Re: birding-aus DESPAIR & ECSTACEY

To: morris <>, "" <>
Subject: Re: birding-aus DESPAIR & ECSTACEY
From: Alexandra Appleman <>
Date: Sun, 07 Nov 1999 11:14:41 +1000
At 09:35 6/11/99 +1100, morris wrote:
>Hi Birders,
>I was interested in Peter Waanders comments about the terrible damage
>that is happening to the environment through plant diseases, weeds and
>salinty problems all caused by us BUT he included in this unhappy list,
>the fact that a certain reserve was burnt by a bushfire. Surely this is
>not a tradgedy! Most Australian flora is conditioned to bushfires.
>Certainly lightning strikes causing bushfires in the mallee are part of
>the Australian scene. Regular wildfires can change the species
>composition of an area but without even knowing the particular reserve
>mentioned, I would hazzard a guess to say that this is the first fire
>there in many years. Our pastoral settlement of the land in many places
>has reduced the frequency of fire to the detriment of the plant species
>communities and or associations. This fire will no doubt cause a new
>crop of wattles which will provide insects and seeds for birds in the
>future etc. On a recent visit to Tarawi Nature Reserve in Western NSW,
>we saw more Striated Grasswrens ( 3 groups, c 8 birds) in a boundary
>hazard reduction strip burn of  2 years ago, of about 200 ha at the
>maximum, compared with 4 birds in 4 days at Gluepot 250,000 ha! At the
>same reserve we also got a good birdlist in a 500 ha area which was
>burnt in a Lightning strike 12 months before! Irregular bushfires are
>not disasters but are a necessary part of our environment!
>Alan Morris
>Records Officer, NSWFOC
Apologies to the list for repeating Alan's messsage in full, but he makes
several good points about fire management, which I agree on.  The problem
here in Townsville (19* S - in the dry tropics) is fire mis-management;
we're just had our worst bushfire season on record, blackening much of the
elevated areas and large tracts of the surrounding grassland and woodland
areas - many of these fires deliberately lit.

Townville's rainfall patterns are best described as eccentric - the mean
rainfall is 1198 mm, most of which is delivered in the wet season which is
either spectacular (floods, cyclones) or doesn't happen at all. Generally a
year of high rainfall (1998's total of 2001 mm was 78% ABOVE the mean) is
followed by a year of poor rains.  The rainfall recorded in Townsville over
the past week equals the total recorded over the previous 6 months, at the
moment we running at 33% BELOW average for the calendar year so we still
have a lot of catching up to do.

The Indigenous peoples of the North tropical coast used fire judiciously,
burning when the grass was damp with dew which caused a smoky fire removing
the grass understorey.  Fires in recent weeks have torched the trees as
well and a journey along Highway one is one of tragegy seeing Agile
Wallabies and cattle picking their way across the scorched earth and a
landscape of charred eucalypts and pandanus trees.  Fire has even reached
up into some of the rainforested areas. The ironbarks can survive such
infernos but the others have taken a severe battering.

Perhaps Denise Goodfellow would like to comment????   

Alex Appleman

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