Yinnar, Yinnar South Landcare

Fantailed Cuckoo
Fantailed Cuckoo (D Mules)
Shining Bronze Cuckoo
Shining bronze-cuckoo (D. Mules)

One Cuckoo does not a summer make… But, right on cue, and as seen in the September nature chart from last month, the cuckoos have arrrived. There was a shining bronze-cuckoo in the garden here for a couple of weeks, and a fan-tailed cuckoo calling up at our Billys Creek re-veg block. Fan-tailed cuckoos are often seen in Morwell National Park, especially along Billys Creek.

The arrival of the cuckoos is a sign that bush birds are breeding. Nests of birds such as blue wrens, fantails, yellow robins, silvereyes, red-browed finches and thornbills can be quite close to the ground, or woven into the foliage of dense trees and shrubs, or in the middle of blackberry patches or piles of dead branches. To give the birds their best chance, it’s especially important to keep cats indoors at this time of year.

One fascinating bird factoid:

Blue wren families each have a territory. Young birds are fed by adults in the family as well as by their parents. The female wren sings while she’s sitting on the eggs, and when the baby birds are born they can sing their nest song. This identifies them to the family that feeds them and they continue to learn other wren songs from then on. A cuckoo nestling being raised by wrens, on the other hand, has a delayed capacity to learn songs. It waits until it’s independent of it’s wren hosts and then, when it’s three months old, it develops the ability to learn cuckoo songs.

There is a theory that we humans learned to use language from birds. Birds have been on earth for a long time, since the dinosaurs by all accounts. I hope we can keep our environment possible for them to stay around for much longer.

Lyre Bird

One of the genetically oldest songbirds in the world, is the lyrebird, and we’re so lucky to live in an area where they aren’t uncommon. The ones up near our Billys Creek block imitate yellow-tailed black cockatoos, as do others in Foster’s Gully in the Kerry Road section of Morwell National Park. When superb lyrebirds aren’t singing, they’re cultivating the forest floor, and a recently published study has quantified their contribution. They move more soil than any other land based animal in the world. In one year, one lyrebird foraging for food on the forest floor will displace something like 155 tonnes, or 11 standard dump trucks of soil and leaf litter. Where there are no lyrebirds, leaf litter builds up and increases fire risk.

The lyrebird population of Sherbrooke forest in the Dandenong Ranges increased dramatically when a sustained fox control program was implemented by Parks Victoria. There’s now been some fox control undertaken at Morwell National Park, and hopefully this year’s lyrebird chicks will survive as a result. If areas of suitable habitat can be connected, then that’s also beneficial. Lyrebirds aren’t that good at flying. They seem to prefer to walk, and will more or less levitate straight up into a tree when alarmed.

YYS Landcare volunteers walking in to a job
Walking in to our Billys Creek re-veg site (J. Champert)

Snakes Alive! We’ve been working on our Billys Creek block. Our early September planting crew saw two tiger snakes enjoying the early spring sunshine. The crew also planted some tubestock and broadcast the last of the seed for that section of the block. Unfortunately there were three sheep and a Hereford cow that had found a way to run away from home and come and trample and eat our plants.

There was also more evidence of destructive deer activity in the forest on the way in. There’s just no place for these large and destructive animals in our few remaining fragile forest ecosystems. We have people associated with our group who are licensed shooters, and anyone living along the Billys Creek valley who is prepared to allow or encourage deer shooting on their place can get in touch with Larry on 0420 310 743.

We’re also trying to solve the problem of stray farm animals. Our biggest planting effort on that site will be next winter and by then we’d hope to have found and implemented a solution. We’ve already converted about three or four hectares of blackberry to native vegetation, but a lot of what we’ve grown has already been browsed. We’ve now finished planting for the year at Billys Creek and along Upper Middle Creek where West Gippsland Catchment Management Authority was also working on revegetating the creek banks after the fire last year.