A move to sterile living!  Can Mosman Park Afford to Lose the Mosman Park Golf Club on its “A” class nature reserve? 

The Rottnest bound tourist cruising the Blackwall reach has a last remaining glimpse of what the founding fathers once saw of the Swan River, the limestone cliffs to the south created by geological conditions more than 10,000 years ago, backed by Point Walter Public Golf Course and Reserve and the stratified limestone of the north rising through coastal scrub to the Mosman Park “A” class reserve encompassing Mosman Park Golf Club and the Chidley Reserve.  The scene quickly changes to riverside mansions of Blackwall Reach Parade carved into the same limestone cliff and eventually on the north to the dense housing of Minim Cove to the west, and the cascade of riverside mansions to the east, each forcing a view over the other of this historic scene.

The areas covered by the reserves on both sides of the river are critical to both the plant and animal life providing a toe hold in this urban wilderness.  Stable ecosystems require space, but once the critical space is reduced beyond a fundamental limit, insects, birds, reptiles and mammals quickly fade – the system turns to a sterile public place.  Remarkably this stretch of the river bank provides refuge to reptiles including snakes and skinks such as the rarely seen black King Skink and Bobtails.  For birds, the sandstone and intervening sand patches gives nesting sites to the gloriously coloured Bee Eater and birds of prey feeding on small skinks and insects including raptors such as the Black Shouldered kite and Australian kestrel.  More dramatic sightings may be had of Osprey and Brown falcons along the river bank, which are remarkably common. 

Those developing the Mosman Park Golf course on the then 1950’s scrub of this now “A” class reserve some 60 years ago had a careful mind to maintaining the diversity of plant life including planting and cultivating natives but also introducing an almost arboretum of tree species such as black butt and malees from inland regions and non-native pine and olive. As a result, the continuous supply of food from flowering and the diverse nesting sites maintain a rich diversity of bird life for species such as the White- and Red-Tailed Cockatoos including Carnaby’s, flocks of Galahs and Corellas, Port Lincoln and more rarely Red-capped parrots typically found in tall eucalypts, Marri Wandoo and Jarrah, and of coursed the almost pestiferous Rainbow Lorikeets.

What better sound across the reserve as night falls is the call of the Boo Bok Owl and cryptic frog mouth with its repetitive summer sequence of ‘ooom-ooom-ooom’.  But during the day honey-eaters abound, and they are there in spectacular numbers, Wattle birds, Singing and Brown honey eaters, racing flocks of colourful New Hollands, the occasional Spine Bill, and even the plaintive wail of the Western Warbler.  But any walk down one of the fairways is rewarded with cheeky Wag-tails desperately searching for insects the walker has disturbed, the patiently waiting Magpies and the cawing crows, not to mention the Black-faced Cuckoo Shrikes and the mimicking screech of the Butcher Birds and the mocking laughter of the Kookaburras. And then the almost childish delight of watching Black duck fledglings fearlessly grazing around the dam, one of at least three duck species.

These sights and sounds of the reserve have been part of its history for hundreds if not thousands of years, well before the formation of the golf course and any legislation defining a reserve.  And while most residents would not be aware of the detail of this rich diversity (over 40 species of birds), the reserve is there, as a backdrop to their well-appointed houses and always available as a curious discovery for their children and grandchildren.  It is a remnant canvas. It will disappear with a stroke of the pen if this golf course is converted to residential development, those moving in will not have been aware of the heritage, some will become wealthier but Mosman Park will be tragically poorer.

Written by: Emeritus Professor Winston J Bailey