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Large Forest Owls Project expansion

Wednesday, 28th June 2023

Large Forest Owls Project expansion

The Nature Conservation Council of NSW’s Large Forest Owls Project has recently expanded thanks to a grant from the NSW Environmental Trust. The original project, funded by the NSW government’s Saving Our Species program wrapped up in 2022 with work concentrating on Barking Owl high use areas in the Bungawalbin catchment. Now through the ‘Safe Havens’ project, work will expand to incorporate new and previous landholders across the Richmond and Clarence lowland forests, including previous Hotspots Fire Project workshop participants.

As part of this expansion three new members have joined the team working alongside Large Forest Owls Project Coordinator Pete Knock and Hotspots Ecologist Kevin Taylor. Angus Underwood is the new Safe Havens Project Coordinator. Angus has a strong knowledge and connection to the environment founded in bush regeneration, gaining experience in plant identification and restoration of plant communities across the NSW north coast. Angus has gone on to expand his knowledge and experience in biodiversity assessment and management through work in both the private sector as a consulting ecologist, as well as in local government with Byron and Lismore Councils, developing and/or managing numerous biodiversity programs.

Hank and Sue Bower are the new Safe Havens Ecologists. A husband-and-wife team back on the mainland after 15 years on Lord Howe Island managing and delivering various multi-species, island wide threatened species recovery and pest eradication and biosecurity programs with a strong passion for conservation and of restoration ecology.

The expanded project will continue to focus on providing landholders with the skills and knowledge to help protect the three large forest owl species, Barking Owls, Powerful Owl and Masked Owls across the Richmond and Clarence lower catchments.

Over 400 nest boxes have already been installed across the region, to support arboreal mammals, possum, and glider populations, with 400 more to be installed within the new project footprint. Long-term use of wildlife acoustic recorders for baseline monitoring have already revealed invaluable insights into the species composition across key properties and have recorded the changes in the landscape after the 2019/20 fire season and following wide-spread floods. This survey work has and will be used to inform landholders' property management plans, ensuring the protection of the large forest owl species, their key habitat features and prey.

Recent Surveys at Pillar Valley

In a collaboration with property owners involved in the Large Forest Owls Project, NCC ecologists undertook a week of wildlife surveys to collect data for property management actions at Banyula Sanctuary in the Clarence Valley, east of Grafton.

Seven small mammal species were detected during a week of intensive trapping surveys. A highlight was a population of the Eastern Chestnut Mouse Pseudomys gracilicaudatus (see picture), listed as Vulnerable on the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016 (BC Act). Other BC Act listed species fauna found during surveys were the Masked Owl, Squirrel Glider and Glossy Black-Cockatoo.

The monitoring data builds on previous surveys which have occurred in the area since the Pillar Valley Hotspots Workshops in 2016.

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