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The extended dry conditions in the past couple of months have seen water points such as dams and lakes receding or drying up completely.

The remaining waterholes are a magnet for all sorts of wildlife. In late February, two bird observers spent time at Distillery Creek picnic ground watching for birds coming in to the small dam near the car park. Apart from the dam no other surface water was seen in the area. It was a hot day which made it a popular spot for the local birds. In less than an hour, 17 species of birds came in to drink or bathe.

Species seen: Crimson Rosella, Superb Fairy-wren, Spotted Pardalote, Yellow-faced, White-eared, Brown-headed, White-naped and New Holland Honeyeaters, Eastern Spinebill, Eastern Yellow Robin, Rufous Whistler (one male), Satin Flycatcher (one male, bathing continuously), Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Australian Magpie, Red-browed Finch and Silvereye.

Also recorded in the area, but not at the waterhole, were: Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Australian King Parrot, Shining Bronze Cuckoo, Laughing Kookaburra, White-throated Treecreeper, White-browed Scrubwren, Common Bronzewing, Brown Thornbill, Red Wattlebird, Golden Whistler, Grey Shrike Thrush, Leaden Flycatcher and Olive-backed Oriole. Quite an impressive list over just a few hours. (Thanks to Tom Fletcher for this information).

On the same day, Tom found this beautiful moth, Anthela connexa. It was found on Distillery Creek Rd on February 22 and identified by Marilyn Hewish.

Anthela connexaAnthela connexa

Claire Hanley came across a nest on the ground near Ironbark Drive at Distillery Creek. It had obviously been blown out of a tree during high winds. It was in very good condition and will be displayed in the Angair Natural History room. The nest was identified by Tom Fletcher as belonging to a Leaden Flycatcher. According to the description in Australian Birds Their Nests and Eggs by Gordon Beruldsen, the nest is a beautifully constructed neat cup of shredded bark and fine grasses matted together and liberally bound with spiders’ webbing. The inside is neatly lined with a thin layer of fine soft grasses and fine rootlets and the outside is decorated with small pieces of bark or lichen. The nests are invariably on a short, dead branch or twig, clear of foliage, immediately underneath a larger branch and generally well out from the trunk of a tree. Nests may be at any height from 4 or 5 m to 20 m or more above the ground but are usually between 5 and 10 m.

Eggs are white with faint blueish or greyish tinge, slightly lustrous and marked, mainly in a zone around the larger end, with spots and blotches of dark greyish- brown shades and some underlying markings of lavender. Approximate measurements 17mm x 14 mm.

Some other observations reported during the past month:

  • Rainbow, Purple-Crowned and Musk Lorikeets are very conspicuous at the moment—attracted to several species of gum trees flowering around the town including Manna Gums, Messmates, and non-indigenous South Australian Sugar Gums and West Australia’s Red Flowering Gum, Corymbia ficifolia.
  • Rufous Bristlebird in a garden at Bellbrae.
  • At the Painkalac Creek, near the bridge, a lone pelican standing in the water. According to locals, pelicans have not been seen here before.
  • An exciting find at Distillery Creek one morning in mid-March. A Yellow-tufted Honeyeater appeared at the small dam. There was only the one, but we had a good view of it as it mingled with other small birds all enjoying an early morning drink.

A wildlife rescue story at Aireys Estuary.
Eco-logic staff member and wildlife champion ‘Lachie’ Mack noticed what appeared to be a dead native waterbird in the estuary. On inspection he realised there were two birds. One was a White-faced Heron and the other a Dusky Moorhen.

He was surprised to see the heron was still alive although unable to move. A large mass of discarded fishing line was wrapped fully around its body from the wings and around the torso. Any attempt by the bird to try and free itself or move would mean the line would tighten and cut further into its shoulders.

White-faced Heron

Lachie gently looked after the bird until help arrived. Thanks to locals – ‘top shop’s’ Glenda, vet Steve White, Margaret MacDonald, Eco-staffer Annabelle, and Jason Cichocki Wildlife Rescue—who dropped everything to collect the bird, deliver it to a vet, have the line cut free in a short period of time and saving the bird. It has already returned to its habitat with no serious injuries.

Another day, given the precarious circumstances, there may have been a different outcome. This was a great example of people in a small community achieving good results in a timely effective manner. Thanks to all those involved. (Rebecca Hoskin).

Kaye Traynor