Costa Rica – A Unique, Environmentally Friendly Nation

Abridged version of talk presented to TBW 27 February 2020 by Ray Hare

Costa Rica is very different to Australia, and there are many lessons to be learned from these people. The country is in Central America, sandwiched between the Pacific Ocean and the Caribbean Sea and bordered by Nicaragua and Panama.

It has a tropical climate with both high mountains and lowland plains. Proximity to two oceans means rain, so there are many moist, cloudy days. As a result, the vegetation is extremely lush, and there are large wetlands as well as cloud forests on the high mountains.

San Jose is the capital city. There are twelve active volcanoes nearby. There is a rich history and culture dating from pre-colonial times. During colonial times, resources such as mahogany were stripped from the forests and shipped to Europe. A communist revolution in 1949 changed that. It is now a peaceful country and does not even have an army.

The fabulous natural resources are the country’s greatest resource. Logging is banned, electricity is hydro thanks to the abundant water and volcanic geothermal heat is also used. There is no obvious drug problem and the people appear healthy and happy, despite little wealth. There is a good trade in agricultural products like bananas, pineapples, coffee.

Eco tourism is booming. Tourists are coming in their thousands from the USA, Canada and Europe. The government has been smart enough to establish tourist centres in depressed areas to provide income and employment. Costa Rica is a safe country. The crime rate is low, food and water are plentiful and safe to consume, the health system is good, as are most roads.

Animal, plant and bird life is abundant. The audience was treated to photos illustrating this, plus videos of hummingbirds feeding just outside the Hare’s room.


Tuesday Walk in Tamworth Botanic Gardens 11 February 2020

Our first Tuesday outing was up to our Botanic Gardens and we were saddened to see the loss of the magnificent eucalyptus that had been cut down, probably for safety reasons but so many birds made such good use of it - to perch, feed and nest and we have seen many a squabble take place there as well.

Eventually we started to see some little bush birds; Superb Fairy-wren, Red-browed Finch, Double-barred Finch and later on White-browed Scrub-wren. Nowhere as many as we usually see around here. Another shock to us was the water holes have either dried up or almost dry. We aren’t used to seeing them anything except full.

A fine new high wire fence has been erected all the way across above the nursery area. We thought maybe to keep the kangaroos and pigs out because of the drought. Our walking track was still accessible which allowed us to still wander around to the boundary of Marsupial Park where we came across another sad sight, some of the lovely pines have become victims of the drought too.

Denise’s mate Jo joined us here just in time to try and identify parrots hiding in the pepper corn trees adjacent to the bottom dam. (Very little water in there) Eventually we could see a couple of Rainbow Lorikeets and a Musk Lorikeet. After straining our eyes for ages all of a sudden there was this explosion from the tree and Lorikeets of both species took off. We quickly counted 10 Musks and about 16 Rainbow Lorikeets.

Morning tea time so we headed back to the shelter for a sit down and a catch up. There were 12 of us all up including one new member, Rob, and good to have Jill back with us again and of course Denise's friend who hopefully will join us again. After morning tea we went back down to the dam area where, after straining our neck muscles we added a Weebill, at the top of the tree of course, an Eastern Spinebill and one of Terri’s favourites, a Grey Fantail. Oh and two Wood Ducks came in for a landing on the dam. That gave us a total 32 with the Wedge-tailed Eagle, Striated Pardalote and immature Brown Goshawk Denise saw in the Aboriginal area when she and a few others walked back through there.

Birds seen, Australian Wood Duck, Spotted Dove, Crested Pigeon, Brown Goshawk (yon), Wedged - tailed Eagle, Galah, Rainbow Lorikeet, Musk Lorikeet, Australian King-Parrot, Eastern Rosella, Superb Fairy-wren, White-browed Scrub-wren, Weebill, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, Striated Pardalote, Eastern Spinebill, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, Noisy Friarbird, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Grey Butcherbird (yon), Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie (yon), Pied Currawong, Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Magpie-lark, Apostlebird, Common Myna, Mistletoebird, Double-barred Finch, Red-browed Finch.

Joan Dunne.

Pilliga Forest Birdwatchers Visit Rocky Creek Millsite 15 February 2020

There seemed to be a breathless hush over Rocky Creek Millsite when I arrived out there about 7.30am on our 3rd Saturday. At first I thought it must be my awful hearing but presently when Lou and Shirley turned up they said "Isn't it quiet". By the time Margaret and Bruce turned up a little later the birds had started to venture out and before you knew it we had started to accumulate quite a satisfactory bird list.

We were the only ones there to see them because Mary and Innes from Narrabri had 10 inches of rain that upset their roads a bit and no doubt Helen had so much rain over on the coast that she would have reasoned that the Pilliga would be under water, and May and John were floating about on the Murray River checking it out. After we had exhausted the birds hovering about the picnic area and fortified ourselves with coffee, Lou, Shirley and I decided we would drive over to the water hole across the road and camp beside it in the car. I said to them "You call out the birds as they come in and I will record them in my book". We saw one Bronzewing! No, there were no waterholes in the creek. This was the only available water. Overall we recorded 39 different birds for the day which is really very good considering that no one has told them that most birds like a sip of water now and then to help them exist in a very dry time.

This is what we saw: Australian Wood Duck, Peaceful Dove, Common Bronzewing, Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Australian Ringneck, Red-rumped Parrot, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Laughing Kookaburra, Rainbow Bee-eater, Dollarbird, White-throated Treecreeper, Superb Fairy-Wren, Speckled Warbler, Western Gerygone, Inland Thornbill, Striated Thornbill, Yellow Thornbill, Noisy Friarbird, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, White-eared Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater, Jacky Winter, Red-capped Robin, Eastern Yellow Robin, Grey-Crowned Babbler, Varied Sittella, Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-Thrush, Restless Flycatcher, Willie Wagtail, Grey Fantail, White-winged Triller, Dusky Woodswallow, Grey Butcherbird, Australian Raven, Double-barred Finch, Welcome Swallow, Rufous Songlark.

The highlight of my day was sitting beside the creek on my walker for some time and recording Willie Wagtail, Double barred Finch, Superb Fairy-Wren, Rufous Songlark, White-winged Triller, Peaceful Dove. The sort of thing that makes bird watching really worthwhile. So we had a warm day, but pleasant good company, good coffee, and very satisfactory bird numbers. What did the day teach us? You can have a very dry time with a good number of birds with water available and they don't need to visit that water? Perhaps I will visit the area some time at sundown to see if they drink in the evening.

Next month we go to Sandstone Caves, but more of that later.

Best Wishes and Happy Birding, David and Shirley

Tuesday Walk Along the Peel River Tamworth 25 February 2020

Once again the Peel was flowing much to the delight of our Tuesday Birdo’s as we ploughed our way through the long wet grass. Oh well, you can’t have everything! We had decided to have the two Red-winged Parrots seen as our bird of the day but as we were standing on the bridge a flock of 15 White-throated Needletails came zooming over us. We waited on the bridge and sure enough back they came, low enough for us to be sure what they were. Twice more they flew over us as we continued on our walk and so they were relegated to the bird of the day and the Red-winged Parrots were second!

We saw one Australian Reed-Warbler and a family of Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike kept us amused for a while and gave some of our newer members the chance to look at some birds who were willing to stay in the one place. Good time to get used to using binoculars.

After we arrived at the foot bridge we saw a White-faced Heron flying up the river a couple of times with nesting material in its beak. (Suggestive behaviour). That made two breeding records, with the Black-faced Cuckoo-Shrike and one new sighting with the Needle-tails.

After morning tea we walked the eastern section of the river and only added a Whistling Kite, who tried a few times to land on the playing fields but was smartly seen off by a couple of Magpies and a cheeky Magpie-lark, one Red-browed Finch and a Grey Shrike-thrush was heard calling.

Birds seen: Australian Wood Duck, Pacific Black Duck, Rock Dove, Spotted Dove, Crested Pigeon, White-throated Needletail, White-faced Heron (SB), Whistling Kite, Dusky Moorhen, Galah, Little Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Rainbow Lorikeet, Australian King-Parrot, Red-winged Parrot, Eastern Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot, Superb Fairy-wren, White-plumed Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Red Wattlebird, (yon), Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Grey Shrike-thrush, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Willie Wagtail, Australian Raven, Magpie-lark, Australian Reed-Warbler, Welcome Swallow, Common Starling, Common Myna, Mistletoebird, Red-browed Finch, House Sparrow.

Joan Dunne.

Tamworth Birdwatchers Outing to Dangar’s Lagoon, Uralla and Dumaresq Dam, Armidale. Saturday 29 February 2020.

With a group of 22 we headed to Dangar’s Lagoon, Uralla for our first stop. By the time all of us had arrived some were already spotting birds on the Lagoon, which had a reasonable quantity of water following recent rain. The Lagoon has been dry for about 18 months with even a fire burning through at one stage. Now water has attracted a variety of birds back to the area so it was a rewarding experience to see them about again. A number of waterbirds including a very large flock of Plumed Whistling Duck estimated to be around 80 was seen. Raptors were spotted flying and landing and verification was needed for one, which landed on a dead tree across the far side of the lagoon. Chris and Denise kindly set up their scope for us all to get a good view and it proved to be a Juvenile Wedge-tailed Eagle. This was a first sighting for some of our members so some headed across to the Bird Hide, near where the Wedge-tailed Eagle was perched, to see if photos and a closer look could be taken. Jan managed to get some nice photos. Smiles from others to also see the adult flying around nearby.

Dangar’s Lagoon Bird sightings: White-necked Heron, White-faced Heron, Eurasian Coot, Pink-eared Duck, Hardhead, Purple Swamphen, Dusky Moorhen, Black Swan, Pacific Black Duck, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Australasian Grebe, Plumed Whistling-Duck, Swamp Harrier, Little Pied Cormorant, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Galah, Australian White Ibis, Royal Spoonbill, Magpie-lark, Superb Fairy-wren, Crested Pigeon, Whistling Kite, Australasian Shoveler, Australian Raven, Rufous Songlark, Red-rumped Parrot, Straw-necked Ibis, Indian Myna, Striated Pardalote, Welcome Swallow, Eastern Rosella, Sacred Kingfisher, Torresian Crow, Black-faced Cuckoo Shrike, White-bellied Cuckoo Shrike (new recording for here),Common Starling, Masked Lapwing, Australian Hobby.

From Dangar’s Lagoon we headed up to Dumaresq Dam. Lunch first, and bird sightings called while we sat under the trees enjoying the company and mild weather. We then headed off towards the woodland walking trail around the northwestern end of the dam. The trail loops around the dam for about 2.6km. Walking towards the dam Jean spotted Musk Duck, which got us all looking to see two of them, diving and paddling around in the water. On a closer look they were both identified as female. Walking through the swing gate into the woodland area small birds could be heard and seen flying from low shrub to tree branches. Dusky Woodswallow were seen, along with Grey Fantails and Willie Wagtail and most exciting a Crested Shrike-tit. Heard and soon spotted were Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Eastern Rosella and Superb Fairy-wren. Following the trail other sightings included White-plumed Honeyeater and a very shy Shining Bronze Cuckoo. Most of the group walked the trail, including across the lower part of the dam wall and arriving back at the recreation area for a final birdcall and then everyone heading home.

Dumaresq Dam Bird sightings: Grey Fantail, Australian Reed-Warbler, Striated Thornbill, Yellow Thornbill, Musk Duck, Dusky Woodswallow, Superb Fairy-wren, Eurasian Coot, Striated Pardalote, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Willie Wagtail, Grey Teal, White-throated Gerygone, Fairy Martin, Eastern Rosella, White-throated Treecreeper, White-plumed Honeyeater, Crested Shrike-tit, Pacific Black Duck, Purple Swamphen, Fuscous Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, Grey Shrike-thrush, Little Pied Cormorant, Shining Bronze Cuckoo, Crimson Rosella, Red-browed Finch, Musk Lorikeet, Noisy Miner, Rufous Whistler, Australian Magpie, Galah, Mistletoebird, Australian Wood Duck, Australian Raven, Lewin’s Honeyeater, White-eared Honeyeater, Welcome Swallow, Spotted Pardalote, Golden Whistler, Brown Thornbill, Grey Butcherbird.

Marianne Terrill

About Tamworth Birdwatchers

Because we have a number of new members, the committee thought we should put something in the Newsletter to remind people of all the many things TBW does behind the scenes.

Everyone will know of our morning bird walks on the 2nd and 4th Tuesdays of the month. These are in the local area and you are usually home by midday. We have our social meeting on the 4th Thursday at 7.30pm in the Bridge Club in Hilton St. Then on the Saturday after our social meeting there is our full day bird outing. We usually go further afield then. There is usually at least one three or four day campout each year as well. One is coming up soon. See the Newsletter or website for destinations, leader etc. All activities operate from February to November inclusive.

However our club does a lot more than that. Our committee meets on the third Thursday of each month and we organise activities, seek grants for projects, publicise the TBW etc. It is thanks to the committee members and a few other dedicated members, that so much has been accomplished. We are always looking for new ideas and help from members.

Listed below, are some of our achievements.

• Bird Routes – initiated by Russ Watts and his late wife, Jenny, good birding spots in our district were identified and Council erected finger boards at their locations. This has now become a state wide phenomena.

• With the help of grants, we have created and printed Bird Route brochures for distribution to Information Centres and any visiting bird watchers. The latest version has been produced in association with Tamworth Regional Council.

• Notice boards promoting birds have been erected, such as the one at the entrance to the Tamworth Botanic Gardens

• Four Children’s Bird Routes have been developed at Tamworth, Manilla, Barraba and Hanging Rock. Each one has a large notice at the site and there are handouts that encourage children to look for common birds there. Local schools attended the various launches.

• All sightings recorded on our outings are sent to the on-line data base, Birdata, along with other sightings which result from members’ reports. Geoff Mitchell also keeps comprehensive records for all the places we visit.

• Members do regular surveys at different sites. Two members are currently surveying a number of sites in the Ogunbil and Dungowan areas. They are visited monthly for a period of 12 months. Quipolly Dam is also regularly surveyed.

• Three members have surveyed two sites in Warrabah National Park. These sites are part of an area designated by BirdLife as a Key Biodiversity Area (KBA) so this survey is very important. It has been done over the last ten years, visiting the sites once each season. There are always three surveyors and they always go to the same two sites. In this way collected data can be reliably compared. Once again, the data goes to Birdata.

• Displays have been held in various places, such as at Tamworth Show, the Peel St Markets, various functions in Bicentennial Park, Botanical Gardens, Marsupial Park, for Threatened Species Day and so on. We have also provided speakers for community groups.

• We have provided opportunities for the public to come birding with us, such as at our 20th Birthday/Tamworth’s 200th Anniversary celebrations, our Breakfast with the Birds morning, and once during NAIDOC week.

• We ran a photographic competition for children, open to all in the Tamworth Regional Council area and donated bird field guide books as prizes to the different age groups.

• Attempting to control invasive feral birds, especially the Common Myna, has been a major project for the club. One member, Eric Fair, has made well over 500 traps, with occasional help from others. These have been sold at near cost price to members of the public in the hope that the number of feral birds will be kept down. They are available for $25 through Collins Bros. or our Committee. Committee members have also put effort into public education re. feral birds through displays and speaking to service clubs, CWA etc.

• A website has been developed for Tamworth Birdwatchers. It can be found at There is publicity regularly submitted by us to local media and we liaise with BirdLife Australia and other bird watching groups. We also participate in initiatives such as “Birds in Backyards” and host birdwatchers visiting our area.

• A Twitchathon is run annually by BirdLife Australia to raise money for different bird related projects. Teams of sponsored birdwatchers have 24 hours to see how many species can be seen in that time. Four of our members entered a team some years ago, but lately TBW has sent a monetary donation instead of actually participating.

Annabel Ashworth