1967 August: Black Rock (Vic). Anecdotes from a Bird Observer. Pesticide: Dieldin

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Bird Observer, the Bird Observers’ Club magazine, August 1967 by W.R. Wheeler and B. Salter

“In 1954 we built a home in Black Rock – a suburb 14 miles from the heart of Melbourne – on land which adjoined several hundred acres of golf courses. We retained as much of the native bush as possible, and planted hundreds more native shrubs, so that the native birds would be encouraged to come to the garden, and in proof of our success, since then I have recorded 121 species in or over the gardens.

Up to 1962 I was not aware of any effect which poisonous pesticides might have on my birds. I had no knowledge of pesticides in those days, but a record of their symptoms made at that time tallies exactly what I now know to be pesticide poisoning. The Yellow-faced honeyeaters were the earliest recognised victims; I found birds staggering about the garden, blundering into obstacles, unable to land or to remain perched, falling to the ground, screaming and in convulsion. I tried bringing them indoors, keeping them warm, feeding them nectar, raw egg, brandy, gin, Disprin, but always they died, in great distress. From the flock of 50 to 60, 20 died in the winter of 1963, just in the garden…it is possible that they pick up the poison in their “other” home, possibly the Mornington Peninsula where there are many orchards which are sprayed at frequent intervals.

Since 1964, the bodies of a considerable number of honey-eaters have been supplied to the Fisheries and Wildlife Department for analysis. The Department has reported that all bodies examined contained very high concentrations of Dieldrin…