New lives, new deaths, Oct 8

After two days in the high country of spectacular waterfalls, but with temperatures down to 1 degree, we are back home on the coast.

Yurruun.Ga wetland first light

I start today at first light in the wetlands of Yurrun.Ga. From the various waterfowl and one Azure Kingfisher there, I moved to an enclosed lake a few hundred metres inland, again with all kinds of waterfowl, but this time including Magpie Geese. I had heard they had chicks but when I arrived I couldn’t see a single chick.

I have seen thousands of these geese in Kakadu (NT) but they are rare in this area. These three adults have been here a few years, but have always migrated north in winter to breed. It’s rare that they breed this far south, but this year the male and two females have bred seven healthy looking chicks that set sail towards me, as I move with the sun behind me.

Yurruun.Ga, Bello-Quays. The Magpie Geese took to the water with 7 chicks and sailed towards me

‘The magpie goose is the sole living representative species of the family Anseranatidae. This common waterbird is found in northern Australia and southern New Guinea. As the species is prone to wandering, especially when not breeding, it is sometimes recorded outside its core range.’ (Wikipedia).‘Magpie Geese are widespread in northern Australia, where they may congregate in huge flocks, often comprising thousands of birds. They breed in large colonies late in the wet season, with the biggest recorded at Daly River in the Northern Territory — it covered 46 km2. The species was once also widespread in southern Australia, but disappeared from there largely due to the drainage of the wetlands where the birds once bred.’ (Birdlife Australia)

They are listed as Vulnerable in this State and endangered in the southern States.

I had followed a flock of noisy Little Corellas here.

Little Corellas

‘Gisella Kaplan, a professor of Animal Behaviour at the University of New England, said the migration pattern of the brightest bird in the world’, originally from inland Australia, was intriguing. She said the highly-evolved birds formed loving, life-long partnerships with each other. ‘They are charming, family loving, solidly cooperative, highly intelligent and long-lived. They, and our other cockatoos, are about the pinnacle in bird evolution.’ (ABC Mid North Coast, July 2019).

2 [Good news below]

‘A terrifying new study details the havoc being wrought by what scientists call ‘the most destructive pathogen ever’ recorded on Earth. ‘If it were a human pathogen, it’d be in a zombie film.’ [i]

Mid-morning, we found a zombie apocalypse on our deck. A few days ago the sound of Dwarf Green Tree Frogs, surrounded out house. They are hard to see but loud. We love their ratchety calls, but they may be vanishing. This poor specimen was on our deck, losing its back. Realising that this was happening to hundreds of thousands, if not millions, world-wide, I felt very sad. We put it in the freezer to die and will dispose of the body. Wyn made a donation to frog.ID.

Dwarf Green Tree Frog with fatal disease

The chytrid fungus (Batrachochytrium dendrobatidis) was identified in 1998 by researchers at James Cook University (Qld) investigating the cause of mysterious, mass amphibian deaths. There were no declines in Asia because species had evolved to be naturally resistant.

Chytridiomycosis is caused by chytrid fungus eating away at the skin of amphibians. A report has found that over 500 species have declined from the chytrid fungus and 90 of these are presumed or confirmed extinct.[ii]

It originated in Asia, and spread world-wide through the legal and illegal pet trade. As Covid reminds us, disease spreads quickly in our interconnected world.

One more reason to abandon the bad-for-the-planet habit of owning an animal.


Wyn sent a photo to Frog.ID. Dr Jodi Rowley got back straight away:
‘Oh no! This poor frog. Definitely an injury – and a horrible one- rather than disease.’

She is Lead Scientist, FrogID | Australian Museum Research Institute & Centre for Ecosystem Science, BEES, UNSW Sydney.

[i] Biologist Dan Greenberg. Common Dreams, ‘Most Destructive Pathogen Ever’ Has Created Zombie-Like Apocalypse for World’s Amphibians’, 29 March 2019.

[ii] Ben C. Scheele et al., ‘Amphibian fungal panzootic causes catastrophic and ongoing loss of biodiversity’, Science, 29 March 2019. Chytridiomycosis is caused by two fungal species, both of which are likely to have originated in Asia.


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