New & Almost New Sightings

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Woko
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New & Almost New Sightings

Yesterday I saw a pair of Australasian Shovellers on my neighbour's dam which is full. This is the first sighting I've had of this species in our valley in 29 years.

A couple of days prior to the Shoveller sighting I saw a Whistling Kite, my second sighting of this species at our place in 29 years.

Then there was the Emu of last Saturday week which I mentioned in another post. But that was almost certainly an escapee.

Next?

WhistlingDuck

You are on a roll there Woko - hope it continues for you. Are you more pleased to see the shovellers or the whistling kite again?  Something new or the welcome return of something seen only once before? 

Woko
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Good questions, Whistling Duck. I'm always fascinated by the way in which environmental events affect my feelings.

From a diversity point of view I suppose I was more pleased to see the Shovellers. However, my curiosity is piqued by the appearance of the Whistling Kite. It seems that very occasionally we get a random visitor  from the River Murray area (Yellow-plumed Honeyeater, Regent Parrot, Whistling Kite) which is about 40 km away & Lake Alexandrina (Cape Barren Geese) which is about 30 km distant. Why would these species have bothered to travel over relatively large areas of cleared land to be in my neck of the woods? Perhaps their curiosity is as great as mine!

gphe
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It has been a good few months for returning bird at our place as well.  In the last couple of months I have seen Superb Wrens, White eyes, Eastern Spinebills, Fantails, Dollar Birds and Spotted Dove - all of which used to be seen regularly, but I have not seen in the backyard for 4 or 5 years.  Unfortunately, the first couple of Indian Mynahs reappeared as well.

Ceo
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Came home looking for some zip ties this morning and had a Buff Breasted Paradise Kingfisher collecting up all the spiders under the house. He made it a very leisurely affair. Wonderful gift and the first one I've seen this year.

Woko
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It's a great feeling when you see something like that, Ceo.

Today I heard a Rainbow Bee Eater, the second one I've heard this season. I was delighted because, sadly, this is a species which has declined dramatically where I live on the s.e. slopes of the Mt Lofty Ranges in SA.

What this is due to I don't know. I hardly think it's a result of land clearance as there are more trees & shrubs in my area now than there have been for many, many years now that a number of neighbours are revegetating with local species. Perhaps climate change has resulted in conditions conducive to more Rainbow Bee Eaters staying in the north of Australia instead of migrating. Have any South Australian Backyarders noticed a decline in Rainbow Bee Eater numbers?

oconnore51
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Somebody I was talking to said that apparently here in Sydney there were fewer birds in general to see, as the rains of the hinterland had attracted a lot of birds that would normally be on the coast.  His observation anyway.

elizabeth

Woko
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We're certainly experiencing abnormal weather patterns with lots of thunderstorms in the interior. I imagine that all those low pressure troughs coming from the north west are accompanied by lots of juicy humidity. So that might be a factor in why I've heard so few Rainbow Bee Eaters this season.

The rain in the desert country would probably be attracting lots of water birds, at least. I note that dams in my neighbourhood are nearly full yet there are few water birds taking advantage of them. They're all too busy elsewhere it would seem. This hasn't deterred the Australasian Grebe pair on my neighbour's dam from just producing their third clutch for the season. I was unaware that Australasian Grebes bred more than once per season. Perhaps the lack of competition is making them ultra frisky.

In the meantime it'll be interesting to learn what breeding has occurred or is about to occur among bird species which are dependent on rain. A bumper crop might be in store.

Ceo
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Good year inland must have an impact on coastal sightings you would think. Haven't seen a pelican for six months even though there's plenty of water and tucker in the wet season's wetlands here. Still we've got all our migrants down from PNG now with the red bellied pitta being heard last weekend.

Woko
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Yes, that applies particularly to water birds, Ceo. Where are you, by the way?

Also by the way, on Sunday I took a gander, so to speak, at my neighbour's dam & saw the parent Australasian Grebe covering what I presumed to be it's eggs with nest material to hide the eggs from my view. So that's the fourth batch of eggs this season - so far.

Ceo
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Gee four batches in one year. They must be prolific or heavily predated or both? We've got Warblers and Sunbirds nesting everywhere but have yet to see the poor little things get a batch on the wing. Snakes and butcher birds the predators. Mother Nature seems a harsh marker some times.

i'm at Lockhart River a largely Indigenous town of 700 about 10 hours drive north of Cairns but also have a place at Portland Roads another 40kms North. Lockhart is in open woodland country set back about 2kms from the beach whilst Portland Roads is in heavier scrub right on the coast. Spend most of the time in Lockhart but weekends at Port. Anyway Google Iron Range and you'll get an understanding of the commute. It's a nice place to call home though not everyone's cup of tea. Spend a lot of time in the boat hence the island observation. Where a outs are you near Mt Lofty?

Woko
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Thanks for the information, Ceo. It sounds like interestingly country. Still, the curious always find the unknown interesting! 

I'm about 40 km as the Little Raven flies south east of Mt Lofty. We're right on the boundary between the mallee country & the higher rainfall of the Mt Lofty Ranges which makes for some interesting native vegetation communities. 

Ceo
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Yes it can be a little too interesting at times with our wet season keeping us isolated for about 3/4 months a year. The compensation is living in a relatively unaltered environment with everything basically where it should be. Its the overlap zone for the PNG/Australian flora and fauna containing the largest tropical lowland rainforest in Australia which in turn produces high biodiversity. Interestingly my readings tell me there is only 1 exclusively endemic bird species (the brown streaked honey eater which is one of many I'm yet to identify). There are plenty of species (not just birds) that use our hood as the southern extremity of their range and are found in PNG and the Pacific such as Eclectus, Red Cheek, Palm Cockies, Green Pythons etc Might be a by-product of sea level fluctuations? I'm sure there's boffins who could speak with authority on the matter. Any way will try and get active with my dodgy camera and see what we dig up. Mt lofty area is lovely as I recall. Classic Australian landscape.

Woko
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Yes, my reading tells me that sea level fluctuations as well as continental drift have had a lot to do with bird & other animal distributions in your neck of the rainforest.

The Mt Lofty Ranges are quite pretty but, alas, are now far from being a classic Australian landscape. Only about 2% of the original vegetation of the Ranges remains & the subsequent reduction in bird species & numbers has been horrendous. The preference of most folk here is for fruit orchards, vineyards, B & Bs & large areas of exotic trees & shrubs. Natural ecocide is de rigeur. Many people move to the ranges to get close to nature then destroy it. Mt Barker, about 15 km from where I live, is, regrettably, one of the five fastest growing housing areas in Australia.

But there are people who are beavering away trying to protect & restore what little native vegetation is left. Where I live there's been a lot of revegetation with native trees & shrubs so we get some quite rare bird species visiting occasionally. More would escape extinction if understorey, too, was restored. Hopefully, the mood to restore natural habitats will catch on with gusto & the Agapantha craze will become a distant memory.

Ceo
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You could knock me over with a feather. I didn't realise it was that decimated by the tree changers. My memory of the area is probably 40 years old so might be a bit shakey but 2%? What is it with the undervaluing of natural history aided and abeted by a taxation system that rewards someone's version of "value adding". All power to you and the other like minded citizens of the area for without your pockets of sanctuary many of the little folk would be done. It's a bit different here: last weed survey we did registered 42 species with 2 on WoNS but we have zero exotic birds. We do have feral pigs, cats, cane toads, horses, 1 rat species and some cattle but no land based commercial industry and the forest has never been logged and our river flows as the seasons dictate. Our challenge is to maintain integrety and quell the emerging forces who want to clear areas for pasture, comodify and sell water and build infrastructure for larger scale tourism. Keep up the good work Woko. 

Woko
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Like so many  places in Australia there have been massive changes in the Mt Lofty Ranges. As you imply, so little value is placed by so many on so much of our natural environment.

I think we still have a strong connection to European landscapes & the mother country, Ceo. As well, we are addicted to destroying the natural environment in order to make as much profit as we can. Further, our desire for instant gratification & inability to think long term means that we can't see that destroying our natural environment is an excellent way of destroying our economy. Then there are those who believe that the Good Book gives man (but not woman, apparently) dominion over the Earth & that this justifies the wrecking of the natural environment. 

My big fear is that by the time we wake up to what is going on it will be too late & that, as a species, our numbers too will be culled by our foolhardiness. 

Still, some are battling on trying to present a different way of approaching Earth. Despair is unlikely to change things for the better. I do wish you all the best with ridding your part of Australia of those feral pests you listed. 

Ceo
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Hear you loud and clear Woko. The prophecies of Silent Spring will visit us as a species at some point and the politics of immediacy make any turn a round hard. Our addiction to an economy that relies on perpetual growth (a concept that defies both common sence and the fossil record) doesn't help. I do worry for the legacy we leave. I agree our forefathers and mothers carried  both fear of their new environment and nostalgia for their old particularly in southern parts. This paranoia extended to the original Australians from whom they could have learnt much on land use management and living within the means of the country. Our challenge here is to keep high value enviro integrity which means drafting unpopular entry conditions married with new local by-laws to minimise impact. The red necks are already up in arms at the thought of constraint. I rank them our number 1 feral pest. On that subject we are getting the horses and cattle under control but the rest are very difficult. Donald Thompson's journals from the late 1920s are full of references to pigs and cats impacting. Toads arrived in 1984 after which native cats (formerly prolific) became a rarity. Waiting bio-control i think. Anyway cynicism and dispair won't fix it but at least here we are in with a chance of keeping a scrap of country largely unaltered albeit at the risk of it becoming a museum piece. In the mean time let's enjoy our birds and all they stand for. Regards David.

Woko
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Love your work, David!

 and @UrbanBirdsOz  @birdsinbackyards
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