and district latest news
Latitude:-35.5269 S Longitude: 144.9520
Elevation: 93.0 m
Latest news 2007 — 2011
spring 2006 to mid
(September 06 to January 07, with occasional references to earlier 2006 records
prediction of The Great Drought waning expressed in the previous Latest
News came to nought. Two thousand and six saw a crippling drought in
the Riverina, with barely any rain in the first six months of the year.
Runoff into our major river systems was the lowest ever recorded. While
2002 was probably a drier year, the cumulative effect of six low rainfall
years in succession had a catastrophic effect on vegetation. The
most obvious evidence is thousands of dead, dying and stressed river
redgums along the Murray/ Darling systems.
(A few Australasian
bitterns may have managed to breed in rice crops and storage
dams east of Deniliquin in the summer of 05/06 with a probable immature
seen east of Deniliquin on 11 April 2006).
On 30 September 2006 the first Australasian bittern of the season was seen at Wanganella
swamp — other than a November 2005 record, this species has not been seen at the Wanganella swamp for many years. Subsequently,
up to four were seen east of Deniliquin during December. Not a single
call was heard and no breeding recorded. There were very few rice crops
in the district and all swamps suitable for breeding were dry.
To my knowledge, not a single little bittern was seen
or heard in the Deniliquin district this summer.
Crakes were in abundance from late September to December with almost
every pond or dam in the district with a cover of cumbungi supporting Baillon’s and spotted crake and with some spotless as well. All three species were
together in great numbers at the Wanganella swamp during December until
the swamp was rendered all but dry. All three species were present
at a drainage lagoon at the outskirts of Deniliquin in December but
this also was soon dry. There must have been a huge exodus of crakes
from the district in early 2007.
Freckled duck have deserted the district; the only sighting of this species was a single bird on a pond in Deniliquin during October 06. Apart from a few flocks of black duck and grey teal and wood duck, ducks generally are in short supply.
The only ducks that appear to have bred with any success this spring/summer are wood duck and a few pairs of Australian shelduck.
A few flocks of glossy ibis were seen in the Wanganella area, and east of town, in November and December.
A single little egret was seen fishing just below Stevens Weir in late December.
The first sighting for around five years of square-tailed kite in the district occurred on
28 December when T. Wheller observed an adult along the Cobb Highway south of Mathoura. A British birder observed, presumedly, the same bird in the same area 1 January. The bird had probably been pushed out of the mountains by the summer bushfires.
The dry conditions inland saw the return of large numbers of black kite in this district.
An adult white-breasted sea-eagle was seen over the highway at Gulpa on 26 November and a sub-adult at a drying out lagoon near Gulpa Creek on 31 December.
Spotted harriers were in short supply with a few passing through in September and October. They were largely absent in November; a few adults were seen over lucerne and grass paddocks in irrigation country, east of Deniliquin, during two of December’s Plains-wanderer Weekends.
A pair of brown goshawks managed to raise two young in Gulpa Island SF. Two barely fledged young were seen being fed a lizard by the male on 31 December.
Wedge-tailed eagles continue to be abundant throughout the district and some successful breeding has occurred. The same cannot be said of little eagle, which are scarce in the district despite the recent rabbit plague. Pairs were seen in the Gulpa Island SF, around Deniliquin and a single bird at Wanganella in the spring/summer. No breeding occurred to my knowledge.
Brown falcons and nankeen kestrels have been in good numbers lately in the irrigation country. Brown falcons have raised clutches of up to four young, demonstrating the incredible resilience of this species.
Black falcons were about in low numbers. In the spring, there were a few out on the plains but mostly they were around the irrigation country in the odd paddock of lucerne or tall dead grass that harboured good numbers of brown songlark, singing bushlark and stubble quail. During November and December they were seen around farm machinery that was cutting hay or harvesting wheat. No breeding was recorded to my knowledge.
Rather amazingly, the pair of brolgas again nested at the Wanganella swamp and appears to have successfully raised one young. The chick was last seen in mid December when it was about three-quarters grown. There was continuous fox baiting in this locality this season by the Rural Lands Protection Board (RLPB) and it seems that this is the only way this species can now successfully breed in the Riverina. The swamp subsequently dried out completely .
Little button-quail have been scarce with just the odd one passing through the plains country in October and November. There were no repeat sightings at the same locality. Red-chested button-quail have not been seen for several years. Painted button-quail have been seen regularly in Gulpa Island SF since October. A female was heard calling on only one occasion and I don’t believe the species bred this season.
After the successful breeding season of 2005/2006, it has been all downhill for this species. They have been present all year in low numbers with a possible influx in November and December in a paddock that still retained some grass cover — with five seen on the 9/10 December 2006 Plains-wanderer Weekend.
Most of their normal breeding habitat is now bare and we are finding them only in one locality that retains some of last season’s dead grass cover.
In early October we saw pairs courting; however, nothing seems to have come of this breeding attempt as no young was seen. The occasional immature-looking bird (pale legs) was seen from October to December so it is possible that some have bred elsewhere in the district. The country north of Wanganella is so dry that around 25 mls of rain in early November was not enough to stimulate breeding.
A few inland dotterel were out on the plains early in the year with records in January and March 2006, thereafter they largely disappeared for most of the year until a couple turned up in early September. They then seemed to disappear until 11 October when good numbers started to come in to stay. By 26 October, up to 30 inland dotterels were present, and in varying numbers stayed for the remainder of that year. As far as I can tell, there was no attempt to breed, seemingly being even too dry for them!
A small number of banded lapwing managed to breed out of the plains in the early spring. Their numbers fluctuated greatly over summer although generally they have been fairly scarce. A few flocks of 20 to 30 started turning up during January 07.
Australian pratincoles managed to raise a few young despite the drought. They began turning up in fairly large numbers in early November, which is quite late for them. They kept moving from paddock to paddock and only a few pairs settled down to nest and raise young. Over 30 birds were present in one paddock on the 9 December Plains-wanderer Weekend but were largely gone by the 16 December Plains-wanderer Weekend. The rest left early, vacating the area mid to late January; their departure perhaps hastened by the big rains in the inland at that time.
At least two Latham’s snipe were located along drains on the edge of town during December. This species is now a rarity in the district.
Good numbers of waders were present at the Tullakool Evaporative Basin during November with a couple of thousand present on 17 November. These comprised mostly red-necked stint, curlew sandpiper, sharp-tailed sandpiper and marsh sandpiper.A few hundred red-necked avocet and black-winged stilt were also present.
There was one unusual looking wader present that I suspect was a hybrid curlew sandpiper/pectoral sandpiper. It had a long decurved bill with a pale base. The breast was heavily spotted rather than streaked and with a sharp cut-off line as in a pectoral sandpiper.
Two wood sandpipers were present all summer. A single wood sandpiper was also seen at the drying out Wanganella swamps on 9 December.
Two pairs of bush stone-curlews, located on the travelling stock routes north and west of Deniliquin in early November, were particularly satisfying records given the species has become rare in the district.
Pigeons and doves
Spotted doves have been resident in the town for about 10 years but their numbers, thankfully, have been declining due to the drought.
Common bronzewing have bred despite the drought with quite a few males calling in Gulpa Island SF and elsewhere in December. On 17 December in Gulpa a nest, on a redgum stump with coppicing regrowth, contained two small young.
No diamond doves were seen in the sandhill country in Gulpa Island this season. A few arrived in sandhill country near Booroorban in November. Although, initially the males were calling, they appear not to have bred and had probably departed by the end of December
Cockatoos and parrots
Long-billed corellas have not been about in the huge numbers (4000-5000) that they were in during the last severe drought period of 2002-2003. They now appear to be dispersed in smaller flocks of hundreds rather than thousands. With the ground so hard for them to dig in, they are working hard for their food and of late, are targeting sporting ovals where the ground is softer.
There were a few small flocks of little corella in the irrigation country east of town over summer; these are the first I have seen locally for some time. I suspect that the long-bills are so numerous locally that to some extent they keep the little corellas out of the district.
On our Plains-wanderer Weekend on 9/10 December, we recorded 18 adult Major Mitchell cockatoos feeding on ripening native willow Acacia salicina seedpods in sandhill country near Booroorban. Breeding was for the most part unsuccessful. One pair, at least, attempted nesting in September but the nest was soon abandoned. This is the largest flock I have encountered in the Booroorban area although R. Nevinson has recorded larger numbers west of Boorooorban. Fourteen Major Mitchells were feeding on dillon bush Nitraria billardieri berries in the same area on 30 December. In January, two Major Mitchells were seen near Booroorban, which appeared to be young birds (per comm. R. Nevinson) so it would seem at least one pair has raised young.
Cockatiels have been fairly scarce all summer with just a few small groups seen mainly to the east of town. Not a single budgerigar has appeared in the district this season. The only record of budgerigars that I know of in the Riverina is a small group seen by D Webb south of Griffith.
Superb parrots did it tough this year with only a low number of juveniles recorded. Many birds did not even return to the forest to attempt breeding this season and spent the spring/summer in the boree Acacia pendula country north of Pretty Pine and in pine country east of town. This was unheard of prior to the current drought.
Superb parrots breeding in Gulpa Island SF were having difficulty finding food in late October and about 80 were recorded feeding in a nearby canola crop. This was the first time I have seen them feeding on canola.
Breeding was more staggered this year with the first juveniles of the season seen on the Gulpa TSR on18 November, a couple of weeks earlier than what I consider normal. About 10 adults and juveniles were present, with the adults feeding on ruby saltbush berries Enchylaena tomentosa.
By 9 December most superbs had left the forest. Around 100 adults and some juveniles were recorded along a lane east of Deniliquin feeding on ripening narrow-leaf hopbush Dodonaea attenuata seeds and on Eremophila longifolia flowers. About two weeks later they were feeding on a heavy infestation of lerp on yellow box Eucalyptus melliodora trees at the same locality.
Cuckoos are again a rarity in the district in particular the pallid, with just one seen in early spring in boree country and another immature bird in mid December at Gulpa TSR.
The odd fan-tailed cuckoo and shining bronze-cuckoo passed through the district in spring but none stayed to breed in the redgum as they once did. The only cuckoo that nested in the district was the Horsefields with just a few juveniles seen with groups of white-winged or superb fairywrens.
Surprisingly, quite a few pairs of boobook owl managed to raise young this season. Even out on the plains a pair managed to raise three young. Let’s hope they survived.
There seemed to be some movement going on with barn owls with six seen out on the plains on the 9/10 December Plains-wanderer Weekend and then none thereafter. Probably little breeding has occurred this year with this species.
Frogmouth and owlet nightjar
Tawny frogmouths have bred well around the town this season with at least four nests found in quite a small area along the river. All of these nests appeared to be successful and fledged young. They seemed to congregate their nests around town this year, probably due to the availability of insects around the street lights and it being desperately dry away from town. One great sighting was a nest built inside a disused chough nest with an adult and young in the nest. Out on the plains in the box clumps there was some breeding attempted by frogmouths but none were successful.
Owlet nightjar are getting scarce in the box clumps on the plains and don’t appear to have bred this season.
Swifts are also scarce so far this season with only three small groups of fork-tails during November and December, one each at Gulpa, Deniliquin and Wanganella.
Kingfishers and bee-eater
Azure kingfishers appear to be holding their own with regular sightings on the Edward River and Gulpa Creek over summer. Single birds were also seen on the Edward River below Stevens Weir and the Werai Forest where they had largely disappeared in the 1980s and 90s. The river is a bit clearer, possibly due to reduced flows of water being pushed through the system due to the ongoing drought. Beds of water plants have begun reappearing in the river in the last couple of years after being eliminated by the European carp invasion in the mid 1970s.
Sacred kingfishes have been about in reduced numbers and have been making an attempt at breeding.I think this is the first season I have not had a single sighting of red-backed kingfisher in the district, nor any sighting in the mallee country in north-west Victoria. They seem to have all stayed to the north this season. It is now many years since we had a breeding pair in the Deniliquin season.
Rainbow bee-eaters are also struggling to survive in the southern Riverina after being all but wiped out in the cold snap in February 2005. A few turned up in the sandhill country east of Deniliquin and in Gulpa Island SF but were late arriving and I don’t think settled down to breed. The only locality where I know breeding was attempted was in sandhill country near Booroorban to the north of Deniliquin where some birds survived the cold snap of two years ago. There have been severe cold snaps again this summer that must have taken a toll on breeding passerines and non-passerines.
Brown treecreepers are progressing ever deeper into the river redgum forest as the forest dries out and the trees become more drought stressed. This species is now more common in areas that were once dominated by white-throated treecreeper.
Variegated fairy-wrens are moving south due to the drought. I have recently recorded them in dense needlewood thickets in the Monimail area, which is about 15 kms south of Wanganella wetlands, in nitre goosefoot, where I had previously recorded them.
The lignum and goosefoot swamps north of Wanganella, which were the stronghold of the wrens, are now so deathly dry that only the hardiest of birds could survive there.
Red wattlebirds continue to be quite common in the town area and have successfully raised young again this season.
A gratifying record was a spiny-cheeked honeyeater in a revegetation area at Gulpa in early October. It was feeding on ruby saltbush berries, a favourite of this species. This is my first record south of town. There has been the occasional singing honeyeater here in previous years.
On the 17 December Plains-wanderer Weekend, we recorded a pair of black-chinned honeyeaters in flowering river redgum in Gulpa Island SF. They were gone by the following Plains-wanderer Weekend. This is my first record here since about 2000 when the drought started to kick in.
Painted honeyeaters have been elusive again this season with just three single sightings. The first sighting was on 27 November in roadside boree, east of Deniliquin; the next sighting was about 20 km away in similar habitat on 16 December; and then again on 30 December in the first locality. All were single males although there may have been a second male calling on 30 December. They appeared to be moving around the district, futilely searching for somewhere to breed. However, it may not be too late as only yesterday (4 February) a pair of mistletoebirds was building a nest out in the boree country. The two species often nest at similar times and localities.
Black honeyeaters were recorded regularly this season in two localities — in patches of flowering Eremophilia longifolia to the north and east of Deniliquin. They were first recorded on 4 October and the final record was12 January. Three or four was the maximum number seen.
Not a single pied honeyeater was seen in the district this season despite the dry conditions inland. It would seem that it was too dry here to attract them in.
In October Orange chats turned up south of Wanganella, which is not a common occurrence. (The last time they were south of Wanganella, I think, was the severe drought of 2002). They were present there in the dillion and cottonbush for about six weeks with flocks of white-fronted chats. There was also a scattering in the saltbush country north of Wanganella that were still present in December.
Robins, babblers, sittella, shrike-tit and whistlers
Amazingly, some species seem to have done quite well in the sandhill country in Gulpa Island SF, despite the extremely dry conditions prevailing. There were the best numbers of red-capped robins for many years with quite a few juveniles fledged. An immature scarlet robin was seen in mid December, indicating that a few are still breeding in Gulpa. A pair of hooded robin managed to raise young and white-browed babblers, a species that has been declining for many years, seems to be making a comeback.
There were at least two pairs of Gilbert’s whistlers attempting breeding in an area where previously I hadn’t had them although I doubt they bred successfully.
Possibly the birds were doing better this season because there was not the lush growth of introduced grasses that have been growing on and around the sandhills in recent years. This type of heavy ground cover does not suit Gilbert’s whistlers and other passerines, which like to feed on bare ground.
The sandhill country looks terrible with many of the old pines collapsing due to old age and drought and many of the stressed river redgums have very sparse canopies. The understorey plants, the fringe myrtle Calytrix tetragona and dwarf cherries Exocarpus strictus, do not look great but despite this some birds are doing okay.
Although they have declined in number both varied sittella and crested shrike-tit successfully fledged young in Gulpa Island SF this season.
Cuckoo-shrikes and trillers
Ground cuckoo-shrikes continue to be a scarce in the district. There have been a couple of groups seen by D. Nevinson in the Booroorban area over summer. On the 16 December Plains-wanderer Weekend we encountered a singe bird in boree country south of Wanganella; and on 7 January a group of about six birds was seen about 20 km south of Conargo. On 13 July, I encountered five near Howlong (NSW), close to the eastern limits of their range.
Only a small number of white-winged trillers migrated into the district this season and were seen scattered about in low numbers. The only locality where breeding was attempted was in the river redgum at Gulpa Island SF; however, no fledged young was seen and I doubt many successfully bred.
It would appear that a pair of olive-backed orioles might have successfully raised young along the river in town. B. Holden heard a male singing over a couple of weeks in November along the river and a few weeks later T. Wheller and S. Seymour located a recently fledged young in the Island Sanctuary. This is only the second breeding record I know of in Deniliquin. On 10 December, an adult was seen near Gulpa that appeared to be migrating south.
There have not been as many flocks of masked and white-browed woodswallows about this season as there have been in previous years. A large mixed flock of 200-300 was present in sandhill country near Booroorban in October, November and December; however, they were restless and breeding was not attempted.
Small groups of white-browed managed to breed successfully in the river redgum forest at Gulpa and were feeding young in nests on 10 December. Birds were well south this season with groups seen west of Kilmore, Victoria, on a couple of occasions in December.
White-breasted woodswallows have been reasonably widespread this season. There were quite a few in the irrigation country east of town, which is rather unusual. Also quite a few pairs successfully fledged young along the river.
Black-faced woodswallows continue to be a scarce in the district with just a few pairs seen around sandridges near Booroorban and on 27 January 07, a few were seen south of town – my only record south of town for the season.
A few dusky woodswallow managed to fledge young in Gulpa Island SF this season.
Bushlark and songlarks
Singing bushlark and brown songlark are quite scarce out on the plains this season and probably only a few bred in early spring. Good numbers of bushlark and some brown songlark were present in November and December in the irrigation country in small paddocks of lucerne being grown for hay or old stubble paddocks where there has been no livestock.
Very few rufous songlarks appeared this season. They were mainly along a few lightly timbered, ungrazed lanes east of town and a few possibly bred there. Probably, most had departed before the end of December.
A few small groups of diamond firetail have been about at Gulpa Island SF and along Tuppal Creek over spring/summer; however, very few have bred and only one juvenile has been seen on sandhills near Mathoura.
The drought has pushed red-browed finches more into the town area and they were regularly seen in my garden during December. They have spread along the river well west of Deniliquin in recent times. In late January there was a small group feeding on the lawn at Stevens Weir.
European goldfinch has all but disappeared from the town with just one seen 17 December.
Mistletoe has not been fruiting well due to the drought and the cool weather conditions in the spring/summer. Mistletoebirds are generally scarce with just a scattering throughout the district, mainly in river redgum forest and boree country. A pair was building a nest in boree on the TSR near Hartwood Station northeast of Deniliquin on18 November and pair was building a nest in an Acacia victoriae in boree country at Monimail, north of Deniliquin on 4 February 07. Quite a disparity in breeding timeframes.
In mid January 2007 I had a sighting of an echidna in Deniliquin SF at dusk. This was my first sighting at this locality. While I occasionally see their tracks, I have only seen about five echidnas in my life in this district.
Fat-tailed dunnarts generally have been scarce out on the plains although their numbers appeared to be on the rise in December and January.
Swamp wallabies are continuing their spread in the district with two seen on farmland south and east of town in December, and my sister, Susan, saw one on her farm northeast of town in October.A few Yellow-footed antechinus were seen in box country near Tuppal Creek and in river redgum at Gulpa Island SF in October and November.
The drought has impacted on snake numbers. I have seen just a few eastern browns, no red-bellied black snakes and only one tiger snake in the swamps at Wanganella.
A few curl snakes were spotlighted out on the plains north of Wanganella in late December. At the same time we located a few tessellated geckos Diplodactylus tessellates that we had not previously recorded locally. An upshot of the ground being so bare is that small creatures are easier to see at night.
The drought has played havoc with butterfly numbers in the district. I have not seen a single yellow admiral this season; however, I did see a few stencilled hairstreak Jalmenus ictinus (which I had not previously identified) feeding on native jasmine Jasminum lineare in boree country at Monimail, south of Wanganella 4 January 07.
Butterflies seen this season include dainty swallowtail, spotted jezabel, caper white, cabbage white, common brown, meadow argus, painted lady, chequered copper, satin azure, stencilled hairstreak, amethyst hairstreak Jalmenus icilius (at Gulpa area feeding on flowering needlewood Hakea tephrosperma and Melaleuca lancelata), two-spotted line-blue (feeding on flowering Acacia victoriae Monimail area), saltbush blue and common grass-blue.
In my garden, I believe I saw a grass-dart, presumedly on distribution, the greenish Ocybadistes walkeri, feeding on flowers of an introduced herb.
spring/early summer 2005
Great Drought that has wrought havoc on southern Australia in the last
five years or so is showing signs of breaking. I know, I started the
last Latest News with a similar statement! Reasonable rain fell
from June onwards, with above average rain in October.
most of the passerines are breeding like crazy, there has not been enough
heavy rain to fill swamps or cause major flooding of the rivers, so
waterbirds are still struggling to regain their numbers. However, waterbirds
are making the most of what flooding there is in the Murray River with
a substantial rookery in the Reedbeds swamps near Mathoura. This flooding
has been aided by 'environmental' water.
5 December intermediate and great egrets were starting
to nest with many birds on eggs and many still building nests. At this
stage, there are about 250 pairs of intermediate and 150 pairs of great
egret. Many are nesting low in willow trees and present a magnificent
sight. Alongside the egrets are good numbers of little pied and little black cormorants and a few darters. Nankeen
night herons are starting to nest high up in adjoining river redgums.
About 4000 straw-necked ibis are nesting on the beds of giant
rush not far away; the majority are on eggs and a few hundred have small
young. White ibis are in lower numbers, mainly with young, and
about 100 pairs of royal spoonbill are just starting to nest.
A couple of pairs of spotless crake were calling in the phragmites
beds, as were three or four little bitterns. On a previous visit
on 23 October, both Australasian and little bitterns were
calling so breeding should be well under way for those species.
It is to be hoped that water levels will be maintained for sufficient
time to allow the waterbirds to breed successfully. This is the first
major breeding event for these species since the summer of 2000 so it
is imperative that these birds succeed in 2005/06.
Undoubtedly a large hatching of grasshoppers in the Mathoura area over
the last few weeks added to the inducement for straw-necked ibis to breed in the area. (The big lignum swamps north of Hay have been
dry for many years so ibis would not have needed much inducement). The
Reedbeds site, this season, contains the greatest nesting of straw-necked
ibis that I have recorded in the river redgum forests on the NSW side
of the Murray.
Grasshoppers are in good supply in the Wanganella district and several
thousand pairs of straw-necked ibis are also attempting to nest in the
Wanganella swamps. This area is also receiving some environmental flows
to maintain water levels. Under this more favourable water regime several Australasian bitterns were heard calling in November, the first
the Wanganella district for many
A few pairs of spotted and Baillon's crakes were moving
about in October and on 16 October there were all three species, including spotless, at one small wetland east of Deniliquin. Some rain
events followed and spotted and Baillon's have hardly been seen since,
although I believe I saw a Baillon's in the talons of a swamp harrier at the Wanganella swamps a week or two later.
Good rains in October brought in some reasonable flocks of white-browed
woodswallow and smaller numbers of masked woodswallow; and
as is (strangely) often the case, small flocks of budgerigars followed them. Most of the budgies passed through although in one locality,
a large black box clump south of Deniliquin, small flocks are settling
in and appear to be going to nest alongside the woodswallows.
Budgerigars have also been about in the Booroorban district in
good numbers but don't appear to have settled down. White-browed
woodswallows started nesting in black box clumps near Booroorban
but most abandoned nests in early November after unsettled weather.
Large flocks of white-browed and masked woodswallows appeared
in late November in sandhill country near Booroorban with many juvenile
birds that probably had been bred to the north of the Riverine Plain.
songlarks have been in reasonable numbers east of town with many
juveniles starting to appear. There has been a mere scattering of brown songlarks on the plains this year, probably indicative of
their low numbers due to drought. Stubble quail are also in short
supply on the plains, having deserted the area in September. Singing
bushlarks are also relatively scarce this season. The scarcity of
these species is probably the reason that spotted harriers completely
deserted the area in October. Presumedly, they have moved somewhere
north east of the Deniliquin district. (Spotted harriers are also scarce
in the Victorian mallee with just the odd pair seen near Mildura).
White-winged trillers have been in fair numbers both north and
south of Deniliquin but don't appear to have nested as yet.
Orange chat numbers have been fluctuating widely in the cottonbush
country north of Wanganella since they first arrived in about July.
Initially they were in quite large flocks, then all but disappeared
in September, only to return again in October. They settled down in
November and some appear to have bred. Likewise, a few pairs of crimson
chat appeared in October but most passed through with just a couple
of pairs nesting in saltbush country on the plains in November. They
now appear to have raised young and departed.
The first diamond dove of the season was located in sandhill
country near Booroorban on 30 September, and it was also the first in
that location for two years. Since then more have appeared in the Booroorban
district, as well as south of Deniliquin in November, and on my sister's
farm north east of town also in November.
Blue-winged parrots passed through the district in October, mainly
on the plains but one male was seen in a box clump south of town in
late October (last seen 30 October).
male painted honeyeater was located on the sandhills in the Gulpa
Island State Forest on 27 November on a Plains-wanderer Weekend. This
is the first record in Gulpa Island for about five years and the first
anywhere in the district for two years. It was still present on 4 December
and found a mate as they were feeding young in a nest on 18 December.
Local resident highlights
The first record of black-chinned honeyeater in the district
for about five years was had in October. It was attracted by flowering
eucalypts that a friend and I had planted on his property along the
Tuppal Creek over 20 years ago.
button-quails were calling well in Gulpa Island SF in October and
November with adult females seen on several occasions.
An adult male scarlet robin was feeding young in a grey box clump
in Gulpa Island SF on 16 October the first breeding record in
the district for some years.
At least two pairs of Major Mitchell Cockatoo have successfully
raised young in the Booroorban area this season with two nests seen
to fledge young in about mid November.
Just two pairs of Gilbert's whistler remain in Gulpa Island SF.
Fortunately, one pair at least has raised young with three or four juveniles
seen with adults on 20 November.
parrots are also breeding well with the first fledged young seen
on 21 November, a couple of weeks earlier than 'normal'. Many pairs
with juveniles were seen on the 4 December Plains-wanderer Weekend.
firetails remain scarce with just a pair or two around Gulpa Island
and along Tuppal Creek but they too are breeding with a pair at Gulpa
seen with five fledged juveniles on 4 December.
Plains-wanderers have survived the drought and grasshopper plague much better than expected. As
the grass cover returned following the rain, plains-wanderers were back in most of their old haunts. Initially they
were scarce in September and early October, with just a few females
calling. On foot at dusk on quite a few occasions in October and early
November we managed to find a calling female. Males with three or four
small chicks were seen on 13 and 21 November. A fledged immature 2-3
month old was seen on 19 November and another on 28 November, which
indicates that breeding has been going on since about August. Other
adult birds seemed to have arrived later as the herbage became more
suitable for them in other paddocks. More mating pairs were seen in
late November in areas where we have not seen them for two years. In
early December an immature female and male (about 3-4 months) were located
close together, which suggests that they breed in their first year as
they are only seen in pairs at breeding time. I've long suspected that
they are capable of breeding in their first year. Another mating pair
of adults was seen in mid December, indicating that breeding will continue
for some time yet.
In late October/early November a few inland dotterels passed
through the Wanganella district. A few appeared again in early December
and whether they stay remains to be seen.
pratincoles are late arriving with the first birds, an adult and
an immature, located on 10 December. Undoubtedly, the good rains in
the inland have enticed them to breed further north and it will be interesting
to see if any breed in our area this season, or indeed, if any hang
around at all.
button-quails have been out on the plains in good numbers. They
started moving in in early October and were calling strongly after dusk
from about 10 October for several weeks. This species doesn't dillydally
after arriving in the district, quickly breeding. The first juvenile
was seen on 19 November and many more clutches of flying young have
been seen since that time.
Banded lapwing numbers have been fluctuating widely, as is their
way, over the last few months. During September, their usual breeding
period, they were scarce with only a few pairs nesting on the plains.
In early December, quite large numbers of adults and immatures began
to appear, indicating they bred further north this season.
Black honeyeaters have almost been a non-event with just a few
passing through in late October/early November.
Birding in the Victorian mallee has been excellent this season, with
all the mallee birds breeding madly. Malleefowl has once again
become relatively easy after being almost impossible to see in recent
years. Bill Labbit located about 10 active mounds near Annuello in October.
I have seen two active mounds in Hattah NP and a third in the Sunset
Country west of Hattah. On 16 November, a record five adult malleefowl
were seen in one day, four near Annuello and one in Hattah, all of them
away from mounds.
Red-lored whistlers are again back in their old haunts in the
Sunset Country after having all but disappeared in the last two years.
Three calling males were seen in late October and early November west
Mallee emu-wrens and striated grasswren have also been
particularly easy and are obviously breeding. Quite a few groups of
both species were seen in October/November.
Recently fledged emuwrens were seen with adults on 16 November
in Hattah and a pair was feeding young in a nest in Sunset Country on
Crimson chats and budgerigars appeared to be breeding
in the Werrimull area west of Mildura on 11 November.
Scores of white-browed woodswallows and lesser numbers of masked woodswallows, many with fledged young, were present
in belah country near Yarrara on 11 November. Also present in this locality
in flowering eremophia (both longifolia and glabra) were
dozens of white-fronted honeyeaters; about 10 black honeyeaters,
including immatures; and one pair of pied honeyeater, also with
immature young. Large numbers of spiny-cheeked honeyeaters were
also present. Many of the larger honeyeaters were feeding on the big
fleshy berries of Pimelia microcephala that had an abundance
of fruit. White-browed treecreepers were feeding young not far
away and to complete the scene, a male Gilbert's whistler was
Several hybrid black-eared miner/yellow-throated miners were
also seen in Sunset Country in November with one appearing to be close
to a pure black-eared miner.
Owlet nightjars appear to be extraordinarily scarce in the mallee
at present. A concerted effort was made on several occasions before
we eventually saw a single bird. They were quite common in the mallee
Red-backed kingfishers are also very scarce with just a single
pair located south of Hattah in sand dunes.
Redthroats appear to have died out in the Pine Plains area in
Wyperfield NP where we located a pair two years ago.
poor health of the floodplain vegetation in the north end of Hattah/Kulkyne
NP is immensely worrying. Due to lack of flooding many hundreds of very
old river redgums and black box trees are dead or dying along the Murray
River floodplain. I fear many of these trees are doomed if there is
no flood down the Murray River in the next year or two unless
there is substantial local rainfall to alleviate stress and buy some
time for these trees.
I have been reliably told that between Booligal and Oxley most of the
ancient river redgums on the Lachlan River are already dead. This is
a major environmental change that we are currently experiencing.
and a complete and utter disaster.
On a brighter note, two pairs of spotted nightjar were located
in Hattah and the Sunset Country in October/November. The pair seen
on 11 November was obviously on a breeding territory.
A pair of Rufous Fieldwren was feeding young on the Roak plain
west of Hattah NP on 17 November.
Foothill forests of north east Victoria
There was some great birding to be had in the foothill forests around
Wangaratta, Chiltern and Beechworth in October and November following
the good rains.
On 11 October about three male painted honeyeaters were calling
in the Killawarra Forest the most for some years.
Spotted quail-thrushes were calling well in the Pilot Range in
forest that had escaped the inferno of February 2003, with two males
calling in that location on 14 November.
Another was seen in burnt forest about 10 km away on the same day, my
first record in the burnt area post fire.
A pair of white-bellied cuckoo-shrike was building a nest in
unburnt forest in the Pilot Range on 13 October.
Many species have yet to recolonise the worst hit areas of the February
2003 bushfires in Pilot Range NP. A one hour count in a severely burnt
area that had been the best birding spot in the Pilot Range produced
just 13 species on 14 November. Some of the species still to return
to this area are spotted quail-thrush, chestnut-rumped heathwren and white-bellied cuckoo-shrike and powerful owl,
which I will be surprised to see again in this location as all the hollow
trees big enough to support possums or owls have been reduced to cinders.
Chestnut-rumped heathwren appear to have disappeared from the
Chiltern and Beechworth areas since the fires and/or drought, with no
response to tape of their call at many former locations.
Species I did record in the burnt area include white-winged triller,
which I think is my first record ever here and painted button-quail (female calling) and white-throated nightjar (male calling) on
14 November; the button-quail and nightjar being my first records back
at this location since the fire.
Turquoise parrots were also back in the Pilot Range with about
10 feeding by the roadside in the burnt area on the Chiltern/Beechworth
road on 13 October.
An unexpected prize on 14 November was a pair of regent honeyeaters feeding in planted eucalypts near Chiltern No. 1 dam. The pair was defending
a flowering eucalypt from other honeyeaters. We saw a noisy friarbird chase a regent honeyeater from a flowering bottlebrush when the honeyeater
ventured about 100 metres away from its territory; only for the regent,
on being pursued back to its feed tree, turn around and see the friarbird
out of its territory.
Ivan and Anne Gugga have planted many trees near their house in this
area and while the regents weren't in their plantings, other species
were, including black-chinned honeyeaters with three juvenile
young, a pair of crested shrike-tit and small flocks of little
lorikeet all species that have become scarce in the forest.
A barking owl was located by chance on 13 October not far from
A visit to the high mountain forests near Myrtleford on the morning
of 12 October produced most of the specialities of the area including pilotbird, red-browed treecreeper, Bassian thrush, rose robin, flame robin and olive whistler. There
was no sign of a pair of sooty owls seen in February. This February
sighting made me wonder if there was altitudinal movement in this species
as they were at about 800 metres. (We got lucky with a male sooty near
Marysville the following evening).
An active bower of a satin bowerbird was located near Myrtleford
on 12 October.
22 April 2005
and Steve Seymour located an adult female bustard on the travelling
stock route just south of Deniliquin airport on 22 April. The
bird appeared to be feeding on locusts, the remnants of a plague
that was out on the plains to the north of Deniliquin.
stayed for three or four days after it was found and has not
been seen since 25 April to my knowledge. This is only my second
sighting of a bustard in this district.
bustard was seen southwest of Wanganella in early March by Geoff
Mulham so there might be an eruption emanating from further
inland where it is very dry over a large area. There were good
numbers around the Tibooburra area in September last year and
perhaps some of these have come south.
1 November 2004 to 25 February 2005
bad news is that bird numbers in the Riverina hit rock bottom this summer.
The good news is that the rain in November, December and January and
the exceptional rain in early February suggests the drought conditions
of the last five years may be coming to an end. From November to 10
February, Deniliquin received nearly 230 millimetres (almost 9 in),
more than half the town's mean annual rainfall.
It will take several good seasons and flooding down the river systems
for the bird life to recover from the onslaught of drought and lack
of major flooding in the Murray/Darling since 2000.
The floodplain vegetation of black box Eucalyptus largiflorens and river redgum Eucalyptus camaldulensis is under severe stress
in many areas where there has been no flooding for ten years or more.
Several isolated clumps of redgum out on the plains are at the point
of no return. A lot of these areas can no longer receive floodwater
from the river systems as roads, channels and other constructions have
cut them off. Some of these trees could be close to 1000 years old.
Stubble quail had disappeared from the
plains in October/November. About 13 centimetres (approx. five inches)
of rain north of Wanganella in December brought some back and as these
birds were calling, they were probably intending to breed. However,
a plague of grasshoppers in January stripped the area of summer grasses
and most of the quail dispersed. It is likely that some will return
after the recent rain.
An adult brown quail with half-grown young was seen on the edge
of a sandhill near the Wanganella swamps on 28 November.
On 2 January around 50 freckled ducks were
located on the Tullakool evaporative basin; numbers had increased to
about 60 by 5 January and to about 100 by 18 January.
Desperate to breed, ducks were on the move after the heavy rains in
December. Two or three pairs of pink-ears were seen on shallow
rainwater swamps out on the plains but most of these swamps only held
water for a few weeks, not long enough for burrowing frogs to breed
successfully, let alone ducks.
A couple of pairs of plumed whistle-ducks, now a rarity in the
district, were seen in irrigation country east of town in November and
December. A few pairs of musk duck have been attempting to nest
in Reedbeds Swamp along Gulpa Creek near Mathoura. Im not sure
if they were successful as the water level dropped about 30 centimetres
(12 inches) in late December, which caused some other species of waterbirds
to abandon their breeding attempts.
Both Australasian shoveler and hardhead are scarce in
the district with just a few of each seen at the Tullakool evaporation
basin during January. Unusual for hardhead to be outnumbered by freckled
At least 10 pairs of great-crested grebes had been attempting to breed in Reedbeds swamp, along the Gulpa Creek,
near Mathoura. (The late November Plains-wanderer Weekend participants
witnessed this species displaying).
However, the drop in water level of about 30 centimetres
(see musk duck above) in late December caused them to abandon their
breeding attempt. On my next visit to the Reedbeds, the adults were
in a flock whereas previously they had been in scattered pairs. The
same thing happened to little bitterns. Many males were calling
in the phragmites clumps in late November/early December. After the
water level dropping, not a single male was heard or seen and no nests
were located. This shows how vulnerable these species are to fluctuating
water levels fluctuated by the group in charge of environmental
flows, I might add!
On a brighter side, there are about 50 pairs of royal spoonbills,
possibly a thousand pairs of straw-necked and white ibis and maybe a hundred pairs of great egret, which as far as I know
are still nesting despite the water level dropping. The egrets must
be struggling to feed their young in early February there was
a flock, ostensibly, feeding on mice out near the Cobb Highway, south
of Mathoura. (Mice are starting to plague in the district).
In November and December there was a great influx of royal spoonbills with 40 to 50 birds on rice crops to the east of Deniliquin. All these
birds were coming into breeding plumage but sadly, due to no major flooding
in most of the Murray/Darling system, there was no place for most of
them to breed.
There are not too many rice crops in the district because of the drought
but Australasian bitterns have been breeding in what crops there
are. They moved into rice crops in late November when the rice was barely
15 centimetres (six inches) high and were clearly visible. One crop
out on the Finley Road had three pairs present in early December. Most
other crops east of town had at least one pair living in them. They
were also calling in crops in the Tullakool district in January. It
has been a cool summer and it will be interesting to see the impact
this has on breeding success.
There were a few small flocks of glossy ibis about the rice crops
in November and December and also at Tullakool evaporative basin in
falcons are still hanging around the Deniliquin tip but are not as
reliable as previously.
With mice starting to plague and a grasshopper
plague in full swing there have been quite a few raptors about. Also,
rabbits have been in good numbers although the rabbit calicivirus has
knocked them back a bit. The mice brought in plenty of black-shouldered
kites. On several occasions black falcons were seen taking
mice from black kites, brown falcons and ravens and also from each other. The black kites and ravens had been picking up mice from behind working farm machinery. On 1 February
there were at least three black falcons, several black kites,
a whistling kite, a kestrel, a brown falcon, a wedge-tailed eagle and an immature spotted harrier all
in view around a working potato harvester east of Deniliquin.
A pair of swamp harriers successfully raised three young in a small
(c1 ha) water storage filled with cumbungi, east of Deniliquin.
Spotted harriers had been scarce in the district this season but the grasshopper plague
and the good rains in December and early February brought a few back.
Worryingly, a dead, adult spotted harrier was picked up on 30 January,
north of Wanganella, after there had been grasshopper spraying in the
The rabbit plague has brought a few little eagles back into the
district with sporadic sightings at Gulpa, Wanganella, Booroorban and
east of Deniliquin; although I doubt that any bred in the district this
season unlike the1980s and 90s when we had many breeding
pairs. (Likewise, in the Victoria mallee, where little eagles were once
common, youd be hard pressed now to see one at all).
Collared sparrowhawks have bred well in the district this season
with three lots of fledged young seen over a couple of days in January,
two in Gulpa and one east of town. The breeding season of this species,
within this district, seems well synchronised as all young had fledged
within a few days of each other.
The Wanganella brolgas looked like they might finally raise young this season. On 28 November, the pair
had a single young that was almost half grown. Sadly, that was the last
time it was seen, presumedly taken by foxes, despite the Rural Lands Protection
Board ranger laying fox baits before the brolgas bred. It bodes badly
for the future of the species in this district.
We were seeing the three species of crakes (spotless,
spotted and Baillons) at waterholes east of Deniliquin during November.
In December, though still present, the spotless became difficult to see,
then easier again recently. After the rain in December the Baillons
seemed to disperse, with the last sighting on 27 December. After the heavy
rain north of Wanganella in December the spotted crakes moved into shallow
lignum and goosefoot swamps along with hundreds of black-tailed native
hens. However, the water wasnt deep enough to sustain breeding and
most of the birds had dispersed again after a few weeks. It is now over
ten years since these species bred in the district in any numbers.
Little button-quail had disappeared completely from the plains until the heavy rains in December,
when a few pairs returned to the cottonbush Maireana aphylla country
and were probably going to breed. However, the grasshopper plague a few
weeks later stripped the plains bare and the button-quails seem to have
Painted button-quails have been fairly hard to locate over summer.
The only successful breeding that I observed was a male with a clutch
of half-grown young seen under dwarf cherry Exocarpus strictus bushes in Gulpa Island SF in December.
Overall, it has been another fairly tough season
for plains-wanderers. Quite a few pairs were nesting in September/October
although there was not much cover around for them. Some of these, at least,
must have been successful as we saw a few juveniles in mid to late December.
These juveniles were not seen for long, presumedly the adults, keen to
breed again after the big rain in December, had given them their matching
orders. With millions of little grasshoppers hatching in late December,
providing unlimited food for plains-wanderers, several females were calling
strongly in mid January. However, I don't think the latter breeding attempt
was very successful as the grasshoppers reached plague proportions and
stripped most of the cover from the breeding area.
Another 6 cm (about 2.5 inches) of rain in early February has the grass
growing back and the grasshoppers have for the most part moved on, so
the plains-wanderers may get another shot at breeding. Like many desert
birds they are able to breed at almost any time when conditions are suitable.
There had been a few migratory waders during January
at the Tullakool evaporative basin: a few hundred red-necked stints, curlew sandpipers and sharp-tailed sandpipers, and lesser
numbers of marsh sandpipers and a few greenshanks. Also
hundreds of red-necked avocets were there in January and up to 50 banded
stilts, although these dropped off towards the end of January.
A wood sandpiper was located out on the plains north of Wanganella
in late December/January at a shallow goosefoot Chenopodium nitrariaceum
swamp that had filled after the heavy rain in early December. Also
at the same swamp, at times, were about 200 sharp-tailed sandpipers,
the odd marsh sandpiper and over 100 red-kneed dotterels.
Although the water was shallow and drying out quickly, at least a couple
of pairs of dotterels nested and had young. I don't know whether they
were able to raise them successfully before the swamp dried out. This
species must be desperate to breed after years of drought.
The same swamp produced a pair of painted snipe in late January but they didn't stay as the swamp was almost dry (R.Nevinson).
There was another pair of painted snipe seen in the area in late
December in a drying out patch of canegrass (D. Nevinson).
Inland dotterels have been elusive for most of the summer. One
or two were seen on 15 September 2004, and then nothing, despite the area
looking ideal for them, until suddenly they were back on 17 January, undoubtedly
lured by the hordes of hatching grasshoppers. They had been back for a
few weeks because on 30 January we saw about 10 adults and at least one
chick, approximately one week old.
About six inland dotterels were seen, in a huge dust storm, on 1 February.
There were moderate numbers of banded lapwings about in November
including a few immatures that had bred in the area. Most of the banded
lapwings dispersed after the rain in December and the species became quite
scarce. Not even the grasshopper hatchings have brought them back to the
district. A few pairs nested in January after the December rain, which
this species doesn't often do, preferring to nest early in the spring.
Spring last year was generally too dry for them so they took the opportunity
in the more conducive summer.
With the plains being so bare, there have been plenty of Australian
pratincoles about. Quite a few pairs were nesting in November/December.
I doubt that they had much success as it was still fairly dry in November
and there was quite a bit of movement going on. When we had some big rains
in early December I think that most of the nests would have been flooded.
January was more successful with three or four clutches of young of various
It would seem that bush stone-curlews have
had another unsuccessful breeding season in the Booroorban area. One pair
appears not to have nested and the other pair nested but seemingly abandoned
after a fox-proof fence was erected around them. Let's hope they get used
to the fence.
Common bronzewings were calling strongly in Gulpa Island SF in December
after the rain.
The first diamond dove was heard ca
to October 2004
There was 53.8 mm (2.1 inches) of rain in November which should make
the next Latest News a bit more interesting.
November and December's Latest News will appear on this page
It has been a tough year. Drought has again ravaged the Riverina with
the longest dry spell I can recallwith almost no rain from January
to May. Late May saw the best rain for the year when 11.8 mm (0.46
inches) fell. The dry conditions, coupled with heatwaves in February,
have knocked the district's bird life, and probably few of the passerine
juveniles from last year's excellent season survived the dry spell.
To the end of October we have received 188.4 mm/7.4 inches of rain,
which is less than half the district's mean annual rainfal (405.7
There is evidence of redgum and blackbox trees,
which require flooding, dead or dying throughout the district. Again,
there has been little flooding in the Murray/Darling system for the
fourth consecutive spring and very little waterbird breeding has occurred
in south-east Australia in that period. This situation is dire for
many species of waterbird.
Even though conditions are less than ideal,
bird life, tenaciously, is hanging on, albeit in reduced numbers and
there have been some good sightings in the district.
Despite the dry conditions, emus
bred well, presumedly because they were in good nick after the rain
in November and December 2003. Many clutches of young have been seen
this spring, some clutches with up to ten chicks. Breeding has occurred
in both the river redgum forest and out on the plains. This is probably
the best breeding result in ten years.
Stubble quails were
out on the plains in reasonable numbers in the late winter but a dry
September/October saw an exodus. Even where there's still good cover
on the plains, there doesn't appear to be any stubble quail. Possibly,
there are still some around the irrigated crops closer to town.
A few brown
quail have been seen and heard calling
during October around the swamp at Wanganella; and my son, Philip,
recorded a clutch of young (in October) along the Forest Creek, west
On 27 July, a pair of Cape
Barren geese was on the lagoon behind the pre-school kindergarten,
first noticed by the pre-school head mistress. The birds were not
banded but appeared to be quite tame. While I can't say whether they
were wild birds or not, the species did formerly occur in the district
with records from Victor Robb in the Caldwell area in the 1960s, and
I believe John Hobbs received records of birds seen on floodwater
in the Morago area in the 1950s.
There being little surface water about, ducks are pretty much a non-event.
The few ducks present have congregated on sewage treatment works (STW)
and other artificial impoundments. There was a recent report of a
freckled duck on an irrigation canal east of Deniliquin,
which shows a level of desperation.
Waterbirds, as I indicated in the overview,
are scarce. About 80 glossy ibis
were seen at the Finley STW on 28 September and a flock of
about 20 was seen on several occasions around the Wanganella swamps.
The first Australasian
bittern for the season was seen east
of Deniliquin on 21 August and since then a few have been seen regularly;
a maximum of three birds was seen on 25 October. They are feeding
in highly marginal habitat along the drains and living in water storages.
There are only a few rice crops in the district because of the water
situation but the bitterns will, I expect, move into these as soon
as the rice is high enough. No little
been seen to date.
In October, a pair of great-crested
seen in a wetland along the Gulpa Creek, which is being kept full
to encourage waterbird breeding.
There is a moderate number of mice about the district attracting a
few raptors, mostly black-shouldered kites
and brown falcons. Rabbits are
plaguing again in the sandhill country out on the plains, bringing
in wedge-tailed eagles, black
and whistling kites
and a few little eagles
have also reappeared in the district. This is the first rabbit
plague we have had since the rabbit calicivirus was introduced about
eight years ago. Wedge-tailed eagles are breeding well with several
nests seen, although with only one young in each.
The mice, so far, have not attracted any letter-winged
kites. The last sighting (J Nevinson) was in heatwave conditions
in mid-February. Reflecting the lack of ground birds in the district,
spotted harriers have been fairly
scarce with just a few passing through in October.
Black falcons are more common at present in the irrigation
country than out on the plains. They are still seen regularly at the
Deniliquin rubbish tip where a pair was seen in September doing a
A pair of brown
seen doing a display flight in Gulpa Island SF on 10 October. In late
October, three active Australian
hobby nests were located in the district
and one active peregrine
was seen near the Edward River, downstream from Deniliquin.
Again, the Wanganella pair of brolgas
is attempting to nest in the swamps. It was mainly the male seen during
October, then the pair on 17 October, after which again it was only
the male. The Rural Lands Protection Board has been laying a lot of
fox bait so perhaps the brolgas have a fighting chance of successfully
breeding. I'm told that another pair of brolgas has been seen with
a nest in the Caldwell area south-west of Deniliquin. They appeared
to be nesting in an all but dry swamp so I'm not holding out much
hope for them. Another pair on 26 October, south of Savernake was
standing beside a tiny pool of water all that remained of their
breeding swamp. Another bad year for brolgas in this district.
Quite a few crakes were about, mainly hanging out in irrigation water
table swamps. On several occasions in October we had all three (spotless,
spotted and Baillon's)
on the one day. It is usually only in times
of drought that these species occur together in the district.
Black-tailed native hens
returned in September after an absence of some months, suggesting
that the inland breeding swamps have dried out (what few there had
been). Lately I've noticed this species feeding on the seed heads
of a type of native millet, suggesting a diverse diet.
So far little
button-quails have been a non-event
with just a few passing through in late September early October.
It is too dry for them out on the plains and they have probably moved
north or south to areas that have had more rain. (Hopefully the
rain we had early November will tempt them back to the district.)
button-quails were seen moving through the district in
late September. It will take a big rain to bring them back. Painted
Button-quails have been about in reasonable numbers in
the Gulpa and Pretty Pine areas and some breeding was attempted in
early October but they seem to have gone off the boil and no young
have been seen so far. (Again, the November rain should get them
Plains-wanderers have remained
in some of their old haunts over winter. Some paddocks have not regained
their structure or diversity since the big drought of 20022003
although some plains-wanderers did move back into these areas briefly
last spring/summer but moved out during the long dry spell earlier
this year. They have attempted to nest with the first mating pairs
seen in mid-September and they were still mating in mid-October. No
young have been seen yet. (Once more, the November rain will be
of enormous benefit to them).
Inland dotterels continue to be
sporadic with one seen on 18 February, then nothing until one or two
were seen on 15 September. They seem to have disappeared again despite
much of the plain looking ideal for them. I guess that with such a
vast area of the riverine plain bare to the north of Hay they have
spread far and wide.
The last Australian pratincoles
for last season were three birds seen on 12 February and the first
for this season was seen on 20 October. By October's end they were
present in most suitable paddocks. Banded
lapwings have been reasonably scarce for most of the year.
The spring, so far, has been too dry for them and only low numbers
A few migratory waders passed through the district in about mid September,
mainly sharp-tailed sandpipers and
the odd marsh sandpiper.
PIGEONS & DOVES
The last diamond dove
for the season, a juvenile, was recorded at Booroorban on 12
February. They have not turned up this season as yet. Common
bronzewings have not bred so far this spring.
Most of the budgerigars had left
the district by the end of February. One small flock was seen in suitable
habitat on 7 March. No budgies have been seen so far this spring.
A few small flocks of cockatiels
were seen about the district in early October but most had left the
district by the end of that month.
During autumn and winter, flocks of up to 30 superb
parrots, adults and immatures, were present in the boree
country north of Deniliquin and in yellow box country south-east of
Deniliquin. By September they were back in the Gulpa area, feeding
initially on the Hill Plain TSR on small flowered onion weed Romulea
minutiflora bulbs (dug up by long-billed
corellas?) and probably on blue crowfoot Erodium
crinitum. This area became very dry
and by mid October most of the superbs had retreated to the redgum
forest where they were feeding mainly on smooth catsear Hypochaeris
glabra. At this point they were very approachable. Their food
supply had run out by late October and they resorted to feeding in
a ripening wheat crop, which they rarely do. There are quite a few
nesting and it will be interesting to see how many young can be raised
in the current harsh conditions.
A few flocks of blue-winged parrots were
present on the plains north of Wanganella during September. On 15
September about 20 were feeding on blue
crowfoot on a sandy rise. They seemed to be moving south by 10 October
when two were feeding on a sandhill near Wanganella and another was
seen east of Deniliquin around this time. These were the last records
for the season.
Cuckoos are scarce at present. A few pallids
were seen in September and quite a few Horsfield's
were about in August and September. There is the odd juvenile still
about but the adults have mostly departed.
Azure kingfishers have been about
in good numbers of late, probably due to the Edward River and Gulpa
Creek running a bit clearer than they often do in the spring. One
active nest was seen on the Edward River in Gulpa Island SF and another
possible nest on the Gulpa Creek.
There are quite a few pairs of sacred kingfishers
in the redgum forest. I have seen only one red-backed kingfisher so
far this spring (mid October), east of Deniliquin.
Dollarbirds appear to be rather
scarce again this year. So far I have only seen one bird in Gulpa,
heard one in town and heard another at Steven's Weir, west of town.
Summer migrants have been disappointing so far this spring with the
exception of rufous songlarks,
which have been breeding on the roadsides mainly east of town during
October. A few flocks of masked
and white-browed woodswallows
have appeared in the district in October but were mostly on the move
with just a few white-browed possibly settling down in the black box
country in the Booroorban area.
Only one black honeyeater was
seen during October, a female, in flowering Eremophila longifolia
near Wanganella on 30 October. Striped honeyeaters
are breeding east of town in roadside boree. Two active nests were
seen in October.
Red-capped robins are very scarce
in the district at present with just a few pairs having bred in Gulpa
Island and elsewhere in the district. The best population at present
is probably in pine woodland near Booroorban, ironically one of the
driest parts of the district. Much of the woodland closer to town
is getting choked up with introduced weeds making it impossible for
them to feed. A pair of hooded robins
has been seen in Gulpa Island and another pair in box woodland near
Pretty Pine. The Gulpa pair are known to have raised young.
Gilbert whistlers have been elusive
in Gulpa of late. The old pair at Langman's has shifted across the
river to a thick patch of dwarf cherry after living on the sand hills
for at least 25 years. It appears the sand hills have become too dry
and choked up with introduced weeds for them. Another male was located
about 300 metres further north from the usual nesting territory north
of the sand hills, and may be nesting at that locality. No young have
been seen yet.
Just a few sightings of ground cuckoo shrikes
north of town over winter and early spring. My sister, Susan, was
seeing a group on her farm for a while but hasn't seen them of late.
There were a few sightings on the plains north of Wanganella at about
the same time but they also seemed to have disappeared.
Diamond firetails have become
very scarce again. A few were seen along the Tuppal Creek in September
and one pair seen on occasions in Gulpa Island during October. The
recent rain should get them breeding.
2003 to January 2004
While at last we can say the recurring theme of drought
in these Deniliquin district updates is over, at least for the moment,
the continuing drought in much of Queensland and western NSW still
influences the avifauna turning up in this district.
We had our first good rains in July and August. The plains became
so wet that plains-wandering activities were adjourned on a couple
of occasions. However, September, October and most of November were
dry and it seemed we were returning to drought mode, but then summer
thunderstorms in late November/mid December saw deluges around the
district totalling 3 to 5 inches (76 mm
The rains have revitalised the bird life and many species (mostly
passerines) are still busy breeding. However, worryingly, this will
be the third consecutive summer when no rivers in the Murray/Darling
system have flooded to any significant extent. Waterbird breeding
has been very limited in south eastern Australiathe main breeding
ground for most of our waterbirds. As far as I can ascertain, very
few colonial nesting waterbirds (ibis, egrets etc) have breed since
the summer of 2000/01.
Some emus bred after the breaking of the drought. Out on the
plains not a lot bred successfully with only a few small clutches
seenprobably the rains came too late. They were more successful
in Gulpa Island State Forest where a male with six chicks was seen
on several occasions feeding on the fruits of dwarf cherry Exocarpus
strictus during December.
Stubble quail were out on the plains north of Wanganella in
moderate numbers in late winter/early spring. After it turned dry
in October most left the area with just a few remaining to breed.
An adult female with five half-grown young was seen on 10 November.
After the late November/early December rain some returned to the area
and they are probably still breeding.
Brown quail have not been recorded in the district this season
A few plumed whistle-ducks, which have become very scarce in
the district over the last 10 years, have been about over the spring/summer
with a couple of pairs seen east of town in October. A single injured
(lame) bird was at a small wetland in town during November and December.
Four more birds were seen at the same locality on 20 December.
Freckled duck continue to be scarce, mainly due to lack of
surface water. A pair was seen at the Corowa Sewage Treatment Works
(STW) on 26 October and two pairs at the Deniliquin STW on 5 January.
About 10 pairs of blue-billed duck have been on the Gulpa Creek
wetlands during the spring/summer, where presumedly they have been
breeding, or at least attempting to breed. To my knowledge, this is
the first record at this locality since the early 1980s. Water levels
have been maintained in these wetlands this season, which augurs well
for breeding success.
An adult female musk duck with well-grown young was seen on
12 January on the Gulpa Creek about 15 km downstream from the breeding
swamps. Musk ducks commonly bred in the Murray swamps a couple of
decades ago but it is now a rare event.
A few little and intermediate egrets were seen in rice
crops north and east of town in November and December. The little
egret, in particular, is uncommon in the district and their presence
in rice crops, which is not their preferred feeding habitat, would
indicate that there is not much habitat available to them elsewhere.
Neither species has bred in the district since the summer of 2000/01.
With all the rivers dammed up for irrigation it is difficult to see
how the intermediate egret, which once bred in colonies of 1000+ pairs
on the Murray and its tributaries, will survive in the longer term.
In desperation, the great egrets have again set up a colony
on a backwater of the Edward River in Deniliquin, with about 50 nesting
pairs creating a spectacular sight in the middle of town. They are
flying at least 30 km to feed on the few rice crops that are about
and it will be interesting to see how these distances affect breeding
Australasian bittern sightings have been sporadic with just
a handful of birds seen east of town in October and November. There
was little available habitat for them during that time and I suspect
there were better numbers in the Berrigan/Savernake area where they
had good rain and many of the rainwater swamps had filled. Three were
seen at one of these swamps on 26 October and they possibly bred there.
A few have been calling in rice crops north and east of Deniliquin
in January so some belated breeding is being attempted; however, they
will need to be quick to raise young before the crops are harvested.
Fortunately the rice is also late due to the cold weather in October.
Little bittern (black-backed bittern) was first seen on 24
November when an adult female was flushed from cumbungi (Typha
sp) east of town. The first male was heard calling at the same locality
on 29 November and was seen, and heard calling, on several occasions
from that time to mid December. The habitat is marginal at this locality
so they may not have bred successfully.
Another hybrid straw-necked/Australian white ibis was seen
at the Wanganella swamps in early November. The bird in flight was
reminiscent of a magpie goose.
Glossy ibis has been scarce. A few were seen on rice crops
east of town in early December, and about 30 at the Wanganella swamps
on 16 January.
Black-shouldered kites continue to be conspicuous by their
absence, the lack of mice in the district being the likely cause.
A single letter-wing kite was seen on the plains north of Wanganella
on a couple of occasions in September; the last sighting being 21
There was a major influx of spotted harriers in September and
October. Most had moved through by November; however at least one
pair nested on the plains north of Wanganella, making it the first
breeding record for some years.
White-breasted sea-eagles have been sighted regularly at the
Wanganella swamp in the last 12 months and it is possible that they
bred in the area. Two immatures were sighted early February 2004.
Little eagles continue to be scarce with ostensibly only transient
birds in the district over summer. (Rabbits, the main prey of little
eagles, declined with the introduction of the rabbit calicivirus in
the mid-1990s, and more recently the drought has kept the rabbit population
Raptor numbers in general appear to be well down in the district,
particularly brown falcon and kestrel. The exceptions
are black kite and wedge-tailed eagle, which have both
bred at a number of localities this season. No less than four black
falcons pirating food from black kites was a memorable sighting at
the Deniliquin tip on 21 August. (I only ever saw them with food that
had been pirated from black kites and ravens at that locality). Later
in the day another black falcon was seen in irrigation country north
east of town. One or two black falcons were present for most of the
year at the tip, but have dispersed since the rains. They are now
back out on the plains although not in any numbers.
The resident pair of Wanganella swamp brolgas nested this year
and was seen with a small chick in early October; however, the chick
disappeared soon after and was not seen againmost probably taken
by foxes. Mathew Herring has been studying brolgas in the Riverina
and northern Victoria in recent years and has kept tabs on about 22
pairs that bred this season in those districts. Only one pair, located
south of Berrigan, still has a young surviving. Foxes, I believe,
take most of them. A pair near Jerilderie is attempting to nest for
the third time. Given the woeful replenishment of numbers, the brolga
population in this district must be aging and could be gone from the
district in my lifetime.
Crakes have been fairly scarce in the district over summer; it being
neither wet enough nor dry enough to bring them in. There have been
sporadic sightings of Australian spotted crake at a couple
of small wetlands and more regular sightings of spotless crakes
in the Wanganella swamps, although these have been uncooperative of
Locally, Baillon's crake has been particularly scarce over
summer with not one sighting. This species breeds well at times in
the rainwater swamps in the Berrigan/Savernake area and that probably
accounts for their scarcity in the Deniliquin district.
Black-tailed native-hens have been about in reasonable numbers
over summer indicating that most of the lignum Muehlenbeckia cunninghamii
and nitre goosefoot Chenopodium nitrariaceum swamps, their
preferred breeding habitat, are still dry. Their desperation to breed
was evident when a pair nested beside a small dam with a few goosefoot
bushes around the perimeter highly unusual. There has been no
major breeding of this species in the district since about 1990.
Little button-quail have been about through the district in
good numbers this season with the first bird seen on the plains north
of Wanganella on 21 September. Their numbers built up and they have
been in various locations including the Gulpa area where at least
one pair nested in an area we are revegetating. Out on the plains
a male with four tiny chicks was seen on 27 October. Over the next
few weeks many clutches of young were recorded and many more would
have nested since the November/December rain.
There has been only one sighting of red-chested button-quail
on the plains so far this season. It will take several good seasons
for numbers to recover to pre-drought levels.
Painted button-quail have returned to Gulpa Island in good
numbers after being all but absent during the drought. During November
and up until mid December at least one female was calling in an area
of redgum Eucalyptus camaldulensis and grey box Eucalyptus
microcarpa. On 9 December, an adult male with four large young
was located not far from the female.
The bareness of the plains had a significant impact on plains-wanderers
and by June they were present in very low numbers. They moved
into paddocks that most years would have been too thick for them
an adult female was seen on 5 August in one such paddock. Their usual
haunts had been bare for about 12 months but after the good rains
in July and August vegetation was re-establishing and a female had
returned to one of the old haunts by 21 September. I was surprised
that they recolonised so quickly. They continued to build up as cover
improved, although they were slow to start breeding, probably because
the country was still bare and very wet in July and August.
The first female heard calling was on 8 October. By mid-to-late October
at least six adult females were calling in their territories, although
their density was low and they were still hard to locate. At this
time we spotlighted on foot and were often able to locate a female
by her call at dusk.
By about mid November, with no significant rain since August, it was
starting to become dry again. The plains-wanderers stopped calling
about this time, presumedly indicating that that round of breeding
was over. On 20 November the heavens opened and the plains received
three to five inches (76 mm 127 mm) over the next month, prompting
the recommencement of breeding.
While they were not calling as well as they were in late October and
November, several mating pairs were seen in December. They should
continue breeding well into summer and re-establish numbers after
having hit rock bottom.
So far this season four nests with eggs have been seen: two nests
with four eggs each on 27 October, only about 70 m apart so probably
both males/nests were aligned to the one female. Another nest with
four eggs was seen on 14 November and another with five eggs on 6
December. I think this is the first nest I have seen with five eggs
although I have seen males with five and even six young in good seasons.
On 9 December an adult male with four well-grown young, about three
weeks old, was located. The first independent juvenile, about two
months old, was seen on 15 December.
Inland dotterels have been sporadic. They had been present
on the plains north of Wanganella for about thee years but became
scarce before the July rain when the plains were desolate. There was
the odd sighting when the ground cover was re-establishing after the
rain. A group of 12 was seen on 5 August but numbers dropped off as
the vegetation became thicker. Again, there was a bit of movement
with the odd bird or two turning up here and there during November.
In December they became more reliable with small groups of up to three
regularly seen; however they seem to have disappeared again recently.
No breeding has been recorded this season.
Competition for bare ground from banded lapwings, which were
in their hundreds and bred well, may be the reason for the dotterels
lack of breeding activity, and perhaps forced the dots to move on.
The first clutch of young banded lapwings was seen on 5 August and
clutches of small young were recorded well into December. Numbers
diminished in January.
One of the largest influxes for many years of Australian pratincoles
was present on the plains this spring. Although a few birds were seen
in September and October, they appeared en masse around 10 November.
Quite a few moved on but many settled and nested semi-colonially on
every available bit of bare ground. (The first egg was recorded 18
November). In contrast to 2002 when bare ground was everywhere, this
year it is hard to come by and banded lapwings, Australian pratincoles
and inland dotterels may have been competing for space.
The little curlew invasion
On 19 October Steven Seymour and I were watering trees on a sandhill
that we are revegetating beside the Wanganella swamps when a large,
noisy wader flew over. As it was overcast and our binoculars were
out of reach we were unable to identify it. However, on 25 October
a little curlew was located feeding with banded lapwings on
the plains north or Wanganella and I realised when the bird flew off
calling loudly that this was our mystery bird. Another bird was located
over a month later in the same area as the bird seen 25 October. Again,
the bird was feeding and flying with around 200 banded lapwings. Towards
the end of December a group of five and a group of11 were seen in
a nearby paddock. The sightings were sporadic with no birds seen on
two consecutive days. In early to mid January, Dave Webb located a
group of three and then a group of 28 in plains country south east
of Jerilderie. The group of 28 has been roosting in the afternoon
for a couple hours around a drying out swamp. This is by far the largest
invasion I have seen, or heard of, in the Riverina. It's assumed that
drought conditions in western Queensland and the Gulf have forced
them further south than normal.
We located the nest of a bush stone-curlew in black box woodland
near Booroorban on 25 October. This was an exciting find as I had
not seen a nest in the district since the early 1990s. We did not
go back near the nest for fear of disturbing them; however, they disappeared
soon after and it is almost certain that breeding failed.
A couple of pairs of diamond doves were seen in grey box and
redgum in Gulpa Island SF on 10 November. The following day a couple
more pairs were recorded in black box country near Booroorban. A male
was also heard calling in remnant pine woodland east of Deniliquin
during December and January. They were breeding at all three localities
and were definitely successful at Gulpa and Booroorban where fledged
juveniles were seen. It is extraordinary that the district can have
no diamond doves one day, and they can be throughout the district
the next - a phenomenon that occurs with most of the inland migrants.
The first budgerigars were recorded on the plains north of
Wanganella on about 25 October; thereafter, small flocks appeared
throughout most of the district. Flocks of around a hundred birds
were seen in black box country near Booroorban and around the rosewood
Alectryon oleifolius and pine Callitris glaucophylla clumps
north of Wanganella. These larger flocks seemed not to breed although
some of the smaller flocks did. On my sister Susan's property north
east of Deniliquin six pairs nested in a black box Eucalyptus largiflorens
/ rosewood clump. Some, I think, also bred on the edge of the redgum
forest at Gulpa Island SF. (At least one was still present at that
locality 16 January). A far cry from the 1920s and 30s when budgerigars
occurred in their thousands in this district (as witnessed by my father
as a boy); now we get excited about a hundred!
Cockatiels invaded the district during October. They were reasonably
numerous on the plains country north of Wanganella. Numbers dropped
off in November and December although a few small flocks have appeared
again in January. Some at least must have bred this season in the
Superb parrots have bred quite well in Gulpa Island SF this
season. A survey undertaken by NSW State Forests during October located
around 35 nests, which is probably around half the number of pairs
that nest in that locality. Some of the nests were located about 10
km further north than previously recorded. The nesting was more staggered
than usual, probably due to the drought and cold weather in October.
During that month up to 60 males were feeding on blue crowfoot Erodium
crinitum in the Hill Plain area. In November they fed more in
the redgum forest and were seen feeding on smooth cats-ear Hypocharis
glabra on at least one occasion.
first clutch of fledged young was seen on 24 November, a bit earlier
than normal. On this occasion the adults were feeding on green seedpods
of Acacia hakeoides. About a week later a pair was feeding
on the green seedpods of Acacia pycnantha. (The pycnantha had
been planted about 10 years ago with the hope that the superbs would
one day feed on it). On 9 December about 25 adults and juveniles were
feeding on the bulbs of small flowered onion grass Romulea minutiflora
that had been uncovered by a grader along the highway near Gulpa.
On 5 January at least 80 adults and juveniles were feeding on ruby
saltbush Enchylaena tomentosa berries in grey box woodland
on the Travelling Stock Route (TSR) at Gulpa. The superbs stayed in
the Gulpa area much longer this season than the last few no
doubt due to the good rains in the area in November/December.
The most blue-winged parrots for many years were present on
the plains in the winter and spring. Up to 30 birds were feeding on
bladder saltbush Atriplex versicaria seed on the TSR, north
of Wanganella on 27 July. These or other birds were present in varying
numbers until at least 25 October when about six birds were seen feeding
in flowering lignum. They probably stayed in the area longer this
year because most of the plains country north of Hay and further inland
was still dry at that time.
Cuckoos made a welcome reappearance this spring after being scarce
during the drought. A few fantailed and pallid were
seen in boree and box country out on the plains in winter/spring.
In October and November there was a few shining bronze-cuckoo calling
at Gulpa Island and around the town the first for some years.
Horsfield's have bred well in the district this season. Quite
a few juveniles being fed by fairy-wrens were seen around the goosefoot
swamps out the on the plains.
There are still a few azures along the Edward River. I saw
one on 14 December in the Island Sanctuary and about six were seen
in early January by my partner when she was kayaking along the Edward
from Taylor's Bridge to the junction of the Gulpa Creek. The species
suffered a dramatic decline in the mid1970s and the 80s.
Just a few red-backed kingfishers passed through the district
this season; two were seen near Gulpa on 15 October. None have bred
in the district for several years to my knowledge.
Dollarbirds are scarce this season. I have only seen two birds
and heard reports of at least two other pairs along the river in town.
The good rains in July and August generated the best summer migrant
influx for years. The first rufous songlarks were seen on 27
July and by 21 September the district was full of singing males. Juveniles
were everywhere from mid-to-late December and the singing ceased.
Similarly, brown songlarks have bred in tremendous numbers
out on the plains. There's been good numbers of white-winged trillers
about and they have also raised plenty of young.
There was an eruption in September of crimson chats out of
the inland. The first bird, an adult male, was seen in a goosefoot
swamp on the plains north of Wanganella on 21 September. Another
10 were seen in the Tullakool area the following day. Then they seemed
to disappear for a few weeks and I didn't see them again until 16
October when a single bird was seen near Booroorban with a migrating
flock of about 50 white-winged trillers. On 25 October a migrating
flock of about 10 crimson chats, in company with several orange
chats and white-fronted chats, was seen in saltbush country
north of Wanganella. (This was my only sighting of orange chat in
the district all spring/summer). Over the following week migrating
flocks of crimson chats were encountered on several occasions
and on 4 November the first nest with eggs was located in goosefoot
and black box country near Booroorban. At least six pairs nested in
this area. Pairs probably bred around most dry goosefoot swamps on
the plains north of Wanganella. Although they appear on the plains
every five years or so, it is quite rare for them to nest. The flush
of insect life after the drought was, I suspect, the stimulus required
to get them breeding (along with all the other migrants that bred
in great numbers). Only one group of crimson chats was seen south
of Billabong Creek in the boree country in the Monimail area
on 4 November. The pairs around Booroorban bred successfully and many
juveniles were still present on 27 December.
In early November huge flocks of masked and white-browed
woodswallows appeared in the district. In the Booroorban area
masks were well in the majority and I thought great numbers would
nest in the box and pine country; however, as is the wont of woodswallows,
only smaller flocks finished up breeding in the area along
with a similar number of white-browed. (It was still the largest nesting
of masks that I had seen in the district). South of Deniliquin, quite
good numbers of white-browed woodswallows successfully bred in the
river redgum forests at Gulpa; these had departed by mid January.
On 6 December, after storms the previous week had animated hordes
of flying insects, five species of woodswallow (all but little) were
seen hawking over box woodland near Booroorban.
A group of variegated fairy-wren were seen in goosefoot bushes at
the Wanganella swamps on 13 December a locality where I have
not recorded them for several years. Another group was recorded in
pine country near Booroorban in October.
Pied and black honeyeaters appeared this summer. I hadn't
expected to see the pieds but it just confirms that much of the inland
was still in drought in November and December. The first of both species
was seen 10 November at a small Eremophila longifolia clump
east of Deniliquin. At least two male pieds and about six black honeyeaters
were present with two white-fronted honeyeaters, a species
we rarely see in this district. A painted honeyeater was sighted briefly
on the same day in an adjacent area of boree Acacia pendula.
Up to three male pied honeyeaters were seen on 18 November. They seemed
to alternate between two clumps of Eremophila about 10 km apart,
until the last sighting, a brown bird, was seen on 10 December. The
last black honeyeater was seen on 18 December. The white-fronted honeyeaters
were still present on 5 January at the same locality where they were
first sighted on 10 November.
Apart from the already mentioned painted honeyeater, this species
was late coming in this season. No other was located until 16 January
when a single female was seen in boree country north of Deniliquin.
It's hoped that the male was on a nest as we heard a male calling
prior to locating the female.
Black box woodland near Pretty Pine produced my first ever record
of pink robin for the district on 24 August. It was only a
brown bird but observed closely. The bird when first encountered was
skulking low down in a nitre goosefoot bush and not at first so easy
to see; however, it flew to the lower branches of a large black box
and was much easier to observe. We studied it for some time and considered
the possibility of it being a rose robin. However, its buff coloration
with pale buff wingbars along with its constant flicking of wings
and tail, and hunting from a low perch rather than hunting along branches
as does the rose robin persuaded us it was a female or immature pink
robin. Possibly it had been pushed out of the mountains by fire or
drought. This species may be an irregular migrant but in such low
numbers it is rarely encountered. It can also be easily overlooked
or identified incorrectly. A bird seen by Richard Loyn over 20 years
ago in the Barmah forest is the only other pink robin record I'm aware
of for this district. It's a regular but rare migrant to the Chiltern
area, which is only a short distance from the Murray River of which
the Edward River is an anabranch. The black box woodland that our
bird was seen in is a few kilometres from the Edward R.
My first record west of Deniliquin of white-browed babblers occurred
near the Wakool River bridge on 22 September. The species will live
in thick redgum saplings so there may be some suitable habitat for
them along the Wakool. (They are mainly confined to the river redgum
country south of Deniliquin). A couple of years ago I recorded chestnut-crowned
a few kilometres north of the Wakool river and grey-crowned
are resident in the area, making a trifecta of babbler species in
In early October only one pair of Gilbert's whistler in Gulpa
Island SF could be located. (Prior to the drought there were four
pairs). By late October another pair was back in their old haunts
in the dwarf cherry. Both pairs nested in October and November but
I don't think they were successful. Both pairs nested again in December.
On 13 December a third male was heard calling, so there may be three
pairs back in Gulpa Island.
The drought has had an impact on white-bellied with no records in
Gulpa Island for the last couple of years. There was a pair of ground
cuckoo-shrikes seen for a while in the Monimail area, north of town,
in early October. The odd group was seen on the plains north of Wanganella
over summer, but they are scarce, probably because the plains are
a bit too grassy for them.
Diamond firetails are still in their old haunts but in very low numbers
due to the drought; however, they are breeding at present so their
numbers should get back up if the good season continues. Juveniles
were seen in two localities in December including a clutch with six
juveniles being fed by adults in black box woodland near Booroorban.
Another juvenile was seen in grey box woodland on the TSR at Gulpa.
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