DISTRICT BIRDING NEWS
In contrast to the country
only a few hundred kilometres to the north, Deniliquin experienced dry
conditions for most of the winter and early spring. However, things
changed in late October when the skies opened and six to eight inches
of rain fell over a period of four weeks. I was in New Zealand for that
whole period and since returning barely a drop of rain has fallen. Perhaps
I need to go away again!
The Redgum Forests
The rain had a dramatic effect on the birds it is as though we
have had two springs! Everything is breeding like crazy with many of
the smaller passerines nesting two and possibly three times. The Gulpa
Island Forest is alive, species such as Red-capped Robins and
Rufous Whistlers are breeding in numbers not seen for more than
ten years. At least two pairs of Hooded Robins have successfully
raised young. There are four pairs of Gilberts Whistlers
in the Gulpa and at least two pairs are feeding young at present. Crested
Shrike-tits are calling everywhere and a female Painted Button-quail
was calling there on the 24th November. A group of Painted Button-quail
has been seen at the same locality on several occasions since that date.
Cuckoos are in
good numbers in the Gulpa: Pallid, Fantail and Shining-Bronze
are probably breeding, which, if they are, is rare mostly they
just pass through in the spring and autumn. Only on a handful of occasions
(over a period of twenty years) have I recorded these species breeding
in the district, with the Pallid less likely than the other two cuckoos
to breed here. Note: since writing the above I have seen a juvenile
Pallid Cuckoo being fed by a Jacky Winter (29 Dec 00).
are also breeding in the district with three active nests located this
are about the town, as they often are around Christmas, and I have seen
smaller lorikeets around Gulpa that I suspect are Purple-crowned.
are breeding well in Gulpa. Clutches of juveniles have been seen, as
well as adult males doing their delightful breeding dance with a large
spray of grass seed head in their bills.
Superb Parrots experienced
a bad start to the breeding season and it seemed for a while that they
were not going to breed at all. In early October I started to see a
few flocks of males and a few flocks of immature non-breeding males
with them. So far, I have seen one clutch of flying young in Gulpa.
For the second consecutive year the adults have changed their usual
feeding pattern and left the forest immediately after breeding. This
may be because the Exocarpus has not fruited well over the last two
summers. The fruit of this species is an important food source for the
recently fledged young.
Note: since writing the above I have located (28 Dec 00) good numbers
of Superb Parrots (including juveniles) feeding on lerp, to the east
of Gulpa forest lerp is thick on Yellow Box in that area.
Perhaps the most exciting
occurrence in the redgum forests this year are the colonies of waterbirds
returning to breed after a long absence. We have had a couple of fairly
late floods through the forests; they were not particularly high floods
but came at just the right time to stimulate breeding. The forests have
been pretty much dry since 1996 and all the swamps have had a good dry
out; consequently, the forests have exploded with waterbirds with the
arrival of fresh floodwater.
In Moira Forest alone,
there are over 1500 pairs of Nankeen Night-herons nesting, over
300 pairs of Great Egrets, and fantastically, over 100 pairs
of Intermediate Egrets. This latter species was formerly the
most numerous breeding egret species in the forests with colonies of
several thousand pairs breeding up to the 1970s in the Barmah/Millawa
forests. This years breeding has been the first since the late
1980s. Also in their hundreds are Great, Little Black and
Little Pied Cormorants, smaller colonies of Darters, and
over a hundred pairs of Royal Spoonbills and White-necked
Across the Murray River
in Barmah Forest, more than 5000 pairs of Straw-necked Ibis are
nesting. Australasian Bitterns have also been heard booming in
swamps on both sides of the river possibly the best numbers since
the 70s or 80s. Time will tell if the water will stay up long enough
for the birds to breed successfully. Also Little Bitterns have
bred successfully, juvenile young seen on 30 December.
Conditions out on the plains, north of town, are excellent as well.
Pied Honeyeater is probably the most unusual species recorded.
An immature bird was present for several weeks in late November - early
December on an Eremophila-covered sandhill near Wanganella. An adult
male, on a nearby sandhill, was reported in the same timeframe. These
are my second records of this species in over twenty years birding in
the district. The first record was in the drought year of 1982. Oddly
enough, there have been no records of Black Honeyeaters in the
district this year; perhaps conditions are too good further north.
The first Painted
Honeyeater turned up at the boree country south of Wanganella on
the 4th December. So far, I have only seen a very restless male. This
species disappeared from this area in the early 1990s and was recorded
back here for the first time last year, albeit, only a couple of pairs
and at different localities than the species had inhabited previously.
Why they disappeared is unclear as the habitat seemed in reasonable
condition; however, there had been an increase in the number of Noisy
Miners which may account for it..
Over fifty pairs of Glossy
Ibis are nesting in a colony of around 5000 pairs of Straw-necked
Ibis in the swamps south of Wanganella. How successful they will
be is anyones guess. The water authority have dropped the water
levels dramatically in the last few weeks. More water is being sent
(after I complained) but it will take time to get to Wanganella. This
is the first nesting of Glossies here since 1990. Australasian Bitterns
were booming at this locality in early December, the first I have heard
since the early 1990s; however, they have departed since the water level
dropped. An interesting observation was an obvious White/Straw-necked
Ibis hybrid. The top of the wing was black and white, giving it
the appearance of a Magpie Goose in flight. While this is the first
hybrid I have seen, there have been a couple of other reported sightings
in the district.
The bird life out on
the open plains, north of Wanganella has been brilliant. Good rainfall
(about 4-6 inches) in October and November generated a nice growth of
native grasses, but not too thick for the ground dwellers. Amazing numbers
of Banded Lapwings have been recorded for the second consecutive
summer, with flocks of 200-300 birds present over November and December.
In what represents a relatively small area, there appears to be 1000+
B. Lapwings. The bulk of these birds must have come in from the back
country as only scattered breeding pairs had been in the area in August
and September. Since the arrival of these huge flocks, there has not
been any sign of breeding despite the good conditions.
Up to 30 Inland Dotterels
have been present continually for 12 months the longest period
I have known this species to be in the area. The flock commenced dispersing
in October and I think some breeding has occurred since then as several
immature birds have been seen lately,
We have at least three
pairs of Australian Pratincoles on eggs. They have chosen a new
home in an adjacent paddock to their usual haunt. Note: since writing
the above, juveniles were seen on the 20 December 2000.
have been nesting almost continuously since August. In mid-December
we were seeing a few juveniles, nearly fully coloured, which would indicate
that they hatched in mid-September. They are full coloured at three
months and I suspect they breed soon after. An adult male with three
small chicks (about one week old) was also seen in mid-December. Obvious
mating pairs were seen in early December, indicating that breeding will
continue for some time yet. Probably, the Plains-wanderer population
is still down after several dry years but they do have the ability to
build their numbers up quite quickly in a good season.
Also responding to the
excellent conditions are Little Button-quails; many more have
bred than in the previous year. There are a few Red-chested Button-quails
about, more so than anytime since 1993. I suspect they have also bred
or are currently breeding. There were a few Stubble Quails about
in the spring, but living up to their nomadic nature they seem to have
deserted the area. Note: since writing the above, Stubble Quail have
returned and are feeding on the ripened seedheads of native millet (Panicum
and Spotted Harriers have been scarce around Deniliquin this
season with only the odd Black Falcon seen in November and December.
One pair of Black Falcons nested north of Wanganella in the spring,
and as far as I know, no Spotted Harriers bred in the district. Conditions
were probably too good to the north. Note: since writing the above,
there has been a total of four sightings of Spotted Harriers north and
south of town on the 25th and 26th December; and four Black Falcons
seen on the 28 December including a pair stalking a flock of 200-300
Banded Lapwings, north of Wanganella.
This season also saw
a trio of Ground Cuckoo-shrikes out on the plains, north of Wanganella.
They raised a couple of young; the first breeding records for this species,
at this locality, in 20 years.
March 2001 local news | | main