FAQ


ENVIRONMENTAL WEEDS
Many of these questions/answers relate to the Sherbrooke Forest locality.  However, they are probably of general interest as well.
  • What is an environmental weed?
    It is a plant that can readily invade natural ecosytems and have a serious impact on the indigenous vegetation and native fauna.
  • How does this occur?
    The indigenous vegetation in Australia has evolved over many centuries and cannot withstand invasion by more aggressive plants from other countries.  For example, English Ivy (Hedera helix) is well adapted to moist forest areas and quickly smothers the ground, as well as climbing trees and shrubs.  This has a serious impact on feeding areas for lyrebirds in Sherbrooke Forest.
  • Can an Australian native plant become an environmental weed?
    Yes.  A good example is Sweet Pittosporum (Pittosporum undulatum).  This tree was introduced to the Dandenongs as a garden plant in the early 1900’s.  As residential properties increased, so did its distribution, eventually to properties abutting Sherbrooke Forest.  It is now widespread throughout the forest and has hybridised with the indigenous Banyalla (Pittosporum bicolor).  This hybridisation is now threatening the survival of the indigenous Banyalla.
  • How are these weeds spread into the forest?
    The main vectors are birds such as blackbirds and currawongs, but weeds can also be carried by foxes, water, wind, vehicles and on footwear and clothing of humans.
  • Why should I retain or plant indigenous vegetation in my garden?
    Native birds, animals and insects are adapted to the indigenous vegetation of their region.  Although Sherbrooke Forest is 803 hectares, it is an island surrounded by residential properties.  These properties should act as corridors for native fauna to move to other bush areas in the Dandenongs and beyond.
  • Where can I buy plants that are indigenous to the Dandenongs?
    The Southern Dandenongs Community Nursery is a reliable source of such plants.  It is located at " Birds Land Reserve ", Mt Morton Road, Belgrave Heights, Melway Map reference 84 B2.  Follow the sign that says ‘Environment Centre’.  The nursery is open on Sunday only, from 10 am to 12 noon.  The volunteer staff will be most willing to help you make your choice of appropriate plants.
  • When is the best time to plant indigenous plants in my garden?
    The optimum time is autumn, after good soaking rain.  At this time the soil is still warm enough to encourage growth, so that the plants can obtain a good root system.  Spring is still a suitable time but make sure that the soil around the plants is protected with mulch to prevent it drying out in summer.  Make sure you water the plants thoroughly if there is a sustained dry period in their first year of growth.  A good soaking once a week is preferable to frequent light watering.
  • I would like to plant a mixture of exotic and indigneous plants in my garden.  How can I choose appropriate exotic plants that are not environmental weeds?
    Check the list of environmental weeds on this website.  You will notice that most of them have either berries and fruits or winged seeds.  This means that they are able to ‘escape’ from your garden into bushland via birds and animals or wind and water.  If a plant is seeding and germinating freely in your garden, there is a good chance that it is an environmental weed.  There are hundreds of exotic plants that are safe to plant in your garden, but remember that they probably will not benefit local wildlife.
  • What`s the best way to get rid of weedy trees like Holly, Pittosporum and Sycamore Maple?
    Drill holes about 15mm deep and 8-10mm diameter at about 70mm intervals around the base of the trunk and fill them with glyphosate.
  • What are some good reference books about environmental weeds?
    Two recent publications that provide excellent information are:

    Weeds of Forests, Roadsides and Gardens by Vivien Freshwater
    (Although this publication is out of print, a digitised copy may be obtained by contacting us.)Environmental Weeds - A Field Guide for SE Australia by Kate Blood

    Bush Invaders of South-East Australia - A guide to the identification and control of environmental weeds found in South-East Australia by Adam Muyt

    The Shire of Yarra Ranges has produced a poster depicting the more common environmental weeds found in the Shire, as well as their control. You can obtain a copy free of charge by phoning the Shire. The Shire website has an extensive "Local Plant Directory" of native plants and environmental weeds.
  
LYREBIRDS 

These questions and answers are based on the pamphlet "All your questions answered" by the late Isobel and Harold Bradley. The original document is available from Wildlife Watch or from the Sherbrooke Lyrebird Survey Group.
  • What does the lyrebird look like?
    It is pheasant-like in appearance.  The female is a plain brownish bird with quite a long brown tail.  The males and females look much the same until about four years of age, when the tail feathers start to filament and the two outer feathers elongate, becoming barred with rufous and black and developing a black clubhead.  The two central feathers also elongate and lose the feather barbs, appearing like wires with a few barbules at the tip.  The name "lyrebird" was given because of the two outer tail feathers.  On the rare occasions the tail is erected, it looks like a musical instrument called the lyre.
  • What is the correct scientific name for the lyrebird?
    Menura novaehollandiae.
  • Is the lyrebird related to the peacock?
    No.
  • How long does the lyrebird live?
    There are reports of lyrebirds surviving for up to 29 years.
  • How old is the male when he starts to sing and does he need to practise?
    A young male will sing and practise his repertoire very early in his life.  His song is developed by copying the songs he hears from other male lyrebirds and from other song birds in the forest.  Young males practise dancing/display with other birds very early in their lives.
  • At what age does the male have a full tail?
    It usually takes 6-8 years to attain a fully adult tail.  Each year between the age of one and six, young males begin to change their tails and continue to do so with each moult.  A male in full moult is a strange sight because it loses all its tail feathers.
  • Which birds does the lyrebird imitate?
    Mainly other forest birds, such as the kookaburra, magpie, currawong, thrush, wattlebird, butcherbird, pilotbird, blackbird, crimson rosella, some honeyeaters and occasionally shrike tits or other local birds.
  • Does the female also sing or call?
    She sings rarely but when she does it is with clear mimicry and usually when her nest is threatened.
  • What about reports of birds imitating dogs ,helicopters, chainsaws, woodchopping etc?
    The Sherbrooke Lyrebird Survey has no records of such sounds heard in Sherbrooke Forest.  The bird`s own calls might be misunderstood by the uninitiated.  For instance, the invitation call in the mating/nesting season and consisting of a constant crick-crick-crick-crick call could readily be mistaken for woodchopping.  Another call which sounds a bit like chewey-chewey-chewey could be likened to the whirring of helicopter blades or even a chainsaw.  A barking sound is probably an imitation of the barking owl.
  • What does a lyrebird eat?
    Spiders, centipedes, worms, small crustacea and insects which live in the soil.
  • When is the nesting/breeding season?
    Nest building can start as early as April, although some early ornithologists recorded nests during March.  Egg laying may start in late June, but mostly occurs in July.
  • What does a lyrebird nest look like?
    The nest is a large structure made of sticks up to 25mm diameter.  It is about 70cm high and 60cm wide.  The nest is lined with moss, sometimes mixed with dry bracken and small fibrous roots.  When the nest chamber is complete, and after mating, a layer of feathers taken from her own plumage is deposited in the nest, and later, extra feathers are added to form a thick mattress.

    Most nests are built on the ground, on the banks of tracks and creeks, on the top of tree ferns, among ground ferns or in wiregrass.  However, some nests have been sighted as high as 20 metres above the ground in trees.
  • Is the nest used a second time?
    The group has no such record.  However, the stick platform used as a base may not become a completed nest in the first year - the bird may return and complete it up to three years later.
  • How many eggs are laid?
    The female lyrebird lays only one egg.  However, if mating has not taken place, the prepared nest remains empty.
  • What does the egg look like?
    It is the size of a large hen egg and is grey/brown, sometimes with spots or streaks.
  • How long is the incubation period?
    Generally about six weeks.  It is thought that hatching can be deliberately delayed to ensure that food will be available when the hatchling arrives.
  • How long do offspring live with their parents?
    Females may be seen with their chick for 8-9 months.  With the onset of the next mating/nesting season, the female takes the young bird to another area of the forest and leaves it to fend for itself.
  • Where do they sleep?
    Apart from the nesting season when the females sleep in their nests, all lyrebirds perch high up in trees, probably to avoid ground predators during their sleeping hours.
  • Which animals might kill lyrebirds?
    Foxes, cats and dogs.  Few if any feral dogs or cats have been detected in Sherbrooke Forest, but unrestrained domestic pets have been a problem.
  • What is being done to protect the lyrebird?
    A Companion Animal Act passed by the local Council a couple of years ago alerted nearby residents about responsible animal ownership.  It included a cat curfew.  In addition, a continuing fox eradication programme has been a major contribution to the welfare of the lyrebird.  At the same time, revegetation of a number of areas and a weed control programme have made more habitat available for the birds .