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Melbourne’s suburbs are teeming with wildlife you didn’t know about

Melissa Meehan, May 11, 2017 5:50PM Herald Sun

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MOST of us are familiar with the sound of possums screeching at night but what other wildlife is lurking in Melbourne’s suburbs that you may not know about?

Numerous types of wildlife, including bats, birds, fish and mammals call Melbourne’s suburbs home.

Foxes have been spotted close to the CBD and both brushtail and ringtail possums have been seen scurrying along fence lines in many inner city suburbs.

Kangaroos have been popping up on the city fringe as their open spaces are eaten into by new housing estates.

A friendly possum in Melbourne’s Flagstaff Gardens. Picture: Jason Edwards media_cameraA friendly possum in Melbourne’s Flagstaff Gardens. Picture: Jason Edwards

But there are some less obvious forms of wildlife living in the city as well.

Eels

Pretty much all rivers, wetlands and lakes in the Melbourne area have eels in them.

Dr Jarod Lyon from the Arthur Rylah Institute for Environmental Research said eels, that mostly come from the east, can live for up to 25 years and can grow to a metre long.

“They all spawn from the Coral Sea and drift in the East Australian Current to get to Victoria,” he said.

“People have probably seen them in the botanical gardens — but even if people don’t see them they are often there under rocks and dams and feed at night.”

Eel by the Yarra. Picture: supplied media_cameraEel by the Yarra. Picture: supplied

He said eels are quite hardy and can survive in less than pristine conditions and are some of the top order predators in the waterways system.

Backyard birds

Birdlife Australia said bird communities in urban and regional centres have changed in the past 40 years with the loss of smaller birds.

That change has seen an increase in large, more aggressive native and introduced species — including the noisy miner, pied currawong and common myna.

Despite the change, Melburnians may still be surprised by the amount of common backyard birds about.

New Holland honeyeaters — Black, white and yellow honeyeater that is quite inquisitive and will readily approach humans, attracted to gardens and parks where grevilleas and banksias are found.

Superb fairy-wrens — They are common in urban parks and gardens where they twitter and bounce about looking for insects. Often seen in small social groups consisting of one brightly coloured blue and black male and several females and young birds.

Silvereyes — Small, olive-green and grey birds that occur in almost any wooded habitat, especially urban parks and gardens, as well as orchards. They prefer gardens with little lawn coverage and lots of shrubs.

New Holland Honeyeater. Picture: Georgina Steytler media_cameraNew Holland Honeyeater. Picture: Georgina Steytler

Eastern spinebills — Little honeyeaters with a long and slender, down-curved beak. They prefer gardens that are well-vegetated with shrubs, where they can feed and retreat to for safety.

Visit the Birds in Backyards website for more information: www.birdsinbackyards.net.

Fish

There are plenty of native fish species living in local waterways.

Whitebait, minnows and the endangered Yarra pigmy perch are just some of the species in Melbourne streams.

There are also numerous introduced species, including the cryptic* blackfish, living in the rivers — including the Yarra River.

Many crayfish species live in the Yarra and its tributaries*.

Owls

The threatened powerful owl lives in a wide range of forest habitats, including along the urban fringe and are known to live in various parks and reserves managed by Parks Victoria and local councils such as Wilson Reserve, Warrandyte State Park and Shepherds Bush in Glen Waverley.

They have also been seen in the Royal Botanical Gardens.

A young echidna after being found in a Melbourne swimming pool. Picture: supplied media_cameraA young echidna after being found in a Melbourne swimming pool. Picture: supplied

Frogs

Autumn is a particularly good time to find frogs in Melbourne’s suburbs.

Melbourne Water waterwatch co-ordinator Richard Akers said spadefoot toads, southern toadlets and Bibron’s toads are most vocal during the three months before winter making them easier to find.

“We’re lucky to have recorded of all three of these species submitted in the last week or two by citizen scientists using the Frog Census app,” he said.

But the best time to find common frogs in Melbourne is during spring.

Last spring, there were numerous sightings of the eastern common froglet, eastern banjo frog, spotted marsh frog and southern brown tree frog across the suburbs.

GLOSSARY

cryptic: mysterious and confusing

tributaries: small river that flows off a larger river

LISTEN TO TODAY’S STORY

CLASSROOM ACTIVITIES

Activity 1. Melbourne animals

Read or listen to the article and answer the following questions.

What is this article about?

A number of experts have been quoted in this article – make a list of people quoted, who they work for and what area they are an expert in.

Why would a journalist quote an expert on a topic such as this?

Which parks are the ‘powerful owl’, known to live in?

How far are these parks from your school? Use Google Maps to calculate the distance from your school to each place mentioned.

Why do you think autumn and spring are a good time to see and hear frogs?

Extension: Backyard birds

Make a checklist of the backyard birds mentioned in the article.

Find a small picture of each bird to go on your checklist.

Keep a lookout at your school and around your neighbourhood for the next week.

How many of these birds can you see? Keep note of where you saw each one (eg school or park, etc) and add any other birds that you see as well.

At the end of the week compare your list with your classmates.

Time: allow about 40 minutes to complete this task

Curriculum links: English, Science, Digital Technologies

Activity 2. Powerpoint

Choose one of the species of animals mentioned in the article and find out some more about it.

Present the following information either as an information poster or in a powerpoint slideshow:

Classification, physical characteristics, diet, habitat, typical behaviour, origin, how it cares for its young, endangered status and any other interesting facts.

Extension:

Why do you think this animal is making its home in Melbourne suburbs?

Are they a problem to humans? Are we a threat to them?

What does the public need to know, do or not do to ensure this animal can continue to live safely in our neighbourhoods?

Time: allow at least 60 minutes to complete this task.

Curriculum links: English, Science, Digital Technologies

VCOP ACTIVITY

(Vocabulary, Connectives, Openers, Punctuation)

Write down each Animal down the side of your page. Eg:

B

I

R

D

Create an adjective that starts with each letter in the word to describe the animal. Eg: B = Bodacious

Do this for the following animals: eels, fish, owls, frogs.

When you have created your words, try to use each adjective in a sentence about the animal.

Extension: Write a paragraph that includes all the animals together and the adjectives you’ve created.


Time: Approx. 20 minutes

Curriculum links: English, Big Write, VCOP

EXTRA RESOURCES

PAWS POUND THE PAVEMENT

WONDERFUL WORLD CAPTURED ON CAMERA

CHOCOHOLIC FOX CAUGHT ON CAMERA

ARCTO THE FUR SEAL JUST WANTED TO PLAY

BABY BANDICOOTS FIGHT EXTINCTION

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