Friday, 28 August 2015

Dates for the Diary

Gardens, Murals and your sustainable neighbourhood
Sat 22nd Aug 2-4pm, Toronto Fire Station

Bioblitz -Searching for Seed
Saturday 5th Sept, 1-4pm
Off Whitelocke St, near the water tanks

Toronto Area Sustainable Neighbourhood Group
Wed 9th Sept The Hub, 97 The Boulevarde 5-6.30pm

Coal Point Progress Committee
Mon 14th Sept, Progress Hall 4-6pm

Living Smart Festival
Saturday 26th September

Greater Toronto Spring Fair
Saturday 17th October

Do you have any news you’d like to share with the local community ?

Stories, news, items for sale, celebrations and snippets are welcome. email info to

Searching for Seed

Searching for seed will be the Annual Bioblitz event this year. Often overlooked in the understorey and out of reach in the canopy the secrets of seed will be revealed on Saturday 5th September 1-4pm along the West Ridge reserves.

A seed collection specialist, Trish Barker, will be leading the hunt and seeds collected will be grown on for planting back in the bush or purchase by locals for their bushland blocks or backyards.

Seed is an amazing source of wonder to the bushland wanderer, a food supply for the local wildlife and the vehicle for plant’s ability to adapt to change by mixing up the genetics of parents in the progeny.

Seed comes in all shapes and sizes from big woody pears to dust-like sprinklings. Knowing what to look for and when it’s ripe for the picking & propagating will be part of the seed searching session. A seed-D of resources, The Seedy Side of Plants will be provided to all participants.

Soup and damper will be provided after the walk.

Bookings are essential please email or ring Trees In Newcastle on 4969 1500. The meeting point will be off Whitelocke Street between the mobile tower and the water tank.

DA’s in play

Amended plans for DA/761/2014 have been lodged for 151 Excelsior Parade. Originally 23 townhouses, the number has been reduced to 21 slightly larger dwellings. The initial issues still remain however with overdevelopment of the narrow site not having any community space and concerns about the potential parking problems on Excelsior Parade that seem inevitable. The amended application can be viewed online on Council’s DA tracking website, comments are due by 19/8/15.

Sustainable Neighbourhood Showcase

On Saturday 22nd August from 2-4pm tips and lessons learnt from Sustainable Neighbourhood projects will be showcased at the Toronto Fire station where a tour of the Fire Retardant Garden will be on offer, just in time for gardening ideas for summer. Also being shared will be how the Redhead Sustainable Neighbourhood group created a series of murals. Bookings are essential to the Sustainable Neighbourhood alliance on 4921 0117 or

Squirrel Glider Goings on

The past month or so has seen a lot of local Squirrel Glider action.

The Squirrel Glider survey was super successful with 21 people willing to come along and check nestboxes. They were rewarded with a glimpse of fur in two boxes and another two boxes having leaf nests that indicated they were being used. Squirrel Gliders often have multiple nesting sites, to avoid predators.

Coal Point Public School is doing their bit to assist the local population with a National Tree Day planting of a Squirrel Glider garden. The Year 6-Kinder/Yr 1 buddy teams planted one hundred wattles and banksias in a memorable morning . These plants are favourite food sources of the Squirrel Glider providing nectar, winter pollen and sap.  To celebrate biodiversity month in September a nestbox will be installed in the Squirrel Garden Grove.

Lake Macquarie City Council released the Draft Squirrel Glider Planning and Managementguidelines 2015 for comment until 14th September.

The document makes several mentions of the local Squirrel Glider population at Coal Point and the importance of “effective strategic planning to ensure conservation of habitat and viable populations of gliders in areas fragmented by existing and future development”. It goes on to say that any existing population must be considered as viable (p36).  Reassuringly it states  in “locations such as Morisset and Coal Point, detailed analysis on site indicates that restoration measures could be effective in connecting (habitat) components that are currently regarded as isolated (p27).

In discussing conservation issues the guidelines states “ a separate issue for conservation is consideration of the feasibility of maintaining squirrel glider populations in urban areas in the long term. Gliders currently known to exist in some urban locations such as Coal Point where there are small Council reserves and extensive native tree cover. With the expected change in the presence of native vegetation in such locations over time, the already small glider populations will be under threat. Separate planning guidelines mat be required for squirrel glider in urban settings, when compared with rural areas or land currently zoned for conservation purposes, and this may require further scientific surveys”(p35)

The guidelines make several reference to the need for more scientific surveys to better understand the nature of the local population. The Progress Association has recently lodged a funding application that if successful would use citizen scientists to understand the movement of the Squirrel Glider within an urban bushland matrix.

Winter Bird Survey

Birds of Coal Point – July 2015 Trip Report by Tom Clarke
A full round of winter surveys was carried out in typical wintery conditions; as was the case last year! Under an overcast sky and an icy breeze, the last thing we could wish for was some rain; so who wished for it, I would like to know. A period of more persistent shower activity caused a temporary halt in proceedings before carrying on with the Burnage Reserve survey but otherwise things went to plan. Of course, the sun came out when all was done (and dusted? perhaps not) and we were well on our way back home.

The newly discovered Bower

The discovery of a second bower at Carey Bay Wetland had us wondering if it had been previously overlooked. This “new” bower was found located about 15m away from the known established bower and in the direction of the creek. Both bowers appeared to be active with the new one completely well-built but containing only a few decorations. At least one male Bowerbird was sighted and possibly two female birds. Further investigation will be needed to confirm the owner(s) of these two bowers. 

The occurrence of a Common Blackbird at Carey Bay Wetland is a rare experience in deed. Despite the name, these birds are fairly uncommon in the Lower Hunter and completely rare on the coastal fringe. Hardly any records exist of birds east of Sugarloaf Range although a sighting was made near Morisset in August 2011 (HBOC Annual Bird Report Number 19). These birds do enjoy cold conditions (reminds them of Europe) and it certainly was the case that day; perhaps this bird had travelled here on the strong breeze that was prevailing at the time. 

The uncommon Blackbird

Another rare sighting was that of a pair of Pied Oystercatchers loafing on a reef just off-shore near Threlkeld Reserve. This species is listed as Endangered under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act. Despite having a few breeding pairs around Newcastle and large numbers of non-breeding birds hanging out in Port Stephens, it is not that common in west Lake Macquarie. Three pairs are known to local birdwatchers in east Lake Macquarie and can be seen regularly at Swan Bay, Coon Island sandbank and Black Ned’s Bay.

Our third only sighting of an Olive-backed Oriole was a brief look at a single bird at Burnage Reserve. This poor bird didn’t hang around for too long as it was hunted from the area by a couple of the local Noisy Miners. Previously we have recorded this species at Stansfield Reserve where an adult Olive-backed Oriole with a dependent but fledged juvenile was found in January 2015.


The Invader- Black-eyed Susan
Up along the ridge, our beautiful, threatened Black-eyed Susan, Tetratheca juncea, will be thinking about budding with its pendant blue flowers soon.

Meanwhile, 'the Other' Black-eyed Susan, the Invader, is running rampant through the edges of our bushland and along the foreshore at Threlkled. She is Thunbergia alata, a slender vine that grows about 4m long. She is native to Eastern Africa, and has become an invasive weed species in Australia.

Her bright yellow-orange flowers, with a striking black centre, certainly catch the eye. Her leaves are roughly triangular to heart-shaped, with soft fine hairs and broadly toothed margins.

Roots form at the nodes of the stem when they come into contact with the soil, anchoring the plant and forming new plants. Of course, seeds are also dispersed and germinate far too successfully!

Black-eyed Susan will escape from gardens into bushland and be a huge threat to native vegetation. To keep her under control, gently hand-pull or dig young plants, or spray larger plants.

Good non-invasive native alternatives to Black-eyed Susan are the golden snake vine (Hibbertia scandens) or rich purple native sarsaparilla (Hardenbergia violacea).
The Threatened species Black-eyed Susan


The sound of a chainsaw was music to my ears. Not normally a sound that inspires awe, this chainsaw was being wielded by a super skilled habitat hollow maker.
There's an emerging trend to reduce the risk of older or damaged trees by strategically pruning problem limbs, carving crevices and slicing slots, creating habitat assets. It is proving to be a win for the local wildlife and the hip pocket.
A Hollows for Habitat forum held on 20/5/15 by the Greater Sydney Local Land Services, brought together practitioners, scientists and arborists to share techniques and lessons learned from trialling a variety of methods to enhance the habitat value of existing trees and logs.
To fell a 'dangerous tree' can cost thousands of dollars to remove the mass of timber off site and grind out a stump. To create a habitat hotel is a fraction of the cost with ongoing benefits for the local wildlife.
Habitat structures can be incorporated into a standing tree for parrots, possums or bats using strategic and species specific chainsaw cutting techniques to create spaces for the wildlife to occupy as well as promoting the creation of further habitat opportunities.
There was a practical demonstration of the chainsaw techniques conducted by the Kenyon brothers who have an 8 part series of movies on the techniques they use.
The April storms left many trees on the  ground and many hollow bearing branches  broken. Have you considered using these logs as features?
The Progress Association is investigating getting a specialist arborist in to undertake some habitat hollowing in fallen trees. Are you interested in having some logs modified for habitat at your place? Please contact Suzanne to express your interest. The more locals we can get the cheaper it will be.
Hollows for Habitat Forum Proceedings
A 42 page Proceedings is now available in .pdf at: