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Gippsland covered in webs as floods force spiders to fly, wallabies to swim

By Riordan Davis, Wednesday June 16, 2021 - 07:23 AEST

As their underground lairs are inundated, gossamer spiders are taking to the air to escape Gippsland's floodwaters. 


In a process called "ballooning", the spiders throw fine webs into the wind, carrying them into the air to higher locations, often laying spectacular carpets of their webs over dryer ground.


Wellington Shire Councillor Carolyn Crossley, a "keen" birdwatcher, drove around the district to check for birds around the floodwaters. 


"There was this stunning landscape that was shrouded in this silken web, gossamer web, spread across the landscape by the very busy spiders that were escaping the rising [water]," Cr Crossley said. 


"It was a spectacular afternoon, the sun was shining, it was a magical experience."


Sale insect-sprayer Dave Johnson said the spiders, like everything else the flood had affected, just wanted somewhere dry to live.


"They need somewhere to live. The water has inundated their home, so they need to go to higher ground," Mr Johnson said.


"The spiders, rodents, the snakes, anything else that lives in those environments will be displaced. 


"We're on some flood plains where I live, and the frogs have been really chirpy which, for June, we don't hear that very often."


Mr Johnson said the insects would return to their usual locations once the floodwaters receded. 


"They will just sneak back and get absorbed back as the floodwaters go down," he said. "They don't like sitting on a web when they've been snug in a hole. It's not natural for them."


Wetland lover and duck-hunter Gary Howard has noticed, perhaps unsurprisingly, that the ducks are happy. 


"[Flooding] also kicks off the breeding of birds," Mr Howard said.


"I've noticed already that a lot of the birds have paired up, particularly [the] ducks. [There are] birds sitting on nest boxes everywhere." 


For those creatures without wings or webs, escaping rising floodwaters has been more difficult. 


"The disaster is that animals get trapped," Mr Howard said.


"Yesterday morning I watched some kangaroos wander round in circles in the floods, hopping around in water would be pretty tiring for an animal like that. 


"In previous floods, when I've been out and around, it's not uncommon to see a rabbit, a wallaby and a tiger snake sharing a log." 


Animal Rescue Cooperative volunteer and Sale resident Joey Smith has seen wombats and wallabies alike struggling to swim through floodwaters. 


She has been supplying local shelters with food for native wildlife and said the wetlands outside Sale were the meeting point of two flooded, major waterways. 


"The waters from the Latrobe River and the Thomson River flowed together and stranded quite a few animals," she said. 


"While the waters are up quite high, the shelters just monitor the area, and make sure that the wildlife are getting food." 







- ABC

© ABC 2021

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