Sunday, 7 August 2016

Loss of hollow bearing old growth - Box Gum grassy woodland, Block 9, Section 64, North Watson

An open letter:

Dear Chief Minister Andrew Barr MLA, Minister Gentleman MLA and Minister Rattenbury MLA,

I am writing about the loss of significant trees on Block 9, Section 64, North Watson. These trees are hollow bearing, old growth Box Gums in some of the last remaining Box Gum grassy woodland remnants. You may recall my letter alerting you to this two years ago, however I know you are well acquainted with the matter as it's been discussed at length in our community and nationally on ABC Radio.

The matter is important, not just in terms of the flawed process relating to environment offsets, but also environmentally, as this is prime woodland on the productive lower slopes of Mount Majura. It contains numerous small trees that have just been cut down and also irreplaceable, mature Yellow Box and Red Box that are at least 100 years old. I'm sure you know it usually takes 100 years before such trees develop hollows that are large enough for birds and animals to occupy. Trees of this age are precious indeed.

Walking around the felled trees on the site this morning I saw many hollows that showed evidence of animal use. The nesting material of birds had fallen from one such hollow. Many birds such as Red-rumped Parrots, Eastern Rosellas and Sulphur-crested Cockatoos were flying down to inspect former hollows in the fallen trees. It was a heartbreaking sight.

I realise your government cannot replace trees of this measure in your political lifetime and that you have now lost the opportunity to save these trees. What you do have is the capacity to save other trees and habitat.

Can you assure me that the Box Gums remaining on Block 9, Section 64, North Watson, will not be felled?

We share the planet with our fellow creatures. It is not simply a resource for the benefit of people.

Yours Sincerely,

The following photographs were taken on two successive Sundays.

This felled tree is not even on Block 9, Section 64. It is inside Justice Robert Hope Park.

Nesting material from inside a hollow.

Another view of the same fallen nest. The building in the background is Prime 7 Media on Antill Street.

On the enlarged view, a pair of Red-rumped Parrots are visible in this recently changed habitat.

TM takes more interest in this situation than Prime 7 Media.

Why remove this tree on the fenceline when others have not been touched?

King Parrot in the background.

Evidence of bird/animal use of hollows.
Even if the hollow simply protects birds from harsh weather, it is fulfilling a useful purpose.

Friday, 25 April 2014

Gang-gang Cockatoos

In this 50th year of the Canberra Ornithologist Group (COG), sightings of Gang-gangs are being recorded to learn more about the behaviour and movements of these amazing birds.

From the COG website:

The Gang-gang holds special significance for the Canberra Ornithologist Group (COG) and the ACT. It is the logo of COG and of the ACT Parks and Conservation Service. Despite this, little is known about the ecology of the Gang-gang within the ACT region, about its abundance, movements or what affects movement patterns, about its food preferences or seasonal distribution, or the frequency or success of breeding events. As part of celebrating 50 years of activity in the ACT and region, COG is running a project to learn more about Gang-gangs within the COG Area of Interest which stretches from Goulburn to Adaminaby and Burrinjuck Dam to Lake Bathurst. see map

Please help out and record sightings within the area of interest at

And here are two recent photos

Blind Gang-gangs?

On first glance I thought just the male bird was affected. Now I am wondering about the left eye of the female also. These Gang-gangs were part of a group of 8 I saw yesterday and see around quite a lot at present.

Tuesday, 25 March 2014

Sale of Block 9, Section 64 North Watson

I'm more than a little hot under the collar. Following is my letter sent today to:

Katy Gallagher    

Simon Corbell     
Andrew Barr        
Shane Rattenbury
Greg Hunt            

March 25, 2014

Dear Ms Gallagher,

I am writing to you about matter of great urgency. I believe the ACT Government is in breach of the Department of Sustainability, Environment, Water, Population and Communities, 2012 EPBC Act Environmental Offsets Policy. I am referring to the loss of a significant remnant of critically endangered box gum grassy woodland in the inner north of Canberra, also known as Block 9, Section 64 North Watson. Daniel McGrath, the real estate agent involved in the sale of the land, assured me today that contracts will be exchanged on this land today. The use of the local Watson Woodlands in Justice Robert Hope Park as a biodiversity offset is flawed. You must act with great urgency to investigate and halt this sale.

Can you confirm whether Justice Robert Hope Park is a biodiversity offset in this instance? If it is, does your government  believe that the work carried out by Friends of Mount Majura in that park, can be counted as an offset? Justice Robert Hope Park is not likely to be lost in the future for any development, which is a fundamental requirement for any biodiversity offset. The basis for this claim is not within the policy.

The Box Gum Grassy Woodland, Block 9, Section 64 contains many trees that are estimated to be up to 200 years old. Such old growth is irreplaceable, not just in our lifetime, but always. It is a critically endangered ecological community with 95% already destroyed in Australia. The hollows that birds and other animals require for nesting cannot form in trees until they are at least 100 years old. New plantings cannot replace this complex ecosystem. Because of the specialised nature of this Woodland, with mature growth and a natural watercourse through it, the area is unique.

Block 9, Section 64 North Watson

The area is home to many species of birds and animals and I have seen species in the Woodland that are localised to that area and do not enter North Watson. These include Cuckoo-shrikes, Fairy-wrens, Little Corellas, Pardalotes and threatened Superb Parrots. Naturally, the Woodland is also important for numerous other bird species. If the Regent Honeyeaters, that your government claims to care about, were to return to Canberra, they’d seek exactly this growth. Bird behaviour is purposeful and cyclical: not random. If birds are in an area, it means it supports them. Though birds are more visible than other species, this box gum grassy woodland sustains far more species than the birds, notwithstanding the box gums themselves (pictured above).

I believe your government must say NO to the developer and withdraw the land from sale. Canberra residents cannot remove trees from their land without consultation, because the government recognises their value, yet you are allowing the worst kind destruction, in one of the most significant Box Gum Grassy Woodlands that remains in Australia.

Your government is accountable to future generations, and in the immediate term you must face the community who are passionately concerned about our rapidly diminishing natural heritage and loss of biodiversity. Can you assure me that your government is not in breach of the 2012 EPBC Act environmental offsets policy, in relation to the land sale Block 9, Section 64 North Watson?



Friday, 21 February 2014

Monday, 29 July 2013

Spotted Pardalote

Pardalotes are usually high in the branches, whenever I see them on the mountain. This one of a pair, was in a Box Gum Grassy Woodland closer to home and not high at all. Conveniently for me, it flew into shot, in the only patch of sunlight for miles around!

Monday, 22 July 2013

White-throated Treecreeper

Whoever invented the English names for Australian birds really had a thing about hyphens. I hardly ever use them, but there's plenty in bird nomenclature. So, the Treecreepers. Pretty exciting huh? I had to climb a hill (part way up Mt Majura) and then only saw them for about a minute, but it is good to know they are around. This was the best picture I could get in low light.

Wednesday, 10 July 2013

Wedge-tailed Eagle

Raptors are rare around here and this is the first one I've seen in almost a year of looking. I understand one reason for the absence of birds of prey in this area, is that they favour the thermal currents on the other side of Mount Majura, and are more often there. It's likely they also prefer bush and farmland on the other side of the mountain to the city and suburbia on my side. Who doesn't? Or maybe I'm just not good at spotting raptors. 

I was out walking early this morning and saw this eagle twice. Both times it was being harassed by Magpies. Sorry my photo is not good. I wasn't too close, but what an awesome bird.

Other interesting bird news is that I saw the Buff-banded Rail at the pond this morning. I've being seeing it approximately monthly since summer. What is interesting right now, is that no records exist for this species in the ACT in July, so this sighting means that some rails stay here over winter. 

I was also very happy on the weekend to see a tiny Eastern Spinebill close to my street. Spinebills are common in leafy parts of Canberra, but where I live is a new development, with no native corridors or understory that small bird use for protection. The Spinebill was investigating the blossom in an Ornamental Plum tree.

One final picture to finish with: an Eastern Rosella taking lunch.

Sunday, 16 June 2013

Random local birds

Crestie strolling to the pond.


This is much better than my last attempt at a Golden Whistler. Next time I'll try for no twigs.

 Morning kangas.

 Friendly maggie.

 Saturday bath.

 Sunday bath at a dam.

Even though this is mostly soft, I like the way the tailtips fade into light.

Monday, 10 June 2013

How the mighty ducks are fallen..

Wild and free one day, a pair of Grey Teal shyly skirt the edges of the pond searching for favoured pond scum and weed. The very next day, they've joined the regular duck crowd and have developed a habit for white bread! Not to mention a dependency on the whim of when five year old neighbourhood kids choose to feed them. Could white bread really be better li'l duck?

Taking a few pictures of waterbirds in the fading light today, a dude asked if I was a policeman. !?! What like undercover duck police? If that's a job, I'm applying!