Following the Warada Track, Field of Mars Wildlife Refuge

It is a testament to the community spirit that this area exists at all, tucked alongside creeks in urban Sydney. The Field of Mars was part of a large land grant given to soldiers in 1792 by Governor Arthur Philip, originally taking in the entire area north of the Parramatta River from Dundas to the Lane Cove River. Over the decades the surrounding area had been carved up and allocated, and part of the reserve had been used as a tip. Moves to redevelop the remaining pockets of bush were challenged by local groups, and since 1975 the site has been available for the public to enjoy as well as being a sanctuary for animals, birds and other wildlife.

There is an Environmental Education Centre in the reserve, and it is a popular destination for school groups offering excursions along several tracks. The Visitor Centre, open each weekend, is supported by volunteers from the Ryde Hunters Hill Flora and Fauna Preservation Society who provide friendly assistance and knowledge in regards to the various tracks available. Walking tracks can also be downloaded from the Ryde Council website.


Along the track

Upon arrival, I was greeted by a brush turkey. It paid little attention to me although when I was leaving another one appeared and seemed keen to follow me home. These birds are famed for the huge leaf-litter mounds which are maintained by male birds for up to nine months each year. They are up to five metres in diameter and one and a half metres high. The mounds are constantly turned over, waiting for a female turkey to come along, test the temperature and lay a clutch of eggs.

Australian Brush-turkey

Australian Brush-turkey (young/immature)

The Warada track is named for the Aboriginal heritage of the area, and the track’s proximity to the only known waratah plants in the reserve. They would be a spectacular sight in springtime – the one below was spotted in the upper Blue Mountains last October.


Waratah (telopea speciosissima) spotted in upper Blue Mountains, Oct 2017

The track climbs upwards with sandstone ledges acting as steps in some parts. There are Sydney red gums throughout the walk, their roots holding tight onto the sandstone until the stone eventually crumbles. Some of the trees are marked with sap; this indicates that the tree is being attacked by insects, but it defends itself by exuding gum, called kino.

Sydney red gum

Sydney red gum with kino – gum – exuding as it defends itself against insects

Banksias and scribbly gums appear along the path, along with hakeas and boronias. There were several large termite nests along the way, perched high up in the trees. The path turns, winding away along a ridge before snaking down towards Strangers Creek. According to field notes, the creek was named as there were homeless people living in the area until the 1950s, with local residents and farmers warning children not to venture near this creek alone.


Termite nest remnants

The bush was alive with various birds including magpies, white cockatoos and rufous fantails. On the path leading back towards the Visitor Centre, alongside a stretch of mangroves, a pair of white ibis birds were foraging about. A short distance away, a kookaburra rested on a branch, watching the ground for any treats.

It was a delight to spend some time in this reserve and it will be worth revisiting during different times of the year to see various wildflowers and shrubs in bloom.

Have you taken a different track lately?

[Photo: Field of Mars Reserve, East Ryde]


My I Spy: something beginning with ‘W’

Wintery thoughts are a distant memory as I write this on a warm summer’s day. The outside world is whirring with bird calls and distant traffic as I ponder on what I’ve spied beginning with W.

Whale tail at Victor Harbor, SA

Whale tail at Victor Harbor, SA


Lately I have come across several references to whales. On a documentary there was footage of a beautiful horseshoe-shaped bay in Tasmania where Southern Right whales congregated for their breeding season until the enthusiastic whaling economy of the 1800s nearly wiped them out entirely. Whaling stations are dotted around the coastline and a whaling museum I visited years ago at Albany at the bottom of Western Australia had a blubber tank that still exuded the scent of decades past. This whale tail was spotted in Victor Harbor in South Australia. There is an excellent overview of the history of whaling in Australia here.



‘Dancing, swaying, wattle’: it is hard for me to spot any of the many varieties of wattle without hearing my Mum sing this line in my head. These bright bursts were spied near an old gold mine shaft at Grenfell in the central west.


This bright flower is the floral emblem of New South Wales. The red blooms draw the eye even on a dull day in the mountains. There are white waratahs too, a rarer delight.

White waratah

White waratah

Wisteria at Camden Park House

Wisteria at Camden Park House


Stunning en masse, this wisteria was spotted just before reaching its peak wrapped around Camden Park House, part of the Macarthur family estate.

Whale hedge at Glenhaven, Leura

Whale hedge at Glenhaven, Leura

One More Whale

I laughed out loud when I first spotted an article in the Blue Mountains Gazette at the beginning of spring. There are many gardens open for viewing in Leura, and I had to admire the unconventional inclusion of large teeth and an eye to transform a large hedge into a whale in a beautiful garden called Glenhaven. Of course I had to track it down for a photo.

Have you spotted anything wonderful beginning with W this week?

Check out what Autumn has spied here, as well as on Instagram.