By Claire Ottaviano
NESTING boxes are more than homes for birds and small marsupials, they send the message that recovery is possible says Perth Hills environmental scientist Simon Cherriman.
As the February 1 bushfire swept through Gidgegannup and Wooroloo, blackening the landscape and taking 86 homes with it, Mr Cherriman’s mind was on the loss of wildlife habitat and the recovery of the community and ecosystem.
“The loss of homes has been devastating,” he said.
“There are certain ways to heal yourself by participating in activities that can connect you back to the landscape in a positive way.
“Doing a project like nest boxes and involving Men’s Sheds and schools through a community approach allows people to recover from this disaster by putting their energy into a positive activity.”
The wedge-tailed eagle expert has dedicated his life to the conservation of West Australian wildlife and educating the community to better understand and appreciate its importance.
While the natural bush will recover, the loss of habitat trees which can harbour hundreds of lifeforms, needs a little helping hand.
“The hollow formation process takes centuries,” he said.
“You can plant a new habitat tree but it’s going to be your great-grandchildren that are going to actually be seeing the hollows in it.
“Nest boxes age trees so you can turn a tree that’s 20-years-old into one that’s 200-years-old.”
Mr Cherriman is crowdfunding through the WildFire Nestbox Project to survey the 10,900ha burnt area and to pay for the materials and labour to construct nest boxes so small marsupials and birds such as possums and black cockatoos have a place to return to in the breeding season.
During the survey he will use GPS to track the number of large habitat trees that have been lost to get a scale of the fire’s environmental impact.
He estimates the amount of lost habitat trees could be more than 50 per cent.
“Although fire has been part of the Australian landscape for millennia, and nature has many amazing strategies to recover, blazes that burn from floor to ceiling in forests are unnatural,” he said.
“This is because Aboriginal Australians regularly burned off grasses and understory shrubs which prevented large fires reaching the canopy, but that has changed.
“We are seeing an increase in the number of destructive wildfires and we must urgently become better custodians of Country by reaching out to lend it a helping hand.”
The crowdfunding raised more than $7000 in its first week.
“The first idea with this project is to take advantage of this incredible community spirit that’s been shown,” he said.
“People have been amazingly generous but loads have also come forward to help with the plan of custodianship.”
Mr Cherriman is gathering support from Men’s Shed and schools to help build nest boxes and participate in workshops to foster custodianship and encourage post-fire healing.
Landowners in the burned area can apply to have nest boxes installed on their properties, by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org
Boxes need to be installed around June/July before the 2021 breeding season.