WILDWATCH: SPRING SPRINGS SURPRISES by ANNE WILKINSON.
The fact that September means spring is hard to miss. Whatever has happened during the year, spring is always celebrated in the wild.
On the Wildwatch block the nights are full of sound. The weird, outraged, banshee cries of curlews, intermittent conversations between the resident scrub fowls, the “clock clock” of the hammer bird, the squeaks of bandicoots and countless churrs, buzzes and croaks of insects and frogs are just a few of the noises coming from the forest.
When, as happens occasionally, silence falls, it comes as quite a surprise, yet during winter the forest at night is often silent. Indeed, during this last year, these quiet winter nights made us wonder just how many creatures had been lost to Cyclone Yasi and its aftermath. It is good to hear those voices again and know we still have curlews and scrub fowl, for example, even though their world has changed and some, we know, were lost.
After the night comes the dawn chorus, which at the moment is truly spectacular, like a wild symphony, with all the different birds living here reasserting their claims on their territory. Yes, that is what is happening, or so we are told. We might celebrate the coming of day. They are warning rivals they are still there and still strong.
Interestingly, the voices seem to stick to a strict sequence with always the same bird starting them off with a several “cheeps”. Then another and another join in until eventually, the voices blend.
It is a joy to listen to this waking of the wild world’s day creatures even if they may not, like us, be celebrating!
However, spring is also the time of mating and rearing young, and in our crowded world this can bring sadness.
A friend emailed that in a short stretch of road – from North Mission Beach to Carmoo – he recently removed three dead young male wallabies and two dead young females from the road in one night.
Like other spring creatures, wallabies get “frisky” at this time of year. The males especially fight and chase each other, vying for females, and these fights can be savage. They completely forget about what is happening around them.
Fortunately, neither of the dead females had pouch young. Yes, they should always be checked, because it takes a long time for uninjured young to die in their mother’s pouch. If there are young, they should be taken from the pouch, wrapped warm, and a carer contacted. The 24-hour Wildcare hotline is at the end of this column.
But saving wildlife from such disasters is often simply just a matter of keeping an eye open for wildlife activity and driving that little bit slower so that it is easier to stop if necessary.
The other afternoon we were returning from Cardwell along the Bruce Highway when we were alerted by someone flashing their headlights as they drove towards us.
We soon saw why. There was a cassowary, probably a fairly young male, trying to cross the highway.
It made several attempts and drew back each time. Fortunately, it was a straight stretch and visibility was good. A ute had pulled up on our side of the road, and we stopped too, ready to signal any fast traffic.
As we did so a b-double came thundering over the rise towards us and the bird which was right on the edge of the bitumen.
To our great relief the driver of the huge vehicle slowed it and drove carefully past the cassowary.
All this took only a minute or so, but the rattling b-double must have been the final straw for the cassowary. It turned and with its tail feathers bouncing shot back on to the verge and off through the trees.
Hopefully, it gave up the idea of trying to cross.
We have quite often seen cassowaries crossing the highway. One large female crosses quite regularly near Bilyana, but it is always a heart stopping moment if there is traffic. All this emphasises the need for care and vigilance because we humans understand the danger vehicles present far better than the wild creatures which share our world.
Not to mention the fact that this is spring and wallabies, cassowaries and, indeed, the entire wild population, is currently answering its call.
Wildwatch is provided by the Tully branch of the Wildlife Preservation Society of Queensland: enquiries to 4066 5466 or 4066 5650. To contact the emergency 24-hour Wildcare hotline, phone 0439 687 272. Phone DERM on 1300 130 372 to report concerns about cassowaries and mahogany gliders.
PIC: Mum, Dad and Joey.
FAMILY PORTRAIT: Robert Tidey took this beautiful photograph of a wallaby family at Wongaling Beach. Like all wild creatures, wallabies are reacting skittishly to spring.
PIC: Cassowary - Daryl Dickson