Some of you might already know about this fire, I heard it was shown on
tonight's news, although I didn't see it myself.
About 1pm today, a fire started in the thick scrub at the west end of Mt St
Joseph pond, and the strong north westerly wind spread it into the reeds at
that end, then across the railway tracks to the large area of reeds there
before the fire brigade arrived and put it out.
Half the scrub seems to be badly burnt, and the reeds from the west end up to
the south platform are mostly gone.
Across the tracks, the entire fenced area of reeds is burnt, about a hectare,
some right to the ground, and many of the fence posts have burned away. This
is the fenced area immediately south of the pond, thankfully not the larger
Truganina Swamp proper to the south west. The only plant left standing in this
area is a prickly pear that has always annoyed me. Hopefully its burns will be
There have been small fires here every summer for the last few years, always
due to arson, I suspect by kids who smoke, etc, in little hidey holes in the
bushes. I suspect this one started in a larger camp they created, complete
with a stolen car they rammed deep into the scrub, and the dead reeds and
strong wind made it much worse than normal. I'd hate to think it was the same
person each time, but I suppose it's likely.
Had it not been such a dry winter, the area south of the tracks would have been
full of water, and the dead reeds would have collapsed and not been such good
fuel. I would imagine the adjacent houses would have been showered with embers
as the fire came through that part.
I only heard about it when it was nearly out, and went down about 2.30pm for a
look. There seemed to be more birds about than normal, I assume because they
had been forced out of their normal habitat. Many New Holland Honeyeaters were
positioned along the smouldering railings, darting up for insects that
presumably had also been displaced.
The resident swans were leaving as I arrived, and the swamphens were looking
anxiously from the reeds instead of browsing in the open as normal. Several
moorhens fed along the east edge, but looked nervous, while some coots seemed
to be unaware anything had happened and were having group sex in the middle of
the pond. A Black-shouldered Kite checked the burnt areas for survivors.
As I passed the pond last Thursday night, I could hear three Lewin's Rails
calling simultaneously, one from the east end of the pond, one from Truganina
Swamp, and one from the now burnt area across the tracks. The latter has gone
from there of course, it's now either bare ground or burnt stubble. I'm
wondering what this bird would have done as the flames approached. I doubt it
would have flown over to Truganina Swamp, as it would have had to fly into the
smoke. I guess it has either fled east over the houses, or north into the pond.
In the scheme of things, this is a fairly small area, but it does support
crakes and rails, so I hope it recovers from this setback. We know Spotless
Crakes bred at the pond the summer before last, and Lewin's Rails may have bred
there last summer, as a juvenile was seen. Numerous small birds nested in the
scrub, so this has come at a bad time for them. Hopefully the trees aren't
actually dead, but they don't look too good.
Conditions at the pond for birdwatching recently have been normal for winter -
water level too high to expect to see crakes or rails. If the birds are still
around, then this event may make seeing them more likely. South of the tracks
looks fairly dry, so I doubt any will risk feeding there with the lack of
cover, but the burnt area to the left of the south platform might now be worth
checking out, as a large area of mud is visible among the burnt reeds. It may
even be that there will be more birds than normal, if some escaped there from
the other side of the tracks.
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