Fauna Guide to the Berowra Valley National Park

Some Common Spiders

By Dr Mike Gray and updated by Dr Helen Smith, Australian Museum

An enormous variety of spiders can be seen in the Berowra Valley region. Some of the more obvious are the web builders, especially the orb-web weaving families.

Garden orb weavers

The most familiar spiders are the large grey to reddish-brown ‘garden orb weavers’, Hortophora transmarina and H. biapicata. Occasionally these spiders have a creamy white stripe or spots on the back of the abdomen. Their big wheel-like webs are often seen at night stretched across tracks between shrubs and trees. For insects, these webs are almost invisible and are hard to avoid. Towards morning the spiders usually destroy their webs, except for a few frame lines, by eating the silk. The silk proteins are recycled to the silk glands and used again to make more silk. The spiders shelter among foliage to the side of the web during the day. The sexes are similar in size. The male lures the female from her web onto a special mating thread he has constructed, where mating takes place. Many other orb weavers are found in their webs day and night. One beautiful example, often seen in bushland, is the ‘enamelled spider’, Plebs bradleyi, so called because of its bright glossy abdomen of white, black, red and green. If you see enough of them you will notice occasional striking colour variations of opalescent green or yellow.

Garden Orb Weaver Hortophora biapicata. Image supplied by Dr Mike Gray.

Saint Andrew’s cross spider

The ‘Saint Andrew’s cross spider’, Argiope keyserlingi, is another very colourful spider, whose numerous silvery hairs may help reduce body heating during the day. These spiders make themselves additionally conspicuous by decorating their orb webs with ribbons of bright white silk, in a cross or partial-cross shape (one or more of the four arms of the cross may be missing). These webs are usually found among low tree and shrub foliage. The silk ‘cross’ is a strong reflector of ultra-violet light, which is attractive to insects, and it probably helps the spider by luring prey towards the web. The variable structure of the silk cross may also help confuse bird predators searching for a juicy spider meal.

Saint Andrew’s cross spider Argiope keyserlingi. Image supplied by Dr Mike Gray.

Golden orb weavers

The largest and strongest webs are built by the big ‘golden orb weavers’, of which Trichonephila plumipes is the common species in this region. Their orb webs, built among tall shrubs or slung between trees, have a golden sheen when viewed slantwise. The web is very strong and small birds sometimes become entangled. Webs often have an additional ‘barrier’ network of silk lines, where the spider hangs its prey, and which provides some protection from predators. When these spiders are very numerous, hundreds of webs may form an interconnected ‘colony’, as is sometimes seen in mangrove habitats. In both this and the previous species, the male is much smaller than the female, and mating occurs in the orb web.

Golden Orb Weaving Spider Trichonephila plumipes. Image supplied by J Noble.

Leaf curlers

These smaller orb weavers leave the upper sector of the web open, and there they place a protective retreat. This retreat is usually a neatly silk-curled gum leaf, even a snail shell. Different leaf curler species can be determined by the distance of the open end of the leaf retreat from the centre of the web. In a common species, Phonognatha graeffei, it is placed right at the centre, but in other species it is further out. The webs are found among understorey shrubs. The sexes are similar in size but a different mating strategy is evident. Males spiders have been found co-habiting in the leaf retreat with immature females; presumably mating occurs as soon as the female matures.

Leaf Curling Spider Phonognatha graeffei. Image supplied by Dr Mike Gray.
Rufous Net-casting Spider Asianopis subrufa – its small net is a highly modified orb web that it holds in the front legs. Photo supplied by Dr Mike Gray.
Enamelled Orb Weaving Spider Plebs bradleyi – this species also has beautiful green and yellow  colour variants. Photo supplied by Dr Mike Gray.

Further Reference

Australian Museum Website:

A guide to the spiders of Australia Volker,W. Framenau, Barbara C. Baehr and Paul Zborowski, New Holland Press 2014.

A field guide to spiders of Australia Robert Whyte and Greg Anderson, CSIRO Publishing 2017


Cats in the Hornsby Shire

Cats are cherished members of the family but they unfortunately come with a significant downside for our wildlife. The impact of cats on native wildlife is one of the most significant conservation issues in Australia.

Advocacy Environmental Education

Report Illegal MTB Trails in BVNP

If you see illegal mountain bike trails in a National Park then open up Google Maps on your phone, do a long press and this will create a Dropped Pin which shows the coordinates where you are. Share the pin with your email and also take a photo of the damage.

Create an email and include the GPS coordinates in the dropped pin and photo to the NSW Department of Planning and Environment and tell them that you are unhappy with the destruction you are witnessing.

Or you can notify the NPWS directly on 1300 361 967’re-combatting-illegal-activities

This sends a powerful message to NPWS and the state government that we are sick of seeing illegal MTB trails being created in healthy bushland. 

  • They destroy habitat
  • They cause erosion
  • They reduce biodiversity 

The email will help the one ranger that NPWS has allocated to the Berowra Valley National Park know where the trails are. If they have the resources and are working already in that area they can remove the MTB trails.

Bush Regeneration Environmental Education

How to Create a Wild Meadow

Have you ever thought about converting your lawn into a wild meadow?

Here are some very powerful reasons why you could consider this:

  • Native grasses and insects have co-evolved over millennia and they need each other to survive.
  • A healthy insect population means a healthy bird, amphibian, reptile and mammal population.
  • A meadow of native grasses frees you from relentless mowing, fertilising and applying pesticides.
  • Surrounding yourself with a healthy, diverse ecosystem will push back on the loss of precious habitat and the dramatic increase in threatened species currently threatening our biodiversity.
Walks and Talks

What a Wonderful Day – Berowra Fauna Fair

On Sunday the 12th March , at the Berowra Community and Cultural Facility (Berowra Community Centre) we held the Berowra Fauna Fair.

The Fair opened with a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony by Uncle Laurie a Traditional Owner in the local area.

Uncle Laurie smoking ceremony

The event was designed to engage all ages in experiencing our native wildlife and also to learn from experts in their field on 30 min talks ranging from fungi, spiders, koalas and platypus, marine life, birds, native bees and native orchids.

Australian Wildlife Walkabout Park with an echidna
Jabiru Wildlife with a red-bellied black snake
Sydney Bats with an endangered Flying Fox

Over 350 people enjoyed the stalls featuring many organisations that work with our local flora and fauna. The greater Hornsby area is a native animal hot spot and home to some of Australia’s most iconic animals. Learning about these animals is a great step towards making sure they are still here for future generations to enjoy.

A big thank you to Uncle Laurie and all of our speakers:

  • Vanessa McPherson and Michael Gillings, School of Natural Sciences, Macquarie University who spoke on Fungi.
  • Wendy Grimm from the Australian Native Plant Society on Native Orchids.
  • Jenny Sistrom from Sydney Wildlife Rescue on The Benefits of Wildlife in our Gardens.
  • Dr Helen Smith from Australia Museum on The Secret Life of Spiders.
  • Judy Harrington from Birdlife Australia on our local threatened species the Glossies and Powerful Owls as well as some of the other local birds people can see in their backyards or surrounding bushland.
  • Sue Martin and Pat Schwartz from CHEN and Glenorie Environment Centre and Hills – Hornsby Rural Koala Project on detecting Platypus and Koalas in the local area.
  • David Booth and Gigi Beretta, Marine Ecologists from UTS on Sydney as a major hub of marine biodiversity but also a hotspot for climate change. They discussed their work in Sydney on seadragons, seahorses, invading tropical fishes and new subtropical coral beds off Sydney
  • Abbie from Kids Connecting Nature on our local native bee species and who also ran a workshop on how to make bee hotels that work.

We were also very fortunate to have many fabulous organisations contribute their local wildlife including:

Other stalls included:

Hornsby Shire Council Bushcare team
Fantastic Hollow Tree built by Friends of Berowra Valley

A very special thanks to Hornsby Shire Council for the community event grant that made the fair so much easier to run and Apex for contributing their entire takings on the day. Also to all of the members of Friends of Berowra Valley who contributed their time and effort in organising and running this community event.

Advocacy Westleigh Park

State Election Coming Up – No Plants No People

As the state election nears it is time to vote for a government that protects nature and stops the war on our natural environment.

The current state government implemented the Biodiversity Conservation Act 2016. This act puts a value on our wildlife and natural environment and then lets it be destroyed anyway.

Did you know that one koala offset is currently worth $399, if a developer is destroying koala habitat then the number of offsets is determined, money paid and away you go.

The current state legislation is doing nothing to protect our natural environment.

Yet 7.7 million hectares of threatened species habitat was destroyed in Australia between 2000 and 2017, according to independent research commissioned by ACF. This is an area of forest and woodland larger than Tasmania!

Australia’s threatened bird species declined in abundance by an average of 44% from 2000 to 2016.

So why is Hornsby Shire Council ignoring all ecological advice and planning to sanction illegally built mountain bike trails through sensitive bushland at Westleigh Park?  This includes the critically endangered Sydney Turpentine-Ironbark Forest and the endangered Duffys Forest.

The council has published the trails to be built, reducing the current ‘illegal’ 9km network to 7km. These trails apart from 2 are not shared, therefore excluding the local community from enjoying their own bushland. The vast majority of mountain bikers will not be from the local area.

Rather than working within the site constraints, such as sensitive bushland, critical infrastructure in the form a dam and traffic bottlenecks, council wants to build a regional sporting venue. This regional sporting venue will have three platforms, two platforms will hold 2 sporting fields each and one platform will be an athletics track.

Friends of Berowra Valley have been fighting this through helping to create Save Westleigh Park. Please help by voting for a state member with ecological literacy.

Walks and Talks

Berowra Fauna Fair

The Berowra Fauna Fair is coming up, bigger and better than ever. With the support of Hornsby Shire Council we will be celebrating all of the marvellous wildlife with whom we share our bushland home.

On Sunday the 12th March from 10am to 4pm, at the Berowra Community and Cultural Facility (Berowra Community Centre), The Gully Road Berowra, we will commence with a Welcome to Country and smoking ceremony by Uncle Laurie. The centre will be a hub of fauna based activity including native animals, information from wildlife rescue, local plants for sale, a workshop on building a bee hotel and a BBQ run by Apex.  Throughout the event there will be continuous 30-minute talks by experts on bats, birds, frogs, fungi, marine animals, koalas and more. There will be plenty of opportunity to share experiences and ask questions, or just to sit back and learn something new.

The greater Hornsby area is a native animal hot spot and home to some of Australia’s most iconic animals such as the echidna, and threatened species such as the platypus and koala. Learning about these animals is a great step towards making sure they are still here for future generations to enjoy. Other familiar friends, including bandicoots, sugar gliders and glossy black cockatoos, will also be featured in talks at the event.

Speaker Programme

Time Talk
10am – 10.30am Uncle Laurie

Welcome to Country and Smoking Ceremony

10.30am -11am Fungi Biodiversity

Vanessa McPherson and Michael Gillings
School of Natural Sciences, Macquarie University

Learn about one of our most important ecosystem engineers in a fascinating talk about Fungi Biodiversity.

11am -11.30am Native Orchids

Wendy Grimm
Australian Native Plant Society

Genoplesium baueri  R.Br. (family Orchidaceae) is an endangered terrestrial orchid species endemic to the Sydney Basin, New South Wales, Australia. Genoplesium baueri was spotted by Wendy Grimm in 2009, as an isolated plant growing along a fire-trail in Ku-ring-gai Chase National Park, near Mount Colah with members of the Australian Plants Society North Shore Group. G. baueri was previously recorded in the 1940’s around Cowan and Mt Colah.

Wendy went on to monitor several populations of the rare orchid 2009-22 in local National Parks and nature reserves and published the results in Cunninghamia and was awarded a MPhil for her studies. Wendy has been part of the APS NSG Walks & Talks program at Ku-ring-gai Wildflower Garden since retiring as a hospital scientist in 2007 and has enjoyed a life-long enthusiasm for geology, flora & fauna and conservation of the environment.

11.30am -12pm Wildlife in our Gardens – the Benefits

Jenny Sistrom
Sydney Wildlife Rescue

12pm – 12.30pm The Secret Life of Spiders

Dr Helen Smith
Australia Museum

Helen Smith works behind the scenes at the Australian Museum in Sydney where she helps to look after one of the largest spider collections in the southern hemisphere. These spider specimens are for research, so they are carefully preserved and labelled. But Helen also loves to get out and about to see what spiders and other little animals are up to in their day-to-day lives. Have you ever wondered why there are silk lines across the bushes glistening in the sun, or marvelled as a huntsman spider defies gravity to run across a smooth window? Or maybe you spotted a white speck moving in your lawn then realised it was attached to a camouflaged spider – what was that all about?
Come for a peep into the secret world of our 8-legged friends and find out about some of the astonishing things they do every day as they live their spidery lives.

12.30pm –
Come Fly with Me

Judy Harrington
Birdlife Australia

A talk about your special Glossies and Powerful Owls as well as some of the other local birds people can see in the backyards or the surrounding bushland. Plus some hints on attracting birds to your gardens

1pm – 1.30pm Platypus and Koalas

Sue Martin and Pat Schwartz
CHEN and Glenorie Environment Centre and Hills – Hornsby Rural Koala Project

An update on the wonderful work in the local area to detect platypus and koalas in our local bushland.

1.45pm – 2.15pm Seahorses, seadragons, tropical fishes and corals: the Sydney scene.

David Booth and Gigi Beretta
UTS and FoBV

Sydney is a major hub of marine biodiversity but also a hotspot for climate change.  Gigi Beretta and David Booth are marine ecologists who study marine fishes and corals from the Great Barrier Reef to Sydney.  We will discuss our work in Sydney on seadragons, seahorses, invading tropical fishes and new subtropical coral beds off Sydney!

2.30pm – 3pm Native Bees

Kids Connecting Nature

Learn about our native bee species

3pm – 4pm Bee workshop – pre booked free for the first 18 participants ( 1 ticket per family)

Book Now

Kids Events

Time Name
10am-2pm Australian Walkabout Wildlife Park and Sydney Bats

Meet our amazing local wildlife – grey headed flying foxes (the bats), turtles, lizards, pythons and an echidna.

10am-2pm Snake SafetyJabiru Wildlife – live snakes and snake safety demonstration
11am-1pm Insects and other Mini beasts

Australian Environmental Education and Nature Know Australia

Display of insect materials, and some live animals to interact with.

Outdoor program.

2 x minibeast hunts –



25 minutes each

Discover local bugs and creatures and learn more about them. 15 to 20 children

2 x mindful moments in nature sessions – slow down and play with nature materials and sensory sessions

25 minutes  each



12 children per session – Signup on the day


2pm-4pm Australian Wildlife Displays

Ringtail possum, Tawny Frogmouth, Bluetongue Lizard, Green Tree Frog, Diamond Python, Lace Monitor and Long-necked Turtle

2.30pm -4pm Bee Hotel Workshop – pre-booked

Kids Connecting Nature

Book Now





Advocacy Campaigns Westleigh Park

Westleigh Park Bushland Under Threat

Hornsby Shire Council is considering sanctioning the network of mountain bike trails that have been illegally built through Critically Endangered and Endangered Ecological Communities at Westleigh Park.

Council’s recent consultation culminated in a 3-day co-design workshop focusing on the main stakeholders – mountain bikers, conservationists and residents.

This $50K consultation outcome report has been unanimously rejected by the non-MTB participants. They felt the bias was strongly in favour of the mountain bike groups. The final set of 16 workshop participants were carefully vetted by council, 50% were mountain bikers, 25% were local residents and 25% were conservationists.

Council hired an independent mountain bike track designer to present to the co-design workshop and despite repeated requests there was no independent ecologist to explain the fragility and significance of these critically endangered communities.

The initial workshops included the option of no trails in the bushland but the final co-design trail workshops narrowed the brief to remove this as an option.

Hornsby Shire Council purchased the land in 2016 from Sydney Water to cater for the needs of the whole community. Council staff identified pristine bushland with large intact areas of the rare Sydney Turpentine-Ironbark Forest and Duffys Forest.  Most of the community had obeyed the Sydney Water signs and fencing excluding them from the area. But mountain bikers were not deterred and by 2017 had built 5km network of trails.

Hornsby Council did not effectively prevent the building of illegal trails and by 2020 ecological consultants warned council that “No education program has been provided to mountain bike community regarding the impact of their activities on ecological values (and human health through asbestos movement). The length, width and construction activity of trails has noticeably increased since acquisition of the land by Council. As a result, soil erosion, soil and seed translocation and vegetation damage has also noticeably increased. These key issues threaten the integrity of the native vegetation to a point that some areas are currently at risk of approaching an ecological threshold.”

They also confirmed the vegetation mapping which includes significant areas of Sydney Turpentine-Ironbark Forest (STIF) Critically Endangered Ecological Community under NSW BC Act 2016 and Commonwealth EPBC Act and Duffys Forest which is listed as Endangered under the NSW BC Act 2016. The mountain bike trail network traverses through significant patches of STIF as well as populations of Darwinia biflora and Melaleuca deanei (EPBC Act, BC Act), Tetratheca glandulosa (BC Act) and habitat that supports the Square-tailed Kite (BC Act).

In 2021 Council produced a draft master plan for Westleigh Park which was the subject of a community consultation. Unable to agree on the master plan for a mountain bike trail network in the critically endangered forest, they then ran another consultation culminating in the co-design workshops.

Environmental and Community groups are joining together under Save Westleigh Park to fight for a fairer and broader community perspective.


Advocacy Environmental Education

WWF Living Planet Report

This year’s edition is the most comprehensive finding to date and provides a platform for the best science, cutting-edge research and diverse voices on the impact of humans on the health of our Earth. More than 50 experts from academia, policy, international development and conservation organisations have contributed. WWF’s Living Planet Report 2022 shows the scale of the challenge – and highlights what we can do, both here in Australia and around the world, to change the way we live.

The future of the planet is in our hands.

Key findings from WWF’s Living Planet Report 2022 include:

  • Global wildlife populations fell by 69%, on average, between 1970 and 2018.
  • Australia continues to have the most mammal extinctions in the world. The report tells a disturbing story of continual decline of more than 1,100 wildlife populations in Australia due to pressures from climate change, habitat destruction and introduced predators.
  • Populations of sharks and rays have dropped by 71% worldwide over the last 50 years due to fishing practices.There has been a 64% reduction in Australian sea lion pups born each year in South and Western Australia.
  • Combined koala populations have plummeted by 50% over 20 years in Queensland, New South Wales and the Australian Capital Territory.
  • Globally, landuse change is still the biggest current threat to nature, destroying or fragmenting the natural habitats of many plant and animal species on land, in freshwater and in our oceans.
  • If we cannot limit global warming to 1.5°C, climate change will likely become the dominant cause of biodiversity loss in the coming decades.
  • Australia must set strong nature laws, become a world leader in forest protection and climate action, and respect and acknowledge the stewardship of Indigenous Australians to care for Country. With the right conservation effort, commitment, investment and expertise, wildlife and wild places can be brought back from the brink.

The Living Planet Report includes the latest findings measured by the Living Planet Index, tracking 32,000 populations of 5,230 mammals, birds, amphibians, reptiles and fish from 1970-2018. This includes more than 1,100 populations in Australia.

Read the full report

Environmental Education Walks and Talks

The Great Southern Bioblitz

Friends of Berowra Valley ran a fun event as part of the Great Southern Bioblitz on Sunday 30th October. Around 25 citizen scientists recorded the amazing diversity of Stringybark Ridge, Pennant Hills using the iNaturalist app.

A combination of power users and people new to the app ensured that the beautiful surrounding area was recorded. Each of these observations is fed into the Australian Atlas of Living Australia. This massive database is an invaluable tool for scientists and researchers.

Check out some of the amazing biodiversity in our project for the Berowra Valley Catchment.

For more info on iNaturalist.