Wattle Day in Australia

Wattle Day is celebrated on the first of September

Wattle trees are in abundance by the first day of spring, throughout Australia, in the bush, in gardens, on the side of the road.  The much loved Wattle tree has a time of splendour, showing off, its green and yellow or golden glow.  Wattle is the national floral emblem. It was eventually decided that we should have a ‘Wattle Day’, on the 1st September, the beginning of spring.

  • Through history’s pages Wattle has been held in high esteem, but for the first Australians, ‘the original land owners’, they considered a number of species of Wattle to be sacred. It was an important source of food, fuel and medicine.  They would grind the pods to make bread; known to consist of protein, complex carbohydrates and good fats; the bark was used for skin irritations, and the wood was used for making certain wood-crafts, like utensils and boomerangs.
  • On the 17th Anniversary of the discovery of Tasmania, Hobart celebrated on the 19th November, 1838, with sprigs of Silver Wattle blossoms.
  • Later in 1899 a ‘Wattle Club’, in Victoria, headed by Mr A J Campbell, a field naturalist; decided on their second year, to do a bush-walk on the first day of spring.
  • However, the first official ‘Wattle Day’ was celebrated in 1910 in Sydney, Brisbane, Melbourne and Adelaide and in 1915, the National Wattle Day League, was established to organise the official celebration.
  • Gaining more significance during WWI as Wattle sprigs and Wattle badges were sold to raise money for the war effort by organisations like the Red Cross. Wattle became a commemorative symbol to remember the men and women who fought for our freedom in war.
  • It is also, I believe a symbol of the Australian nation and its people; the Aussie way, character, new life, common purpose, mateship, hope, working together towards a better future, courage, generosity, good humour and prosperity.
  • Wattle is on the Australian Coat of Arms, as our National floral emblem, and it was planted along the Remembrance Drive, 320 kilometres of highway from Sydney to Canberra, as a memorial to the Australian war heroes.
  • We see the essence of Wattle in the green and gold of our Australian athletes, and sports teams in their green and gold uniforms, the ‘Boxing Kangaroo’ flag, and anytime when Aussie’s wear their green and gold to show support to fellow Australians.
  • Only a small percentage of the community these days celebrate Wattle Day, though it is coming into a revival again. It is not only a wonderful way to celebrate spring; it represents all that we hold most dear as Australians.  Why not wear a sprig of Wattle, or dress in the green and gold, enjoy a walk in the bush and take in some wattle splendour, make a Wattle seed cake and have morning tea, but above all, take a moment to reflect and be thankful for all we have in this beautiful country we call home.

In my book, ‘Emily’, I love to share about nature; I developed a fictional wildlife park, ‘Green Coastal Wildlife Park’, to teach people about the wonders of the environment, aboriginal culture, the Australian bush and beach, native plants and animals and the connection of each, and the characters of the book, as well.

Emily the book is available from Amazon and other online stores.

by M.A.Loveday  (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife. Lover of Nature, Author)

 

References: Personal, Wikipeadia, and www.wattleday.asn.au

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Magpie-Lark (Grallina cyanoleuca)

Also known as mudlark, Murray magpie and Peewee.

One of the most fascinating attractions of these Magpie-Larks, and something I enjoy the most, is to listen to them sing.

They sing in duet, each partner sings their notes about a second apart, one sings, ‘peewee’ and the other responds with, ‘wit’. This singing makes it difficult to know there are two birds singing, tricky.

Other interesting points 

  • When other birds enter their territory, they will stand side by side and sing out their melody (keep away).
  • Known to have a partner for life.
  • Diet is carnivorous, consisting of a variety of small creatures, e.g. insects, spiders, worms and lizards. See them as a natural insecticide, helping to reduce the numbers of unnecessary bugs.
  • Peewee’s find their food by walking through fine soft patches of ground/grass areas.
  • They build a very interesting nest, made out of mud, and lined with fine bits of grass matter.
  • Peewee’s have up to 5 chicks with an Incubation time of 18 days, and the young fledglings are ready to leave the nest within 3 weeks.

In my book, ‘Emily’, I love to share about nature; I developed a fictional wildlife park, ‘Green Coastal Wildlife Park’, to teach people about the wonders of the environment, aboriginal culture, the Australian bush and beach, native plants and animals and the connection of each, and the characters of the book, as well.

Emily the book is available from Amazon and other online stores.

by M.A.Loveday  (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife. Lover of Nature)

 

Wikipeadia, BirdLife International (2012), Backyard buddies, Personal observations

 

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Australia’s most loved crab – the Soldier Crab

Australian Soldier Crab (Mictyris Longicarpus)

soldier crab 255They feed on detritus, any small organisms, such as diatoms, gastropod eggs or nematodes that are found in the sand, leaving rounded pellets of discarded sand behind them. They start to  feed within fifteen minutes of emerging from their sand holes… feeding may last from one to two and a half hours,  then they aggregate into armies, with the largest at the front.

Soldier crabs are mainly seen at low tide before the crabs dig into the sand to wait till the next tide. Much of their time is spend buried in the sand and only emerging to the surface a few hours before low tide, some stay submerged for the entire tidal cycle.

The number of crabs which can emerge at a time is influenced by temperature, wind and rainfall, with the different sexes responding differently. For example, one day, nearly all the males emerge for the day, then the next day, there will be a mixture of male and female crabs.

Upon emergence, the crab performs ‘the most aerobic grooming performance’… ‘In less than a second the crab falls onto its back, to remove any sand, then flips upright again in a half a somersault.’

They live in sandy estuaries, beaches and intertidal mangroves, where massive groups of crabs seem to emerge from nowhere all at the same time.

By M.A.Loveday  (Lecturer and Guide on Wildlife/ Lover of Nature)

References Wikipedia & personal observations.

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The Wonders Of The Estuary

This is an excerpt from Emily the book – ‘The Estuaries Ecosystem Tour…presented by Anthony and Kelly’ (Wildlife Rangers at the ‘Green Coastal Wildlife Park’)

Walking along the boardwalk, Ranger Anthony requests for everyone to stop and admire all the nature around them…

“Surrounding the lake we have swamp mahogany and lots of common reed….. these estuaries are the tidal mouth of the large river,  where the tide meets the stream… They are full of nutrients making the estuaries the most biologically productive natural habitats in the world.”

What is an Estuary?

An estuary is a partially enclosed body of water along the coast where freshwater of the rivers and streams meet the saltwater and mixes; the lands around these are places of transition.

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 Avoca Lagoon, was first settle by the Awabakal Aboriginal people, and the name Avoca is Celtic for the ‘Great Estuary or ‘Where the River meets the Sea’.  

The Importance of the Estuary They are fundamental and invaluable, supporting life upon which all organisms depend’.  The two services they provide, are:  

  • Water filtration, and
  • Habitat protection. 

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The sheltered waters of the estuaries are the home to countless plants and animals, that like to live in its briny environment, for example:  shellfish, worms, and other invertebrates living in the mud, which attracts many different birds, including migrating birds. There are a variety of fish, sea horses, lizards and snakes and many, many other animals.  

Healthy estuary conditions attract dolphins as they are vital for their food source, health and very survival.  

Habitats associated with estuaries, such salt marshes and mangrove forests, act like enormous filters.  As water flows through the salt marsh, marsh grasses and peat (spongy matrix of live roots, decomposing organic matter and soil), filtering pollutants such as herbicides, pesticides, and heavy metals out of the water, as well as excess sediments and nutrients.  

One reason that estuaries are such productive ecosystems is that the water filtering through them brings in nutrients from the surrounding watershed.  In addition to nutrients, the same water, however, can at times bring with it, all the pollutants that were applied t the lands in the watershed.  For this reason, estuaries are some of the most fertile ecosystems on the Earth, yet they may also be some of the most polluted, and this is concerning.

Estuaries and their surrounding wetlands are also buffer zones.  They stabilize shorelines and protect coastal areas, inland habitats and human communities from floods and storm surges.

When flooding does occur, estuaries’ habitats also protect streams, river channels and coastal shores from erosion caused by wind, water, and ice.  

Unlike economic services, ecosystems services are difficult to put a value on, but we cannot do without them, and thus are essentially priceless.

Love  Nature

Love our environment and look after it, let us keep our footprints as light as possible in this planet we call home.  

Another reason why I have written ‘Emily’, and placed the characters, in an Australian beach/bush setting, was to bring notice to the beauty of the nature that surrounds us all, to love nature is to care for it, even in the simple things we all do everyday.  Like reducing chemicals on our garden and changing our washing powder, all these small actions when we get together is a huge action towards a better environment and that in turn protects our own health, everyone around us, our pets and native animals.  Margaret Loveday

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‘Emily’ is available from Amazon and other online stores in paperback and ebook.

http://www.amazon.com/dp/0992477409

 

 

 

     

 

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The Australian Pelican

In my book ‘Emily’ I have encompassed many messages of love, and this includes the love and appreciation of the natural environment, including the wonders and the beauty all that entails.  The wildlife that depends on the health of the environment, the flora and fauna that rely on each other, and the balance of all this and how  important this is to all our futures.  It is about love.

The first post is all about the quirky, Australian Pelican, or as us Aussie endearingly call them, ‘Peli’s’…

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Pelicans are a majestic bird found on every continent except Antarctica.  There are eight different species of pelicans in total.  The pelican commonly found in and around Australia is the Australian Pelican.  They have black and white feathers on their back, tail and wings.

Interesting facts

  • Males are generally larger than the females and can weigh up to 10 kilograms.
  • Have bluish/grey webbed feet.
  • They are the largest pelican in the world.
  • Australia’s largest flying bird.
  • Their lifespan in the wild is ten to thirty years.
  • Pelicans are communal birds that dwell together in large groups by bodies of water.  Groups of pelicans are called pods, scoops or squadrons.  They like to rest and nest together.  They will travel long distances to find where all their needs can be met: clean water, food, resting and nesting spots.
  • At night they like to go back to sleep at their favourite spots.

The pelican habitat is anywhere there is clean water, such as; sheltered bays and beaches, lakes and lagoons close to the sea and coastal swamps and rivers.

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Wings

The average wingspan of the pelican is 2.3 to 2.5 metres, at times reaching up to 3.4 metres. The pelican can fly to a height of 3,000 metres, and using thermals, it can reach speeds of up to 56 kilometres an hour.  They cannot endure long flights of flapping, so they fly from one thermal to another, with less effort for sometimes over 20 hrs.

Though they are considered heavy birds they have air sacs in their bones and under their skin, that contribute to their buoyancy.  The air sacs also improve their aerodynamics, by using these air sacs they can stiffen their wings and feathers, which make them more streamline.

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The Central Coast of New South Wales in Australia is a popular hangout place for Pelicans.

The Entrance is now been internationally recognised as, “The Pelican Capital of Australia”.   Why is this so?

It started over 25 years ago, when the ‘Fish and Chip’ shop across the road from the waterfront, fed the pelicans with their fish scraps and unsold fish; they did this every day at 3.30 pm.  One day the owners of the shop didn’t give them attention … and these very resourceful ‘peli’s’ decided one by one to jump out of the water, cross the road and head straight to the fish shop, demanding their handouts.

I (Margaret) remember seeing the ‘Pelican Feeding’ when I was a child and I am glad that this ritual still continues through the generations. It is such a sight, these beautiful wild birds are real characters, they just love to be given fish left overs and put on an act for everyone to enjoy.

So today, we can enjoy these Pelicans 365 days a year at 3.30 pm, putting on a show as they get fed with love.   In 1996, The Entrance Town Centre Management built the feeding platform for these pelicans known as, ‘Pelican Plaza’, and this is now sponsored by local businesses within and around the Central Coast. The attraction has also become a very important project not just to entertain and educate residents and visitors alike, but it has become a checking point for any injured Pelican.

Nearly every week they have rescued a pelican with a fishhook or from fishing line entangled somewhere on the pelicans body, or a boating accident.   On the weekend we attended the ‘Pelican Feeding’ with other friends and the commentator shared about a pelican that someone brutally injured; its pouch was cut and other parts of it’s body was injured. It was taken into the vet and has now been released back into the wild and healthy once again.

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Are they dangerous?

No, they will not chase or hurt anyone, or want to attack.  Sometimes you can even pat them,  they will quickly let you know if they don’t want you to touch them, and they will either;

  • Turn around walk away or fly away,
  • Make their bird sound and do the yawn and stretch with a scorchy noise, to let you know,  and
  • If you persist the Pelican can use its hook at the end of their beak to hurt.

Are they playful?

Yes, pelicans are often playful and curious animals. They have been seen playing with things like plastic bottles,  throwing them up in the air and catching them and doing that over and over; they have also done this with seaweed.  Sometimes they have trashed the bins to find a suitable play toy.

Diet

Australia pelicans mainly eat fish but they can eat turtles, crustaceans and tadpoles.  They have even been seen drowning and eating seagulls when in dire need or stealing other birds’ catches.

Australian pelicans like to hunt fish in groups.  They flap their wings against the water and glide skimming the surface in order to scare the fish to shallower water where they can catch them easily.  Pelicans can also sense their prey moving below the surface of murky water using their sensitive bill.  When eating a fish the pelican will manoeuvre it to go down its throat, headfirst so that the spikes of the fins do not damage its throat.

The Bill

The bill can be up to 40 to 50 cm long and it is recorded to be the biggest of all bird bills in the world

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Pelicans are known for their long bills, being forty to fifty centimetres long, but even more so for their large bill pouch.  The pouch is used for many things; it can hold up to thirteen litres of water and is good for scooping up fish.  When they scoop up the fish they also collect water in their pouch.  To resolve this, the pelican puts its head down on its breast to cause the water to flow out leaving the fish.  Pelicans can also use the pouch to cool themselves by swinging it from side to side.

When the female pelican is ready to conceive her bill turns reddish pink in colour, so the male can see her, as to spark an interest.

Breeding and Nesting 

They breed from the ages of 2 or 3 years, depending where they like to hang out, for example:

  • Winter – tropical areas
  • Spring –  South / East Australia
  • Anytime – After big rainfall inland areas

The pelicans nest is made out of feathers, leaves and sticks.  One to three eggs are laid and both the parents share the job of incubating the eggs. After 32 -35 days the eggs hatch.

While in the egg the pelican chick communicates with its mother, by messaging to the mother if it is feeling to hot or cold.  This communication before hatching is mastered and the unborn learns to take commands from its mother, forming a close bond, this then enables the new born chick to identify its parents.

The first chick is the biggest due to the fact that it receives most of the food and on some accounts even attacks or kills the other chicks in the nest.

When the chick is hatched it has a large bill, bulging eyes and its skin is in the appearance of bubble wrap due to the air pockets under the skin.  The baby’s faces are spotted and their eyes are any shade from white to dark brown.  Through these variations the parents can tell their own chicks from the hundreds of others.  After about a month the chicks are old enough to vacate their nests.  Creches are formed of about 100 young pelicans, where they learn to fly and survive; after two months of this they are independent.

Often Seen

Roosting on the rock platforms, jetties, sandbanks, swimming in lagoons, bays, estuaries and watch out,  telegraph poles!

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Written by Margaret and Sam – Wildlife Warriors, Carers and Lovers of Nature…

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Margaret’s book ‘Emily’, is available from Amazon, Barnes and Nobles, Angus and Robertson, and other online stores

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