Sunday, January 31, 2010

Text of Bulletin Article 2010

This is the text of the first article I composed for the local Newspaper now known as the District Bulletin (since it is distributed beyond its original ambit of Palerang Shire).

The Carwoola area is full of birds.   Over the last 3 years I and several other observers have recorded a total of 145 species in the  Carwoola area .  In 2009 138 species were seen -  a pretty good result for such a dry year.

Approximately one sixth of the 145 species are recorded every month.  Many of these regulars (recorded in all months) will be familiar to most folk in the area.  They are: Australian Wood Duck; Galah; Sulphur-crested Cockatoo; Crimson Rosella; Eastern Rosella; Laughing Kookaburra; Noisy Miner; Grey Butcherbird; Australian Magpie; Pied Currawong; Willie Wagtail; Australian Raven; Little Raven; Magpie-lark; Welcome Swallow;  Common Starling;  House sparrow; (the species in this parenthesis are seen every month but  are mainly “small brown(ish) birds” and may not be so familiar to some people- White-throated Treecreeper; Weebill; Striated Thornbill; Yellow rumped Thornbill; Buff-rumped Thornbill; Spotted Pardalote; White-eared Honeyeater).

We have also recorded 44 species as breeding - defined rather broadly - in the area (33 breeding species in 2009).  Whether birds are breeding in the area or not is particularly important since if they cannot find a place to build their nests the species will not survive.  Many of the breeding observations in the area are of dependent young (for most species, this is when the adults are seen feeding the young birds but in the case of ducks and species like coots it is recorded when the young cannot fly).  The incessant calls of begging juvenile Australian Magpies and Pied Currawongs will again be familiar to most people in the area (as will the swooping of the parents when one approaches too close to the nest site). 

Not all birds are quite so secretive about their nest sites.  The author has greatly enjoyed watching Tawny Frogmouths raise 2 chicks per year in a nest visible from his study and a Grey Shrike thrush raised 2 chicks in an opportunistic site in a garage in Radcliffe Estate after nesting in a pot on the verandah the previous year
Waterbirds in this area have been hard hit by the very dry conditions of the past 12 months, with many dams and lagoons at very low levels.  Pacific Black Ducks and Australian Wood Ducks are still common, and many small dams are still occupied by Australasian Grebes (often breeding).   This emphasises the importance of these dams as refuges of last resort for some birds as well as the stock they were installed to serve.

Birds of prey are well represented in the area with 11 species recorded in the three years.  The Nankeen Kestrel is a common site hovering beside the roads (recorded in 90% of months) and the majestic Wedge-tailed Eagles have been recorded in over 80 of months, often in family groups
Parrots and Cockatoos are amongst the most common (and colourful) species resident in the area.  As well as those seen every month, the area has been recently graced with the presence of Superb Parrots which appear to be extending their range from a stronghold in the Boorowa area to the North-west of Canberra. 
Carwoola is well supplied with cuckoos and  6 species were recorded in 2007 and 2008.  In 2009 an additional 2 species have been recorded, appearing to reflect an increase observed across the Monaro region.

In addition to the species of honeyeaters referred to above the area also records some larger birds in this family, particularly where rich food resources are available.  The Red Wattlebird may migrate or may remain all year while the Noisy Friarbird (or ‘leatherhead) departs with the cooler weather.

There are many good birding spots in Carwoola (and more in the rest of the distribution area of the Bulletin. If you wish to learn more about the birds of the area most good bookshops will sell a range of field guides and the Canberra Ornithologists Group website ( includes a very comprehensive range of photographs and recordings of the calls of many of the species found in the area.

Friday, January 1, 2010

December 2009

In December, 96 species of birds have been recorded in the catchment area of the Gazette.  Thanks to several observers in: Hoskinstown; the Molonglo Valley, Widgiewa Road, Radcliffe Estate  and Wanna Wanna Road.  The list includes 2 new species for the project:Channel-billed Cuckoo and Black-eared Cuckoo – both are unusual species in the Monaro area. 

The breeding record for Yellow-rumped Thornbill was also remarkable as the chicks fledged after their nest (in a Pinus radiata) was taken in to Canberra as a Christmas tree and returned to this area when the nest was discovered! Another Common Myna has been seen  near Povey Place: I would really like to hear if anyone else spots these rats with wings!
Migrants are shown in italics below and species for which breeding has been observed (a very good list this month) are underlined.
1  Waterbirds:  Australian Wood Duck; Grey Teal; Pacific Black Duck; Australasian Grebe; Little Pied Cormorant; White‑necked Heron; White-faced Heron; Australian White Ibis; Straw-necked Ibis; Eurasian Coot; Masked Lapwing
2 Birds of Prey:  Black-shouldered Kite; Brown Goshawk; Wedge-tailed Eagle; Little Eagle; Nankeen Kestrel; Brown Falcon; Australian Hobby; Peregrine falcon.
3 Parrots and Relatives:  Yellow-tailed Black-cockatoo; Gang-gang Cockatoo; Galah; Sulphur-crested Cockatoo; Superb Parrot; Crimson Rosella; Eastern Rosella; Red-rumped parrot
4 Kingfishers and other non-songbirds: Rock Dove; Common Bronzewing; Crested Pigeon; Tawny Frogmouth; Common Koel; Channel-billed Cuckoo; Horsfield's Bronze-Cuckoo; Black-eared Cuckoo;Shining Bronze-cuckoo; Pallid Cuckoo; Brush Cuckoo; Southern boobook; Laughing Kookaburra;Sacred Kingfisher; Dollarbird;
5 Honeyeaters: Eastern Spinebill; Yellow-faced Honeyeater; White-eared Honeyeater;  Noisy Miner; Red Wattlebird; New Holland Honeyeater; Brown‑headed Honeyeater; Noisy Friarbird
6 Flycatchers and similar species: Rufous Whistler; Grey Shrike-thrush; Grey Fantail; Willie Wagtail; Leaden Flycatcher; Magpie-lark; Welcome Swallow; Fairy Martin; Tree Martin
7 Other, smaller birds:  White-throated Treecreeper; Superb Fairy-wren; White-browed Scrubwren; Weebill; Western Gerygone; White-throated Gerygone; Striated Thornbill; Yellow-rumped Thornbill; Buff-rumped Thornbill; Brown Thornbill; Southern Whiteface; Spotted Pardalote; Striated Pardalote; Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike; White-winged Triller; Olive-backed Oriole; Dusky Woodswallow; Skylark; Australian Reed-warbler; Silvereye; Common Blackbird; Common Myna; Common Starling; Mistletoebird; Double-barred Finch; Diamond Firetail; House Sparrow; Australasian Pipit; European Goldfinch
8  Other, larger birds: Satin Bowerbird; Grey Butcherbird; Australian Magpie; Pied Currawong; Grey Currawong; Australian Raven; Little Raven; White-winged Chough

Bird of the Month

From the Greening Australia book “Bringing Birds Back”.   Comments in brackets are by this author.  

Weebill: Smicornis brevirostris

Appearance:.Stubby little bird (Australia’s smallest bird) with very short (ie ‘wee’) bill.  Grey-brown above, cream-buff below.
Voice: Loud clear ‘dip-dip weebill’or ‘willy-weet willy weetee’.
Habits:Pairs or small groups, often with other small birds such as thornbills, pardalotes.  Active in and around foliage, sometimes hovers around outer leaves plucking off  lerps (known as ‘helicopter flight).   .
Food: Insects other small invertebrates.
Nest: Like a hanging sock with side entrance; of leaves, grass and spider web hung amongst smaller brances or outer foliage.
Occurrence in revegetation:  Found in 21% of sites from 5 years of age onwards.  Showed a preference for tubestock sites which have a higher ratio of eucalypts  to wattles than direct seeded sites and are therefore more likely to have lerps..
(Garden Bird Survey: Undertaken by COG in the gardens of members of that Group records this species as fairly common, recorded in 68% of sites..  It is recorded in all weeks of the year.)