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Bats, also known as flying foxes, are in trouble. People don’t want them & their habitat is being destroyed at a rate of knots.

“Bats are primary predators of night-flying insects, including many of the most damaging agricultural pests & others that bedevil the rest of us. More than two-thirds of bat species hunt insects, & they have healthy appetites. A single little brown bat can eat up to 1,000 mosquito-sized insects in a single hour, while a pregnant or lactating female bat typically eats the equivalent of her entire body weight in insects each night.

Almost a third of the world’s bats feed on the fruit or nectar of plants.  In return for their meals, these bats are vital pollinators of countless plants (many of great economic value) & essential seed dispersers with a major role in regenerating rainforests. About 1 percent of bats eat fish, mice, frogs or other small vertebrates.” ~ Bat Conservation International

Two days ago Bat Conservation International posted a great 3-minute video that shows how the health of our planet & the pollination of much of our food depends upon the free environmental services provided by bats. Without bats we are in serious trouble.

A fabulously creative way to pass on a message of conservation, this is a YouTube video of a rap song by Australian Peter Noble about the critically endangered flying foxes in Australia.  “The greatest threat they face is ignorance from you & me.”   The video shows inside a bat rehabilitation aviary & is well worth watching.

The arrows point to rows of barbed wire fencing off the railway corridor at the back of Tillman Park Sydenham & in the background, at Frazer Park Marrickville. The large railway corridor here & the 2 parks have been identified as high biodiversity value

Earlier this week I watched a program on Channel 6 about a flying fox rehabilitation centre.  Unfortunately, I did not catch their name.  As with most programs on Channel 6, this was a simple documentary, the camera fixed on a woman who spoke about the work of the rehab centre with shots of the bats she was talking about.  The scene was a large aviary where flying foxes of all ages were being rehabilitated for release back into the wild.  A few bats had been so badly injured that they will remain at the rehab centre for life & are used as educational bats when speaking to groups.  They can’t fly.  One of these bats was at the Eco Festival on the Cooks River last year.

Some facts about flying foxes discussed on this program –

  • Flying foxes are playful, cheeky creatures that enjoy interacting with humans when in care.
  • They have close friendships with each other. Two bats that were tagged with consecutive numbers before release found themselves coming back into care a couple of years later showing that they had remained together since their release.
  • Staff members have come to work to find an injured bat waiting outside the aviary.  Checking their tags they found the bats, for there have been a few, knew where to come if they were injured.  Now that is smart.
  • Bats are not just flying around indiscriminately with a few thousand others. They are families, pairs & groups of friends who sleep together & forage for food together during the night.

The good thing is the new tree planted in Tillman Park recently. The bad thing is the barbed wire along the goods line. Two sides of Tillman Park has barbed wire fencing

What made me decide to write a post about this program was that the woman being interviewed said there were 2 main reasons why flying foxes get injured.  The first is barbed wire, which is often placed near a Eucalyptus or Bottle Brush tree. The bats come to feed on the flower nectar, don’t see the barbed wire & tear their wings.  Many bats are still alive when you see them tangled in barbed wire. They stay still because they are in pain. People who see them think they are dead & the bat ends up suffering a long, slow & painful death.  So if you see a flying fox in this condition, it is well worth ringing a wildlife rescue organization that will remove the bat if it is dead & rescue it if it is still alive.  Barbed wire injuries often mean that a bat cannot fly again & many are so badly injured that they need to be euthanized.

How I hate barbed wire & razor wire.  I’ve seen more of the stuff in Sydenham seeming to protect something belonging to Railcorp.  The back fence at Tillman Reserve & the border of the goods line is barbed wire as well.  Tillman Park & this section of Railcorp land is viewed as a prime biodiversity corridor so hopefully Marrickville Council will convince Railcorp to remove the barbed wire in these areas.

It’s crazy to plant to increase biodiversity & then surround the area with an invisible obstacle course that that has the high potential of severely injuring the very wildlife you are encouraging.  People know how to get through or over barbed wire & razor wire anyway so it is entirely unnecessary.

Even the Department of Corrective Services is removing barbed wire from the prison walls & is using slip-rollers instead. If the prisons can remove barbed & razor wire, surely the Council, Railcorp & other organizations around the locality can do the same.  How long before a kid gets hurt?

The second main cause of injury is fruit tree netting because people sling the net loosely over the tree. Loose netting means that bats as well as birds are very likely to become entangled in the net.  Netting causes deep wounds & severe burns to the skin of a bat. A tangled, trapped bat or a bird is also very difficult to get out of the netting.  A homeowner does not want to find a terrified & injured bat wrapped in netting high up in a fruit tree because trying to remove a wild animal is likely to cause injury to the person.  It is best to call a trained wildlife rescuer who has also been vaccinated against any bat-related viruses.

If you have fruit trees, you can still net them. However, you need to pull the netting tight around & under the canopy so that a bird or a bat will bounce off it if they land on the tree.  Sydney Bats have a document that explains how to net your fruit trees with wildlife in mind. –

If you see an injured bat, call –

  • Sydney Wildlife (02) 9413 4300 or
  • WIRES (Wildlife Information & Rescue Service) (02) 8977 3333
  • Outside Sydney contact your local wildlife organization.
  • Your local Vet will also know whom to contact.

I made a couple of short YouTube videos of flying foxes in the local area –

Razor wire at Tempe Bus Depot

The NSW Labor government committed to end the licensed shooting of flying-foxes in NSW just before the recent elections. They committed $5 million for farmers to install exclusion netting around orchards & the legal shooting of flying-foxes to be phased-out within 3 years. The Liberal Party said if they were elected they would reduce this period to 2 years, so I guess, now that the Liberal Part are in government, this will be happening. The Humane Society International said, Only an immediate ban on the shooting of flying-foxes can avoid this unnecessary cruelty.”

I have made a 1min 45secs YouTube video of the spectacular sight of thousands of flying-foxes crossing the Cooks River at dusk.


Cooks River Festival flags made the atmosphere festive

Today was the annual Cooks River Eco Festival & Ewen Park was filled with a few hundred people when we arrived.  The food was great & for the first time we ate off palm leaf plates. They looked so good I thought we were meant to return them, but this was not the case, as the food seller was not allowed to reuse them. He encouraged people to take them home & reuse. It was such a good idea.

The fantastic wildlife educator holding up her bat

I saw my first Long-nosed Bandicoot (it was stuffed & on loan from the Australian Museum – see photo at the end of this post) & realized just how easy they could be mistaken for rats. They are about the same size or just slightly larger, stand a little taller with long back legs & an exceptionally long nose & delicate face. It’s worth checking before you put out rat bait if you live in the areas Long-nosed Bandicoots are known to live especially along the Greenway & around St Vincent’s de Paul & all their buildings & houses in Lewisham. Long-nosed Bandicoots are on the critically endangered list, so it wouldn’t take much to make them extinct south of the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

There were tree-people walking around on stilts & a very large Koala.  The kids had great entertainment with story telling, theatre & an amazing wild-life show while we were there.  A Wildlife Educator I presume was from the National Parks & Wildlife Service had a variety of animals, which she showed to the audience while teaching about their habitat & needs for survival.  We saw a bat, a very large tree frog, a snake & a Tawny Frogmouth & apparently there were other animals as well.  This is a particularly powerful way of educating children & adults as they can see the wildlife up close & get to realize that these are living, feeling creatures that need our protection.  Hers is a dream job.

A tree frog held by the wildlife educator

We did another solar power workshop while eating lunch because that’s what was on at the time & then went to look at all the stalls.  Represented were Stream Watch, Cooks River Valley Association, Mudcrabs, the Cooks River Sustainability Initiative  & the Greenway. They are all looking for more volunteers & their contact details can be found in the blogroll in the left-hand column.  Volunteers can work at their own speed for as long as they like so this type of volunteering is open to almost everyone.  So if the group is meeting for 2 hours work, but you are not well enough to do this long, you can join in & do easier jobs for a shorter length of time. Everyone is welcome.

There were also stalls from Canterbury Council educating about the environment, the Cooks River & recent environmental restoration work along the river. There were also stalls offering organic skin products & cleaning products & bikes that you could take for a ride along the Cooks River that were provided for free by Centennial Park.

I was told of a recently built wetland further up the Cooks River at Riverwood so we may go & have a look some time soon.  Let’s hope the Cook’s River Alliance gets off the ground with participation from all the Councils along the length of the Cooks River. This is one place where each section of the river impacts on the others so cooperation is vital.

The Greenway Festival lasts for another week. Details of other events are on their website –

The Long-nosed Bandicoot is critically endangered in Sydney south of the Sydney Harbour Bridge

This is where Roach Street used to be. Now it is part of a lovely small park & is well used by the locals. The Gymea Lilies are stunning.

Right now many of the Gymea Lilies (Doryanthes excelsa) around Marrickville LGA are in flower.  They are spectacular flowers that can grow between 4-6 metres. The nectar-eating birds & bats love them so they benefit urban wildlife.  It can take up to 7 years for a Gymea Lily to flower for the first time so you need to be patient if you plant one.

Yesterday we discovered a ‘pocket park’ on the corner of Roach Street & Harnett Avenue Marrickville that was being used by quite a few people. Roach Street was blocked to traffic a few years ago & the space about the size of 3 blocks of land was used to create a lovely park. There are mass plantings of lavender & a particularly gorgeous shade tree with a park bench underneath.

I imagine the people who own the houses near the great clump of Gymea Lilies feel pleased as the work done by Marrickville Council has substantially increased the value of their properties & the park is a far better view than what was once a through road. I want one.

Newly published research in the US showed that a street tree out front can add an average of US$8,870 to the sale price of a property. “Only one-third of the total benefit goes to the homeowner with the tree in front. The rest spreads to neighbors within 100 feet.” (30.5 metres).  Combined value: US$12,828 to 7 houses close by.

US housing is far less expensive than in Sydney so the value of a good-looking street tree would be proportionally greater here. This research also shows that removing the street tree from out the front of one-house affects quite a few properties either side of the tree. I would include the properties across the road as well, especially in the Inner West or in other high-density suburbs.

Down along the Cooks River - Marrickville side

Dulwich Hill & Marrickville got a mention in an article about conservation in today’s Sydney Morning Herald. Apparently Echidnas live here.  Earthwatch Institute & Landcare has launched a new research program & they are asking the community to let them know of minute changes to their local environment. You can log on & let them know of new birds, new insects, less birds & insects, earlier flowering seasons &  what kind of animals/birds live in you area.

Just in my area over the last 12 months has seen the arrival of a Spotted Pardalote, a baby Ring-tail Possum, a huge increase in birds & a bunch of Wedge-tail Eagles flying overhead.  We have discovered the Bandicoots living in Lewisham, although WIRES already knew about them. Kookaburras are living in Lewisham trees that are fast been chopped down.

There must be things happening in your area. If we report it, then we have a greater chance of saving its habitat should the need arise.

Earthwatch –

Landcare –

Beautiful Wolli Creek also gets a main article on page 12 of today’s Sydney Morning Herald. Wolli Creek Valley is 50 hectares of natural bush along 13 kms from Bexley North to Turella & is the only bushland of any size left in the inner south-west Sydney. More than 260 plants have been identified in the Wolli Creek Valley & it is the home to many birds, animals, insects, flying- foxes, fish & frogs. It is very precious & a vital space for urban wildlife.

In 1998 the NSW state government of Bob Carr announced the prospective establishment of a Wolli Creek Regional Park under the management of National Parks & Wildlife Service. The Wolli Creek Regional Park remains nothing more than a promise almost 12 years later.

The Wolli Creek Preservation Society has an online petition as part of their campaign to have the Wolli Creek Regional Park established. It takes 1 minute to do something that will help keep a precious piece of historical bushland for future generations & for urban wildlife. Please sign.

To read the SMH article –

An area planted over the 2-3 years at The Warren

Gloriously beautiful trees which are a huge asset to Newcastle

On Tuesday 17th August 2010 7 out of 12 Newcastle City Councillors went down in history as being the crew who voted to remove the 14 iconic, beautiful & very healthy Hills Figs outside the Newcastle Art Gallery along Laman Street Newcastle.

Why, because Newcastle Council says they are dangerous & are likely to fall. Except around 6 weeks ago, they had the NSW Governor Marie Bashir chauffeur-driven to the door of the Art Gallery & the official car remained parked under the killer trees for the evening.

Of course nothing happened. Nor did anything happen with the Pashar Bulka storm that produced incredibly high winds & caused much destruction throughout Newcastle. Nor did anything happen with the 2 recent bad storms & high winds that hit Newcastle.

If you want to read a story of intrigue, lack of transparency, weird ideas, healthy trees with no roots, a community being run rings around, I’d recommend spending the evening reading Save Our Figs & Other Trees of Newcastle – & the post written on the night of Newcastle Council’s decision –

The very last option Newcastle Council gave the community was a single row of Liquid ambers. Really? A tree known to have large invasive roots that also grow near the surface. They are very large deciduous trees that not only drop a very large amount of leaves in Autumn, they also drop a large amount of round spiked seeds that do not decay well leaving ‘lumps’ under lawns. Liquid ambers are also known to drop branches easily in storms.

These trees will not provide food for the numerous flying-foxes & birds that used the Laman Street Figs as a home & source of food for many decades.

How will replacing the 14 Hills Figs with very large trees known to have large & invasive roots improve the situation? How would tons of leaves dropping outside the Art Gallery in Autumn improve the situation?  Wouldn’t the leaves & ball-like seeds create a public injury risk? Wouldn’t a tree known to drop branches during storms create a public injury risk?  This idea was a good as grinding the trees into stumps & carving them into famous Newcastle citizens. See –

Now they say they will replace the current Hills Figs with a single row of Hills Figs down the centre of the road, but don’t say when this will happen.

Newcastle City Council received 400 submissions about this Laman Street Figs from the community. 96% of those people said, “Keep the Figs.” They were ignored.  I predict the community is going to go ape about this & Newcastle City Council will get the lumber jacks in as fast as possible to end the matter for good, except people have long memories.

My original post about the Laman Street  Figs can be found here –

You can read the follow-up post  written on 1st September 2010 about the Independent Arborist Report by clicking here –

Music for Trees is a non-profit organisation & part of the UN’s Billion tree program, about which I have written in previous posts.  They are holding a free music event at Carriage Works Eveleigh this Saturday 17th July 2010. Playing will be Stiff Gins, Ray Mann, The Slowdowns, The Anon Anons & The Deroys.  $10 plants 50 trees. $200 starts a forest.  For information –

Planet Ark has a competition for National Tree Day on 1st August 2010.  They are looking for the best tree tale.  The top stories will be added to their Australian Tree Stories campaign & the prize is a $1,000 green get-away.  This year’s National Tree Day, more than 2 million volunteers will plant 15 million native trees & shrubs.  I knew it could be done.

Spring blossoms in winter

I was excited to read about a report commissioned by the NSW Department of Environment, Climate Change & Water. The report, Connectivity Conservation & the Great Eastern Ranges Corridor, recommends the establishment of a conservation corridor spanning 2,800 km along the Great Eastern Ranges from the Australian Alps in Victoria to the Atherton Tablelands in Queensland.

“To halt and reverse the biodiversity extinction crisis, we must counter the threats and reverse the trends. This means reconnecting habitat so native ecosystems don’t end up becoming isolated “islands”, buffering protected areas and protecting and restoring habitat on other land tenures.”

It’s a fantastic idea & will go a long way to helping wildlife. Hopefully it will also help the Koala who are seriously at risk of extinction from loss of habitat in Australia.

The Pew Environment Group did a recent study that found the area from the central west of NSW, up to Cape York, across the top end & down to the wheat belt in Western Australia, absorbs more than 9.5 billion tonnes of carbon. 

They say that if this area is managed properly, it could reduce carbon pollution by 5% by 2050, the equivalent of taking 7.5 a million cars off the road every year for the next 40 years.

Terrific changes seem to be happening in the way Australia is looking at the value & use of trees.  It will be wonderful to see land planted with trees & other plants rather than have the massive chain that pulls down everything in its path.

Researchers from the University of Sydney say all the world’s topsoil is set to vanish within 60-100 years “if current patterns do not change.” Current patterns mean;

  • overuse of plowing,
  • over-application of synthetic fertilizers,
  • poor erosion control &
  • unsustainable farming

In Australia, soil is being lost 5 times faster than it is regenerating through natural processes. In the United States, it is being lost 10 times faster. In Europe it is being lost 17 times faster, and in China, an astonishing 57 times faster.

Hopefully, farmers will take notice & the government will provide the funding to help them regenerate the natural vegetation without too much delay.

Lilly Pilly flower

I read 2 articles about Railcorp recently.  The first reported that Beecroft residents were furious at tree-lopping & removal at a site marked ‘environmentally sensitive’ along railway land near Beecroft Railway Station. It’s a shame because Gang Gang birds lived in those trees.

City Rail said, “The trees lopped were wattles which had become a safety hazard.  The trees we removed were predominantly wattles (Acacia) that had been planted by Railcorp around 10 years ago inside the rail corridor.” In response the Beecroft Cheltenham Civic Trust employed a professional arborist to assess the tree removal. They found young Eucalypts & Acacias had been removed.

3 weeks later in an article about Railcorp’s plans to replant the stripped area, a RailCorp staff representative said, “the plants had to be removed because 95 per cent of them were noxious species.” Wattle a noxious species?  Railcorp intend to replant with native grasses & shrubs, but no trees.

Epping residents also complained that everything near the railway station has been stripped, including the grasses. Both communities complained about the lack of community consultation.  To my understanding, being government-owned land, they don’t need to notify the community. That the community expects that they do tells me that trees & habitat for urban wildlife are becoming important issues for the community.  I think this is a good thing.

Lawrence Pope, the president of the Victorian Advocates for Animals wrote a fantastic letter to the Bendigo Advertiser about Grey-headed flying-foxes that I would love to post in full. Unfortunately copyright prevents me from doing so, but I sincerely hope that any readers who dislike bats, are afraid of them or have concerns about their presence around Sydney of late take the time to read this letter. It’s not a long letter as Mr Pope has the skill of writing succinctly.

The following are snippets: Grey-headed flying foxes are struggling to survive right down Australia’s east coast & now inland. Many are seriously underweight from lack of food.  This land is their home & has been for the past 2 million years. Being fair dinkum about conservation sometimes means putting the serious interests of other species ahead of your own less-serious ones….”  & “….species that has declined by more than 95%  in the past century & is listed as vulnerable to extinction.”

The Department of Environment & Resources reports that nearly 400 tonnes of seed has been dropped from planes on 5,000 hectares of exposed lakebed & more than 1.1 million native sedges have been planted on exposed lakebeds in South Australia by volunteers. On top of this, volunteers are also planting 130,000 shrub & tree seedlings on shorelines & wetlands in the Lower Murray River areas.  I am always impressed & heartened about our future when volunteers come together like this.

Lastly, I missed Saving Our Tree’s birthday.  We were 1 year old on 16 June 2010.  Isn’t that lovely.  A very big thanks from me to everyone who has supported SoT by reading this blog, sending submissions & for all your ideas & words of encouragement. Don’t know what to say except the trees & the urban wildlife have hooked me & I couldn’t imagine not doing this.

Once I woke up to balloons on my bedroom ceiling

A selection of new garden beds in Robert Street Marrickville

We came across new footpath work in Robert Street Marrickville yesterday.  Marrickville Council has replaced the footpaths & created large garden beds around street trees planted on verges.   It’s happening in other streets so it appears to be a new trend.  I sincerely hope so.

The first time I saw this done was earlier this year in Ivanhoe Street Marrickville South & I was impressed.  The garden beds are twice as large in Robert Street because the footpaths are wider.

As well as the street trees on the verge, Robert Street has beautiful old Brush Box trees that were planted on the sides of the road around 80 years ago. Council has created garden beds on the verge next to many of these trees, which will allow these trees to be able to get a good drink when it rains.  These trees have suffered decades of bitumen almost to their trunks so they should respond well & live longer now they have better access to water.  Council have planted native grasses & Pig Face (I think) & in a year or so, they should look very pretty.

Unfortunately, works like these can cost many thousands of dollars (a tiled footpath outside a small group of shops can cost $60,000) so I would imagine that it would be a slow process creating these types of footpaths as the norm throughout the LGA.  However, it’s worth waiting for.

It is good that by creating these garden beds, the amount of cement coverage has lessened. Not only will the trees get more water & the streets look greener, but the street should be cooler during summer as well.

Is less cement an issue? I think it is & so do many experts.  Urban areas are much hotter than non-urban areas because cement & building surfaces can trap heat from the sun.  This is called the ‘heat island effect.’

The flying foxes that left Queensland to come & live in Sydney’s Royal Botanic Gardens for the past 20 years or so have made their home there because the air temperature is to their liking.  The walls of the tall city buildings, roads, cement surfaces & roofs of the CBD have raised the air temperature & created a climate suitable for the bats. In the city it is called the urban canyon effect because the walls of tall buildings form canyons that capture & hold heat.

Air temperatures can be up to 12 degrees hotter in cemented areas during summer. I have read up to 50 degrees hotter, but this is probably in desert areas.  Much like a car parked in the sun with the windows closed, environments can become heat boxes keeping night temperatures warmer. A 2005 study showed urban air temperatures being up to 12 degrees warmer at night during summer than in rural areas.

Apart from the obvious increase use of power needed to cool houses & the associated costs, the heat island effect also impacts on air quality & health as it causes smog & ground level ozone. Ground level ozone causes respiratory problems like asthma, coughing & lung damage. It can also cause chest pain & heart problems.  This is why research shows that living within 500 metres of a main road can cause significant health problems.  See –

Ground level ozone is also a factor in global warming.  The heat island effect can raise the temperature so much that it causes heat events where heat waves are exacerbated. These events can cause death, particularly in children, the ill & the elderly.

There is also another issue with the heat island effect & that is storm water runoff.  If the runoff is heated by pavements, gutters & roofs, it may be very warm by the time it reaches rivers, ponds & lakes & we have a few in Marrickville LGA.  This hot water can cause death to fish & other water life as well as increase the growth of blue-green algae that sucks all oxygen out of the water causing more fish death.

This is a very basic outline of the heat island effect & I will be writing about it in more depth in a later post. However, I hope what is written so far is enough to understand why our society’s love for cement is a problem.  Cement is easier, but it comes with it’s own problems & these problems follow us into our homes.

A couple of examples in Robert Street Marrickvillewhere residents created gardens to protect street trees. To me, they look great & are far better than bitumen up to the trunk.

It is my belief that we need to plant many more trees across Marrickville LGA.  We need larger trees that create shade, both on private property & as street trees. Street trees that grow straight upwards & have a canopy of no more than 2-3 metres are not a ‘shade tree.’  We also need less cement & bitumen, more gardens & pockets of green space outside of formal parks to keep the heat down, for our mental & physical health & for the health of the planet.

Sydney is getting bigger & bigger & with this urban sprawl comes more cement, more hard surfaces & fewer trees.  My fear is that, if climate change does happen in the way the scientific experts predict (& being a prediction, it has a 50% chance of being worse than what they think will occur), that we & our governing authorities will realise just how important trees & green spaces are, but the weather will be too hot & water in short supply that whatever is planted will have trouble surviving.  Bleak I know, but I have read a lot on this subject & none of it is heartening.

So getting back on subject, what Marrickville Council is doing when they are replacing footpaths is terrific & sensible action for the future.  It will allow people to get used to less cement & hopefully encourage them to be actively involved in the garden beds outside their property.



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