I am an Australian natural history writer and photographer. My aim is to encourage people to venture outdoors and enjoy the natural beauty of our planet.
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Published October 6th 2020
After the fires
The ground around us is blackened by fire and many of the trees are merely charred stumps. Others, despite the obvious blackening of their trunks, are starting to sprout new leaves. Some large eucalypts are wearing a covering of fresh, green growth.
We are exploring the Lobethal Bushland Park, which was ravaged by the devastating Cudlee Creek fire in Dec 2019, less than a year ago. Despite the ferocity of this blaze, there are signs of new life everywhere. Small flowering plants are blooming, mosses, lichens and ferns carpet some areas and fungi are sprouting at the bases of trees.
However, it is the resilient Grass Trees or Xanthorrhoea that lead the rejuvenation charge. Many species are fire resistant and will flower soon after a bushfire. In turn, they attract numerous species of small birds and insects. As we walk along with one of the marked trails we record Robins, Silvereyes, Eastern Spinebills, Adelaide Rosellas and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, all probing the tall, flowering spikes of the grass trees. I suspect they are feeding on nectar or insects attracted to the blossoms.
Two substantial dams in the area aid the wildlife diversity....Maned Ducks
The grass 'skirts' of the Xanthorrhoea also provide a refuge for other animals including ground-living insects, reptiles and small mammals. With a little patience, we manage to photograph a group of Superb Fairy-wrens as they dash from cover to feed. Again, signs of life, as the wrens mainly eat small insects as well as some seeds and fruits.
As if on cue, a pair of Galahs decide to demonstrate the full range of 'back to business behaviours' - they mate, feed on the ground then explore a nesting hole together. It seems that life on the fire ground is slowly fighting its way back, though it will be many years before this area is back to any kind of normality. The understory still needs to regenerate and the trees must start to provide substantial stability and cover.
I highly recommend walking through this fascinating area to try and understand the impact of fire on our Hills' communities both human and natural. Besides, the Lobethal Bakery is definitely worth a visit after you have burnt a few calories walking.
Additional notes There is a choice of trails varying in length and difficulty with public toilets, barbecues, parking and other facilities nearby. It is dog friendly.