Little Pied Cormorant. We need to increase areas of biodiversity beyond the the train line corridors and the Cooks River.

Little Pied Cormorant. I think we need to increase areas of biodiversity beyond the train line corridors and the Cooks River if we are to help local wildlife.  Our gardens are a huge part of this.

Bernie Krause is a Soundscape Ecologist.  He records the sounds of the natural environment & has been doing so for the past 50-years.  He records in the same place over & over again & sadly can show how much has changed in the natural world.

It’s getting very quiet.  He thinks this is due to global warming, drought & loss of habitat from clearing of forests.  Makes sense to me.

This 3.5-minute video, ‘Recording the Sounds of Extinction’ is well worth watching.  Released in May 2016 the video allows us to clearly hear the loss of wildlife.  Our world is changing & not for the better.

To watch – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KnpsMG0PWRY

Sitting in the shade at Steel Park

Sitting in the shade at Steel Park

If you have watched or listened to the news of late you will know that a massive heatwave is expected tomorrow Friday continuing  through Saturday & Sunday.  We have had excessive heat all week, but the weather to come is concerning the experts.

“The Bureau of Meteorology says a severe heatwave is moving through the southern parts of South Australia and much of Victoria, while spreading further east into New South Wales’ coastal regions and south-west Queensland.”  http://ab.co/2kpo3ay

Heatwaves can kill.  Babies, young children, older people & sick people are most at risk, but really, no-one is immune to being struck by heatstroke.  Those with kidney disease & diabetes, people taking medication (diuretics & beta blockers), people with alcohol or other drug misuse problems, pregnant & breastfeeding woman, people who are overweight & tourists from cooler climates are deemed especially at risk.

The following are some ways to help manage the heat –

  • It may be obvious, but stay inside. We have all seen someone running in sweltering midday heat.
  • Draw the curtains & close the windows. Opening windows may not help unless you are getting a cool breeze.
  • Run a bath of lukewarm water & get in & out as needed.
  • Cool showers can also help lower body temperature.
  • Eat light food.
  • Drink lots of fluids, even if you don’t feel thirsty.
  • Wear light, loose non-synthetic clothing. Wet your clothes, wear a wet towel or a wet sarong.
  • A wet washer on your head can help too.
  • Sit down & soak your feet into a container of cold water.

Other actions –

  • Bring pets inside & ensure they have easy access to drinking water.
  • Put water out in numerous places for the wildlife.
  • Please check on your neighbour, especially if they live alone.
  • If you have air-conditioning, invite neighbours, family, friends over who don’t.
  • Never leave kids, adults or pets in hot cars. The temperature inside a parked car can rise rapidly to 30-40°C hotter than outside.
  • If it is too hot at home & the following are not far away, go to air-conditioned buildings like the local library, a community centre, the cinema or shopping malls.

Signs of heat exhaustion include dizziness, heat rash, muscle cramps, headache & fainting.  It can be helped with rest, cooling down & good hydration, including electrolytes.     The internet has many DIY electrolyte replacement drink recipes.

Prolonged exposure to extreme heat can shut down the body’s ability to sweat. From this point, it is a short progression to heat stroke, which is a medical emergency. Symptoms include dry skin, high temperature, confusion & if allowed to progress, unconsciousness & perhaps death.

Taking the heat seriously & being prepared can help save your life.

Friday  10th February 2017 – The temperature in my courtyard is a hefty 46 degrees celsius at 3:45pm.

A large birdbath in Bankstown City Council Sylvan Grove Native Garden.  I think it is wonderful for local councils to provide water for birds.

A large birdbath in Bankstown City Council owned Sylvan Grove Native Garden. I think it is wonderful for local councils to provide water for birds.

The Australian Bird Feeding and Watering Study is happening once again.  I missed week one, but there are three more weeks to participate in this citizen science event.

The researchers at Deakin University & Griffith University want to know “what species are attracted to these resources and why people like to provide them.  Most importantly we need to understand the ecological and behavioural effects of bird feeding as almost all information from other countries regarding bird feeding simply does not apply here.  We acknowledge that feeding of wild birds is an important activity for large numbers of people and that the practice may be a significant way for many to connect with nature.”

The ultimate aim of the research is to “develop purpose guidelines for people who feed birds to do so with minimum risk to birds.” 

You don’t need to commit to the whole period, though you can if interested.  You are asked to observe the water/food source for 20-minutes a day & report your observations on the Citizen Science website.

Dates –

  • Monday 6th – Sunday 12th February 2017
  • Monday 13th – Sunday 19th February 2017
  • Monday 20th – Sunday 26th February 2017

To participate you need to sign up here – https://csdb.org.au/Account/Sign-Up.aspx

A lot of money was spent preventing the little fairy martins from building their nests here. No nest - no breeding.

A lot of money was spent preventing the little fairy martins from building their nests here.

We cycled through Tempe Reserve yesterday & saw something that made us both feel very disappointed.

Both kiosks have had what appears to be deterrents attached to prevent fairy martins from building their mud nests.  Chicken wire has been neatly & firmly attached to every part of the kiosk roof where the birds might try to build a nest.  I mean meters & metres of the stuff.  The Inner West Council – Marrickville invested a lot of ratepayers’ money to produce a neat & solid outcome.

I checked on google & yes, chicken wire is used in place of plastic netting to prevent birds from building mud nests.

For years, the fairy martins have built their nests on the underside of the concrete roof of the kiosks.   Unfortunately, the some of the public did not approve & broke their nests –

  • for fun,
  • for eggs to add to soup so I was told (nothing like wildlife to add to your diet) or
  • simply because they just didn’t like the look of the “spooky nests.”

I was happy in 2013 when Council fenced off the kiosks to allow the birds to breed.  Unfortunately, someone demolished the fences in an overt display of human superior power & their right to dominate a kiosk at the park to the exclusion of the birds.  See – http://bit.ly/2l5MsWH

I was even happier when in 2015, Council built two small structures for the Fairy martins in the middle of the saltwater wetland where people usually don’t go.  Having reread this post, I felt stunned at the incredible turnaround by council this year.  See – http://bit.ly/1HVotuV

I have not seen any reports that the birds are using the purpose-built structures in the wetland.  I looked late last year & there was no sign of mud nests, but this may take time anyway.

This year Council has confirmed that humans have exclusive rights over the wildlife in open parklands by ensuring the fairy martins cannot build their nests at the kiosks.  I feel sad about this & think it was a poor decision by Council.

These nests are a perfect opportunity to educate the public about wildlife.  The mud nests are interesting in themselves & offer us a look at something quite lovely that is happening in the park.  I had not seen these birds up close until I saw one sitting in a mud nest.  Indeed, that was the first time I had seen a mud nest.    Not surprising as these tiny birds are the only Australian bird to build bottle-shaped nests out of mud.

Instead of blocking off the kiosk in a better way this year & that includes adding bollards to prevent cars from entering into the park so they cannot be used by selfish vandals to pull down fences, Council has elected to oust the birds.

Even today there was a car near the wetland. The driver was having problems because of the drilling by the WestConnex Authority happening that was blocking his ability to drive down the shared pathway, but I digress.

Instead of talking with local schools & having onsite education with school children about fairy martins & the importance of biodiversity, council has decided to oust the birds.

Instead of deciding to educate the general community on the importance of biodiversity, council has decided to oust the birds.

Instead of having a Ranger around for the nesting period, council has decided to oust the birds.

This is an example where biodiversity is important on paper, but not in real life.

Vandalised fairy martin mud nests in the same kiosk.

Vandalised fairy martin mud nests in the same kiosk. Photo 2013.

Photo of street tree pruning done just two weeks ago by Ausgrid in Walenore Avenue Newtown.  Photo by Chris O'Dell used with thanks.

Photo of street tree pruning done just two weeks ago by Ausgrid in Walenore Avenue Newtown. Photo by Chris O’Dell used with thanks.

It is wonderful to see the push to have power companies take responsibility & pay for the damage they do to street trees is starting to gain momentum.  It means that there is cultural change happening & this is always good.

“A decision by the newly formed inner west Sydney Council to lobby Ausgrid to replace damaged trees is attracting plenty of interest here in the Southern Highlands.”

Wingecarribee Council Deputy Mayor Ian Scandrett “believes Endeavour Energy should contribute to selected replacement of the main trees which have been disfigured.   However, he’s also open to the idea of directing those contributions towards putting wires underground in our streets to preserve avenues of trees.”   

Hornsby Shire Council is also tackling the issue of street tree pruning for powerlines this time with Ausgrid.

In a January 2017 media release titled, ‘Council’s push to move powerlines underground,’ “At December’s meeting Council approved a mayoral minute seeking a discussion with electricity provider Ausgrid about ways to gradually place the power supply underground.  Council will also investigate ways to ensure all new subdivisions and high density developments include underground cabling.”

 “That pruning transforms the trees into stunted shadows of their real potential.  Imagine what we can do to our streetscapes if we have unlimited ability to plant trees and allow them to grow to their full scale.  We will have beautiful avenues of trees that will make our Bushland Shire an even more attractive place to live.” ~ ” Mayor Steve Russell, Hornsby Shire Council.

I agree 100 per cent.  Imagine also the ability to cool our streets & neighbourhoods if street trees were able to grow to their full potential.  It would mean that the urban heat island effect would be less dangerous, that people are less likely to die during heatwaves, that it would be nice to walk to wherever we are going & for those who do not have cars, walking would be a nicer experience than it currently is.

Those trees would be able to deliver more amenity in terms of beauty, shade, reduced cooling costs, & as the research keeps telling us, better public health.

Trees capture air-pollution & particulate from vehicles.  Particulate matter (that black stuff on your window sills) has been found to –

  • increase the incidence of respiratory illnesses such as asthma,
  • increase the incidence of heart disease and increase the incidence of fatal heart attacks &
  • increase incidence of dementia.

If these are not reason enough why street trees should be a priority, I don’t know what can be.

One of my Perth friends told me that powerlines are going underground, which was new to me.  I googled & found this published in January 2014, which shows how far behind we are.

For over a decade, Western Power has been undertaking an extensive program to put powerlines underground throughout Western Australia. Around 18 per cent of the overhead distribution network existing at the start of the program in 1996 is now underground, including 54 per cent of the Perth metropolitan area.”

“The recognised benefits of putting power underground include fewer blackouts during inclement weather, enhanced visual appearance, improved property values, reduced street tree pruning requirement and brighter, safer streets with the new lighting system.”

About 98% of the works are done by directional drilling. ….  The extensive use of directional drilling helps minimise the impact on residents and keeps reinstatement costs low.”  There is more information on how it is done & who pays for what in this interesting articlehttp://bit.ly/2kE43oH

I received the following in an email from a local resident last week –

“We desperately need a great urban canopy to cool our streets, footpaths and suburbs.   For visual amenity, for wildlife, to encourage walking, to cool cars for those of us without driveways/undercover car parking.  Putting power cables underground means we can have the trees we want looking great and providing the canopy we need.”

Inner West Council, please add putting powerlines underground in your negotiations with Ausgrid.   Although a slow process, underground cables will allow this municipality to be transformed into a greener municipality which would be healthier for all, including the wildlife.

January 2017 tree pruning by Ausgrid in Renwick Street Marrickville.  This is one of multiple examples on this street.

January 2017 tree pruning by Ausgrid in Renwick Street Marrickville. This is one of multiple examples on this street.

 

Ausgrid pruning of street trees in Fotheringham Street Enmore last week.   Photo by Catherine Bakker‎ and used with thanks.

Ausgrid pruning of street trees in Fotheringham Street Enmore last week. Photo by Catherine Bakker‎ and used with thanks.

More Ausgrid pruning of street trees in Fotheringham Street Enmore last week.  Photo by Catherine Bakker‎ and used with thanks.

More Ausgrid pruning of street trees in Fotheringham Street Enmore last week. Photo by Catherine Bakker‎ and used with thanks.

The Inner West Council said in a press release dated 18th January 2017 that they are negotiating with power company Ausgrid to pay the costs of removing trees damaged by Ausgrid’s pruning & the planting of replacement trees.

The press release says  –

  • Council are “targeting the replanting of trees damaged by tree trimming in many inner west streets.”
  • “Council officers have been working with Ausgrid officers to nominate selected trees that should be replaced.”
  • “Ausgrid has agreed to assess and mostly likely approve the removal of these trees.”

While I am glad that Council are negotiating to have Ausgrid pay for the removal & replacement of the trees they have decimated by their pruning, I have some trepidation wondering just how many of our street trees will need to be removed.   If you look at the state of the street trees around the former Marrickville municipality, you will see that the numbers will not be insignificant.

Ausgrid have created an unnecessary loss of the urban forest & one which will have an negative impact on the community in terms of heat, pollution, stormwater management & the mental/physical health of the community, not to mention the cost to wildlife who possibly lose their homes & food source.

There has been a lot of research published recently that found that street trees provide numerous benefits to human health.  The lack of a good urban forest causes problems such as increased obesity, more respiratory & heart disease, more fatal heart attacks & the latest, more incidence of dementia.  Also, a poor urban forest is known to increase unhappiness & depression in the community & poorer learning in children.

Therefore, it is not a small impact to the community by Ausgrid when they pruned our street trees to such a degree that council thinks the trees will never recover & need to be removed.  It takes years for trees to grow to a point where they are providing viable benefits to the community, so all the health problems listed above are another impact caused by Ausgrid.

There are other tree losses that are not covered by this negotiation with Ausgrid by Council.  Just in my block one mature tree in a front garden was removed because Ausgrid removed one whole side of the tree leaving an unsightly half a tree behind. It is not only street trees that have been negatively impacted.

I applaud the Inner West Council for pursuing this action with Ausgrid.
Council is also looking at an aerial bundle cabling program, which is wonderful.  Take a look at the streets in the Botany area to see what the difference can mean to street trees.  Ausgrid will not need to prune so harshly if there is aerial bundle cabling installed.  It is a much better option than ordinary powerlines, though not as good as installing powerlines underground.  The last option is more expensive, but should be a condition for all new developments in my opinion.

Council in lobbying Ausgrid to develop an Inner West Guideline for tree pruning “sympathetic to our urban metropolitan environment – an area that is not fire prone.”

This is also a great move by Council.
Further in the press release – “The recent discussions with Ausgrid comes after Council late last year received a commitment from Ausgrid that their tree trimming contractors will continue to reduce the cutback they carry out on local street trees to achieve a safe clearance from power lines.  New contractors are now being directed to cut a reduced clearance of just 1 metre from low voltage wires, plus up to 0.5 metre for regrowth for a maximum of 1.5 metres in total resulting in a much improved result for local street trees than previous more radical pruning.”

Then why are Ausgrid, just in the last week, pruning way below the telecommunications cable?  The photos I posted in this post of trees in Fotherington Street Enmore & Renwick Street Marrickville are January 2017 examples of the new improved pruning from Ausgrid.  Sorry, but this was not the norm when Energy Australia did the street tree pruning.

The street trees in Renwick Street Marrickville were pruned last week.

The street trees in Renwick Street Marrickville were pruned by Ausgrid last week.  This is not “trimming.”

More examples of street tree pruning by Ausgrid in street trees in Renwick Street Marrickville

More examples of street tree pruning by Ausgrid in street trees in Renwick Street Marrickville.  

This poor tree has been vandalised at least three times since the tree was planted in 2015.   Council did put up a small sign saying that it had been vandalised, but this was not a deterrent.

This poor tree has been vandalised at least three times since the tree was planted in 2015. Council did put up a small sign saying that it had been vandalised, but this was not a deterrent.

The Inner West Council planted a street tree in a pocket of grass in Myrtle Street Marrickville.  A tree was much needed at this location because it is bare & dare I say ugly.

I was very happy they planted at this location.  Then the tree had several branches snapped off.   The tree grew more branches & the tree was vandalised again.  I started to doubt that this was a random act.

The tree’s desire to live was strong, so it grew some more & started to look strong & lush.

I went by the tree today & its leaves are dry & crisp.  Its thin branches are still alive showing that whatever was done to this poor tree happened recently.

Unfortunately, this tree is dying.  To me it appears that some sort of chemical was fed to it to make sure this determined tree would not rise up again.

It is beyond my comprehension why people rob the community & the wildlife of street trees.   One tree may not matter much, but we have an urban forest classified as ‘poor’ in terms of percentage of canopy cover.  We need trees just to break even in terms of the norm in Sydney.  We also need trees for good public health & we desperately need trees in terms of climate change.

We need more trees in Marrickville & throughout the old Marrickville municipality.  We need bigger, more shade-producing trees.

2016 was the third year in a row of record-breaking heat.  “The average global temperature last year [2016] reached about 1.1°C above the pre-industrial era, which has brought us extremely close to the 1.5°C target established at the historical December 2015 Paris climate summit.”

1.1°C may not seem much, but you only have to have been in Sydney this past month to experience what a heatwave feels like.  Heatwaves & extreme weather events are all part of this global rise in temperature.  The Arctic is the warmest on record, sea ice is melting at alarming speed, coral reefs are bleaching, the oceans are heating up….  There is more, but you get the picture.

Now here is where is gets really interesting.   “Australia is especially at risk as we are 8°C hotter than the world average” http://bit.ly/2kfCKAD

We cannot keep relying on air-conditioning.  One day there will be too many of us using too much power for the system to cope with & we won’t be able to turn on the air-con.  Then people will die.  Perhaps thousands of people.  Death in numbers like this has happened many times before.

We won’t be able to easily acclimatise to the heat either.   The following is part of a summary of research titled, ‘Limitations to Thermoregulation and Acclimatization Challenge Human Adaptation to Global Warming’ published in 2015.   They knew then that it will be difficult for the human race to adapt.   Thousands of us are likely to die in each heatwave event.  That will be a devastating experience for many.

Human thermoregulation and acclimatization are core components of the human coping mechanism for withstanding variations in environmental heat exposure. Amidst growing recognition that curtailing global warming to less than two degrees is becoming increasing improbable, human survival will require increasing reliance on these mechanisms. The projected several fold increase in extreme heat events suggests we need to recalibrate health protection policies and ratchet up adaptation efforts.”   You can read the whole paper here for free – http://www.mdpi.com/1660-4601/12/7/8034

I hope the Inner West Council plant another tree at this location.   Tree vandals cannot be the deciders on how the rest of the community live, their health, the level of pollution they live with, their ability to have a beautiful suburb, how cool their streets are or whether the wildlife can have habitat & food.  The culture must change.  The streets belong to all.

As I post this I am listening to the weather forecast on the TV news.  They are forecasting a heatwave two days from now on Tuesday.   That will be the third heatwave for Sydney in 2017 & it is only January.

Very large rain garden in  Alice Lane Newtown

A very large rain garden in Alice Lane Newtown. This new development also planted numerous trees.  

Just published research from the ARC Centre of Excellence for Climate System Science called, Future increases in extreme precipitation exceed observed scaling rates’ (http://go.nature.com/2iFybub) This research says we can expect “strong increases in rainfall during extreme precipitation events in Australia as a result of global warming.”

A 2°C rise in global average temperatures, is expected to cause an 11.3% to 30% intensification in rainfall from extreme precipitation events in Australia.  Other areas will be more susceptible to drought.

The researchers looked at the likely outcomes of a 4°C rise in global temperature & found “a projected increase in rainfall for extreme events of 22-60%.”  A 4°C rise in global temperature “is a likely outcome based on current increases in the rate of carbon emissions.”  See – http://bit.ly/2jlUfMs

More intense rainfall extremes will likely cause a problem with stormwater, so it is just not an issue of sea-level rise, but also more rain, which has to go somewhere.

Nature did not expect that our cities & suburbs would be covered in vast amounts of concrete & other impermeable surfaces like roofs & roads.  If rain water cannot seep into the ground, it will flow over the hard surfaces following the slope of the land until it reaches an area where it collects.  Many of our streets do this naturally & become hazardous areas during a heavy downpour.  Imagine what these will become during “intense rainfall extremes.”

In the Inner West, our sewerage / stormwater infrastructure is aging & “at capacity” – or so I once read in a Marrickville Council paper on the subject.  The level of new development, predominantly high-rise, will significantly add to this load, so I guess we need to expect more flooding.

Inner West Council (nee Marrickville Council) has done quite a bit of work building swales & raingardens around the Cooks River.   Once water is in the swale or raingarden, it can seep into the ground naturally.  This process cleans it of pollutants such as oil, grease, particulate matter, litter, heavy metals & fertilizers before the water reaches the river or replenishes groundwater stores.

Until I read about it I had never considered that litter tossed in the street at Newtown or Enmore could reach the Cooks River & I am sure most people don’t think about or know of this either.

Council has also been slowly creating verge gardens for a number of years.  These not only cool the streets & add beauty & pockets of habitat, they also help capture stormwater.

Things we can do to help with stormwater management –

  • Choose to have as much ground surface available on our property. This means not creating large expanses of concrete driveways or concreting our back & front gardens.  All water that runs off your property causes a problem somewhere else.
  • Depave any unnecessary concrete in your property. Every bit of depaving helps.
  • We can agree to a street tree out front if Council asks us & look after it if one is planted. Trees are very good at capturing the rain & holding it in the canopy. Rainwater either slowly drips to the ground or is absorbed into the atmosphere by the process of evapotranspiration.
  • Create & look after a verge garden.
  • Plant tree/s & add living plants to everywhere we can – ground, roofs & walls.

With all the development happening or about to start across Sydney, local councils & planning bodies would do well to insist that developers retain as many mature trees as possible on development sites.  Instead of installing underground pipes to take stormwater from the site to the collective sewerage system, it would be better if they did not over develop the site & planted more big canopy trees & other vegetation as these would help slow down some of the stormwater.  Adding a raingarden would be good too.

Our city is changing rapidly.  Climate change is happening & expected to worsen.  How well we live & our quality of life very much depends on how we create our environment.   We will be much better off if we depave, if we plant medium to large growth trees & if we add living plants to everywhere we can – ground, roofs & walls.  We need to start to plant to keep cool & to help manage stormwater.

I do not understand why new high-rise developments are allowed to build right to the front footpath.  Not only is this unsightly, but it also subjects residents of the building to all the health issues connected with particulate matter & other air pollutants from the passing traffic below.  It would be far nicer & healthier for everyone if a 2-5 metre space (depending on the size of the property) were left to plant shrubs, trees & other vegetation.

I do not understand why new high-rise developments are allowed to build right to the front footpath. Not only is this unsightly, but it also subjects residents of the building to all the terrible & significant health issues connected with particulate matter & other air pollutants from the passing traffic below. It would be far nicer & healthier for everyone if a 2-5 metre space (depending on the size of the property) were left between the front footpath & the building to plant shrubs, trees & other vegetation. 

Female Magpie & her new out of the nest fledgling drinking from the gutter.  Fresh water is not readily available for birds in this area that I am aware of so it would be wonderful if the community provided drinking water for them.

Female Magpie & her recently out of the nest fledgling drinking from the gutter.  Fresh water is not readily available for birds in this area that I am aware of so it would be wonderful if the community provided drinking water for them.

The heat is terrible at the moment & it stresses our wildlife.  Birds can die during heatwaves.

If you can put out water for the birds it would be helpful.   It doesn’t need to be a birdbath, any wide shallow container will do.

Place it somewhere safe & where the birds can sit & watch before they go for a drink, but also in a place where they can easily escape to safety.

If your container is deep, place a brick or pebbles inside so the birds can get out.  To make it useful to other creatures such as bees & lizards, place a suitable stick to allow entry into & exit from the water.

Placing the water in the shade is better because, like us, birds like cool water.

Lastly, it is best to replace the water every day to prevent the spread of any disease.

Cup and Saucer Creek Wetland three weeks ago with much of the pond area covered with netting.

Cup and Saucer Creek Wetland three weeks ago with much of the pond area covered with netting.

Cup and Saucer Creek Wetland last Sunday.  It's a jungle in there.

Cup and Saucer Creek Wetland last Sunday. It’s a jungle in there.

Something interesting is happening at Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland, but I don’t know what.  It is obvious that work is being done because the pond has been drained & large areas have been covered with netting.  It was like this three weeks ago & everything had grown into jungle-like proportions by last weekend.

Canterbury Council holds regular working bees in the wetland & are looking for new volunteers.  To register your interest & for more information about how you can get involved, call Council on 9707 9000.

The pond closest to the river is green with algae.

The pond closest to the river is green with algae.

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