Christmas Island Bird and Nature Week 27 August –3 September 2019

By Lyn Allen

Christmas Island is 2600km northwest of Perth and home to many birds, 80,000 seabirds nest there yearly. The human population is currently 1400 with a mix of Chinese .Malay and European each living in their own cultural area and most originally came to work in the phosphate mine. There was no endemic population. The island is the peak of an undersea volcano and is 135sq kms. During the week we learnt to find Abbots Boobies in the rainforest-look for the shit on the ground and they pick the tallest trees to nest in. The researcher Christina learnt to fly a drone to look in their nests. We banded Brown Booby babies and Tropicbird babies. Nesting is in very inhospitable areas for us on spiky volcanic rock on cliffs. Banding the Christmas Island Goshawk was more of a challenge as we had to catch it first luring it with a teddy bears arm and cable tie which was dragged along the road behind a ute. It looked like a good enough rat to get a few juveniles! We also saw the Chrstmas Island Thrush, Hawk-Owl, Emerald Dove, Frigatebird and Golden Bosun. Christmas Island is well worth a visit and also has many vagrant birds-more than 100. The crabs are also fascinating and are found from the sea to freshwater and land. The most abundant are the endemic red and blue crabs and the giant robber crabs that can be up to 70 years old.

Trip to India and Singapore 2019 - Jan Hosking

My husband John and I have visited Bangalore in southern India twice in the last 18 months, as our daughter Tanya is living there with her family. Bangalore (or Bengaluru) is a growing city, with a current population of just under 13 million. The new areas are very modern, with technology parks, shopping malls and gated communities. The tech parks have large buildings for international companies, like the one our son-in-law, Dario, works for. They are enclaves, with large well-kept gardens, and lots of security, similar to the gated community where Tanya and Dario live. However, the rapid growth of the city has swallowed up former villages which surrounded Bangalore. These former village areas still have dirt roads, tin shacks as shops, and open air butcheries for what meat they do sell. These areas provide an interesting contrast to new areas that are more like Australian cities.

The KR Market is in central Bangalore, and is famous primarily for its flower market, held every day of the year. It is reputed to be the biggest flower market in Asia, but also has stalls for fruit and vegetables, spices, and many other commodities. Some flowers are sold with long stems, but more are sold as just the flower itself, or on long strings. Flowers are used as decorations, but also as offerings in temples, and home shrines. Long tassels of different flowers are hung in shops, homes, cars, buses, and also strung in womens’ hair. On the day we visited the market, we also visited a children’s park in central Bangalore, where we saw the local Palm Squirrel, along with the Black Kite, the most abundant raptor in the world, according to the Australian Museum.

One weekend we went on a trip to Mysore (Mysuru), which is around 150 km south-west of Bangalore. Our first stop was Sultan Tibbu’s Tomb, a beautiful Muslim mausoleum, built in 1784. The Sultan and his parents are buried within the building, and other close members of his family have tombs under the verandah. More distant relatives have tombs in the courtyard surrounding the building. The next stop was a bird sanctuary, where we saw many birds, including Egrets, the Common Kingfisher, and the Indian Pond Heron. There were also crocodiles in the river, a good reason to keep out of the water, even if it was hot! We decided instead to go to the swimming pool at the hotel, where I saw a female Purple-rumped Sunbird. Unfortunately I didn’t see the male, which is spectacular in its colouration.

Mysore is famous for the Mysore Palace, the former residence of the Maharajahs of the area. It is very popular with visitors, and tours are available to see the many rooms inside. While there, we saw the Red-naped Ibis, a bird found only on the Indian sub-continent. We also visited the Sri Chumundashwari Devi temple, one of the many Hindu temples in the area. It has spectacular carvings, and again is a very popular tourist site.

On our way home from India, John and I stopped in Singapore for 3 nights, and our first priority was to see the Botanic Gardens, with the famous National Orchid Garden of Singapore. Here they not only have magnificent displays of orchids, but they also breed hybrid orchids. Whilst in the Botanic Gardens, we saw Javan Mynas, and the Red Junglefowl, very like our chickens. If you go to Singapore, try to check out CHIJMES, pronounced ‘chimes’, which is an acronym for “Convent of the Holy Infant Jesus Middle Education School”. From the street, all you see is a blank wall, which formerly surrounded a church, convent and school. However the convent and school have long since moved, to be replaced by restaurants, cafes, bars and other shops. It is a great place to go at night and eat out under the old trees, near the beautiful old church.

Our next visit was to Fort Canning Park, which is on a little hill just near the centre of Singapore. This was where the British first raised the Union Jack when they took over Singapore as a British colony in 1819, and was later the location of the Governor’s residence. However it was decided to build a fort on the hill, to protect the colony, but this was not successful, as not only was there no water supply, but the guns placed there did not have the range to hit any ship in the harbour. Ships in the harbour could thus pound the city with impunity. So eventually the fort was torn down and military buildings were all that remained. It is now a lovely park, and is used for many recreational activities. Here we saw Pacific Swallows, more Red Junglefowl, and also a large Sea Eagle’s nest, which was not occupied at the time.

The next day we met up with friends who had formerly lived in Tamworth, and they took us to see the Gardens by the Bay. This is a created landscape near the famous Marina Bay Sands Hotel. There are two massive domed structures, the Flower Dome and the Cloud Dome, which house amazing displays of flowers, plants and sculptures. The Cloud Dome had the record for the highest indoor waterfall, until it was recently taken over by the Rain Vortex, the waterfall inside the new Jewel Terminal at Changi Airport.

On our final day we visited Sentosa Island, just off the coast but linked to the city by bridge and cable car. There is still remnant bushland here, but it is being rapidly overtaken by resorts and theme parks. There we saw Peacocks, and the Asian Glossy Starling, which is very like our Metallic Starling, with its dark colouring and bright red eye. We then went to Changi Airport, not only to get our plane home, but to also check out their newest terminal, the Jewel Terminal, again a huge dome, with over 300 retail shops, restaurants and cafes. There are also airline facilities, and you can check in up to 24 hours before you fly. Like everything in Singapore, it is the most amazing created space, with the huge Rain Vortex in the centre, surrounded by 5 stories of gardens. And although this facility has only just been opened, they are already building another terminal, even bigger. Anything is possible in Singapore!

Jan Hosking


Tuesday Outing to Tip Reserve Dungowan 8 October 2019

Having discovered that there was actually water flowing down the Peel at one of our favourite birding spots with the flash title of The Tip Reserve! That is where we headed for our Tuesday walk on the 8th October

The Sacred Kingfisher was there to welcome us with his continuous call and he sat patiently for us all to have a good admiring look. Later his mate put in an appearance too.

The Australian King-Parrots flew over as did the Willie Wagtail, the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters and the Grey Shrike-thrush joined in. Birdsong everywhere, it was great.

We enjoyed watching the Little Lorikeets feeding their babies as they seemed to cling onto the side of the tree trunk where we were convinced they had their home. We saw the Tree Martins feeding their baby too.

The Rufus Songlark is back in our Polygon, another one who likes to advertise his presence.

We heard and later saw a Fan-tailed Cuckoo and after following the track up to the top of the hill, one lone Diamond Firetail was added to our list. Then it was back down for morning tea by the river bank to see if the Platypus would show itself. It didn't but Mandy fell off her chair which kept us amused as down she went in a tangle of legs, hers and the chair. Luckily it wasn't far to the ground and she didn't harm herself.

Next it was across the road to near the entrance to the tip (hence the flash name) but only a Grey Fantail was added, and that kept Terri happy!

With a total of 29 we had to hang around to make 30 for our round figure to be achieved. It looked like we would have to be happy with our 29 but at the last minute Terri spotted a Rainbow Bee-eater flying over so we were content to head off home.

Although it was a very grey day there was no sign of the rain that is so desperately needed.

After so long away it was very enjoyable to be back out with some of my Tuesday mates again.

BIRDS SEEN: Pacific Black Duck, Spotted Dove, Crested Pigeon, Peaceful Dove, Bar-shouldered Dove, Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Little Lorikeet YON, Australian King-Parrot, Eastern Rosella, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Sacred Kingfisher SB, Rainbow Bee-eater, Superb Fairy-wren, White-plumed Honeyeater, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Grey Shrike-thrush, Olive-backed Oriole, Dusky Woodswallow, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Australian Raven, Magpie-lark, Rufous Songlark, Tree Martin YON, Diamond Firetail.

Joan Dunne.

Mudgee Campout 17—21 October 2019

As happens so often, we had a number of dropouts before we even started – the drought, health issues and conflicting commitments all took their toll Nonetheless, Patrick, Ros, Margaret, Bill and Terri set off from Bryan Martin Park at 8:00 am with Penny and Lyn to catch us up at Coolah. I have been driving that road fairly regularly for 33 years as my in-laws lived at Wellington but this was the first time I have ever had to stop at one of the rail crossings! We met Bruce and Marianne, who had taken their caravan to Mudgee the previous day, at Hands on the Rock for morning tea. Although there were not many birds to be seen, this is an interesting Aboriginal Rock Art area not far from The Drip. (If you put 57 Bobadeen Road Turill into your GPS and then look carefully for the turnoff sign, you will find it!)

Our first real birding was the search for the Rockwarbler at The Drip Gorge National Park walking track. We had lunch then set off at our accustomed rambling, spread-out pace and were all rewarded with good sighting of up to five individual birds. We spent about two hours there with other sightings including Brown and Striated Thornbills, White-throated Gerygone, lots of White-browed Scrubwrens and of course, a Grey Fantail! Patrick and Ros headed off to their accommodation with Ros’s sister while the rest of us set up camp at Mudgee Riverside Caravan Park where we were joined by Eric and Annabel.

Early next morning, joined by local Angee, we headed off to Ferntree Gully about 18km from Rylstone. This reserve contains an area of rainforest and western plant communities, with a narrow ferntree-studded valley floor. A bit of scrambling over some uneven track was involved but all managed without incident. A Wonga Pigeon was heard calling, two Bassian Thrushes crossed the track and flew off before the camera could take aim and a male Satin Bowerbird posed for even the phone cameras. The area is well worth another visit for a future campout – as well as this nice cool summer respite area, there is a higher, warmer 2.7km walk along the Peppermint Trail. While heading for Dunn’s Swamp for the afternoon, we were intercepted by the local Random Breath Testers – much consternation and panic as Margaret searched hopefully in the boot for her licence – success luckily!

Walking along the water’s edge after lunch, we were disappointed with the lack of variety of waterbirds – we were told later that among the missing was the male Musk Duck who had been a resident for about 17years. Hopefully some of his descendants may return some day. Best sighting were a White-necked Heron, Lewin’s Honeyeater, Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo, White-naped Honeyeater and best of all a Superb Lyrebird (though only glimpses between the bushes.) As we were leaving, the canoe hire was setting up and the locals were arriving en masse – vindicating our choice to visit Dunn’s Swamp on a weekday.

Having made prior contact with Mark Leary from the Cudgegong Field Naturalists, thanks to a lucky social encounter between the Longs and another local, we had arranged to meet him and fellow member John McCrea at the Putta Bucca Wetlands at 2:00pm on the Saturday so we spent the morning wandering along the Cudgegong River from the caravan park. The best sighting of the morning was a juvenile Collared Sparrowhawk who posed for us at a convenient height in a riverside tree. Over the weekend, we recorded 46 species in the caravan park and adjacent riverbank area.

Saturday afternoon was the highlight of our campout as we were lucky enough to see a new species for that site. At first, it was thought to be a Sharp-tailed Sandpiper, then a Marsh Sandpiper but was later identified as a Wood Sandpiper – an uncommon migrant. This would be one of the rarest sightings made at Putta Bucca second to the Citrine Wagtail which was there in 2015. The total number of species recorded at the site now stands at 174 (unfortunately another recent addition was the Common Myna.)

To quote Mark “that puts the wetlands into the top 40 bird hotspots in N.S.W.” Other interesting sightings included an Australasian Grebe on the nest, an Australian Spotted Crake, a Dusky Woodswallow on the nest and the Little Grassbird which hopped out of the reeds just long enough for a photo. (When Mark, Eric, Annabel and I returned to the site on Monday afternoon, Annabel also spotted a Latham’s Snipe close to the Wood Sandpiper).

Another early start on Sunday for a full day’s birding to the Capertee Valley – unfortunately without a Regent Honeyeater. First stop was a dry creek-crossing on Genowlan Road, then on to Hilary Crawford’s private property – many thanks to Hilary and to Mark who arranged it for us. Most noticeable was a large number of various Woodswallows and a Brown Falcon soaring above – we were surrounded by wonderful views of the sandstone landscape. After morning tea, it was on to the church ground at Glen Alice where sighting included more Woodswallows, Rainbow Bee-eaters and two Babblers – Grey-crowned and White-browed. Lunch at Glen Davis was accompanied by about 30 White-winged Choughs before a last stop at the Gardens of Stone. We were running quite late for Happy Hour at that stage so it was only a short stop – all agreed it would be a good spot to explore further at a future date.

On Monday morning Mark was again generous with his time in leading us to Honeyeater Flat Munghorn Gap. True to its name, a variety of honeyeaters were present plus a farewell from my friend the fantail. Margaret, Bill, Penny and Lyn headed for home while the rest of us went back to Mudgee for an extra night. Mark, Eric, Annabel and I visited Putta Bucca in the afternoon trying for better views and photos of the Wood Sandpiper – two of them were feeding at separate spots but still quite elusive.

Many thanks to John McCrea and particularly to Mark Leary who were so generous with their time and assistance. Mark has also sent me numerous photos from the weekend and is happy for them to accompany this report. The Mudgee local council should be very proud of their wetland birding site – their support is of great importance. Terri Mower

Tuesday Outing to Woolomin 22 October 2019

We had a very enjoyable morning at Woolomin Reserve on the 22nd. The spring weather was lovely to be out in. The gums were in blossom which suited the Rainbow Lorikeets and they let us know it! The Dollarbirds have returned and as they perched out in the open we introduced our new birder, Rod Hurcum, to them as they were so clear to see.

As we were wandered down past the houses we added the usual Pigeons, Galahs etc and it was after morning tea that we found our way down to the water. At present the Peel is running nicely and it was a pretty sight to look down past the she-oaks and willows and that was where we found Geoffrey tucked away in the corner with an impressive list to add to ours. He had seen Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos, which we had missed, a Leaden Flycatcher, an Azure Kingfisher to name a few. We had seen the Sacred Kingfisher perched on the overhead wires and it was good to have both species seen. While we were resting with Geoff, Double-barred Finch, Buff-rumped Thornbill and Red-browned Finch made our list look good. On our way back to the cars we saw Red-rumped Parrot, Blue-faced Honeyeaters and an Olive-backed Oriole was calling. Our list totalled 44.

Birds seen: Australian Wood Duck, Spotted Dove, Crested Pigeon, Peaceful Dove, Bar-shouldered Dove, Dusky Moorhen, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Galah, Little Corella, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Rainbow Lorikeet, Musk Lorikeet, Australian King-Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Eastern Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot, Fan-tailed Cuckoo, Azure Kingfisher, Sacred Kingfisher, Laughing Kookaburra, Dollarbird, Satin Bowerbird, Superb Fairy-wren, White-browed Scrubwren, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Striated Pardalote, Eastern Spinebill, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater (YON), Red Wattlebird, Blue-faced Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird, Olive-backed Oriole, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Willie Wagtail, Australian Raven, Leaden Flycatcher, Rufous Songlark, Common Starling, Mistletoebird, Double-barred Finch, Red-browned Finch, House Sparrow.

Joan Dunne.

Day Trip to Tia Falls near Walcha 26 October 2019

Saturday was apparently a terrible day around Tamworth with wind, dust, smoke and later lightning but very limited rainfall. The day east of Walcha, past Apsley Falls and down the road to Tia Falls was mild, breezy and slightly hazy. The first car driven by Bruce stopped in the farmland to check the birds on and around a farm dam.

When we arrived in the Oxley Wild Rivers Nation Park, Tia Falls car park it was time for morning tea. The last to arrive, having left Tamworth much later, were Penny and Bruce who made the group up to 14 people. After a cuppa most of the group set off on the walk around the western edge of the gorge. Unlike our previous trip in March 2018 we could not hear the roar of the falls from the picnic area.

Down the steep hill below the camping area is a foot bridge across the Tia River a few hundred metres upstream of the falls. This trip the water level was way below the deck. Last time the river was over the bridge and not knowing whether the river was rising or falling it was decided to have a quick look over the other side and the come back to walk up to the falls lookout. This trip there was no concern about the river level and the group proceeded.

The wind on the walk around the top of the gorge probably reduced the number of birds recorded. The view around the gorge and from the lookouts is always spectacular but on such a hazy day not as good as a cool, clear winter day. The best bird seen and photographed by Jan was a male Red-capped Robin, a new bird for the site. After enjoying the view from the lookouts the group returned to the parking area.

We had lunch at the picnic area and then most of the group went down towards the top of the falls looking for the Spotted Quail-thrush that Patrick had found and photographed earlier in the day. These beautifully patterned birds live on the ground and usually disappear into the undergrowth when people approach. Patrick was lucky to see and quick to photograph the male, female and chick that was probably being escorted to a new roosting site. While the rest of the group did not find the birds we all enjoyed Patrick’s photos.

Since October 1981 67 species of birds have been observed around the Tia Falls area and 176 species of birds have been observed in Oxley Wild Rivers National Park because of its enormous size and various habitats. On this trip we added five species to the list for Tia Falls. The new species are underlined in the lists for the day.

Then it was time to jump in the cars to head back to the Oxley Highway with views along the way of some Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos stripping bark from some saplings as they searched for grubs. At the Highway the other cars waited while Chris and Denise drove ahead to open the gate to the Boggy Swamp Creek TSR a new site where we are compiling a bird list. Unfortunately the wind had increased during the day and was deemed too risky to walk in the forest. We had already seen a couple of trees blown over at Tia Falls.

Most of the group went for a short walk along the cleared fence line and found the Diamond Firetail in its regular spot. Unfortunately the only Dusky Woodswallow found was very dead. After a snack it was time to head home. The preliminary bird list for the TSR was increased from 41 to 44 species during the brief visit.

We were coming last to shut the gate and could see dark clouds coming in from the south. Before we got on the road a convoy of around 12 Japanese sports cars sped past some with their roofs down. Welcome rain came down and a short distance down the highway the sports cars pulled up to put their roofs back on. It proved a wise move as the rain increased and before and after Walcha we enjoyed some very heavy but short showers. It was a great end to the day but Tamworth received very little rain.

Bird list for Tia Falls: Pacific Black Duck, Little Pied Cormorant, Nankeen Kestrel, Crimson Rosella, Laughing Kookaburra, White-throated Treecreeper, Superb Fairy-wren, Yellow Thornbill, Buff-rumped Thornbill, Brown Thornbill, Spotted Pardalote, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird, Spotted Quail-thrush B, Varied Sitella, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Grey Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong N, Grey Fantail, Torresian Crow, Red-capped Robin, Leaden Flycatcher.

Bird list for Boggy Swamp Creek TSR: Wedge-tailed Eagle, Australian King-Parrot, Crimson Rosella, Laughing Kookaburra, Dollarbird, Superb Fairy-wren, White-throated Gerygone, Striated Thornbill, Australian Magpie, Grey Fantail, Willie Wagtail, Australian Raven, Welcome Swallow and Diamond Firetail.

Thanks to all the participants especially to Denise and Chris Kane for assistance throughout the trip and on the walks. My apologies to members who tried to ring me on the incorrect phone number published in the last newsletter. For future reference the correct number is 0447 883 998.

Geoff Mitchell

Pilliga Forest Birdwatchers Visit Trapyard Dam

Well, Bruce beat me out to Trapyard Dam as usual, but I shuffled over to the dam and sat on my walker just in time to be treated to a very satisfactory sight. A male Leaden Flycatcher in true breeding colours flew from a small tree beside the dam to dip himself in the water and return to the tree. He did this several times with the morning sun emphasising the beautiful colours of his wet breast feathers. A very satisfactory way to start the day!

Earlier in the year Trapyard Dam had been dry for the first time in my memory and it was very satisfactory to see that the big storm in February March had filled it again with fresh clean water

That spot of the Dam had a busy morning for a while. A cluster of Brown-headed Honeyeaters dominated the site with a Jacky Winter or two and Spiny-cheeked and Yellow-faced Honeyeaters pushing their way in.

A Sacred Kingfisher sat for ages looking on while a pair of White-backed Woodswallows were flying across the dam. It was quite some time before I had time to record in my notebook what Bruce had seen before I got there.

Presently Lou turned up from Coonabarabran bringing Shirley and John with her and it was not long before our loyal wonder girl Margaret from Gilgandra drove in. So that was the six of us for the day. Fires and ill health kept others at bay for the day and we wish them good health and successful fire-fighting.

Amongst us we saw 43 birds for the day. Here they are: - Square-tailed Kite, Bar-shouldered Dove, Common Bronzewing, Crested Pigeon, Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Australian Ringneck,, Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo, Laughing Kookaburra, Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, White-throated Treecreeper, Brown Treecreeper, Superb Fairy-wren, Striated Pardalote, Speckled Warbler, White-throated Gerygone, Chestnut-rumped Thornbill, Yellow Thornbill, Noisy Friarbird, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Striped Honeyeater, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater, Jacky Winter, Red-capped Robin, Eastern Yellow Robin, Grey-crowned Babbler, Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Leaden Flycatcher, Willie Wagtail, Grey Fantail, White-winged Triller, White-browed Woodswallow Dusky Woodswallow, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Currawong, Australian Raven, White-winged Chough, Double-barred Finch, Welcome Swallow, White-backed Swallow.

I thought I saw a Square-tailed Kite and Margaret saw 2, satisfying me that my sighting was correct. I have a sneaking suspicion that they might be nesting in there somewhere. I hope they are.

We did all the things that make for a good satisfactory day like drinking coffee and chasing flies off our sandwiches at lunch time. We even managed to have a brief discussion about where we were heading for the next year, when we would be heading into a new few year program, having completed 10 years of existence at the end of this year.

I hope you have been aware that a Glossy-Black Cockatoo count for the Pilliga was held last Saturday. This is being conducted under a Government grant under a specifically elected committee, encompassing three forests including Pilliga and Goonoo. Last Saturday resulted in 510 Glossies being accounted for, which is quite remarkable when you consider that we recorded 277 in 2014. I understand the study is to last for seven years.

I hope you got a drop of rain. We measured 25mm in Baradine. I won’t have to water the garden for a couple of days! Without a follow-up it will be practically useless of course.

Best Wishes and Happy Birding. David and Shirley