Cape Paterson photographer David Hartney is playing a key role in bringing wildlife back to the Cape sustainable-living estate.


THE return of 111 species of birds and all of the iconic Australian marsupials to The Cape, a sustainable living project located at the western end of Cape Paterson, is no fluke.

Together with leading-edge, energy efficient homes and a feature community garden feeding off harvested rainwater, the restoration of local coastal vegetation is a priority.

The aim being, to support and encourage native birds and animals.

And wildlife photographer, David Hartney, a resident of The Cape for the past two years, has found himself at the centre of the revegetation project.

“We heard an interview on radio with Brendan Condon about The Cape a few years ago and decided to build here,” said David.

“Actually the 8-star energy-rated house TS Constructions built for us, based on “The Cutlers” design by Ash Beaumont, has just won a regional HIA award at the weekend, which is pretty nice.

“We moved here two years ago from Woodend, where we had 20 acres, and I continued my interest in wildlife photography, especially the birds.

“Jeannie is involved as well.

“One of the things Brendan is trying to achieve here is habitat re-creation, coming back from the blank canvass it used to be as a grazing property, next to a national park now, and I was keen to help record the changes in bird and animal life.

“As a citizen scientist, if you like, I was interested in what affect the changes would have on the birds and wildlife, not ignoring the impact of the residential development of course, but also re-establishing the habitat here as well.”

Along with his own photography, David has been part of a Cape residents’ project to observe and record birds and animals within specific zones in the estate.

And he’s published regular reports and some stunning photos on an increasingly well-followed ‘Cape Chatter’ website and blog. See

“I try to put out the blog every seven to 10 days, going to the residents, people in the Cape Paterson area and anyone else interested.

“So far, we’ve recorded 111 birds, eight frogs and all the iconic Australia marsupials; kangaroos, wallabies, koalas, echidnas and wombats. And we’ve seen the diggings of a bandicoot as well we think.”

Strictly speaking, they haven’t actually seen koalas on The Cape estate, understandable given that suitable trees haven’t yet reached feed height, but they’ve heard their grunts in surrounding bushland.

“One of the things we are working on, with Phillip Island ecologist Alison Oates, is the planting out of coastal manna gums, a preferred food source for the koalas, and some other plant species which we’ll get started on this spring.”

The local residents’ group will plant out 600-plus trees and shrubs from eight different plant species as part of their ‘Project Koala’, which Dave hopes will prove complementary to a koala support project developed by the Cape Paterson Residents and Ratepayers Association.

“They’re recording the number of koalas living in Cape Paterson and seeing what they can do to support them and we’re hopeful our project will dovetail into that as well.”

So, what’s the verdict on the number of birds and native animals returning to The Cape estate so far?

“The numbers are increasing but we’ll also be interested to see what happens when more of the houses are built. So far though, of the 111 birds we’ve recorded, 17 of them are considered as threatened or vulnerable.”

It’s hardly surprising the birds and animals are returning. Where the land had previously been a heavily grazed coastal farm, now introduced wetlands and restored native vegetation are already teaming with bird and animal life, great subjects for Dave’s photography but also in perfect harmony with what Brendan Condon, his team, and many highly committed residents of The Cape are trying to achieve.

“Here at The Cape we are very fortunate that one of our residents David Hartney is tracking the biodiversity of our site and surrounds as our habitat and wetlands develop,” Mr Condon said this week.

“He runs a blog called the Cape Chatter and he is also a fantastic photographer and observer of nature. He and other residents here have been counting and documenting the bird, frog, mammals, insects, plants and reptile diversity of the site and surrounding coast and David has been recording it in a fantastic nature blog called the Cape Chatter.

“He also sends out an electronic weekly Cape Chatter newsletter if people subscribe to the website.

“The quality of the observations, humour, recordings and photography is brilliant,” said Brendan.

“It is a fantastic resource for the Cape Paterson community to help understand our wildlife and special environment as well as things we can do to coexist with the natural world.

“David and other residents have other community-led ecological restoration projects underway here including a koala restoration strategy.”

The Cape’s success in promoting energy-efficient, sustainable living and its efforts at restoring biodiversity, including but not limited to what has been recorded in David’s blog, has attracted wide attention.

Take a look for yourself at

One of the ground birds photographed at the Cape by David Hartney is the Brown Thornbill. (Photos courtesy of David Hartney).

The Swamp Wallaby (Wallabia bicolor) is an uncommon sight at the Cape. (Photos courtesy of David Hartney).

Wildlife photographer David Hartney and wife Jeannie at their award-winning home at The Cape. The highly energy-efficient home, featuring solar panels and a hydronic heating system generated plenty of warmth but only $80 in total energy bills for the year.