Palm oil plantation - photo from www.independent.co.uk

Palm oil plantation.  Photo from http://www.independent.co.uk

Finally, an app that allows us to scan supermarket products to see if they contain palm oil.   The ‘POI Palm Oil Barcode Scanner’ app is available to scan products from Australia & New Zealand.

The palm oil industry is causing deforestation & habitat degradation, destroying habitat in Sumatra & Borneo driving critically endangered orangutans, elephants, tigers & rhinos toward extinction. It is also a contributor to climate change because of land clearing & burning of forests to create plantations.

The World Wildlife Fund says, “an area the equivalent size of 300 football fields of rainforest is cleared each hour to make way for palm oil production.”

When forests are cleared to plant palm trees, whole ecosystems are lost. In the last 20-years 90% of orangutan habitat has been destroyed for monoculture palm plantations. Palm oil is used in food products, skin & hair care products, toothpaste & even cleaning products.

The app page says, “POI is a voluntary not for profit organization who have been investigating palm oil content & supply chain certification status in products since March 2013. POI encourages consumers to support companies using ethical palm oil supply. Boycott is not the answer. Palm oil is here to stay, like it or not. The only chance we have to save the critically endangered species that are facing extinction due to habitat loss for palm oil, is to regulate the industry. Around 40% of products on supermarket shelves contain palm oil.”

For Mac – http://apple.co/1N5JgSR

For Android – http://bit.ly/1FdE6QG

I was fortunate to see two mums with pups.

I was fortunate to see two mums with pups.

A bat huddle.

A bat huddle.

I recently visited the flying fox camp in Wolli Creek for the first time & what a delightful experience that was.  We have such a treasure on our doorstep.

The trees that the bats roost in are visible from Turrella Reserve. The walk to get there is quite easy.  You enter the bush of Wolli Creek at the National Parks & Wildlife sign & follow your nose taking the paths that travel downhill. Within 10-15 minutes, depending on how often you stop to look around, you come to a massive sandstone boulder locally known as ‘Dragon Rock.’   Look over the boulder & there across Wolli Creek are the bats – in all their splendor.

I really liked that the camp is separated from people because it keeps the bats safe.   The view from Dragon Rock is excellent & you will want to take your camera because the sight is amazing.

Wolli Creek is quite wild in this area. There is no concrete & no mown lawns. The bats hang from a group of tall Eucalypts & to a group of Poplar trees further along the creek. If you return to the main path & head west following the creek, you will see the bats hanging in the Poplar trees. These trees are much nearer to the path allowing a closer view of the bats roosting here.  Quiet though, as they are sleeping.

There are around 12,000 flying foxes, including endangered grey-headed flying foxes in the Wolli Creek camp.  This is an extremely important piece of bushland close to the city.  It provides much benefit for people & also offers a safe place for wildlife. Despite the weeds, there is much biodiversity here & there were many plants in flower.  I’ve seen birds in Wolli Creek that I haven’t seen in Marrickville LGA.  The bush is particularly useful for little birds.

It is worthwhile taking a trip up Nannygoat Hill. I did not know that there is an easy way to the top from the back of the hill, so we took the harder route. It is not too hard, but there are some sandstone boulders taller than people that require you to climb & scramble over.

Part of the walking track

Part of the walking track

Wolli Creek is a popular place for people to exercise. While we were there a number of people were running the tracks & one man had done the circle up & down Nannygoat Hill around fifteen times & had not finished yet. I mention this because how hard the trek to the top of the hill really depends on your fitness level.  The view from the top of Nannygoat Hill made any struggle worth it.

If you want to take the easy route, you can access ‘The Walk’ via Albert Park on Hocking Avenue. This path travels over flatter sandstone, but the track is not suitable for wheelchairs or people unsteady on their feet.

Every month volunteers for the Wolli Creek Preservation Society count the bats from Turrella Reserve as they fly out for the night. The Society welcomes volunteer counters. It is not hard to count the bats & training is provided.

Bring mosquito repellant, as the mossies are hungry in this area. Bring water to drink as well. The count takes between 45-minutes to an hour. It’s a peaceful experience & surprisingly to me, the bats are quiet as they fly overhead.   Any questions & to let the Society know you are coming email – info@wollicreek.org.au

Bats galore!  It's a wonderful sight.

Bats galore! It’s a wonderful sight.

Wolli Creek looking west. The colony is on the left.

Wolli Creek looking west. The colony is on the left.

Wolli Creek looking east.

Wolli Creek looking east.

 

What a strikingly beautiful heron.  Look at the spots on his neck.

What a strikingly beautiful heron. Look at the spots on his neck.

I saw my first White-necked Heron (Ardea pacifica) today. It was in a wet paddock in Castlereagh a few kilometers north of Penrith.  With it were three White-faced herons.  In comparison to the other three, the White-necked Heron was a very large bird. It was also super-alert to my presence, while the others ignored me.

Birdlife Australia provide the following description –

“The White-necked Heron is a large heron with a white head & a long white neck with a double line of black spots running down the front. The upperparts of the body are slate-black, with plum-coloured nuptial plumes on the back & breast during the breeding season. Underparts are grey streaked with white. The bill is black, the naked facial skin is blue or yellow, the eyes are green, & the legs & feet are black. The White-necked Heron is sometimes known as the Pacific Heron.” More information can be found here – http://birdlife.org.au/bird-profile/White-necked-Heron

Endemic to Australia, except for desert areas, they are nomadic outside nesting season & can stay for only a few days before moving on. Sightings of the White-necked Heron have been reported in Papua New Guinea & the Bass Straits Islands.

I felt privileged to have seen one.

Side view.

Side view.

White-faced herons in the paddock with him.  These birds are a common sight along the Cooks River.

White-faced herons in the paddock with him. These birds are a common sight along the Cooks River.  

Tempe House as seen from the Mount Olympus Heritage Gardens

Tempe House in 2014 from the Mount Olympus Heritage Gardens

Tempe House & St Magdalene’s Chapel are open for one weekend a year & this weekend is it.

WHERE: Brodie Spark Drive, Discovery Point, Wolli Creek.

WHEN: Saturday 11th & Sunday 12th April 2015.

TIME: 10am – 4pm on both days.

The program is below.  To read about Tempe House & St Magdalene’s Chapel see – http://bit.ly/1EeMrSP

Lots of thing to do & see.

Lots of things to do & see.

This gall is aroud the size of a grapefruit.

This gall is around the size of a grapefruit.

Smooth Gall

Smooth in comparison to the above example.

Something incredible happened at Tempe Reserve over the summer. Lots of Acacia trees came to the end of their life with limbs falling or trunks breaking. Most have been removed leaving a visual hole behind, which the weeds are rapidly filling. There are not many Acacia trees left, but some of those remaining become hotels for galls.

I have been told these galls are caused by Rust Fungus, which can kill the tree.  I’ve never seen so many galls in one place.

A gall is a lump of bump or in this case a whole structure that forms on leaves, stems or buds of plants.  Some of the galls at Tempe Reserve are as big as a small grapefruit, while most range between a lemon & an orange in size.

The galls hang from the trees like decorations.  Originally they were a fresh terracotta colour, but have turned dark brown & hardened as they have aged.

Galls can be formed as a result of bacteria, viruses, fungi or physical damage. They are a response by the plant or tree in response to attack.

Insects such as thrips, wasps, midges, beetles & moths also induce the formation of galls.  How this happens, no-one knows exactly, but it is thought to be a result of the saliva of the larva growing inside the gall or as a result of the insect laying the eggs. The host tree or plant responds by reorganizing the cells to develop an abnormal growth.

Galls provide food, shelter & safety for their inhabitants who emerge when evolved from a grub to a mature insect. I read that Eucalypts & Acacias are the trees most prone to develop galls in Australia.

A tree full of Galls - like nature deciding to decorate for New Year celebrations.

A tree full of Galls – like nature deciding to decorate for New Year celebrations.

This one is my favourite.

This one is my favourite.

Showing around 200-metres of remediation of the riverbank either side of Cup & Saucer Creek

The view from the bridge howing around 200-metres of riverbank remediation either side of Cup & Saucer Creek

The view back to the bridge. The need for trees is obvious in this image.

The view back to the bridge. The need for trees is obvious in this image.

One of my favourite places along the Cooks River is Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland, which was created by Sydney Water. Once just a patch of boring lawn, it is now a haven for waterbirds & an area of peak biodiversity.  It is also very beautiful.

Beside Cup & Saucer Creek

The eastern side of Cup & Saucer Creek

Sydney Water appears to have almost completed their works beside the river on either side of Cup & Saucer Creek. They have created a new large pond right beside the river, with two sandstone islands, which will be great sites for waterbirds to perch & good for bird watching.

There are three new seating areas, all looking towards the river. I think it is nice that Sydney Water has continued with the design theme of compressed clay & gravel pathways & sandstone bench seats. These seats are just as comfy as a wooden bench, but to my mind, far more attractive. They also blend into the environment.

The largest seating area, which overlooks the new wetland, has a weather shelter & this too has minimal visual impact.  The wetland is classified an endangered ecological habitat, so it is wonderful to see these areas being created along the river.

Looking over Cup & Saucer Creek to the new wetland.

Looking over Cup & Saucer Creek to the new wetland.

A large impressive swale has been built from the Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland to the Cooks River.

Sydney Water had planted hundreds & hundreds of native plants. I can’t wait to see this develop into an area of vegetation that supports wildlife. The only thing that concerns me is the lack of trees, though it is more than likely that I am posting an update too early & the trees have yet to be planted.

To do these works, twelve trees on the wetland side were removed, plus at least another six on the side of the creek nearer the bridge. Thankfully two gorgeous mature Eucalypts were retained. The plans do show 34 new trees. Having trees here will make a big difference to the beauty, plus add habitat & food source for wildlife, as well as provide precious shade.

It looks like much of the fencing will be removed with small sections of fencing provided at the viewing sites, I presume for safety. They do not detract from the river outlook like the previous fencing.

The sandstone boulders provide a gradual incline from the bank to the river & already waterbirds are sitting here in large groups.   I was very surprised at how quickly the plants grew at Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland, so I imagine that within a year, this stretch of the Cooks River will be looking glorious.

Sydney Water has done a wonderful job repairing the damage of the last century & both humans & wildlife will benefit immensely.

One of the smaller seating areas. I love the permeable pathway, the sandstone benches & the non-obtrusive safety fencing.  The two remaining trees are spectacular & I am glad they were retained.

One of the smaller seating areas. I love the permeable pathway, the sandstone benches & the non-obtrusive safety fencing. The two remaining trees are spectacular & I am glad they were retained.

The larger seating/viewing area that looks over the wetland.  This will offer great birdwatching opportunities.

The larger seating/viewing area that looks over the wetland. This will offer great birdwatching opportunities.

Showing about one-third of the new wetland pond.

Showing about one-third of the new wetland pond.

A large swale to take water from Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland to the Cooks River.

A large swale to take water from Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland to the Cooks River.

 

I hope whatever you did, that you enjoyed today.

I hope whatever you did, that you enjoyed today.  I saw these Easter chicks in Sydenham.

Eucalyptus cinerea to be chopped down.

Eucalyptus cinerea to be chopped down.

Marrickville Council has given notice that they intend to remove an Argyle Apple (Eucalyptus cinerea) outside 1–7 Unwins Bridge Road St Peters.

They give the following reasons for removal –

  • “Major mechanical wound to primary branch which has left the tree structurally unsound & unable to be remedially pruned.
  • The tree poses an unacceptable level of risk to the public & property.”

Council says they will replace this tree with a Manchurian Pear (Pyrus ussuriensis) as part of the 2015 Street Tree Planting Program.

I wondered why this tree was not picked up in the recent Tree Inventory.  The wound is old & even the yellow paint to alert trucks is worn.  While I was looking at this tree a man (who said he was a local Arborist) walking along the footpath joined me.  After looking at the tree he said he would just remove the branch nearest the old wound because it was hanging across the road – for safety reasons.  Other than that, he would leave the tree alone & monitor it.

The Manchurian pear is an ornamental deciduous tree native to Korea, Japan & far eastern Russia.  It produces clusters of small white flowers in early spring. In autumn the leaves turn a range of plum, scarlet & gold. It grows to 9-metres tall by 7-metres wide. The seeds are inedible & as far as I can ascertain, it has no use for wildlife.

Council has planted hundreds, if not thousands of Manchurian pear trees across the municipality. They seem to be the preferred tree for main roads, but this is only my perception.

A Gardening Australia Factsheet says of this tree – “The tree has inherent branch weaknesses, which means that it can fall apart & in a home garden that’s a considerable safety problem.” http://www.abc.net.au/gardening/stories/s1946196.htm

The deadline for submissions is Friday 3rd April 2015.

Arrow indicating the branch the Arborist said he would prune.  You can see that the wound is old.

Arrow indicating the branch the Arborist said he would prune. You can see that the wound is old, as is the yellow paint on the wound.  The branch on the right is not connected to the injury.

Size 7 show to give an indication of the width of the trunk.

Size 7 shoe to give an indication of the width of the trunk.

Excellent mural in the grounds of Ferncourt Public School with a very important message for our community.

Excellent mural in the grounds of Ferncourt Public School with a very important message for our community.

The right side.

The right side.

I recently saw this fabulous & very inspiring mural on a playground wall in the grounds of Ferncourt Public School Marrickville.  The message of the mural is great & an important one for our municipality.

I firmly believe that, if you want to develop adults who love & respect the environment, you start when they are children.

It would be nice to see this kind of passive & attractive education on some of the public spaces across the municipality.  Melbourne city has lots of street art & much of the government-sponsored street art has an environmental message, as well as being beautiful.  It is an effective method in educating the community without haranguing them.

The full view

The full view. A great message for kids to see every day.

Students made a decision  to stop polluting the Cooks River all the way back in 2001.  All these children are  probably adults now.   I think it is wonderful.

Students made a decision to stop polluting the Cooks River all the way back in 2001. All these children are probably adults now. 

 

The old site of the tap. Close to the protection of the trees, it was a popular place for all kind of birds.

The old site of the tap. Close to the protection of the trees, it was a popular place for all kind of birds.

We visited Tempe Reserve today & discovered that the tap at the western picnic kiosks has been removed.

Now I appreciate that Marrickville Council needed to do something about the tap in this location. Cars are not permitted in this area, yet they still come & the tap had been run over a couple of times.  Once it was broken off by a car, resulting in significant flooding to the area.  Also, people dump burning barbeque coals underneath this tap every week.

The tap water went directly onto the grass, so over time a bit of a soil recess was created underneath the tap.  This recess functioned as an important source of fresh water for local wildlife, especially birds.  Not just a few Australian White Ibis, but also Magpie larks, Grey Butcherbirds, Crested pigeons, three families of Magpies, White-faced herons, Galahs, Cockatoos, Noisy miners & the odd Raven.  It was a great place to watch birds drinking & bathing.

Marrickville Council attached a new tap near the back panel of the steel gas barbeque enclosure.  It is set above a deep pit, which is covered by a grill. It has been constructed so that it completely denies animals & birds any opportunity to have a drink of fresh water.

It is not unusual to see sources of fresh water available for wildlife in parks.   Marrickville Council has installed lovely stainless steel containers under taps for dogs & other wildlife in Newtown parks.  It would not have been hard for Marrickville Council to fix this area around the tap to make it a nicer experience for people to use, but to also provide a controlled source of water for dogs & wildlife.

All Council needed to do was concrete a small area around the tap, making a shallow bowl-shaped recess for fresh water to collect to provide for wildlife & any thirsty dogs using the park.  Instead they have set up a system that excludes even the smallest chance of wildlife accessing fresh water.

How do you support biodiversity when there is no fresh water? Why take this uncompassionate approach to solving a problem that some irresponsible humans created?  And what is worse is that removing the tap from its old location leaves a unencumbered space for one thing alone: MORE CARS being able to come into this area & park between the kiosks & the Cooks River Valley Garden on which Marrickville Council just spent lots of money to renovate.

A poor result all round: take essential water from the wildlife & give more parking space for cars that should never park there anyway.  And of course coal fired barbeques that the signs say are not allowed will continue to happen because Marrickville Council fails to enforce its own rules.

The new tap.  Wildlife-proof.

The new tap. Wildlife-proof.

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