Locusts, leeches and birds

To: <>
Subject: Locusts, leeches and birds
From: Keith Stockwell <>
Date: Mon, 26 Mar 2007 17:23:23 +1000
Hi all,

I maintain a web site, some pages of which are for the Echuca and District
branch of BOCA and on which I have a fairly extensive list of links to
Australian birding sites. If you have one, I hope your site is listed.

Recently, I received an unusual request from an Echuca district farmer,
Eris, to add a link to his site

Now I have regarded locust plagues as bad news and have never realised the
importance of locusts in the ecosystem. Having read the content on Eris's
web site, I realise that he has a point.

Apparently some birds and other animals benefit from locust outbreaks. The
Fat-tailed Dunnart colony in Terrick Terrick National Park (northern
Victoria) is said to breed when there are lots of locusts about.

A local BOCA and Birds Australia member has told me that woodswallows, in
particular, benefit from locust outbreaks.

A few years ago, during a BOCA tagalong in north-east NSW, whilst camping
at the Warrumbungles (we rated the camp site we stayed in there as by far
the most obnoxious one we camped at, and Iron Pot Creek the best), park
authorities were spraying locusts. At the same time, there were lots of
chats and wood-swallows about, feeding on the locusts.

Eris wrote in part:
'If you read my website you will find  a lot of
articles about locusts, with some of my own local content as well as
national and international information. I would appreciate if you could
include my website as a link on your website. I would also be happy to give
you an article about the role of locusts in the Riverina grasslands if you
would be prepared to put it on the website. I realize it is a controversial
issue, but what isn't?
'Unfortunately Australia seems to lag behind other parts of the  world,
such as South Africa and USA in balancing agriculture with the
conservation of grasshoppers.  

'Locusts are a natural part of grassland ecosystems throughout the globe
and are an integral part of the grasslands in the  Riverina. They could be
compared to the great herds of bison in Europe/ America or the Antelopes
in  Africa, having a similar role in  linking life systems throughout
the vast area  of grasslands in Australia.    

'As you would be aware, Locust spraying campaigns pose a significant threat
to other wildlife, birds, reptiles and especially  other invertebrates. 

'I believe that the sighting of a small number of Bustards in the Riverina
during the time of the locust migration was no  co-incidence either, and
that their ongoing decline throughout Australia could  be partly attributed
to Locust spraying.....(end of quote)

I have placed a longer version of the above article on the 'conservation
issues' page of my web site

Recdently, there have been many postings about leeches and socks. If
locusts play an important role, the question arises, do leaches play an
important role and what bird species, if any,feed upon them. Scrub Turkeys
and Log Runners perhaps??

When at Binna Burra Lodge, Lamington rainforest (SE Qld), last year (I
visit there for a week nearly every year), it was very dry and I did not
see a single leech. But a few years ago I lost count of the number on me
during an off-track hike after fording the Coomera River which washed off
the soap and Rid and seconds after the then Binna Burra manager had invited
us to apply a leech repellent his wife had made up. It seemed to be a leech
attractant rather than a repellent! The others scored a similar dismal
fate. Dan, who worked at the lodge, was NOT the leader on that occasion or
I might have applied Vaseline as he suggested in his posting.

Keith Stockwell


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