Wildlife at Millpost
I moved back to the farm in 2019 having lived elsewhere for 9 years. Since my return I have been rekindling my relationship with Millpost, the place where I was born and lived my youth. The smells and the sounds, the gentle change of the seasons, the animals and ecosystem have all been slowly sinking back into my consciousness, and subconscious.
I have always had a great interest in birds, and Millpost is a great place to enjoy them. Like much of Australia we are spoiled by the birdlife here. We have brilliant parrots, giant eagles, bug-eyed nightbirds, handsome honeyeaters, promiscuous wrens, and a symphony of songbirds. When I was a child I learnt all the birds we have (and many more, our field guides were some of the most reached for books) and kept our bird list up to date (now boasting 130 species, see below for those interested).
Over the back of South McKays (Millpost’s southwestern-most paddock) is Uncle Roy's Mountain Paddock, mostly under radiata pine since the 60s or 70s. On the steepest south facing slopes though (hence the mountain paddock name) is native bushland. Too scarped for logging machinery, the incline is shady and moist. The forest itself is nothing special for here, mostly maniferra regrowth, but its remoteness and inaccessibility has meant that it is wonderful habitat. While looking for his maremmas last year, my brother's dogs flushed out a lyrebird there, and ever since I have been keeping my eye out for them. At first I didn’t even believe his story, it seemed too good to be true. To see lyrebirds we otherwise have to travel to some of the much larger state and national parks 50km+ away, so the idea that they have been living a stone's throw from our back fence, probably for my whole life, was an exciting one.
After many unsuccessful trips to look for them I was beginning to feel pessimistic about the likelihood of their habitation, but on my most recent walk in Uncle Roys Mountain Paddock I finally heard what I had been listening for. A flurry of birdsong; too many different species calling from the one spot. Lyrebirds are masterful mimics, and this bird's main song consisted of the calls of cockatoo, butcherbird, rosellas (a whole flock), whistler, thrush, wattlebird, currawong and magpie. I tailed the bird for about an hour, but it managed to always stay just far enough ahead of me through the trees and gullies that I never caught a glimpse of it. It's song remains my only murmur of their otherwise quiet existence along the escarpment. I don’t think I’ll ever know if they are a remnant of what was once a widespread population, or blow-ins who found a great spot, but we are very happy they’re here.
My year back has had numerous first encounters, a White Bellied Sea Eagle showed up recently at our big dam. We had camped out next to the water with friends for a night, and when we woke up we had the visitor, a very rare sight this far inland.
Another first sighting I didn’t even have to leave my bed for! While lying in bed during the autumn I saw a Rufous Fantail sitting at my window in the honeysuckle. Its rufous colouring was much brighter than I had imagined it would be, a beautiful little bird.
Like the Lyrebird the most recent encounter was barely what can be described as a sighting. For many years we have known there are Sugar Gliders here, as once or twice we have had a cat bring in a victim, but to my knowledge they have not been seen alive here in my lifetime. Their shy nature makes them invisible here, but while hastily pulling the washing off the line before bed the other night I caught a silhouette flash into the tree above my head. In the darkness I was not sure if my eyes were playing tricks on me, and that it wasn’t just one of the rats we often see scampering up the trees in our garden. But after a moment I saw it flash again across the sky, a shadow moving at great speed, and heard the almost imperceptible rustle as it hit the tree across the road and disappeared into its bows. Another exciting encounter - I’ve been shining my torch up in the trees ever since in the hope of seeing it again.
Today we had a fun encounter with a less popular (but no less cute) member of the local wildlife - see below! We don’t think it ever actually saw us, but it certainly got a strong whiff when it was only a couple of metres away...
MILLPOST BIRD LIST
Little Pied Cormorant
Nankeen Night Heron
Australian Wood Duck
Pacific Black Duck
Dotterel – Red-kneed?
Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoo
Australian King Parrot
Barn Owl or Masked Owl
Australian Owlet Nightjar
Eastern Yellow Robin
Clamorous Reed Warbler