Sunday, February 22, 2009

Friday, February 13, 2009

Amidst Death and Destruction: Wildlife Rescue

Nothing can compensate for the devastating loss of human life and property in the Victorian bushfires. It is also estimated that the loss of wildlife has also been enormous – more than a million marsupials, reptiles, and birds. Their habitat has also been destroyed.

Sam was rescued by CFA firefighter David Tree while he was fighting the fire at Mirboo North. She has since become an international celebrity via video footage and slideshows. The video shows Sam drinking a bottle of water; reports confirm that she drank a total of three bottles of water. This is remarkable since koalas do not normally drink water but obtain moisture from eucalypt leaves and water droplets on the foliage. Sam is recovering at Southern Ash Wildlife Shelter in Rawson where she has been befriended by a male koala, Bob.

According to reports, Sam is one of 22 koalas, 14 ringtail possums, several wallabies and eastern grey kangaroos that are being cared for in Gippsland.

Another wildlife ‘save’ was a baby sugar glider which was rescued by Yarra Glen CFA firefighter Darren Thompson. We haven’t heard any more about this glider. Hopefully it is recovering also.

Sunday, February 8, 2009

Bushfires: Victoria, Australia

The Australian bush is one of the most beautiful places on earth. The grandeur of gum and wattle trees contrasts with the dry, brown grasses in the summer. But this beauty belies its dark side. Grass fires spread fast and far. Most of the plants and trees are rich in volatile oils that protect them against dry conditions but fuel fierce bushfires when the conditions are right. And the conditions were right. Temperatures reached as high as 117 F and the winds reached 60 mph. Perfect conditions to fan fires that move at breakneck speed. Fires erupted throughout Victoria and firefighters, many of whom are volunteers, are currently battling 31 fires. Fires jump containment lines. Firefighters can only get out of the way and retreat to another place to fight again.

The toll so far: 108 people dead and at least 78 people hospitali
zed – many in critical condition. Hospitals have run out of morphine to treat burn victims. More than 3700 people have registered with the Red Cross. These numbers may be conservative estimates.

The destruction is extensive. In some areas, towns have been completely or almost completely destroyed. The images of the fires and destruction are overwhelming.

More than 750 homes have been destroyed. In addition to homes, farmers have lost dairies, sheds, equipment, livestock and feed. Where livestock survived, they are left with little or no feed and will have to be sold or moved to other properties in areas not affected by the fires.

Stories of
firefighters who lost loved ones while they were fighting the fires, loved ones lost when they unable to flee or trying to save animals, loved ones lost when trying to flee but being trapped in their cars in the flames. These fires are merciless. The extent of the tragedy is only beginning to emerge.

Photo collections:

- Gippsland fires
- Victoria’s Killer Fires
- Reader’s Photos
- Volunteer Firefighter’s Photos
- Day of Mourning
- Aussie Spirit
- Victoria Still Burning: Fires at Upwey, Warburton and Daylesford
- ABC News: Bushfire Emergency
- ABC News: User-submitted Photos


Fatalities: 173

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

Red-shouldered Hawk (Buteo lineatus)

Since the trees lost their leaves, the grass turned brown and there are no more butterflies, you tend to notice other things. I didn’t really notice hawks until recently. I’d seen them around but hadn’t noticed them on the power lines on my commute home until recently. I’d started to see this one frequently on power lines on the same section of road. When I first tried to stop and take photos he flew off. Gradually he became used to my stopping and has let me get closer. This is about as close as I can get – across the road and almost level with him. He looks a little ruffled and so he should. The temperature was in the low 30s F and the wind was measured at about 17 mph with gusts up to 27 mph this afternoon. I don’t think the hunting was good; I doubt many rodents were out and about. Sometimes being ‘free as a bird’ isn't all it’s cracked up to be.