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On 24th June 2010 I saw an item in the Inner West Courier saying, “A last minute appeal from WIRES has postponed tree surgeons felling trees containing Ibis nests in an Auburn car park.” Harvey Norman, the retail store & owners of the car park, agreed to wait 2 weeks for the fledglings to leave the nest. There was no further information except for a gallery of photos –

http://inner-west-courier.whereilive.com.au/photos/gallery/respite-for-auburn-ibiss/

A Google search failed to find anything further about this story. In today’s issue of the Inner West Courier there is an article saying workers who arrived to chop down 2 palm trees in Harvey Norman’s car park rang WIRES for help when they saw many baby Ibis. Despite care, during the removal, one baby fell from the nest breaking its leg & will have to be euthanized. All up, 9 baby birds were removed from the tree & taken into human care to be raised & then released when they are old enough. Another 12 Ibis will be able to stay a further 2 weeks as was negotiated by WIRES with Harvey Norman retail store Auburn. Page 7 – http://digitaledition.innerwestcourier.com.au/

Fabulous almost cement-free car park in Croyden with a shade tree for every 2 spaces. Rain gets to be absorbed into the ground rather than washing down storm water drains.

Is there something wrong with me? Why remove 2 Palms in a car park? We need trees to at least break up some of the grey infrastructure in a car park.  A car space either side of the 2 Palms could have been made into a garden so that Ibis poo didn’t fall on parked cars. Sure these birds are messy, but I have stood beneath a number of trees located on grass where Ibis nest & there is no mess to speak of.  Concrete is a different matter.

The workers sent to remove these trees & WIRES deserve applause for doing what they could do help these birds.  Thing is, I don’t believe it was necessary for them to go in the first place.  WIRES constantly have to deal with people & organizations who want what they want at the cost of habitat for wildlife & often resulting in the death of wildlife.

That WIRES had to remove 9 chicks from their parents to be reared by humans before being released is pretty sad.  It’s not as though the chicks didn’t have parents. They did, but for the sake of a neat car park that Harvey Norman wanted now, the adult birds had to lose their chicks & the chicks lose their parents.  This would be okay if you believe that only human beings have emotions.

I know people don’t like Ibis, but remember, they migrated to

Ibis eating at low tide at the Cooks River Marrickville

Sydney because of the drought. They had to come because they had nothing to eat or drink.  Could you expect them to do anything different?

Harvey Norman in Auburn caused all this simply for a nice, neat treeless car park.  Cement wins once again.  The time will come in the future where people will respect commercial businesses that make space & create or keep habitat to share with urban wildlife.  Right now, few people probably care, but to me, this whole affair stinks & is cruel. No wonder there was no information to be found on the net.  I wouldn’t imagine that Harvey Norman would really want people to know about this as it may negatively impact on their image.  I thank the Inner West Courier for bringing this issue to the attention of the public & to WIRES & the other workers who did what they could to help these poor birds.

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1. Marrickville Councillors will be voting on a DA soon which will see the demolition of 2 houses built in the 1920’s at 34-36 Piggott St Dulwich Hill, the conversion of the original area manor house built in the early 1880’s as well as the loss of 15 mature trees to build a 3 & 4 storeys development overlooking Hoskins Park.  The local community is rallying to prevent this development. They believe the DA has many negative impacts on the community as well as destroying a green corridor & the green outlook of Hoskins Park.  It is DA 201000022 & can be accessed via Council’s web-site.

2. The Manly Daily reported last week that Warringah Council removed a much-loved palm tree planted on the verge in Forestville without consulting the community. http://manly-daily.whereilive.com.au/news/story/loved-palm-tree-gets-the-chop/ Interestingly, a cross was spray-painted on the tree’s trunk a few days before it

What is the purpose of these symbols?

was chopped down.  I note similar strange rune-like markings sprayed on a couple of the Hills Figs in Carrington Road Marrickville South.  Were these put there by Council?  Are Marrickville Council intending to remove these trees?  I seem to remember 1 Fig tree was agreed to be removed for the new development which has recently commenced.

3. I wrote in the post Tempe Wetlands protest & trees at risk in Tempe that I would try to get further information about the mature trees at risk at the State Rail land in Edgar Street Tempe.  Kerry, a local resident kindly left a comment (see comment roll) saying “I believe they (the trees) are under threat by the 27 townhouse development going in on the land next to the railway line.  An underground car park & water tank retention system is to be built along the boundary line with the railway.  At no stage have these trees been mentioned by the DA or State Rail or Marrickville Council’s tree officer.”

4. Sydney is getting it’s own 5.8 hectare Central Park at the old Carlton & United Brewery site at Broadway. This is a huge boon for the community on may levels & for Sydney’s urban wildlife.    http://www.smh.com.au/national/central-park-off-broadway–thats-sydney-not-manhattan-20100209-notw.html

5. A little old as it was published last November.  Hornsby Council intends to plant tree-lined boulevards with a councilor suggesting council create ‘immediate’ boulevards by planting trees which are already 4-5 metres tall.  Wonderful if it happens & maybe cost effective considering the high loss of saplings Hornsby Council also experience. http://hornsby-advocate.whereilive.com.au/news/story/tree-lined-boulevardes-plan-for-hornsby/

new street trees - hanging baskets & planter box

6.  City of Sydney Council recently planted numerous young trees along Glebe Point Road & some side streets.  They used a porous hard substance to cover larger than average planting holes.  The new street tree planting resulted in instant & significant greening of this already green street.  Because of their size, I doubt they will be vandalized.  It looks terrific.

7. The Star Tribune reported that a woman in Eden Prairie USA took to a tree service worker with a shot-gun to stop him chopping down a tree.  We should never have this kind of action here. http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/homegarden/83607162.html?elr=KArksUUUoDEy3LGDiO7aiU

8. The Home Owners Association in San Diego California will chop down in excess of 200 mature Eucalypts because 1 fell on a house recently. The residents are campaigning to prevent the removal of the trees saying they are prepared to live with the risk.  You can read the story & watch a video which is an interesting look at their urban environment. http://www.760kfmb.com/Global/story.asp?S=11985277

9. World Forestry day is coming up on 21 March 2010.   Many countries plant thousands of trees on this day.  I don’t know as yet whether our Council is participating. The NSW Department of Industry & Investment has a range of activities planned – http://www.dpi.nsw.gov.au/forests/info/escape

10. Lastly, the NSW Department of Climate Change & Water has a great resource about threatened species which may be of interest to those of you are concerned about the Bandicoots at Lewisham. http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/threatenedspecies/index.htm & http://www.environment.nsw.gov.au/Search/QuickSearch.aspx

This post is part of the Festival of the Trees, a blog carnival by tree lovers in celebration of trees & the benefits they bring. This post is about an ordinary tree with an extraordinary impact on urban wildlife.

week old palm fruit

In 1998 I decided that we should have an Alexandra Palm in our back garden.  I chose this tree because we don’t have much space.  Fortunately we have massive street trees in view so they give us the feeling of living amongst trees.

As is usual with everything I plant, the Palm has grown to double the size indicated on its ID tag.  At one stage I worried fearing it may fall on the house in a storm.  This fear went when I watched it barely move during severe winds that damaged some roofs in the area.  Around this time I met a woman who hated Palm trees.  “Why would anyone want a telegraph pole in their garden?”  This is why.

This single tree provides food for around 10 varieties of birds that come for its twice a year supply of food.  The seeds are ‘guarded’ while they are ripening for 2-3 months by many varieties of birds.  In the meantime, they build nests, mate & hatch their eggs.

In winter, this palm & others in the neighbourhood provide a source of much needed food for many varieties of native birds.  The Indian Mynas don’t eat from it often, the native birds come in droves.  They eat in cooperation, big ones with little ones.  There is rarely a fight.

At the summer fruiting the babies are brought to our tree to feed from its prolific fruit.  They leave their babies in the tree for some while to forage for other types of food, knowing they will be safe hidden amongst the spray of berries or high up in the fronds.  Sometimes there can be 2 different species of baby bird left in the tree.  They sit quietly & look at each other.  In winter these babies return as adults knowing there is a guarantee of a good meal.

a native bird eating the ripe Palm seeds

The small birds nibble on the riper seeds, the large birds eat the seed whole.  Then there are the fruit bats that come at night to feed.  I like the whoop, whoop, whoop of their wings beating through the air before they land in the tree.  Sometimes they come in too fast & crash.  Then all you can hear is tiny sounds of rustling while the bats are eating & the occasional seed that drops to the ground. Then whoop, whoop as the bats take flight again.

We get a lot of delight from the visiting wildlife.  The baby birds that sit for great chunks of time in the tree have long & enquiring looks at us.  By the time they return as adults, they show definite recognition of us even going so far to herald their return.  At times the nearby street tree is full of different species of birds checking out how their feast is cooking.  As the seeds ripen, the street tree gets busier.  We both think there are many more birds in our neighbourhood than there was before we planted this tree.

Many of the babies get flying lessons from the Palm to the neighbours’ roof, back & forth, back & forth until suddenly the little one takes off across the road & the parents madly chase it screaming commands.  The command must be to return to the Palm tree because they always do.

I used to worry that the neighbourhood would be inadvertently populated by Palm trees, that the birds would spread the seeds, but this has not happened.  For some reason most of the large birds that eat the seeds excrete the seed sans the meat around the seed within minutes of eating it.  Their digestive system must burn the meat of the seed because a good majority of the seeds that have been eaten land back in our garden.  By the end of the fruiting season, if we don’t remove them, there will be a couple of inches of seeds piled up like mulch around the base of the tree.  They are easy to scoop up & pop into the recycling bin.  A few have sprouted but their root system is not invasive & they can be plucked out with very little effort.

I have been told this is a White-Eye - 10 or more at a time arrive nightly at dusk

I guess for many people Palms would be a nuisance.  Not only do you have to remove the seeds after they have dropped naturally or been excreted by the birds, but there is also the casing of the seed branch, the dried out & empty seed branch which falls twice a year & the fronds which fall as the tree is growing.  The dead fronds can be quite large, but they are light to move & cut up easily with a pair of secateurs.

To us, the work this tree causes is far out-weighed by the increase of birds that have come to live nearby.  We also put in a birdbath in a safe place, so the day is broken up into bath time, meal time, bath time, meal time.  It’s nice for us & like a TV show for our cats who sit enthralled & fixated.

The latest addition to the neighbourhood is a Ring-tail Possum who has come to live in the street tree, within leaping distance from the Palm.  He came as a baby & sat on the fence.  At first we thought he was a rat until we saw his long curled tail.  I have been told possums eat bananas & apples, so it stands to reason he eats Palm fruit.  Clever guy has moved in next to a perpetual meal that lasts for months & happens twice a year.  I no longer worry about this tree nor care about the opinions of Palm tree haters.  It’s not a native tree, but I am convinced that this tree has helped much of the wildlife survive the protracted drought we are having. NOTE:  I have just been told the Alexandra Palm is native to the Queensland rainforest.  See comment by Bob & my reply.

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