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Living on the edge in Queanbeyan

Haven for walkers, runners, bike-riders, animals and plants

by Claire Cooper

For 20 plus years, I have been very lucky to live on the fringes of Queanbeyan’s city area close to surrounding countryside.  Early morning walks with my border collie, Tilly, in the nearby Jumping Creek area give me great joy.

As the morning sun-rays peek over the top of the Queanbeyan escarpment and penetrate the rising mist from the tree canopy, I tell myself I could be a million miles from Queanbeyan’s CBD.

In reality, the Jumping Creek area is less than 3 kms from the centre of town.  Lightly timbered grassland slopes with remnant endangered box-gum woodland and natural creeks, it is flanked on three sides by the Queanbeyan River corridor, eucalypt woodland on the Queanbeyan escarpment and the semi-rural Greenleigh estate – all of which are identified in Queanbeyan’s planning documents as being areas of ‘natural beauty’ and of ‘high conservation value’.

We all have accounts of the other local residents (the plants, animals and birds) who use the area as a natural corridor, from the escarpment to the river and into our backyards.

The unique topography, providing a mix of grassland, woodland and water, attracts a rich biodiversity of animal and plant life.

On my walks, I often come across fellow local residents of the human kind: running, walking their dogs, mountain-bike riding, or simply taking in the view and the wildlife.   We all have first-hand accounts of the other local residents (the plants, animals and birds), particularly those who use the area as a natural corridor, from the escarpment to the river and into our backyards.

Species hanging on here

Endangered/vulnerable species I personally have sighted include: gang gang cockatoos, brown tree creepers speckled warblers, glossy black cockatoos, diamond firetails, Australasian bitterns, painted honeyeaters, and bent-wing bats.

Residents and visitors to our garden and surrounding area include: ring-tail and brush-tailed possums, sugar gliders, echidnas, swamp wallabies, wombats, kangaroos, herons, tawny frogmouths, kookaburras, a flock of corellas, grey shrike thrush, bower birds, various parrots and honeyeaters and a myriad of other birds, lizards and snakes.  Many of these raise their families here.

Lyrebirds in winter, human heritage sites

Less than 100m from the proposed Queanbeyan bypass through the area, I have heard, then seen, superb lyrebirds in the winter months, the calls to their mates resonating around the Jumping Creek valley.

The ‘Birds in Backyards’ website has become an invaluable resource for me in identifying birds, providing sound bytes of bird calls as well as descriptions, habitat, etc.  I am also becoming more proficient at identifying the wide range of native flora that I observe on my treks.

There are the more unusual sightings too.  Several times, I have seen a small lizard I am sure is the endangered grassland earless dragon.  And my husband and I have twice seen the small black and white Bandy-Bandy snake.

We also know that a koala was discovered at the back of Taylor Place in Greenleigh some years ago.  Just across the river in Fairlane Estate endangered legless lizards have been identified.

There are also sites that are of aboriginal and social heritage interest.  These include a possible aboriginal scar tree, an old limestone kiln, at least 3 old mine-shafts and foundations of an old homestead.

What is the indigenous history of this area? Who were the first European settlers here?  Where does the name ‘Jumping Creek’ come from?  I need to investigate further.

The road ahead

Sadly, 44 hollow bearing trees in this area will be bull-dozed if the proposed Queanbeyan bypass (Ellerton Drive Extension/Edwin Land Parkway) is built.  These trees take a life-time to form and provide important habitat and food for native wildlife.  They are not quickly replaced.

Many of Queanbeyan’s suburbs will be ring-barked by the road which will cut-off the natural corridors currently used by local wildlife.  Ironically, the so-called town ‘bypass’ will also split some suburbs, disconnecting current residential communities.

We will no longer be connected to the bush – a key reason so many residents, like us, chose to live in Queanbeyan over Canberra.  Queanbeyan Council’s mantra of ‘Country Living with City Benefits’ will be a distant memory.

Main image: Kookaburras perched on Claire Cooper’s verandah.

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