Friday, 30 September 2016

Go South 16 -- Whoey Tank

Six hundred and fifty kilometres to the south of Bowra Station, via Bourke, Cobar and Mt Hope, is Whoey Tank, an old dam of quite substantial size, tucked into the northern part of Round Hill Nature Reserve. Whilst the "tank" is empty, a small concrete tank of 20,000 or so litre capacity sits on the ground about 100 metres to the "tank's" east which has a very small and slow leak at its base. Here a small permanent puddle has formed and the birds love it. I placed a dead branch on the ground just a metre away from the puddle and, having arisen before dawn, sat in a chair directly in line with the rising sun and waited.

The leak and Blue-faced Honeyeaters.
Top of the tank and Striped Honeyeater.
Spotted Bowerbird
Blue Bonnets
Mulga Parrots - girl,boy,boy,girl

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Go South 15 -- Bowra, Cunnamulla

This last post from Bowra concerns itself with the banding exercise I participated in as a scribe. You need to have a licence to handle the birds but I was more than happy to just be part of setting up and taking down the nets and doing whatever was needed during the banding. It also meant that I was able to see [very] close up some birds I normally only get a glimpse of.

The banding routine was to set up the mist nets [perhaps 12-15 at each site x 2 or 3 sites each session] the previous afternoon, catch birds until dusk, furl the nets overnight, arise at 5.15am, be on-site at 6.15 at the latest, unfurl nets, catch and process until the capture rate became nil [anywhere between 9 and 10.30]. The welfare of the birds is top priority thus each set of nets was checked every 20 to 30 minutes, caught birds taken out, bagged individually then brought to a common table at each site for processing [lots of metrics taken: leg, wing, beak, head lengths, weight, moult] then photographed if not a White-plumed HE and released. The majority of birds of the 600 or so birds caught this year were White-plumed Honeyeaters. Last year they caught 2,000 Zebra and Double-barred finches plus a thousand others. This year? Zero Zebs and 4 DBs. Just goes to show the boom or bust cycle of life in the outback.
Bags with birds for processing

Three banders in full swing processing birds.
A typical scene. An interrupted breakfast.
First bird on the first morning was an Australian Owlet-nightjar!! Other notables I saw were Willie Wagtails, Brown and White-browed Treecreepers, Spotted Nightjar, Mulga and Bourkes Parrot, Halls Babbler, Spiny-cheeked and Brown-headed Honeyeaters, Grey Butcherbird, Peaceful Dove, Crested Bellbird, Red-capped and Hooded Robins and a Weebill. Did you know that a Weebill weighs only 6g? It was a special birding moment to be involved.

Australian Owlet-nightjar
Pied Butcherbird
Mulga Parrot
The Mulga Parrot has the reputation of being the feistiest bird in-hand and, indeed, drew blood several times from his handler.
Peaceful Dove
Inland Thornbill
Brown-headed Honeyeater
Crested Bellbird
Striped Honeyeater