The Vertebrate Fauna of Towra Point Nature Reserve

Overview

An expanse of marsh with pools glinting in the sunlight, mangroves lining shallow embayments, and white specks of birds foraging on mudflats is most people’s impression of Towra Point Nature Reserve when they glimpse it from the window of an aeroplane taking off or landing at Sydney airport. Little do most people realise, gazing down at this expanse with thoughts spun far away, the importance of this area nestled so close to the inner regions of the city. It is the last example of a complete estuarine wetland area in the Sydney region. The reserve includes the largest stretch of undeveloped sheltered water coastline and the largest expanse of estuarine saltmarsh in the Sydney area. It supports a range of habitats that are now rare and extremely limited in the region, ranging from swamplands and estuarine saltmarsh through to littoral rainforest.

The significance of the vegetation and coastline are reflected in the Reserve’s internationally significant fauna values. Towra Point Nature Reserve is one of only three sites in central coastal New South Wales, and the only one in the Sydney region, to be recognised under the Ramsar convention as a wetland of international significance. Following is a summary of the native vertebrate fauna characteristics of the Reserve.

A total of 212 native vertebrate fauna species have been recorded in the Reserve comprising six frog, 15 reptile, 179 native bird and 12 native mammals. Shorebirds and waterbirds are a feature of the Reserve. It contains one of the most important nesting sites in New South Wales for the little tern which is listed as Endangered under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. It also encompasses a significant proportion of the statewide nesting population of the Endangered Australian pied oystercatcher. A large number of shorebirds listed under international migratory bird agreements, such as the eastern curlew and bar-tailed godwit, use the Reserve's intertidal and sandy flats for foraging and roosting. The protected inshore waters and intertidal mudflats also support a variety of other waterbirds, particularly during periods of inland drought. These areas provide important feeding habitat for a number of raptor species rare within the Sydney region, such as the eastern osprey and white-bellied sea-eagle.

The extensive areas of saltmarsh support the only remaining breeding population of the white fronted chat in the Sydney area. This population is listed as Endangered under the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995. The mangrove gerygone which utilises the mangrove areas is close to its southern range limit. A variety of swampland species occur, including the secretive Lewin’s rail that is rarely seen but can frequently be heard calling from dense vegetation. The southern emu-wren occurs in swampy areas and other habitats across the Reserve.

The forests of the Reserve provide important habitat for a number of relatively uncommon species within Sydney such as the greater broad-nosed bat and the masked owl. The white-bellied sea-eagle nests in littoral bangalay forest on Towra Point, one of the few nest sites known in Sydney. When key tree species are in flower the coastal scrub and eucalypt forest provides feeding habitat for the Vulnerable grey-headed flying-fox. Some species that are patchily distributed in forest habitat elsewhere in the region are relatively common in the Reserve, such as the brown gerygone.

 

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Page last updated: 29 May 2015