Seeking answers on birdlife in Southbank

By Rhonda Dredge

Many people love bird watching and locals around Sturt St often look across at the leafy sculptured forms of the Habitat Filter opposite the arts precinct hoping for some action.

Faye McDonald of the Southbank Sustainability Group claims to look every morning and night from her apartment with binoculars.

She lives just across the street towards the top of the former IBM building.

“Where are the birds?” she asked. “I never see any. I don’t think they like the concept.”

Transurban developed the site in 2016 on a piece of contaminated land next to the freeway.

According to a statement issued by the company, the “once-vacant” site was regenerated in consultation with Landcare Australia and planted with more than 14,000 native plants from 40 different species.

It also included a water filter and nest box habitat to support birds and bats to move across the densely populated landscape.

In May 2019, a survey of flora and fauna was conducted, which found that weeds made up less than five per cent of all flora.

“The survey also recorded a total of 11 bird species either using or flying through the site, most of which were identified as being native. Unfortunately, the exact species were not recorded,” Faye said.

Swallows, wattlebirds, crows, seagulls, starlings, cockatoos and sparrows are some of the species that have been sighted in the area, but experts say you need to know what food source is available at the filter before you can attract particular species.

The revegetated area was fenced off and closed to the public as part of the process so that birds would nest in the sculpture. Solar panels provide heating for nesting boxes.

Four years on and native grasses such as reeds, rushes and native iris provide a wild foreground to the glass towers surrounding the area and the eucalypts are growing.

But residents have lost heart. They used to be able to walk up the hill, sit under trees full of nesting birds and look at the lights of the city.

Now they can’t see any wildlife and there’s a sign warning them not to walk on the regenerated areas around the filter.

“We’ve been denied this area,” Ms McDonald said. “I think it looks terrific, but has it fulfilled its purpose?”

Ms McDonald said that human and wildlife could cohabit, that residents were short of green space and that they would need coaxing out of their private worlds following the pandemic.

“It’s difficult to develop a community attitude,” she said, even at her apartment block where they have some communal space.

“We’ve got a communal vegie garden. People say where is it? I say come down the stairs and turn right.”

The removal of the fence or at least the sign would send out a more welcome message to local people. “There’s a big sign saying not to trespass. I never see anyone walking around,” Ms McDonald said •

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