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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.

Bat box built especially to house microbats.

New research published 28th July 2017 titled, ‘Bat boxes are not a silver bullet conservation tool’ is a bit alarming when it comes to the future of urban bats.  They are losing habitat at a rapid rate.  Trees with hollows are scarce enough as it is, but all run the risk of being removed by development.  Many of us think, myself included until recently, that providing a bat house will help.  However, this research has found the opposite is the reality.

The abstract says, a long-term bat-box monitoring project in south-eastern Australia, box occupancy was dominated by one common and widespread urban-adapted species, Gould’s wattled bat Chalinolobus gouldii.   In contrast, the 13 other bat species in the area made little or no use of the boxes.  Policymakers, land managers and conservation professionals working in the field of biodiversity offsets should be aware that bat boxes are unlikely to compensate adequately for the broad-scale loss of tree hollows caused by various forms of human disturbance.”  See – http://bit.ly/2hlXNRj  

Just one more reason why we must do our best to save trees, especially older trees.  The information on the time it takes for a tree to develop hollows ranges from 100-150 years.  Until recently, most articles I read stated that 150-years was the average time a tree takes to produce a hollow.  The difficulty of achieving this is obvious.  If there is no suitable hollow, there is no breeding.

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.  

One of two new Sydney red gums. The shade from these two trees, once they have grown, is expected to cover “at least three-quarters of the car park.”  

This area is permeable paving, yet people can walk on it without experiencing problems or noticing a difference.

I was impressed when I read that the Inner West Council had planted two advanced size Sydney Red Gums (Angophora costata) at the Garners Avenue car park in Marrickville as part of an upgrade.

Council Administrator Mr Pearson said in Council’s Press Release, “When mature, these trees will provide canopy cover to at least three-quarters of the carpark.  So, instead of the usual unshaded bitumen and concrete which would increase the inner west’s ‘urban heat island effect,’ we are actually contributing shade, cooler ambient air temperatures, and improved urban air quality.”  

Council’s Press Release makes mention that shade not only increases amenity, but also increases “the serviceable life of the bitumen by up to 30%.”   

The trees were planted in structural vaults, which on the surface look like business as usual, but are actually purpose built to provide optimum living conditions for a tree planted in unnatural conditions.

The surface is covered by permeable paving allowing rainwater to get to the tree.  Below ground, the area for the tree to grow has been prepared by placing good-quality soil in structural cells across a large area.  The structural cells provide room for the roots to grow, but also encourages them to grow in preferred directions.

Better soil, access to water & room to spread allows the tree grow to maturity.   This technique is light years better than digging a hole in the pavement & planting a tree.  It is well worth the money Council needs to spend on this planting style.

Council’s Press Release (http://bit.ly/2qwAt49 ) made many favourable statements regarding public trees.  It appears we can expect to see a positive change in our urban forest.

“Trees usually come second to infrastructure such as footpaths, roads and car parks. But Inner West Council is determined to turn this thinking around.”

I visited the Garners Street carpark & saw the two Sydney red gums.  They look great.  The flowers from these trees will provide food for bees, butterflies & nectar-eating birds.

I was also impressed to see three new Banksias planted in a small garden area toward the back of the car park.

Two other good sized Diamond leaf pittosporum (Auranticarpa rhombifolia) growing on the other side are festooned with orange berries at present.  These are Australian native rainforest trees & their orange berries attract fruit-eating birds.

The addition of Australian native trees that can grow to a significant size is a big & positive change from the current Purple Leaf Ornamental Plum (Prunus nigra) & Evergreen ash (Fraxinus griffithii) planted at the front of the car park.

I like what Inner West Council have done here.  Give the trees a few years to grow & the difference will be noticeable.  The more Council can plant decent sized native trees in areas traditionally covered with concrete & bitumen the better.  Changes like this will have positive impacts on the livability of our area.   I thank Council for doing this work.

New planting of three Banksias and other plants.

Diamond Leaf pittosporums looking great with all those orange berries.

Garners Street car park Marrickville as it looks from the street.

 

5 year old photo of one of the ponds in Tempe Lands. It will give you an idea of the beauty of this place.

I read a tweet about Tempe Birdos saying something like they were celebrating after the 110th bird species spotted at the Tempe Lands.  How terrific is this.

Tempe Lands is a series of three ponds surrounded by walking tracks, trees & vegetation.   The ponds collect storm water & filter it before it goes to the Alexandria Canal & then to the Cooks River.

Prior to a $17-million remediation by Marrickville Council that was completed in 2006, this area was a landfill tip.  Now it is a thriving area of habitat & a very nice place to have a walk.  I think it is the most natural green space we have in the former Marrickville municipality, so no wonder the birds come here.  I also think it would be a nice surprise to anyone who has not visited this place before.

Tempe Lands is situated directly beside Tempe Recreation Reserve & can be accessed via South Street Tempe.   It extends all the way to Smith Street Tempe.

The community group Tempe Birdos meet at the Tempe Lands every month to do a bird count survey.  They have been meeting & counting birds since 2011.  They welcome new members to join them on their bird surveys, which start at 8am.  For more information Tempe Birdos can be contacted on Facebook here – https://www.facebook.com/TempeBirdos/

Congratulations Tempe Birdos.  110 bird species seen made me feel very happy.

 

Click to enlarge.  Cartoon by Christopher Wilcox shared with thanks 🙂

Christopher Wilcox – https://www.facebook.com/christopher.wilcox.585

Rainbow Lorikeet

Rainbow Lorikeet drinking nectar 

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.

Screenshot from video taken by Simon Dilosa

Screenshot from video taken by Simon Dilosa

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 –

https://www.facebook.com/dorsalaus/?hc_ref=PAGES_TIMELINE&fref=nf

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