99-00 Swift Season Report

To: "" <>
Subject: 99-00 Swift Season Report
From: "Mike Tarburton" <>
Date: Thu, 08 Jun 2000 10:57:27 +1000
Dear Birding ozzers

The swifts are another group of insectivores that might be declining due to mans reduction of their prey.  They need woodland and forest trees to sustain their flying invertebrate prey and to provide night-time roosts.

White-throated Needletails
In the 1998/99 season a number of people who live in or frequently visit good habitat and usually see White-throated Needletails, saw either none or very few.  This season (99-00) some of those people saw some needletails, for example Carol Probets at Katoomba, and myself at Kuranda.

Additionally  two people, Alan Morris (Wyong) and Keith Brandwood (Sackville, both NSW) recorded flocks of more than 1000 needletails in the 98/99 season, whereas for the 99-00 season the largest flocks recorded were of 300+.  These were made by Daryl Jones at Nathan, Qld, Chris Gladwin & Harry Roberts at Ku-ring Gai N.P. NSW, David Geering twice, at Dubbo, NSW, Duncan Fraser at Rotomah, Vic, and Paul Fennell at Scullin, ACT.  No one has seen the scores or hundreds, of thousands that used to be seen in the 50's 60's and 70's.

The first record I have for the season was on the Sunshine Coast (Qld), one bird seen by Jill Dening on 9.9.1999.  Phil Gregory and Bill Jolly saw the next 2 or 3 also in Qld in  October.  The first sighting in NSW was of 4+ birds near Coonabarabran (Alan Richards and Alan Morris), and the first in Victoria was of 25 birds at Maffra (Duncan Fraser).  70+ birds seen at Shellharbour and 10+ at Darkes Forest, both 4.1.2000 were the first records for South Australia (Chris Brandis).  The first record I have for Tasmania is of 100 birds at Longford near Launceston 12.3.2000 (Tim Reid).

The last record I have is of 4 birds at Mt Beenak Fire Tower in Victoria (Paul Jones).  Why didn't any of you see them on their way north after that?  For that matter why didn't I see them here in PNG?  I am sure we sample only a small percentage of these visitors.

In Victoria Paul Jones saw them frequently at Beenak,  Laurie Canole had several good days at Gunbower, and Merrilyn Serong made a number of sightings in different places.  Then on the other hand there were observers like Jack Krohn and myself who never made any observations in Victoria.

The WTN report is based on 183 sightings (others are still promising to send them in when they get time) 100 from NSW, 46 from Qld, 29 from Vic, 3 from SA, 3 from ACT, and 2 from Tas.

Average flock size was 34 birds.  This figure  will be conservative, as many observers had a poor observational position or insufficient time to devote to counting or estimating the whole flock.  Some people believe behind the steering wheel is not an advantageous position to count swifts).

Fork-tailed Swift
Last season Chris Hassell saw the largest flock of forktails (1,000) at Broome, WA, but this year Alexander Appleman saw the largest (1,500) South of Townsville, and (again or as well as?) at Bowen, Qld.

The first sighting for the 1999-2000 season was of 3 birds in Adelaide, SA by Tony Russell.  So, again why didn't anyone see them before then, or did they spend winter in the outback - where no atlas workers ever go?  Actually Tony saw five in Adelaide (not part of the outback where no birders go!) 7.5.1999.  So did they stay in Oz?

Chris Hassell saw Fork-tailed Swifts more often than anybody else last season and as well, was the last to see them.  His last sightings were of 12 at the Port of Broome 4.4.2000 and 15 at Cable beach the same day.  Frank O'Connor appears to be too far east to pick up the main flight-line arriving and departing through the western Kimberleys.  He only made one sighting (30+, 13.12.1999) and says he never sees them very often around Kununurra.

The FTS report is based on 51 records, 18 from Qld, 10 from SA, 9 from WA, 8 from NSW, 5 from Vic, and 1 from NT (Andrew Taylor).

The average flock size was 127 birds.  This figure  will be conservative, as many observers had a poor observational position or insufficient time to devote to counting or estimating the whole flock.

Remember if you have time, to look for House Swifts, White-rumped Swiftlets, or even uncommon swallow species amongst the flocks of these two species as mixed feeding groups are fairly common right across Australia.

Once again THANKYOU VERY MUCH for sending in all these observations.  It has made an interesting season for me and I hope many others.  Allow me to encourage you to also send your records in to the Atlas.

If you have any comments or extra information to add, please send them to my personal e-mail as I am going to be in the field for most of the next two months, and so will have to switch birding-aus off, or bear the brunt of overloading the ISP in Port Moresby.

Happy birding, and do not freeze down there in the cold -


Dr Mike Tarburton
Pacific Adventist University
PMB  Boroko
Papua New Guinea

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