Sydney Frog Frenzy 

Sydney frogs and educational craft kits

Sydney is renowned for its natural beauty of lush bushlands and incredible wetlands. The bushland is dominated by Sydney Sandstone Gully Forests, home to Sydney peppermint (Eucalyptus piperata) and Sydney Red Gums (Angophora costata) trees. These trees provide immense shade, leaf litter and enhance soil moisture on the ground within the bushland of Sydney. Bordering Sydney’s bushland are the wetlands which include marshes, coastal swamps, and creeks too. In these places you may find plants such as the Coral Fern (Gleichenia dicarpa), Spiny-head Matt-rush (Lomandra longifolia) or even Knobby Club-rush (Ficinia nodosa). These plants provide perfect habitat for local frogs of Sydney and where there are frogs, you have a healthy environment. Chances are, where you find frogs there will be a high biodiversity in flora and fauna too.

Have you heard or seen any frogs lately? 

Although frogs are usually small and unseen, Sydney’s frog population continues to fluctuate in most environments and there are a few factors that influence these changes. Whether it is water quality and quantity, habitat loss, invasive species, diseases or changes in local weather patterns, frogs are very sensitive to environmental changes. In Sydney’s winter last year, there were many frog sightings during the daytime but frogs are usually nocturnal and in addition, there were many reports of frog deaths with red markings on their bellies and feet. Could it be the deadly Chytrid Fungus or something else causing frog deaths? Nonetheless, it is not clear as yet to what the cause was but what is clear now, there is an increase in Sydney’s frog populations. 

What about the recent rainfall?

With the increased rainfall and mild temperatures experienced in Sydney lately, there has been more frog sightings and less reports of frog deaths. Frogs to be on the lookout for is the Red-crowned Toadlet (Pseudophyne australis), Green Stream Frog (Litoria phyllochroa), Common Eastern Froglet (Crinia signifera), Striped Marsh Frog (Limnodynastes peronii) as well as the Green and Golden Bell Frog (Litoria aurea). Sydney Harbour National Park, Manly Dam and the ‘Brick Pit’ in Olympic Park are ideal places to explore Sydney’s bushland and wetlands and spot a frog frenzy.

Frogs on our tours

On our tours in Sydney Harbour National Park such as our Bradleys Head Tour, we often show our visitors the adorable Red-crowned Toadlets hidden among the Coral Fern along the rocky ditches. So, whether you are spotting frogs by yourself, with children or with an ecotourism certified business like us, always admire frogs from afar and avoid disturbing their environment.

Have you seen our frog frenzy kits for kids? 

EcoWalks Tours Frog Frenzy Kits are now available. Our educational craft kits have proven to be a huge hit with curious kids. These kits are eco friendly as they are made from ethically and environmentally sourced materials. Materials include recycled paper, eco friendly paints, vegetable based inks, Australian air dried clay and plaster as well as composting cellophane packaging. The kit also includes our fun facts cards on each frog. These cards focus on the Red-Crowned Toadlet, Striped Marsh Frog as well as the Green and Golden Bell Frog. With a range of 7 different eco friendly paint colours, your kids are going to love painting their own frog. The perfect idea for gifts, birthday presents as well as the best activity for kids to do indoors on a rainy day.

Purchase your Frog Frenzy Kits here

Bring the Birds Back 

Bring the birds back to our streets. Whilst leading a walking tour of Middle Head bushland in Sydney Harbour National Park, a child asked me, “why don’t we see these little birds in our streets at home?” The children were marvelling at Silvereyes (Zosterops lateralis) and Variegated Fairywrens (Malurus lamberti) as they darted through the Heath Banksia (Banksia ericifolia). These children had never seen birds like this before and the reason we don’t see birds like these and others like them is simple. There is no habitat that offers them food or shelter in our streets. 

Silver EyeVariegated Fairywren

Rewilding Green Spaces

Improving habitat for bird life can be through biodiversity corridors. These do connect natural bushland and encourage an increase in diversity of plants and animals but are often complex projects that involve a multitude of bureaucracy. However, rewilding green spaces within your local community is an easier option. Whether it is in your own street across a few neighbouring balconies and gardens or maybe transforming an underutilised green space in the local park. You can plan and create a low-cost community garden where native plants, birds and people can interact.   

Mosman’s Native Garden

In Mosman, there’s a Discovery Garden of native plants that aims to encourage just that. The garden all started when a small group of community members came together and began to plan the transformation of an underutilised area of grass in Memory Park. Mosman Council gave the community initiative two green thumbs up and provided essential tools, mulch and native plants to get the native garden started. Some of the plant species found in the garden include: Large-leaf Bush Pea (Pultenaea daphnoides), Happy Wanderer (Hardenbergia violacea), Heath Banksia and even a Sydney Red Gum (Angophora costata). The diversity of native herbs, shrubs and trees selected for the Discovery Garden are found in the Sydney Harbour National Park. Perfect for providing essential habitat for a variety of rarely seen bird life.

Large-leaf Bush PeaHappy Wanderer

Create Your Own Native Garden

Although this garden is small, it will inevitably improve the connectivity between people of Mosman, bird life and the surrounding bushland. You too can create a low-cost native garden in your community just like this one and bring the birds back to your streets. All you need is inspiration.

For inspiration on how or learn more about Mosman’s Discovery Garden contact us here at EcoWalks Tours for more information.

Car-rang-gel | North Head

Fire in the Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub on Car-rand-gel | North Head

The Black Summer Bushfires in NSW caused significant loss of wildlife and burnt over 5.4 million hectares of habitat. within Sydney’s iconic North Head scrubland. However, this fire had devastating consequences.

Common Brush-tailed Possum – Trichosurus vulpecula -nocturnal, semi-arboreal marsupial of Australia.

Although this controlled burn by NSW National Parks was planned to reduce the risk of habitat loss from an unplanned fire, it achieved the exact opposite. It is estimated that more than 62 hectares of the endangered Eastern Suburb Banksia Scrub was destroyed when the fire jumped containment lines. Prior to this fire, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy had only just released numerous native Bush Rats, Brown Antechinus and Eastern Pygmy Possums in an effort to increase the animal populations that would have improved the biodiversity within this fragile ecosystem. Sadly, the Australian Wildlife Conservancy reported a large decline in the populations of these native animals after the fire.

Fires are an important part of rejuvenating many Australian habitats. Fires assist with transferring energy across and through different ecosystems and many of the native flora found in the Eastern Suburb Banksia Scrub rely on slow and cool burns to regenerate. Plants such as the genus Banksia are reliant on cool burns to open the follicles to then release the seeds after a fire has passed by. The B. serrata, B. ericifolia and the B. integrifolia are excellent examples of plants within this sensitive ecosystem that rely on fires to do exactly this. But the North Head fire was extremely hot and it has caused many Banksia seed pods to remain closed and we may have lost them for good.

 Banksia serrata Banksia ericifoliaBanksia integrifolia

There is a bright side to this fire though. The Orange Bracket Fungi (Pycnoporus coccineus) and other decomposers like it are flourishing and busy breaking down organic matter like this Banksia branch. Also, the Kangaroo Apple (Solanum aviculare) seedlings have laid dormant beneath the thick layers of scrub and were last seen here in 2018. But recently, due to the burning of the scrub the Kangaroo Apple has rejuvenated and can be easily spotted again. Similarly, the Native Sundew (Drosera binata) hasn’t been spotted for a number of years and since the recent fire, this precious little flower is now growing out of the ashes throughout the scrubland of North Head.

Orange Bracket FungiKangaroo AppleNative Sundew

Remember though, seedlings are very small and can be easily walked on. So, avoid walking in these areas while they are regenerating and if you must go, use designated footpaths and an accredited tour guide.

Ever Wondered What Plant is That?

Native flora of Sydney Harbour with EcoWalks Tours. 

What are some of the plants found in Sydney Harbour National ParkWe just love showing our visitors the unique flora on our walks. Lately it has been during our virtual tours but we are now super excited to be back hosting our face to face guided walking tours.

Here are some of our favourites that you’ll be able to spot on our walks.

Eggs and Bacon Pea

Eggs and Bacon (Dillynia retorta). This plant is a dense twiggy shrub with small needle-like leaves. The Eggs and Bacon Pea thrives in shrub lands on sandy soil. Although there are other yellow peas about, this one has yellow ear-like flowers bloom in clusters that have a scarlet centre.

Prickly Moses

The Prickly Moses (Acacia ulicifolia) is a wattle that grows in open forest, woodlands and heath on sandy soils with low fertility. Flowers are pale cream sphere-like heads on long stems beyond the reach of the prickly needle-like leaves that defies the touch. Watch a video about Prickly Moses here

Correa

This is the Correa reflexa which is a small shrub and is found in sheltered, wet sandstone gullies. Kids usually see it first as it’s only about 1 meter in height. The leaves are opposite, and may be heart-shaped with drooping flowers that vary in colour from red with yellow or green tips.

Have you seen the Correa reflexa before?

Happy Wanderer

The Happy Wanderer (Hardenbergia violacea) is a climbing vine with small bright purple flowers that are typically shaped like others of the pea family. With alternating leathery leaves that are dark green and oval shaped it is easily identifiable to others.

Nielsen Park She-oak

The Nielsen Park She-oak (Allocasuarina portuensis) and it was only discovered by botanists in 1986. That’s right, these sticky little plants are only found in Sydney Harbour’s and were just went unnoticed. With extensive efforts from NSW Parks personnel, scientists and conservationists alike, the Nielsen Park She-oak was saved from extinction. Although still listed as endangered, there is still hope for recovery. Now, there are six individuals at Middle Head thanks to the Rangers.

Red Five Corners

Red Five Corners (Styphelia tubiflora) has vibrant red flowers that have rolled back petals revealing their fluffy inside. In bloom between May to October and are just an absolute delight to see when walking our new wildlife meandering walking tour

Come see the Red Five Corners with us by booking a Wildlife Meanders Tour at Q Station.

Black Wattle

The Black Wattle (Callicoma serratifolia) is not a true wattle at all. A wonder full leafed large shrub to a medium size tree. These flowers are delightful puffy balls of cream colour that resemble some Acacia flowers. The leaves are bright green with serrated edges with a woody texture. Unmistakable the Black Wattle is and one of our favourites that’s for sure.

Pink Kunzea

The Pink Kunzea (Kunzea capitata) is a beautiful flower among the heath flora of North Headland, Car-rang-gal. Closely related to the genus Callistemon or bottlebrush. Just gorgeous!

Native Flora of Sydney Harbour and Conservation

Mosman Parks and Bushland Association (MPBA) are the guardians of Sydney Harbour’s bushland of Mosman. In particular, Kate Eccles OAM leads the wonderful volunteers of MPBA are currently working on removing invasive plant species found in Sydney Harbour National Park at Chowder Head, Mosman. The crew of EcoWalks Tours sure are looking forward to improving the local bushland at Middle Head and assist MPBA whenever we can. So, why not help where you can and join MPBA and improve the natural environment of Sydney Harbour. Visit MPBA here.

Psst….Have You Heard Yet?

Sydney’s own EcoWalks Tours completed the ECO Certificate program.  

Here at EcoWalks Tours we have once again proven our sustainable business practices surpass industry standards. Recently, we successfully passed Ecotourism Australia’s internationally recognised audit program.

Photo Credit: Destination NSW

So, why did we undergo an audit?

We wanted to show the WORLD that we promote and uphold the highest standards of sustainability. So we went ahead and shifted our focus on excelling in the internationally accredited ECO Certification program which Ecotourism Australia endorses.

Ecotourism Australia CEO Rod Hillman says that by

“Having an auditor is essential in ensuring transparency and the authenticity of a business’ claims to sustainability.”

So, we conducted our evaluations, adjustments and refinements over several months along our sustainable journey.

But, what does this mean?

Well, we provide excellence in sustainable tourism and the audit was essential for identifying and enhancing our tour business. It provided opportunities for reflection as well as useful resources for improving and adapting our business operations.

Community and Consultation with Gaimaragal Group

Also along our sustainable journey, we reached out to enhance community partnerships with the Gaimaragal Group. This was for us to learn more about and promote local Aboriginal histories and cultural practices within Sydney Harbour National Park. Auditor Fiona Sleight says that she was particularly impressed with

“our consulting and working with Indigenous organisations to enhance the understanding of Sydney’s cultural heritage.”  

As a result of our community consultation and connection with our local Aboriginal representatives, we have been invited to host a walking tour celebrating the 21st anniversary of the Gai-mariagal Festival.

So, we are proud to be hosting a cultural experience later in this year to enhance community connections and learning of Aboriginal heritage.

Discussing community activities for the future

Lee De Gail, Matthew Springall and Susan Moylan-Coombs at Caba Caba looking over Borogegal land along the shores of Sydney Harbour National Park.

EcoWalker Bush Explorer Tours

When kids join our EcoWalker Bush Explorer Tour they participate in a number of learning activities that investigates the special relationships between plants, animals and the Aboriginal People of the Sydney Harbour National Park. 

Guide shows kids how wood decays

Aboriginal Heritage

Kids participate in an Acknowledgement of Country to recognise the Borogegal Clan of the Cammeraygal People as the traditional custodians of the Middle Headland of Sydney Harbour National Park. These curious kids learn about traditional ways that the Aboriginal People used plants for food, medicinal purposes as well as tools and resources to assist them with shelter, fishing, hunting and gathering. Kids love hearing about the unique fishing culture of the Borogegal People as well as the many uses of the Green Grasstrees harvested in this area of Sydney Harbour for everyday life.

Connecting with Nature

When curious kids are out on the trail they are happily chatting about all the unique animals as they complete their scavenger hunt. The scavenger hunt encourages kids to spot, tally and ask questions about a range of animals that include mammals, birds, reptiles and invertebrates. This is so the kids develop an understanding of biodiversity as well as energy flows through the food web specific to Sydney Harbour National Park.

Two lorikeets

Also, the kids go wild when spotting the gorgeous flowering herbs, shrubs and trees along the trail. Kids will learn about the native acacias, grevilleas and eucalyptus trees as a producer of food for animals but they just get so excited when they see the huge variety of native flowering pea plant species along the trail. This includes flowering peas such as the Love Creeper, Happy Wanderer, Golden Spray, Heathy Parrot Pea, Dusky Coral and Large-Leaf Bush Pea as well as the Common Aotus. So many other wonderful wildflowers of Middle Head can be found all year round.

An entertaining educational experience in the Sydney bush. Everyone loved the details you showed us particularly the delicate wildflowers.” Camilla

Sense of Adventure

When kids take on the role of an EcoWalker Bush Explorer they actually get dirty, laugh, learn and really have a fun time outside in the bushland. They get an up close and personal look at the life cycle of a Bush Tick by making observations of ticks at different stages in life. No need to worry though, kids use a plastomount, photos and infographics to learn fun facts about ticks and how to avoid them but more importantly, what they need to do when they spot one. Also, as part of having an adventurous spirit outside in Sydney’s bushland, the kids become citizen scientists and listen to the squeaking calls of the endangered Red Crowned Toadlet. This little creature is so difficult to find, the kids get into a frenzy trying to spot one amongst the ferns as they hear the unique calling of this frog.

Searching for the Red Crowned Toadlet

Book Your Kids on Our Next EcoWalker Bush Explorer

So, whether you know kids that go crazy for the great outdoors or you want to encourage kids to learn more about the Sydney bushland or simply just need to get outside more, then the EcoWalker Bush Explorer is for them. Our staff have a passion for sharing their knowledge and understanding of the Sydney Harbour National Park and are sure to provide kids with a memorable experience that will inspire them.

Three great nature loving, informative hours for children to learn and enjoy on school holidays.” Dallas

Ever Wondered What Native Flower is That?

As a lover of all things in nature big and small in Sydney Harbour National Park, I have developed a passion for sharing my love for all the native plants that are found on Middle Head.

Here are some of my favourite floral displays I love to show visitors on my tours. So I wonder if you too feel the same. Let’s find out.

Lilac Lily

The Lilac Lily (Schelhammera undulata) is a solitary flowering herb with pink to violet petals grow out from a stalk. This little beauty is found growing in moist sandy soil in shady places within the Sydney Harbour National Park. The Lilac Lily is in bloom July to September but you have to know where to look to find it.

Hops Bush

The Hops Bush (Dodonaea triquetra) has unusual green, 3 cornered membranous with rounded edges that resemble the fruit of the beer brewing hops species. It has slender but large leaves that are dark green with pointed tips and visible veins.

Coastal Rosemary

The Coastal Rosemary (Westringia fruticosa) is a dense along exposed coastal heat, it can withstand shrub with dark green narrow pointed leaves with margins the curve downwards to channel water droplets towards the base of the plant to be soaked up by the roots. Found in shallow soilsd strong winds. Noticeable by the irregular shaped white, pink or blue flowers at the top of a well-leafed stem.

Heathy Parrot Pea

The Heathy Parrot Pea our Eggs and Bacon (Dillynia retorta) is a endemic plant to Sydney Harbour National Park. It is a dense and spreading twiggy shrub that grows to a height of upto 2m it thrives in heath shrub land on sandy soil. Vibrant yellow ear-like flowers bloom in clusters during the months of July to November that have a scarlet centre.

Prickly Moses

The Prickly Moses (Acacia ulicifolia) is a wattle that grows in open forest, woodlands and heath on sandy soils with low fertility. Flowers are pale cream sphere-like heads on long stems beyond the reach of the prickly needle-like leaves that defies the touch.

Sunshine Wattle

Sunshine Wattle (Acacia terminalis) is endangered due to habit loss and competing invasive plant species. However, there are still individual plants still situated throughout the park and with ongoing conservation efforts from local community groups and such as Mosman High School Enviro Group in partnership with NSW Parks and Taronga Zoo, the number of individual plants are increasing. A unique wattle that is a the forefront of conservationist’s minds.

Sydney Golden Wattle

The Sydney Golden Wattle (Acacia longifolia) has yellow flowers resembling balls are grouped together along the stalk that gives a cylindrical appearance. The  long leathery leaves are not leaves, rather, phyllodes with longitudinal veins that run through them. Phyllodes do not have stomata or pores as true leaves do. This is so moisture is not lost through transpiration during dry conditions. 

Wallum Heath

The Wallum Heath (Philotheca buxifolia) is a native plant found throughout sandstone heath that has a sticky appearance with gorgeous white to deep pink flowers along its stem. A pleasant display of flowers among the heath landscape of Sydney Harbour National Park bushland.

Common Aotus

The Common Aotus (Aotus ericoides) is found all along the Eastern Suburbs Banksia Scrub (ESBS) landscapes within Sydney Harbour National Park. This flowering shrub loves shallow sandy soil usually along sandstone gullies with an abundance of sunlight.

Love Creeper

The Love Creeper (Glycine clandestina) is a climber with a very slim stalk that has 3 leaflets growing out from a short stalk. The flowers are petite with shades of purple to mauve that vary in shape and size. Similar to other pea flowers.

Happy Wanderer

The Happy Wanderer (Hardenbergia violacea) is a climbing vine with small bright purple flowers that are pea shaped with alternating leathery leaves that are dark green and oval shaped.

Flannel Flower

The Flannel Flower (Actinotus helanthi) is endemic to Sydney Harbour National Park and blooms between September to April. It gets its name from the woolly-like hairs and fluffy tuffs that appear all over the plant and the creamy white flower blooms on top.

Although I have selected these plant species to showcase to visitors, there are so many other unique and gorgeous flowering plants located in Sydney Harbour National Park.

For further information, I recommend Australian Plant Society NSW.

School Holiday Bush Explorers

Here is a way to keep the kids busy this school holidays!

During this upcoming school holidays EcoWalks Tours is hosting a Bush Explorers Day.

This day offers children aged 8 to 12 years old meaningful learning experiences about the local ecosystems and biodiversity in Sydney Harbour National Park.

Only 12 places available this school holidays on Wednesday 22 April 2020.

Book now to avoid disappointment!