The Bower at Broulee, Illawong Track in October
by Jill Whiter
Sea Eagles Nest
October is a busy month in the wild world; well into the breeding season for most of the birds and for just about every other creature too. So a walk along the Illawong Track can't be hurried; every chirrup and rustle, every call, and every movement too, has to be investigated. It wasn't a walk, more of a leisurely stroll.
An Olive-backed Oriole was calling on the ridge round the cabins, joined by a veritable chorus of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, and a Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike sailed in to perch and shuffle its wings on a eucalypt branch that seemed a likely candidate for a nest. Couldn't see one, though the nest usually appears as no more than a bump on the branch, far too small to house one young, let alone two, and a brooding female. I was surprised to neither see nor hear a Noisy Friarbird; although nesting now, they are still fairly vocal. The Eastern Yellow Robins were fairly quiet, just a couple of subdued calls, again evidence of nesting or feeding young. The Golden Whistlers were quiet too, as were the Eastern Whipbirds. The Magpies have a nest near the western fenceline but the White-bellied Sea-Eagle nest has not been used this season.
Some young Red Wattlebirds were piping their demands for food and at least two were new out of the nest, their short tails indicative of the just-fledged. A Yellow-faced Honeyeater disappeared into a bunch of leaves on the end of a low-hanging branch and a closer look revealed the little nest, so cunningly camouflaged. Both Superb and Variegated Fairy-wrens were missing, presumably busy with nests in the Lomandra round the swamp edges. I heard the White-browed Scrubwrens and watched the rustle of their progress through the low shrubs, but they weren't going to come out and talk to me as they usually do.They are the most delightful of the LBB, 'little brown bird', families, superbly confident, indeed even pushy at times, and quite unafraid of a clumsy-footed intruder. I have even had one stand his ground on the toe of my shoe, scolding furiously in defence of his mate on the nest just a hand's breadth away in a thick clump of grass. You can't help but admire them.
As I rounded the corner and began the walk along the fence separating the woodland from the water meadows, a low, meditative, four-note call caught my attention; it was definitely new to me, I simply couldn't recall it, or its like, from memory. Then it ceased and there was nothing for it but to plunge into the woodland and head for where I thought it came from and that brought me to the same tree where the Brown Goshawk had nested last season. The flimsy nest was there and she was there, perched beside it. It was soon made abundantly clear that an alien presence was not welcome – she came at me like a Fury, talons outstretched and big wings whacking my head and shoulders. I beat as hasty a retreat as could be managed by a breathless octogenarian, and it was not dignified! This is one nest that should be observed only from a safe distance.
At home that evening, a trawl through some reference books yielded the description of a female Brown Goshawk's call at the nest, and it coincided with the day's four-note call. I have only seen about four of these nests and had to wait till my 80s to hear the call. There is always something to learn.