Field of Mars Reserve and Wildlife Refuge
Dry eucalypt woodland covers much of the Field of Mars Reserve. This vegetation is typical of the dry, infertile sandstone soils found in Sydney's north and is known as dry sclerophyll woodland. Many of the plants in this area have hard, waxy leaves that tend to be small and narrow, features which help to reduce moisture loss.
Despite being only 56 hectares in size, the reserve contains around 300 species of plants. These plants support an even greater array of animals from the tiniest spiders to large possums and birds.
Surveys conducted in 2006 found evidence of animals that were believed to be missing from the reserve. These include Sugar Gliders, Echidnas and Long Nosed Bandicoots. Control of pest species like foxes may be contributing to the return of animals to the reserve. Also Brush Turkeys are seen regularly and a swamp wallaby was observed in the reserve in 2012.
Along Buffalo and Stranger's Creeks there are long pockets of moist gully vegetation, known as wet sclerophyll forest. Different plant species flourish in the moist conditions found here. Wet sclerophyll forest is characterised by moist rich soils, shadiness and plants with dark green, soft leaves. The cool, moist conditions found within these gullies create the perfect habitat for some of the reserve's animals like finches, wrens, whip birds and ringtail possums.
The location of the Field of Mars:
You are very welcome to explore the Reserve using the walking tracks at any time of the day. The walking tracks of the Field of Mars: Field of Mars Walking Track System
The Field of Mars is a Wildlife Refuge gazetted under the National Parks and Wildlife Act. Dogs are not allowed in the Reserve. Riding of all types of bikes in the Reserve is also not allowed.
On weekends the RHHFFPS staffs a Visitors Centre in the Field of Mars (see opposite).
Click Here for information on the Plan of Management of the Field of Mars.
The Visitors Centre can be found in the Field of Mars off Pittwater Road. Parking is available in the carpark at the front. Volunteers open the centre each Saturday and Sunday.
Drop in to discover more about the environment and the Field of Mars Reserve before you explore and experience it for yourself!
The Visitors Centre can be reached on foot via a number of nearby streets. Car access is via Pittwater Rd. (opposite Buffalo Reserve). ph: 9816 1068
Winter schedule (April to August): Saturday and Sunday 9am - 4pm.
Summer schedule (September to March): Saturday and Sunday 9am - 5pm.
Enquiries from groups or individual wishing to visit during the week are welcome. Guided bush walks are available by arrangement when volunteers are available. Contact through email address: firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 9817 4935.
The Visitors Centre contains maps, brochures and information on local and wider community environment issues.
Visitors using prams, strollers, walking frames and wheel chairs have easy access to the Centre toilets. The boardwalk provides a short, easy bushwalk.
As often, there is more life in Buffalo Creek than appears at first sight. Recent sightings include turtles and large schools of small fish (mullet?). There was also, recently, an almost certain sighting of a legless lizard. It would be great if you could let the Society know of any interesting creatures or plants you have seen in the Field of Mars — or any other local open space.
Ferals, pets and predators
Visitors will have noticed the new, emphatic signs at entrances to the Field of Mars indicating that dogs are not allowed in the Reserve. People living close to the Reserve may also have received Ryde Council’s new leaflet, explaining the reasons for the ban; we have spare copies at the Visitor Centre. This has not entirely solved the problem; in fact on a weekend shift immediately after the leaflet was distributed the volunteer on duty spotted four dogs in four hours. But at least it’s harder now for owners to claim they have not seen the notices. Anecdotal evidence suggests that fewer dogs are being brought in to the area near the Visitor Centre, though dog-walkers are still using the tracks near the cemetery boundary.
Meanwhile, our wildlife is under attack. In recent weeks we have seen the remains of a dusky moorhen, a water dragon, a ringtail possum and a kookaburra, all apparently killed by some larger animal. The culprits may be foxes or cats (feral or domestic). All of these have been seen fairly recently in the Reserve. Of course there are also native predators, such as powerful owls — though we have not heard their distinctive call in recent weeks, so they are probably not around at the moment. If you have seen evidence of predators, please let us know: it would be good to have a clearer idea of what is going on.
Bugs on Mars
Walkers and volunteers often see a photographer with sophisticated gear taking pictures near the Visitor Centre. He may spend an hour or more on a single group of trees, taking close-ups of something on the trunks and leaves. This is Ian Gordon, whose specialty is photographing insects and spiders in the Field of Mars. These tiny creatures, which most of us probably ignore except when they bother us or sting, are an extraordinarily rich part of the wildlife of this and other reserves. Children, of course, know that — we often meet families with kids collecting bugs or cicada-cases. Talking to Ian, it is easy to see the fascination. Recently, for example, he discovered in the Field of Mars a community of a tiny spider which has only very recently been identified — so recently, in fact, that it has not yet been named. On that very hot day, 7 January, when the temperature near the Visitor Centre — usually so delightfully cool in summer — reached 40o, Ian was there with his camera clicking away. The heat had brought lots of tiny spiders out of their hiding-places. Ian has agreed to show us some of his pictures to members and others in the Environmental Education Centre. We hope to organise this event in the next weeks or months.