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Burns may cause extinctions

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					Plainswanderer
                                                                                                 February – April 2011
Newsletter 62, Echuca and District Branch, Bird Observation & Conservation Australia


Burns may cause extinctions                                                                                           This cross-border branch serves BOCA
                                                                                                                      members who reside in Murray Shire, City
Many bird and plant species require large areas of bushland which have not been burnt for at least 25                 of Greater Bendigo, Gunnawarra Shire,
years. Yet DSE is planning to burn at least 5% of public land in Victoria each year, with the total eventually        Shire of Campaspe, Deniliquin, Conargo
being increased to 10%. Frequent fuel reduction burns in the eastern block of the Little Desert National Park         Shire, Moira Shire and surrounding areas.
have already resulted in the demise of the Mallee Fowl from the block. And many other species of plants and
animals, including Mallee Emu-wren, have also been adversely impacted upon.
                                                                                                                                 In this issue:
Dropping incendiary devices from helicopters, the DSE has started burning large areas of wilderness in the                           • Yanac Camp
mallee, areas where there are known populations of Mallee Fowl, even though there are no houses within                          • El & Al escape winter
50km and few within 150km. Such environmental vandalism is likely to result in the extinction of Victoria’s              • Keith Stockwell travels from Darwin
Mallee Fowl population, and the local extinction of a wide suite of plants and birds.                                                  to Cairns
                                                                                                                        • Roger Standen visits The Reed Beds
In the case of the forests around Bendigo, DSE seems determined to burn areas of bushland which are well                         • A visit to Aird Road
away from houses and which have the highest concentration of bush birds and the best diversity of under-
storey plants. Burning mallee vegetation in Greater Bendigo National Park is resulting in more flammable
species taking over from Mallee Eucalypts. There have been few large wild fires in our Box-Ironbark Forests.            2011 Office bearers
Recently we received a phone call from a member concerned that a pristine area in the Rushworth Forest                   President:    Peter Allan
that he has visited for many years and which supports lots of orchids and less-common birds like Spotted                               (03) 5484 1576
Nightjar and Speckled Warbler was, according to a notice on a tree, about to be burned.                                                vandpallan@bigpond.com
Fuel-reduction burns of weed-infested gullies near houses is desirable, yet not always done. Frequent burns          Vice President:   vacant
of Box-ironbark Forests ~ themselves assets worthy of protection ~ is very undesirable.                                   Secretary    Keith Stockwell
Unfortunately, DSE Bendigo meetings arranged so that we could put forward our arguments and concerns                   & Newsletter    (03) 5480 9254
were cancelled until after the consultation period. Bushland alongside Campbells Road is to be burned                       Editor:    stocky@mcmedia.com.au
despite earlier promises that it would not. A one-size fits all policy with respect to fuel reduction burns is not        Assistant    Annie Mayo
good, and we believe that different vegetation types should be treated separately. We are concerned that                 Secretary:    (03) 5442 5332
prime bird habitat in Kamarooka Forest well away from homes is likely to be burned. KS
                                                                                                                          Gunbower     Dallas Wyatt
                                                                                                                           Surveys:    0428 764 903
                                                                                                                         Treasurer:    Michele Dixon
                                                                                                                                       (03) 5480 7628
                                                                                                                            Auditor:   John Land



                                                                                                                      Web site
                                                                                                                      http://users.mcmedia.com.au/
                                                                                                                      ~stocky/boca_echuca.html
                                                                                                                      You can obtain your Plains-
                                                                                                                      wanderer 63 earlier by
                                                                                                                      downloading it from the web site
                                                                                                                      from mid April.




 Above: some members in the revegetated Janson property during this year’s Christmas function and AGM.
   16 members attended the function. Minutes of the AGM and planning meeting have been emailed to
                       members with a known email address. Photo: Ian Mayo.
                                                                                  PhotoBOCA
                                                                                  Over the Melbourne Cup Day long weekend, about 75 BOCA
                                                                                  members attended a PhotoBOCA congress at Gunbower. Both Peter
                                                                                  and Keith made presentations whilst they and some other Echuca
                                                                                  and District members helped lead some outings. 129 bird species
                                                                                  were observed during the course of the congress, including sightings
                                                                                  of a Square-tailed Kite. Unfortunately, wet weather prevented the
                                                                                  outings to Terrick Terrick National Park and the Plains-wanderer
                                                                                  searches from going ahead.

                                                                                  Hundreds of White Ibis roosting
                                                                                  On the Sunday of the Melbourne Cup long weekend, a survey of
                                                                                  Australian White Ibis was conducted in NSW. A handful of members
                                                                                  surveyed in our district but, apart from a nesting colony of about
                                                                                  200 at Gunbower (which could not be reported as they were in
                                                                                  Victoria), only a handful of Australian White ibis were observed.

                                                                                  Australasian Bittern
                                                                                  On Tuesday 16th October, Bob Wheeler observed an Australasian
                                                                                  Bittern from the Reed Beds bird hide alongside the Picnic Point
                                                                                  Road. Early in November, a pair was observed there by Roy Peachey
                                                                                  who managed to take the photo below from his floating bird hide.




                    Interesting
                    sightings
                     Powerful Owl. Photo: Murray Chambers                                         Australasian Bittern. Photo: Roy Peachey

Powerful Owl                                                                      A few weeks earlier, Roy saw 3 Australasian Bitterns at Moira Lake.
Whilst in Melbourne’s Banyule Wetlands during August, Murray was able to          * Late in 2010, Little Bitterns were also observed from the Red Beds
photograph a Powerful Owl.                                                        bird hide. See also Roger Standen’s article on page 9.
Red-breasted Button-quail                                                         Wild Ostriches NW of Moama
Eris O’Brien writes: “In the last couple of weeks I’ve seen a number of Painted   For several years, a small group of ostriches has been observed
Button-quail: in the woodland areas of the Wanderers Plain (one individual        near the north-western end of Moama to Barham Road. Dallas
flushed and landed on flood waters); near Koorangie Marshes in Black Box          observed them about two years ago. Late in 2010, a sighting by
woodland (one seen crossing the road); at Pine Grove in Black Box woodland        Jennifer Spry was reported on Birding-Aus, creating a great deal of
and Buloke woodland (on two occasions), and at Terrick Terrick Forest (one        interest. Geoff Leslie of Barham claims there are about 25 birds in
crossing the road). Also I saw a female Red-chested Button-quail in tall, thick   the flock, including chicks. As a result of comments posted on
native grass at the western end of Glassons Grassland today.                      Birding-Aus, those of us who have sighted these wild ostriches could
“A large flock of Plumed Whistling Ducks arrived on the wetland on the            tick them on our life (local, and NSW) list.
Wanderers Plain as well as hundreds of other unidentified ducks.”                 Painted Snipe at Wanganella
                                           ~ Eris O’Brien, 24th October 2010.     Philip Maher writes: “Wanganella Swamp, about 40 km north of
Banded Lapwing at Kamarooka                                                       Deniliquin, just keeps on giving. Today there was a pair of Australian
On 5th October, Roger Standen observed 33 Banded Lapwing (adults and              Painted Snipe, the first I have seen at that locality for decades. Also,
juvenile) and about 30 Masked Lapwing on a dwindling wet area surrounding         about half a dozen Latham!s Snipe were seen, dozens of pairs of
a farm dam on Wilkinson Swamp Road, Kamarooka.                                    Black-winged Stilts and quite a few Red-kneed Dotterels are nesting,
                                                                                  as are half a dozen pairs of Royal Spoonbills. A pair of Brolgas that
Square-tailed Kite                                                                nested at the swamp has two young, which are now about two weeks
On Sunday 31st October and Monday 1st November, a Square-tailed Kite was          old. Many thousands of pairs of Straw-necked Ibis have formed a
observed flying over Gunbower Island. The Sunday sighting was at                  rookery and an Australasian Bittern was heard calling on Saturday.
Torrumbarry Weir and the Monday sighting at wetlands in Cohuna by Peter           The ‘powers that be! are making a concerted effort to maintain water
Barrand et al. (I was one of many who observed this bird on the Monday. KS)       levels in the swamp so these breeding events should be successful.”
                                                                                  ~ Regards, Philip Maher, 23rd November 2010 (per Birding-Aus)
                                                                                  • Late last year, there was a report of Painted Snipe at Two Tree
                                                                                  Swamp at Corop, but conditions there may no longer be suitable. Ed.
                                                                                                                                                  Page 2
                                                                                                             Yanac Camp
                                                                                      text and photos by Keith Stockwell




In October, I was leader of a BOCA camp on          Above: Bernie Fox and Sue Hayman-Fox (pointing)       learned that those who had remained in camp
“Mali Dunes”, a private property located in the    outline some features of their property “Mali Dunes”   had observed Mallee Fowl and Rufous
Victorian Mallee north of Yanac. Most of the                        to BOCA campers                       Fieldwren on the property.
shrubs which covered the rolling sandhills of      Vanessa has been heavily involved in Project
the 621 hectare (1552 acre) property were in                                                              That evening, Ross Macfarlane of the Mallee
                                                   Hindmarsh, a project creating an ecological            Fowl Recovery Team spoke about the possible
flower.                                            corridor linking the Little Desert and Big Desert.     demise of the species in Victoria. It is likely that
The property was chained and farmed as late        After leaving Hermans Hill, we enjoyed lunch at        Mallee Fowl require bushland that has not been
as 1995 but is now a Community Land                  The Wattles, a picnic ground located where           burnt for at least 30 years, yet the government
Management (CLM) project site fully-protected      Outlet Creek leaves Lake Hindmarsh. Although           is proposing to burn at least 5% of public land
under a 'Trust for Nature' covenant. There is      the lake contained water for the first time in •       each year. Ross believes that the population of
significant natural regeneration supplemented
by extensive revegetation by direct seeding and
plantings of local provenance.
After setting up camp on the Friday, we went
for a walk on the property.
The following morning we accepted an invitation
from a nearby land-holder to visit his extensive
property in the hope of seeing an Australian
Bustard that had spent the past few weeks
grazing at the edge of his lucerne paddocks.
Although we failed to sight the bird, we
appreciated the fact that the farmer had left
much of the indigenous vegetation in tact
around most of his large paddocks.
After about an hour, we set off for Hermans Hill
Reserve to be greeted there by local resident
and Landcare award winner Vanessa Drendel.
Vanessa guided us around Hermans Hill and
outlined the battle she has had to protect the
vegetation of the reserve which forms a link
between Birdcage Reserve and Wyperfeld                   Birders near The Wattles picnic ground           Mallee Fowl in much of the Little Desert has
National Park.                                     about 15 years, it was far from full and Outlet        collapsed owing to fuel-reduction burns.
                                                   Creek, which supplies Lake Albacutya, was dry.         On the Monday, after showing us the “Terra-
                                                   Birds observed here included Variegated Fairy-         Dome”, a dome-shaped concrete house they
                                                   wren and White-browed Babbler.                         are building in a sandhill, Bernie and Sue took
                                                   After lunch, we visted the nearby Birdcage             us on a tour of their large property. Morning
                                                   Nature Conservation Reserve. Although we did           tea was in a “Hidden Valley”, a swale shaded
                                                   not observe many birds in the reserve, the             by tall wattles.
                                                   wildflower display was wonderful.                      After lunch, we drove to another reserve near
                                                   Final stop was Four Mile Beach near Jeparit            the South Australian border before returning to
                                                   where we observed a range of water birds. A            the property and successfully observing the
                                                   flock of Regent Parrots flew overhead and some         Rufous Fieldwren sitting atop small shrubs,
                                                   landed in a tree alongside our vehicles.               giving all present wonderful views.
                                                   On the Sunday we visited a reserve which               By the time we broke camp on Tuesday 12th,
                                                   adjoins Mali Dunes, Dahwedare Bushland                 almost all campers had observed both Mallee
                                                   Reserve, before driving up the Murrayville Track       Fowl and Rufous Fieldwren on the property. All
                                                   to Broken Bucket and the southern end of a             up, 55 species were observed on Mali Dunes
                                                   wilderness zone.                                       and 101 bird species were observed in the
   • Vanessa Drendel with group on Hermans Hill                                                           area.                     ~Keith Stockwell
                                                   Upon arriving back at camp for lunch, we
                                                                                                                                              Page 3
Just HEARD                                                                                                                      5-question quiz
Christmas Function and AGM
In mid December, 16 attended our Christmas function at the Janson property, Echuca
Village. After inspecting the 80 acres of revegetation, we convened our AGM. Peter, Keith,
Michele and John were re-elected. Bev Curtis retired as our Vice President and the position
remains vacant. Having moved out of the area, Dallas retired from his Assistant Secretary
and Conservation Officer positions. However, Dallas is prepared to continue helping with the
Gunbower Creek surveys. A journalist, Annie Mayo was elected as Assistant Secretary and
offered to assist with the newsletter. The Lands agreed to continue as our representatives
regarding fuel reduction burn meetings. The Conservation Officer
position remains unfilled. Please contact President Peter if you
are interested in either of the two unfilled positions.

Marbled Frogmouth
Whilst staying at Binna Burra, local birder Barry Davies invited me
to search for a Marbled Frogmouth he had observed in the area.
Later that day, I happened to bump into Gary Oliver who was
travelling about, trying to photograph as many bird species as he
could over the period of a year. Gary, who resides in Carisbrook,
hopes to set a new record for most bird species photographed
during a year. That night, Gary joined Barry and myself and heard
a pair of Marbled Frogmouths calling. One then landed in a tree
just in front of us, allowing Gary to snap the accompanying
photograph. For Gary, this bird was an unexpected bonus. Gary’s
blog about his adventure is well worth following at
http:birdshootaustralia.blogspot.com

Gremlins
Whilst I aim to produce a newsletter free of errors, every issue seems to contain a few
mistakes. In the last issue, White-fronted Chat inadvertently became a Black-fronted Chat                                                   Photo: K Stockwell
and a few typographical errors escaped detection. Unfortunately, in the synopsis, the                                  1. What bird, taken during the Yanac camp,
meeting place for an outing to the Torrumbarry area was inadvertently listed as Moama                                  is pictured above?
Lions Park instead of outside Torrumbarry Hall. The worst mistake last year was erroneously
listing the date of an outing to Rushworth so that the day and date did not match. Hopefully,                          2. What is the name given to the “national
in future, assistant editor Annie will be able to help detect and correct such errors.                                 park” which embraces much of Gulpa
                                                                                                                       Island, Moira Forest and Millewa Forest?
Bird Trails of the Riverina                                                                                            3. What bird is pictured below?
Sixteen local government areas in NSW have combined to produce a glossy 56 page booklet
(not including the folding cover) on birding spots of southern NSW. The booklet contains
coloured photographs of suggested birding locations plus coloured photos of some of the
birds found at each locality. The GPS reference of each site and access notes are included.
The booklet is available free of cost at many tourist information centres. Unfortunately,
Murray Shire, Deniliquin and Shire of Conargo chose not participate in the project.

Travelling Dredges find a nest                                                                                                                                   Photo: James Gunn
Maureen and Ken Dredge have completed their year-long trip on the wallaby around                                         A Tang (White-fronted Chat)
Australia and have settled into a unit in Golden Square.                                                                 B Lowan (Mallee Fowl)
FINALLY, if you have not been receiving occasional electronic update newsletters from the                                C Emu chick
Branch, please supply me with your email address.               ~ Keith Stockwell                                        D Zitting Cisticola
                                                                                                                         E Juvenile Brolga
                                                                                                                       4. Alongside which two reserves is Herman’s
                                                                        5 Peregrine Falcon
                                                                        Birdcage NCR
                                                                        4 Wyperfeld National Park and
                                                                        3 B Mallee Fowl (Lowan).
                                                                        2 Murray Valley Regional Park
                                                                        1 Regent Parrot
                                                                                                        Quiz Answers




                                          G     O     N      E                                                         Hill located?
Get the Bird!                                                                                                          5. Capable of swooping at around 180km/hr,
Use the 16 letters in the table to        R     H     E      A                                                         what is the world’s fastest bird? *
find the name of a bird (two
words)>                                   E     E     T      R                                                         Answers are printed sideways above left. The question marked
Write your answer to                                                                                                   with an * was contributed by Roger Standen and sourced from
“Get the Bird!” below:                    Y     E     T      N                                                         a book called Extreme Birds.

______               __________

The solution to the previous “Get the Bird!” was
Eastern Spinebill.                                                                                                                                                         Page 4
   El & Al
     . . . escaping the cold
       Above: the top of        Greetings from Mary River!                                        stops. The predominant bird species was “Horsfield’s
    Gunlom Falls: one of
       the birding spots        Our last newsletter was on 14/6/10 from Victoria. Once all the    Bushlark” which we call the “Kerplunk” bird due to its lack of
     visited by El and Al       physical work involving Dad’s estate was to a manageable          landing expertise… it just hovers about a metre of the ground
     Wright during their        stage (25/6/10) we high-tailed it north to Alice Springs with     and then drops!
latest escapade. Photo:         free camps at Peebinga Conservation Reserve, Hancock’s            On 10/7/10, we headed further north to Cape Crawford and
              K Stockwell       Lookout over Port Augusta, on the Stuart Highway 86km north       then onto Caranbirini Conservation!Reserve (30km west of
                                of Coober Pedy, and at Henbury Meteorites Conservation            Borroloola), where we spent two nights camped on a road-
                                Reserve.                                                          side stop outside the reserve (no camping inside). Amongst
                                We arrived in Alice Springs on 29/6/10 and spent eight nights     its attractions, which are spectacular rock formations,
                                in and around the area. Out at Trephina Gorge in the East         Caranbirini Conservation Reserve is the home to a sub-species
                                McDonnell Ranges, we had great looks at the “Dusky                of the “Carpentarian Grasswren” (its stronghold is at Mt Isa
                                Grasswren” and I was able to come to grips with the new 120-      where we saw it last year). We spent two days searching the
                                400mm zoom lens on my camera (I have joined the                   rocks but it was too elusive for us but we were rewarded with
                                Paparazzi, but only for celebrity birds).                         some year list ticks like; “Sandstone Shrike-thrush”, “Gouldian
                                                                                                  Finch” and “Purple-crowned Fairy-wren”. We met some fellow
                                Since the Federal Government intervention you are not allowed     travellers and enjoyed some social interaction.
                                to purchase cask wine until after 6pm, however bottled wine is
                                OK. Therefore, instead of the streets littered with empty casks   On 12/7/10 we moved on into Borroloola as we needed fuel,
                                as when we were there in 2007, there is now broken                water and fresh vegies. We stayed there one night at the
                                glass. Sadly, everything else is the same.                        caravan park; caught up some washing and enjoyed the phone
                                                                                                  access.
                                                On 6/7/10, Alice Springs experienced its
                                                coldest day on record (6.4 degrees max!)          Lorella Springs
                    Grey nomads                 and enough rain to get the Todd River             The next day 13/7/10 we started north on the Savannah Way
          The “Land down Under” has             running. This was enough for us, so the next      and got as far as Lorella Springs Station which provides
      provided the ideal habitat for the        day we headed further north up the Stuart         camping and access to the station as a commercial venture to
     recently-discovered subspecies of          Highway to Tennant Creek and then east            supplement the income. Very basic facilities but the access to
     Homo Sapiens, the “Grey Nomad”.            along the Barkly Highway which (delivered)        hot thermal springs, isolated gorges and pools offset that. We
         First emerging in beach areas          us out of the weather pattern impacting on        had a close encounter of the male bovine kind on our morning
       during the sixties, travelling and       the Red (and wet) Centre. We drove as far as      run: he was not happy about us being there (neither were we,
     residing in strange-shaped boxes           the 41 Bore Road Side Stop on the Barkly          and quickly retreated). The Savannah Way, and the road into
    on wheels, they have since evolved          Highway and joined other free campers for         the station, had not been maintained since the wet season
   to favour much larger and luxurious          the night. A notable bird in such an un-          and was fairly rough going. It is at this point that our fridge
                            contraptions.       notable place was the “Golden-backed              started the play-up, i.e. not cooling.
      Rarely sighted in the cities, “Grey       Honeyeater” which is the alaetior sub-species
     Nomad” migrate north during the            of the “Black-chinned Honeyeater” and, on all
                                                                                                  Elsey National Park, Mataranka
   winter, where they frequent isolated                                                           After two nights there, on 15/7/10, we headed a short
                                                accounts, a good find.
      coastal regions, the Top End and                                                            distance further north into Limmen National Park, camping at
                        the Red Centre.         Barkly Tableland                                  a rock formation called “Southern Lost City”. This place is like
                                                The next day, 8/7/10, we topped up our fuel       a mini Purnululu: very spectacular! Over the next three days,
      Not all with grey fur, known to be
                                                at Barkly Homestead before heading north          we moved further north in the national park and camped at
        friendly, tranquil and inquisitive,
    they are extremely approachable if          again into the Barkly Tableland (which was an     various places until we arrived at Elsey National Park at
       offered wine. Their offspring are        unexplored area for us). The Barkly Tableland     Mataranka!on 18/7/10). By this stage our fridge had totally
      often heard to mutter; “have you          is a vast grassland of which most is grazed.      given up the ghost: grrrr! No ice for scotch!
         seen our parents?” and “don’t          However, the Connells Lagoon Nature               In 2007, Elsey National Park was closed due to flooding so we
            spend our inheritance”. This        Reserve provides an insight into the flora and    skipped past it. This time we stayed three nights and were
                sociable mammal likes to        fauna of the area prior to the arrival of
     congregate around waterholes to                                                              able to explore it fully. The campground facilities were
                                                cattle. We spent two nights there alone (no       excellent. Hot showers in a national park and all for $10 each
       interact with other Grey Nomads
                  from different habitats.      gorges, no water and no facilities, therefore     per night! Plus phone range! The camp area was well-
                                                not popular) away from the bustle of caravan      populated. However our usual trick worked: camp as far away
                        ~ Label on Wine         parks, national parks and road side               for the facilities as you can (nobody wants to walk far!).
                                                                                                                                                            Page 5
El and Al (continued)                                      we managed to see on our first visit (New Bird
                                                                                                                          El and Al’s new ticks
Katherine                                                  623). Apart from the bird, Norlangee Rock, has
                                                                                                                          Chestnut-quilled Rock-Pigeon (#621)
On 21/7/10, we headed into Katherine and stayed            magnificent aboriginal rock art and you stand in awe           White-lined Honeyeater (#622)
two nights in a caravan park: three loads of washing,      looking at a culture that predates history as we know          Banded Fruit-Dove (#623)
143 litres of fuel (ouch!) and fresh food. We also         it. There was an unexpected bonus in the Muirella              Chestnut Rail (#624)
made some vain attempts for a sighting of a “Hooded        Campground, overnight we heard numerous Large-                 Arafura Fantail (#625)
Parrot” out where we saw it in 2007.                       tailed Nightjars calling and we were able to have
                                                           excellent close encounters with them in the torchlight.
                                                           On 28/7/10, we moved to the northern-most end of
                                                           the park and camped at Merl campground to get
                                                           access to Ubirr Rock (another excellent aboriginal
                                                           rock art site). We were also blessed with excellent
                                                           sightings of a “Rainbow Pitta” in the monsoon forest
                                                           walk along the river.** The uranium mining goes on
                                                           in and around Kakadu without really being noticed:
                                                           you do not have access to those areas!
                                                           On 29/7/10 we bid a fond farewell to Kakadu and
                                                           stopped off at Mary River Resort for some serious
                                                           pool time (getting very hot!). We treated ourselves to
   A pair of Hooded Parrots near Katherine (K Stockwell)   a dinner and a couple of bottles of “Grey Nomad”
On 23/7/10 we headed north again on the Stuart             wine (see box on the previous page for the inscription
Highway and followed a tip on Bird Line about              on the label) before we returned to civilisation (as
“Hooded Parrot” sightings at a truck stop 50km             close as Darwin gets to that!).
north. We enjoyed a flock of about twenty of them as       We spent eight nights in Darwin: our mission here was
they fed in the grass and moved into the trees. Also       to see a “Chestnut Rail” and to get the Fridge fixed
feeding were “Gouldian Finches” which were an added        (in that order!). Well, it took seven visits to Buffalo
bonus.                                                     Creek before we actually saw the “Chestnut Rail” that
                                                           frequents there (New Bird No 624). We heard the
                                                           blighter often enough but no show! As for the fridge;
                                                           it was removed, tested and pronounced officially dead
                                                           by the Dometic agent, as he rubbed his hands
                                                           together and quoted $2,500+GST for a new
                                                                                                                          Pied Heron at Fogg Dam (K Stockwell)
                                                           one. Needless to say, we have not replaced our fridge
                                                           and will not do so until back in Victoria. We now have
                                                           a 12V Waeco fridge which will become a freezer once
                                                           the caravan fridge is replaced. We expected to pay a
                                                           premium because of freight, but not ripped off
                                                           (captive audience).
      A Gouldian Finch near Elsey Falls (K Stockwell)      On 7/8/10 we left Darwin and headed back to Mary
Kakadu and Gunlom                                          River for another dinner and taste of “Grey
Feeling smug with ourselves on that sighting, we           Nomad”. On the way, we stopped off at Fogg Dam, a
entered Kakadu National Park and paid our $25 each         well-known birding site for water birds, which also has
entry fee (ouch again). Our target bird in Kakadu was      good walks in paperbark forests. The usual suspects
(and still is!) the “White-throated Grasswren” (a          were on the water. A great find in the forest was
mythical bird that according to legend can only be         “Arafura Fantail” (New Bird No 625). This bird used
found in the rocky escarpments at Gunlom). We have         to be a sub-species of the “Rufous Fantail” and has
now joined the club* with all the other birders who        now been split into its own race.
have made the pilgrimage to Gunlom; climbed the            Where to next? Katherine, then Kununurra via the
escarpment in the wee early hours, had your lower          Buntine and Buchannan Highways
legs well pricked by spinifex, sat around in the heat of   Take care and stay tuned!
the day on hard rocks, peering hopefully through your                    ~ Albert and Eleanor, "The Gypsy Twitcher's"
binoculars into rock crevices, over rocks, every-where,                                               7th August 2010
with the hope of a sighting (or even a call)...only to      *Editor’s Note: In August, I, too, became a member of that
return to camp dejected, drown your sorrows and tell       unsuccessful club. The climb to the top of Gunlom (pictured
yourself, and your partner, that tomorrow is a new         atop the previous page) is particularly steep, and no White-
day: it has to be there! We did this for four days until   throated Grasswren was to be seen. Fortunately, at the top
we gave up! Twitching is such a fulfilling hobby! In all       there are some pools where we had a swim and met an
                                                               American birder (whose life list stands at around 7,500
that, we did manage two new birds: “Chestnut-quilled
                                                                 species) who told us of a good place to see Gouldian
Rock-Pigeon” (No 621) and “White-lined                             Finches. We subsequently observed a large flock of
Honeyeater” (No 622).                                             Gouldian Finches and Hooded Parrots at the spot he
With our tails between our legs, on 27/7/10 we moved                                                         mentioned.
                                                                                                                                  Fogg Dam (K Stockwell)
onto Muirella Campground and set up camp. This                  ** A few days later, I also observed a pair of Rainbow
place was selected to give access to Norlangee Rock                 Pittas in a gully alongside Nourangie Rock. Keith.                                     Page 6
which has habitat for the “Banded Fruit-Dove” which
A visit to northern Australia
Text and photos by Keith Stockwell

Last August, I met up     Upon my arrival in Darwin, I met guide Barry Davies who drove     Museum and Art Gallery. In a dark room, we were able to listen
with three novice         me to Knuckey Lagoons. Many of the birds we observed there        to a frightening recording made during Cyclone Tracey which
birders and birding       are not found in the Echuca region: viz. Red-collared Lorikeet,   destroyed much of Darwin.
guide Barry Davies, an    Magpie Goose, Green Pygmy-Goose, Silver-crowned Friarbird,
Eco Guide of the Year                                                                       We had a late lunch at East Point beach before visiting man-
                          Pied Imperial-Pigeon, and Comb-crested Jacana.
winner, in Darwin. We                                                                       groves alongside Palmerston Sewage Plant. Birds observed
spent time around         Next morning, we drove to the airport to collect a couple from    here included Mangrove Gerygone, Brown Honeyeater, Red-
Darwin, Kakadu and        Kyabram and a lady from Brisbane. Whilst Barry was collecting     headed Honeyeater, Broad-billed Honeyeater, Lemon-bellied
Katherine before flying   them, I waited in parkland near the airport. A pair of Bush       Flycatcher, Mangrove Grey Fantail, Little Shrike-thrush, Rajah
across to Cairns and      Stone-curlews wandered past. Pied Imperial-Pigeons flew           Shelduck, Sanderling, Ruddy Turnstone, Red-necked Stint,
birding in Cairns, the
Daintree and the
                          overhead. The Rainbow Lorikeets were a red-collared form.         Greater and Lesser Sand Plover and Red-capped Parrot.
Atherton Tableland.       After lunch, we visited the Darwin Botanic Gardens. Birds here    In the grounds of Darwin’s university, we observed several
Before setting up his     included Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Northern Fantail, Silver-       Bush Stone-curlews, including chicks (pictured below).
business, “Gondwana       crowned Friarbird, Yellow Oriole, Barking Owl and Rufous Owl
Guides”, Barry was the    (pictured to the left). It was hard to get a good photo of the
bird guide at Binna
Burra Lodge in Laming-    Rufous Owl as it was roosting in a tree in a dark gully.
ton National Park.        Early next morning we visited Buffalo Creek. Birds we saw
                          here included Red-winged Parrot, Common Sandpiper,
                          Striated (Mangrove) Heron, Eastern Reef Egret, Godwit, White-
                          winged Black Tern, Gull-billed Tern, Little Tern, Crested Tern,
                          Eastern Curlew, Emerald Dove, Yellow Oriole, Red-headed
                          Honeyeater, Lemon-bellied Flycatcher, Broad-billed
                          Flycatcher, Orange-footed Scrub-fowl, Large-billed Gerygone
                          and Varied Triller. We heard, but failed to see, Chestnut Rail.
                          We then drove to nearby Lee Point. Birds there included
                          Common Sandpiper, Lesser Crested Tern, Collared Kingfisher,
                          Spangled Drongo, Silver-crowned Friarbird, Green-backed
                          Gerygone, Rainbow Pitta, Grey Whistler and Rufous Fantail.
                          Other birds seen that morning included Crimson Finch, White-
                          throated Honeyeater, Red-backed Fairy-wren, Weebill and
Above: Rufous Owl in      Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove. Along Jungle Walk we observed
Darwin Botanic Gardens    Chestnut-breasted Mannikin, Varied Triller, Dusky Honeyeater,
Below: Sunset at          Rufous-banded Honeyeater and Forest Kingfisher.
Buffalo Creek (K
Stockwell)
                          To avoid the mid-day heat, we spent a few hours in the Darwin




                                                                                                                                                   Page 7
A visit to northern Australia (continued)                                                     In the university grounds we were greeted with friends of Barry
                                                                                              who spent some time birding with us.
                                                                                              Just on sunset, we returned to Buffalo Creek and tried again
                                                                                              without success to see the Chestnut Rail reported to be here.
                                                                                              As night set in, we observed lots of Long-tailed Nightjar fly
                                                                                              from their roosting spots.
                                                                                              For dinner, we dined alongside the harbour at Darwin Yacht
                                                                                              Club. A large group of Chinese businessmen were being
                                                                                              entertained in an adjoining outdoor area.
                                                                                              Fogg Dam
                                                                                              Early next morning we set out for Fogg Dam. There were lots
                                                                                              of water birds grazing in shallow water.
                                                                                              We spent considerable time birding along a board walk
                                                                                              through mangroves. Birds observed along the boardwalk
                                                                                              included Rose-crowned Fruit-Dove, Grey Whistler, Large-billed
                                                                                              Gerygone, Orange-footed Scrubfowl, Varied Triller, Azure
                                                                                              Kingfisher, Broad-billed Flycatcher, Arafura Fantail, Pheasant
                         Top: Blue-faced Honeyeater (K Stockwell)                             Coucal, Shining Flycatcher and Little Bronze Cuckoo.
                            Below: Crimson Finch (K Stockwell)
                                                                                              One of the birds we observed in grasses alongside the road in
                                                                                              the wetlands of Fogg Dam was the Crimson Finch.

                                                                                              Corroboree Billabong
                                                                                              From Fogg Dam, we drove ~ with a stop alongside a river en
                                                                                              route ~ to Corroboree Billabong on the north-western side of
                                                                                              Kakadu National Park. The boat cruise on the billabong was by
                                                                                              far the best birding cruise I have ever been on. If you ever get
                                                                                              a chance to visit this area, the cruise is a must. It is much
                                                                                              better than the Yellow-water Cruise or the cruise in Katherine
                                                                                              Gorge. Apart from seeing some large crocodiles, a highlight of
                                                                                              the cruise was observing a pair of Jacana with a nest (one of
                                                                                              the birds is pictured below right). Watched by a crocodile, we
                                                                                              had lunch aboard the boat which anchored in water lillies.
                                                                                              There were large numbers of Radjah Shelduck (Burdekin
                                                                                              Duck), egrets, herons and other waterbirds as well as White-
                                                                                              bellied Sea-eagles and Black-necked Storks (pictured below
                                                                                              left). Black-necked Stork is often erroneously called Jabiru.

Kakadu
After the cruise, we set out for Kakadu. En route, we stopped at some excavation pits alongside the Sturt Highway, where Barry hoped we might see a
rarity, and in the Mamukala Wetlands alongside the South Alligator River.
Whilst we were en route to Kakadu, a phone call advised that the lodge at Yellow Water had messed up our booking, but Barry and I were allowed to
stay in a staff cabin. It was a challenge to find our way from the cabin to the restaurant and back in the dark. The others had no such problem as their
motel rooms were alongside the restaurant and in a well-lit area.                                              ~ to be continued in the next issue.




                                                                                                                                                    Page 8
  A visit to the Reed Beds
  Text and photos by Roger Standen



  Background photo: Australasian Darter carrying nesting material

                                                                                                                                                                  !
Toward the end of November 2010, I visited the Gulpa Forest Reed
Beds to see the breeding ibis and Royal Spoonbills.
The ibis were still making nests and had eggs through to fledged                                                                     !
young so the breeding was continuing unabated.
Australasian Darters, Little Pied Cormorants, Nankeen Night-Herons
and Straw-necked Ibis were all seen carrying nesting material.
               Right: Female Australasian Darter in “The Reed Beds”
                                        Below: Little Pied Cormorant




                                                                       !                                                                Above: Royal Spoonbill
                                                                                                                           Right: Straw-necked Ibis with chicks
                                                                           Male Musk Ducks were giving loud whistling calls and making plenty of splash
                                                                           along the creek.
                                                                           After pulling the boat from the creek, I went around to the bird hide for a couple
                                                                           of hours in the middle of the day. Despite it generally raining, there were many
                                                                           interesting things to see.
                                                                           This included Great Crested Grebes displaying and a group of four male
                                                                           Hardheads closely following a female as she dabbled around through the azolla.
                                                                           The female often threw her head back repeatedly in short flicks before returning
                                                                           to her dabbling. One male occasionally would throw his head right over so the top
                              Page 9                                       of his head almost touched his back. After some time of the ‘chase’, that covered
                                                                           a distance of over 100m, the males slowly peeled off and flew to other parts of
                                                                           the swamp leaving one male with the female.
                                                                           There were also several pairs of Superb Fairy-wrens out in the reeds with one pair
                                                                           building a nest (or at least the female was building, while the male kept close
                                                                           company) directly in front of the hide.            ...continued on the next page.
                                                                                                                                                         Page 9
                                                                                                         !
Roger Standen’s visit to The Reed Beds (continued)




                                     Above: A Royal Spoonbill attacking an Australian White Ibis chick that came too close
A surprise to me was the presence of White-browed Scrubwrens and Brown Thornbills feeding out in the reeds in front of the hide, nearly 100m from the
edge of the water that was well behind the hide. To my further surprise, the Australasian Bitterns that had been seen there before were calling. I didn’t
expect this in the middle of the day but I am informed they can do this. Despite lots of scanning of the reed beds, I couldn’t see one. Let’s hope they are
breeding there. (See photo on Page 2 of an Australasian Bittern taken in The Reed Beds. Ed.)
                                                                                                        Birds Roger observed along Gulpa
Australian Reed-warblers were everywhere, while Little Grassbirds called regularly and were             Creek and in the Reed Beds
readily seen as they worked their way around the edges of the reed patches.
Some of the Purple Swamphens were content to graze out in the open while others were making            Brown Thornbill                Royal Spoonbill (breeding)
very deep, gruff calls and spent a deal of time chasing one another through the reeds.                 White-browed Scrubwren         Little Pied Cormorant
                                                                                                       Australian Reed-Warbler        ~(breeding)
Ibis were constantly flying over the hide, to and from the breeding area on the other side of the      Little Grassbird               Little Black Cormorant
swamp. The large colony of breeding Nankeen Night-Herons opposite the nearby Picnic Point              Purple Swamphen                ~(breeding)
Caravan Park was also very active.                                                                     Intermediate Egret             Great Cormorant
                                                                                                       ~(breeding plumage)            Grey Shrike-thrush
                                                                                                       Black Swan                     Crimson Rosella
                                                                                                       Great Crested Grebe            ~‘Yellow’ form
                                                                                                       ~(courting)                    Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
                                                                                                       Australian White Ibis          ~(breeding)
                                                                                                       ~(breeding)                    Galah (breeding)
                                                                                                       Straw-necked Ibis              Welcome Swallow
                                                                                                       ~(breeding)                    White-winged Chough
                                                                                                       Superb Fairy-wren              Pallid Cuckoo
                                                                                                       ~(breeding)                    Fan-tailed Cuckoo
                                                                                                       Hardhead (courting?)           White-throated Treeceeper
                                                                                                       Grey Teal (breeding)           Nankeen Night-Heron
                                                                                                       Pacific Black Duck             ~(breeding)
                                                                                                       Brown Falcon                   Laughing Kookaburra
                                                                                                       Swamp Harrier                  Peaceful Dove
                                                                                                       Whistling Kite                 Rufous Songlark
                                                                                                       Crested Shrike-tit             Australian Magpie
                                                                                                       White-plumed Honeyeater        Magpie-lark
                                                                                                       ~(breeding)                    Little Raven
                                                                                                       White-breasted W’dswallow      Dusky Moorhen
                                                                                                       Willie Wagtail                 Striated Pardalote
                  Above: Nankeen Night-Heron at Picnic Point (Roger Standen)                           Australasian Darter            Musk Duck
                                                                                                       ~(breeding)
Over 40 species were seen there and, despite the rain, it was an interesting and rewarding trip.                                                       Page 10
                                         ~ Roger Standen, Bendigo, 2 December 2010
A visit to Aird Road
Text by Keith Stockwell; photos by David Ong



During the last quarter of 2010, a great deal of rain fell in our district.
On an overcast day late in November, a few of us met to participate in
the annual “Challenge Bird Count” which is a quest to observe and
count birds and bird species within a 40km radius of a certain point,
in our case within 40km of Echuca Post Office.
One of the spots we chose to bird at was along Aird Road. Aird Road
runs between Mt Terricks Road and Echuca-Mitiamo Road on plains
country west of Echuca. For much of its length, the road passes
through grazing and crop land. It also passes through an area of
indigenous grassland owned on one side of the road by Parks Victoria
and on the other side by Trust for Nature.
Whilst driving along Mt Terricks Road, as we neared Aird Road, we
observed a flock of Budgerigars. At the corner of the two roads, we
heard Stubble Quail calling.
Approaching from the Mt Terricks Road end, we were unable to drive
as far as the grassland reserves, for floodwater covered the road and
surrounding farmland. It was a change to see country that has been
drought-stricken for over a decade covered in floodwater.
Making use of the flooded country, a variety of waterbirds had moved
in. Amongst the waterbirds was a group of Hoary-headed Grebes.
Through the telescope, we obtained good views of several Plumed
Whistling-Duck. Other birds observed there included White-fronted
Chat, Hardhead, Dusky Moorhen, Black-tailed Native-hen, Shelduck,
Musk Duck and Wood Duck.
                                        Very top:: Floodwater, Aird Road
                                                  Top right: Stubble Quail
                                             Right: Hoary-headed Grebes
                                           Below: Plumed Whistling-Duck




                                                                              Page 11
                                                           Coming Events
Synopsis:
        Day and Date                                       Event                        Meeting Time & Place                  VicRoads
  Sunday 23rd January 2011           Moama Wetlands (Horseshoe Lagoon Regional Park)   Moama Boardwalk, 7.30am                Map 597 J5
  Tuesday 25th January 2011          Quarterly surveys along Gunbower Creek            Torrumbarry Hall, 7.30am               Map 31 A2
  Saturday 26th February             Outing to Gunbower Island National Park           Torrumbarry Hall, 8am                  Map 31 A2
  Sunday 20th March                  Outing to Corop Area                              Outside Corop Store, 8.30am            Map 31 F9
  Saturday 9th April                 Outing to Perricoota Forest                       Moama Lions Park, Meninya St., 8.30    Map 596 J3
  Easter                             Easter Camp                                       See The Bird Observer for details
  Saturday 30th April                Quarterly surveys along Gunbower Creek            Torrumbarry Hall, 8.30am               Map 31 A2
  Sunday 1st –Tuesday 3rd May        Three consecutive day outings from Kerang         Atkinson Park, Kerang                  Map 592 B5
  Saturday 18th June                 Outing to bushland alongside the Campaspe River   Elmore Railway Station car park        Map 727 N3
  Sunday 3rd July                    Outing to the Bendigo Whipstick                   Land property, Wm Perry Ln Sebastion   Map 44 E3
  Tuesday 26th July                  Quarterly surveys along Gunbower Creek            Torrumbarry Hall, 9am                  Map 31 A2


Details of Outings                                                       FOUR CONSECUTIVE DAYS OF BIRDING
If you are running late for an outing, ring Keith on 042 993             Come along for any (or all) of the following days. Participants may
3519 (on the particular morning only).                                   wish to arrange their own accommodation in the Kerang area, e.g.
                                                                         at Kerang Caravan & Tourist Park, 21 Museum Drive Kerang,
Sunday 23rd January 2011                                                 Phone (03) 5452 1161 or Loddon River Motel, 103 Wellington St
Early morning in Moama Wetlands (Horseshoe                               Kerang 5452 2511 or Loddon Valley Resort, 76 Murray Valley
Lagoon Regional Park)                                                    Highway Kerang 5452 1311. Enquiries: Keith (03) 5480 9254.
Leader: Keith Stockwell.                                                 Saturday 30th April 2011
Meet on the boardwalk, Horseshoe Lagoon MOAMA 7.30am.
The boardwalk is alongside Echuca-Moama Bridge. Bird until
                                                                         Quarterly surveys along Gunbower Creek
about 11am or until weather gets hot. Bring m/tea.                       Leader: Dallas Wyatt.
Contact: Keith (03) 5480 9254                                            Meet 8.30am outside Torrumbarry Hall. VicRoads Map 31 A2.
                                                                         Areas to be surveyed include Cockatoo Lagoon, Splatts Lagoon,
Tuesday 25th January 2011                                                Sandhill Farm, Mahers Creek (highway to confluence with Splatts
Quarterly surveys along Gunbower Creek                                   Lagoon), a revegetated area alongside Splatts Lagoon, and at the
Leader: Dallas Wyatt.                                                    confluence of National Channel and Gunbower Creek.
Meet 7.30am outside Torrumbarry Hall. VicRoads Map 31 A2.                Sunday 1st May 2011
Areas to be surveyed include Cockatoo Lagoon, Splatts Lagoon,
Sandhill Farm, Mahers Creek (highway to confluence with Splatts
                                                                         Outing to Wanderers Plain-Bael Bael Reserve
Lagoon), a revegetated area alongside Splatts Lagoon and                 Leader: Dallas Wyatt. Meet 9.00, Atkinson Park, Murray Valley
confluence of National Channel and Gunbower Creek.                       Highway, Kerang (VicRoads 7th edition Map 592 B5).
Before coming, contact Keith on 5480 9254 (or Dallas).                   Monday 2nd May 2011
Saturday 26th February 2011                                              Outing to Goschen Reserve and Lake Boga
Outing to Gunbower Island National Park                                  Leaders: A & D Thompson and Betty Waterson
Leader: Keith Stockwell.                                                 Meet 8.30m Atkinson Park, Murray Valley Highway, Kerang.
Meet 8am outside Torrumbarry Hall.                                       Dinner for birders
Visit areas in the south-eastern section of the National Park plus a     7pm, Bartts Restaurant, Kerang Valley Resort, 76 Murray Valley
wetland or nearby private property. Bring lunch.                         Highway, Kerang. Book with Keith on (03) 5480 9254.
Enquiries:Keith (03) 5480 9254
                                                                         Tuesday 3rd May 2011
Sunday 20th March 2011                                                   Birding around Kerang
Corop area                                                               Leaders: Anne and David Thompson
Joint outing with Murray Goulburn Branch                                 Meet 8.30am, Atkinson Park, Murray Valley Highway, Kerang.
Leaders: Peter Allan and Barry McLean.
Meet 8.30 outside the Corop Store (VicRoads Map 31 F9).
                                                                         Saturday 18th June 2011
Visit Greens Lake, Lake Cooper and other wetlands in the area.           Outing to bushland alongside Campaspe River
Bring lunch.                                                             Leader: Peter Allan. Meet 9.30 in main car park of Elmore
Enquiries: Peter (03) 5484 1576 or Barry (03) 5798 1213                  Railway Station, VicRoads Map 627 N3. Bring lunch.

Saturday 9th April 2011                                                  Sunday 3rd July 2011
Outing to Perricoota Forest                                              Outing to the Bendigo Whipstick
Leader: Keith Stockwell.                                                 Leaders: Pam and John Land. Meet 9.30 at the Land property, 50
Meet 8.30, Moama Lions Park (alongside Maddison Spa Resort),             William Perry Lane Sebastian, VicRoads Map 44 E3.
Cobb Highway (Meninya Street) MOAMA NSW (VicRoads 7th                    Tuesday 26th July 2011
Edition Map 596 J3).
Weather and road conditions allowing, we will drive through this         Quarterly surveys along Gunbower Creek
forest, visiting a range of habitats. If forest roads are wet, we will   Leader: Dallas Wyatt.
visit bushland alongside Perricoota Road. Bring lunch.                   Meet 9am outside Torrumbarry Hall, VicRoads Map 31 A2. Bring
Contact Keith (03) 5480 9254                                             lunch. Contact Keith (03) 5480 9254 (or Dallas).   Page 12

				
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