Blossom at The Bower

by Jill Whiter
(Guerilla Bay)

It was a clear morning in early June, still a bit crisp after a chilly night, even a bit damp underfoot. But who would complain on such a lovely morning when every bird in the woodland was singing? And they have every reason to be joyful: this winter's eucalyptus flowering is the most impressive and widespread for many a year, so no one has had to move north for food. There is, to use that delightfully old-fashioned phrase, a plenitude for all the creatures.

So much of the wild world benefits from these events that it is tempting to ask how the news of the blossom can cross great distances so swiftly that birds, insects and mammals respond with a promptness that is bewildering. How far can the message travel and how do the recipients know the location? We know it is wordless and instinctive, though it can be likened to a gold rush, for it follows much the same pattern, beginning with a trickle and turning into a flood as hundreds and thousands gather to the booty. There are the nectar-feeding birds of course, the insectivorous and the raptors that feed on them all, and there are Grey-headed Flying Foxes in tens of thousands. There are numberless insects and all the creatures that feed on them: lizards, frogs in streams and bogs nearby, small mammals and rodents and antechinuses. And not to forget the invertebrates that turn all the detritus into humus to enrich the soil

And isn't it just the way of our enigmatic climate that such occurrences are unpredictable and follow no obvious pattern? Man is a meddlesome creature and were he able to predict a mass blossoming, imagine how he would want to tweak a bit here and change a bit there while solemnly assuring all and sundry that he does it solely to ensure a reliable food supply. Thank goodness nature has the upper hand. Here is another aspect of the flowering: consider how a visiting naturalist, perhaps like Darwin dropping in for a week or two, and with no knowledge of the erratic nature of this event, could be tempted to believe that the creatures he is hearing and seeing this June are the species that would normally be found at this time of the year in the south east woodlands and forests.

On the Illawong Track there was great activity and a lot of noise too: Noisy Friarbirds, Red and Little Wattlebirds were squabbling and shouting, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters singing like it was spring. There were the usual Eastern Yellow Robins, Red-browed Finches, Superb Fairy-wrens and White-browed Scrubwrens, and at least two Fuscous and a small flock of Brown-headed Honeyeaters, a nice bonus but neither specially rare in winter. Last summer's Scarlet Honeyeaters lingered to the bounty. The lorikeets, Rainbow, Musk and Little, had claimed the higher ground up on the ridge where they did battle with the wattlebirds. The nicest sighting of the morning was a flock of about twelve Varied Sittellas twittering and swooping from tree to tree; I love these little, short-tailed, big-winged birds with their endearing habit of scooting round branches and tree trunks head downwards. Jill Whiter.

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