October on the Illawong Track
by Jill Whiter
Varied Swordgrass Brown butterfly
It was a beautiful spring day, just perfect for a solitary ramble through the coastal woodland.
Oddly enough,there wasn't a great deal of bird activity: a few little Superb Fairy-wrens twittering around the edge of the swamp, half-a-dozen Yellow-faced Honeyeaters calling and a small foraging party of Brown Thornbills.
A veritable field of cuckoos, two very vocal Fan-tailed, a Horsfield's Bronze and a Shining Bronze had put all the breeders on high alert and they were undoubtedly keeping a close watch on their nests. The cuckoos are the arch enemy of the woodlanders and their presence frightens everyone; some try to drive off the intruders,others take up defensive positions close to their brooding mates. Unfortunately, forward planning and the ability to organize a fighting force are not features of bird behaviour, they tend to react individually and haphazardly and are often foiled by superior cunning. The cuckoos have been parasitising the nests of other birds for untold generations and their heightened sense of cunning and deviousness is lacking in the simple woodlanders.
In spite of the enemy presence, seven species of honeyeaters were seen and heard, including two pairs of Scarlet Honeyeaters, the pairing and the separateness of the territories indicating that serious business was being contemplated or had already begun. Noisy Friarbirds were conspicuous by the absence, or was it silence ? Not a call was heard, not a bird seen. But Eastern Spinebills, Red and Little Wattlebirds, Lewin's and New Holland Honeyeaters were out and about, as well as a single Eastern Yellow Robin.
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.
About 30 Welcome Swallows dipped and wheeled over the water meadows, a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike called and an agitated male Magpie escorted me from the region of his nest. And from deep in the woodland came a persistent, fractious call that was not immediately identified but after a little while memory came to the rescue: it was a hungry young goshawk calling for attention. As a pair of Brown Goshawks were courting and displaying over the woodland in June, it could have been their youngster giving tongue.
The White-bellied Sea-Eagle was perched on the nest edge, wary and nervous. Every so often she would dip her head down, as if touching or moving something and then quickly rise up to survey the surroundings. After a couple of minutes she lowered herself into the nest and settled; I suspect there is a small and vulnerable chick in there.
Brown Ringlet butterflies were common, rising from the track ahead, three or four Black Jezebels fluttered high in the sparse eucalyptus blossom and several newly-emerged Varied Swordgrass Browns, richly brown and gold, hovered along the fenceline while the cross Magpie banged my shoulders to indicate that an imminent departure was in order.