Aerial roots and urban wildlife 24.12.2010


Driving my usual way home from work recently, I took a turn to the left to see some beautiful figs outside a couple of industrial buildings and what did I find? The most stunning aerial roots. What a lovely place to arrive at each day to do what is potentially hard and dirty work in barren surroundings – once you’re past the front gate. My guess is no one takes the slightest bit of conscious notice of these trees, which are as tall as the ones in Laman Street. Most of us only notice trees when they’re going or gone.

Aerial roots, of course, were discussed as elements of an approach to preserving the Laman Street fig trees. The practice has always been to remove them and we are told that it’s better to encourage them.

These Mayfield trees show what they can be like.

A friend was telling me that she made a visit to Laman Street when she thought the trees there were doomed, and took her daughter with her for a last look. As they were taking photos a man rode past on a bicycle and started to abuse them.

He yelled at them, asking how they would feel if a branch were to fall off one of the figs. Obviously he hadn’t read the history of the figs in Laman Street, since not a single branch has ever fallen off them…

Very unfair for her to have to go through that since she wasn’t a nightly part of the treehugging crowd (one of his terms of abuse – bizarre, that) or one of the ‘greenies’ (another bizarre term of abuse) involved in the campaign; just one of the community who couldn’t believe all the shenanigans  the risk concerns. Another memorable negative moment was when we were offering the opportunity to sign the petition to passers-by and a woman declined the opportunity because her husband was an arborist. I couldn’t see why that would make one not want to save trees. Surely there would be some work opportunities in preserving them?

 When the cyclone fencing comes down from Laman Street we’ll be able to take all the ribbons and soft toys and posters down as well. That’ll be nice.

Went for a walk through Civic Park and the Memorial Grove this evening. Saw some grey-headed flying foxes, a few spiders spinning their webs, some crested doves and, of course, Indian mynah birds. The urban forest is so important for wildlife. I saw a poor possum who had been hit by a car on Parry Street this week. It must have lived in Birdwood Park, right in the middle of town.

Reading about urban wildlife I found stories about brush turkeys which are found in Newcastle. A relative had one in his backyard near Blackbutt Reserve. In Brisbane they can be apparently be challenging: ‘If a brush turkey decides to build its mound in a  backyard, major reorganisation of the landscape results,since 2 to 4 tons of material is moved to form a mound. Forty to 100 suburban Brush-turkey mounds are reported each year (Jones and Everding 1991). The completed mound may be up to 1.5m in height and 4m in diameter, and the bird may collect material from a radius of up to 20m (Readers Digest 1977). In one case a car was incorporated in a mound and partially buried (D. Jones pers comm).’ (From ‘Urban wildlife issues in Australia’ by Ian Temby found at

I read that Lake Macquarie council is thinking of asking residents to trap Indian mynah birds. I know they’re unpopular but some people confuse the Noisy Miner which is native with the Indian mynah. They were introduced – in 1865 I read: to control insects at the Melbourne flower markets.

The website Birds in Backyards has a page on Noisy Miners called ‘Birds behaving badly’. It says that having understory plants is important for the safety and health of other small bird species and may minimise the negative effects of the noisy miner.

Just as Indian mynah birds are unpopular here, so are poor starlings  – for lots of reasons: remember how in the 1970s the council wanted to chop our figs down to prevent starling droppings from dropping on HM the Queen’s hat when she opened the Newcastle Regional Art Gallery?

 Starlings are missed in the UK: their numbers have dropped 70% over the last thirty years. This may be because of intensive farming apparently. There’s a wonderful picture of a huge flock of starlings against an evening sky here.

 The noise of the cicadas was  wonderfully deafening on our walk. You wouldn’t need to listen to these because they’re everywhere but the Wikipedia page has Greek and New Zealand cicada songs that you can listen to. I love sound files.

Admired the Lone Pine in the Memorial Grove as I always do and didn’t see any antisocial behaviour there – a complaint that was made at the charette many months ago. I must not get out enough.

Have a great Christmas. Enjoy the cicadas.  Home


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