Birds and Gippsland fires

Subject: Birds and Gippsland fires
Date: Fri, 15 Dec 2006 08:34:07 +1100
With the fires going in Victoria's Gippsland region I've been sent the 
following report from a local naturalist who lives just north of 
Bairnsdale in East Gippsland.  John's description is rather reminiscent of 
eclipse-type conditions many of us in se Australia experienced many years 

Has anyone else made observations of bird behaviour in the dark conditions 
of extreme smoke coverage during the day?

cheers, Martin O'Brien

Thursday 14 December 2006

What a weird day!  The day dawned still and cool with total smoke cover 
and the sun a red ball in the east.  The morning gradually warmed up as 
the northerly wind strengthened.  In Bairnsdale the smoke cover and 
associated light remained fairly constant until about midday when the 
north wind which really never reached strong force abated and as it did 
the sky slowly darkened.  I had to go out to Lindenow to meet a contractor 
working on a cover for a water storage high on a hill above Lindenow. When 
I got out of the car about 1pm there was a slight north wind which was not 
hot, just pleasantly warm.  About 15 minutes latter it was just about dead 
still, just the odd breeze wafting about.  By the time I was leaving the 
site at 1.30pm it had got much darker and half an hour later back in 
Bairnsdale vehicles all had lights on as did the buildings.  By 3pm it was 
dark and by the time Pam picked me up from work at 4.30pm it was as dark 
as the middle of a moonless night.
The south west wind change hit about Bairnsdale about 4pm and out on the 
dark street the wind carried a large amount of find grey and black soot 
which had been slowly and invisibly raining down in the dark. 
The conditions of course were very eerie and foreboding - everyone is 
affected by these conditions.  As Pam and I drove out of the night in 
Bairnsdale at 4.30pm we drove out from under a heavy pall of smoke into 
light but not any normal light.  It was strange beyond description.  The 
scenery was unreal. 
>From about 6pm on at home the day got progressively lighter for a while in 
a weird way (not a return to a normal clear day).  Later the real night 
approached and the dark set in again.  We had two night falls in one day 
today and we experienced a few hours of night in the middle of the 
The birds must be thoroughly confused because by about 2pm or even before 
this there were very few birds about.  By 3pm I think most birds had gone 
to roost.  At home our resident family of Galahs were huddled together in 
one of their usual roosting trees when we arrived home at 5pm.  The only 
other birds I heard call were some Gang Gangs which sounded confused.
John H

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