Bushland, Wildlife and Gardens
The City of Willoughby contains 11 square kilometres of bushland and nearly 20 kilometres of harbour foreshore. The council administers a variety of programmes to conserve, restore and enhance these valuable resources. It employs professionals in bushcare, regeneration, plant propagation and catchment area management but these people face a huge task, given limited time and resources. For this reason, council’s environmental programme relies heavily on community involvement and on home owners being aware of how they can help the conservation effort. Despite the apparent “greenness” of Castlecrag, the ecosystem of the area is delicately balanced. The wildlife moves about until it locates the most suitable food, shelter and space to which it is adapted. Plants, insects, birds and animals are interdependent and any change affects the whole system in some way. Obviously, if this ecosystem has few components, any change is going to be more widely felt. It is for these reasons that a lot of hard work has gone into keeping as much diversity as possible. It is important that we recognise, and act upon, threats to the delicate local ecology.
A lot of Castlecrag’s bushland has been degraded and the diversity reduced by:
- dumping of grass clippings, garden refuse and building rubble. Most exotic plants will not “mulch down” harmlessly and many will become weeds which overwhelm native plants;
- run-off from suburban gardens of herbicides and pesticides. These, coupled with extra nutrients being added to the system through overuse of fertilisers and through pet excreta, can have a major effect. Further, by replacing absorbent areas with hard surfaces, overall water flow is increased, polluting the soils and local harbour inlets. This leads to an increase in moisture-loving weeds.
- killing of small native mammals, birds, reptiles and insects, not only by recognised pests – rats, mice and foxes – but also domestic dogs and cats. That cuddly moggie snoozing on your lap during the day is an efficient killer by night! A typical domestic cat kills over 30 native animals a year.
How Can You Help?
Enjoy getting actively involved via Council’s volunteer programme, which holds classes in bush regeneration, helps organise bush care groups and organises other activities such as bushwalks, wildlife watch, seed collection, plant propagation and planting. Call Council’s BushCare Programme on 9777.7754 for information.
You can also do your bit in your own household for the native fauna and flora by:
Creating a bush-friendly garden. Use a wide variety of local plants that will attract a diversity of animals and birds seeking food, perches, breeding places and shelter. Be careful with exotic plants, especially if you are near a reserve. Many can easily invade bushland, eg through wind-borne seeds. Save water and fertiliser and help reduce run off by replacing lawn with groundcovers and minimising hard surfaces in the garden. For guidance, ask Council for its specialised leaflets. For help in selecting and buying indigenous plants that are especially suitable for local planting, contact the Castlecrag Conservation Society.
- Conserving established native trees and planting more. Avoid removing dead trees or fallen limbs, which provide shelter for a variety of wildlife. Council has a very strict tree preservation order and you must obtain formal approval before cutting down or heavily trimming trees over 3 metres high (with certain exceptions).
- Removing noxious weeds. (e.g. lantana, bamboo, crofton, camphor laurel, agapanthus heads and pampas grass) Council provides a booklet on identifying these and other problem weeds and can demand that infestations be removed from your property.
- Controlling your pets. The Companion Animals Act 1998 requires Council to enforce controls over pets, particularly dogs and cats. Your responsibilities are in a brochure available from Council’s Ranger’s section on 9777.1040. If you enjoy small birds in your garden and care about wildlife, keep your cat indoors after dark. It is not enough to attach collar bells; cats quickly learn to hunt without these disturbing their prey.
- Washing your car on a grassy area. Alternatively, by using a service station that recycles its water. Most detergents contain phosphates that over-fertilise soils and waterways, leading to a build-up of toxic algae.
Castlecrag Local Plant Guide
This unique guide, produced by the Castlecrag Progress Association with the assistance on an EnviroGrant from Willoughby City Council, provides residents with information on and high quality images of the indigenous flora of the Castlecrag Peninsula. It also offers details of where to obtain native plants and references where you can obtain more detailed information. Click here for the PDF of the Guide.