climatic conditions over the past twelve months had a major influence
over bird movements in the Deniliquin district and much of the inland.
Last year was very dry probably for some areas at least the driest
since 1982. So far this year the drought has continued with no relief
in sight. The summer was the coolest I can remember, again, having unexpected
effects on the birdlife.
IRRIGATION AREA (east of Deniliquin) AND OTHER PLACES
the past spring and summer waterbirds were desperate to find feeding
areas, let alone breed. The first waterbirds to show up were Black-tailed
Native-hens which started to appear in large flocks of several hundred
in SeptemberOctober 2001. There was some dispersal after a few
local thunderstorms in February/March 2002 but they have again congregated,
waiting for a big rainfall somewhere in the interior. Red-kneed
Dotterels have also been around in numbers, hanging out on any
suitable patch of water.
were exceptional numbers of herons, egrets and spoonbills feeding in
flooded rice fields in the spring and summer. On several occasions flocks
of 3040 Royal Spoonbills were encountered, with similar
size flocks of Yellow-billed around as well. There were also
big numbers of White-necked Herons and Great Egrets feeding
in rice fields, and exceptional numbers of Intermediate Egrets,
with up to 20 birds seen feeding in crops on two occasions. Quite a
few solitary Little Egrets were seen feeding in rice fields,
probably the most I can recall in the district.
wet years the waterbirds pretty much ignore the rice fields and in drier
years will feed on them for a few weeks until the rice starts to grow
and covers the open water. However, they stayed in them through most
of the summer, feeding in the drains around the edges or nearby channels,
illustrating how desperate they were for food.
were also big flocks of Straw-necked Ibis around in the autumn,
feeding on crickets flooded out of irrigated fields. On one occasion
I saw a Black and a Peregrine Falcon hanging around
the same field the Black, and possibly also the Peregrine, seemed
to be catching crickets. Many of the waterbirds appear to have now dispersed,
presumedly back to northern Australia, having failed to breed in the
dry conditions and cool summer also had a major effect on the Australasian
Bitterns. They turned up in good numbers quite early, arriving in
late winter 2001 eight birds were flushed from a refuge area
on 17 August. They continued to hang out there in varying numbers right
through to mid-November. Normally they would move out to the rice fields
to breed sooner than that but because it had been so cool the rice had
not grown tall enough to give them some cover. A few pairs were seen
in rice crops in December and January but little booming was heard other
than on the odd hot day another cool front would come through
and theyd go quiet again. Because there was so little calling,
I suspect they failed to breed this past summer. The water temperature
needs to be high to stimulate breeding and for this species to successfully
past summer was dismal for Black-backed (Little) Bitterns
in the district with only one bird seen on 14 November at a water
storage dam east of town. Not one call was heard all summer. Also subject
to the inordinately dry and cool conditions, this species completely
failed to breed in the district. The records around Sydney and elsewhere
along the coast over summer would indicate that few came inland this
colony of about 20 pairs of Great Egrets, feeding primarily in
rice fields, started nesting at their colony site in Deniliquin over
summer. However, they too abandoned their nests part way through the
breeding cycle, most likely because their food supply was inadequate.
a more positive note, droughts have their upside, at least for visiting
birders. Crakes were easy to see over summer with the drought confining
them to small refuge areas in old water-filled quarries. Aust. Spotted,
Spotless and Baillons were on tap for most of the
summer, often all in the one area. The Baillons came in quite
early with the first seen on 25 August. They were then seen continuously
at several localities up until early January when they disappeared,
possibly into the rice crops or perhaps even further afield towards
crakes managed to breed despite the dry conditions. On the 23 December,
a pair of Spotless Crakes with one well-grown young was recorded
at Forest Creek, Wanganella. While I have long known that the species
breeds in the area, this was, I think, the first time I have seen young
such is the secretive nature of this species.
Duck were in good supply over summer with the first three seen in
early December at a small freshwater swamp east of Deniliquin. Numbers
built up to 21 by 21 January and 10 birds were still present on 18 March
marking the longest period this species has stayed at this locality
in more than twenty years. Some of the males were quite red at the base
of the bill (indicating breeding condition) during this period even
though the swamp was probably not suitable for breeding and as far as
I know none occurred. Low numbers of this species were also recorded
at the Tullakool Evaporative Basin during December and a few at the
Whistle-ducks appear to have been lost from the district in the
last couple of years; certainly none were seen over the last summer,
In the late 70s and early 80s there were flocks of up to 2000 present
east of Deniliquin. This species, being slow flying, is vulnerable to
being shot on rice crops.
pair of Great-crested Grebes on the lake at Finley on 28 January
was my first record of that species at that locality. This is also a
good spot to see the native water rat.
east near Savernake, over 50 Superb Parrots were feeding near
the roadside on 28 January. The remnant box/pine woodland on Savernake
Station is an important feeding area for Superb Parrots in the non-breeding
season. Just how important was brought home to me recently when I had
a birdseye view of the area from 30,000 feet the woodland was
clearly visible as an island in a sea of cleared wheatfields.
the plains country being so dry Black Falcons have been sighted
over spring/summer in the irrigation country where there are a few more
ground birds, such as Stubble Quail. Up to six Black Falcons were seen
at some stubble fires in September and October.
conditions have made cuckoos scarce over the past season. There has
only been an odd immature Horsfields Bronze-Cuckoo and
a few Pallid around over summer with more Pallids turning up
in the late summer and autumn.
evidence of how dry it is inland, small flocks of Budgerigars
started turning up in mid-April; this species is normally a spring/summer
migrant. Most have now moved further south but there are still a few
about out on the plains. Flocks of Cockatiels also turned up at the
same time. At the time of writing there were large numbers still present
north of Jerilderie where there had been good thunderstorms over summer.
Kingfishers have again been scarce throughout the district. Even
in the Victorian mallee their numbers were very low.
Honeyeaters made a welcome appearance in a strip of roadside boree
in the irrigation country this season. They were first recorded on 28
December, with a maximum of four on 6 January. They were not seen after
12 January so its doubtful that they bred. This is my first record
on the east side of Deniliquin.
White-fronted Honeyeater also made a brief appearance in the
same patch of boree on 16 April feeding on flowering mistletoe. This
is the first record for this species near Deniliquin for about 15 years.
Honeyeaters were also quite scarce this past season. An adult male
was seen in a plantation of flowering eucalypts on 20 September and
again on 2 October. Another small group turned up at a patch of flowering
emu-bush in November and stayed for about a month.
dry conditions attracted quite a few Ground Cuckoo-shrikes. This
species likes the ground bare and thrives in droughts. More were seen
in the past season than anytime in the last 15 years. There was even
a pair nesting on the Hay Road TSR in the same area the species last
nested in the 1980s. It was pleasing to see three adults successfully
raise two young. Witnessed a confrontation between two groups of Ground
Cuckoo-shrikes on 12 March when quite a spectacular dogfight ensued.
Quite a few still about on 23 May.
migrants such as White-winged Triller, Rufous Songlark
and Masked and White-browed Woodswallows were also fairly
scarce this season. Surprisingly a few trillers and songlarks bred,
primarily along roadsides out on the eastern side of town. Large migrating
flocks of woodswallows were moving through the area in late October.
A small group of White-browed, and the odd Masked, settled down to breed
in the river redgum forest south of Deniliquin in December and
were successful. This is the only breeding locality that I know of in
RIVER REDGUM FOREST (SOUTH OF DENILQUIN)
in the Gulpa Island State Forest werent too bad in the spring
and early summer with most passerines successfully rearing young
which illustrates how well adapted our birds are to dry conditions.
Robins and Gilberts Whistlers both successfully bred
in October and November (three pairs of Hooded and two pairs of Gilbert's).
After the Gilberts had finished breeding towards the end of December,
and with conditions very dry, they dispersed and became difficult to
first Rainbow Bee-eaters were seen on 21 September. Although
numbers of this species were down in the district, quite a few pairs
managed to breed in the Gulpa sandhills.
already mentioned White-browed Woodswallows were a welcome addition
to the forest in November/December with several groups successfully
breeding in December.
the regulars like Diamond Firetail and Red-capped Robins
successfully bred in October / November. Superb Parrots, however,
did not fare so well; quite a few pairs attempted to breed but very
few young were raised. I suspect the food supply was not adequate for
them to raise young, which is worrying given they have failed to breed
on several occasions in the last five years. On 18 October three adult
males were seen drinking from a puddle unusual as they rarely
drink. It is likely that there was not enough moisture in their food
source this year to satisfy their moisture requirements.
importance of native groundflora in their diet in a dry year was reinforced
on 10 December when about 15 Superb Parrots were feeding on ruby saltbush
Enchylaena tomentosa berries at Gulpa TSR and on 18 March
about 20 were feeding on Einadia nutans berries in the
Tuppal Creek area. They left the forest immediately after breeding as
they have done the last couple of years and started to show up in the
boree country north of Pretty Pine. The first group was seen there on
18 December, the earliest I have seen them in that area. They were feeding
mostly in the grey mistletoe Amyema guandong in the boree,
although on one memorable occasion 25 mainly adult males were seen feeding
on the berries of a single dillon bush Nitraria billardiera. I
have not ever seen Superb Parrots feeding on this species before although
I have seen Major Mitchells feeding on dillon bush berries north
of Moulamein. It is also popular with Emus. The Superb Parrots
stayed in that general area all of summer and autumn and were still
out there on 23 May.
March, my sister, Susan, had a lone male adult Superb Parrot turn up
at her homestead not far from the boree country. It was in poor condition
and I expected the bird to die. However, after feeding on ruby saltbush
berries, which there is a plentiful supply around Susans house,
the bird recovered and stayed for about a month. It departed when a
small group of Superb Parrots came through towards the end of March.
This is the second record for Susan's farm in 15 years.
I digress back to the river redgum forest!
immature male Golden Whistler appeared to be trying to set up
a breeding territory in thick dwarf cherry in Gulpa Island on 26 October;
however, it had disappeared by my next visit. This species is only a
winter visitor to the district with most gone back to the mountain forests
by late September. Possibly the unusual conditions threw its internal
clock out of kilter.
few Brown Quail were still about (at the time of writing) with
records over summer east of town; in the Wanganella area; and in the
redgum forest. I saw my first ever nest on 10 December a nest
under a clump of horehound I had bent down to pull out! I was going
to pull out another horehound plant (one of my least favourite weeds)
about 10 metres away from the nest when a large Eastern Brown Snake
was noted underneath it. So Im not sure if the nest was successful.
The horehound flourishes. The nest site was in grey box woodland on
the Gulpa TSR, a fairly unlikely locality although not too far from
few winter migrants have been on the move lately with Olive-backed
Oriole seen in May and a flock of 14 Flame Robins on 9 May,
both on the edge of the redgum forest.
pair of Little Eagles was back on the Gulpa sandhills over summer.
The species has become quite scarce in the district since the demise
of rabbits following the introduction of the calicivirus.
has been a huge irruption of Black Kites in the district, probably
originating from the inland. In excess of 200 birds were present at
the Deniliquin tip on 24 May the largest number Ive ever
recorded in the district.
Falcons continue to make a comeback in the district with regular
sightings around town and elsewhere. There are quite a few pairs nesting
along the Edward River each year. Given that they had almost completely
disappeared from the entire district in the 1980s, their resurgence
Pectoral Sandpiper at the Deniliquin truck wash on 22 March was
the first record for the town area.
invasions of Musk Lorikeets have been occurring in the district
since March with regular sightings around town and also well out to
the north around Billabong Creek and beyond and showing no signs
of departing yet. There are also a few smaller lorikeets with these
flocks and a pair of Purple-crowned Lorikeets was recorded, perched,
in town on 19 May I think this is the first confirmed record
for the town area. The ironbark country in Victoria is very dry at present
which will be the reason for the Purple-crowns presence
in our area. Musk Lorikeets usually occur for a week or two during
sighting on 31 December in the Deniliquin State Forest of an adult male
Painted Button-quail with four chicks was a first confirmed
breeding record for the town.
Doves have been particularly scarce in the summer and autumn with
none seen in the regular breeding areas on the Gulpa sandhills. The
only pair seen in the district over summer was a pair in black box and
redgum in the Deniliquin forest the first record for this locality
to my knowledge. The pair did not appear to breed successfully.
have been few this season with just a couple of sightings of Folk-tailed
Swifts over the town in March.
Spotted Crakes were also seen at the truck wash in April, the first
seen here for many years.
April and May there has also been an invasion of Red Wattlebirds
into the town with sightings of up to five birds. A pair or two have
been in the town continuously for about three years.
Honeyeaters have also been about town, with the first sighting on
28 April and a few sightings since including one along Billabong Creek
at Wanganella on 5 May.
flock of about 20 Apostlebirds at the Deniliquin saleyards on
22 March was an unexpected sight. Ive never seen a flock of this
size in the district and I suspect these birds came from much further
afield possibly along the Edward River somewhere from
the west. Regrettably, they had disappeared the next day.
Honeyeaters have also been on the move with a sighting in town in
river redgum on 19 May. This was followed by another sighting in boree
country on my sisters farm on 2 June. This one was feeding in
flowering grey mistletoe on boree Acacia pendula.
too exciting to report at the evaporative basin last season. In early
October there were big flocks of Whiskered Terns moving about
with about 1000 feeding over one rice crop near the evaporative basin
on 7 October. On 26 October there were about 2000 on the evaporative
basin. During October there were also about 20 Gull-billed Terns
hanging around; however, they made no attempt at breeding.
on 26 October, an adult Double-banded Dotterel in full breeding
plumage with one foot missing was seen. This is the first time I have
seen this species at this locality in October even with a full
complement of feet.
numbers of Banded Stilts and Red-necked Avocets were in
attendance over summer with about 1000 of each present in December and
January. About 800 Marsh Sandpipers were also there in December.
adult Peregrine Falcon was seen to take a Grey Teal on
22 December always a spectacular sight.
believe a Long-toed Stint was also seen at the basin in late
summer, a species often seen there at that time of year.
to 10 Freckled Ducks were seen in December and January.
few Aust. Spotted Crakes were also feeding around the evaporative
basin in spring/summer. Rarely have I seen them there previously.
COUNTRY (NORTH OF DENILIQUIN)
plains north of Wanganella are probably the barest they have been since
19821983. This has favoured some species and not others.
Emus raised few, if any, young last year. Near the end of summer
they came together and flocks of 3040 birds were seen.
the end of last winter large numbers of Stubble Quails were present,
even though there wasnt much cover around. However, with dry conditions
prevailing, most had vacated the plain by late October. This remained
the case right through the summer and into autumn. It is only in the
last month or so (May 02) that low numbers have started to appear on
the plains again.
Falcons have been fairly scarce out on the plains this past season,
no doubt due to the lack of ground birds such as Brown Songlark
and Stubble Quail. Despite the lack of prey at least one pair
of Black Falcons raised young north of Wanganella in September.
and Red-chested Button-quail have been scarce over summer with
just a few Little Button-quail seen, mainly in paddocks with some cover
of cottonbush. A couple of Red-chested were seen, which is surprisingly
given the dryness of the area. Both species managed to successfully
breed with juvenile young of both recorded.
have also been fairly scarce this past season, due again to the bare
condition of the plains. However, despite this they managed to breed
successfully and four nests were seen which is a record. Also,
two clutches of small young were seen and several immatures. September
and early October were bleak and there was no breeding success during
that period. A fall of 25 mm of rain on 14 October was timely and they
were mating a week later. Young were successfully raised from this rainfall
event and a few adults also bred in January. Things went quiet for a
while until another thunderstorm in late February really got them going.
Three nests were seen in one paddock over an eight-day period and I
suspect they all went down on eggs within days of each other which
demonstrates their ability to take advantage of opportune rainfall in
dry years. There have been more thunderstorms since then, so Plains-wanderers
have finished the season on a brighter note than they started on.
dry conditions have suited Inland Dotterels just fine and they
bred in at least three paddocks. They started breeding in early August
and bred right through to April (adult on nest 15 April): in total,
two nests and six clutches of young of varying size were seen during
that period. They were more spread out this season because they had
more suitable habitat from which to choose. The largest flock was 15
birds in March. On 23 April five dotterels were seen eating the fresh
tips of bush minuria Minuria cunninghamii that had sprung up
after thunderstorm rains.
pair of Bush Stone-Curlew was seen in black box woodland near
Booroorban in December and again in January. These were my first records
for the district for three or four years. This species is seldom successful
in raising young due to predation by foxes and is gradually being extirpated
from the district.
Lapwings were also about in good numbers with flocks of many hundreds
present from October through to February; then numbers were variable
during the autumn. Some breeding took place in September and the odd
nest was seen in November but generally the conditions were a bit dry
for this species and it did not breed well. Unlike the Dotterel and
Plains-wanderer, this species seldom breeds outside the early spring
period and rarely breeds after summer thunderstorms. Most of the big
flocks came in from outside the area, probably from the plains north
of the Murrumbidgee.
numbers of Australian Pratincoles were also recorded this past
summer; the most I have seen in over 20 years of observations. The first
birds appeared in early October with at least 14 birds seen on 25 October.
The first nest was seen on that date and up until they departed the
area in March, a total of three nests were seen and four clutches of
young in four different paddocks. Most of the breeding took place in
November and December with one clutch of eggs seen on 1 January. They
appeared to breed very successfully. About 30 mainly immature birds
were seen on 13 January and the last sighting was of 15 immatures on
most exciting find out on the plains was a pair of Red-tailed Black
Cockatoos that turned up at a box clump north of Wanganella on 22
April. They only stayed for a day but have been sighted since in the
Booroorban area. As far as I know this is the first confirmed record
for the Riverine Plain. However, just very recently (31 May) Ive
heard of another record of a single bird south of Carrathool in a similar
situation. Presumedly they are coming in from the Darling River area,
where it must be very dry.
few Major Mitchell Cockatoos were seen in April and May at a
sandhill near Wanganella where there is a small resident population.
About 15 birds were seen on 3 January feeding on dillon bush berries
and hopbush seed north of Moulamein.
few Blue-winged Parrots started coming through in April. During
May a flock of 50 was seen feeding around a rice crop; that is the largest
flock Ive ever heard of in this district; and on 23 May another
six were seen flying over south of Wanganella.
flock of Buff-rumped Thornbills was seen along the Billabong
Creek at Wanganella on 5 May, which is the furthest west I have recorded
this species on the Billabong previously only having recorded
them in the Conargo area. On the same day both the Yellow-rumped and
Spotted forms of Spotted Pardalote were recorded.
natural hybrid Mallee Ringneck/Yellow Rosella cross was seen
along the Outfall drain at Booroorban in December. Yellow Rosellas did
not occur in this area prior to the creek having permanent water in
it (1970s +). The two species would not have come into contact with
each other until recent years. This is the second natural hybrid I have
seen of these two species; the other was north of Jerilderie.
Honeyeaters returned to the boree country south of Wanganella. The
first call was heard on 23 December and a pair was nest-building on
30 December. Another nest with eggs was seen on 31 January. By March
all the adults appeared to have departed and the last immatures were
seen in late March.
small colony of Orange Chats bred out on the plains over summer.
When first located in early October a pair was feeding young in a nest.
They resided in a large paddock (about 2000 hectares) of quite dense
cottonbush Maireana aphylla, and at times up to 15 birds were
present. I think that at least three pairs nested in this area. The
species has become scarce south of the Murrumbidgee in the last 20 years
since the big dieback of bladder saltbush in the early 1980s.
It is not clear if these birds are a transient or resident population.
They were seen regularly through the summer but became hard to find
after breeding had finished in March. There was some movement of Orange
Chats over summer, illustrated by a record near Swan Hill where
I have not recorded them for some years.
no apparent effort a Wedge-tailed Eagle was seen to catch a small
kangaroo on the plains on 6 November. This is the second occasion I
have seen Wedgies take kangaroos both since the introduction
of the rabbit calicivirus. On the previous occasion two Wedge-tails
killed quite a large kangaroo. On another occasion over summer two Wedge-tails
were seen in hot pursuit of a White-necked Heron which only just
managed to elude them.
Harrier records have been scant over summer with only a handful
of sightings. Strangely, a few turned up in April and May when they
usually depart the area such is the strange nature of the seasons
the ground being so bare out on the plains Fat-tailed Dunnarts
Sminthopsis crassicaudata have been obvious; about 15
were seen on 7 November and about the same number on 15 April. On the
latter occasion they had been flooded out of the ground by a heavy thunderstorm
and a European Fox was using that happening to his advantage.
Narrow-nosed Planigale Planigale tenuirostris was also
seen on 7 November. This is only the second time I have observed this
species in the wild in 20 years of spotlighting. On both occasions its
been during drought when the plains were very bare. It would be nearly
impossible to see this tiny creature at other times.
two occasions after thunderstorms over summer and autumn the burrowing
frogs have appeared briefly. On 21 January a few of the extremely cute
spadefoot frog Neobatrachus sudelli and some giant banjo frogs
Limnodynastes interioris a very impressive beast
came to the surface. After a heavier storm on 15 April at least
15 spadefoot were seen and six or so giant banjos. However, the water
disappeared within days so there was no opportunity for these species
to successfully breed.
June 03 - January 04
2000-2001 | Spring 2000