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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 – http://www.greenway.org.au/index.php?option=com_eventlist&view=eventlist&Itemid=107

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

One of the 3 ponds with sandstone pillars for the birds & the turtles

Today was the grand opening of the Cup & Saucer Creek Wetland in Canterbury.  We missed the official opening & the speeches, but apparently a good crowd of more than 100 people attended.

Sydney Water in co-operation with Canterbury Council have done something very special by creating a wetland from scratch. Despite its pretty name Cup & Saucer Creek is a concrete drain. It leads directly into the Cooks River taking with it anything & everything picked up in the local stormwater drains.

With the new wetland system, stormwater that comes down Cup & Saucer Creek gets diverted by a weir & taken into the first of 3 ponds.  Plants filter the water before it flows into 2 smaller ponds.  From these ponds, the water filters through the ground into the Cooks River or when it is really full, enters the lower end of Cup & Saucer Creek through an overflow system & then into the Cooks River.

30,000 plants (grasses & shrubs) have already been planted in the heavily mulched area with a further 10,000 water plants to be planted in the ponds soon. Around 30 Eucalypts, Turpentine & Angophoras have also been planted. Let’s hope they all survive.  One thing about Canterbury  Council that I like is that they do plant trees species that grow large & they don’t only rely on Casuarinas with a terrific selection of large trees along their section of the Cooks River parklands.

The storm water is diverted from Cup & Saucer Creek into the wetlands, then out into the lower section of Cup & Saucer Creek & then into the Cooks River

They also put down permeable paths. The only bit of cement I could see on the whole site was a little bit used to cement the sandstone seats together.

Elements such as sandstone blocks sticking out from the pond water appear Zen-like, but actually were installed for birds to perch & for the Sydney Long-necked Turtle to bask in the sun.  I didn’t know the Cooks River had turtles.  Apparently the turtles have trouble getting out of some sections of the river because of the steel & wooden purpose-built banks. So, this area will provide a safe habitat for them. Frogs, birds & other animals/insects will also benefit.  It’s like high-class housing for urban wildlife.

Right now the wetland is in its infancy, but it still looks beautiful. In 3-6 months time it will look very different as the grass & the plants will have grown. In 2 years it will look stunning.

Stream Watch will be collecting samples first from Cup & Saucer Creek & then from the end process of filtration to check on water quality & the efficiency of the wetlands. It will not only be a fantastic natural intervention to clean up stormwater pollution before it enters the Cooks River, but it will also do much to improve the water-quality of the river itself.  Imagine if all the councils along the Cooks River created wetlands like these. In time the river would become swimmable & that would be a great gift to leave our grandchildren & the urban wildlife of the future. A pelican was sunning on a sandbar in the river while we were there & everyone admired him.

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