A program is underway by DELWP to translocate koalas from some private properties at Cape Otway.

It is necessary to ease the pressure on Manna Gum woodlands which have been badly affected by koala over-browsing. The abundance of koalas at Cape Otway has created problems for the long term sustainability of koala populations as well as the trees they depend on. They will be moved to a habitat of mixed eucalypt species in the Great Otway National Park north of Lorne. During the two-week program koalas are given a health check, prior to release and females are sterilised.

Some interesting fauna observations during the past month:

  • A Golden Whistler visited a garden in Anglesea.
  • Two sightings of a White-bellied Sea Eagle: earlier this month, a Sea Eagle flew over the Ocean Road between Aireys and Fairhaven and then headed inland. Much later, one was seen flying above the Painkalac Creek.
  • The distinctive call of the Barking Owl with its double-noted, dog-like sound, was heard at Aireys Inlet. This occurred on a separate occasion to the report in last month’s newsletter.
  • Observations by Peter and Christine Forster: From the kitchen window, Christine watched with interest a Satin Bowerbird in full male plumage. He was jumping up from the ground to pick off and swallow the fuchsia fruit from a pot plant.
  • Earlier in the month, Christine noticed a Red Wattlebird with what appeared to be a skewered Eastern Spinebill, with its beak open and flapping its wings. She rushed to the door to save the little bird. However she found a large moth on the ground and an angry wattlebird a metre away reluctant to give up its prey.

Penny Morison, from Aireys Inlet, was able to view two interesting examples of bird behaviour recently. Two kookaburras in her backyard had caught a rat. The young one attempted swallowing it whole before dropping it. The adult retrieved the rat and after some failed attempts managed to swallow it head first. She was concerned that it was a native rat, but after looking at photographs, decided it was introduced.

A Nankeen Kestrel alighted on the gravel roadway in front of their house, picked an object off the road and ate it. It repeated this about 10 times allowing time to get binoculars and see that it appeared to be eating pebbles. An internet search revealed that some birds of prey do this and not for the reason you might expect.
While the following notes refer to an American kestrel it would seem highly likely that the bird observed was doing this for the same reason. Maybe other people have observed this behaviour here too.

Hawks, falcons and eagles do not eat grit or small stones to digest their food like most other birds do. The flesh they consume is turned to liquid in the crop by strong acids and indigestible materials (teeth, fur, feathers etc) are regurgitated as pellets. So grit is not needed by these birds as a digestive aid.

But these raptors will consume stones and there is a very good reason why. Their diet consists of plump rodents, grasshoppers, etc. is very fatty and eventually a thick layer of greasy fat builds up in the lining of the crop, which becomes a hindrance to the proper functioning of that organ. So they swallow small stones which scour out the greasy lining of the crop and eventually they will be cast out, just like pellets, covered in grease.
See http://www.featheredphotography.com/blog/2012/11/05/american-kestrel-eating-grit/

(Thanks to Penny and Ian for this report.)

Kaye Traynor

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