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When we first moved to Marrickville just over two decades ago, there were only Currawongs & Indian mynas in our street. The Currawongs would leave in the morning & return at dusk. The Currawongs would move somewhere else for spring & summer leaving the Indian mynas to rule. What we heard most of the time was traffic & plane noise. There were very few natural sounds.
New people started to move into the neighbourhood & we all started gardening. Some of our neighbours planted cottage garden type plants, while others like ourselves went totally native & included some natives indigenous to this area.
We had a rule – unless it was spectacular, what we planted had to be able to provide food for birds or bats & at the very least, bees & other insects.
And then it happened….. the noise of our street changed. All kinds of birds started to visit.
It was slow at first. We started to identify different bird calls. Sometimes small groups of around 10-20 birds would visit. The birdbath was used every day. Evidence of their splashing was noticed & the water had to be replenished. We would walk out the front door only to cause a mad fluttering of wings as bathing birds got interrupted.
Every year the sounds of birds were built upon. A common question was, “What is that bird?” The Birds in Backyards website was used often trying to identify the latest visitor.
A nest was spotted. It turned out to be a pair Red Wattle birds. Having been woken up by these flying alarm clocks for many years, I don’t feel like home is quite right unless there are Red Wattle birds around, so I was very happy about this. Unfortunately, Ausgrid pruned off the branch that held their nest (in spring when they were breeding no less) & we feared we had lost them. It was with much joy that we saw they had rebuilt in a branch of another street tree, closer to our house. The branch is still at risk, but hopefully we will be able to convince Ausgrid to leave it be whenever they visit.
The Red Wattle bird pair have had three successful breeding seasons now. They must like gardeners because they fly low over our heads when we are outside & even when they see our car. We get greeted with a “Kuk Kuk!” most times we venture outside.
Little White eyes visit every day chattering at a million miles an hour when the right flowers are out. They sound like a party. For the last two years Rainbow lorikeets have visited the verge garden & their idea of party noise is much louder. This season they come every 3-4 hours. I imagine they circle the neighbourhood visiting known food sources returning after they have given the flowers time to replenish their nectar. It is so much nicer than listening to traffic.
Someone else’s tree planting has attracted an Eastern Koel. These birds migrate all the way from Papua New Guinea every summer. Many people find these birds irritating, but I like the sound of his plaintive call calling for a mate. I don’t find it too hard to go back to sleep after waking at 3am To “Kooel! Kooel!” The only time I had difficulty was when he sat in the street tree that was maybe 8-metres from our bedroom window. I did mutter a bit that night.
One of the lovely things about living in Marrickville is the nightly wave of flying foxes that travel overhead at dusk. I think they are beautiful to watch & especially like watching them from Turrella or from the Cooks River. It’s a peaceful thing to do on a warm evening.
A pair of flying foxes have started to spend time eating from our street – the street trees & the trees in private gardens. Their chattering sounds are quite lovely to hear in the background. Flying foxes are experiencing a food shortage at present resulting in the death of many of their pups, so it is excellent to know that our effort is helping provide food for them.
There are bee hives in the area, which is great for our garden. Bees are in trouble worldwide, so again, it is wonderful to know that we are doing our bit to help them survive just by making choices with what we plant.
We have a huge Salvia, which is totally inappropriate for our small garden, but we keep it because native Blue Banded bees come to feed from the flowers most days in the warmer months. There are other native bees that hover & feed in this plant too.
There are lots of other species of bird that visit now & some are seasonal. I can’t express how much better it is to live with a range of bird song & not just Indian mynas. As an aside, I often read that Indian mynas chase away the native birds. This has not been our experience. The Indian mynas are still here of course, but they are overwhelmed by the sheer number of native birds that come here & that have moved into trees in people’s gardens. The mynas no longer own this territory & they know it, so they quietly go about their own business.
If you want Indian mynas, lay a huge concrete slab driveway or concrete your back yard because they love concrete & bitumen.
If you don’t want Indian mynas, plant a variety of food-producing native plants & trees & before long, the Indian mynas will be overrun by the new kids on the block. You will be too busy noticing the native birds that you won’t see the Indian mynas.
In Part 2 I will write about ideas on improving biodiversity in small gardens & even balconies.
Last December I posted about two new habitat trees in Mackey Park Marrickville next to the Cooks River. See – http://bit.ly/2lvRKKn
The Inner West Council said they had created three new habitat trees, but I was unable to find the third tree. Well I found it. It is one of the poplars close to the Rowers Club on the river side of the shared pathway.
I hope Council plants at least three new trees in this park to make up for the canopy loss of the others. There is room.
Very exciting to see a video of a shark swimming up the Alexandra Canal at Mascot yesterday. Apparently, it headed back to the Cooks River, which is a good thing because the water is awfully shallow where it was.
You can watch the video taken by Simon Dilosa here –
A couple of weeks ago we were cycling around the area. Waiting for a break in the traffic at the corner of Beach & Wardell Roads Dulwich Hill, I looked across & saw people working in what appeared to be a community garden in Gilbert Barry Reserve. A quick agreement between us & off we went to say hello. The people there gave us a lovely welcome & confirmed that this was a community garden. We chatted & were shown around their garden, which to my eyes was a lovely thing.
The Gilbert Barry Reserve was a poorly used & uninviting space until the Inner West Council gave it an overhaul finishing work around July 2016. The concept plan shows they were to remove 6 trees, plant 5 new trees & add three native garden beds.
The logs from trees removed are now lying around the far garden bed providing habitat for ground creatures. I like that Council is doing this as a norm these days, instead of feeding every tree through the wood-chipper.
Rotting logs are a part of the natural ecosystem. Dead wood not only continues to hold carbon, it also continues to be useful to the environment. The process of decay adds nutrients into the soil helping to grow fungi & moss amongst other plants. Small insects & slugs & worms love this environment. Most of us as children have picked up a log & watched the tiny creatures run from the light. I like to think of them as ‘hotels for insects & other creatures.’ Sandstone blocks have been scattered around the garden beds & these too offer a cool moist habitat for little creatures.
A picnic table setting & two other park benches have been installed. The benches are attractive & do not have a barrier in the middle of the bench to stop people lying down, which was great to see. I do not like defensive architecture & unfortunately, it is creeping into our locality.
A water fountain was in the plans, but I do not remember seeing one. I think it will be the first water fountain in the old Marrickville LGA. I think it would be wonderful for all parks to have a fountain to provide water for birds, as well as beauty for people. You can’t have great biodiversity without access to drinking water.
Apparently, a newly planted tree in the centre of the reserve died & is yet to be replaced.
Along the back fence of the reserve a community garden has been formed. A decent sized stretch of land has been set aside for this & lined by sandstone. ‘Gilbert’s Garden’ was formed around 9-months ago by a group of local residents. They have a range of vegetables & herbs growing. Apparently, they had a good harvest last season.
The group meets every second Sunday for a couple of hours. Not everyone comes to every meeting, but there seems to be a core group. They are looking for new members because the more people are, the less work for everyone. Plus, it is fun to meet new people & form new friendships.
We met three lovely members who were very welcoming to both of us. We both knew that invitations to join the community garden were real, not just words thrown out there.
It was pleasant to be there in the late afternoon sun chatting about the benefits of growing food. Other people were in the reserve sitting there reading, while others were watching the activity happening at the garden. From being a drab, empty green space, Gilbert Barry Reserve is now much improved, has beauty & usefulness & most importantly, offers inclusiveness & purpose for the community.
The more these community gardens are allowed to be formed in public spaces the better in my opinion. Despite Sydney getting larger & more populated, loneliness in the community is on the rise. Gardens like this bring people together & break down barriers. They not only help people learn how to grow food, they foster happiness & connection. Getting out in nature & fresh air is good for our health too.
The community garden has a Facebook group called, ‘Gilbert’s Garden.’ If you are interested in joining or would just like to help occasionally, you can contact them here – https://www.facebook.com/groups/1491955174436769/
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
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.
I am posting these photos purely to counterbalance yesterday’s post. Having access to a river makes us a very fortunate community in my opinion. Even better is the waterbirds & other wildlife that we come across when we are lucky. Here is what we saw today during a short bicycle ride.
Last October the Inner West Council posted that they created three new habitat trees in Mackey Park Marrickville South. We walked the whole park, but unfortunately were only able to find two of the trees. The trees we found were between the shared path & the wetland area.
Habitat trees are trees that have caused a safety problem by dropping branches. Rather than removing the tree, the tree is killed by ringbarking. Then the branches are cut open & a cavity created with a chainsaw to create nest boxes & other kinds of hollows.
A large amount of Australian wildlife will not breed if they do not have access to a hollow, so retaining the structure of mature trees is vitally important. See – http://bit.ly/1ASqhzz
Council said they created five nesting boxes in these trees. Three for Red-rumped parrots, one for Gould’s wattled bats (microbats) & one for a Brushtail possum.
They also plan to mulch & landscape with local native plants under & around the trees in the near future. Good one Council.
‘Habitat trees’ are trees that have been killed because they are considered dangerous due to dropping limbs or other issues, but left on site. Their canopy & their branches are removed. The trees are ringbarked & artificial hollows are carved into the remaining wood. Sometimes, nesting boxes are also attached.
The idea is that even though dead, the trees continue to provide habitat for hollow-dependent wildlife. About 350 Australian animals use hollows for either roosting or nesting. It takes around 100-150 years for a tree to even start developing hollows, so our wildlife is at a distinct disadvantage with tree hollows being very scarce across Australia.
I was really pleased to see the changes around the ‘habitat trees’ in Sydney Park. I last wrote about these trees here – http://bit.ly/2fQ9DkG
The area around both trees has been extensively planted making what I consider viable habitat for a range of species, especially small birds. Instead of two highly visible standing dead trees, the City of Sydney Council has surrounded these trees with densely planted living trees, shrubs & understory plants. To me it looks like the bush.
I am not good at estimating distances, but my guess is that it is at least 25-metres of thick bush around the two habitat trees. Already a number of living trees are the same height as the two dead trees. This provides supreme cover & safety for any wildlife who are using the man-made hollows.
I think what has been created here is perfect. Real habitat has been provided for wildlife & we are not left with what could be considered an eye-sore of looking at two heavily pruned dead trees. The trees have blended into the new landscape and are not the only thing ones eyes focus on.
You can sit in comfort at a number of places near this area & watch & listen to the birds making it great for bird photography too.
This morning I went to the Community Open Day celebrating the newly upgraded Alexandra Canal & other works beside Tempe Recreation Reserve.
The event was opened by an indigenous man who said the area was near enough to the meeting point of three indigenous tribes. After a short speech about the Cooks River, he welcomed us to Country.
Then representatives from Sydney Water & the contractor Total Earth Care each gave short talks explaining what they had done with the river bank. They appeared very happy with the outcome & so they should be. It looks excellent.
I asked how long the work on the banks should last & was told it will see us all out. I think it is wonderful that this restoration work will be long-lasting. I am used to seeing work all around the place last a decade if that.
I had other commitments, so was not able to stay for the full program. Unfortunately, I missed what promised to be a very interesting talk about the indigenous history of the area, plus actual exhibits. I also missed a talk & showing of a variety of animals & insects that Taronga Zoo brought to the park, though I did get to see a gorgeous echidna before their talk. It was very windy, so the echidna wanted to burrow in hay & get out of the wind, but I was lucky enough to get a photo of him.
So what is the restoration like & why all the fuss about a river/canal bank? Firstly, the lovely & significant Fig tree that was badly affected by erosion & had many roots submerged in brackish water every time the tide came in is now sitting pretty in thickly mulched soil as it should be. It is now one happy tree.
Had the erosion continued, it is highly likely we would have lost this tree. It has a beautiful bowl-shaped canopy that reaches all the way to the ground – something we don’t see much in this area anymore.
The area between this tree & another large old fig tree on the point has been made into a garden habitat area & lookout with signage that explains the work done, the ecological significance & also the history of this area. I think the signage is excellent, as it may change the culture of many who use this park by encouraging them to respect the park & the river.
I’ve noticed minimal vandalism & littering at Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland & also the bank restoration work in the same area – both major restoration works by Sydney Water. People read the signage & learn how important to the river & the wildlife this work is. The outcome has been negligible rubbish left behind & signs, structures, seating & re-vegetated areas have been mostly left alone & not destroyed or graffitied. I hope the same level of respect happens here in Tempe Recreation Reserve.
From the lookout area you can see right along the curve of the bank with all the new sandstone & slots that hold plants. It looks fabulous.
I had a chat with the contractor & was told that they used 1,742 slabs of sandstone to complete the work. Each slab was hand-cut into eight pieces. These were then laid to form the wall. Each slot in the wall was also hand-cut. To me this is a significant feat. Some of the slots create intertidal block pools – places for small fish, seaweeds, snails, shellfish & small crabs to live. Block pools have also been created above the tideline to cater for any future sea level rise.
When you look at the wall, each slab has its own unique markings. It’s quite attractive. The slope of the wall also allows birds to perch safely away from people. Crabs will benefit too.
The work is much more than saving a significant tree, restoring the bank & building a lookout area. Sydney Water has done re-vegetation work all the way to the bridge over the Alexandra Canal. They created curved garden habitat areas that swing around & encapsulate the fig trees, surrounding them with mulch & plants, therefore protecting them from people. I like this very much.
Many of the trees have repeatedly had bark gouged out by people of all ages intent on engraving their initials. This is a relatively new pastime, starting only a couple of years ago. I’ve seen kids standing at the tree using kitchen knives to cut into the trunk while adults looked on.
Damaging the bark is a very quick was to introduce disease into trees & can bring about their early death, so I am very pleased that the tree trunks are now protected by plantings all around them. The tree canopies are big enough to provide shade on the lawn areas outside of the garden areas, so picnicking people will still be able to access much needed shade.
A range of native plants have been planted & a good number too. It is not stingy planting. It looks good now, so will look terrific once grown.
The work makes this area look maintained & cared for, which also may change the culture of some who use this park for recreation. I imagine it will be harder to leave lots of garbage behind when it is obvious that a lot of work & money has gone into making this a beautiful place. Here is hoping anyway. It would be nice to be able to spend time in this park without feeling upset at the amount of garbage left around or blowing into the river.
All the fences along the canal have been replaced & they are attractive to look at. Fences are needed here to keep people safe because the bank is steep & the drop is dangerous. Fences will also stop people from driving their car to the bank & launching their speedboats into the river at this location.
All in all, Sydney Water & contractor Total Earth Care should feel proud of what they achieved. The community has benefited by this major improvement to our park & the wildlife now have additions that will help improve their life.
Beauty always lifts the spirit, so this work will make people feel happier after time spent here. I also think the work will educate people as to the importance of the river & its ecology. Hopefully, this will spinoff into respectful behavior toward the river & the park environment.
Lastly, Tempe Recreation Reserve is highly visible from the Airport Drive. I am sure many thousands of people look & wonder about this park every day. Now when they are driving past they will get an excellent look at the bank restoration work & instead of seeing a rundown eroded area filled with weeds & junk, they will see beauty. The benefits will flow on further than just the users of the park. To me this is priceless.
A massive thank you to Sydney Water & contractor Total Earth Care from me. You give me hope that one day the Cooks River & the Alexandra Canal will be restored & we will have a healthy river system once again. All work here is worth it many times over.