Thursday, 13 June 2013

Operation WOW...Watching Our Wildlife.

  Australian wildlife is becoming increasingly threatened due to loss of habitat, in fact this country has the highest extinction rate in the world! Most people are unaware of the amazing biodiversity that still exists-even in our suburbs, because many species are nocturnal and hard to observe.  Volunteers working to restore the Mermaid Pool (and its bushland surrounds) at Manly Vale in Sydney, have come up with a solution. They are producing nesting boxes with inbuilt cameras which will provide homes for wildlife (acting as surrogate tree hollows) and help provide the community with knowledge of their local species. 

 The nesting boxes will be located in areas of remnant bushland and some will be donated to nearby schools and businesses. Vision from inside the boxes will be transmitted live via the internet, using high tech telemetry, to provide an amazing educational and conservation tool.

  The impact will be to not only boost the breeding capability for possums, birds and micro bats but also give local residents and students an amazing insight into the wildlife that exists in their area. With more knowledge and empathy will, hopefully, come a desire to help protect wildlife and habitat. Biodiversity is disappearing around the globe and city dwellers often don't care because they have become estranged from the beauty of is a wonderful opportunity to get the urban population to reconnect! The local volunteer environment group (Save Manly Dam Catchment Committee) is overseeing this project and specialist nesting boxes are being made by retired volunteers at the "Men's Shed".   
  IT expert, Paul, is putting the technical aspects of the project together:- Based on the Raspberry Pi single-board-computer and the new Raspberry Pi micro camera, video and images will be shared via the world wide web. This will include real time views of the site and activities within the new nesting boxes. Nesting box in addition to a Raspberry Pi computer will be connected to a Mesh wireless network which connects to the internet. Additionally each box will be powered by a dry-cell battery that is charged via photo voltaic solar collectors. As many of the residents are nocturnal, they will illuminated their nesting boxes with infra Red which the cameras pick will up as monochrome images.

The nesting boxes will be delivered to the Mermaid Pool at 12 noon on June 22nd 2013. Meet outside the UNSW Water Laboratory gates, Western corner of King St, Manly Vale.  Martyn Robinson from the Australian Museum will also be on hand to talk about local ecology.
An orphaned Ringtail Possum

Monday, 10 June 2013

Purple Menace Threatens Sydney.

  It’s been said that if our great city hadn’t been plonked on top of Farm Cove, the Sydney environs could have become Australia’s most spectacular National Park.  After all, our region contains over 2,000 native plant species, many more than in the entire U.K. So, here’s my exasperated gripe.  Since Cook first landed, we’ve been decimating the natural vegetation at warp speed. Walk down any suburban street and, chances are, you’ll find not one blade of remnant native grass. 

 To add insult to injury, people still plant harmful species such as Privet and Honeysuckle which escape from gardens and end up as bushland weeds.  Some deluded individuals even book into cruises to view the superficially attractive Jacarandas- a South American tree that is inexorably replacing the majestic Eucalypts and Angophoras around Sydney Harbour. Sadly, Jacarandas have become ubiquitous from Avalon to Zetland (and everywhere in between). In South Africa’s Pretoria, they’ve “wised up”. The “Jacaranda City” (featuring 55,000 such trees) has now classified these purple pests as an “invasive alien plant” due to its destructive root system and thirst for water. BBC clip on pesky Jacarandas

  You can tell I’m not a fan of Jacarandas but don’t get me started on Agapanthus...another introduced purple pollutant that seems to be the unimaginative “plant of choice” for McMansion owners everywhere. If the odd native seedling does appear in the occasional garden, chances are it is not an indigenous species but a hybridised product of the horticulture industry with a name such as “coconut ice” or “peaches and cream”. It’s these kinds of cultivars that provide an unnatural, but bountiful, food supply for Noisy Miners, identified as being the world’s most aggressive territorial bird. They’ve chased virtually every other avian species out of town!

 Tim Low in his book “Feral Future” argues that gardening has done more to harm Australia’s environment than mining. It has certainly contributed greatly to the introduction of the more than 2,700 weed species which have become established in Australia at a cost to the economy of over $3 billion p.a. In NSW weeds now make up a massive 21 per cent of the state’s total flora. 

 Even many local Councils are complicit in the “genocide” of native species, especially in our streetscapes. Why would they want to plant locally endemic Banksias when they could choose, hay fever inducing, London Plane Trees or American Liquidambars with invasive roots?  It doesn’t help when professional garden “experts” spruik foreign plants and chemical sprays for a dubious living. The original Sydney flora is diverse, beautiful, climatically hardy, needs no fertilizers or pesticides and supports our wildlife.  To plant these purple monstrosities is not just staggeringly boring, it’s, dare I say it? Un-Australian!

The boring and weedy Agapanthus.