December 16, 2018

A precious space under threat

The autumnal sun shone hard and bright when a flock of tiny silvereyes started out on its epic migratory journey.

From my vantage point atop Rosny Hill on the Eastern Shore I watched about 20 birds, male and female with young in tow, fluttering north in undulating flight cross the wide expanse of the Derwent River below me.

Soon they became mere dots and I was pleased the young peregrine falcon which had patrolled the airspace above the Tasman Bridge last autumn and winter was not around to notice them.

The silvereyes, smaller than a sparrow, would only have provided the falcon with a snack anyway, nothing as substantial as his usual meal of starlings plucked from the skies.

The silvereyes earlier this month were heading for their wintering grounds on the New South Wales-Queensland border and the reserve was a convenient launch point, or stopover if they had come from further south, on such a long journey because it forms one of a series of important staging posts along their migratory flyway. The silvereyes were heading in the direction of the Domain over the river, and from there they would island-hop forested hills all the way to Bass Strait, before making the crossing.

I had gone to the Rosny Hill Nature Recreational Area not only to watch silvereyes but record the other birds it had to offer, at the urging of the Rosny Hill Friends Network.

The group is concerned about a proposed hotel development on the hill, and how it will impact on the native flora and fauna. I promised to draw up a bird list for them, and have now been persuaded to lead a bird walk there on  Sunday, March 18, starting 9.30am, to which everyone is invited.

The Friends make the point that the hill not only forms part of the flyway for migrating birds but is also home to resident ones like the endemic yellow-throated honeyeater and musk lorikeets and eastern rosellas I saw there on the day.

I’d only been to the reserve once before, taken there many years ago by my late mother-in-law, and I now feel regret that is has been off my radar for two decades.

Beyond the birds, and flora like mature white gums and leafy sun-orchids, the look-out on the hill offers a splendid panorama of the city, the best from the Eastern Shore.

The Friends would welcome a small restaurant/cafe at the summit car park but feel the proposed 100-room hotel, incorporating a 200 seat-conference centre and indoor swimming pool, is a step too far for a public space. They are mounting a vigorous campaign to stop it.

The former Parks and Wildlife reserve now falls under the control of Clarence Council which has rezoned the site, allowing for the hotel development but at the same time incorporating a smaller nature reserve around the base of the hill.

As the silvereyes slowly make their way to Queensland, the fight between local residents and council goes on.

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