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Dibble Avenue Waterhole -  a biodiversity hotspot & returned to being one of Marrickville's really beautiful historic places.  There is a microbat box on the pier on the left.

Dibble Avenue Waterhole – a biodiversity hotspot & thankfully, returned to being one of Marrickville’s really beautiful historic places. There is a microbat box on the pier on the left.

On the 18th September 2013 I went on a Microbat Walk organised by Marrickville Council.  Around 22 people met at AB Croft Playground next to the Dibble Avenue Waterhole.  Council’s Biodiversity Officer & Ecologist & bat specialist Narawan Williams from Newcastle were our guides.

Kudos to Marrickville Council for the work they have done on the AB Croft Playground.   There are new trees, new park benches, tastefully displayed sandstone boulders in amongst mulch in the areas that tend to become boggy & a very nice new set of playground equipment.

Microbat box at Dibble Avenue Waterhole

Microbat box at Dibble Avenue Waterhole

The fence that separates the park from the waterhole used to be topped with barbed wire.  That’s gone thank goodness & has been replaced with a high & stylish fence that is secure & unobtrusive, yet allows the public a great view of the waterhole.

I wish all the organizations & companies that are stringing up barbed & razor wire around Marrickville municipality used this kind of fencing.  If they saw the intense suffering barbed & razor wire cause wildlife, they might think differently, especially if they were the person assigned the job of removing the poor, still alive animal, bat or bird with horrific injuries.  It’s a cheap solution that makes our area ugly.  We do not live in a war zone.

Council removed the old rotted pier from the Dibble Avenue Waterhole, but left the pier stumps, so now the waterbirds have nice places to perch. One pier  has a microbat attached.  They also re-vegetated the banks, removing bamboo, weeds & unsuitable trees. The whole place looks remarkably different than it did 2-years ago.  Council’s work has improved the waterhole & surrounds immensely, which is great for both biodiversity & the community.

To my delight we were taken through a private housing complex to a gate on the far side of the AB Croft Playground, which gave us an entirely different view of the waterhole.  Here we saw four man-made microbat boxes that Council has installed in the trees.  We also learnt about which species of microbat has been monitored at the waterhole, as well as information about them.

People asked lots of interesting questions.  I can’t remember it all & unfortunately I didn’t think to take pen & paper to take notes.

The Eastern Bentwing bat, classified as vulnerable, has been spotted in Marrickville.  So have two other species of microbat.  Unfortunately, I can’t remember their names.  Sydney has about 20 species of microbats, about half of which are threatened.

Microbat monitor

Microbat monitor

Then we headed off to the Marrickville Golf Course & were shown two hand-held microbat monitors that record their ultrasonic calls & GPS location.  Microbats are mostly inaudible & the rest are hard for humans to hear.  These monitors pick up the sound pulses of microbats, identify the species by the different pulse & of course, identify whether they are in the area.

The monitors were handed to participants & then we went off for a walk in the dark across the golf course listening for the little microbats.    It was really lovely to be on the golf course at night with lights in the distance & a one-day-off full moon to light the way.  Waterbirds sang from the mangroves & the larger flying foxes from Wolli Creek flew overhead.  I’m not sure whether any microbats were detected, but it was so nice, it really didn’t matter – at least to me.

Another more natural microbat box at Dibble Avenue Waterhole

Another more natural microbat box at Dibble Avenue Waterhole

We then walked to the wooden bridge over the Cooks River located near the Marrickville Golf Club.  Underneath the bridge is another microbat box, as they like to sleep under bridges.  This bridge is about to be replaced as Council feels that it is at the end of its lifespan & costs more money to maintain than replace.  A new bridge will be built a few metres away.  The bulk of the old bridge will be removed, but Council will be leaving the poles for the waterbirds to sit on.  I am very happy about this, as waterbirds have almost nothing to sit on in the river.  These poles will allow the waterbirds to behave naturally.  Besides, the poles will be a visible link to our past.

The walk continued through the golf course to the second event, a talk on microbats by Narawan Williams the microbat specialist who came with us on the walk.  I did not attend the talk, as places were limited.  I am positive that it would have been very interesting.

I thoroughly enjoyed the walk & learning about Council’s work to improve habitat for microbats.  Marrickville Council says they are likely to do this event again soon, so I recommend grabbing a place next time this event is on.  I think you will enjoy yourself & come away with a better appreciation of these little creatures, plus have the lovely experience of walking alongside the river on grass at night.  It was a nature fix for me.   Thank you to Marrickville Council’s Biodiversity Officer & to Narawan.  The event was a total success in my eyes.

Some quick facts about microbats –

  • Microbats are mammals, warm blooded & feed their babies milk.
  • They can be as small as a moth or as big as a human hand.
  • They can make a home in almost any crevice.  They like tree hollows, under lifted bark, caves, under bridges & in the walls or roofs of buildings.
  • Microbats are insect eaters & as such, are extremely useful to humans, as are all bats.  A microbat can eat as 40% of their body weight every night.  Electric insect zappers not only kill useful insects, they kill the food microbats need to survive.
  • Microbats hibernate in winter.  Disturbing them during hibernation causes them to return to operating temperature.  This uses up precious fat reserves & results in their death.
  • Microbats can see, but use echolocation – the projection of sound at frequencies outside the human hearing range – to find food. They listen to their call bouncing off trees, rocks & buildings.
  • They fly fast & low, changing direction often when chasing their prey.
  • Babies are born in spring & summer.  By 8-weeks they are fully developed & can fly & feed with the adults.
The Dibble Avenue Waterhole from the other side, closed to the public.

The Dibble Avenue Waterhole from the other side, closed to the public.  You can see the AB Croft Playground & piers opposite.

Google map of AB Croft Playground & the Dibble Avenue Waterhole. Being so close to the habitat provided by the Marrickville Golf Course & the Cooks River makes the waterhole a fabulous & important wildlife refuge.

Dibble Avenue Waterhole Marrickville – looking lovely & much cleaner after recent works.

For those of you who haven’t visited this public green space in Marrickville, the AB Croft Playground & Dibble Avenue Waterhole belong together.   AB Croft Playground is a small park that allows you to view the Dibble Avenue Waterhole, unless you are lucky enough to live in a property that overlooks the Waterhole.

The feeling of this small park is trees, which is really nice.  There is a massive tree just inside the entrance & other smaller trees in the park & around the perimeter.   The canopy of a large tree growing in the property next door cascades over the park adding to the sense of leafy green.  I have not come across a park in Marrickville LGA that has so much shade & this is something I appreciate.

AB Croft Playground was a bit dismal before the recent upgrade.  Marrickville Council has created a lovely happy playground right next to the waterhole in an area that gets sun.   The playground has swings & climbing equipment & all this is on a large base of soft sky blue rubber material that imitates the waterhole; at least that’s how I interpreted it.

There are two new park benches & many large rocks have been positioned throughout the park to allow children to climb over them & to be used as seating.  In one circle of rocks are two new large green-coloured concrete frogs.  I imagine younger children would like to play on them.

Apart from the dumping beside the rubbish bin at the entrance, there was no litter to be seen in the park, which was another plus.  Also highly unusual, Marrickville Council has not created a concrete path into the park. Instead they have used mulch to a level where it was easy to walk across with bicycles, so prams would have no trouble either.  Having one’s feet walk on the earth was how parks were in my childhood & no harm was done.

In October 2010 I wrote about the Riverside Crescent Subcatchment Management Plan 2010 which targeted the Dibble Avenue Waterhole.

  • According to Council’s Report, the historic & potentially very beautiful Waterhole that is fed from direct rainfall, groundwater & stormwater runoff from adjacent properties has “high concentrations of heavy metals including arsenic, cadmium, copper, mercury, nickel, lead & zinc. These exceed guidelines’ values & pose an ecological risk.   ….up to 25 species of birds including several important migratory & wetland birds, such as the Eastern Curlew. Chestnut Teals, Dusky Moorhens & Australian White Ibis, have been observed most recently. Long finned eels, dwarf flathead gudgeon & mosquito fish have also been recorded.”  See – http://bit.ly/SuI8py

In August 2011 I wrote again about the Waterhole as it was included in Marrickville Council’s Draft Biodiversity Action Plan.

  • This is the last remaining unfilled brick pit in the Marrickville LGA & is on the Historic Trail.  The Waterhole has had tree & weed removal & bank restoration done over the past year.  It provides habitat for frogs, reptiles, nocturnal birds, small grain, nectar & insect eating birds, freshwater wetland & reed‐bed birds, fast‐flying bats & slow‐flying bats. It also provides connectivity for small birds & frogs to other planed Water Sensitive Urban Design features in the subcatchment.  Council had the following plans for the waterhole –
  1. Spending $10,000‐$30,000pa on increasing the density of vegetation around the waterhole.
  2. Installing ‘bat boxes’ in or near the waterhole to provide urban roosting habitat for fast‐flying & slow‐flying microbats
  3. Commencing a community monitoring program.
  4. Investigating where public viewing of the Waterhole could happen.  http://bit.ly/UAAhJ4

I did not see any bat boxes, but they could be there hidden in the trees.  There is a new fence between the park & the waterhole to ensure safety.  It also looks good & unlike the previous fence, allows both adults & children to have a clear view of the waterhole. Bring your own seats though.   There are plenty of resident ducks & other waterbirds to keep everyone interested.  Obviously the fence is there to stop accidental drowning, but it also allows people to be involved with nature while keeping the wildlife safe from people.  This is important for the birds as they have very few genuine safe refuges locally.

Council has removed the old decayed pier leaving the pier stumps for interest & I presume as a link to the history of the Waterhole.  The pier stumps also make great perches for birds to sit.

Frogs in AB Croft Playground

I was very pleased that the large Camphor laurel tree was still standing.  Council had said that they intended to remove it.  The tree provides much shade for the property it grows next to & now has branches cascading over the water, which is quite lovely & important for many birds.  The property it shades is full of large canopy trees so it is easy to assume that they do not mind the shade & privacy the tree provides.  It is also quite beautiful.  I know some people don’t like Camphor laurel trees, but they are not spreading into Wolli Creek or along the Cooks River, so the benefits of having a large tree in an urban situation far outweigh removing it in my opinion.

Quite a few non-native trees were removed from around the waterhole & what remain are mostly Casuarinas & these will spread in time.  Council has shored the sloping banks of the waterhole to stop soil erosion & planted many native grasses.

Council has also built a swale from what appears to be a private carpark to slow down & filter stormwater before it enters the Waterhole.

The water was considerably cleaner than it has been on previous visits.  There is a floating barrel with a thick pipe attached that goes to the bank & out of view.  I would not be surprised to learn that this is some sort of algae filtering system.

I think the Dibble Avenue Waterhole is a jewel in Marrickville & was happy to see that it is now looking good & cared for.   It is on the historical trail of Sydney so this is another important reason to keep it looking its best. To have such a place that is essentially a wildlife refuge area surrounded by houses is quite unique & very special.

The lovely new playground in AB Croft Park. The blue surface is very soft to walk on.

View of AB Croft Park towards the entrance. There is a wonderful tree in the centre.  It would be nice to see some shade-loving plants around the trees & along the fence line.

Showing the new swale that will filter stormwater before it gets into the Waterhole.  

 

 

 

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