Breeding box success 2012

 Thought I would do a little update on where we are with the breeding box project here at St Hallett Winery for 2012!
 After two seasons of success with the original boxes I built in 2010 I thought it would be good to use all the timber we purchased with the help of the local NRM board (thanks again Liz!) and build more of the same! Hardest part about this great idea... was trying to find the time to build them! Put it this way.... I wasn't getting anywhere fast... and breeding season was approaching! Then a stroke of luck! Megan one of my fellow 'Hallett valley catchment care group' members came up with a great idea! Up in Nuriootpa there is a men's shed! and we thought this type of project would be perfect for them! Gives them a feel good project to work on and means the boxes would be able to be placed in the trees before the breeding season commenced! A month or so later... 20 new boxes got delivered, looking good and just waiting to be hung!
A few months later and the season has been a bumper one for our local Rosella population with at least 24 babies either fledged or about to fledge! This season I have placed three boxes on the tank-farm handrails next to one of the Eucalyptus plantations. Two of the three are being used by Adelaide Rosella's and the other has been occupied by feral Starlings, which after throwing their five clutches of eggs over the edge have finally given up and moved on! I do weekly checks during the breeding season to remove any of the feral Starling nests which are the main competitor to the Rosella's and other natives for the use of the boxes! So far I have now removed somewhere between 50-70 Starling eggs! (Always try to get the eggs before they hatch as I prefer not to have to deal with chicks!)
To put a face to this story below are some images of the fast growing baby Rosella's from the tank-farm boxes and a few other shots from around the grounds!
Adelaide Rosella chick
and a younger version from another nest!

Six little cuties! from a nest hanging from the tank-farm handrails!

Another tank-farm handrail nest with four chicks!

and the same nest again

This box also has six chicks in it about to fledge!
Two of the three nesting boxes we have hanging from the tank-farm handrails! Two of the boxes are being used by Rosella's the other has had a pair of Starlings keep trying to use it but I keep throwing their eggs away! I think after five goes they have now given up!

This box has a pair of Rosella's using it and we can now hear chicks calling from inside.. not sure how many as I haven't been up to it since the Rosella's took up residence! So I haven't included these ones in the count of 24! There are also a few boxes due to circumstances I can't get up to and check so the count of babies is most likely considerably higher!!

Another of the feral's the birds have to deal with.... annoyingly feral bees often take over residence of the boxes!

Thought I would throw this image of a Bat box in as well! On one of my earlier posts you will see a population of Gould's Wattled Bats in one of our boxes... this is the box and I'm happy to say they still call this box their home!

Birdlife of St Hallett Winery.... Part 1

Welcome to the first instalment of Birdlife of St Hallett Winery!
I have been taking a few photos just of late of some of the birds which frequent the winery grounds from time to time! As you may have seen from some of the other posts on this blog, we have done some re-vegetating of native plant species and hung both birds breeding boxes and Bat roosting boxes around some of the more under-utilised areas to try and encourage some more of the native wildlife which frequents this area to move in.
Birds are some of the more conspicuous species to utilise these areas and also my favourites when taking photos.With this I have decided to put a series of posts up with a few shots and a short description of some of the species which can be found around here. Some are here all year round.. some are spring migrants only here for half the year. There will be no particular order or preference just whatever takes my fancy at the time!
Hope you enjoy and feel free to ask about any of the birds in the comments at the bottom of the post! 

This cute little bird is a Grey Fantail, always busy and rarely on the same perch for more than about 5 seconds! I have known of a pair residing in our southern Eucalypt plantation for about 2 yrs, but had never seen any up around the winery before. This was until a couple of days ago when I found a pair near my car as I was about to leave work for the day. Very exciting... as this is exactly the type of species we are trying to encourage to move into areas we haven't seen them before! 

This is a male Crested Shrike-tit, we have a pair of these beautiful little birds that breed every year in our Eucalypt plantations! A threatened species in the Mt Lofty Ranges, it's a privilege to have them here! Also great for the trees as they comb through every part removing lerps and borers which are damaging to the trees, when not kept under control! So these beauts are the "tree keepers" of St Hallett!

Superb Fairy-wrens are a common sighting along the North Para River which forms a boundary to our property and are another bird which is always busy! One family group have moved up away from the river and now reside between the house area of one of our neighbours and our tank farm. I am hoping once some of our native planting areas become more established some more will move in!

This bird is a Rufous Whistler, or Thunder bird as it is sometimes known due to it's habit of singing like mad if a clap of thunder goes off! We have a resident pair which have moved into the southern Eucalypt plantation as well. Often you will hear them well before you see them! A common bird only in areas of native vegetation e.g. Altona Conservation Park just down the river from us! Another bird where it would be great if some more happened to appear in other areas of the winery! fingers crossed!

The mightiest of them all them all! The Wedge-tailed Eagle is the fourth largest Eagle in the world! and by far and away the biggest bird of prey we get around here! We have a pair of these majestic birds flying over us every so often, they have a nest just a few kilometres away downstream  along the river and after every breeding season the adults will often have a young one with them.. circling away up in the thermals rising from the valley floor! Never get sick of seeing these!

 So there we go.. five beautiful original residents of the Barossa Valley calling the grounds of and the skies above St Hallett Winery home! and you have got to be happy with that!
Stay tuned and as I acquire more photos part 2/3/4 and so on, will follow!
Till then....enjoy all things green!

Sunny days and Green thumbs! Planting day 2011

Ahh.. the serenity.....there's nothing like a little gardening to help pull back on life's throttle!! With that in mind, back in September, the Hallett Valley catchment care group went about rounding up a few volunteers from out of the winery to help with our latest planting project. With the promise of sunny skies and a BBQ lunch it wasn't too hard to get people out and into the dirt!

Digging the holes!

The crew get to work... lots to do from here!

Part of our winemaking team handing out the same TLC to the plants as they give to our wines!

All hands on deck....unless your on the camera of course!!!

Masters in the art of plastic and sticks....

Almost done! With Stuart looking suitably impressed!
Even though with so many helpers it only took an hour or so to plant all the was all a bit too much for winemaker....zzzz..... Jeremy....zzzz..... Thankfully our viticulturists have a bit of stamina!!
Big thanks have to go to Liz Ninnes from the NRM Board for supplying some of the native plants used for this planting and also Donovans Earthcare team for also supplying many of the native plants used and also for digging all the holes and their general help on the day!

St Hallett's creatures of the night!

Thought I would post up a photo of the group of 10 Gould's Wattled bats which have taken up residence in one of the Bat roosting boxes I built! built these boxes from scratch having never built a bat box before! so it was a bit of an experiment! Satisfying when it works and some of our cute little Barossian micro Bats move in!
Gould's Wattled Bats all snuggled up!
Have hung another couple of boxes in the last few weeks so hopefully they will be occupied soon to!

Chris Steeles

Project Bird Boxes

I will start with an extract of an email I sent to the NRM board to do with improving the St Hallett wastewater eucalypt plantations:
With only small remnants of natural woodland left in the northern Mt Lofty ranges, most native wildlife populations are left isolated and on a downward slide to oblivion. I believe we owe it to the original inhabitants of this region, within our capabilities, to preserve and expand the habitats that are left.
The North Para River acts as probably the single most important natural corridor for wildlife through the Barossa region. My idea is to improve the St Hallett Winery section of this corridor by building and installing a range of different sized bird/bat breeding and roosting boxes throughout the wastewater eucalypt plantations in an attempt to make the area more attractive to native wildlife. There are many native bird species (Rosellas, Lorikeets, Red-rump Parrots, Treecreepers, Pardalotes, Kookaburras etc) in this area which would benefit from such a project.  etc...etc...

With this in mind I got in contact with the NRM board to arrange some funding so I could start building a few Bird and Bat Breeding/Roosting boxes around the woodlots. Using a little of the time afforded to me by there still being a few casual helpers about the winery left over from vintage, I managed to build 12 bird boxes of different sizes and 2 Bat roosting boxes and get them up around the winery grounds just before the breeding season commenced.

It didn't take to long before the Adelaide Rosellas started checking the new boxes out

Whats in here?

The project turned out to be a big success with every bird box made being used at sometime during the season! At least 7 chicks fledged from the boxes that I know of, 1 nest failed for some unexplained reason and many feral Starling eggs were removed!
The Bat boxes are still unused at this stage but I believe this is not unusual, as bats tend to like the box to be aged a while before they will use it, so I'm still hopeful!!

Half-fledged Adelaide Rosella chicks
This is an ongoing project and more updates will follow!

On the starting blocks, ready to leap into it!

Welcome to the first instalment of Green Block Shiraz!

I will start with a bit of a rundown of who we are and what we are about! Basically we are a catchment care group based at St Hallett Winery in the Barossa Valley, South Australia. Our little group consists of three enthusiastic members who all work at St Hallett and have decided to do our little bit for the local environment by greening up and restoring as many area's in the winery grounds as we can. This will be done with help from the Northern Mount Lofty Ranges Natural Resource Board and the Winery itself.

Some of the projects we have been working on so far include; a little creek which runs through the winery grounds and looked as if it needed some help to keep it's banks together and also the building of 12 (so far) bird and bat breeding/roosting boxes!

The following photos are of a few "volunteers" we found throughout the winery to help us on our day of planting along the creek in Spring 2010!

Ready to grow!

The enthusiastic "volunteers"!!!!

"Senior" Cellarhand Greg (I'm always getting my hands dirty!) Schmidt, getting his hands dirty!!!

Winemaker Shelley enjoying a break from making great wine 

Winemaker Jeremy in quiet contemplation over the pro's and con's of attempting to jump this creek on his skateboard?

Trev from maintenance wondering how to weld this all together!

Our American connection Darin practising his baseball bat grip!

Ian doing what he does best, Shelley looking like she just got bitten by an Inch Ant! and Gaby looking a little amused by it all!


Fiona looking a little too clean for tree planting...... time to get those knees dirty Fi!!

Megs giving moral support!

Justin 'Captain Forklift' Schmidt explaining to a bemused Chris R the merits of doing this job with a forklift and how much easier it would be!

This bloke did a stellar job and definately earnt his beer at the end of the day!!

 Photos of the results will be posted at a later date.
 Not many Inch Ants where harmed during the planting of the trees! that was until Chris R decided the creek would look better without them.......