Search for the Narrandera Hills Heathwren

To: birding-aus <>
Subject: Search for the Narrandera Hills Heathwren
From: Michael Todd <>
Date: Sun, 14 Oct 2001 17:56:29 +1000
Hello Birdos,

On Friday 12/ Saturday 13 I got the opportunity to look for the Square Knob Chestnut-rumped Heathwrens (CRH) with Nella, Terry and Warwick Smith of Narrandera. John Hobbs discovered the population in 1982 on Square Knob in the Narrandera Hills. The Narrandera Hills are approximately 20 km NE of Narrandera which is about 50 km SE of Leeton in south central NSW. This location is the furthest east that CRH have been recorded in NSW and is a long distance west of the nearest known population at Ingalba NR near Temora.

Square Knob is a steep sided knob of sedimentary rock that stands out from the surrounding countryside. John Hobbs located three different pairs of birds. Unfortunately our search yielded none, although a cautious Speckled Warbler caused a brief moment of excitement. It appeared as though fire and grazing may have removed most of the suitable understorey. The actual knob itself still supported a small patch of seemingly suitable habitat dominated by the Sticky Wallaby Bush (Beyeria viscosa). Interestingly this is the only location where this species has been found in the Narrandera Hills and it has been not been found in the Cocoparra Ranges either (Eric Whiting pers. comm.). In the Cocoparras the Shy Heathwren seems to replace the Chestnut-rumped Heathwren and occupies similar locations which in the Cocoparras are dominated by Hill Ti-tree (Leptospermum trivalve). The Hill Ti-tree happens to be rare in the Narrandera Hills (EW, pers. comm.).

Does the CRH still survive in the Narrandera Hills? It seemed to me that Square Knob itself was too small to support a population of CRH suggesting that there must have been more populations elsewhere in the Hills. Unfortunately the Narrandera Hills suffered a major bushfire at the end of 2000 which burned most of if not all of the ridge tops of the range that stretches north of Square Knob. I can't help wondering whether the last of the Narrandera Hills heathwrens went up to the big heathy outcrop in the sky with that fire. Fingers crossed that a pair survived somewhere and that they can make a comeback.


Mick Todd
Griffith, NSW

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