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Mr Hoot, the Powerful Owl

Mr Hoot, the Powerful Owl, was a children’s favourite
Marilyn and Les Anderson bought land on the north eastern slopes of Munibung Hill in the late 1960s.  It was the new housing estate of Macquarie Hills.  They moved in after their house, which was situated on the banks of Munibung Creek, was finished in the early 1970s,. 
Munibung Creek had been piped by this time, as part of an engineered opening up of the area for more houses.
“The subdivision was developed soon after but for many years there were no houses further up Lawson Road, where it was unsealed before it petered out into a walking track of sorts,” said Les. “It was bush and farmland as indicated by photographs of those times.”
“The first of two fires occurred in 1973,” Marilyn recalls. “It was a fire that local residents played a large part in keeping contained to a small localised area across the street, preventing it from igniting nearby bushland and getting away.”
The second of the two fires in 1992 was a much more serious incident. 
“It started on the western side of Lake Macquarie, jumped the lake and took hold in Munibung Hill, running up and over the ridge, blanketing the whole area in smoke. “
Family outings included trips to Munibung Hill mainly for picnics in school holidays.  The mode of transport was on foot, Marilyn walking with children and friends, with each one carrying something in preparation for the family event further up Munibung Hill.
“Every year there were the customary bonfires and cracker nights in the neighbourhood on a cleared area up Munibung Hill,” says Les.  “These were great events that brought the locals together.  It was a more close knit community back then, and some of the original families are still here. It’s not the same now by any means, but we love this place. We were considered to be out in the back blocks once, but now it’s a different story.  The Cardiff area is geographically a central locality with great community services within easy reach.”
“And if the proposed improvements at Munibung Hill come off, well, the area will be even more attractive – it’ll be wonderful,” said Marilyn.
There were horses but no cattle or sheep, as Marilyn recalls. There was some more intensive horticulture in the form of stone fruit orchards on the eastern side of Munibung Hill.
Les and Marilyn’s children attended local Cardiff schools, but there were no school excursions to Munibung Hill, even though she was clearly visible from the school ground and the title of the school magazine was ‘Munibung’.
“The area was treated like a public park or recreation area by locals.  Even though it was private land, the Hawkins family didn’t seem to mind people roaming around the Hill,” said Marilyn.
As for wildlife, there were plenty of possums, and ducks (see picture), but no bandicoot sightings in their area or when they visited Munibung Hill.
Blue tongue lizards were common as were turtles.  There was a big water hole just upstream from their house, before the landscaping that virtually filled it in. It was home to frogs and tadpoles that were a great amusement for local children.
Birds included noisy miners, kookaburras, magpies, rosellas, butcher birds, blue headed honeyeaters, top knot pigeons and plenty of pink parrots that would fly through the area in flocks, but the numbers are way down now. “There’s nothing like the same number of birds today as there were then”, said Les.
“No small birds to speak of like finches, but there was a Powerful Owl in the area we called Mr Hoot and a Tawny Frogmouth that the children also loved – as adults they still love birds.”
The sound of cars and buses is now more common than birds and wildlife.  A sad sign of the times.

MMM … Issue 25, November 2021