ONCE UPON A TIME, ABOUT 30 YEARS AGO, A GROUP OF DEDICATED LOCAL RESIDENTS FOUGHT TO SAVE A BEAUTIFUL PATCH OF BUSHLAND KNOWN AS BYLES CREEK VALLEY – AND THEY’RE FOLLOWING IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF MARIE BYLES AND STILL FIGHTING TO PROTECT IT TODAY.
Some of the same wonderful people are part of the local Powerful Owl Project that has been following Mikey's family for ten years.
These majestic birds have been brought to life by the amazing photos of our local paparazzo Michael Bianchino.
In January 2016, the community decided that Mikey needed a voice, so local copywriter Georgia Cameron (Mikey's alter-ego) created his Facebook page. She gets the easy job of sitting at an air-conditioned desk writing words to accompany these stunning photos, while Michael and the POwl team do all the hard work braving creek crossings, cliff ledges, leeches, ticks and collecting Powerful Owl pellets (that’s waste material) for analysis.
Just like Skippy the Bush Kangaroo had his familiar “Tchk, Tchk, Tchk”, Mikey has his customary “Woo Hoo” and “What a Hoot”, which have engaged his Facebook followers and the wider media. In fact, Mr Allan Gibson OAM who attended the book launch propelled Mikey into the media spotlight and Sydney Morning Herald’s prestigious Column 8 with one of his prolific letters to the editor!
We distinctly remember one of Mikey’s Facebook friends saying “Mikey, you crack me up – you should write a book”, and that’s when the seed was planted …
Then in August, the book was penned with the intention of educating, entertaining and engaging people on the Powerful Owl and in collaboration with a wonderful group of people, Mikey's biography was produced in the space of only five months. "Mikey the Owlet: Saving Byles Creek Valley" flew off the shelves at The Children's Bookshop Beecroft selling 400 copies and raising over $2,000 for BirdLife Australia's Powerful Owl Project in memory of Powerful Owl pioneer Kristen Hardy.
By popular demand, Mikey's second book "Mikey the Powerful Owlet & Friends: Saving Byles Creek Valley & Beyond" was launched in November 2017, with foreword by Graham Ross VMM and afterword by Dr Mehreen Faruqi MLC. This year, $5 from each first limited edition copy sold (over $2500) was donated to Sydney Wildlife, a registered charity licensed by NSW National Parks & Wildlife Service. This 24/7 rescue and advice service is operated entirely by volunteers who rehabilitate and release sick, injured and orphaned wildlife and educate the community, at all levels, about the need to protect native animals and preserve their habitats.
Before our eyes, Mikey has grown from a cute, little, fluffy Powerful Owlet into a big brave Powerful Owl. But he and his family remain vulnerable with their habitat shrinking and food source under threat as a result of inappropriate development and transport infrastructure projects and a 10/50 code in our backyard. And those of you who follow Mikey’s Facebook page will also know that his “bestie” Gabby the Gang-gang Cockatoo is actually endangered, with the last known breeding population in the Sydney metro area in Byles Creek Valley. We hope Mikey’s reach as a campaign character fighting overdevelopment and destructive changes to our biodiversity laws will extend to Wolli Creek, South Dural, Bayview and beyond.
So, please continue to share Mikey's story and support his Facebook page, so that your kids, grandkids, and great grandkids can see a majestic Powerful Owl in the wild, not stuffed in a glass case in a museum display or in this book.
Mikey fledging 2015
Georgia Cameron (Author) Georgia is a Sydney-based copywriter with a background in banking, financial services and property. She holds a Diploma of Financial Services and was awarded the Bachelor of Communication degree (with journalism major) through Griffith University QLD. Georgia’s academic achievements were recognised with the inaugural 2012 Pearson Australia Student of the Year Award in the Arts and Education category and she is a member of the Golden Key International Honour Society based on her academic performance. Born in Balmain and bred in Sydney’s inner-west, Georgia made a tree change to Cheltenham in 2007 and is an active member of the local community.
Michael Bianchino (Photographer) Michael is a Sydney-based photographer focusing on politics, policies and politician’s impact on the social fabric of a community in general and a society as a whole. Born in Gunnedah NSW where he spent his youth, he relocated to Balmain for the adventure years and settled in Cheltenham’s suburbia for the family years. He studied at Sydney University/Sydney College of the Arts, worked as a film stills photographer, media publicity photographer at Macquarie University and as a freelance photographer for the past 25 years. Michael is the voice of the Save Beecroft and Cheltenham Alliance and author of Politics, Policies and Politicians: A Protest of Photographs.
The Byles Creek Valley Union (Publisher) Established for 30 years and incorporated in 2016, the objectives of the Byles Creek Valley Union are to:
- Work for the protection of Byles Creek Valley and improve protection of the Australian environment;
- Educate, promote and engage with the Community in the field of environmental conservation; and
- Undertake activities necessary to protect Byles Creek Valley and the Australian environment generally.
The Byles Creek Valley Union is a full society member of the Nature Conservation Council of NSW.
Byles Creek Valley was named after Marie Beuzeville Byles (8 April 1900 – 21 November 1979), a committed conservationist, pacifist, the first practising female solicitor in New South Wales, mountaineer, explorer, avid bushwalker, feminist, journalist, original member of the Buddhist Society in New South Wales and founder of the Beecroft Cheltenham Civic Trust who donated her home “Ahimsa” in Day Road Cheltenham to the National Trust.
“All the while, she continued with her main passion, maintenance of the Ahimsa property and conservation of native bushlands. In the Garden Club of Australia’s quarterly magazine of May 1974, Marie exhorted its members to do their best for the natural environment:
'The bush is necessary, not only for us who reside near it but for all; it is a breathing place away from the smog of the city, a rare place of peace and quietness necessary for our health. It is essential for the preservation of our unique flora and fauna for present and future generations; but above all it is necessary for nature itself; man cannot live without nature …
Let us keep our bush and value it higher than gold or anything we can mine from the soil. Yes! Even oil. Roads and homes are ‘worthy causes’ but can be put elsewhere; bush cannot. Therefore let us jealously guard our bush and please do not steal from it.'”
Excerpt from The Summit of Her Ambition: the spirited life of Marie Byles, Chapter 18, ‘The greatest lesson learnt’, p. 181, with the kind permission of author Anne McLeod.
Anne McLeod's amazing book can be purchased instore at The Children's Bookshop Beecroft or online at: