RE: Mt St Joseph pond / Truganina Swamp fire (Vic)

To: "Birding-aus (E-mail)" <>
Subject: RE: Mt St Joseph pond / Truganina Swamp fire (Vic)
From: Peter Shute <>
Date: Sun, 23 Aug 2009 15:47:50 +1000
I've posted some photos of the site after the fire at:
Peter Shute

From:   On 
Behalf Of Peter Shute 
Sent: Saturday, 22 August 2009 8:04 PM
To: Birding-aus (E-mail)
Subject: Mt St Joseph pond / Truganina Swamp fire (Vic)

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.

Peter Shute

To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)

To unsubscribe from this mailing list,
send the message:
(in the body of the message, with no Subject line)
<Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread>

The University of NSW School of Computer and Engineering takes no responsibility for the contents of this archive. It is purely a compilation of material sent by many people to the birding-aus mailing list. It has not been checked for accuracy nor its content verified in any way. If you wish to get material removed from the archive or have other queries about the archive e-mail Andrew Taylor at this address: andrewt@cse.unsw.EDU.AU