A day in the life of our onsite manager
Our Business and Infrastructure Services team lead the day-to-day property management at Ginninderra. Our onsite manager works closely with our research team and conservation partners to manage and maintain the property.
In this update, we share more about the role of our onsite manager including the projects they support, ongoing site maintenance and some of their day-to-day highlights and challenges working with the site’s flora and fauna.
Maintenance and monitoring in high value conservation areas
Our onsite manager noticed that one of the Little Eagles (Hieraaetus morphnoides) was visiting the site in August. It is the female Little Eagle known as V4 which has a tracker fitted. It is light in colour with white on the underside of its wings. This monitoring is ongoing and very enjoyable to take part in. You can read our latest Little Eagle update to find out more about their recent movements.
Following the heavy rainfall this year, soil moisture is at capacity and the conservation areas are doing well as a result. We’re expecting good spring growth.
The sheep at Ginninderra are a mix of Merino and crossbred ewes and play a key role in managing the conservation areas. They are used for pulse grazing over the autumn to reduce bulk biomass and open the conservation areas up for new growth. This helps to manage fire risk.
The Box Gum Grassy Woodland and Mongarlowe Mallee conservation and planting areas are fenced off to limit access by livestock and kangaroos. The fences are maintained through regular inspections and carrying out repairs when needed. We have roof tiles placed around Ginninderra to provide protection and shelter for Striped Legless Lizards (Delma impar). These occasionally need to be restacked after livestock or wildlife have been in the paddock.
Grassland restoration project run by the Ginninderra Catchment Group
This project is working to determine best-practice management regimes for restoring ecological conditions of remnant native grasslands in urban environments. Dr Ken Hodgkinson, Honorary Research Fellow with CSIRO Land and Water, is coordinating this research.
These trials have four management treatments – low or high mow in November, biennial spring burn, biennial autumn burn and a control. Our onsite manager’s contribution is to mow or slash plots and the fire breaks around them every three months. They also coordinate with Ken, CSIRO ecologists and the Rural Fire Brigades when burns are conducted to manage weed control.
The last 15 months have been a challenge with the La Nina weather pattern. Vehicle access has been limited at times due to flooding and muddy ground.
To help prevent weeds, biosecurity plans are implemented for visitors, contractors, vehicles, wildlife and livestock to eliminate seeds and pests being brought in. Weed management is especially important in the conservation areas.
Inspecting the boundary fences and maintaining them to prevent unauthorised entry to the site also assists with weed management.
Our onsite manager has shared some of more of their recent photographs from around Ginninderra below.
The Little Eagles return to Ginninderra for spring breeding
After travelling over 2500km since January, our satellite tagged male Little Eagle (Hieraaetus morphnoides) has recently returned to Ginninderra for the breeding season. Our tagged female was less adventurous, travelling only 17km and making the most of the prey around Fyshwick.
Jacqui Stol, Senior Experimental Scientist with CSIRO Land and Water, provided us with all the details about the Little Eagles movements since our last update in November 2021.
Travels of the Little Eagles from November 2021 – August 2022
The entire family of raptors at Ginninderra were successfully satellite tagged starting with the Ginninderra female known as V4 on 26 August 2019, the Ginninderra male known as Y4 on 28 January 2021 and the fledgling known as V6 also in January 2021. Unfortunately V6 died in autumn 2021 in western Queensland during a seasonal migration. The operational life of a satellite tracker averages 3 years, so we’re really pleased that our trackers are still in place and working.
In November 2021 the Ginninderra female and male moved into their old nest location in a conservation area near the Ginninderra shearing shed. This breeding event was unsuccessful and they moved into another conservation area in the north west of Ginninderra where they successfully hatched an egg but unfortunately the chick died. The wet, stormy and windy conditions over the breeding season are likely to be the cause as the young birds are vulnerable to poor weather and adults are limited in the amount of prey they can catch.
A second pair of Little Eagles have taken up residence and built a nest near the old police precinct area on Ginninderra East. The male, known as Z4 Pegasus, is also satellite tagged. It normally resides in West Belconnen near the Pegasus Farm Riding for the Disabled. The pair hatched an egg, but the chick died during the violent Murrumbateman / West Belconnen storm in January.
In late January, both the Ginninderra eagles left their breeding territory to fly to their regular autumn / winter locations – Fyshwick for the female (V4) and around Daly Waters in the Northern Territory for the male (Y4). This happened earlier than normal, perhaps because of the unsuccessful breeding attempt. The male travelled 2500km over two weeks. The female only travelled 17km which aligns with previous behaviour.
The Pegasus male (Z4) headed off more around the usual time in late March to Bourke in western NSW, before heading on to the gulf area east of Normanton in northern Queensland. He travelled 2000km and ended up spending the season only 45km or so from another tagged female Little Eagle from Tuggeranong known as Y2. He’s currently in Queensland on his journey back to the ACT. It’ll be interesting to see where he ends up when he gets back given that he nested in Ginninderra last season. Maybe he’ll try Ginninderra again this spring.
In August 2022, the Ginninderra male (Y4) and female (V4) eagles returned home safely from their migration. After spending a few weeks bonding, the eagles rebuilt their nest and laid an egg but the nest and egg were unfortunately destroyed in a storm. They have now moved on to Black Mountain.
Smoke haze research by the Little Eagle Research Group
Meanwhile, our Little Eagle Research Group have been analysing whether the severe smoke haze from bushfires in late 2019 / early 2020 impacted the Little Eagles’ movements. There have been few empirical studies of the sensitivity of birds to the effect of air pollutants, so it’s an exciting opportunity. So far the analysis indicates that there was some impact on the eagles’ activity. Stay tuned for further updates.
About the Little Eagle Research Group
The Little Eagle Research Group is a collaborative study group whose members are Jacqui Stol and Micah Davis (CSIRO Land and Water, Black Mountain), Renee Brawata and Claire Wimpenny (Conservation Research Unit, ACT Government), David Roberts (Ginninderry Joint Venture), Stuart Rae and Penny Olsen (Research School of Biology, Australian National University), Stephen Debus (University of New England) and Don Fletcher.
The overall aim of the study group is to determine the population ecology of the Little Eagle in the ACT and nearby NSW. There is a particular interest in rural areas such as Ginninderra and Ginninderry to ensure that any potential land use change minimises any potential impacts on our Little Eagle residents. The main aspects that this study has focused on are the Little Eagle population status, breeding success, diet, and dispersion locally and nationally. Such information helps assess the main habitats used, foods eaten, and productivity, which is necessary for guidance of any conservation of a species.
In March 2022 the team was invited to join the Global Raptor Collaboration (GRC). The GRC is closely collaborating with the global raptor research community to tackle conservation challenges through data sharing.
Project update – October 2022
It’s been just over a year since Ginninderra was decommissioned for agricultural research activities. Since then, we’ve continued to actively manage the site and conduct ongoing ecological and urban sustainability research with our partners.
In the last nine months we’ve had 741.5mm of rain at Ginninderra, including the highest ever recorded rainfall for a single day of 85.6mm on Thursday 4 August. The conservation areas are looking good from all of the rainfall, with the turtles particularly loving the wet weather. We’re expecting good spring growth as a result.
The Blakely’s Red Gum provenance trial to test the performance of local and exotic provenances of the species is underway. Ginninderra is one of three trial sites in the ACT as part of a collaboration between the ACT Government, CSIRO and Greening Australia. Recent pictures of the trial at Ginninderra are shown below.
We recently planted 30 Mongarlowe Mallee (Eucalyptus recurva) tubestock plants. We lost 6 trees and the remaining 24 have extremely wet feet, but they are expected to thrive when spring arrives.
Micah Davies, Senior Experimental Scientist from CSIRO’s Land and Water team, and Alex Drew, Senior Research Technician for the Australian National Wildlife Collection, oversee the ongoing ecological monitoring at the site’s box gum grassy woodlands. In autumn, they carried out monitoring on the response of woodland birds to the restoration of critical mid storey habitat in the Box Gum conservation areas. This monitoring is carried out each spring and autumn. The new shrub habitat was planted by members of the local community in 2017 and 2018 and this new patchy mosaic of shrubs has been growing well (now over 4-5m in height) and has brought back important foraging, nesting and breeding sites for the smaller woodland birds including the Scarlet Robin (Petroica boodang) which is listed as ‘Vulnerable’ in the ACT.
In recent months, we have been removing buildings from the former Ginninderra Experiment Station that are no longer required. The majority were at Ginninderra East, with one building also being removed from Ginninderra West. This work is nearing completion and will help prepare Ginninderra East for proposed sustainable future development. None of the works occurred within identified conservation areas, however special measures were in place to ensure protection of trees and sensitive vegetation proximate to these works.