Bushfires are one of the most devastating natural disasters in Australia, triggered usually during periods of extreme temperatures and low rainfall.
As shown by recent outbreaks in the Hunter, fire takes a terrible toll not only people and property, but the animals that inhabit the natural environment.
This week I visited the site of the Kurri Kurri bushfires.
It borders on an area that contains many endangered species.
My concern as a birdwatcher being the impact on the birdlife.
I was particularly concerned that this time of year, spring, many birds are nesting and raising young.
The aftermath of a bushfire is a confronting sight, and while this was only a “moderate” fire event, it was no less disturbing.
All the undergrowth was completely gone, replaced by a thick layer of ash.
Most of the trees had burnt trunks and scorched, dead leaves.
Some larger trees, unfortunately those with hollows, had fallen and some still smouldered.
However, on a positive note, much of the tree canopy was intact along with a small amount of blossom and flowering mistletoe, both food for birds and insects.
Fire in the tree canopy is particularly devastating for nesting birds as the unfledged chicks can’t escape.
The nests and young of ground dwelling species have no hope of surviving.
Amazingly, many bird species were present at the site.
Some were wandering around in the ash searching for insects and others fighting over the remaining blossom in the canopy.
There were musk and little lorikeets, woodswallows and several species of local honeyeaters, including many noisy friarbirds feasting on insects.
The most exciting observation was a sighting of the family of the rare and endangered regent honeyeaters, recently discovered and confirmed as the first breeding event since 2009.
An amazing outcome for such a devastating event.
Some nests in taller trees had survived.
A magpie-lark was busily feeding chicks in a scorched tree and a wonga pigeon was industriously sitting on a nest within metres of the burnt bush.
Many other birds were trying to rebuild nests.
Australian bush is resilient.
Less than a week after the fire, green shoots were seen poking through the ash in several places.
All we need is rain.