Swift Parrots

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Subject: Swift Parrots
From: "J & C Krohn" <>
Date: Thu, 19 Jul 2001 21:46:43 +1000
I've reported this sighting to Debbie Saunders, the Swift Parrot Project Officer, but thought it might also be of general interest.
We were in Stawell overnight last Sunday, and Dad and I went out early Monday morning - fine and flat still, after overnight rain - to Deep Lead, about 6 km north-west of the town.  We crossed the railway line, and turned left about 1 km east of the level crossing into Mutzig Lane, which runs into the forest after a couple of hundred metres.  Looked a good enough spot to start poking around.
The first bird we saw to identify was a Swift Parrot!  This after about four or five Swift Parrot/ Regent Honeyeater suvey weekends in the past, without a sniff of either of the target species.  (Simon had a really good area lined up for us to prospect last May, but another commitment got in the way and we couldn't take part that time.)  In the three quarters of an hour or so we were in the area, probably never moving much more than 100 metres or so from the car, Swift Parrots were audible virtually all the time, and we had sensational views of several individuals posing on bare branches within 10 metres or less, in the full glow of the early sun.
An interesting aspect of the birds' behaviour was that they seemed to be drinking from the wet foliage of the trees.  They were mostly in ones, twos or threes at first, moving methodically through the leaves and running their bills along individual leaves.  There were also lots of short flights from tree to tree. The reason we think they were drinking rather than feeding was that several birds did the same thing along bare twigs.  There was also no percussion-type sound of lerps being removed such as we heard a couple of times from (red-tipped) Striated Pardalotes.  Over the time we were there, the birds gradually seemed to congregate into larger groups, with one flock of about 15 belting through just before we left at around 9 am.  However, bearing in mind the constant mobility of the birds, we made a conservative estimate of about 20-25 birds in the immediate area.
There were also plenty of Honeyeaters, especially Fuscous, Black-chinned, White-naped and Yellow-tufted, as well as Red Wattlebirds.  Several of the Yellow Gums were in heavy bud, with a couple just starting to flower, although neither the Parrots nor the Honeyeaters seemed to be showing much interest in feeding from the blossom.  We'll be back to the area for the August survey in a couple of weeks - hope there are still a few around then to count.
Also, apropos of the recent postings about early-calling Cuckoos, I spent a couple of hours last Thursday afternoon with Wim Vader, the list's entertaining Tromso correspondent, at the Royal Botanic Gardens Cranbourne, and there was a Fan-tailed Cuckko calling about 1 km west of the main picnic area.  Wim was excellent company and it was great to have the chance to meet him and enjoy his enjoyment of our birds (despite its being just a little galling that his Australian list is over 100 longer than mine!)
    Jack Krohn
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