The Darebin Creek Catchment is home to a wide range of native plants, wildlife and biodiversity.
Despite being only 7kms from the CBD, Darebin Parklands features a wide variety of indigenous flora in an urban bushland environment. Volunteers and staff are maintaining the integrity of a few small patches of remnant vegetation as well as revegetating other areas of the park for habitat and to stabilise creek banks from erosion. Many historical exotic trees remain such as Black Mulberry, Olives, Quince, Peppercorn and Pine Trees.
In the north of the park, Snakegrass has over 50 species of indigenous plants, all flowering at different times of the year including Chocolate Lilies and Bulbine Lilies. You’ll find several species of spear grass and wallaby grasses, Kangaroo Grass, Windmill Grass and Silky Bluegrass. In this area, rangers carry out mosaic burns in autumn to stimulate grassland species. Endangered plant species, Matted Flax-Lily, grows throughout the grassland.
Along the creek, you’ll find River Red Gums and Ribbon Barked Manna Gums, clumps of Common Tussock Grass, with Bidgee Widgees and Kidney Weed covering the ground below them. In winter, the blossoms from Silver Wattle and Golden Wattle light up the park. These plants not only provide habitat for many animals and insects but also stabilise creek banks and capture nutrients from the stream.
In the wetlands and creek, you’ll find a great array of aquatic plant species including Water Ribbons, Slender Knotweed, Broom Rush and Common Nardoo. These help filter the water and provide hiding spots for water insects, frogs and fish.
On the slopes surrounding the creek, thickets of Sticky- Leafed Hop Bush, Prickly Moses Wattle, Sweet Bursaria and Sticky Boobialla hold the soil together and provide habitat for small birds. Below them grow several species of Saltbushes and hardy Wallaby Grasses.
The Darebin Creek supports a wide diversity of bird, mammal, reptiles, fish, frogs and insects. Over 100 species of birds live along the Darebin Creek, and while some are resident species, living and breeding in the Catchment, others are seasonal migrants visiting from other parts of Australia and the world. Birds range from the Wedge-tailed Eagle, which is a powerful hunter, to the tiny insect loving Spotted Pardalote. Kingfishers and Little Pied Cormorants can be seen close to the creek and wetlands doing a spot of fishing.
Ducks are common along the creek and breed in custom built bird boxes. Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos are a noisy addition to the creek as they fly about looking for dead Acacia trees containing grubs.
There are more than ten species of frogs, including the endangered Growling Grass Frog, Spotted Marsh Frog and Ewing’s Tree Frog. Mammals include the Short-beaked Echidna, Brush and Ring-tailed Possums, Sugar Gliders, Rakali (Water rats), Kangaroos and Grey Headed Flying Foxes as well as tiny Micro-bats that are less than 5cm in length.
Reptiles include Blue-tongue Lizards, Tiger Snakes and Long-necked Turtles. Eels and fish live in the Darebin Creek sharing their home with macro-invertebrates such as Burrowing Crayfish and Yabbies. Many of the creek’s residents are nocturnal, meaning they are most active at night, including possums and bats.
Keep your eye out in the grasslands of Snakegrass and Mt Puffalo for butterflies, like Woodland Blues or Wanderers, whizzing above the grasses and native wildflowers, tiny Copper Skinks basking in the sun or Red-Rumped Parrots chewing seeds on the ground.
Down by the creek, you may be lucky enough to come across a family of Wood Duck, a Rakali (Native Water Rat) hunting for yabbies or Fresh-Water Mussels, Tawny Frogmouths camouflaged in with tree trunks, tiny birds like Spotted Pardalotes or Blue Wrens flittering in the scrub or a Tiger Snake basking in the sun. Short-Finned Eel can be found in deeper pools in the creek and lucky visitors will glimpse Kingfishers throughout the summer months.
Up on the slopes, look for visiting Yellow-Tailed Black Cockatoos chewing casuarina cones, roaming echidnas, Blue- Tongue Lizards blending in with the grass and tiny conical soil pits made from Antlions (the larvae of lacewings).
Down by Ivanhoe Wetland or Pobblebonk Pond, you’ll be bound to hear some frogs chorusing such as the ‘crik-crik-crik’ of the Common Froglet, a Cormorant airing or a Nankeen Night Heron hiding in the bushes. Striped Skinks await dragonflies and Little Grebes dive to collect small fish. If you look carefully, you might see the tail of a Brush-Tailed Possum protruding from a nearby nest box.
Elsewhere in the park’s woodlands, you will see (or just hear) Kookaburras, Eastern Rosellas and Rainbow Lorikeets nesting in Red Gums, Casuarinas, Manna Gums and Bursarias. By the duckponds, you are sure to see Chestnut Teal, Pacific Black Ducks, Coots and Purple Swamphens. Please resist feeding them – they’re healthier without our food. On rainy wet days, you may come across an Eastern Long-Necked Turtle as the females emerge from the water to lay their eggs on higher ground in such weather. Please leave them alone and keep dogs away!
At dusk, a keen eye will spot tiny bats flitting around catching flying insects. Incredibly, they eat their own body weight in insects in one night! The much larger Grey Headed Flying Fox can be seen swooping over the area in search of fruit and nectar in neighbouring gardens. Unfortunately, unwelcome visitors, namely foxes and cats also roam the park at night, threatening our native wildlife.
In Australia, over 300 vertebrate species are known to use tree hollows: 29 amphibians (numerous species of frogs), 78 reptiles (snakes, skinks and monitors), 111 birds (including owls, parrots, ducks, rosellas and kingfishers) and 86 mammals (including bats, possums, gliders and antechinus). Approximately 100 of these are now rare, threatened or at risk according to government legislation, in part because of the removal of hollow-bearing trees. Natural tree hollows are an increasingly scarce and valuable resource for many native species, with hollows providing safe places to shelter and in many cases are essential for roosting, nesting and the raising of young. The destruction of dead and living hollow-bearing trees results in the displacement and decline of all wildlife who are depend on them for their survival, whether they use the hollows in standing trees, or making use of fallen hollow logs on the ground.
Peter Wiltshire has been a ranger here for 30 years, and during that time he has developed several strategies to bring hollow-dependant critters back to the park. It all started around 2010 when he saw an Eastern Rosella flying through the park, and realised that he hadn’t seen the species for over 15 years. These beautiful native birds have been displaced due to land clearing and aggression from introduced pest birds such as the Indian Myna that forcefully take over available nest holes. To breed successfully, the Rosellas needed safe tree hollows.
This was the catalyst for the ‘Penthouses for Parrots’ program, where we made and installed a large number of nest boxes to encourage the Eastern Rosellas to nest and rear their young here. With the assistance of Michael Mann from the Darebin Parklands Association, they spent almost ten years researching and designing nestboxes for a variety of hollow dwellers. The keys have been to design the nest boxes in a way that the target species is encouraged to nest, but pest species are discouraged or excluded. The installation of 150 nest boxes, coupled with the humane removal of 900 Indian Mynas from the park have seen eastern rosellas, musk lorikeets, red-rumped parrots, Australian noisy miners, pied currawongs, little ravens, kookaburras, mudlarks, crested pigeons, cuckoo shrikes, sacred kingfishers and magpies return to the park in decent numbers. And many of these are reliant on tree hollows and nest boxes for survival.