Finch Observations Requested

To: "Birding-aus" <>
Subject: Finch Observations Requested
From: "Michael Todd" <>
Date: Mon, 12 Jun 2000 18:54:19 +0800
Hello Birding-ausers,
I'm working for Tropical Savannas CRC doing research on Star Finches and Crimson Finches, concentrating on the Cape York subspecies which have declined and so are the subject of conservation matters. I was on birding-aus for about a year, about a year ago but have been off regular email contact and have missed the regular reports of all the interesting birds people see around Australia. I especially read with envy all the reports of wonderful birds people see way down south which people from Victoria probably think of as boring. To me they seem exotic and I look forward to getting amongst them in the future. I don't know that I'll like the cold though.
Since there are probably many new birding-ausers since I made the last request for info re Stars and Crimsons I'll put it to people again. I would love to hear of any interesting observations people may have made of these finches, any subspecies. Locations where you may have seen them are interesting also as it will be good to get a picture of where the birds have been seen over the last couple of years.
Since I've been off birding-aus I spent a few months around North Queensland searching old locations of the aforementioned species and then spent the wet season at Kununurra in the east Kimberley of WA (I might mention this in another report). Areas that I am particularly interested in include:
IRON RANGE- I urge visitors to Iron Range this year to keep an eye out for Crimson Finches in areas of long grass they might come across. This area, the Claudie River, is where the first white-bellied Crimson Finches (Neochmia phaeton evangelinae) were collected in Australia, in 1918 I think. Unfortunately there have been no confirmed sightings since despite a number of casual observations by people who didn't realise the significance of what they were seeing and so didn't take very careful note making the observations a little unconvincing. One of these observations was of black-bellied Crimsons which would possibly be even more interesting than that of white-bellieds! If you think you've seen Crimsons please take careful note.
While much more common than the white-bellied Crimsons I'm still not sure about how far north the black-bellied Crimsons go on the east coast. I know that they are at Cairns and Smithfield. Anybody travelling, or living for that matter, between Cairns and Cooktown have you seen Crimsons? I've had a few people express scepticism that they are around Cooktown although the old atlas records them as doing so. My brief looks at Cooktown haven't yielded any but I have an open mind. Also there is lots of long grass country in places through the Daintree. Are they in here?
I have an interest in Red-brows stemming from my time studying them for my honours project in Newcastle, NSW back in the mid 90's. Since I've been working on Cape York I catch some Red-brows as by-catch when I'm mist-netting for Crimsons. On Cape York, these are the Lesser Red-browed Finch (Neochmia temporalis minor) which I am a little suspect of as far as its only being a subspecies of the common Red-browed Finch on the east coast. Could be just me of course! There is purported to be a hybrid zone around the Big Tableland near Cooktown. I would be very interested in any observations people may have made of Red-browed Finches between say Mosman and Cooktown and through the Daintree. All the Red-brows that I've seen around Cooktown to date have been N.t.minor and certainly the Red-brows at Julatten and Mosman are N.t.temporalis. In my brief time in the Daintree I didn't see any Red-brows, but I was driving most of the time. I'd be interested in knowing if a hybrid zone still exists and whether the two are forms are now truly split (in distribution anyway if not taxonomically!)
Any sightings of Star Finches in Qld are of interest (elsewhere also but especially in Qld). Anyone visiting Lakefield NP please look out for colour-banded birds. I think that the Queensland Ornithological Society are always seeking records of possible Southern Star Finch records, a subspecies that must be on the verge of extinction. Glenn Holmes )is also especially interested in records of potential Southern Star Finches as he has been working on Stars for a number of years.
Anyway, I'd love to hear of any observations. If people are concerned about locations being broadcast (ie bird poacher concerns- reasonable with regards to the white-bellied crimson) feel free to email me personally.
Thanks in advance,
Mick Todd
Michael Todd
Finch Researcher
Tropical Savannas CRC
c/o Stephen Garnett,
EPA, PO Box 2066, Cairns, Qld, 4870
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