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Wetlands purify water & provide food, timber & medicine.  They also regulate climate change by storing CO2.    Nearly 3-million people rely on ground water for drinking.   Unfortunately, half of the world’s wetlands have already been destroyed.   According to Ramsar, continued loss will result in flooding, drought, disease, increased pollution & runaway climate change leading to mass starvation & unprecedented species loss. That’s quite a list.

I discovered this is a beautifully put together 4.18-minute video about the function & importance of wetlands from WetlandCare Australia.  It’s well worth a look.  http://www.facebook.com/video/video.php?v=10150094233867106

 

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Cup and Saucer Creek Wetland

Today is the 40th anniversary of the signing of the ‘Convention on Wetlands of International Importance’ in Ramsar, Iran in 1971.  This year the theme is ‘Wetlands & Forests.’

Australia has 62 wetlands listed as internationally significant under the Ramsar Convention.  There are 1,911 other listed wetland sites around the world.

The East Asian-Australasian Flyway travels from the Arctic to China, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, Singapore & down to Australia. Birds migrate annually up & down this flyway stopping at wetlands along the route.

Unfortunately many of the wetlands along the East Asian-Australasian Flyway are being destroyed by urbanization.  Wetlands are being reclaimed for housing, for farming & many are being drained to irrigate farming land.  Also, many of the trees in the wetlands are being chopped down to make charcoal.  Consequently bird numbers are declining, in some cases dramatically.

Hunting & watersports are also a big problem for the birds. Experts agree there is a need for well-managed bird sanctuaries along the migratory flyways where hunting is prohibited & watersports are limited & controlled.

“The IUCN Red List of threatened species has the following categories –

  • Extinct
  • Extinct in the Wild
  • Critically Endangered
  • Endangered
  • Vulnerable
  • Near Threatened or Least Concern.

Over 40,000 species have been assessed for the Red List, of which more than 16,000 are considered threatened with extinction (Critically Endangered, Endangered or Vulnerable).  In the latest assessment in 2010, 1,240 species are considered threatened with extinction (i.e. in the categories of Critically Endangered, Endangered & Vulnerable). This represents 12.5% of the total of 9,895 extant bird species in the world. An additional 838 species are considered Near Threatened & 4 are Extinct in the Wild, giving a total of 2,082 species that are urgent priorities for conservation action. Of the threatened species, 190 species are considered Critically Endangered & are therefore at extremely high risk of extinction in the wild.” http://www.birdlife.org/index.html

You can follow the migration of 9 Critically Endangered Sociable Lapwings that have been tagged with satellite transmitters, from their breeding grounds in Kazakhstan to their wintering areas in Africa here – http://www.birdlife.org/sociable-lapwing/?utm_source=digitalspring

We have our own little wetland in Tempe that was created by Marrickville Council on what was once a tip.  It’s a gorgeous place that offers habitat for a range of birds, insects & small animals. I made a YouTube video of Tempe Wetlands here – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WaCth6mwPk

Sydney Park has a number of wetland areas with another large pond almost completed. (Shown here in the background). These ponds collect & filter local stormwater. The area is already populated by a range of water birds, including Royal Spoonbills. A year or two ago, a pair of Black Swans came & had chicks

Ibis nesting high up in the trees

We discovered this park a couple of months ago & what a discovery it was.  If you are into nature, a bit of bush, water, birds & walking, this is a great place for a wander.   The sign says it was opened for the bicentenary in 1988. The park is divided into 3 sections known as North, South & East. This post is about East & North Bicentennial Park. We have yet to visit South Bicentennial Park, which looks more of a wild park as it’s part of wetlands. It’s a big place that joins with Scarborough Park, which has its own North, East, South & Central. Scarborough Park Central is more like a regular park with playing fields & a skate park filled with talented kids.

View from one part of the walk

If you wander through the playing fields to the bank of trees, you find yourself entering a bush area filled with trees. Many of the trees are quite substantial in girth & height & must be a few decades old.

A ring of moving water does an oval journey around a couple of islands before it travels to a wetland lake in South Bicentennial Park on the other side of President Avenue.  The islands are filled with natural bush & trees. Many of the trees have Ibis nests high up in the branches with families of Ibis perching. It’s quite a sight.

The sound from baby birds trilling, as only Ibis do, was lovely.  There were also wild ducks & geese when we were there.  The path around the islands & to the pedestrian bridge is a wide path of mown grass, no concrete anywhere, which feels like a luxury these days.

Bridge over the water near the car park

It’s safe with enough people with dogs walking around to know that someone would hear you if you needed help, yet you are far enough away from the traffic & the sight of buildings to feel you are anywhere other than in the Inner South East of Sydney. The terrain is mostly flat, suitable for a pram, but not a wheelchair. However, there is a car park near the water & a pedestrian bridge that is suitable for a wheelchair.

It’s a fabulous place for a walk or a picnic as there are plenty of shady places to lay a blanket & watch the birds & other wildlife. There are also plenty of places for the kids to have a run or explore.  The skate park is part of Scarborough Park. When we were there it was filled with kids & I watched while they took turns allowing the little less experienced or younger children have a go before they did their runs & leaps into the air.

Another view along the path

Rockdale Council has done a very great thing with this group of parks.  They have ensured that there is something for everyone whilst protecting areas purely for wildlife habitat.  The map shows they have protected & worked on a significant wildlife corridor that is perfect habitat for water birds.  I think they should be commended for this. In the past the area would have been drained, filled in & housing built on it or the park would have been made accessible for people from corner to corner with the wildlife having to make do. That this area has been made a wildlife sanctuary is a wonderful thing.  We loved the place & will go again because there is a lot to see.

 

Swale at the bottom of Hill Street Marrickville South

Something is definitely happening with the birds. Two weeks ago, my neighbour’s front garden & the street tree were suddenly filled with tiny birds twittering up a storm.  It was like the whole population of another suburb visited & came all at once. The bird song was deafening, like I was standing in a forest.  This has happened a couple of times since with what appeared to be the same species of bird.  Then the Ravens came, about 20 of them & they all had something to say.

This morning I dashed outside when I heard screeches.  Looking up I swear I saw around 30 eagles flying overhead, & no, I was not drunk or on drugs. The eagles were flying relatively low so I got a good look at them.  They are very big birds with a massive wingspan.  All the other birds went silent & those eating from the Grevilleas got down low in the bushes as fast as they could.  It was very quiet for a few minutes after the eagles flew away.  Even our cats were terrified.

Has anyone else seen eagles in the Inner West before or in the suburbs?  I remember seeing an eagle in Kurrajong Heights when I was

a kid, but none flying free since then.

So why did they come?  What is happening to the birds lately?  I feel like I am a shaman witnessing some kind of

New swale at the bottom of Wallace Street Marrickville South

omen.  I just hope it amounts to nothing more than the natural behaviour of birds that I haven’t noticed before. A flock of eagles has got to be unusual though.

I had been meaning to post about other works done by Marrickville Council recently.  A small garden island on Illawarra Road Marrickville  South was looking stunning until a few plants got pinched.  It still looks good, but I doubt the holes will be filled in.  The swale on the corner of Hill Street & Illawarra Road has filled in with all the plants growing well.  We also found another swale that looks like a recent construction at the corner of Illawarra Road & Wallace Street.

Both these sites are at the bottom of steep hills where stormwater will rush before hitting the flat area of Steele Park & then into the Cooks River.  I guess the planned wetlands for Steele Park will capture the water that passes through these swales doing the job of conditioning the water before it actually enters the Cooks River.

I hadn’t heard of swales until last year. Now they are popping up in a few areas near & along the banks of the Cooks River.

Garden island planting on Illawarra Rd Marrickville South

They may also be in a few other places in the LGA that I don’t know about.

I think swales are terrific.  To my uneducated mind, they seem to create a mini environment perfect for frogs & a place where birds can often find a drink.  If swales are taken up as the norm across our city, it will be fabulous.  For 200 years, everything has just washed into drains & the harbour, the nearest river or the ocean.  Not only is it a dreadful waste of water, the water itself is generally unclean & filled with garbage & whatever it picks up as it travels along hard surfaces.

The swale built by Marrickville Bushpockets near the curve of the railway line on Victoria Road Marrickville is really coming along well.  This area is not a park, yet it is a very pleasant place to sit for a while.  It used to be a weedy area popular for dumping rubbish.  I am looking forward to spring to see the Wattle & other trees flower.

Just metres away Marrickville Council has planted a Gymea Lily in a

garden island with a sentinel rock.  Behind this is one of my favourite non-park green spaces.

NSW State Rail land Victoria Road Marrickville. The arrow is a separate access road. The area surrounded in red is the unused land. In the foreground is part of the swale showing native grasses.

The area directly across the road from the Victoria Road swale is owned by NSW State Rail & is usually waist-high in weeds.  It’s quite a substantial triangular area that I thought could be used for a community garden until someone spoke about the possibility of long-forgotten toxins in the ground & I couldn’t solve the problem of the lack of access to water.

State Rail mowed it recently allowing me to get a good look at the size of the land.  It is actually a perfect space to create a mini urban forest without limiting utilityvehicles accessing the rail property.  If this area was

Section of young plants growing around the Victoria Road Swale

planted with a few trees & under-planting, it would look so much better as well as providing an area of scarce habitat & food for birds & other wildlife.  I will write to State Rail about this space.  Perhaps they will like the idea & something beneficial can be created in this space.

Tonight I learnt that almost 40% of Rome is actual farming land.   I couldn’t imagine the Roman people leaving this area bare, even if only to make the area beautiful simply for the sake of it.

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