Kinglake Bushfire Update 4/4 (Birds, community centre)

To: "'Birding Aus'" <>
Subject: Kinglake Bushfire Update 4/4 (Birds, community centre)
From: "Paul Dodd" <>
Date: Mon, 16 Feb 2009 00:09:37 +1100
One thing I hadn't expected was the smell. Not just the smell of smoke and
the smell of burned wood, but the smell of rotting carcasses. On some
properties that had stock that perished, large pits had been dug and the
dead stock pushed in and then covered with lime. In paddocks on other
properties dead stock remain in the open. Depending on which way the wind
blows, the stench can be quite overpowering. Walking around we could see the
remains of native animals that hadn't survived. Ruth found the body of a
Tawny Frogmouth near the dam. My sister found a dead rosella (she didn't say
if it was Eastern or Crimson). I found a dead Yellow-tufted Honeyeater on
the driveway in front of the house (presumably not a Helmeted Honeyeater!)


As we walked towards the dam, a family of Wood Ducks walked away from us.
Amazing how soon these birds had returned. We heard a magpie calling in the
distance. Overhead some Galahs were flying. We saw Sulphur-crested
Cockatoos. On the Thursday, when they first came back to the site, my sister
and her partner saw some Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos. We saw a White-faced
Heron flying across the paddocks and into the dam. Other birds seen in the
burned area (but not on my sister's property) were Little Ravens and
Yellow-rumped Thornbills. One thing that I noticed, and was certainly
commented on by others, was the extraordinarily large number and variety of
birds in Hurstbridge and other areas immediately outside the fire area.
Presumably these are birds that escaped the bushfire and have taken up
residence just outside the area. I looked but did not see any White-throated
Needletails. I actually don't recall seeing any insects, let alone flying
ones, that these birds could feed on.


Eventually my sister couldn't stay at the property any longer, so we left.
Once we reached St Andrews, we called into the community centre that had
been set up in the old school hall. This was quite amazing. As we walked in,
there was a kitchen where food was prepared around the clock. A corridor was
lined shelves containing food and groceries of all sorts - canned food,
fresh vegetables, bread, milk and other necessities. As we walked in, one of
the community workers said, "Just grab a bag and take whatever you need." It
is amazing how the community comes together to support its own. There was
another room at the hall with desks set up - CentreLink, a nurse, legal aid,
Telstra, trauma counsellor and so forth. On the wall was a message board -
people looking for people, people advising they're OK. Another list on the
wall was from people offering goods or services. Another list was local
accommodation - people offering everything from single rooms to entire
houses for people displaced by the fires. Ruth and I spoke with one of the
counsellors who offered us advice on supporting my sister and her family -
she also asked how the kids were and gave us pamphlets on how to deal with
people facing trauma. She also tried to make sure that Ruth and I were OK,
because she said that it was likely that we'd feel some stress-related
effects too. My sister and her partner collected new work boots, to replace
the ones lost in the fire - all donated by Yakka. This room was full of
donated clothes - all sorted, neatly folded and stacked.


It will be interesting to see what happens in the fire area over the weeks
and months to come. I expect that over the next few weeks the trees will
lose their burnt leaves and the epicordal growth will start. I am not sure
how long it will take for new grass to appear. Possibly once some rain has
fallen. Nature will of course start to repair itself. I think the human
tragedy will take much longer to repair.


Paul Dodd

Docklands, Victoria




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