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Significance of Sportsmans Creek Wildlife Refuge

The headwaters of Sportsman Creek are protected within the Banyabba Nature Reserve which consists of a series of largely unmodified, rugged sandstone ridges and valleys. Banyabba Nature Reserve was listed on the register of the National Estate in 1978 for its outstanding natural catchment and river system values.

The geology predominately overlying the area of the Sportsman Creek watershed comprise (lithic sandstones, siltstone, claystone and minor coal), called the Grafton Formation.

These sandstone derived soils tend to be infertile, poorly constructed and highly susceptible to erosion. Past land practices such as clearing for pasture and cattle grazing have contributed to the formation of extensive gullies in some areas.

Towards the mouth of Sportsman Creek before it enters the Clarence River is a significant Waterbird habitat. The main wetland is an important drought refuge, providing a permanent water supply. Flocks of several thousand Black Swan (Cygnus atratus) Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa), and Grey Teal (Anas gibberifrons) are common in the area. The area is a major Black Swan breeding ground. (Criterion A.Z).

Description

Sportsman Creek takes in the three major wetlands draining into the creek. The Everlasting Swamp lying to the south and the other two wetlands lying to the north of the creek. The Everlasting Swamp has 150 ha of shallow open water and 8ha deep open water. The dominant plant species in the central swamp is Eleocharis Equisetina. The Swamp Sheoak (Casuarina Glauca) is the dominant fringing tree, with occurrences of Melaleuca Linafolia, Paspalum Distichum provides just one third of the vegetation cover and the Phragmites swamp reed (Phragmites Australis) covers over a fifth of the area. Pseudoraphis Spinescens and Cyperus Polystachyos are the only other major species.

The Everlasting Swamp, 8km south-west of the Broadwater is the largest breeding ground of the Black Swan on the Clarence floodplain and there are frequent records of Brolga (Grus Rubicundus) a species considered vulnerable and rare in N.S.W. It is possible that the Brolga breeds in the area. The nearby Broadwater contains the largest single area of the Seagrass Ruppia sp. in the state which is an important food source for swans.

The Sportsman Creek area provides nesting and feeding habitat for a number of waterbird species. Flocks of several thousand Pacific Black Duck occur in the earlier part of the year and many are resident in the area. In spring flocks of Grey Teal occur in similar numbers. Flocks of several hundred Hardheads (Aythya Australis) may also occur. The area supports four species of Egret which breed at Gilletts Ridge, this being the only rookery in the region.

Sportsman Creek Conservation Area is situated approximately 1km south of the Sportsman Creek bridge at Dilkoon. The 50 hectare property is classified as having very high conservation value by the Dept. of Environment and Climate Change. The property straddles the creek in places and has a largely unlogged riparian zone. There is a unique Sand Island of 4 hectare with several significant tree species. The conservation area is mapped as being within a regionally significant wildlife corridor and is identified as key wildlife habitat. This wildlife corridor is part of an extensive forested landscape that includes Banyabba Nature Reserve and Fortis Creek National Park to the west and the forests to the east. These corridors may provide an important link for wildlife in a period of predicted climate change. These riparian habitats are in good condition and represent ecosystems that have been mostly cleared or modified elsewhere in the catchment.

Eighteen Threatened and Endangered species have been recorded on the property to date. These being the Squirrel Glider (Petaurus norfolkensis) Brush- tailed Phascogale (Phascogale tapoatafa) Yellow- bellied Glider (Petaurus australis) Grey-crowned Babbler (Pomatostomus temporalis) Black-chinned Honeyeater (Melithreptus gularis) Barking Owl (Ninox connivens) Glossy Black Cockatoo (Calyptorhynchus lathami) Little Bentwing Bat (Miniopterous australis) Grey-headed Flying Fox (Pteropus poliocephalus) Black Bittern (Ixobrychus flavicollis) Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandiae) Green-thighed Frog (Litoria brevipalmata) Rufous Bettong (Aepyprymnus rufescens) Little Lorikeet  (Glossopsitta pusilla) Powerful Owl (Ninox strenua) Red-backed Button Quail (Turnix maculosus) and two species of Giant Barred Frog (Mixophyes iteratus and fasciolatus) are a recent sighting.

There are three Significant Tree species – Narrow-leaf Apple (Angophora Paludosa) and Large-leaved Spotted Gum (Corymbia henryi) and the (E2) Listed Endangered Narrow-leaved Red Gum (Eucalyptus seeana).

Between 2005-2013 over 630 Flora and Fauna species have been recorded across the property. Ongoing surveys are planned for 2013-15.

BIBLIOGRAPHY.

Broome L.S. (1978) Birds on North Coast Wetlands Univ. of New England School of Natural Resources Rep. No PR9. Univ. New England, Armidale.

Goodrick G. (1973) Letter to N.S.W National Parks and Wildlife Service dated 21/3/73, re Sportsman Creek- Everlasting Swamp Drainage and Levee Scheme. Unpublished.

Pressey R.L. (1987) A Survey of Wetlands on the Lower Clarence Floodplain, N.S.W. National Parks and Wildlife Service,  Sydney.

Draft Plan of Management. Southern Richmond Range Group. Clarence North Area. N.S.W. National Parks and Wildlife Service and Dept. Environment and Conservation Sydney. July, 2005.

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