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Trial Native Blackthorn burn aims to enhance habitat for the Purple Copper Butterfly

Mick Callan

Deliberate burning of rare native habitat may provide a critical key to reviving the fortunes of the endangered Purple Copper Butterfly (Paralucia spinifera).

With that end in mind an experimental ‘cool burn’ of Native Blackthorn (Bursaria spinose ssp. Lasiophylla) has just been coordinated by Central Tablelands Local Land Services on a property at Mount David, between Black Springs and Burraga, south of Bathurst.

According to the Office of Environment & Heritage, the Purple Copper Butterfly has been found on just 29 isolated sites of remnant native vegetation over a total area of less than 30 hectares.

Researchers are hoping the use of low temperature burning (conducted under the provisions of an S91 Permit issued through the Office of Environment and Heritage) will promote new growth of Native Blackthorn bush, which is the primary food source for butterfly larvae.

“We have conducted ten trial burns, each over a patch of just 5 metres by 5 metres, in an area of Native Blackthorn on property owned by Rod and Alexandra Tuson,” explained Allan Wray from Central Tablelands Local Land Services.

“We have started with quite small burns as we want to make sure we have solid evidence the technique is beneficial before we use fire over a wider area.”

Rod and Alexandra Tuson discovered the rare Purple Copper Butterfly on their property in 2002. They now have a Voluntary Conservation Agreement in place over almost 69 hectares to protect butterfly habitat.

“In a farming landscape that has been cleared and fertilised for food production, it is important that some areas are set aside to generate the environmental services provided by native vegetation, and for the joy of wild places,” said Alexandra.

After a period of drought the Tusons noticed the population size of the butterflies had diminished and there was little new growth on the Native Blackthorn bushes.

“A very snowy winter in 2015 followed by a very wet winter in 2016 showed a further steep decline in the numbers of butterflies sighted,” said Alexandra.

“Caterpillar counts confirmed this so a project to rejuvenate Native Blackthorn was set in motion with a research design by Dr Milton Lewis from Local Land Services.”

The aim of the cool ecological burning technique is to promote the regrowth of Native Blackthorn and to reduce competition from grasses and weeds.

The low temperature fire burns singe the mature bush without destroying the plant, prompting new soft leaf growth which is particularly appealing to the young caterpillars.

“A secondary benefit of controlled prescribed burns is a reduction in the threat of unmanaged hot fires,” said Allan Wray. “Burning in winter at low temperatures also ensures that the caterpillar pupae are safely underground protected from the heat.”

“However during this trial phase we have avoided burning any clumps of Native Blackthorn where the butterfly larvae have been recorded over the previous season.”

Central Tablelands Local Land Services greatly appreciates the generous cooperation of the Tuson family for allowing the trial burn to take place on their property.  

“We would also like to thank the Glanmire and Burraga Rural Fire Service crews who were on hand to ensure the burns were kept safely under control,” said Allan.

Post burn monitoring will now be undertaken on the trial sites in addition to the regular caterpillar count monitoring that takes place in December when the caterpillars hatch and begin feeding on bursaria.

For more information about the Purple Copper Butterfly and advice on how to enhance native vegetation and remnant habitat, contact Allan Wray at Central Tablelands Local Land Services on 02 6333 2318. 

Future proofing habitat for the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater

Mick Callan

More than 300 new Yellow Box and Mugga Ironbark trees have been planted in the Capertee National Park to restore habitat for the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater.

“The Capertee National Park, North of Lithgow, is probably the most important patch of natural habitat left for the Regent,” said Huw Evans from Central Tablelands Local Land Services.

“However the park was once farmland and most of the river flats, which would have been prime Regent habitat, were cleared of trees, pasture improved and cropped.”

Local Land Services, the Australian National University (ANU), the NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service, and the Skillset Green Army with support from the Lithgow City Council, have worked together to replant Yellow Box and Mugga Ironbark trees in this landscape.

According to Ross Crates, from the ANU’s ‘Difficult Bird Research Group’, as the trees mature over the next thirty to forty years, they will substantially extend breeding habitat for the Regent Honeyeater which will be critical for the recovery of the species.

“Our monitoring has revealed that the Capertee National Park is a critical breeding site, potentially attracting more than 20 percent of the remaining wild population,” said Ross.

“The birds are currently severely restricted to a very small area of the park that was not cleared for agriculture in the past, and where the Regent’s preferred food trees persist.”

“We have identified critical breeding areas for revegetation, particularly focused on planting Yellow Box adjacent to rivers and creeks and Mugga Ironbark near existing woodland, to provide foraging habitat for Regent Honeyeaters during the breeding season,” said Ross.

Capertee National Park Ranger, Adam Bryce, also played a key role in the strategic revegetation project, sourcing seedlings and materials for planting.

“With help from the Green Army, we fenced every tree individually so the seedlings won’t get eaten by kangaroos and will have the best chance to grow into large, mature trees,” said Adam.

It is expected the newly planted trees will start providing a food source for the Regent Honeyeater within the next twenty years, supporting the long term survival of the species.

For more information about strategic Regent Honeyeater revegetation in the Capertee Valley National Park contact Senior Land Services Officer Huw Evans from Local Land Services on phone: 02 6350 3117 or email:

Prescribed Burn at Brooke Moore Reserve, Bathurst

Mick Callan

Bathurst Regional Council in conjunction with the Rural Fire Services and
Central Tablelands Local Land Services will conduct a prescribed burn at Brooke Moore Reserve, West Bathurst.

The burn is scheduled for a weekend mid to late May (subject to weather
conditions) and will be a low intensity, cool burn for ecological purposes
as well as fire hazard reduction. The works have been programmed in order
to reduce the fuel build up at the reserve and also reduce the risk of an
uncontrolled bushfire from occurring during the hotter months.

Bathurst Mayor Graeme Hanger OAM said the burn was a necessity to protect
surrounding residential areas and to encourage regrowth of a diverse range
of native grasses, herbs and wildflowers within the endangered Box Gum
Grassy Woodland.

“Many species rely on fire to germinate, flower or set seed, and may
disappear if the frequency is too low or high.  Brooke Moore Reserve hasn’t
had a burn for a long time,” he said.

There is potential for smoke to impact surrounding residents and roads. An
electronic message sign will be placed along Vittoria Street or Suttor
Street and a letterbox drop will be conducted to notify surrounding
residents with details of the proposed burn date and protective measures to
take to avoid potential smoke haze.