Sunday, 14 June 2015

A "vision splendid" for Manly Creek

 Manly Creek is a small waterway on Sydney’s Northern Beaches. It was traversed  and explored by Captain Arthur Phillip in 1788 but was obviously significant to the indigenous community for many thousands of years prior.

At one end of Manly Creek you’ll find the beautiful bush-lined Manly Reservoir (the very last body of freshwater in Sydney where the water is still clean enough to swim). 

Manly Reservoir 

At the other end, adjacent to the glorious surfing beach at Queenscliff, is Manly Lagoon, renowned for being the most polluted lagoon on the eastern seaboard of Australia. 

Manly Lagoon  Mass Fish Kill from Herbicide Spill 2001

 So let’s take a quick journey along this 3 kilometer stretch of creek and do it with a save the pockets of important remnant bushland, connect them into a wildlife corridor and try to ensure that the waterway itself is conserved as an important sanctuary for native fish and waterbirds.

 The creek itself was rudely interrupted in 1892 when a concrete dam was built across it to ensure that the settlement of Manly had a reliable source of water. These days the waterway relies on leaks in the structure (or scheduled releases from the dam) for its sporadic flow. 

Manly Dam

Immediately abutting the heritage listed dam is a small section of land owned by Sydney Water . The creek then flows through the facilities of Manly Hydraulics Lab and the UNSW Water Research Lab. 

 Because this area is fenced off and fairly secluded, the areas of native vegetation are of good quality (swamp wallabies, bandicoots and goannas have been spotted here!).  Some work has also been conducted to tackle the problem of invasive weeds which are the scourge of remnant bushland.

Fenced off section of good bushland on Sydney Water Land

Image of Lace Monitor (Goanna) eating a rabbit 
(courtesy UNSW Water research Lab)

There is a small pool of water on the creekline within the university grounds

Mini Mermaid Pool

... and the larger “Mermaid Pool” and waterfall is just downstream from here.

The larger (and more famous) of the "Mermaid Pools" 

Mermaid Pool sadly became a dumpsite in the years since the area became part of Sydney’s suburbia but more happily in recent years it has been lovingly restored thanks to the “Return of the Mermaids” project.  Read the full story here:-Everything you need to know about restoring Mermaid Pool

Mermaid Pool falls within the far western boundary of Warringah's District Park which is currently being assessed for a new Plan Of Management. District Park encompasses a number of playing fields and a golf course as well as this section of creek line.  Submissions to a discussion paper were canvassed and received but unfortunately the "vision" to include unreserved areas of crown land in the District Park precinct have so far not registered. Submissions are now being received for a "Draft Plan of Management District Park Draft Plan of Management. (comments close 14th July 2015).

Unfortunately the District park boundaries tend to hug the creek-line fairly closely in this section (especially on the northern side) leaving much of the remnant bushland outside the boundaries.

Some of the fragile bushland surrounding Mermaid Pool

This leaves various parcels of crown land very vulnerable. It would be great if these parcels could be transferred  to District Park classification.

The specific parcels in question, near Mermaid Pool that are zoned R2 -(residential) include portions of Lots 7369 & 7370 DP 1165551 and 7371 DP 116557 ). This anomaly apparently happened during the "translation process from LEP 2000 to LEP 2011". 

One of the volunteers working to restore this special place.

 This area of bushland has the highest biodiversity value of all the creeks leading into Manly Lagoon.  The Department of Lands has already indicated in the past that they would be happy to transfer this land to Council jurisdiction without charge. This would help secure this unique riparian zone and protect a wonderful (but often unheralded) feature of District Park. Conserving the upper catchment, of course, is also the best way of ensuring  the environmental health of Manly Lagoon (so long under scrutiny).

 The Manly Warringah War Memorial Park (Plan of Management), states (page 61) that:- “Bushland linkages need to be protected and enhanced to enable movement of flora and fauna between reserves in Warringah. Other areas adjoining the Park could be considered as linkages including District Park

 As the creek leaves Mermaid Pool on its journey towards the ocean it passes a magnificent stand of ancient rainforest before invasive weeds close in.

Surviving patch of glorious Rainforest...

...followed by a wall of invasive weeds..morning glory, lantana, privet etc

 One particular nemesis is the noxious Ludwigia Peruviana (yes it was introduced from Peru) which has the capacity to block the flow of the water. 

 Anecdotal evidence suggests that you could once paddle in a canoe from Mermaid Pool to the beach...although a section of piped creek in Warringah Golf Course would now make this impossible.  ideally as part of the new Plan of Management the piped area will be rehabilitated to assist the migration of native fish up the creekline.  For more information on the fish population of Manly Creek read here

Volunteers, Wol and Andrew retrieving discarded graffiti paint spray cans 
from under Condamine St bridge.

 Warringah Council has already produced an excellent blueprint for the future of Manly Creek, in a report titled:-

“Warringah Council Local Habitat Plan, Habitat Restoration Plan, Manly Creek Corridor”. This document details plans to preserve, restore and expand the pockets of bushland that still survive along Manly Creek as well as other ways to improve and protect this important community amenity. All we need now is for them to implement it !

Other important related documents are:-

 Warringah Natural Area Survey, Vegetation History & Wildlife Corridors, August 2005

Warringah Natural Area Survey, Vegetation Communities & Plant Species, August 2005

Warringah  Local Habitat Strategy November  2007

Further down the creek, volunteer, Tom Hazell and his team have done an amazing job in planting indigenous vegetation along the waterway between Nolans and Passmore Reserve. This is Manly's hidden Venice but in a glorious native plant and parkland setting.

 Heading towards Manly Lagoon and the beach !

Read about the benefits of wildlife corridors:-here

 Please support community efforts to conserve, protect and improve this important part of our natural heritage. 


The NSW Government is currently seeking ways to transfer parcels of crown land to council jurisdiction SMH article (28.3.14)

Read A fact sheet detailing the concern for the future of Crown Lands here:-Crown Lands fact Sheet

Thursday, 5 February 2015

Batting For Australia

 What an amazing service bats do for this nation and what little thanks they get for it! Most of us are familiar with larger bats, the flying foxes, as we can witness their spectacular flight formations over the Sydney sky at dusk.  These animals provide vital ecological services. They are important pollinators (the sole pollinators of certain tree species) and they also disperse seeds which helps keep our forests viable. Their natural diet is native fruit and pollen.
 What you may not know is that we also have nearly twenty species of microbat in our area.  Most of these are very small...some are as tiny as your thumbnail and weigh less than a 10 cent coin!  Most microbats eat only insects and some thrive on mosquitoes - scoffing down thousands every night.  In fact, if bats ever became extinct, insect numbers would soon reach plague proportions (they already save us billions of dollars a year in agricultural pest control). So why do humans get so illogically squeamish at the very thought of these cute and beneficial creatures?  Well many people wrongly associate bats with vampires, witchcraft and black magic but the only spells I’ve seen them cast in real life are those of wonder and fascination.  Bats are warm blooded, placental mammals.  Like us, they usually have one baby at a time, with occasional twins. They carry their offspring around with them for about three weeks after they are born, and continue to breast-feed them for up to 6 months. Although flying foxes have good sight and all bats can see with their eyes, the really amazing thing about microbats  is that they fly and hunt in darkness using echolocation.  They basically emit ultra sonic calls and by repeatedly scanning the echoing sound patterns, can mentally construct an accurate image of the environment in which they are moving as well as their potential prey. No wonder they have such big ears!
 Until recently there was a colony of around 22,000 Grey-headed flying foxes roosting in the Royal Botanical Gardens. It became quite a tourist attraction as it was possible to observe the chattering, upside-down hanging, melee during daylight hours.  Unfortunately, the Botanical Gardens Trust decided that the bats were causing too much collateral damage to their exotic trees and with Federal Government approval, moved them on, using loud recorded noises. Grey-headed flying foxes are a threatened species, protected under both state and national environment law. Thankfully, it seems, many of the relocating bats have been welcomed by the Centennial Parklands Foundation and small colonies have even made themselves at home on the Peninsula. It is recommended that people do not disturb or handle bats though, as, like all animals, including cats, they can carry disease.

Endangered Grey-headed flying foxes roost near a busy road at Balgowlah

 Microbats roost inside tree hollows and sometimes under rock overhangs, bridges and culverts during the day.  Their main threat is loss of habitat and competition for roosts from Indian Miners and feral bees. They are also at risk from predation by cats and rats and are sensitive to pollution, loud noise and bright lights.

Footnote: Amazingly, our part of the world can even boast a bat that fishes....the Large-footed Myotis.  It forages over pools of water in rivers, lakes and small streams, using its over-sized feet to scoop along water surfaces for small fish and aquatic insects. It has recently been found at Narrabeen Lagoon.

A Lesser long-eared bat

People in "the know" believe that bats are the coolest animals on the planet. To find out more and to help with conservation efforts check this link.. Sydney's bats