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The moment of eye contact

Now I turn around and show you my back.

I ride up & down the Cooks River often & I am always on the lookout for birds. So, it was with great delight that I watched what I thought was a darter doing a magnificent display in the middle of the river.

It appeared to be washing.  Once the bird realised that it was being watched it became more demonstrative literally heaving itself out of the water, using its tail feather like a rudder & flapping its massive wings.    It did a range of movements for approximately 3-minutes.  Once it finished, it lifted itself out of the water & flew downriver.

Once home I got to have a closer look at my photographs & decided it looked more like a great cormorant than a darter.  An ornithologist friend confirmed my identification.

I am sure others have seen great cormorants on the river, but for us, this was a first-time sighting.

The great cormorant is an excellent swimmer.  It chases fish by propelling itself underwater with its feet  & holding its wings close to its body.  It can stay underwater for up to one minute.

The more we take care of the river, the more we are rewarded with sights like this.

Getting ready

I am about to stand up

A bad photo unfortunately. Those wings were beating fast. Look at the strength to rise up out of the water like this.

And here I come down into the water again. Look at those beautiful wings.

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The new area.  This and the photo below shows the whole site.

Sometime during winter the Inner West Council – Marrickville cleared the grass below & around their latest ‘habitat trees’ in Mackey Park.  The cordoned off area lay there for a few weeks until it was covered with wood chip.  About a fortnight ago I noticed that the area had been planted with small plants like native grasses.   The more areas that support wildlife the better in my opinion.

Hopefully it fills out.

Ibis work for free aerating the park lawns & playing fields. I think they are a lovely sight down along the Cooks River.

Once again we have an opportunity to help the Office of Environment & Heritage know how many Australian White Ibis we have in Australia & where they are located.

Many people dislike Ibis & call them Bin Chickens because they are often seen picking through garbage.   The truth is that they do have a particular like of your leftovers, particularly takeaway food items.  However, if the Ibis could buy fresh items of takeaway they would.  Instead they are forced to try to reduce landfill or deal with your eatable litter.

They are environmental refugees & because of this, I believe they deserve more tolerance from the community. 

Prior to 1970 they lived in the inland lakes & rivers of NSW.  But tragedy happened with a long persistent drought drying up these places of fresh water.  Then bushfires claimed the large trees they nested in.

So, what does anyone do when their home becomes inhabitable?  They move.  The Ibis flew to the coast & what they found was a life of luxury & easy pickings because humans eat a lot, & throw tons of tasty food away – be it in landfill or in the park.  An Ibis is not concerned with poking about in a bin.  If there is a bit of hamburger down there, he/she wants it.

I often read comments in media & social media about how Ibis terrorize people for food.  Truly, they are not violent birds.  All you need to do is wave your hands or stand up or clap & the Ibis will run away from you as fast as their long skinny pink legs can carry them.  Their long black beak may look intimidating, but it is not a natural behaviour for them to try & poke out the eyes of a human being.  Even when they are being rescued they are desperate to  get away from the person who is trying to remove string or fishing line from their legs or toes.  They are terrified of being too close.

Yes, they stink sometimes, but if they have access to deep enough water they will line up for a chance to have a good long wash.  We also stink if we don’t wash.

They are intelligent, loyal & friendly birds.  If you have been kind to them, they will remember you.  They move around a lot & have been seen all the way down in Victoria & as far as Papua New Guinea.

Probably the biggest misunderstanding I hear often is that they are an exotic species & should go back to Egypt.  They are in fact an Australian native bird.  Egypt has their own Ibis species.

Environment NSW are asking the community to report sightings of Ibis, especially those birds that are wing tagged or have a leg band.  They want to know the numbers of the tags or bands, how many Ibis there are & their behavior.

You can download a free Apple app here – https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/wingtags/id1179274045?mt=8

Or for Android here – https://play.google.com/store/apps/details?id=air.au.gov.nsw.rbgsyd.wingtags&hl=en

Or you can go directly to the website here – http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/surveys/WhiteIbisSurvey.htm

The survey happens during Bird Week from Saturday 21st to Sunday 29th October 2017.

Seen in Gough Whitlam Park 2-3 months ago. WIRES were contacted. Unfortunately Ibis often get their legs & toes entangled in string (even the string from discarded tea bags), fishing line, balloon cords & any kind of cord left in the parks or waterways. Imagine tying something really tight around your toe. You can’t get it off. It causes you horrendous pain for months until either you die from infection or your toe drops off — and you might still die from infection. This is a routine experience for Ibis & other birds, so please do not take or leave these kind of things in the park. TY

The palm trunk above the Marrickville Golf Course Club House is the new home of a pair of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos.  The white dot is a cockatoo.

Squee! Here I am!

I watched the decline & eventual death of an old palm tree behind the Marrickville Golf Course Club House with some sadness.  Trees like this don’t get replanted in my experience.

Recently, I saw something happening at this tree that delighted me.

What is left is the trunk, which is quite tall.  A pair of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos saw this trunk as an ideal home.  I presume they made a new hollow or modified a hollow that was starting to form with the shedding of the fronds.  Whatever way it happened, it is now a perfect hollow with a balcony & a clear view of the Cooks River & we all know the power of water views.

Behind the trunk is a large mature fig tree providing them a safe place to survey the area for any danger before entering the hollow.

In true Cockatoo style, once they realised they had my attention, the pair posed & acted out for my camera until I had enough & moved on.  They seem very proud of themselves.

Even though this tree is dead, it is an incredibly important asset in the Cooks River Biodiversity Corridor.  Trees with hollows are rare in the area, so every attempt must be given to retain this trunk.  It should not be removed to “clean up the area” or similar.

Sulphur-crested Cockatoos nest in tree hollows.  Once they find a suitable hollow they stay there indefinitely.   The chicks they rear will remain with the parents as a family unit.

So, for me, discovering this hollow made up for the loss of yet another tree.  Hopefully, a new palm will be planted behind the Club House.  In the meantime, people who are aware of this pair, can have an occasional look to see if they can spot them & any chicks they are rearing.

To my mind, the Club House has been blessed with some mascots to screech & cavort above them.  What fun!

A great home with a big fig tree behind and the river in front.

National Tree Day site in Steel Park Marrickville South. All that is wood chip is the new area that was planted today. It joins last year’s site to create a continuous corridor along the river in this area.

This afternoon we went down to Steel Park Marrickville South to have a look at Inner West Council’s National Tree Day site.  I had looked at the site earlier & noticed just how big the area to be planted is in comparison to previous years.  Inner West Council decided to convert a significant area into habitat for wildlife at this location &  I think this is excellent.

Three new trees were planted –

  • Two Swamp mahoganies (Eucalyptus robusta), an Australian native that can reach up to 30-metres in height. It can live for at least 200-years.  I find exciting to have such long-lived trees planted in a park where it has a decent opportunity to reach such an age.  Fingers crossed anyway.   It flowers well in spring & summer & offers food for birds & other nectar-eating wildlife.  Christmas beetles like to eat the leaves, so hopefully we will see some of these at Steel Park.
  • One Prickly-leaved paperbark (Melaleuca styphelioides) – also an Australian native. This is a medium-sized tree that reaches between 5-11 metres in height.   It has a dense, rounded canopy with drooping branchlets & produces cream or white cylindrical bottlebrush-like flowers in summer.  It likes to grow along stream banks or other moist situations, so good for this location.

Everyone who planted today have done the whole community a service & I thank them.   It is excellent to see more places along the river that are for wildlife only & I personally, think that looking at bushy areas is far more interesting than great expanses of lawn.  The birds will come, which adds a further layer of enjoyment to users of the park.

A closer look. Each dark patch is where something was planted.

The 3 trees that were planted.  Swamp mahogany in the foreground, the Melaleuca in the middle and another Swamp mahogany in the background.  

Nesting box along the Cooks River in Earlwood.

$200,000 was spent trying to protect wildlife impacted by the Southern Hume Highway Duplication project in Southern NSW.  See – http://ab.co/2uDf9fl

587 nesting boxes were installed to replace the 587 trees with natural hollows that were felled as part of major tree clearing between Holbrook and Coolac to build the highway.  The nesting boxes were to help the Superb parrot, the Brown treecreeper & the squirrel glider deemed threatened or in need of assistance.

NSW Roads and Maritime Services commissioned the nesting boxes, as well as a 4-year follow-up study to see whether the boxes were being used.  The boxes were checked 3,000 times over the four years.

The follow-up study found the project had failed.

“There will be some populations of these species that basically won’t do well now because they won’t have the nesting resources and they won’t have those resources for the next 200 to 300 years.  We need to make sure we don’t make those mistakes again.” ~ Professor David Lindenmayer, Australian National University Canberra.

Trees take between 80-150 years to develop hollows, so changes in tree management is needed if hollow-dependent wildlife are to survive.  We cannot feel confident that nesting boxes can be offered as a substitute for a natural tree hollow.

No hollow means no breeding.  No breeding leads to extinction.

The 2017 National Tree Day site in Steel Park is being prepared with mulch. It is a large area, approximately 50-metres long.  It will join up with last year’s planting site.  

National Tree Day is happening on Sunday 30th July 2017.  Inner West Council (Marrickville) is inviting the community to help add to the environmental work done in Steel Park at last year’s National Tree Day site.

A large area of lawn was removed & the area planted with native plants & trees.   Council wants to create connected areas of habitat along the river for wildlife to live & forage for food & this is a very good thing.

PLANTING –

WHEN:          Sunday 30th July 2017.

WHERE:        Steel Park Illawarra Road Marrickville beside the shared pathway along the Cooks River east of the children’s playground.

TIME:             10am – noon.

BRING:          Refillable water bottle & a hat.   Council will provide gloves, tools, watering cans/buckets, drinking water & refreshments.

FREE TREE GIVEAWAY –

Council will also be giving away free trees to increase the urban forest canopy.  The trees will be advanced sized stock (25 litre bags/300mm pots), so you will need to have the means to get the tree home & have room for it to grow in your garden.

Conditions to be eligible for a free tree are –

  • One tree per household. You will need to provide proof of address (Council rates notice or Drivers Licence).
  • Residents must obtain the necessary approvals for selecting the trees and the planting locations within the property boundary. We suggest you investigate where best to plant the tree to minimise any risks to property or people.
  • Inner West Council makes its best endeavours to provide a healthy tree with average growth height information, but makes no warranties concerning the tree.” – from Inner West Council’s website – link below.

The tree species available are all natives & all provide food for wildlife –

  • Lilly Pilly Acmena smithii ‘Red Tip Form’
  • Coast Banksia Banksia integrifolia
  • Bella Donna Brachychiton populneus x acerifolius
  • ‘Dawson River Weeper’ Callistemon viminalis
  • NSW Christmas Bush Ceratopetalum gummiferum
  • Riberry Syzygium luehmannii

Council staff will be available to talk you about tree choice & how to care for it, but you can download information about the trees & their growth expectations here – http://bit.ly/2urXzdS

WHEN:          Sunday 30th July 2017.

WHERE:  The free trees can be collected from the southern carpark of the Debbie and Abbey Borgia Centre, entrance off Illawarra Road Marrickville.

TIME:             10am – noon.

BRING:          The trees are “advanced size,” so you will need a suitable vehicle to take your tree home.

There is also a planting event happening at Wilkins Green in Wilkins High School in Marrickville. 

“For National Tree Day, our goal is to plant out the ridgeline, which borders the western side of the Green, with native species, further increasing biodiversity for the whole of the Marrickville area and creating a wildlife corridor, or sanctuary, for native Australian fauna, who will find food and shelter within the Green.  Our long term goal is to create a native Bush Land which is self-sustaining, home to wildlife and a showcase to the wider community of what is possible in the urban landscape.”  How great is that!

WHEN:          Sunday 30th July 2017.

WHERE:        Wilkins Green, in Wilkins High School, corner of Livingstone & Sydneham Roads Marrickville.  Parking is available inside the school through the gate on Sydneham Road or street parking is available.

TIME:             10:00am – 2:00pm

BRING:          They ask that you wear closed toes shoes & bring gloves if you have them.  They also request that you can bring a plate of food to share afterward, as there will be a barbeque.  Refreshments will be supplied.

Many of us have got used to Sydney Park being a National Tree Day site, but it will not be this year.  Instead the main Planet Ark National Tree Day site will be with the City of Parramatta at Third Settlement Reserve in Winston Hills.  Costa the Gnome & Dirtgirl will be there, as well as all the other activities we have seen at Sydney Park over the last few years.  Over 10,000 trees, shrubs & groundcovers will be planted along the creek line in Third Settlement Reserve, which is pretty impressive.

If you are not in the Inner West on National Tree Day or you are interested in traveling to another site, there are plenty of places holding planting events.  They can be found here – http://treeday.planetark.org/find-a-site/search.cfm

A section of last years National Tree Day planting. Photo taken two days ago.  

What was a garden island in lawn is now part of a whole re-vegetated area for wildlife.  The shorter plants were planted last National Tree Day.  Photo taken two days ago.

Marrickville Golf Course

Inner West Council has given notice that they intend to remove & work on trees located in Marrickville Golf Course.

Council says it plans to do the following –

  • “Tree removal– includes the removal of several dead trees or trees present significant defects and/or structural issues.
  • The creation of habitat trees– where trees are reduced down to safe limbs and boxes and hollows are created for use by native fauna.
  • Tree pruning– to remove defective or dead branches to reduce risk.”

Council do not give the location or number of trees to be removed.  We should be told about each individual tree & why they must be removed.

Nor do they give the number & location of trees they intend to prune or those they intend to make into Habitat Trees.    Council goes on to say that –

“All trees to be removed will be replaced (and more) as part of a planting program to be developed in collaboration with Council, Marrickville Golf Course and the community.”

Again, Council does not tell the community how many new trees will be planted or what species.

This is not something I understand.  I think it is in Council’s interest to tell the community how many trees they will plant because this is positive information that makes people who care about the local environment happy.  If Council had informed the community that they planned to plant 15 new native trees for example, everyone would feel happy about it, which is good for Council.

It is called transparency.  It is their duty.  Open & full communication is the only thing that instills trust in the community for what its government does.   You can’t have words about believing in open government & consultation, but fail to inform your community.

On a positive note, I think it is wonderful that more habitat trees are being created, especially in this important biodiversity corridor along the Cooks River.   I also think it is great that more trees will be planted.  The golf course has plenty of room for more trees.

Strange split pole with a nesting hollow attached on the side. I shall be interested to see how this progresses.

Last weekend we came across something very interesting at Tempe Recreation Reserve.  A very tall power pole has been installed in the small hill next to the 2015 National Tree Day site.  Half way up the pole a man-made tree hollow has been attached.

The pole itself has three splits down its length to around half a metre from the ground.  Other people walking in the park joined us to discuss the mystery of the pole.  Was it an accident, was the pole meant to be split like this perhaps to offer shelter for microbats or had it been hit by lightning?

We decided lightning was out because there had not been a storm in the previous week when they said the pole had been installed. The conversation roamed to microbats because they like to sleep in crevices.  The wind was making the sections of the pole move, which I thought  might squash any sleeping bats, but I am not an expert of microbat habitat.

I could imagine a pole with several of these man-made tree hollows attached at various heights along the pole.  High-rise totem pole housing for wildlife & with superb water views.   You have got to love that.

Red-rumped parrots can often be seen in Tempe Reserve & these birds need tree hollows or nesting boxes to breed.  Perhaps they will move in.

It is sad that so many trees have been removed in our cities, especially older trees that have hollows, but I am pleased that Inner West Council is concentrating on this issue of hollows for wildlife & exploring creative options.  There is no doubt this pole is creative housing for wildlife.

Last month I spotted a family of Australian Wood ducks wandering along the riverbank at the Marrickville Golf Course.  This was the first time I have seen Australian Wood ducks along the Cooks River.   These ducks breed in tree hollows.  Once the fledglings are ready to leave the nest, their parent leaves & the chicks, one by one, take a death defying leap to the ground.

You may have seen videos of this, but if you haven’t, this short video of wood ducks leaving the hollow is worth watching.  I flinch watching these brave little balls of fluff tumbling through the air to bounce on the ground below.  It’s a big start to life.      See – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JkBSkFyUyv0

Australian Wood ducks walking along the Cooks River in Marrickville Golf Course.  There are another three ducks not included in this photo.  

A section of Landing Lights Wetland.

The internationally significant Landing Lights wetland is currently threatened by development, even though it is Crown Land.  I wrote about the threat to the this very important wetland here – http://bit.ly/2jey4Xi

Bayside Council says, “To celebrate the completion of the Federal Government grant for Landing Lights Bayside Council will be hosting a community planting day.  This is a great opportunity to be part of the improvement of the biodiversity of the wetlands, by helping put some plants along the boardwalk “to create more native habitat & protect the salt marsh community.”

WHEN:          Friday 2nd June 2017

TIME:             10am – noon.
WHERE:        Landing Lights Wetland – enter from West Botany Street opposite Spring Street Banksia.
Wear appropriate clothing & shoes & bring drinking water.   Phone 9562 1703 for more information.

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