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100 Years of the Field of Mars

The definitive history of the Field of Mars is now available free of charge.
100 Years of Field of Mars Reserve, 1887-1987, Written and compiled by Rod Wallace, has now been digitized and can be viewed or downloaded on this website.
Published in 1987 by the Ryde Hunters Hill Flora and Fauna Preservation Society, the book is a fascinating and informative chronicle of the century prior to that date.
The print version is still available in the Visitor Centre.

NEWS FROM AROUND THE FIELD OF MARS

Wildlife

With spring comes new life, and young animals are appearing. In Buffalo Creek near the Visitor Centre, a pair of dusky moorhens are being very protective of their three chicks, and a family of 7 teal ducklings has appeared.
Moorehen family
Kunzea Track walkers reported seeing a swamp wallaby with joey in the pouch.
And the male brush turkeys have been working on their mounds. This year, Roast built a new mound behind the Education Centre building.
More devastation
His old mound under the pittosporums by the Warada Track has been taken over by a new turkey we named Syd… because he is the subject of a Sydney University study.

BUSHCARE

Working eastwards from behind 36 Finch Avenue, the Strangers Creek bushcare group has made significant improvement to that area of bushland. And the Monash Road group has continued to eliminate weeds on the western front. At Cemetery Creek 2, work continues on recovery of the site after damage by the excavator, and by the building of a new crypt backing on to the Reserve.
At the Visitor Centre / Warada Track site (pictured above) we are assisted by the new resident turkey Syd, who eats weed seeds and scratches weeds and debris into his mound. Strangely, an unknown person whipper-snipped the open area within the site, spreading Ehrharta, Bidens and other weed seeds. Although it may have been well-intentioned, this action was very unhelpful!

WILD KINDY

Society member Kelly Roberts conducts Nature Play sessions, mostly held on school holiday dates. We recently asked Kelly to share the news of this work…
Wild KindyWild Kindy offers nature immersion programs for children 2-12 years in both the Field of Mars Reserve and Bluegum Park, Chatswood. Following the ethos of forest schooling, we promote an outdoor childhood. We endeavour to educate children on their local environments, bush safety, connect with nature and develop life qualities such as resilence, confidence, problem solving, and environmental stewardship through our nature play programs. For more information on Wild Kindy visit: https://wildkindy.com.au

PLOGGING

The bushland in the Field of Mars Reserve is normally in an unspoilt condition but, unfortunately, there are careless people who do drop rubbish in bushland. Anyone who walks through the Reserve will appreciate that there is seldom any rubbish here. This is because bush carers and walkers (including visiting schoolchildren) often pick up rubbish and dispose of it correctly.
The habit of picking up as you walk along bush tracks is called “plogging” – a word which was coined in 2016 when the practice began in Sweden: it combines the Swedish words “plogga” (pick up) and “jogga” (jog). Most ploggers take their rubbish away but, for when there are too many items or they are too large, the rear of the Visitor Centre serves as an unofficial collection point.
Another source of rubbish is all the debris that washes down the creeks during heavy rain periods, and Society members often safely collect this by using our scoops and bags. Recently, Sandy Larson collected along Buffalo Creek in the lower end of the Reserve, and completely filled three large rubbish bags. We have progressively disposed of these.
All Society members and friends are encouraged to contribute to keeping our bushland clean, but please do so in a safe manner, using gloves and (if being more adventurous) the appropriate equipment available at the Visitor Centre.

WHAT’S HAPPENING TO OUR RAINBOW LORIKEETS?

There have been reports of rainbow lorikeets inexplicably dying in Ryde and elsewhere. Some clues to the cause are in this article, published by Stuart Layt in The Sydney Morning Herald, July 2021…
Moorehen family
A bizarre disease is paralysing rainbow lorikeets, leaving experts in a flap and calling on the public to help them solve the mystery.

Lorikeet paralysis syndrome renders the birds nearly immobile and unable to fly or eat, resulting in many birds dying from the condition.
Scientists sounded the alarm because the disease seems to have only started affecting the birds relatively recently, but has quickly ramped up, with thousands now being found dead or severely affected in the past few years.
University of Sydney School of Veterinary Science Professor David Phalen said he and his colleagues had ruled out several possibilities for what might be causing the disease, and are closing in on a likely culprit.
“We ruled out the common things that might cause the symptoms that these birds have - we know it’s not a toxin produced as a result of pollution, it’s not a toxin associated with pesticides or anything like that,” he said. “We also know it’s not an infectious disease.”
Professor Phalen said that narrowed it down to a plant toxin, which fit the seasonal nature of the disease - the birds were primarily found with the paralysis between October and June.
That suggested the birds were feeding on the flowers or fruit of a plant that caused them to get sick - but researchers did not know which one.
“We’ve worked up a profile, almost like for a human being who’s done a murder,” Professor Phalen said.
“We think it’s a plant confined to a portion of the east coast of Australia, specifically north of Grafton in NSW and south of Noosa in Queensland.
We think it’s a plant predominantly in the coastal areas, and most likely not a native plant. It might be an ornamental plant that people are planting in their backyards.
Professor Phalen said researchers were calling for anyone who saw rainbow lorikeets feeding to take photos for them.
“We’re asking people if they see birds feeding on a plant to take pictures of that plant and then upload them to our research website,” he said.
“We’ll get that information and we can start looking for which plants they are eating in the months the disease isn’t a problem and which ones they are eating when it is a problem.”
In particular, there seemed to be hotspots of the disease around Brisbane and Noosa, although birds with the condition have been recorded in increasing numbers across northern NSW and southern Queensland.
More than 1000 lorikeets which were taken to the RSPCA in 2017-18 were suffering from lorikeet paralysis syndrome.
People who find live birds suffering from the disease were asked to take them to their nearest vet or animal shelter for treatment, with a 60 per cent chance of recovery for mild cases.
The research has been published in the Australian Veterinary Journal: https://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1111/avj.13107

Field of Mars Reserve and Wildlife Refuge

Dry eucalypt woodland covers much of the Field of Mars Reserve. This vegetation is typical of the dry, infertile sandstone soils found in Sydney's north and is known as dry sclerophyll woodland. Many of the plants in this area have hard, waxy leaves that tend to be small and narrow, features which help to reduce moisture loss.

Despite being only 56 hectares in size, the reserve contains around 300 species of plants. These plants support an even greater array of animals from the tiniest spiders to large possums and birds.

Surveys conducted in 2006 found evidence of animals that were believed to be missing from the reserve. These include Sugar Gliders, Echidnas and Long Nosed Bandicoots. Control of pest species like foxes may be contributing to the return of animals to the reserve. Also Brush Turkeys are seen regularly and a swamp wallaby was observed in the reserve in 2012.

Along Buffalo and Stranger's Creeks there are long pockets of moist gully vegetation, known as wet sclerophyll forest. Different plant species flourish in the moist conditions found here. Wet sclerophyll forest is characterised by moist rich soils, shadiness and plants with dark green, soft leaves. The cool, moist conditions found within these gullies create the perfect habitat for some of the reserve's animals like finches, wrens, whip birds and ringtail possums.

The location of the Field of Mars:
http://www.fieldofmar-e.schools.nsw.edu.au/maps.html

You are very welcome to explore the Reserve using the walking tracks at any time of the day. The walking tracks of the Field of Mars: Field of Mars Walking Track System

The Field of Mars is a Wildlife Refuge gazetted under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. Dogs are not allowed in the Reserve. Riding of all types of bikes in the Reserve is also not allowed.

On weekends the RHHFFPS staffs a Visitors Centre in the Field of Mars (see opposite).

Click Here for information on the Plan of Management of the Field of Mars.

Visitors Centre


More visitors are appearing now the weather is more pleasant. In addition to our regular weekend roster, we managed to open for the special holiday on Thursday 22 September.
Over the past two months our volunteers intercepted 6 dogs brought illegally into the Reserve. This number is about average over time, and dog walkers usually turn back without fuss when we advise them of the No Dogs rule. But… one dog appeared recently without its owner and started chasing the ducks and other wildlife in the creek. We have been advised for this and any other dog-related issue, the correct action to take is a hands-off approach: phone the City of Ryde Council on 9952 8222 (a 24/7 answering service) and ask for a ranger to come and deal with it.
Join Our Visitor Centre Team! to keep the Visitor Centre open 9am-5pm on weekends and public holidays. Our roster of 4-hour shifts is negotiated according to members’ availability. No specialised skills are required, and Alfred happily provides the training needed. Most visitors’ questions are answered in the maps and range of free leaflets we have available.

The Visitors Centre can be found in the Field of Mars off Pittwater Road. Parking is available in the carpark at the front. Volunteers open the centre each Saturday and Sunday.
Drop in to discover more about the environment and the Field of Mars Reserve before you explore and experience it for yourself!
The Visitors Centre can be reached on foot via a number of nearby streets. Car access is via Pittwater Rd. (opposite Buffalo Reserve). ph: 9816 1068
Opening Times
Winter schedule (April to August): Saturday and Sunday 9am - 4pm.
Summer schedule (September to March): Saturday and Sunday 9am - 5pm.
Enquiries from groups or individual wishing to visit during the week are welcome.  Guided bush walks are available by arrangement when volunteers are available. Contact through email address: rhhffps@gmail.com or phone 9817 4935.
The Visitors Centre contains maps, brochures and information on local and wider community environment issues.
Visitors using prams, strollers, walking frames and wheel chairs have easy access to the Centre toilets. The boardwalk provides a short, easy bushwalk.

INVITATION! - JOIN OUR VISITOR CENTRE TEAM ! We have a small number of members on a roster of 4-hour shifts to keep the Visitor Centre open on weekends and public holidays. No specialised skills are required, but we need to be double-vaccinated. Alfred happily provides the small amount of training needed. Frequency and times of each person’s shifts are negotiated individually according to preferences and availability. We enjoy providing this service again now that restrictions allow, so we may continue to enhance community appreciation of the Field of Mars Reserve.
If interested please email Alfred: alfred.vincent@bigpond.com(phone 02 9879 6067).

VALE SYLVIA GREEN

Sylvia Green
We mourn the recent passing of Sylvia. She left us peacefully on 4 September 2022, after a sudden complication of a lengthy illness.
Having served with RHHFFPS from 2014 to 2020 as a volunteer at the Field of Mars Visitor Centre, Sylvia left a much loved and enduring legacy. Sylvia enjoyed working with the society volunteers and made many friends. She performed volunteer shifts as often as possible and was well regarded by the volunteers and visitors. Being a very clean and meticulous person, she could be relied on to keep the VC in spotless shape for the rest of us. Unfortunately an injury and subsequent ill health forced her to suspend volunteer work about 2 years ago.
Sylvia will be sorely missed.