Autumn Birdlife at Broulee
by Jill Whiter
Autumn is the loveliest time of the year on the South Coast, at least in my opinion, and April 13 a perfect day for a walk along the Illawong Track, the air dry and softly mild after a crisp morning. The ground was littered with discarded and torn apart flowers under the Spotted Gum, ironbark and bloodwood trees heavily crowned with great masses of blossom and attended by Noisy Friarbirds (noisily, of course), large flocks of Rainbow Lorikeets and the smaller honeyeaters pausing to feed on their northern migration. There were Yellow-faced and White-naped feasting from tree to tree, a little group of Brown-headed squeaking scratchily and six or more Eastern Spinebills and New Holland Honeyeaters. And all the while the greedy and bossy lorikeets screeched and squabbled, flying here and there to snatch blossom from a fellow or dislodge another from its share of the bounty. Only a few minutes watching was enough to remind me of the spoilt cousin who always wanted what someone else had and was disgustingly triumphant when he whined sufficiently to be given it. And far above the hullabaloo the Black Jezebel butterflies, flickering in black and white beauty against the blue sky, circled over the very highest blossom, sipping the rich nectar.
A widespread eucalyptus flowering, such as we are having this autumn, is a blessing to the entire wild world. The nectar-feeding birds are in close attendance, as are great swarms of insects, so the insectivorous birds are well catered for too. The Grey-headed Flying Foxes are here in their tens of thousands, camped at Moruya South Head during the day and setting off in great clouds at dusk each evening to feed in the forests to the north and south. Even the smaller mammals attend the blossom, and if nectar is not their special dietary pleasure, they will be sure to find some creature smaller than themselves to prey upon. Each wild creature feeds on the others lower down the food chain and a large eucalyptus blossoming brings their whole world together in an opportunity for all to face the winter well-fed, fat and in good condition for the spring breeding to come.
All the woodland residents were in attendance: Variegated and Superb Fairy-wrens foraging in the undergrowth, White-browed Scrubwrens scolding ad Grey Fantails hovering along beside the track to keep me company. White-throated Treecreepers' staccato calls, Eastern Yellow Robins clinging to tree trunks in their inimitable sideways style, busy thornbills and Brown Gerygones, even a late White-throated Gerygone that should have been on its way north by now. A pair of Crimson Rosellas fed quietly, as did a flock of Red Wattlebirds, and a Grey Shrike-thrush called a short, sharp 'bill', a reminder that winter is coming and the need for harmonious song is over for a few short months.
Not a sign of the White-bellied Sea-Eagles though, and no activity round the nest tree. However they have been very vocal lately; in fact all the pairs along the coast are calling and renewing their bonds for the coming breeding season. We will keep watch on the tree.
This article was written by Jill Whiter, author of the Eurobodalla Naturalists Diary, a compilation of newspaper articles that chronicled Jill's observations of the local native wildlife in the region on a monthly basis. The diary is a fascinating collection of observations in the Eurobodalla (or mid South Coast) region made by local octagenarian, Jill Whiter, who's been a keen observer and naturalist for most of her many years. Click here for more details and to order a copy. We welcome contributions from our visitors to this page. Please upload any pics of South Coast wildlife with a few details of where they were sighted using the link at the bottom of this page.
Over the Longvale wetland a hatch of large dragonflies reflected the sun in shimmering colour from their iridescent wings and hundreds of Common Eastern Froglets sang a 'ratcheting' chorus (they aren't called Ratchet Frogs for nothing), probably signifying their last breeding before winter closes in. There were other calls but ignorance precludes me from identifying them. Memo: bone up on frog calls.
The butterflies are hanging on in spite of some chilly overnight temperatures. In some places the little Brown Ringlets rose in clouds from the track and a single Banks' Brown sunned itself in exactly the same place it was first noticed last summer, a fairly new hatch of Meadow Argus wafted about in the grasses and there were a few rather worn female Common Browns. The butterflies are our companions of the summer, their days now numbered but their eggs scattered generously over the host plants, some already pupated and shrouded in silken cocoons to protect them while waiting out the long cold months ahead. In September and October fresh new generations will take to the air and live out their short and lovely lives.