Bee-eaters and migration

Subject: Bee-eaters and migration
Date: Sun, 15 Feb 1998 10:34:43 +0800

At the village at the Argyle Diamond Mine in the east Kimberley of WA, I
saw a tree full of Rainbow Bee-eaters at 6:15pm last night just as dusk was
falling.  There were at least 40 in the tree (a tall thin eucalypt).  At
one point they 'exploded' out together like a firework for 3 or 4 metres
and then returned to the tree.  They were jumping around in the tree, and
all calling.  I assume that they were passage migrants on their way to
Indonesia?  They had gone this morning.  Rainbow Bee-eaters can be found at
Argyle all year round, although usually only in groups up to 6 and
sometimes 8.  They are frequently in the village especially on the wires
above the swimming pool.

Rainbow Bee-eaters always seem to be one of the first of the migrants to
leave the south west.  From about mid February they become hard to find.  I
don't have any records from the south west of WA from March until they
return very early in October.

Tree Martins can flock in very large numbers (several 1000) around Perth
and Rottnest in mid February and then be gone by the next morning.  There
were several hundred at Waychinicup on the south coast at the end of
January that were presumably on their way around the coast.  I have seen
them passing through heading north along 80 Mile Beach at Anna Plains
Station in March/April 1996 (during the AWSG wader expedition).  A few
reach Argyle in March, but it is usually April or May before they are
common in small groups at Argyle.  They leave Argyle about September to be
replaced by the Fairy Martins for the wet season.  I don't know where the
Fairy Martins spend the dry season, and they nearly all leave Argyle in
February after they have finished breeding.

Mistletoebirds also disappear from Perth about mid February, although some
can be found in the Darling Range until May, and they seem to be resident
at Northam around the weir in the peppercorn trees.  Richard's Pipit also
seems to move out of Perth at the end of summer but can be found quite
easily east of the Darling Range.

Other migrants from the south west include Sacred Kingfisher, White-winged
Triller, Brown Songlark and Rufous Songlark.  The Rufous Songlark is also
interesting.  It is very common at Argyle from late November to at least
February, but they also seem to be most common in the south west from
spring to early summer.  They are much easier to find when they are
calling, so perhaps they just don't call during autumn and winter?  I have
seen White-winged Trillers passing north through Anna Plains Station at the
same time as the Tree Martins.

Has migration begun on the east coast?

Frank O'Connor

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