Illawong walk begins to 'Spring'

by Jill Whiter
(Guerilla Bay)

It's not quite spring but the newly-returned breeding population of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were in full song along the Illawong Track on Tuesday morning when I took my first walk for a year. Oh, how I have missed the sounds and smells of the track in these long months. You only have to be deprived of a particular activity or hobby for a while to understand how it props you up and brings pleasure and anticipation to each day. Now the sight of a little Brown Thornbill, its mouth stuffed to overflowing with nest lining, valiantly scolding me off its patch with muffled snuffling noises, was a welcome return to normality.

For all the centuries of urban living that may have dulled our sense of the seasons, there is still the ancient call to our roots. Some part of us remembers when we escaped the winter snows and led the herds to warm new pastures. And even when we settled to plant the grains in Mesopotamia, the land between the rivers, or its equivalent in other continents, the seasons dominated our lives, fed us or starved us. These ancient instincts still connect us to the wild creatures and their lives. So that's why we celebrate spring and renewal.
In truth there was not a lot of bird activity in spite of the mild sunshine. The day belonged to the Yellow-faced. A Sacred Kingfisher called its clear 'dek dek dek' from the nearby waterhole, signalling its return for the breeding season, and that tiny jewel of the woodland, a Spotted Pardalote, ventured a hesitant half-call. Of course the New Hollands were keeping a low profile; they are winter nesters and quite busy now, brooding or feeding young. Strangely, the Variegated Fairy-wrens were represented by a lone female, not a male in sight and no tinkling calls. No Superb Fairy-wrens either. Nesting? Perhaps; it has been a mild winter. Small White-browed Scrubwrens busied themselves in the undergrowth; they are late winter nesters too. Of course the ubiquitous Red Wattlebirds were everywhere to be seen – and heard too. Neither of the wattlebirds could be described as quiet or reticent; they are upfront, vocal and aggressive! Specially so now, when breeding is close and pairs are zig-zagging through the trees in wild sexual chases.
I spent quite a while sitting on a log under the White-bellied Sea-Eagle nest tree, not with a great deal of hope, for the place had that quiet air of being unoccupied; no fresh droppings or bits of food detritus round the base and no evidence of new additions to the structure. There is something forlorn about an unused eagle nest. Maybe a new pair will annex it next year. We hope so, but we'll take what we get.

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