Wolli Creek Birdos research project

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Dorothy Luther's picture
Wolli Creek Birdos research project

Dear BIBY,

I tried to send this from your Contacts page, but the CAPCHA system isn't working. it didn't show me a quiz.

I'd like to inform you of a project that the Wolli Creek Birdos (part of Wolli Creek Preservation Society) are undertaking in conjunction with some students of Statistics from Macquarie University. Our volunteers have collected bird survey data since 1965 and we are now getting the students to analyse it as part of their undergraduate studies. Initial questions will be about the change in abundance of bird species & actual numbers of birds seen in the valley over time. we have identified a number of sub areas within the valley that have different habitat types and there has been a lot of change over time relating to bush regeneration & urbanisation around the valley.

Initially I'm just advising you of the project, but it seems like quite a useful piece of research, so I'm also asking whether I can get any advice from you on how to publicise our findings to the wider birding community.

Woko's picture

Most interesting, a. 55 years of data should produce some really important findings about trends in species populations. 

I'm not sure about how to publicize the findings among bridos but I would have thought it would be perhaps even more important to publicize the findings among non-birdos who need to be better informed about what is happening with nature generally, birds in particular & the relationship between human well-being & a healthy natural environment. Correlations between bird species population numbers & human impacts on the natural environment might be very instructive. 

I imagine regular media outlets could be useful in publicizing results but because much of the media supports habitat destruction in the name of human development, short term business profits, population growth & job creation care would need to be taken in ensuring the accuracy of any media reports. 

sue818's picture

Perhaps Holly, as a Birdlife representative might be able to give you some advice as well as the good suggestions from Woko. I messaged her for you but i know she is quite busy.

Holly's picture

Hi a! That sounds brilliant. Do you mind popping me an email and we can have a good chat about it - we are really excited to hear about your findings.




Dorothy Luther's picture

Finally an update on our research. 2 overall results:

1. the top 20 birds compared between 20th Century & 21st Century data shows that the indigenous birds are making a comeback. The most notable changes:

  • The foreigners - starling, sparrow & rock dove have gone with spotted dove moved down to #17 & common myna to #18.
  • Yes, the big birds – rainbow lorikeet & currawong have moved in, along with the sulphur crested cockatoo, while ravens & magpies are still much the same. But quite a lot of small birds are holding their own – silvereyes, superb fairy wrens, bulbuls, welcome swallows & magpie larks.
  • Some new small birds have moved in too – honeyeaters, pardalote, red-browed finch & white-browed scrubwren.
  • The most notable loss is the black-faced cuckoo shrike, which has moved to the western end of the valley.
  • The waterbirds have apparently gone too, but the pre-2000 data includes Barton Park (aka Landing Lights Wetland), which is no longer surveyed.

So the situation looks quite good.

2. Although there is a still a decrease in the occurrence rates, this has changed from the previous 50% to now a 10% decrease. It is noted that the difference in years between the three time periods vary, but by linear interpolation, results may still indicate that conservation efforts have made an impact by slowing the decrease in the occurrence of birds.

The statistics subject is only offered in Spring, and the next exercise will be about seasonality of bird species in the valley.


Dorothy Luther

Woko's picture

That's interesting, Dorothy. And thanks for the feedback on the results. 
In view of the constant stream of reports on the overall decline in Australia's bird populations there is some encouragement in these results from the Wolli Creek area. 

I get the impression that a number of native bird species in the area have been advantaged by conservation efforts. It would be interesting to do more surveys in 30 or 40 years' time to see if the maturation of the conservation projects have produced new bird species as well as increased numbers within long-standing populations. E.g., my own conservation project is beginning to suggest that  it takes over 30 years to produce litter cover sufficient to begin supporting native bird species which are advantaged by litter.

sue818's picture

So pleased to hear this news suggesting hope for our native birds. A wonderful effort to process all that data but a tremendous effort to collect it over the years. Well done to all and thanks for letting us know the results.

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