Mullum Mullum: Place of Many Eagles

Written by

Simon Mustoe

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There comes a pause, for human strength will not endure to dance without cessation; and everyone must reach the point at length of absolute prostration.

Lewis Carroll (1832-1898)

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Reading from the 100 year old records of a Victorian naturalist, Scott Baker reels off a list of exotic-sounding birds ... Spotted Quail Thrush, Hooded Robin, White-winged Chough and Speckled Warbler all used to call Mullum Mullum creek forest home. These days a demand for housing and roads, feral pets and wildlife suited to scavenging our waste has led to these and other species being relegated to Melbourne's far outer fringe. 

But just as loss of urban wildlife diversity is inevitable, so too is the increasing value of these natural remnants. Scott reminds us that these were sacred places for Aboriginal inhabitants ... a rock Scott found on a track near the creek bank, a very spot we paused, was used to craft spear heads. 

Scott reminisced, "just over there, when I was young, I would leap from a rope swing into the creek to catch and play with Long-necked Turtles". The wildlife that lived (and still lives) here bonded Aboriginal society to the bush in a physical and spiritual way. The Wurundjeri would have eaten Long-necked Turtles. 

Mullum Mullum is still a place where much wildlife can be found. The forest's deep gullies are bisected by creeks where platypus hunt with their electro-sensory beaks. We heard the tell-tale 'thud thud crash' as a Swamp Wallaby careered through the thick bush below us and Scott's own eagle-eyes picked up three Tawny Frogmouths. These relatives of Nightjars are often mistaken for owls. They are the Barry White of the bird world. They produce an indescribably deep 'ooom ... ooom' that you might wake to hear but aren't quite sure if it's your mind playing tricks.  

It takes a glimpse through the eyes of a child, or at least someone who can remember what it was like to have an innocent fascination with nature, to understand why places like Mullum Mullum are so important and why we are not so different to all our ancestors. 

As we stared out across an unbroken gum forest canopy with the sound of Mistletoebirds calling overhead and the drone of traffic on the Eastern Freeway, only a hundred metres away, someone commented on the tangible peacefulness of the place. 

Scott's guided walk is part of the Mullum Mullum festival, which acts as a reminder that the community won a huge compromise to protect this remnant from catastrophe and to preserve its value.

The 'corridor' was originally ear-marked for the Eastern Freeway but instead, a tunnel was built under the forest. Scott and the local community were instrumental in providing the data, momentum and vigilance to make this happen. 

Today, the Mullum Mullum is part of a altogether more positive and ambitious project to reconnect corridors of habitat across Melbourne. Scott hopes this might mean birds like Superb Lyrebird can make their way naturally to an area they may once have occurred. "I'd also love to again hear whipbirds calling here" says Scott. In local dialect, Mullum Mullum means "place of many eagles" and in recent years, even Wedge-tailed Eagles have been found nesting only a couple of kilometres downstream. 

Wildiaries •