Tuesday, January 30, 2018

January 2018

Last month I compiled the Annual Report for 2017.  For those who missed it, it starts at this post with links to other sections at the foot of the post.

I've also posted a few other items as the month evolved:
We recorded 103 species for the month.  This is an increase of 8 species on December 2017 but 15 species less than January 2017 when the marsh on the Plain was full of water and birds.  It was almost dead on average compared to years since 2010.
Water birds have been rather sparse this season with attractive floods in Victoria,  However, with 8 species recorded, raptors have made a better showing than recent months.  The presence of 6 Brown Falcons on the Plain is notable.

The least common bird seen this month was Red-capped Robin with 2 birds seen on the Plain.  They have more usually been seen in November or December and this sighting might mean they bred in the area but this isn't proven.  (There have been several reports of breeding in the ACT this season).  The other exciting breeding reports have been the success of the Banded Lapwings on the Plain.  The two chicks are now almost full grown and the flock is now up to 7 birds.

Most Summer migrants were still around in January, but some species will soon start moving off.  If we get any storms appear the chances of spotting Swifts will increase over the next couple of months

Breeding is, as expected, beginning to wind down.  15 species were observed breeding this month with all records being of dependent young birds.  Since first drafting this post I have been told of an Australasian Pipit's nest with one egg being located when the adult bird was disturbed by a mower.  The breeding species are marked in red in the detailed list below.

As always, thanks to the observers who have provided reports to me for the month.  These have covered sites in Whiskers Creek Rd, Widgiewa Rd, Knox Close, Wanna Wanna Rd, the Molonglo Valley and Hoskinstown Village and Plain.  Please pass on interesting sightings to me by email to martinflab@gmail.com

1  Waterbirds (pt 1):  (pt 2)(Pt 3); (Pt 4): Black Swan;  Australian Wood Duck; Pink-eared Duck; Grey Teal; Pacific Black Duck; Hardhead; Australasian Grebe; Hoary-headed Grebe; Little Black Cormorant; Little Pied Cormorant; Great Cormorant;White‑necked Heron; White‑faced Heron;Australian White Ibis; Eurasian  Coot; Masked Lapwing; Banded Lapwing; 

2 Birds of Prey:  Black-shouldered Kite; Brown Goshawk; Collared Sparrowhawk; Wedge-tailed Eagle; Little Eagle; Nankeen Kestrel; Brown Falcon; Peregrine Falcon.

3 Parrots and Relatives:  Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo; Gang‑gang Cockatoo; Galah;  Little  Corella; Sulphur‑crested Cockatoo; Australian King‑parrot; Superb Parrot; Crimson Rosella; Eastern Rosella; Red-rumped Parrot

4 Kingfishers and other non-songbirds (Pt 1) (Pt 2) (Pt 3): Stubble Quail; ; Common Bronzewing; Crested Pigeon; Tawny Frogmouth;  Horsfield's Bronze‑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; Brown‑headed Honeyeater; Noisy Friarbird;

6 Flycatchers and similar speciesRufous Whistler; Grey Shrike-thrush; Grey Fantail; Willie Wagtail; Leaden Flycatcher; Magpie-lark; Scarlet Robin; Red‑capped Robin; Welcome Swallow; Fairy MartinTree Martin

7 Thornbills, Finches and similar species (Pt 1) (Pt 2):  Superb Fairy-wren; White-browed Scrubwren; Weebill; White-throated Gerygone; Striated Thornbill; Yellow‑rumped Thornbill; Buff‑rumped Thornbill; Brown Thornbill; Spotted Pardalote; Striated Pardalote; Silvereye; Red‑browed Finch; Diamond Firetail; House Sparrow; European Goldfinch

8 Other, smaller birds:  White-throated Treecreeper; Varied Sitella; Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike; White‑-winged Triller; Olive‑backed Oriole; Dusky Woodswallow; Skylark; Australian Reed-warbler; Rufous Songlark; Brown Songlark; Common Blackbird; Common Myna; Common Starling; Mistletoebird; Australasian  Pipit;
9  Other, larger birds: Satin Bowerbird; Grey Butcherbird; Australian Magpie; Pied Currawong; Grey Currawong; Australian Raven; Little Raven; White-winged Chough

Sunday, January 21, 2018

An embarrassment of Cuckoos

On 20 January as we returned from our dog walk I noticed that the Leaden Flycatchers around the garden were making a ruckus.  The reason for this seemed to be clarified when a dark striated Cuckoo flew from a low bush, accompanied by one of the Flycatchers.  The latter flew to the cuckoo and fed it.

I didn't have binoculars with me and when I consulted my Field Guide it indicated that Leaden Flycatchers were hosts for Brush Cuckoos.  As they have been evident around the house recently I thought that resolved the issue, and announced it to COG.

An hour or so later i was at the Creek and heard a begging bird sound.  There was the Cuckoo again. I scurried back to the house, grabbed bins and camera and returned to the creek, quite quickly locating the young Cuckoo.  It was in a reasonably well lit position.
 Of course that didn't last and it flew into a much shadier spot where its host flew in to feed it.
I was able to get a decent look at the host as it gathered food from the willows.  It wasn't a flycatcher of any species: it was a Yellow-faced Honeyeater.

On returning and checking the photo against my field guide it was obvious that the cuckoo was a Pallid Cuckoo rather than a Brush Cuckoo.  That was good, as they are usually hosted by Honeyeaters.

A correction was offered to readers of the COG chatline.

In terms of breeding records I have decided that I should include this under both species:

  1. Pallid Cuckoo because it has added to that species; and
  2. Yellow-faced Honeyeater since it shows the area is suitable for them to breen in, if they don't get parasitised!

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

Year to date in the yard

Apart from keeping records of birds seen in the area generally I also maintain a COG Garden Bird Survey site.  The principle of this is to record:

  1. the maximum number of birds of each species;
  2. seen in a week;
  3. within 100m of a house.
Practically the third criterion is a bit flexible since if a bird-attractive feature is nearby human nature will include the birds seen there.  So as long as the site is no larger than the area of a circle with radius 100m (ie 3.14 Ha) it is acceptable.  It is also helpful in maintaining some rigour if the boundaries are physically recognisable (eg fences, roads etc).  Birds overflying the site are included.

My site is shown below.
The polygon function of Google Earth shows the area as 2.8 Ha which is pretty close to the required limit.  Of course the area is not covered evenly: the section visible from my study window (see below) is monitored for 4 hours a day minimum while the dam and Whiskers Creek get checked for perhaps a couple of minutes every second day (depending on what I'm doing around the block).
The Survey operates on a year beginning 3 July so that breeding seasons falls within a single year.  It starts on 3rd July because the original proponents felt it important to keep the week numbers consistent with desk diaries (!!!! - but we are dealing with a Survey that starts before personal computers had been invented!) in which the the start of week 1 is January 1.

The reason for compiling this post is that the results for this GBS year so far are a bit strange in a number of ways. Since starting the site in February 2007 I have recorded 111 species within the site.  This chart shows the pattern through which that total has been arrived at.   
The dashed line is a logarithmic trend line which seems to be usual form of trend followed in such activities.  I added two species last GBS year:  Channel-billed Cuckoo (an unusual species in the Southern Tablelands) and Flame Robin (common on the Hoskinstown Plain but not up here - they are renowned colonisers after fire).  So far this year I have added one species: Rufous Songlark- again quite usual on the Plain but not so common up here.

One of the major unusual features of the year is the pattern of total diversity.  The next graph shows the cumulative total number of species seen as the current year progresses and the equivalent average over the 10 previous years..
We were seriously underperforming until the week ending 27 September, when 7 species were added to the tally.  The total got a further boost, of 6 species, in the first week of October.  Additional species have continued to be added.

I am currently at 81 species for the year.  I did an extrapolation of a trend line fitted to the data up to 16 January and that indicated about 85 species would be the total.  As there are 30 species seen in previous years which I have not yet recorded this year that seems to be quite achievable, and there are at least 10 MIAs which are regular in the Gazette area.

Another way of looking at the current year is that the number of species already recorded is equal to or greater than the number recorded in any full year except 2009-10.

Four species in particular had caught my attention as appearing more frequently than in the past.  To give a little rigour to the analysis I compiled a table of species seen by week compared this year (so far) with the average of other years.  This added a few more "interesting" species.

I have written a specific post about White-winged Triller so will not say more about them here.

The second species is Dusky Woodswallow.
So far this year I have recorded them in the GBS site in 19 weeks, whereas the average is 2.78 weeks per year.  In other years they have been very common on Whiskers Creek Road (about 300m away) but much less so this year.  They have also been very aggressive to other birds - including this Kookabura.
Note the hurtling Woodswallow  lower right in the photo.  (This image was rejected by ebird because the Kooburra dominated the depiction of the Woodswallow.)  They have also given Magpies similar treatment.  This made me wonder if they were nesting in the area and on 15 January I  saw a Dependent Young Woodswallow.

The third species is Red-rumped Parrot.  .
I had only recorded this species once before in the site, although they are very common on the (relatively) nearby Hoskinstown Plain.  This year I saw a flock of 4 fly over just after New Year's Day and since then have been seeing and hearing them almost daily.  It has been suggested that the bush fire has opened up the vegetation and allowed some plants attractive to the parrots to come to seed.

The fourth species is Tree Martin.  These are not widespread in the area but a remnant Brittle Gum Woodland - about 8km away - with lots of hollows is a common nesting site for the species.  This year I have recorded them in 6 weeks compared to an average of 3.2 weeks in other years.  Their call is distinctive and pretty much continual as they hawk overhead.

An addition thrown up by the quantitative analysis is Sacred Kingfisher.  I have recorded them in 7 weeks this year, which I thought "usual" but in fact I have only recorded them on average 2.3 weeks per year in the past.  They appeared to be trying to excavate a nest hollow at one point

but didn't pursue this endeavour.

I realised that only 29 weeks of the year had passed so then expanded the number of weeks seen by 52/29.  (This gave a few false positives for migrants as a much higher proportion of their period of presence has occurred, so I ignored them.)  The main additional species drawn to my attention by this step was Magpie Lark, which has been recorded 9 weeks (after adjustment 16 weeks) compared to an average of 6 weeks.

The analysis also drew my attention to some species which have dropped significantly in their reporting rate.  The two most obvious, before adjustment, were Eastern Yellow Robin (average 28 weeks and even after adjustment only 5 weeks) and White-eared Honeyeater (average 34 weeks. 3.5 weeks after adjustment).  The adjustment process also drew attention to reduced recording of Common Blackbird, Yellow-rumped Thornbill and Common Bronzewing.  For the last species, they are commonly attracted by the fallen seed of Acacia dealbata which shrubs largely got incinerated in the fires.  I have not yet come up with a theory about the reason for the disappearance of the other species.

Monday, January 15, 2018

White-winged Triller

The White-winged Triller is a Summer visitor to this area.  It is a boom or bust migrant, with many reports some years and few in other years.  The Summer of 2017-18 has been a boom year, at least as far as Carwoola is concerned with birds singing constantly since October.

The male and female are very different in appearance.  The male is yet another boldly black and white bird, with the white in the wings very obvious.
The female is  a basic brown bird.  I often have trouble identifying them and arrive at the ID only by ruling out all other possibilities (Pipits, Songlarks etc).
This year, more than any other I can recall, the birds have been very vocal around our block.  They have certainly lived up to the Triller name.

Getting down to the data, here are two graphs covering reporting rates for the whole COG area of interest.
The upper graph shows the birds arrive in October and stop being recorded in February.  I suspect that this may reflect in part them becoming quieter once breeding has been completed.  The lower chart reflects the boom or bust abundance of the species.  I suspect the very high peak in the late '80s is a boom year coinciding with extra observer effort around the Atlas of ACT birds.

The patterns are similar for our local observations.  First the monthly records, with a possible maximum of 11 years.
We have a couple of early records which is, I suspect, merely happenstance.  The fact that our recording rate jumps in November rather than October is yet another example of the impact of altitude.  We are about 200m higher than the main part of Canberra so seasonal effects tend to be a couple of weeks later here.

Now the annual data which is shown for a year ended June to avoid splitting the migration seasons.
It is unfortunate that the COG series ends in 2013 but where comparison is possible the pattern is broadly similar in the two series.

I wondered about the extent to which rainfall might explain (or at least correlate with) the variation in reporting rate in the local series.  That is shown here.
The correlation coefficient between the two series is -0.62 suggesting that the reporting rate is high when rainfall is low. 

As most the rainfall in a year ended June occurs after the birds have arrived here that is a tad hard to rationalise.  I wondered what the correlation was for the months July- September: the answer is -0.15, a much lower and insignificant value.  Could the rainfall in one year affect the reporting rate in the following year?  Nice try, no cigar - the correlation coefficient for that is -0.04, effectively zero!  Where I get to is some sort of theory that a long-term weather pattern sets up and leads to

  1. the Trillers coming here; and
  2. a dry period for several months.
If anyone wants to borrow that idea as the basis of a dissertation, feel free to do so.

Thursday, January 4, 2018

Annual Report Breeding Birds

It can be argued that recording breeding events is the most important aspect of bird observation since if the birds do not breed they will soon be extinct!  It is however a more difficult task than simple observation as: 
  • many birds go to some lengths to conceal their nests; and
  • it is necessary to be very cautious with most species to avoid frightening the birds away from the nest.
To ameliorate these problems some wide definitions of breeding are employed with the core events of "nest with eggs" and "nest with young" supported by a range of other, indirect, measures of breeding activity.  

In the case of the Canberra Ornithologists Group the traditional values ranging from breeding display to dependent young. (I sometimes feel that a new code is needed for "indolent young" when the Magpie chicks are clearly able to fend for themselves but would rather bludge off their parents.) To be rated as dependent young the fledglings 
  • must be out of the nest and generally be seen being fed by the parents or, 
  • in the case of waterbirds, be incapable of flight.   
I have made an exception for the Tawny Frogmouths where the fledglings are fed at night and it isn't possible to determine how this is achieved.  In that case the young are considered dependent until they move away from the parents some 10 weeks or so after leaving the nest.

In other countries such as Canada studies are undertaken which assume all birds seen or heard  during the breeding season are in fact breeding.  The International eBird project, run out of the prestigious Ornithology Programme at Cornell U in New York takes a very broad view with 22 codes including indirct codes such as “Singing male” (Possible breeding) and “Agitated Behaviour” (Probable breeding).  Of course, with this wide set it is possible to choose and I shall stick with the set of traditional codes used by COG for this project.  (As over 50% of COG General records are now sourced through eBird there must be some careful filtering done to map between the two systems.)

A difficulty with analysis of breeding records is that the peak breeding period in the Southern Hemisphere is split by the change of calendar year.  This is illustrated in the following chart (covering all 11 years of the project - it is very similar in shape to earlier years.
To overcome this I commenced, in mid 2009, recording the 'financial year" in which observations were made and it is possible from that point on to re-categorise observations to a "breeding year" (running from July to June).  

Since this project commenced 1004 breeding records have been noted. (i think the 1000th record was a Laughing Kookaburra.)  The decision to use the COG Breeding codes was made in late 2009 and thus approximately 12% of the records are not coded to type of activity.  Such is life, and the uncoded records are excluded from the next chart!  

The percentage of records of each type is shown separately for the last complete 'season (2016-17) and the rest of the records in the chart below.

There is not a significantly different distribution of type of activity reported in 2015-16 and the rest of the series.  The preponderance of dependent young (code 'dy') records reflects both the relative ease of observing this and the duration of the phase - for some species this can go on for several months. It is recognised that the begging young could have been hatched out of the area.  (Of course finding a nest with young does not necessarily mean the young survive to maintain the species: we have plenty of Pied Currawongs in the area to predate nests and fledglings.)

It might be noted that 87.5% of the records after December which have been coded to type of activity are dependent young. There have been several records of active pardalote, honeyeater and finch nests in the New Year.  In most cases these are presumably second broods, although the Noisy Friarbirds which nest at our place are known to be late starters.
 The incidence of type of event x month is illustrated by this chart in which the redder fill indicates a greater number of records).  Some codes have been grouped to combine the less regularly reported ones.
Following from this, the next section mostly covers 7 breeding seasons ending on 30 June 2017. The 2016-17 season will, inshallah, be reported on next year, but at this stage appears similar to history.
Breeding season# breeding records
It is difficult to assign reasons for the differences shown in this table - I might try to do a separate post on this later, when feeling particularly masochistic.

Taking the number of species seen in each season the following result is obtained.  

Breeding season# breeding species
In past years my impression was that the number of breeding species is a little more stable that the number of breeding records.  However the very low number of breeding species in 2014-15 argues against that.  I can't at this stage offer an explanation for this, but will try to ponder the issue later.

The number of reports by species received over the 11 calendar years by species is summarised in the following table.
# reports
# species
As expected a large proportion of species have only been reported undertaking breeding activity a few times.  The 17 species with 20 or more breeding records are:
  • Australian Magpie (74 reports): the swooping of defending adults and the whingeing of the dependent young are hard to ignore, however much one tries.  That being said no-one reported breeding behaviour by  Magpie in 2013-14 - I didn't even get swooped riding my bike!  The situation has returned to normal since!
  • Tawny Frogmouth (47 reports): Reports from several observers this year.  Once noticed the nest and parents with dependent young are easy to relocate.  Also the breeding season is 5 months long from the start of nesting to kicking the young out.  
  • Striated Pardalote (46 reports): a serial offender at building a nest in any apparent hole in a building or tree.  Reports from several observers this year. Also very vocal when doing so! 
  • Pied Currawong (42 reports): see Australian Magpie.  In past years there was no way I could miss the {expletives deleted, with regret} pair that nested above our lawn and swoop me every time I walk across it!  For calendar 2016 and 2017 they moved nest site by 30m and were much much more sociable.
  • Welcome Swallow (36 reports):  Nest building is very obvious as they prefer a site such as in the rafters of a shed.  
  • Willie Wagtail (33 reports): Only a single record for 2016-17.  in past years records for this species cover a wide range of types of "nest-centred" events, possibly reflecting the energetic distraction displays, having the unintended outcome of leading keen observers to the nest (rather than away from it).  
  • Australian Wood Duck (32 reports)  A very common bird around farm dams and lawns, in Spring often leading a conga line of ducklings from the nest in tree hollows.
  • Australasian Grebe (30 reports)  They no longer nest on our top dam but  I have received a few more reports from other observers so they have made the big league.  The young birds are particularly interesting with striped heads.
  • White-browed Scrubwren (28 reports)  A very active bird and repeated zooming into a bush with a mouthful of grubs attracts attention.
  • Grey Shrike-thrush (27 reports): this species often nests in sheds or on verandahs, so is easy to spot.  Several observers reportedThey also fit in more than one brood so get several reports per site-year.
  • Yellow-rumped Thornbill (24 reports): Very common species and feeding young often happens out in the open.
  • Yellow-faced Honeyeater (23 reports): this species appears very relaxed about building close to dwellings - although in our case in our case the rose bush used in past years was burnt out.  So relatively easy to find and monitor the nest.
  • Common Starling (23 reports):  Frequently seen entering a hollow with a beak full of grubs!  Sometimes competes with parrots and cockatoos for use of hollows.
  • White-faced Heron (20 reports): A large and common bird which makes a large smelly nest, often quite a distance from water.
  • Superb Fairywren (20 reports): Very common bird often seen feeding young.
  • Red Wattlebird (20 reports): a large bird with very noisy fledglings.  No breeding records in 2016-17 although the species continues to be seen.

Links to other sections of this report

Annual Report: 2017 compared with 2016

During 2017 I received reports from more members of the community than in the past. These have often been single sightings of birds of interest to the observer, but are very welcome as they often fill gaps. Please keep them coming! If anyone wants to keep regular records I can provide them with a FREE! Easy to use! EXCEL spreadsheet template! Drop me an email!

Of the  195 species recorded in this project 167 species (85.1% - a slight decrease on the percentages achieved by a similar analysis last year) were reported in one or both of the years covered by this report.  Of these 167 species:
  • ·         10 were reported in 2016 but not in 2017;
  • ·         15 were reported in 2017 but not in 2016 (of which 1 was reported for the first time in 2017); and 
  • ·         142 species were reported in both years.
Looking at the entire 167 species there is a very strong correlation (correlation coefficient =  0.926) between the number of months each species was reported in the two years.  Thus it can be concluded that the two data sets are reasonably consistent.

Of the 10 species recorded in 2016 but not 2017, 
  • 7 were sighted in a single month of 2016, 
  • 2 were seen in 2 months; 
  • 1(Brown Quail) was seen in 3 months.  Tend to be seen irregularly in the area: they are skulkers so it isn't surprising that they go missing at times.
For those seen in 2017 but not reported in 2016:
  • 10 species (1 addition to the area list) were seen in a single month;
  • 3 species were seen in two months: Rufous Songlark - only seen/heard in last two months of the year;  Masked Woodswallow - an irruption in Spring; and Grey Goshawk seen at two sites more or less along the Molonglo.
  • 2 species seen in 3 months;  
    • Red-capped Robin has been very unusual in the area.  They have been reported much more in the ACT this year than the past so it isn't surprising we also got some.
    • White-bellied Sea-Eagle: Clearly seen lurking over Foxlow Lagoon, which at the time was one of the few large water features in the area.
 42 species were reported every month in both years: Last year was 43 while a similar comparisons in other recent years have shown 34 -38 species.  I am unsure what has caused the increase but see it as a Good Thing. I noted in the overview post that the set of species seen every month of the project has been very stable sitting at 19 species until last year when Willie Wagtail went walkabout for a year.  No species went AWOL this year - and willie wagtail was back at 12 months!

The following table shows the aggregate number of months in which members of the broad groups of species were seen in the two years.

1 Waterbirds203207
2 Birds of Prey6777
3 Parrots and Relatives100101
4 Kingfishers and other non-songbirds107116
5 Honeyeaters9290
6 Flycatchers and similar species125119
7 Thornbills, Finches and similar species189176
8 Other, smaller birds123130
9 Other, larger birds9696
The similarity of results between the two years is readily apparent.  When expressed as a percentage of total species-months the correlation coefficient is 0.99.

There is no large increase in any group.
  • The most surprising entry in the table is the small increase in the number of species-months for Waterbirds.  This is , as would be expected a balance, specifically between:
    • the larger number of species seen in January - February (when the marsh on the plain was well endowed with water) and 
    • the situation in December (when 12 less Waterbird species were seen, reflecting these species heading for the flooded areas of Victoria).
  • For Birds of prey the main difference was in July, reflecting most observers (including me) being absent in July 2016.  
  • For kingfishers etc significantly more species were reported in January and May but I can't suggest a reason!
  • Honeyeaters, Flycatchers etc and Thornbills etc show lower numbers of species in all months (notably June at 8 species less) except for July where observer effort was very low in 2016.
  • The group covered by Other smaller species were reported more frequently in the majority of months with 4 months reporting 3 or 4 additional species.
  • 8 species are included in Other larger species and they are usually reported in all months (as was the case in these two years).
The species with the largest increases in number of months-recorded have been:
  • Hardhead (going from 4 months to 12). Recovering to normal after a very low year in 2016.  (Last year it was a big decliner!)
  • Southern Boobook (from 4 months to 10).  I have no idea why this is so.  Mainly reported from Hoskinstown.
  • Straw-necked Ibis (from 1 month to 5) A very variable reporting rate for this species.  They all went West in 2016.  Again in 2016 it was a big decliner.
  • Australian King-parrot (from 9 to 12)  The species appears to be spreading from areas near Tallaganda into the Eastern part of the study region.
  • Collared Sparrowhawk (from 6 to 9)  a pair took up residence in our block for most of the year (but I couldn't find the nest).

The species with the greatest decline were:

  • New Holland Honeyeater (from 6 to 1).  Almost entirely as a result of the departure of an observer from Widgiewa Rd who used to have a small resident flock.  In 2015 it was seen 11 months!
  • Black-shouldered kite (7 to 2)  The dry start to the year meant very little prey around on the Hoskinstown Plain.  Its peak period (2012-13 it was reported nearly every month.
  • Little Corella (8 months to 5)  Last year was a big increaser.  I suspect the decline reflects us doing less dog walks to Captains Flat Rd, where most records were made.
  • Eastern Yellow Robin (12 months to 9).  For the first 4 years of this project the species was very unusual.  A pair then took up residence in our yard and were recorded almost every day.  However since September 2017 they have not been sighted or heard.  No idea why.

    Links to other sections of this report

    Annual report 2017 - Overall

    This is an overall report on birds observed in Carwoola in 2017.  I have largely followed the model used for the Annual Report for 2011 to 2016, in particular the decision to adopt a multi-post approach.  However what follows has to some extent evolved during writing.  .  (For those that think the result is still too long, the Canberra Ornithologists Group Annual Bird Report is 80 A5 pages - and 2Mb to download!)

    While responsibility for the analysis in this Report is down to me, the opportunity to compile the Report is entirely due to the efforts of observers to report interesting sightings to me.  I thank you all - may this continue.

    This report will be a bit heavy on numbers but I will attempt to explain them in terms of their meaning rather than simply a barrage of percentages!  For those who wish to skip the statistics I have tried to highlight the main points in bold blue.

    I use the term Carwoola to cover the catchment area of the Stoney Creek Gazette,  As well as Carwoola itself (now united following the merger of Queanbeyan and Palerang Councils) it includes a bunch of  other localities (including Primrose Valley and, importantly from the view of birding, Hoskinstown) to the SE of Queanbeyan.  It is illustrated in this sketch map:

    The database I maintain is pretty well restricted to that area to provide some consistency.  However if very interesting birds are reported in a some what wider area:
    ·                     where people might like to go and view the birds (eg the Plumed Whistling Ducks on dams close to Bungendore); or
    ·                     the sighting suggests we should keep an eye out  in case they also turn up here
    I will also include them on this blog but not the database nor - other than mentions like this - in my reports.

    The group of folk reporting has been quite stable this year (including the return of some observers) apart from the usual emptying out in Winter.   

    By the end of 2017 we had recorded, over a 11 year period, 
    195 species in the catchment area of the Gazette (see full list here - the hyperlinks in that post take you to pages of photos).   1 species (Azure Kingfisher) was observed for the first time in 2016.  By the end of 2017  18 have been recorded in every month since this project started in 2007.  This is the same result as at the end of 2016. 

    Over the 11 year period 99 species (50.8% of species observed) have been recorded undertaking breeding activity.  2 species (Brown-headed Honeyeater and Australian King-Parrot) were recorded breeding for the first time in 2017.  More details on breeding activity are provided in another post to this blog (see link below). 

    The cumulative number of species observed for the first time or recorded breeding for the first time are shown for each year below.

    It is interesting that over a 30 year period the Garden Bird Survey, run by the Canberra Ornithologists Group has recorded 239 species with 108 of these (46.2%) recorded as breeding.  Given the much shorter time span and far fewer observers I think we have, to quote Young Mister Grace, "...all done very well."

    In 2017, 156 species were recorded in the study area.  This is the  equal highest number recorded in the study area (equal to the number of species reported in 2015) and amounts to 79.5% of those ever recorded in the area.  This graph shows the number of species recorded per year.

    The weather for 2017 is reviewed here  and appears not to have had a great impact on the birds around the area. This is particularly surprising in view of the year being very dry and our own block, among many others, being incinerated in the February 17 fire.  I fact I have been very surprised at the diversity around our house since the fire with more species of birds seen in that area in the period July to December 2017 than for any similar period since 2007.

    In 2017 30.9% of the species recorded were observed undertaking some form of breeding activity.   This is a small decrease on 2016 but is still similar to other recent years.

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