Last week my wife and I traveled up the coast to one of the worst fire ravaged areas on the Mid-North Coast of NSW. Most of the fires were now out as the clean up begins, as miles of blackened burnt forest lies smoldering and smoking, lifeless of birds, animals and vegetation. Thankfully the resilient Australian bush will renew itself in time, and many of the larger trees will survive.
For a week many spent their time waiting it out as the brave firefighters breached the impossible task of retaining the fires fanned by strong winds and high temperatures. Now the burnt forests lay ghostly quiet. See above how the intense heat destroyed road signs. The smell of smoke and burning was everywhere in the air as a major fire-front nearby continued to destroy forest, property and wildlife.
Many of our territorial birds had to relocate because of the fires destroying their habitat which had seen many generations of the species. Many birds and native animals could not escape the firestorm and were incinerated, including parents of nestlings and those sitting on eggs, who did not escape in time. Many species of our birds have been reduced in number, we may not know our losses till the coming year, as over 100 fires remain actively destroying our great forests, and have been doing so for months. This is the worst year on record. Meanwhile, after our long journey while we were having lunch outside with some dear friends at Hamilton’s Seafood Restaurant looking onto the sandbar, I had my camera handy and managed to catch some action. This area is known as the Great Lakes region of NSW and the lake system is large and extensive. So as we surveyed the sandbar we saw several groups of resting birds. The Australian Pelican was our first waterbird.
Crested Terns, a few Silver Gulls rested along with a Caspian Tern (orange beak) as a small flock of Bar-tailed Godwit busily probed the wet sand nearby for small crustaceans.
Suddenly, the peaceful scene changed as alarm calls went up from various species sending the Pied Oystercatcher flying off. The Bar-tailed Godwit also took flight, but the Little Pied Cormorant was not concerned at all.
We knew we would find the answer if we looked up. The main benefactor of the bushfires are the raptors, as they catch small creatures escaping the fires and becoming exposed in the open. This area has a very high raptor population due to the lakes and the beaches, and up in the sky was a Brahminy Kite, beautiful in the sunlight, making its way to the sandbar to briefly land and then leave.
After it left the Bar-tailed Godwit returned to their work on the sandbar.
Not long after an Eastern Osprey female came over scanning the shallows, at least it did not cause too much concern as it is strictly a fish eater. You will usually see one of the family resting on the lamps on the bridge nearby.
The Osprey and her partner have a nest several miles away which we pass each time we visit this area, only this time it is on a man made platform instead of on a power pole. They appear to have only one juvenile in the nest they are feeding. The juvenile has a very wide brown neck band. Below the father sits opposite the juvenile on the power pole.
After a lovely time with our friends we drove to our accommodation at Pacific Palm Resort where we heard the constant call of the Australasian Figbird in the several large fig trees that shadow the resort. The smell of smoke was in the air but not as strong as further north near the fires. Before we came, we were not sure if it would be safe for us to have this holiday, but our prayers were answered and we came on the best week of weather that this area had for a while. You can not mistake the male Figbird with its dark red warty eye ring. Most Australian birds are fruit eaters, and Australia has over 100 species of native figs which fruit at different times throughout the year, thus providing food all year round.
This is what the Figbird call sounds like:
The pristine beach of Booti Booti National Park’s known as Seven Mile Beach, near where we were staying, had burnt Eucalypt leaves along the shore. Booty means ‘plenty’ in our indigenous language, and to repeat the word means lots and lots of plenty. So this area represents a great feeding ground in both forest and sea. Thankfully this area was untouched by fire but it did come close.
The following day was a hot smoky morning with a cool sea breeze. My wife wanted to explore Booti Booti’s beach, as last time we saw a pair of Rainbow Bee-eaters there on the beach. On arriving at the same track I looked toward the beach, and lo and behold, there they were again, this year on the same dead tree, quite visible from the track. We approached and they eventually left, but we knew they would later return to the same tree during our morning beach walk, alone together in a beautiful place. Who would have looked for Bee-eaters here?!
As we walked I noticed up ahead a Black-shouldered Kite surveying the beach bush line for prey. It was not too perturbed by our passing. Then down it came and pounced on something in the bush nearby, and that was the last we saw of it. You can understand why I used the photo as my feature today.
Not long after this a beautiful adult White-bellied Sea-Eagle flew over, also scanning the beach. Maybe, those escaping the fires and have managed to escape to the unburnt bush have contributed to these raptors having a feeding heyday.
After our wonderful peaceful walk we returned to our villa where we were welcomed by an Australian Brush-turkey, which had become quite bold and clever at trying to gain entry to the villa, after food. These birds are known for their greedy opportunistic attitude and cause problems for residents in many areas where they breed, dig up gardens and build their huge egg incubation mounds. There was a family of mum, dad and junior. Usually the Brush-turkey will walk out of the mound as a chick and immediately without any help or parental feeding, go off to fend for itself.
I will continue with more from this area next post.
May you enjoy the rest of the week, and keep safe!
Sydney has fires nearby, and the smoke is as thick as heavy fog, and remains causing many to have breathing problems. The fires have now burned hundreds of kilometers of forest. One is heading to the cities of the central coast nearby after burning through 60 km of forest in the last month from the Wollemi NP, where people are evacuating their homes today. These National Parks contain rare plants, animals and birds, and will continue to cause great devastation while there is no rain and strong winds persist. Our state’s extensive forest system, and for the first time even our once dense green rainforests are ablaze. The fire front is so ferocious and the fires so remote and difficult to get to, they are constantly out of control, consuming homes and properties. Please join us and pray for rain and for cessation of these horrific fires and weather patterns.
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