About David Fleay
Meet the man behind the park
The Australian scientist, Dr. David Fleay (pron. FLAY), was a man of many talents, he specialised in Zoology and was deservedly known as ‘Australia’s Father of Conservation’. He was also a real hero, a title earned by his bravery in extracting venom for anti-venom research from snakes such as the Tiger Snake, Taipan and Death Adders – when no antidote to a bite existed. His aid in the perfection of these anti-venoms still saves lives today.
David settled at West Burleigh in 1952 after achieving much in the building of the Healesville Sanctuary in Victoria and his Fleays Fauna Reserve (now known as ‘The David Fleay Wildlife Park’) became a mecca for both scientists and the general public with an ever-growing thirst for knowledge of their native fauna.
David managed to breed for the first time, in captivity, 48 different species of fauna, including the Platypus, Wedge-tailed Eagles, Taipans and Powerful Owls – giving him the opportunity to study the life histories of captive fauna. He wrote educational articles and books, illustrated with his own artistic photographs, thereby educating people while stimulating interest in their local fauna.
David Fleay’s weekly Nature Notes appeared in the Courier Mail for over thirty years, a selection of these are currently reproduced monthly in the Gold Coast Hinterlander, by David’s daughter, Rosemary Fleay-Thomson, as well as his second wife, Catherine Fleay. They are re-introducing David Fleay through providing writings and photographs that have stood the test of time.
Rosemary has also written a book, Animals First, detailing her pioneering father’s life from when he harboured a very large and angry wombat in his mother’s house, to fighting to conserve Tallebudgera Creek fifty years later.
by David Fleay © David Fleay Trustees
Focus this week is on a burly cuckoo baby which is intriguing Mrs Amy Basnett (Stafford) with its non-stop, wheedling demands on unfortunate foster parents each a mere third of its size.
The young bird is not a pheasant-coucal as thought by Mrs Basnett from a recent newspaper article, since this is one cuckoo species conscientious enough to rear its own young.
The general description and account of some attention by Magpie Larks places the foster baby as a Koel, Stormbird or Black Cuckoo. It would seem, however, that the ‘parents’ that hatched it were possibly larger honey eaters known as Friar Birds. At present a similar event centering on a Moreton Bay Fig Tree is under way at my place where mickies (Noisy Miners) are rearing another Koel.
The Black Cuckoo is scarcely a good name for the Koel since only the male, like the Satin Bower Bird is a deep, shining blue-black whereas the less spectacularly dressed female in her brownish plumage spotted and barred with white with a buff streak each side of the neck could pass for a different bird altogether.
Popularly known by the insistent call of ‘Coo-ee’ which may or may not have given rise to Australia’s national yodel, this cry of the red-eyed Cock Bird is typical of much of Queensland from late September into summer months, by day and often by night.
Following the silence of winter when ‘Mr and Mrs Koel’ are far away in the north or in New Guinea for holidays, most bush-loving Australians mark it as one of the year’s high spots to hear once more the welcome tree-top coo-ee.
Not so those who sleep poorly and who are irritable or live in the shelter of some isolated tree that marks a staging post. Each October-November Telecom reaps real revenue from such people who ring the museum, newspapers and bird authorities in desperation for a means of dampening down the Koels.
As one might expect of a less flamboyant partner, the female Koel’s rising, bubbling cries of ‘wurra – wurra-wurra’ are less penetrating and far less liable to get stuck in the groove.
Both male and female of these magpie-sized birds are bossy, hectoring types, given, in general to bullying tactics with lesser creatures.
One that enjoyed sanctuary here while recuperating from a broken wing hopped about a large aviary driving away every other bird including Lyrebirds from any item that might possibly have spelled food. Its eventual release was an all-round blessing.
Mainly a fruit eater specializing in figs and berries, the species is also insectivorous.
In duping other birds as foster parents, Koels choose noisy miners, leatherheads, orioles, magpie-larks and larger honey eaters in general. As long as they can dispose successfully of responsibilities they have no particular conscience about it.