Deniliquin & District Birding News
December 2000 - early March 2001
Posted on 9 March 2001
Deniliquin has experienced
a long, very hot and mainly dry summer. Hardly a drop of rain fell in
the district from mid November to late December but we had some good thunderstorm
rainfalls from January to early February. As is usually the case over
the summer months, the heaviest falls were out on the plains, north of
the Billabong Creek .
Despite the heatwaves and
high humidity, the birding has been excellent with Plains-wanderer Weekends
resulting in the highest tallies in years.
Also breeding in the Sanctuary:
a pair of Crested Shrike-tits raised two young as did Tawny
a species that all but disappeared from the Edward River after the arrival
of European Carp in the mid-1970s, is still seen quite regularly around
a stranger in the district let alone redgum habitat, was recently seen
in the Sanctuary. The Little Friarbirds were none to happy about
the visitor but their vigorous protest seemed to have little effect. Actually,
there has been one or two pairs of Red Wattlebirds around the town for
the past 12 months; it remains to be seen if the species becomes a permanent
This summer has been the
best for Japanese Snipe for at least a decade. Up to seven were
recorded on a small rainwater swamp near the railway line, the most recent
sighting on the 20th February.
While not seeing any myself,
there have been sightings of Fork-tailed Swift during February.
They were seen around town, on the Murray River near Tocumwal and out
on the plains north of Wanganella.
A male Black Honeyeater
visited an eremophila in my garden in late January and stayed a couple
of days much to my delight. This is only the second record I have
of Black Honeyeaters in town.
Country East of Deniliquin
vacated Gulpa Island State Forest in mid December and turned up in good
numbers in the yellow box woodland (Eucalyptus mellidora) near
Tuppal Creek. At least 50 adults and juveniles were feeding on the heavy
infestation of lerp on the yellow box. Most departed after three weeks
and dispersed widely; some were seen near town and I had a few in boree
country south of Wanganella on the 26 January. Recently (24 February)
I located about ten, mainly adults, in an area of black box (Eucalyptus
largiflorens) south-east of Deniliquin. As to the whereabouts of the
rest ... thats a mystery.
There was an adult Black-eared
Cuckoo in black box/boree woodland near Tuppal Creek on the 20 February.
Primarily, in this distict, the species is an uncommon passage migrant
in the spring. This is just the second time in twenty years that I have
recorded Black-eared Cuckoo at this spot.
Quite a few Australasian
Bitterns were breeding or attempting to breed in rice crops east of
Deniliquin. Two pairs at one locality, I suspect, were nesting in a cumbungi
filled dam and feeding in nearby rice crops. A few Little Bitterns
were also calling at the same place in December and January but I dont
think they bred.
Spotless Crakes were active in at least one water-filled gravel pit over summer and probably bred there. About 15 Plumed Whistle-ducks have been recorded there lately; the species has become scarce in the district in recent years.
As mentioned earlier Superb
Parrots departed the forest in mid-December. During December Owlet
Nightjars were seen quite regularly in Gulpa. Although the species
is probably quite common here, it is difficult to flush due to the height
of the trees.
I witnessed a male Collared
Sparrowhawk carrying, with ease, a freshly killed Yellow Rosella
almost as big as itself (Gulpa 22 Feb).
Moving to mammals for a
moment: an albino Grey Kangaroo was seen in Gulpa in December;
I think that is a first for me.
The waterbird-breeding extravaganza in Moira Forest, south of Mathoura, has been highly successful. Numbers breeding were much greater than originally estimated. I have been employed over the summer, by NSW State Forests, to monitor breeding activity and water levels (someones got to do it!).
In the main colony near
Moira Lake it is now estimated that around 3,000 pairs of Nankeen Night-Herons,
400 pairs of Intermediate Egret and 300 pairs of Great Egrets
have bred successfully. The night-heron colony was spread over two or
three kilometres with up to ten nests in the tops of large spreading redgums.
It was interesting to find that night-herons have a much shorter fledging
period than egrets; they are also ruffians compared to the well-mannered
egrets. The young night-herons in the nest continually fight with each
other over food. The adult night-herons do not look after their young
for anywhere near as long or as well as the egrets; and the young night-herons
are out of their nests before they can barely fly and are out foraging
in the swamp for themselves. As to be expected the night-heron mortality
rate is greater than that of the egrets. The night-herons raised only
one or two young per nest, whereas the Intermediate Egrets raised three
to four per nest and the Great Egrets, two to three.
All of the adult night-herons
and most of the juveniles had dispersed from the colony by the end of
February, whereas most of the egrets (both species) were still present.
I expect the last of the Great Egrets to leave the colony by mid-March.
Two pairs of Cattle Egrets and two pairs of Little Egret
nested with the Great and Intermediate Egrets. Cattle and Little Egrets
have not nested here since the 80s.
Hanging around the egret
colonies have been several sub-adult White-breasted Sea-Eagles
and on one occasion a couple of adults. Two Wedge-tailed Eagles and
about six Whistling Kites have also been in regular attendance.
Large colonies of Little Pied and Little Black Cormorants have also bred successfully. Recently there have been over 1000 Little Black and 300 Little Pied Cormorants feeding, en masse, on Moira Lake. Over 150 pairs of Royal Spoonbills have also bred successfully on the Gulpa Creek reed- beds (Phragmites and Giant Rush), as have Australasian and Little Bitterns. A juvenile Little Bittern was heard calling on the 12th January and a nest with two small, ginger young and one egg was located in thick Phragmites on the 2 February. Spotless Crakes were also calling well in this area in early January. Good numbers of Buff-banded Rails were also present.
Good numbers of Great
Crested Grebe have also bred in the Gulpa Creek and Moira Lake wetlands;
the latter locality has at least 20 pairs with large juvenile young at
present the greatest nesting of this species in the district since
There have been a few reports
of Brown Quail around the district lately and I heard one calling
in thick common spike-rush (Elecharis acuta) near Moira Lakes wetlands
my first record for years in the forest area.
feeding high up in the redgums, have also been calling lately in the Moira
Lake area. This species seems to be more common in the district over the
summer months. About 15 White-throated Needletails flew over the
Moira wetlands on the 30th January, my only record for this summer.
All the so called environment
flow for the Murray River was used this summer to keep the water
levels up in the swamps to enable the waterbirds to breed successfully.
NSW State Forests even borrowed next years environmental flow
to see the birds through the breeding season. The allocated environmental
flow is a mere fraction of what is really required. It has not been
difficult this summer to see how much the whole eco-system of the river
redgum forest depends on water.
Also in the boree have been good numbers of Striped, Spiny-cheeked and Singing Honeyeaters. Still the occasional immature Pallid and Horsefield Bronze-cuckoo in the boree that probably bred in the area; all adult Cuckoos having cleared out. The summer migrants have gone back to the inland; Ive not seen any White-winged Trillers or Rufous Songlarks for weeks.
Masked Woodswallows were scarce in the district, as were Budgerigars.
A few White-browed Woodswallows flying over, up high, was my only record
for the summer and I received a report of a small group of White-browed
Woodswallows breeding in thick black box near Boorooban. My only personal
record of Budgerigars was a small flock in the boree in late spring although
there were a few reports of small flocks out on on the plains.
North of Wanganella, on
the plains proper, the huge flocks of Banded Lapwings started dispersing
in January and February, coinciding with the big rains on the plains north
of the Lachlan. There remains only a few small groups. Three or four pairs
of Australian Pratincole bred successfully and departed the area
in late January; my last sighting of adults and juveniles was the 18th
continue to thrive with good numbers of adults and immatures seen over
summer. On two PW excursions, seven and ten birds were seen respectively.
An adult male with three chicks was seen on the 16th December and a male
with two chicks was seen on the 6th January. They have also been seen
feeding in the late afternoon. Such a sighting occurs rarely because of
their camouflage and secretive nature. Of late, the adults and some immatures
have been in pairs again and a mating pair was seen on the 3rd March;
it seems that they will continue to breed for some time yet. Except for
a break in February they have been breeding since August 2000.
Over February, Little
Button-quail dispersed, although there is still the odd immature about
(one on the 3rd March). They bred in reasonable numbers over summer.
also bred in the area in low numbers over summer. An adult male with two
large young was seen on the 6th January. The last seen was an adult pair
in heavy native millet on the 18th January. The female of this species
is a stunning bird, one of the most attractive of the genus. A few immature
Stubble Quail are still about in heavy grass areas, but generally
they have been scarce in the area over summer.
Black Falcons have
been rather elusive lately but my sister, Susan, had four over a burning
stubble paddock last week. They do love a fire and will travel a long
distance for one. Spotted Harriers are also scarce with one bird
seen on the 3rd March near Deniliquin airport the first Ive
seen since late December. There have been reports of several birds around
Jerilderie where some big thunderstorms have occurred.
The group of Ground Cuckoo-shrikes that bred north of Wanganella are still about, if somewhat elusive at times. Two more groups were seen on the plains between Deniliquin and Wakool, one each in December and January. The January (13th) group comprised two adults and three juveniles.
With all these waders about, there had to be a few rarities. At least two Pectoral Sandpipers have been present from December and a single Long-toed Stint was seen on the 28th and 31st of January. Ruffs made a welcome reappearance after an absence of many years a single bird being located on the 17th December (probably a reeve). This bird disappeared and then two male birds appeared on 28 January; however, these birds also disappeared and were not seen again.
Pacific Golden Plovers,
which have returned to the same locality for about the last five years,
turned up on the 23rd December, staying until the 4th January.
The largest flock of White-winged
Black Terns, recorded in living memory in the district, were seen
on the 23rd December when 28 birds were recorded. They have been present
in varying numbers over the summer; eight birds on the 10th of February
being the last record. Flocks of up to several hundred Whiskered Terns
were also at Tullakool over summer; a flock of 20 was the last record
on the 20th February. The only Gull-billed Terns seen during the
summer were three immature birds on the 3rd January.
Wave after wave of Glossy Ibis, coming in from the south to roost at the ponds, was an air show spectacular seen on the 10th February. About 700 birds came in.
Up to 100 Marsh Sandpipers
have also been present over summer. The first Double-banded Plover
and the first Freckled Duck of the season were located on the 20
February. Seven Freckled Ducks were seen on the 9th March including at
least one adult male still with some red on the base of the bill. The
birds probably came from breeding grounds to the north.
Australian Hobby and Peregrine Falcon are regulars at the ponds, as are occasionally Sea-Eagles. The first Black Falcon recorded for years at Tullakool was seen on the 9th March.
In addition to all these species, there were thousands of Grey Teal, Australian Shelduck and Black Swan and lesser numbers of Australasian Shoveler, Chestnut Teal, Pink-eared Duck and a few Hardheads and Black Duck.
Philip N Maher