries. It sounds suspiciously like Cotoneaster, an horrific invader of Australian bushland but grown widely by Australians in their gardens. 

It seems that a number of your plants now have deep roots, the better to survive drought.

These photos are a few years old and I'm not sure if the black berried plant is still there. I'll have to check. The other ones are still alive. These photos are of 4 separate red berried plants growing #1. In Bruxner Park; #2 In Manners Street in someone's garden; #3 In Manners Street in #2's east side neighbour's garden; and #4 In the Park area behind Coles heading west.

#4 plant looks different to the other red berried plants around town. Its taller, about 20 feet tall, has darker glossy leaves and looks more like a tree than a shrub. The majority of the red berried plants in town are about 12-15 feet tall, are multistemmed, and have clumps of berries on it like in pic #3. Some of the plants have been trimmed to be hedges but most are not.

I know they are not privet as privet is decidious in winter here. I'm thinking the more common ones might be Orange Thorn? which is supposed to be indigenous to the area. I'm not sure if any Chinese plant would survive here. I've tried growing numerous Chinese and Japanese plants, including bamboo without much success. Although privet does well here, so I guess it depends upon the species.

I think Magpies are aggressive because the parents have to get rid of the offspring by the end of the second year's breeding season (just before the offspring turns 2 years old). I think part of the reason why the local male Magpie is more aggressive than before is due to his 4-5 year old daughter that still lives at home, and his old age. He must be close to or about 20 years old now. Currently there are about 4 offspring, 3 of which are from a second mate which only started happening (mating with a second female) about 2 years ago. You know, in the past 18 years I've never seen any signs of mating displays or courtship displays between the adults. I've only heard their bonding songs with each other. Magpies have very private lives and it shows here.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Night Parrot
Night Parrot's picture

Kill it quick.

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

Night Parrot, despite whatever these red berried plants are their seeds are next to impossible to germinate. I have not seen any revegetation of these plants outside of people's gardens or even in their gardens. Killing off these plants would deprive Eastern Rosellas and Pied Currawongs their winter food source. With the impossible happening, either Little Corellas or Sulphur-crested Cockatoos are back in town, probably for the red berries of these plants as there isn't much of anything else available right now. Unless there is just one species of gum tree in seed right now which I don't think there is?

If its growing on a plant birds will eat it. It is the case, however, of if one species sees another species eat from a particular plant and they don't get sick the other species will do the same eventually. That's only if their diets are similiar though. They learn by observation and experience as to what foods are good and what ones are to be avoided..But fruit/berry eating birds always go for the unripe fruit as it is less toxic for them. Therefore, when you think about it, the seeds are not ripe so they cannot germinate. If that was not the case then there would be seeds germinating everywhere but that is not the case here. That is the case for some other plant species but not for the red berried plant species. I have had at least 10 years of observations of bird activity and local plant study to back me up that this is indeed the case. Now I'm just ranting, sorry.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Woko
Woko's picture

Shirley, step one would be to get this plant positively identified by an expert. I'm even more suspicious that it is Cotoneaster.

Assuming the plants are Cotoneaster, step 2 would be to keep your eyes open for any seedlings that might have germinated & eradicate those you're able to using minimum disturbance techniques. Although you say that this species hasn't germinated that's not to say that the seeds won't germinate in future. The right rainfall or heat conditions or a confluence of conditions might trigger germination. E.g., I eradicated two stands of Albizzia lopthantha, a WA species, 27 years ago & I'm still removing seedlings. The same with Acacia saligna, also from WA. 

Step 3 is to consider what indigenous species need to be planted in order to eventually provide the bird species you mentioned with their natural food at the appropriate times of the year. 

Step 4 is to begin planting, preferably after the first good rain probably in autumn although you know your seasonal conditions better than I. This will minimize the amount of water you'll need to use in optimizing their survival during dry periods in their first year or so. 

Step 5 is to wait until these indigenous plants are producing food needed by those bird species you mentioned before beginning to remove the Cotoneaster. 

Step 6 is to ensure that eternal vigilance is used in the detection & removal of the Cotoneaster seedlings while this process is occurring. 

This process demonstrates how destructive, costly & time consuming it is to plant feral species which are so invasive & destructive of our bushland. But it is also important to remove slowly the offending plants while their indigenous replacements are becoming a food source for the birds. 

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

Woko, I am powerless to do anything about these plants, unless, of course, you are assuming I own ALL OF TENTERFIELD, NSW. As I said, these plants, whether they be cotoneaster or not, are in other people's gardens and some are on council property. None of these plants are growing on the property in which I am renting. Eliminating them would get me arrested for vandalism and destruction of council and private property. I am a single mother and do not plan nor wish to end up in prison ever, certainly not over a dozen or so introduced plants.

The shire council does have laws in place to eradicate introduced noxious weeds from people's gardens - they will send out a warning letter to "remove the said noxious weeds or be fined to have the council do it for you." True story! A few years back they done this with privet in order to eliminate the weed in the shire on this property as there was privet growing here. I know of at least 1 privet plant that avoided undetection and one revegetated one. I wonder how long it will take the council to spot them and demand their extinction?

And what about exotic trees and the like? The council is not going to demand the removal of poplars, willows, foreign oak trees and the like because that would eliminated the majority of the tall trees in town itself. Anything native and indigenous to the area, like the yellow paperdaisy flowers, get mowed assunder into extinction or left to die or poisoned or something. The council has a habit of changing the landscape with plants. It plants exotics rather than Australian natives. It plants exotic trees, like oaks, under powerlines, them beheads the trees and trim them to a small shrub. WTF? There is no sense in what the council does, period. 

Plant nurseries are not much better either. They sell more exotics and hybrid Australian plants that are non indigenous to the area than anything else. Finding an indigenous plant in my local nursery is extremely rare - or its "close enough to being indigenous".I even found a privet plant for sale in the nursery once. I didn't say anything but next time I went there it was gone. So someone bought it. Privet will grow in a frost hollow but most other plants won't without initial protection at first. Hence why I have a high death toll of native plants when I garden. Plants have to deal with minus 14 degrees Celcius in winter (EDIT: I meant to say Autumn not Winter) with heavy frosts, up to 55 degrees Celcius in summer, bitterly cold winds, really strong winds at times, arid and open vaste areas surrounding it, Antartic chilly winds and sometimes even be covered in snow in July. Plants have to be adaptive to every possible climate condition just to survive here as well as drought and it can go from one extreme to another in just a matter of days. Tenterfield's climate is unpredictable! 

In my garden, Woko, plants have to survive and adapt within their first 3 years else they won't make it at all. It looks like I'm losing my Small leafed Tamarind, my 4 Koda trees and all my Walking Stick Palms (8) as well as my one remaining native mint bush (forgotten it's name now). These 5 trees are just leafless sticks now. My camellias are not looking good but are hanging in there, just. At least they still have leaves on them. My Blue flaxed Lilys don't look all that crash hot either, due to frost burn, but they might adapt and survive. I can only hope they survive. And some other newer plants are suffering frost burn, including my protea groundcover. It only has a few green leaves on it only because I threw an entire large palm frond on top of it.

So you see, Woko, I am more concerned about the survival of my own garden than the existence of a dozen or so potential exotic species that I have no control over in whether they live or die. And I still have a cat crapping in my garden and not knowing if or when the landlords will come along and suddenly exterminate all plant life in the garden.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Woko
Woko's picture

No, Shirley, it's just the seedlings that are invading the bushland & parks that you need to look for. It's unrealistic to expect you to stealthily enter Cotoneaster growers' gardens on moonless nights, mattock & bow saw in hand, to strike a blow for the environment. Of course, this assumes that the plants in your photos have been identified as Cotoneaster!

My experience of council environmental rules & regulations is that they are more about giving councils an aura of environmental respectability than actually protecting or restoring the natural environment. If Tenterfield Council (or whatever it's called) is this type of council it does no harm to hang any approaches to them about the dangers of Cotoneaster on the hook of their own environmental rules & regulations - if they have any. Not all councils are of this ilk, of course, & some do great things. Most, if not all, could do lots more.

The removal of exotics generally needs to be done carefully & slowly. Careful removal is done using minimum disturbance techniques so that weeds aren't advantaged by any soil damage. Slow removal is done almost simultaneously with indigenous species planting so that there are no disadvantages to wildlife which might be depending on the exotic vegetation.

Of course, I'm not suggesting that you be saddled with the task of doing all this. However, if you're up to it you could be both alert & alarmed & remove any invasive Cotoneaster seedlings. At the same time you might use any opportunities to discuss with people the advantages of growing indigenous species & how badly Tenterfield needs a nursery that sells indigenous plants. You need to consider what you're able to do with the resources at your command.

I can see that you've been trying a variety of plant species in your garden with mixed success. I guess if you want a garden in Tenterfield you need to experiment quite a bit in the absence of a good supply of indigenous species.

Shirley, you must be on tenterhooks in Tenterfield as you anticipate the arrival of your landlord with the gleam of plant extermination in his/her eyes. Such are the trials of the renting home gardener such as yourself whose efforts often go unappreciated by others. But no one can say you're not enthusiatically trying.

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

I have some good news about birds in my garden. I have 2 new species foraging through my garden: an unidentified (by me) small bird the size of a sparrow and a Grey Shrike-thrush I saw this morning. I have photos of both but can't upload them to my computer as my computer has died. I'm using my brother's laptop at the moment.

All the birds that visit my little garden all seem to prefer to be able to walk around on the ground below and amongst the plants, so I'm actually thinking of ways to open the garden beds up so birds can do that. At the same time I'm trying to widen the garden beds as I recently planted a Melaleuca in the garden and may have to extend the garden bed even further toward the Flats, at least in one garden bed anyway.

I don't understand why but a lot of the birds stand on the cactus in pots in the garden. Even the magpies and currawongs do this. They all seem to like altitude, getting as high as possible. I put a branch in the ground standing vertically straight up. All the birds sit on it even if it is wobbly. I'm still trying to get photos of the birds sitting on the stick. Often birds will fly in and land on the stick/branch.

The only way to know for sure what these red berried plants are is to go talk to Mark from the Tenterfield Shire Council and ask him. He's the one responsible for local council plantings and would know what all the plants are. Getting a hold of him is a different story as he's always busy or not in the office.

Actually Woko I look at the garden as "whatever will be will be". These days I don't get emotionally attached to the plants even though most of them are actually mine. With me anyway, if I don't get attached to something or someone, it/they generally don't go away or die. Emotions are powerful things and I've learnt to use mine wisely, and not to use them if I want to keep something in my life. This is just the way life is with me; be unattached emotionally to plants or a garden and it will remain forever. It seems to be working too as local people see the/my garden as just another part of the landscape. I haven't been hassled by anyone about the garden since being emotionally unattached to it. If it is destroyed, which I doubt it will be, so be it. I'll just start over again and it won't upset me like it used to.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Night Parrot
Night Parrot's picture

I have no doubt they are cotoneaster. You might be able to talk the council officer into replacing the plants with natives.

Woko
Woko's picture

Hi Shirley. It's always exciting & satisfying to see new species in your garden. Birds are useful indicators of garden & environmental health.

Birds often alight on an exposed branch or stick before moving to feed on the ground or among plants because they like to get an idea of the risks around them before becoming absorbed in feeding. Some species, e.g., Little Corellas, post lookouts while the rest of the flock is feeding.  

It seem you've been doing a lot of thinking about yourself. Yes, we can spend lots of time & energy fretting about lost loves whether they be people or plants. It's hard not to when you have a heavy personal investment in something or someone. I'm not sure we can escape feelings of loss & hurt altogether but I think focussing on the future & what you need to invest yourself in next is often a good way of coping & easing the pain. Good on you!

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

Thanks for your comment, Woko. I've been doing some inner work on myself and the garden has been neglected as a result. At least we had some decent rain lately. This morning I woke up to see frost outside, and as my plants have never experienced frost in winter, I don't know if they will survive beyond winter. There's no sign of regrowth on the Koda trees nor the Small leaved Tamarind nor the remaining native mint bush. I probably won't replace them if they don't survive. I'm hoping the Pink Champagne bottlebrushes pick up and start doing better. 

I'm really starting to doubt that my garden will survive the weather this year. This year is completely different to last year's weather and it is taking it's toll on the plants I planted. I'm trying not to get upset about it as I've put a lot of effort, time and money into my garden. I'm trying to keep the soil dry in the garden so any moisture in the ground doesn't freeze and then doesn't affect the plants' roots. I just don't know what to do to help my garden deal with the forever changing weather here. If it survives, that'll be wonderful. If it does, there's nothing I can do about it. I can only hope and pray. That's what I'm reduced to.

I haven't commented on this site for a while due to a whole bunch of crazy stuff happening here in the neighbourhood and in my own life. So please don't expect me to reply in a hurry to any comments. What has been happening has been affecting me personally and I will just add that I am now questioning whether people can be trusted or whether there is actually any hope for humanity (as a whole) in general. I go through life putting my faith and trust in people only for those same people to do something or say numerous things that betrays my trust in them. I have questions about people I can't get answers for, and may never have answers for. I'd rather not think about people anymore, I think this is where I separate myself from people again.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

Yesterday I checked out the condition of all my plants in the garden, one by one. I was quite surprised by what I found. My palms, at the base and trunk close to the ground were still green and the soil was still damp where I'd heavily mulched garden beds but other areas were bone dry. Earth worms had got into my two pots with pineapple plants. One pineapple top had taken root the other had not. My biggest surprise was my Fringed Wattle: it is in the process of producing flowers. The flower stalks are about 1 1/2 to 2cm long and a lush light green colour with little flowers that only look like they have still yet to grow and fully develope. In a couple of weeks it will be covered in beautiful yellow flowers - it's very first flowers. I tip pruned the dead, frost affected parts of the bush to give it more energy for it's flower production and new growth. I tip pruned a small grevillea that had tried flowering before the frosts killed the flowers. My Banksia ground cover possibly will survive as well and when the frosts disappear I will remove the palm frond laying on top of the Banksia protecting it from the frost. 

My 2 blueberry bushes are beginning to bud at the tips minus any leaves it did have after I planted it a few months ago. 

I tried pulling out one of my Koda tree seedlings by hand but all my strength could not budge the seedling from the ground. It is barely a 30cm stick in the ground but it must have a strong root system for me to not be able to pull it out of the ground by hand. So I left it and thought this will be a very strong tree once it gets established. So my 4 Koda trees and 1 Small Leaved Tamarind tree are fully decidious even though they are not supposed to be decidious. The tamarind is supposed to be an evergreen but it has decided to be decidious in order to deal with the frosts better. My 3 Native Frangipanis seem to be the slowest to adapt but are still holding on to dear life. I gave one of them a prune to remove a lower branch or two.

We are getting warmer weather now and the plants are taking advantage of that. There is hope in the air with my garden, and it looks like almost all of my plants are adapting to the cold, frosty weather despite still looking burnt or leafless, where applicable, will survive and even flourish.

So after all that excitement I decided to water the garden yesterday afternoon. I've allowed most of the weeds to grow because the native bees like their flowers and pollinate them and weeds fill gaps in the garden. Native grasses are coming up everywhere in the garden.

Watering the garden is normally uneventful. You turn the hose on, point it at the garden and hours later after moving about its all done. No, not yesterday. One individual Stinging Nettle plant had to mess that all up. The very moment I began watering the Stinging Nettle it sprayed me in the face with it's stinging bits from it's leaves. One of the stingers lodged in my left eye. If you've never had one Singing Nettle stinger in your eye before, take my advice and rip all the plants out - or water them carefully after a drought of no water for a month. The pain that ensues is unbearable for about half an hour even after you try washing your eye out with water- which does help by the way. My eyeball was on fire, and burnt at the front, sides and back of the eyeball. I was in so much pain and was crying I had to stop watering the garden. As I kept touching my eye lid with my hand it made the pain worse. It felt like glass was stuck in my eye and every time I touched my eyelid the stinger went deeper into my eyeball. Intense sudden pain is all that you get. It is 50 times worse than being stung in the eye than on the skin.

After dinner I had to have a second shower as I discovered there were more stingers still stuck on my face. I'm okay now but last night I was overcome by headaches and drowsiness from the whole incident with the Stinging Nettle plant spraying me in the face with it's stingers. I knew I was having a bad week but this incident just topped it all off for me.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

Woko
Woko's picture

Nasty!

Shirley, you say the Stinging Nettle "sprayed" you in the face. Do you mean your watering dislodged the nettles from the plant causing them to hit you in the eye & face?

Shirley Hardy
Shirley Hardy's picture

Yes, Woko, that's what happened.

I had to water the garden again yesterday. I'm not sure what season we are experiencing here as it is starting to feel like summer again. Hot days and cold nights and if there is cloud about fog at night. That's more like Spring than Winter. The Magpies are starting to gather nesting material already - a whole month early. I think the Torresian Crows are also nesting (a whole 3 months early), and in their old nesting tree. Their nearly 3 year old offspring was recently electricuted and died. 

I'm getting frustrated with my garden and have basically abandoned it. I've let the weeds grow. I only pull out cooch grass and any stinging nettles that pop up.

My Pink Champagne bottlebrush is starting to grow again but no flowers yet. Some other bushes are showing signs of new growth too.  All my plants are doing something different and some are taking longer to come out of winter dormancy. Winter was very short lived but the cold nights still persists.

I'll have to take some photos tomorrow and add them here to show how, and if, my plants have been surviving.

I'm at Tenterfield, NSW. (Formerly known as "Hyperbirds".)

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