Articles by members (continued)
Silent Spring in East Kamarooka
by Peter Allan
For more than two decades, Echuca and District Branch President Peter Allan has been observing bush bird nests in the eastern Kamarooka section of Greater Bendigo National Park. Peter has observed a decline in active bush bird nests in his study area from over 50 to zilch over that time. Since Peter wrote the following article in August 2006, things deteriorated and no active bush bird nests have been seen in his study are for several years. As the notes under Peter's article reveal, he is not the only bird observer to become alarmed. The Victoria Naturally Alliance has now launched a campaign to draw attention to the plight of bush birds. Despite fuel-reduction burns, there has been a minor recovery of bush bird numbers in Kamarooka since the rains of 2010-11.
My articles on Kamarooka Forest, now part of Greater Bendigo National Park, appeared in The Bird Observer in January 1997 and in June 2003.
The first covered my favourite tracks and the good birding available in that part of the forest east of the Bendigo-Tennyson Road, the area of the forest which I frequent the most. Some Echuca Branch members will remember the birds and flowers we saw on our earlier trips.
The second article noted the sharp decline in bird numbers although the same species could be found with some difficulty.
The situation has now deteriorated further. The primary cause appears to be the continuing drought conditions of recent years, including 2006, and the lack of regular autumn breaks. While the taller eucalypts and mallee seem reasonably healthy, apart from storm damage, the understorey of Acacia, Cassinia and Hopbush has suffered badly. Being generally small-leafed, thin-branched plants subject to insect and other damage, they rapidly crumble into the litter when they die. As their life span is usually short, regular new growth is essential. Even the remaining stands of shrubs often have many dead branches. Wildflowers and other herbage is decimated (sic) in most areas and any new plants are quickly damaged by rabbits, hares and wallabies.
Number of Bush Bird Nests Observed in East Kamarooka Forest
||Bush bird nests
Note: Peter has averaged figures of some adjoining years (e.g.some nesting was over December and January).
*In 1993 Peter was away for much of the year so the figure is lower than actual.
** 1994 was a drought year and Peter was away early in the Spring.
The figures are for bush birds only and excludes hole nesters such as Rosellas and excludes magpies, ravens, etc.
Observations for 2006, 2007, 2008 have been added.
The overall effect on bird numbers has been dramatic. I have completed nest records for Birds Australia and my own data since returning to the district in 1983. My records of nests examined, including second clutches (see chart) shows an overall decline in the nesting.
Galahs and most other hole nesters were not checked out, nor were Magpies and Ravens so the figures are mainly “bush birds”: honeyeaters, whistlers, thrush types, robins, babblers, flycatchers, woodswallows and thornbills. The figures are affected to some extent by track closures and my absences at times ~ I was away in November of 1993 and in the early Spring of 1994, a drought year ~ and also by the fact that the more nests I found the more often I returned, finding more. Even so, this does not explain the sharp drop in nests recorded.
“Evident now is the lack of territorial song...and the simple absence of birds generally”
Evident now is the lack of territorial song, the collapse of regular nesting areas and the simple absence of birds generally. Even the honeyeaters, more mobile and adaptive, are fewer, particularly Yellow-tufted and Fuscous. The worst affected seem to be those more dependent on low ground cover for nesting and/or feeding, e.g. White-browed Babblers, Gilberts Whistler and Restless Flycatcher.
However much rain we get in the near future, recovery is going to be much slower than after the 1982 drought.
Since Peter wrote the above article, the drought continued, and bush bird numbers continued to fall, until flooding rain over the summer of 2010-2011.
Honeyeaters were always observed in numbers at the old distillery dam just off Campbells Road in Kamarooka Forest. When Peter visited during a Challenge Bird Count in early December 2009, not a single Honeyeater was observe there! Following the wet summer of 2010-2011 bush bird numbers have increase but it will take many good seasons before bush bird numbers regain their pre-drought numbers.
The Victoria Naturally Alliance has become concerned and the following is a short extract from their web site:
Victoria could be facing a wave of extinctions following a dramatic crash in bird numbers in the State's Box-Ironbark forests over the past five years. This is the dire warming from new research by leading ecologists Professor Ralph MacNally, Professor Andrew Bennett and Dr Jim Radford....they argue that the collapse in number of so many different bird species strongly suggests that the availability of all food has crashed. Flowering of eucalypt trees, which provide food for nectar-eating birds, appears to have declined greatly with the drought.
You can read more by clicking here.
Victoria Naturally Alliance: bush birds in trouble
Fact sheet produced by the Victoria Naturally Alliance on the decline of bush birds
Transcript (and video) of the 7.30 Report segment on the demise of bush birds in central Victoria
a poem and photograph by Jon Hosford
of the Echuca and District Branch of BOCA, Jon now lives in Launceston. When Jon composed the following, he was concerned at the loss of Wedgetailed Eagle habitat.
How proud you stand
still and watch
Your eagle eye fixed yet searching with hope
for a future unknown.
Your forests fall
to the saw
and yet you soar aloft
and wonder why your free domain
is claimed by Man
in the rush to record
his footprint on this Earth.
You are misunderstood
as you swoop across the valleys
in search of the weak
and, from the tallest tree,
yet with hope.
In days past you
a king of this land.
A symbol of majesty
respected by the gentle folk
who shared your ground.
Your broken wing
of the present state
upon our trampled Earth
as man writhes his own death pain.
And yet you hope
that Man will see the error of his ways
And let you free
Once more to soar
a more certain future.
In a Deniliquin Garden
by Pat Eagle
member Pat Eagle was pleasantly surprised when, in October several years ago, she began recording the birds visiting her garden.
Pat attended many Echuca and District Branch outings since
the Branch's inception. Pat recalls some of her observations...
My garden consists
of Sugar Gums and lawn, and not much else. So I was quite surprised
when I began listing the birds living here. Galahs are in the
Gums in hundreds, just as they have been for 30 years. The noise
at dawn and dusk is shattering. A flock of Long-billed Corellas
is new. Noisy Miners have been feeding young, as have Blue-faced
Honeyeaters, Little Ravens and Australian Ravens. Ravens make
great music trying to out call each other; an exotic duet. Black-faced
Cuckoo-shrikes have nested not far away from the yard. A Striated
Pardalote calls all day most days. On the lawns I see a flock
of Red-rumped Parrots, heaps of Crested Pigeons and pairs of
Eastern and Yellow Rosellas. A flock of Grey-crowned Babblers
and about 15 White-winged Choughs trail each other around the
fence and yard area, followed, in turn, by up to 11 Apostle Birds,
which are as quiet as pets. Both the Apostles and Babblers come
onto the front verandah and gossip within touching distance of
my chair. Magpies have nested in a gum just inside the front
gate and are aggro to all other birds. I watched a Maggie feeding
a baby almost as big as itself; it hauled out of the front lawn
a huge spider, so big it had trouble breaking it, and it was
comical to see it fly with the spider hanging out of the sides
of its beak, wriggling and kicking. When the spider was offered
to baby, it had trouble too, and Spider had to be hacked in two
before it could be eaten. Three young Apostlebirds were hunted
into an old low shrub by parent Magpies and, each time they tried
to leave the cover, were swooped on and buffeted. They would
have been kept in the shrub for about 45 minutes. Magpies recently
killed an Apostlebird. For the past two months, a pair of Mudlarks
have been beating up the kitchen window and mirrors on any nearby
vehicle and scrapping with the Magpies and Choughs. Although
the Mudlarks nest around here each season, I have not seen any
young being fed in the yard this time. A Nankeen Kestrel has
nested not far from the house and it terrorises the birds, shrieking
and swooping. Our resident Cockatiel has been perched on a dead
tree hollow in the back yard, so I guess there are young somewhere.
A murderous Grey Butcherbird haunts the front verandah, waiting
for unwary Skinks to appear from between the boards. there is
a big reduction in Skink numbers on the verandah since Butcher
has been around. A big Kookaburra hunts on the lawn, using the
old Hills Hoist as a vantage point. He is very efficient and
doesn't like the four adult hares and four leverets which invade
his space each evening. I saw kooka and a hare on the lawn, eyeballing
each other, about a foot apart. Kooka conceded space and flew
back on to the line. Some hares live in a feral fig tree and
some live in an Agave clump, both great cover, so who knows how
many hares might be here eventually! Heard calling, and seen
flying, were four lots of Superb Parrots. Bee-eaters are nesting
not far away. Every day a Pacific Heron and a Yellow-billed Spoonbill
trawl the small channel near the house.
An amusing Swan
tale was told to me by people who live near the Edward River
just out of town. Seems strange, but the observers have been
watching this drama for weeks. Sitting on eggs, two nesting domestic
geese were scooped up by a fox, which left two lonely ganders
to amuse themselves. They went to the river and met with a Black
Swan which had three cygnets in tow. One of the ganders has become
besotted with the swan, won't leave her side, and interlaces
necks at every chance. The bloke telling the tale says it is
the most comical bird act he has ever seen.
While sitting on
the front verandah one cold morning in winter, I had a house
fly alight on my bare leg. A Skink which must have been hinting,
crawled onto me and grabbed the fly quicker than I could see
it. I wish I had taken a video: the fly was clamped sideways
with its head one side of Skink's mouth and the flailing legs
the other, to no avail. Skink had his breakfast on the spot.
Whilst mowing dry
grass near a shed, I recently disturbed a fat glossy Brown Snake
at least 180cm long. It lives around the sheep yards and shed
and I guess would live on rats and mice. The shearing shed also
shelters a Boobook which perches on the rail during daylight
hours. ~ Pat Eagle, Deniliquin (December 2004)
story about the Domestic Goose courting the Black Swan reminded
me of a male Feral Pigeon which was displaying to a female Crested
Pigeon on my front lawn last November whilst the confused mate
of the Crested Pigeon watched on. Webmeister.
Over-wintering in Queensland
I would like to
share with you our trip to North Queensland. We left home on
1st June 2002 with our caravan behind, looking for warmer weather
over winter. If you were wondering where the black-tailed Native
Hens went to from around Echuca, well we found them all, three
flocks of at least 150 birds, all very happy, between Wanganella
and Boorooban in a swamp alongside the Cobb Highway.
Mt Hope At Mt Hope, along the Kidman
Way, we camped on the old racecourse. It was very dry: no water
to be seen anywhere. After a very cool night, we woke to a heavy
frost. As the sun started to thaw the frost, water started to
drip from an old shed roof. First to arrive for a drink was a
Magpie who had his fill and then sat on a fence close by. Next
came a pair of Mulga Parrots. The Magpie swooped in and moved
them off. A Magpie Lark and then a Willie Wagtail were permitted
to drink. So the parrots tried again, only to be moved off again.
Four White-browed Babblers were allowed to drink until one started
to splash water out of the gutter. This was not allowed: the
Magpie hunted them off. The Mulga Parrots did have their drink,
finally, and the Babblers flew into a Peppercorn Tree and joined
us for breakfast. We observed 20 bird species here, including
Red-cap, Hooded and Flame Robins. Bourke We continued to travel
up the Kidman Way, staying at Kidmans Camp at Bourke. All day,
Red-winged Parrots flew in and out of the trees, feeding off
blossom and nuts. Red-tailed Black Cockatoos came through each
night and morning. Little Corellas by the hundreds were causing
problems in the orange groves. We have never seen it so dry along
the Mitchell Highway between Bourke and Cunnamulla. Kangaroos
and emus were feeding on the roadside during the day and road
kills were very high. Wedge-tailed Eagles, Square-tailed Kites
and Black Kites had plenty to eat. Quite a few feral cats had
also met their doom.
camp was Cunnamulla, where we took a day trip west to Eulo. About
half way, we stopped at a bore for morning tea. A Spotted Bower
Bird was fussing around his bower of white shells and stones.
There were Yellow-throated Miners, Chestnut and Yellow-rumped
Thornbills but not much else.
Yellow-throated Miner (D Ong)
Next stop was at
a billabong about 3km west of Eulo for lunch. We saw 36 species
here, including Brown Honeyeater, Painted Honeyeater, Halls Babbler,
Crested Bellbird and Variegated Wren. While we sat quietly eating
lunch beside the water's edge, a Collared Sparrowhawk swooped
in and took what we thought was a White-plumed Honeyeater. The
hawk landed in a low tree just beside us. Within minutes it had
pulled the Honeyeater apart and lunch was over. After stopping
at Eulo to sample some date wine and share a famous Eulo meat
pie, we decided to stop at the bore dam again. We were rewarded
at this late afternoon stop by two Bourke Parrots which slipped
in for a drink with Blue Bonnets, Mulga Parrots and Ringneck
Parrots. Emerald Moving further north, just south of Emerald,
around a dam located about 200 metres off the road, were about
30 Brolgas, two of which were dancing. That was the most we have
seen in one lot. Mostly, they were in pairs.
Burdekin Dam The Burdekin Dam, about
120km off the Charters Towers-Townsville Road, was another outstanding
place. The camping ground is set high above the dam wall. In
fact, you felt as if you were on top of the world. A great count
here: 62 species, including Rainbow Bee-eater, Black-chinned
Honeyeater, White-throated HE, Brown HE, Blue-faced HE (they
wanted to share or steal from our plate), Red-backed Wren, White-browed
Woodswallow, Black-faced WS, White-breasted WS and Bustard. Wedgetailed
Eagles soared on the thermals all day and the Blue-winged Kookaburras
couldn't laugh even though I tried to teach them! This was a
wonderful, restful place. Alan tried his hand at fishing, catching
a nice meal of Sleepy Cod which look like Flathead and are very
to Rockhampton Saunders Beach, which is 26km north of Townsville, was home for
three weeks. We were with friends who have a house right on the
beach. Each day, it was around 26 to 28° C and about 18°
C overnight. The fishing off the beach was good. From their backyard,
and whilst walking along the beach, we observed 59 species. A
pair of Yellow-bellied Sunbirds were nesting under the eaves
near a side door. A Pacific Baza caught grass-hoppers which were
about 50cm long and as thick as your thumb. Brahminy Kites patrolled
the beach, looking for scraps. Ospreys and Sea-eagles nested
along the nearby creek. Other birds sighted here included Rufous
Fantail, Spangled Drongo, White-bellied Cuckoo-shrike, Yellow,
Dusky, Brown, Blue-faced and Black-chinned Honeyeaters. Each
night Bush Stone Curlews called but I was unable to see them
during the day. From Saunders Beach, we turned south, travelling
along the coast and around the Proserpine area. Magpie Geese
were raiding the new shoots of the freshly-grown sugar cane.
We had a brief stop-over at Kuttabul, north of Mackay, where
I spied a pair of Fernwrens plus Scarlet Honeyeaters, Plum-headed
Finches and Double-barred Finches.
Inland to the
Pilliga Scrub We left the coast at Rockhampton and travelled back inland through
Miles and Moonie and then to Baradine, in the Pilliga Scrub near
Coonabarabran. I had found some info on the Internet by David
Johnston about birding in this area. It was very dry here so
we only travelled one of the eight routes but were rewarded with
51 species, including Glossy Black Cockatoo, Turquoise Parrot,
Striped Honeyeater, Pallid Cuckoo, Grey-crowned Babbler and White-browed
Babbler. This was a wonderful day and I recommend you stay here.
The maps are easy to follow and accommodation is now available
at Baradine in (ex Sydney Olympics) cabins, or camp. (The local
tourist people have forwarded brochures and maps to our branch
president. Ed). Closer to home, past Lake Cargelligo, we drove
out to the weir, looking for White-winged Wrens, of which we
found about 20 in one area. But a feral cat was in a nearby tree
so their future is not secure.
This ends out 2002
trip north. We clocked up around 8.500km in three months. We
enjoyed great weather , met lots of new friends and have seen
a lot of great birds. Hope you enjoyed a little slice of our
Safari to Carawinya National Park
Over Easter 2002,
I went on a safari to Carawinya with a few friends.
The plan was to
meet on Good Friday at Mt Hope, a locality along the recently
sealed Kidman Way between Hillston and Cobar. By the time we
had all arrived, it was around 2pm. Our meeting point was on
top of a rise opposite an old pub which had lots of character.
The pub and nearby
store were both closed. We took a few photos and enjoyed the
The Kidman Way at Mount Hope (K Stockwell)
After lunch, we
set off on a side road bound for Round Hill Nature Reserve. However,
we found some good birding spots along the way, in Nombinnie
Nature Reserve, and never made it to Round Hill. Birds observed
here included Apostle Bird, Mallee Ringneck, Chestnut-rumped
Thornbill, Inland Thornbill, White-winged Chough, Magpie, Noisy
Miner, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, White-fronted Honeyeater, White-eared
Honeyeater, Yellow-plumed Honeyeater, Red-capped Robin, Dusky
Woodswallow, Splendid Wren and Southern Scrub Robin.
It was late afternoon
by the time we returned to our vehicles and so we decided to
set up camp in another patch of scrub off the unsealed road.
We heard only one vehicle during the night.
Next morning, the
following were observed around our camp site: singing Honeyeater,
Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Galah, Mulga parrot, crested Bellbird
and Australian raven. Initially, someone mistook a Mulga Parrot
for a Scarlet-chested Parrot, an uncommon bird of inland. areas
settlements along the Kidman Way are great and it was late afternoon
before we reached Cobar. About halfway between Cobar and Bourke,
we drove along a minor track into the scrub for lunch and observed
Grey-crowned Babbler, Grey Butcher Bird, and Yellow-throated
Honeyeater, After stopping at Bourke to top up with fuel and
water, we left the bitumen and travelled north toward Hungerford.
En route, several
other birds were observed, including pied butcherbirds and some
brolgas. Late in the afternoon we stopped at Youngerina Bore
where we observed Singing Honeyeater, Hooded Robin, Mallee Ringneck,
Crested Bellbird, Magpie, Crested Pigeon and a corvid. At a lignum-lined
creek 133km from Hungerford, we observed White-necked Heron,
Pink-eared Duck, Black-tailed Native Hen, Great Egret, Nankeen
Night Heron, Whistling Kite, White-plumed Honeyeater, Rufous
Songlark, Variegated Wren, Willie Wagtail and a corvid.
By this time it
was getting dark. We decided to make camp near Wombah Station,
in bushland off the road rather than proceeding on to Carawinya
Next morning, a
walk around our camp site revealed Willie Wagtail, Grey Fantail,
Rufous Whistler, Yellow-throated Miner, Crested Bellbird, Mallee
Ringneck, Mistletoebird and Singing Honeyeater.
It was around 10am
by the time we eventually reached the border gate at Hungerford.
There we admired the ancient and unique pub, outside which poly pipe
and felt mannequins sat in the shade at a bus stop, waiting for
a bus that may take years to arrive Trish entered into a conversation
with an apiarist and we finished up buying some of his unique
Yapunyah honey and some of his wife's marmalade preserves. Yapunyah
is a red-stemmed gum found along the Paroo and associated watercourses.
Hungerford (population about 10) is a very isolated settlement
and boasts the old pub, a floodlit tennis court, a children's
playground, a small police station, a few abandoned buildings
and a few houses. It had the first sealed road we had been on
for around 200km.
Many birds took
advantage of its green lawns and shady trees, including (excuse
lack of capitals) pied currawong, yellow-throated miner, spotted
bower bird, crested pigeon, red-wing parrot, striped honeyeater
and welcome swallow. It was a very warm afternoon. Trish kindly
shouted us drinks at the bar and we enjoyed a discussion with
the pub owners who completed a 520km mail run three times a week..
Limited supplies were available, such as ice and souvenirs. Fuel
and other items had to be ordered weeks in advance.
The bitumen road
continued for some distance over the picturesque Paroo River
(great birding) before it ended short of the nearby park.
Upon arriving at
park headquarters, we self-registered and set up our tents alongside
a waterhole behind an old wool shed. It was hard to see much
such was the density of flies determined to make eating lunch
near impossible. Outbuildings near the woolshed contained toilets,
shearers accommodation and primitive (cold) showers. Not ones
to waste time, it was decided we should set off for Ten Mile
Bore. There we obtained excellent views of spotted bower bird,
white-plumed honeyeater, willie wagtail and crested pigeon before
a group of campers with dogs arrived in 4WD and shattered the
We also visited
"The Granites" and tried unsuccessfully to find halls
babbler. We encountered lots of feral goats and some feral pigs
at close quarters. Quite scary. We climbed the granitic tors
and found that they were the edge of a plateau: at the top of
the rise was a flat tableland covered in mulga. As Trish had
been told halls babblers lived at the edge of the escarpment,
we walked along the edge and through the mulga with no luck,
although grey-crowned babblers were found. The views of and from
The Granites were sensational and cameras worked overtime. .
I was intrigued
with some beautiful Leopardwood trees at the base of the plateau.
Their majestic, spotted trunks were the orange colour of the
As we were about
to leave, I caught sight of some babblers not far from a Leopardwood
They were not grey-crowned
or chestnut-crowned. Failing light beat us.
It was well after
dark by the time we arrived back at camp where the flies had
been replaced by mosquitoes.
Next morning we
were up and off around dawn. Destination was Lake Wyara and Lake
Numulla, two huge lakes within the park. Lake Wyara is salty
and nearby Lake Numulla is fresh, so different birds were expected
at each lake. As it turned out, this was not the case.
At Lake Wyara, we
took it in turns to row an inflatable boat across to an island
in the lake, momentarily disturbing large flocks of black swan
and other birds.
Birds observed included black-shouldered
kite, whistling kite, little eagle, whiskered tern, peregrine falcon,
black swan, avocet, hardhead, black-winged stilt, great crested grebe,
hoary-headed grebe, black cormorant, little pied cormorant, silver gull,
shoveller, pink-eared duck, grey teal, masked lapwing, Caspian tern,
coot, blue-winged parrot, red-rumped parrot, mulga parrot, budgerigar,
cockatiel, spiny-cheeked honeyeater, chestnut-rumped thornbill, chestnut-crowned
babbler, white-winged blue wren, orange chat, willie wagtail, zebra
finch and Australian raven.
Zebra Finch (D Ong)
Although Lake Numulla
is only a stone throw away from Lake Wyara, it was quite a distance
Upon arriving at
a car park , we were amazed to hear the sound of waves. The freshwater
lake lay hidden behind bushes. For several hours, we looked through
our scope at a multitude of birds.
on the lake or in the nearby scrub included large number of emu,
darter (nesting), great egret, intermediate egret, yellow-billed
spoonbill, royal spoonbill, pelican, black swan, little black
cormorant, Caspian tern, crested tern, grey teal, hardhead, black
duck, wood duck, masked lapwing, silver gull, tree martin, white-breasted
woodswallow, splendid wren, yellow-faced honeyeater, white-plumed
honeyeater, willie wagtail, magpie lark, peaceful dove, blue
bonnet, galah and chestnut-crowned babbler.
By the time we located
someone's missing sunglasses and set off for camp, it was dark.
Twice we stopped to observe spotted nightjars sitting on the
road; some distance behind us, the others also encountered the
spotted nightjar on the road.
Next morning, at
sunrise, we enjoyed breakfast at the Ten Mile Bore. The campers
had departed and the birds had returned. As we sat there, we
observed red-winged parrot, Australasian grebe, tree martin,
mallee ringneck, spotted bower bird, blue bonnet, white-plumed
honeyeater, white-necked heron and yellow-throated miner. Many
came down to drink. Having earlier in the morning been advised
by the ranger, Andrew, a keen bird watcher, of likely spots to
see Halls Babbler, we set off for a nearby patch of dry mulga,
determined to succeed.
(We visited nearby Eulo before returning home via the Kidman
Journey to warmer climes
mid-year trip with Neil (my son) and his family took us almost
in a direct northerly line through central NSW... Deniliquin,
Hay, Hillston and lagoons of the Lachlan River system...
was bird song every morning: we made bush camps on the way north.
We saw Red-winged Parrots, Grey-crowned Babblers, Rufous Whistlers,
Pale-headed Rosellas and Rainbow Lorikeets for much of trip and
as far north as Yeppoon and Byfields. In Mid NSW we saw Apostle
Birds, Hooded Robins and Chirruping Wedgebills.
the Darling River at Bourke, the Mitchell Highway runs along
beside the Warrego River for approximately 400 kilometres. We
drove north through Cunnamulla and Charleville and then headed
east to Mitchell on the banks of the Maranoa. The weir at Mitchell
was a bird haven: Hardhead, Darter, Western Warbler, Wrens, Grey-crowned
Babblers and more Apostle Birds. A northerly turn at Mitchell
lead us, it seemed, into the unknown, up through the small town
of Injune and on to a very rough road to Lonesome National Park.
There was a tiny camping spot on a range with awesome views across
to a circle of more escarpments. Our arrival at sunset saw the
sun revealing beautiful colours of distant rock faces. It was
an unusual night here for we heard the wind roaring overhead,
yet it was still on the ground. This place is a must for the
adventurous traveller. Next day it was down into the valley.
It was disappointing to note beautiful bottle trees (Brachychiton
sp.) being overtaken by many introduced species; most accessible
areas were farmed.
was back on the road to the Mt. Moffatt section of Carnarvon
Gorge National Park: a tortuous drive, bull dust, rocky tracks,
everything but mud. Jane was driver at this point and did a sterling
job before handing over to Neil when the road improved! South
of Mt Moffat, we encountered Cockatiels in flocks of tens, thirties
and hundreds. They were a delight.
our way to Dargonelly Rockhole camp we delighted at seeing a
small party of Squatter Pigeons. Exactly as the name infers,
these pretty little birds squat and move around quietly cooing.
saw many more on the way to our northernmost destination near
Rockhampton. After the bull-dust, the campervan was covered in
dust. Thankfully it did not enter our well-sealed food. Jane
is a good packer and provider! All was soon quite clean again
and we were able to bucket-bath.
Moffatt, I felt, was a highlight of the tour. To get in, your
vehicle must be a 4WD. Vegetation is of open woodland with undulating
flats. It is, however, high country, forming the upper catchment
of the Maranoa river. This part of the Great Dividing Range is
750 m. above sea level.
is diverse with such dryness as it does not come under the most
tropical rains of the Carnarvon Gorge on the other (northerly)
side of the range. We found Acacia, Cycads (Macrozamia),
three species of Boronia, Prostanthera, Lomadias, Callitris and
one only species of Grevillea. Callitris is taking over in some
places since logging stopped. Many spiders, beetles, and two
unusual mantises were found by grand-children Katy and Gordon.
One insect no wider than a blade of grass could be mistaken for
same; the other mantis was a dark grey with a diamond-shaped
head and a diamond-shaped body.
drive to Kenniff Lookout at the top shelter shed is the highest
point of the Consuelo Tableland where we found tall stately eucalypts (E. laevopinea) which grow nowhere else. In most areas
the beautiful pine-trunked Angophera is the most prominent tree
and looking to many travellers so like a Eucalypt.
Gorge National Park is a tropical rain forest, a place of great
beauty. It is especially good for walkers. Areas such as Mossy
Gorge, Moss Garden, the Amphitheatre and many falls are accessed
from the flat Main Gorge track by numerous steps. The main track
is flat along Carnarvon Creek, with sandy beaches the gigantic
sandstone formations (the gorge walls) towering above.
the clear creek water, Platypus and Tortoises were seen. There
were aboriginal shelters and caves adorned with ancient motifs.
"The Art Gallery", along the main track, is 50 metres
in length, with hand and arm motifs. Paintings include fishing
nets, goannas and circles as well as very ancient engravings.
this with birds and bird calls. One night we spotted a pair of
Barking Owls calling to each other. These calls went on for over
five minutes. They sounded like a group of agitated dogs. My
tape is almost unbelievable.
Lodge, private accommodation for visitors, has petrol and supplies.
The other accommodation is a camping ground: Apostle Birds here
were a delight, spending time around the camp ground picking
up bits and pieces.Huge scrub turkey mounds are numerous beside
the creek near the camp area. (This is a good place to see the
red-backed wren. Ed). Notices tell us "Don't feed the birds".
At our next
destination, Blackdown National Park, Kookaburras were quite
dangerous when we were trying to eat a picnic lunch.The Blackdown
Tableland is 200kms west of Rockhampton. En route, we passed
through Blackwater, a large coal town of 8,000 persons. Coal
trains were on the move. Three trains had 117,000 (tonnes of
coal?) and 96 carriages. These were moving eastwards to Rockhampton
where the coal is loaded from shore to ship via very long jetties.
on, up, up to the tableland, a huge tableland rising from the
flat, flat plain. The track up (and around) was the worst road
we had encountered (another 4WD track) but the prize at the top
was worth it! There was a lovely camping areas, each site with
its own natural space, so one rarely saw one's neighbours. Birds
here included King Parrot, wrens and Pied Currawongs that delighted
in removing washing from the line. One evening a Greater Glider
paid a spectacular visit, "flying" right over our camp.
This beautiful possum was pale grey with white "underwings".
A long, black half-metre bushy tail made up a length in all of
over a metre. Its flight was over 200 metres. The following evening
we were visited by Sugar Gliders climbing above us on a huge
life was prolific, including Hoveas and peas of many hues. Macrozamia
platyrhaecies, found only at Blackdown, is a tough, low-growing
plant: we saw many species, some high and not unlike Palms. Neil
was continually checking Grevillea, hoping, of course, to find
a new species. Grevillea singuliflora he found growing
in abundance in pockets between rocks above Stony Creek Rockhole.
Shield Ferns were interesting, growing along the edges of disintegrating
rocks and forming a continual shield half a metre high by up
to two metres along the rocks.
few of the birds sighted here included Glossy Black Cockatoo
(feeding on Casuarina seeds), Cockatiel, King Parrot, Owlet Nightjar,
Little Lorikeet, Squatter Pigeon, Torresian Crow, 11 honey-eater
species, Variegated Wren and Pale-headed Rosella. We only had
two sightings of Australian Hobby: here and at Mt. Moffatt.
Owlet Nightjar (D Ong)
Rockhampton and north along Byfields Road to Waterfall Creek
State Forest and a good camping area. At Bowenia State Park,
beside a rocky stream, Neil found the beautiful Grevillea
venusta. Endemic to the area, it had orange, yellow, purple
and black flowers on a long spike, a truly beautiful plant, swaying
in the wind.
a spell back in Echuca, Nance returned to Queensland. Nance was
accompanied by fellow club member Verna Jeffress. In Brisbane,
they met up with Jan England, a Brisbane member of BOCA.
on the afternoon of 13 August 1997, Jan took Verna and me to
took for two juvenile Powerful Owls. At the base of Mount Coutha,
west of Brisbane, we travelled along a narrow track and then
sat alongside a deep gully, waiting for movement. Jan had been
studying the nesting parents for some months. At last we saw
two white blobs moving about in the trees.
have pure white bodies. The wing colour of juveniles is pale
brown. At dusk we saw them flying about. We were excited to see
them land high above us and peer down over the edge of a bough,
stretching their wings and showing us their large eyes.
we stayed for a while in the moonlight, we did not see or hear
the parent birds. Incidentally, the call of these babies is a
quiet sound, not unlike that of a bat.
Powerful Owls is a large owl, measuring up to 66 cms. What a
delight to see these beauties.
along the track, we enjoyed a quick Mexican meal and then it
was off to a meeting of the Wildlife Preservation Society. The
Society is striving to limit or curtail the enlargement of Brisbane's
port for very large container vessels.
business, we were given a wonderful talk on Fraser Island, with
slides, by Mike West. The talk was an eye-opener. An English
member of RAMSAR, who had flown over the island, talked about
how he was amazed to see what he was sure were "Fens"
(of moors and fens). This talk and slides were presumably the
first time scientists and lay people had discussed this unusual
area of Fraser Island. The slides were outstanding, with views
of clear pools. A most interesting feature of these pools was
finding tiny fish in some. Beside some pools, white moss grew.
Before this moss was recorded, moss was only known to be green ~ and fish have never before been
found in Fens.
time later, club Secretary Nancy returned to Queensland accompanied
by fellow club member Verna Jeffress and Nance's daughter Ruth.
(Great Sandy) Island
Tuesday 7th June 1998, Ruth and I were heading for the ferry
along the ocean beach about 5km south of Eurong. Standing beside
a small dead tree that was partly covered by sand, was a Beach
Stone Curlew, pecking at something.
turned back and drove the car closer, not disturbing the bird.
It slowly walked to the water's edge and quickly dug its beak
into the damp sand, emerging with a mussel. Slowly, it walked
back to its tree and began banging the mussel on a stump. By
this time, an interested raven appeared, landing on a bough a
few feet above the curlew.
the smashing proceeded, a small part of the flesh flew to one
side, to be quickly devoured by the raven whilst the curlew took
the mussel flesh in its beak with an upward jerk and swallowed
birders will make any excuse to have a bird outing. Verna Jeffress
and I were the excuse for three superb trips, the first of which
was to Toonpan on the Ross River.
of us ventured through fog. Fog is quite unusual in Townsville.
When we arrived, the fog was just lifting and the birds just
awakening. Droplets of water festooned spider webs on grasses.
On one twiggy bush above a small creek, resplendent with spider;
webs, much to the delight of everyone, perched a Black Bittern.
As the morning light strengthened, the whole scene was reflected
in the stream. We were to see 70 species, including Forest Kingfisher,
Red-backed Kingfisher, Zebra Finch, Double-barred Finch, Plum-headed
Finch, Nutmeg Manikin (Spice Finch), Singing Bushlark, Little
Cuckoo-shrike, White-winged Triller, Grey-crowned Babbler, Glossy
Ibis, Hardhead, Cotton Pygmy Goose, Black-winged Stilt, Jabiru
and Bustard. For we Victorians to see 12 Bustards, and a Jabiru
flying across a few metres above us, was quite a thrill.
enjoyed the morning as much as the visitors and 72 species was
an excellent tally.
next very special outing was a full day to Broadwater, a rain
forest behind Ingham. There were 10 of us and we were on the
road by 7am, travelling through sugar cane and pine plantations
to reach this lovely destination. At the car park, an open area,
a variety of honeyeaters were high in Eucalypts and Melaleucas.
Fuscous, Bridled, White-cheeked, Macleays, Graceful, Dusky and
Scarlet Honeyeaters were present but hard to spot. Special for
us were Spotted Catbird, Orange-footed Scrub Fowl, Boatbill,
Pale-yellow Robin, Rufous Fantail, Little Shrike Thrush and Grey-headed
Robin...but the great find for the day was a father Cassowary
with two juveniles. He strutted about below a wooden walkway
whilst the youngsters walked quietly nearby, occasionally pecking
as dad did. On our way home we called in to some wetlands adjoining
cane fields. Many Herons, Ibis, black-fronted Dotterels, Royal
Spoonbill, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Grebe and Black Duck were
seen.The sight of a flock of Crimson Finches finished a great
day's outing. Over 40 species for one day.
Secretary Nance Marriott and then Treasurer Verna Jeffress returned
to Queensland yet again a year later...
again, Townsville beckoned us for our winter break. And, once
again, Townsville BOCA members showed us birds.
A CWA unit overlooking Magnetic Island let us view 10 or more
White-breasted Woodswallows each morning, sitting along nearby
power wires. Palm trees hosted Blue-faced Honey-eaters with young.
Along The Strand, two Red-tailed Black Cockatoos and Brahminy
Kites delighted us on many occasions.
Bower Birds were here, one in a roadside garden only 200 metres
and Rosemary Payet kindly accompanied us to wonderful venues
~~ the northern beaches Toomulla and Tooleilea gave us over 43
species along the foreshore, in trees and shrubbery and on offshore
sand banks. This was their winter survey trip. As well as birds,
we enjoyed a great evening Biennial Concert at Queens Park with
Island dancers and wonderful throat singers from Singapore, as
well as Townsville's own "Dance North" troupe.
Point Military Museum is well worth a couple of hours. Wonderful
Another great day, 7.30am to 6pm with Ian Clayton, let us observe
92 species. Our destination was Paluma. En route, Ian knew just
where to stop to see Cisticolas, Crimson Finches and Red-backed
Wrens feeding in grasses and rushes, plus the lovely Fairy Wren,
Scarlet Honeyeater, Macleays Honeyeater, all these lovely birds,
but I feel a highlight was seeing a maypole bower of the Golden
Bower Bird! The bower was between two trees which were adorned
from the bottom up with sticks, crisscrossing to mesh the bower
between the trees.
it was once again off to the Town Common, a bush garden and a
new one for us, Cluden Flats with the birders. I often hear visitors
from down south speak of their disappointment at the Town Common
(I'm one of them Nance, Ed!) ~ maybe they should have contacted
the Townsville Birders for I have never been disappointed! On
our visit, Brush Cuckoos were heard as was the Brown-backed Honeyeater.
Forest Kingfishers were beautiful. We saw Little Grassbird, Jabiru,
the sun flitting green on the neck and bill, Brahminy Kite, Osprey,
Red-tailed black Cockatoo. Birds are not the only greats at the
Townsville Common. We were shown possibly the tiniest of frogs,
Sedge Frogs approx 1.5 cm of oblong green blobs on the low growth
of Pandanas. there were dozens of them! What a find! We saw over
30 species between 6.45am and 10.30am.
think the early mornings are imperative to birding, especially
in the warm north climate. A week at Binna Burra Lodge with temperatures
not over 10 degrees was very special. Lovely strenuous walks
but we had a bird count of 40 plus.
Secretary Nance Marriott and Verna Jeffress returned to Queensland
yet again in 2002...
Once again, our
journey into warmer climes took us to Townsville BOCA's AGM.
The highlight of this day was meeting then BOCA President Jill Plowright,
and husband Howard, who awarded life membership to Rosemary Payet
for her excellent work with BOCA's Townsville branch. As local
President, Secretary and leader over ten years, Rosemary assured
us she had a wonderful band of birdo workers. Congratulations
Rosemary! The next day was one of the best when Jill and Howard
drove us to the town common. In a couple of hours, we recorded
over 40 species and each one was observed through Howard's telescope.
Rosemary and Jock took us to Palmetum, a great trip and their
expertise helped. Once again, we visited Paluma National Park.
A male Riflebird showed his iridescent neckline. A bush garden
gave us many lovely birds: a Brahminy Kite and a few honeyeaters.
What would a holiday be without birds!
On once again. South to Hervey Bay. What excellent numbers and birding! We joined John
Knight and the Hervey Bay Birdwatchers on an outing to the Great
Sandy Straits, a Ramsar area opposite Fraser Island. On a hill
overlooking a rocky shore, we saw hundreds of waders. About 300
Eastern Curlews flew below us. We remained motionless until they
settled. The birds were very fidgety as they were only just arriving
from Siberia! There were over 100 Masked Lapwings, 50 to 60 Pied
Oyster Catchers, and some Gull-billed and Caspian Terns amongst
the other birds. To get to this place on a private cattle property,
we were up and down, across paddocks for two or three kilometres,
with Brahmin bullocks running to us, eying us off.
by Nance and Verna at Mathieson's Bird Hide (erected by John Knight and the Hervey Bay Birdwatchers), 12
August 2002. Eastern Curlew (300), Red-necked Stint, Pied Oyster
Catcher (60-80), Gull-billed Tern, Caspian Tern, White-faced
Heron, Masked Lapwing (100), Avocet (100), Black-winged Stilt
(100), Australasian Shoveller, Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-kneed
Dotterel, Curlew Sandpiper, Marsh Sandpiper, Australasian Crake,
Great Egret, Little Egret, Black Duck, Black Swan, Glossy Ibis,
Hardhead, Brolga, Jacana, Black-fronted Dotterel and others.
Then on to another
such property, with fresh-water lagoons lined with mangroves.
Seen here were Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, Red-necked Stint, Marsh
Sandpiper, Australian (Spotted) Crake, Spotless Crake, Glossy
Ibis, all clearly seen through John's telescope. Then, with a
little persuasion, there flew from the mangroves, Mangrove Gerygones
and a beautiful Varied (Mangrove) Honeyeater, with a yellow plume
and a white tuft, faintly-barred throat and streaked abdomen.
beautiful at close range!
in lagoons by Nance and Verna (with Hervey Bay Birdwatchers), 12 August 2002. Cattle Egret,
Chestnut Teal, Grey Teal, Magpie, Magpie Lark, Richards Pipit,
Mangrove Honeyeater, Rufous Whistler, Noisy Miner, Willie Wagtail,
Maned Goose, White Ibis, Swamp Harrier, White-breasted Sea-eagle,
Brahminy Kite, Whistling Kite, Nankeen Kestrel, Galah, Crested
Pigeon, Pale-headed Rosella, Pied Butcher Bird, Kookaburra and
others (48 species). We were most fortunate this July and August
to see birds not previously seen by us, such as at Arkarra Lagoon
where John and his great team pointed out two more Gerygones,
the Fairy and the White-throated. It was sad to see a family
of White-browed Scrubwrens being harassed by a Drongo which was
later observed enjoying one for breakfast. To add to our enjoyment,
we spent an afternoon whale-watching. Whales are curious giants,
just as we are curious. With our boat's engines shut down, these
wonderful creatures played, dived and swam right under the boat.
We were so fortunate that it was the time when Humpbacked Whales
were passing here, en route for Antarctic waters. At Redcliffe
Bay, amongst flowering Grevillea banksii, Verna and I discovered
a Yellow-headed (Citrine) Wagtail. It was very active and vocal.
It is rare in this area. We are still hoping it may have been
seen in the area by others. ~ Nance Marriott.
Yellow-headed (Citrine) Wagtail is a small wagtail with a yellow
head, black tail feathers and white outer feathers. It is a vagrant
sometimes seen in marshes, farmland and grasslands near Sydney,
Newcastle (Ash Island), Adelaide and Darwin.
The above article was written over ten years ago. Nance continues to visit Queensland each winter, but Verna is no longer able to accompany her. Webmeister