Some of you may of heard of the violent hailstorm
which ripped through East Gippsland in the early hours of Christmas eve. The
noise was so great that we were out of bed at 3.45am in the morning checking the
windows around the house for breakages. It only lasted for approximately 15
minutes but the ice (congealed hailstones) remained on the ground until after
3.00pm the following day.
We were spared any personal damage but the
following day we realised what terrible havoc was wreaked on our local birdlife.
Two of the Little Tern Taskforce volunteers ventured out to Tern Island in the
Lake Tyers estuary and were absolutely devastated by what they saw.
There were 35 adult breeding plumage Little Tern
dead on the ground, some still sheltering eggs and chicks. 27 chicks were also
found dead and many of the eggs were due to hatch. In addition Red-capped
Plover, Masked Lapwing and Fairy Tern bodies were encountered on the Island.
They also witnessed Swans and Silver Gulls with head injuries. One dead Water
Rat was the only mammal encountered.
My wife, daughter and I went for a walk along the
Mitchell River which flows past Bairnsdale and in one 20m stretch we collected a
dead Grey fantail, Horsefield Cuckoo, Eastern Yellow Robin and what looked like
a Yellow-faced Honeyeater. After that we stopped looking, too
The loss of 35 adult breeding Little
Tern represents at least 20% of the total population currently visiting
Victoria. They have had a terrible breeding season and this was the only
significant breeding event in the state. These birds could have possibly been
experienced breeders. Eight of the dead Little Tern were banded and we will
be searching the databases to see how old they were.
Mother nature can be cruel