Through this project we are working with landholders to protect and enhance key nesting sites and habitat resources for Vulnerable large forest owls across the Richmond-Clarence Lowlands. The project is working to ensure the survival of three Vulnerable species: the Barking Owl (Ninox connivens), Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae) and the Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua). Within the project area there is a priority zone in the north, see map below, that is focusing on protecting nest sites of the Barking Owl.
The importance of owls
The presence of resident populations of large forest owls in a landscape is a good indicator of healthy and functional forest ecosystems. The Vulnerable Barking Owl has declined across most of its historic range in NSW, with only two remaining strongholds; one in the Pilliga Forest, and one in the Richmond-Clarence Lowlands, specifically in the coastal Clarence Valley (Coldstream River and Shark Creek catchments) and in the Richmond Valley between Bundjalung National Park and the Upper Bungawalbin Creek catchment.
Barking Owls require intact, healthy forests and woodlands, and are a flagship species for the conservation and management of functioning mature forest ecosystems. The lowlands of the Richmond and Clarence catchments are a key stronghold for the Barking Owl, with significant populations of the Vulnerable Powerful Owl and Masked Owl also present. This is one of very few landscapes in NSW with healthy populations of the large forest owls. This assemblage of owls is supported by a diverse prey base of small to medium-sized native mammals and birds which make up a large proportion of their diet, especially when breeding. To ensure the survival of the Barking Owl there is an urgent need to protect and maintain the connectivity of habitat across the Richmond-Clarence Lowlands and to actively protect large hollow-bearing trees.
This project is contributing to the conservation and connectivity of populations of these large forest owls while also benefitting a range of other threatened arboreal marsupials including the Brush-tailed Phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa), Greater Glider (Petauroides volans), Yellow-bellied Glider (Petaurus australis) and Squirrel Glider (Petaurus norfolcensis) across the project area.
Funding from the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment (DPIE), through the Saving Our Species program, is enabling us to connect with landholders across the Richmond-Clarence Lowlands region and provide them with the training and tools to monitor and maintain populations of these critical species on their properties for the long-term.
The project consolidates and builds on strategic partnerships formed over the last decade across northern NSW. These partnerships include government and non-government organisations and Indigenous and non-Indigenous private landholders. The program is run by NCC with support from the Department of Planning, Industry and Environment - Saving Our Species program and the NSW Rural Fire Service. Many landholders have already been engaged with NCC through our Hotspots Fire Project, Firesticks program and the Upper Coldstream Biodiversity Program.
Tools for the future – support for landholders
Landholders involved in the project can participate in different ways. Throughout the life of the project, landholders are able to participate in training workshops and community events and are supported to carry out key activities on their properties. Some key activities include:
- Participation in long-term acoustic monitoring using Song meters to record owl and other threatened species calls
- Property Fire Management Plans through Hotspots program with RFS and NCC to highlight and protect built and environmental assets, specifically hollow-bearing trees
- Identify owl nest sites and significant areas of hollow-bearing trees for monitoring and protection
- Installation and monitoring of nest boxes for small arboreal mammals
- Strategic weed management and restoration works on key habitats and environmental assets particularly after fire
- Citizen science data collection on threatened fauna assemblages within owl territories