About HawkRAO


The Hawkesbury Radio Astronomy Observatory (HawkRAO) is located in the Hawkesbury District about 60km west of the city of Sydney in the State of New South Wales, Eastern Australia (near to North Richmond). I have lived here for over 40 years.

It is a semi-rural district with commercial enterprises in the areas of farming (dairy, fruit and vegetables, mushrooms), tourism and horse breeding businesses.


A major RAAF base is in the district and we have Hercules flying over at various times during operational periods and exercises. Funnily enough we are so used to them we don't notice them any more - only visitors seem to hear them.

At the back of our block (3/4 acre - 30m wide by 100m deep) is a 60m escarpment at the base of which flows the Hawkesbury River.

The flood plains on the other side of the river is the location of a horse breeding and polo complex which was a dairy formerly owned by the Moxey Family.

Across the road is another dairy (Peels Dairy) which lately has been turned over to cattle. Hopefully it will stay undeveloped for some time to come.


On our small rural block itself (100m by 30m - just under 0.75 acres) we have a selection of native wildlife. Residential native animals include lizards (Blue-tongues and variously sized skinks). Here we see some of the 'locals' sun-baking in the garden in the photo on the right. Note the 'legs-up' posture to collect as much 'solar energy' as possible.

Other residents include possums and a Satin Bower Bird complete with bower as shown below.

Other not-so-welcome residents are Funnel-Web and Redback spiders.

Also keeping a lookout for the red and black varieties of Bull Ant is advisable. They can give a really painful sting by grabbing a piece of flesh with their large jaws and bringing round a stinger in their abdomen. A photo of the red variety is shown below. Apparently they are very ancient and primitive insects.

The bull ant has long been considered one of the oldest ant lineages although recent research places them later than first thought (now thought to be only 100 million years ago..). They possess the anatomy and behavior believed to be representative of the ancestors of all ants: a big body with long legs, keen vision, venom-laced stingers, and relatively solitary habits.

While fossilized specimens reveal that bull ants were once widespread across the globe, today they are found only in Australia. So, while wary of them, we are kind of privileged to share our block with such an unchanged ancient creature - we being relative newcomers.

Red-bellied Black snakes appear on the change of seasons (reputably they keep the more aggressive brown snakes off the block - I hope so...). At certain times of the year it pays to cast an eye to the ground when going out the front and back doors.

They are beautiful creatures with the jet-black and red colouring. The one in the photo above has a relatively dull old skin - a newly sloughed Red-bellied Black has an appearance even a snake-o-phobic would admire.

While rated as highly venomous, in our experience they are not aggressive, but will defend themselves by putting on a cobra-like pose complete with a flattening of the head. This impressive display has given them an exaggerated reputation for fierceness. Much better to be confronted with a Red-bellied Black than an Eastern Brown snake....

Mind you, I have been bitten here on the block by a 1m long Red-bellied Black snake while carrying a garbage bin which blocked my view of the ground. Put me in hospital for a few days - something I do not wish to repeat.

A case of once bitten, twice shy...