Wildlife feature - Summer on campus

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Wildlife feature - Summer on campus


It's summer at USC and it's all about vibrant colour

The summer-time campus is ablaze with the nature's vibrant and mesmerising colours and new life. Gerard takes us through his summer experiences:

The Red-browed Finch is seen most often in the long seeding grass south of the eastern lake ... again mostly in the summer but in the winter in spring in small numbers feeding in the trees south of the lakes either side of the middle between the two lakes.

The Dingo turned up on campus just before Christmas and hung around for more than a month .... I have only seen it over that period once. However, I have gradually been intensifying my visits which by logic means I am spending more time on campus and comparison between years is not so valid until I spend some years here.

Chestnut-breasted Manakin

The Chestnut-breasted Manakin (a finch like bird) is most often seen when the grasses are in seed over the summer. In the early summer, Gerard has seen them in flocks of 35-45 birds over the grass between the free car park and the wallum backing to the stadium. They've also been sighted in other areas east of the main campus in the heath and wallum but in the numbers that are not seen over the grass.

Many of my sightings have only been the once on campus. The Little Corella (cockatoo-like bird) feeds on trees on the public primary school. For the first 20 months of sights  I only saw it there except with one fly over the campus where the footbridge goes to Uni Central accommodation. However, late in August this year, I found it feeding in front of E block.

The Cattle Egrets get their breeding plumage in October and gather in numbers of around 400 birds at the western end of the western lake where they nest and number-build including chicks just short of a 1,000 by mid-December. Intermediate egrets also nest their but only about 3 - 5 breeding pairs.

Cattle Egrets

They got their name because they like to stand with cattle. The egrets harvest food when the cattle pull the grass and disturb animal life in the ground. They leave the campus in late-February.

Insects have partnerships with ants and leafhoppers being the example that comes to mind. There are spiders that on dusk set out and build their web and disassemble at dawn. Great examples of these on the reed on the Chancellor ponds.

The Pardalotes nest in the creek banks near the multi-tier car park in early June.

The lizards and skinks are quite active at the moment. I do not see enough to make observations of behaviour.

The Cisticola (a small grass bird) is already nesting this year and this is early.

The Cisticola

The Cisticola is a small grass bird and is famous because it actually weaves. It pokes a hole in a leaf of grass and threads another leaf of grass through the hole it produced. The nest is about half way up to your knee in height and it builds a compact nest of woven leaves lined with feathers. The nest only has the tiniest little opening. Gerard does not like to photograph the nest because it disturbs the bird. The Cisticola likes to hunt around the grass edges, including the top parts, particularly in the very early morning because a lot of the spiders have created web during the night and have started to go down the grass trunks to protect themselves during the day. They also rob a spider's web of freshly caught insects.

The insects are always around but are harder to find in the winter months. The Cicardas build up in numbers in trees on the southern side eastern lake in late-December early-November .... I notice many of the small birds avoid the trees these insects inhabit at this time. I have walked passed these trees and been sprayed with missed. a defensive mechanism apparently they urinate to discourage activity near their occupation.

I mentioned the eyes always watching me ... if you walk over in the bush area of a night and carry a torch at eye level and point it to the ground there are tens of thousands of jewels reflecting back .... the eyes of spiders 

In the late-afternoon right on the setting sun, north side of the eastern lake if you walk from the far eastern end towards the university and eye the ground ... there are thousands of strands of spider silk at grass level running towards the lake. I pointed this our to a few senior high school students from Chancellor ... they were mesmorised as I was because these are not visually apparent during the day otherwise.

The Purple Swamp Hens are the most widespread bird on campus. The second most common species is Brown's Honeyeater.

Bandicoots are the second most sighted marsupial on campus. However many of the overseas visitors are totally unaware that these are even marsupials.


There are 12 different species of raptor (birds of prey) that visit the campus, three of them are regular visitors:

  • The Osprey (above)
  • White-bellied Sea Eagle
  • Spotted Harrier (below) .

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