The Subcommittee met on seven occasions during the past year and has 11 members. We continued to play a special role in assisting the activities of each of the six volunteer bushcare/landcare groups working in Glebe’s parks. At an autumn party on 16 March, the Subcommittee celebrated the 10th anniversary of the publication of ‘Superb Fairy-wren Habitat in Glebe & Forest Lodge – a community based conservation project’. Sue Stevens, the consultant ecologist and urban small bird specialist who wrote the report, was an honoured guest. Sue’s work was funded by a $10,000 grant to the Society from the City of Sydney’s Environmental Grants Program.
In 2017, Jan Craney, a much-loved former convenor of the Subcommittee, left a bequest of $5,000 in her will to the Subcommittee. Following extensive discussion, the Subcommittee decided to spend the funds by awarding Small Grants to our 11 local preschools and primary schools to foster the learning of biodiversity in our suburb; the results are announced in the Blue Wrens Subcommittee Report in this Bulletin.
The Society’s fifth annual Spring Bird Survey, led by Judy Christie, was held on Sunday 8 October commencing at 6:45 am in Paddy Gray Reserve, Hereford St. Over the next hour, seven of our local parks and reserves were surveyed. The total number of birds recorded was 329 and 25 species were seen; the numbers were similar to last year’s survey. The most common bird was again the Rainbow Lorikeet followed by the Noisy Miner, a result which is identical to that of the Aussie Backyard Bird Count across the whole of NSW. Good sightings in Glebe this year were Red Wattlebirds (with a young fledgling) in St Johns Rd, Australasian Figbirds in Glebe Point Rd and near the saltmarsh in Federal Park, and a Striated Heron also in the saltmarsh. There continued to an absence of small bird sightings (including Blue Wrens) apart from a single Willy Wagtail, but on a more positive note the native flora is thriving in our parks so their habitat is being re-established.
The Subcommittee organised a fourth annual seminar about urban biodiversity. On Monday 16 April at Benledi (Glebe Library), Dr John Martin, Wildlife Ecologist from the Royal Botanic Garden, spoke to the Society about ‘Wild Sydney: living with animals’. Comparative aerial photographs clearly show the greening of Glebe since the 1970s as residents and the local authorities have planted amazing numbers of native species in gardens, streets and parks. These plantings provide an important new food source particularly for larger wildlife species like flying foxes, Australian White Ibis and Sulphur-Crested Cockatoos.
Tagging of various species of flying foxes with small radio transmitters has shown that they can fly long distances along the east coast, from Bundaberg in the north to Melbourne in the south in search of their favourite native foods. On their journeys they stop off at colony sites (John called them ‘motels’) of which there are 15 in the Sydney region. Flying foxes are particularly sensitive to the higher temperatures related to global warming. Temperatures of 43°C and above lead to heat stress and 45,000 deaths were recently recorded in a single colony during a heat wave.
Tagging of Ibis has shown that they can also fly long distances in search of food. They are messengers of the plight of the Murray Darling Basin where the use of water by local towns and for irrigation (sometimes illegally) and drainage of the associated wetlands has removed their normal habitat and resulted in their migration to Sydney. Some of the Ibis have settled permanently in Sydney as there is plenty of their natural food in our city’s parks and, of course, they love the left-over human food in our rubbish bins and garbage landfills.
The number of Cockatoos in Sydney has also increased which is again related to enhanced native food sources in the City’s parks. However, they are probably not breeding every year due to the lack of nesting ‘hollows’ in large eucalypts. Such hollows can take a century to develop and Cockatoos have appeared reluctant to use artificially created nesting hollows in younger trees.
Members of the Society are always welcome to attend Subcommittee meetings and other events especially the planting days in our local parks.