Wednesday, October 13, 2010

Urban Wildlife Safari Report

The Urban Wildlife Safari took place on Saturday October 9th as part of the exhibition In The Balance: Art for a Changing World. The public walk offered a new way of looking at nature in the city and observed how wildlife, both flora and fauna, maintains its presence in the built environment of Sydney’s CBD. The idea came about as a way to find the uncontrolled and untamed elements of urban nature, not the cultivated or the park variety. While these man-made spaces do all add to the greening of a city, it was more interesting to look for new urban ecologies that develop regardless and in spite of human intentions.

The walk began at the front lawn of the MCA, where hand painted maps of our route designed by Norbert Walczak were distributed .

click to enlarge

Our first guide was artist Diego Bonetto who took us up through The Rocks pointing out the “spontaneous flora” (otherwise known as weeds) that grew in and around the Argyle Cut. It was interesting to see that while the Celtis trees had been cut down at Circular Quay, some new shoots were already sprouting in a small park nearby. Another surprise was a tomato plant, taking root after being discarded perhaps in an office workers salad sandwich.

The Argle Cut itself is a man-made tunnel created out of sandstone in 1868 to link the 2 early ports of Sydney. Here on the cut rockface, plants such as Lantana take advantage of the water seeping from the walls and take root in hard to reach places, creating a beautiful natural vertical garden and an ecology that could not be replicated by design.

The group followed Argyle Street up through the cut and to the Munn street reserve, overlooking the soon to be developed Barangaroo foreshore. Helen Armstrong, who was one of the original landscape architects for both the Munn and Clyne Street reserves, spoke about the history of the area and the relationship of the parks to the land’s natural contours as well as to the surrounding housing . The area around Barangaroo is about to undergo massive change, for both the community and the landscape.

The Palisade Hotel (1916) is undergoing renovation but still managed to support some plantlife – a very hardy Conyza Canadens was spotted growing from an unfinished building end!

A key issue to explore in this area was the seemingly empty, large post-industrial space of Barangaroo, however we did spot wildlife that had made its habitat there. While many of the birds, such as the Rainbow Lorikeets and Pigeons were attracted to the two park areas, they also tended to forage in the residual spaces around the former container wharfs. Plants were especially abundant in the no go areas, fenced off or out of reach up on the rocky outcrops.

We reached the city via Hickson Road (the Hungry Mile), where the asphalt was being ripped up by the aggressive roots of the Plane trees.

Once in a small green oasis in the heart of the CBD (Lang Park), we were treated to a talk about the bird life in the city with our bird expert and guide Chris Lloyd. While Chris spoke we witnessed the ornithological life amongst us, like Mynas, Magpies, Pigeons and Seagulls. Down at Circular Quay there was an abundance of Ibis and Seagulls, attracted more to human waste than their native food.

Peggy Eby then introduced us to the habitats of the much loved flying foxes, which we observed up close in their colony in the Botanical Gardens. Of course all sydneysiders are entranced by the nightly spectacle of the flying foxes on their way to their feeding locations , most often in the gardens that we plant. Peggy explained that it is ironically our love of planting native gardens and flowering fruit trees that attract the animals, which are consequently now being considered a pest.

In a fitting conclusion to the day, that reminded us of the wildlife that grew throughout Sydney before the building of the city even began, John Lennis , a Dhawral man, introduced us to the bushtucker found in the Sydney region. The walkers were treated to a tasting session of native plums and limes, mystery fruit, and warrigal green pesto and wattle pancakes.

Thank you to all the speakers and participants.

Species list coming soon!

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Saturday's Safari!

Thank you to everyone who came along to last Saturday's Urban Wildlife Safari!
The report and lots of pictures are coming soon.
In the meantime, please send me your species list, or just put them in the comments section below this blog.
Photos can be emailed to

Monday, October 4, 2010

Urban Wildlife Safari: Presenters

Joining the Urban Wildlife Safari are local experts who will share their knowledge of the area and what we discover.

Professor-Emeritus Helen Armstrong

Helen Armstrong is Professor–Emeritus of Landscape Architecture awarded by Queensland University of Technology and Adjunct- Professor at the Centre for Cultural Research, University of Western Sydney. She has been researching the meanings associated with cultural landscapes for many years. Her most recent work is on the cultural meanings of marginal urban lands.

Diego Bonetto

Diego Bonetto is a multimedia artist living and practicing in Sydney and is a key member of artists' collectives SquatSpace, the Network of UnCollectable Artists (NUCA) and the BigFAGPress. For the past 7 years Diego has been working with WeedyConnection, an environmental art campaign. The project involves an online resource launched in 2006 short documentary films, various site-specific installations in the form of Self-Guided Tours, cooking shows and interactive games on mobile platforms.

Chris Lloyd

The progeny of two long-term conservationists and bird watchers, Chris resisted parental pressure for a quarter of a century before finally picking up the binoculars in 1993. It was down-hill from there as a working life devoted to social justice and equity collapsed under the weight of avian biology, poor fashion choices and perpetually dirty boots. Chris spent nearly two decades working in Australia, Africa and New Zealand combining labour market economics and ornithology. This included stints breeding endangered species, extensive field and some post-graduate study into what made these feathered buggers tick and to spend more time on field work. He is currently Vice-President of Southern Ocean Seabird Study Association and on the management Boards of the Australian Bird Study Association and Wirrimbirra Sanctuary.

Dr Peggy Eby

Dr. Peggy Eby is a wildlife ecologist who has spent the past 20 years studying the ecology, behaviour and conservation biology of Grey-headed flying foxes. She is a member of the research team charged with monitoring the results of the relocation of flying foxes from the roost in the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney.

John Lennis

John Lennis is a Dharawal man. He has worked at Gurawal Aboriginal Corp as the horticultural officer working on the bush tucker walk around La Perouse for 4 years and then for the Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney for 4 years working on the Cadi Jam Ora ( First Encounters Garden) and on the Mt Annan Stolen Generation Garden . He has worked for Gandangarra LALC as their Aboriginal Cultural and Education Officer for two years and is currently employed by the Hawkesbury Nepean CMA as the Catchment Officer for Aboriginal Communities.