Eric McCrum, Naturalist

If you want to know about the animals and plants you might see in your backyard or at your local park or wetland, take a walk with Eric. The Kerry Street students recalled an incredible amount of information from the afternoon talking with him. His passion was contagious and the children took to heart his plea to observe, question and care about the native environment. They all demonstrated fascination and thoughtful consideration for the wildlife at Manning Park throughout the term.

These are some of the things the children recalled the week after our excursion with Eric. Our encounter with the long necked tortoise deserves a page of its own. As does the willy wagtail, since we have some nesting at school.


Fran's class brainstormed what they remembered about birds we saw and heard

Willy Wagtails

What animal, about the size of a 20 cent piece, which the willy wagtails don’t eat, is so important to the bird that if it were to disappear from a place, the willy wagtails could not survive there? The answer is a spider because willy wagtails use spider webs to make nests. The nests stick onto the trees really well so are safer for the babies.

Leon has seen a willy wagtail recycling material from one nest for another.

We have two willy wagtail nests at school at the moment and the parents are very protective of their eggs. Willy wagtail babies take 2 weeks to hatch.

The baby birds are not allowed to poo in the nests. The parents take the poo away, all in different directions, to protect their babies from snakes and lizards that would find the nest if they found a pile of droppings.

If you want willy wagtails in your garden you need to have grass. This is where they feed. They wag their tails to scare the bugs which fly up and then the willy wagtails catch the bugs in their beaks.


Magpies live in family groups and are territorial. They will kill other magpies that come into their territory. If a magpie from another area wants a drink of water from the lake, they are allowed to fly straight in, up high, to the water, drink, then fly up and straight out again. Then they will be safe.

A male magpie is all white on its back. The female is white and black.

They nest in trees but feed on the grass. They love to eat the tonnes of maggots under the lawn.


Ravens are big black birds (sometimes we call them crows but they are different). Ravens go AAAARK and crows go arrrr.

Raven babies have black eyes but they turn white when the raven turns one year old. The change happens basically overnight.

We learnt that all the birds have one area for preening. It is covered in feathers and bird droppings.

Black Ducks

The black duck is not black. It is browny grey. The babies are termed ‘precocious’ because they can feed themselves when they are born. This is why black ducks can have up to 12 babies at once. These ducks have webbed feet.


The coots are black with a white face. The male has a broader stripe than the female, which has a longer one.

They have only about 3 babies because the parents have to feed them. They eat algae from the lake. Coots have flaps of skin on their feet to help them swim.

The photo above is a nest of tiny baby coots we saw on our walk.

A few weeks later (right) we saw them in the water, learning to swim and being fed by their parents.


Stilts have long red legs and can’t swim. They feed in the shallows. The water has to be just the right depth so they don’t get their feathers wet.

Silver Gulls

Silver gulls are a real pest. They eat the baby ducks and turtles.

"Once a gull swallowed five live baby tortoises at once." ~Jason

Swamp Hens

Swamp hens are related to the coots and are black but have a red beak and longer legs. They have no flaps of skin or webbing on their feet. We saw some chicks with their parents. There were four, we think.

Honey Eaters

We heard some honey eaters, which don’t actually eat honey, rather they eat bugs!!!

Introduced Ducks

We also saw some introduced ducks.

They greeted us every week when we went to the park.

Use their flippers
Cause they have to
Kick so they can

Hayley 10 yrs

Tybion, Jitana and Aquilla saw some swamp hens with their chicks. They thought there was a lot of rubbish in the water so they picked some of it up and put it in the bin, to help the birds.

Shana's class brainstormed the things they remembered about the plants


Grass is really important at Manning Park, to provide food for magpies and willy wagtails and ducks and other birds.

We saw the male and female parts of the grass. Grass doesn’t need big colourful flowers because the seeds are spread by the wind, not by insects.

Tuart Trees

The really huge trees in the park are called tuart trees. They are homes for many birds.

Dandelion Flowers

Dandelion flowers (cape weed) are actually a lot of flowers together. The black bit in the middle is actually a lot of different little flowers with 5 petals each. The flowers around the edge fuse their five petals into one big yellow petal – you can see lines on the back. This is again to be attractive to the animals that pollinate them.

Plant Fibres

Tybion found a plant fibre that was silky smooth when she rubbed it one way and she couldn’t rub her finger the other way! When she forced it, she cut herself.

Pine Trees

This is the male part of the flower off a pine tree. there were lots of them on the ground under the pine trees. The female part is the pine cone. Birds like to eat the pine nuts.

Pine trees don't shed their bark. The trunk grows but the bark doesn't so it splits. The tree is native to cold places and it needs its bark on for warmth. This is different from our gum trees, which shed their bark every year.

Paperbarks Trees

The lake is surrounded by paperbark trees. They have their papery bark so air can get to the roots of the tree when they are underwater. Otherwise the tree would drown.

The flowers on the paperbark are actually lots of small flowers close together. On their own, they would not be able to attract birds and insects because they are too small, so they clump together. They need to attract insects and birds so they can pollinate and make new trees. The flowers are on the very outside of the leafy part of the tree. This is because insects that have to fly in amongst the prickly green leaves can damage their delicate wings and if this happens they will die.

"I learnt that the paperbark is good paper." ~Harry



Plants are very, very important. They are the only living thing that can change non-living things into living things. They change carbon dioxide and water into living plant tissue, with the help of the sun’s energy. Animals can’t do this. They need to eat plants (or eat the animals that eat plants) to produce their living tissue.


A willy wagtail in a nest  
Swans swimming around the nest  
Three little babies live in the nest


Yummy yummy food

Magpie small

Wagging his tail

Magpie big

A grasshopper jumping away

Magpie flying to the bridge

Grasshopper gets caught

Magpie eating the witch on the bridge

Takes it back to the nest


And the babies eat it

Pasgen 10 yrs

In the nest  
Little babies going to sleep  
Leon 10 yrs  


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