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

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