Blackbutt Reserve is in Kotara, a suburb of Newcastle. The reserve had been part of a subdivision which didn’t quite go to plan. An attempt at small scale farming didn’t work out, and the land was sold off. The local council bought six hectares of bushland in 1934. This was at the encouragement of a local parks and playground movement. Over the years, more land was added to the reserve and control moved to Newcastle City Council from 1938. In 1940, 143 hectares was dedicated as a public recreational reserve.
Work commenced in the 1960s to restore the reserve which was overrun by weeds. Over time, animal displays were introduced. Barbecues and picnic facilities further helped the reserve to become a popular spot.
The reserve is named after the Blackbutt tree (Eucalyptus pilularis). The base of the tree is often rough and charred from bush fires. It can grow up to 70 metres tall, with trunks up to four metres wide. It is a hardwood and it is durable with fire resistant properties.
Local wildlife includes brush-tail possums, grey-headed flying foxes and powerful owls. There are some wildlife exhibits in the reserve along with several bird displays. I’ll share some of the animals spotted at the reserve, and feature some of the birds in a future post.
The Brush-tailed Rock-wallaby thrives in rocky country from south-east Queensland to Victoria. They have acrobatic skills and eat a wide variety of native grasses, herbs, shrubs, roots and bark.
There are a couple of different wombats at the reserve, including common wombats. There is something about these large and heavy marsupials that is endearing. Wombats have a backward facing pouch to protect their young from the dirt – they are great diggers. You can find a short video about wombats in the Blue Mountains here.
A gathering of Eastern Grey Kangaroos is a frequent sight as I travel through the Hartley Valley. It was nice to get a closer look at them in the reserve. They feed mainly at night and early morning, and according to the factsheet:
These, like all kangaroos, have excellent eye sight, a good sense of smell and large flexible ears. This enables them to react quickly when danger approaches. An alarmed kangaroo will thump the ground with its back legs to warn other kangaroos of danger.
One of the highlights of the park was seeing the koalas. There were several koalas in a large bird aviary. They seemed unperturbed by the endless cacophony of the birds around them. This was no mean feat, as there were dozens of parrots and the rainbow lorikeets in particular are very loud. Lots of people came along to take photos of the koalas, an attraction whether they are awake or sleeping.
Other exhibits included a darkened room where frogs were on display. There was also a lace monitor – a tree goanna – which is one of the largest lizards on earth. In the wild they feed on birds nests and chicks.
These wildlife exhibits provide an opportunity to see animals and reptiles up close. Signage and fact sheets encourage a better understanding and a greater appreciation. There is a link to the Blackbutt Reserve website here, through the City of Newcastle page.
Blackbutt Reserve, a natural park within an urban environment, is a tribute to all involved in its development and maintenance.
[Photo: koala with rainbow lorikeet nearby]