Last Saturday a team, consisting of John Nankervis, Betty Waterson, Mavis
Skinner, Norma Sheridan, Simon Starr, John Pople, Chris Coleborn & Michael
and Sharon O'Brien, participated in the 2002 BOCA Challenge Bird Count. The
area the team covered was within a radius of 40 km of Cohuna in Northern
Victoria. There is considerable variation of habitat in the area, ranging
from a variety of wetlands, riverine, open forest, grassland plains and
rocky granite outcrops. After some very unsettled weather of dust storms and
strong winds on preceding days, the outing day was settled, clear and just
the right temperature for a great day of birding. We all enjoyed it. Mavis,
our senior lady of over 80 was still going strong at 7.30 pm! If I have half
her energy at that age I will be most thankful.
The dry conditions noticeably affected the numbers of birds seen, but
surprisingly, there were still a good number of birds species in the area
even if we had to search hard for them. Over 150 species were seen. Along
the Murray and adjacent waterways COLLARED SPARROWHAWK, WHITE-BROWED
SCRUBWREN, BUFF-RUMPED THORNBILL, LEADEN FLYCATCHER, STRIATED THORNBILL,
RED-BROWED FINCH, AZURE & SACRED KINGFISHERS were seen. On and around sewage
ponds, irrigation channels, and swamps such as Hird's Swamp, the following
species stand out: a variety of ducks, including CHESTNUT TEAL, PINK-EARED
DUCKS, AUSTRALASIAN SHOVELERS & GREAT CRESTED GREBE, We weren't able to
match last year when we also found Musk, Blue-billed and Freckled Ducks.
SPOTTED CRAKES were very common, and three BAILLON'S CRAKES were also seen.
There was a good number of GREAT EGRETS, NANKEEN NIGHT HERONS, ROYAL &
YELLOW-BILLED SPOONBILLS present, & of course thousands of STRAW-NECKED AND
WHITE IBIS. We don't usually find CATTLE EGRETS in the area at this time of
the year, but several were present with our other Herons & Cormorants.
INTERMEDIATE EGRET numbers were down, with only a couple being seen. A few
waders were about, RED-KNEED DOTTERELS being very common, but also MARSH
SANDPIPERS, BLACK-WINGED STILTS, BLACK-FRONTED DOTTERELS SHARP-TAILED &
CURLEW SANDPIPERS among these birds. It was great to find flocks of the
brilliant ORANGE CHATS in several locations. We normally pick up some
Red-necked Avocets, but this year they were conspicuous by their absence. We
normally pick up a DOLLARBIRD or two and this year we were not disappointed,
one being seen in Cohuna.
At one spot, where we enjoyed some good views of LATHAM'S SNIPE in the
scope, we were tantalized by the local farmer, who knows what a snipe is,
telling us that there had been some "funny looking snipe" around for a few
weeks. Could they have been Painted Snipe? We were keen to find out, but .
as often happens, they did not turn up on the day.
Raptors were in reasonable numbers, with the most exciting being a pair of
BLACK FALCONS being sighted. There were also PEREGRINE FALCONS seen, and the
usual raptors for the area such as BLACK-SHOULDERED KITES, WEDGE-TAILED
EAGLES & BLACK AND WHISTLING KITES.
In the open forests some COCKATIELS were seen, and also the more resident
parrots such as AUSTRALIAN RINGNECK. Very large numbers of RED-RUMPED
PARROTS were around, many of them immatures - the drought does not seem to
have affected them much & our local YELLOW 'CRIMSON' ROSELLA. COMMON
BRONZEWING PIGEONS AND PEACEFUL DOVES were in reasonable numbers, as were
the ubiquitous CRESTED PIGEONS. Around the sandy ridges plenty of RAINBOW
BEE-EATERS were to be seen, many still at their breeding burrows, along with
WHITE-BACKED SWALLOWS. In the open woodlands, stressed and dusty, Thornbill
numbers were down, but still, we managed to see some of the more special
ones such as CHESTNUT-RUMPED THORNBILLS. SOUTHERN WHITEFACE, DIAMOND
FIRETAIL & ZEBRA FINCHES, joined them. It is always a pleasure for us all to
see the WHITE-WINGED FAIRY WRENS, the male with its variation of blue in
such striking and bold contrast to its white wings. At one spot we were
seeing these beautifully coloured birds in company with the strikingly
marked Orange Chats - the males shimmering in the sunlight like molten gold.
GREY-CROWNED, CHESTNUT-CROWNED AND WHITE-BROWED BABBLERS were also seen. The
Chestnut-crowned numbers seem to be decreasing.
The piece de resistance for some of us was having lunch by a clump of
Eremophila shrubs, where we were entertained and delighted by 45+ BLACK
HONEYEATERS and at least a pair of loudly calling PIED HONEYEATERS - great
stuff! As we enjoyed our lunch and these special honeyeaters, DUSKY AND
WHITE-BROWED WOODSWALLOWS flew above us in the warm blue yonder, their
cheerful calls joining in with the honeyeaters and bringing the stressed out
land to life. We also picked up with pleasure sightings of BLACK-CHINNED
HONEYEATERS, CRESTED SHRIKE-TITS, GILBERT'S WHISTLERS & a pair of PAINTED
BUTTON-QUAIL. The woodlands also produced a good number of HOODED &
RED-CAPPED ROBINS, JACKY WINTERS, RUFOUS SONGLARK & MISTLETOEBIRDS. The only
cuckoo of the day was a solitary PALLID CUCKOO. Normally we would pick up a
few Horsfield's Bronze or even a Black-eared Cuckoo or two.
On the open plains, BROWN SONGLARKS, SINGING BUSHLARKS and RICHARD'S PIPITS
flitted about. Recent reports of the Plains Wanderers are that in spite of
the severe dry they are still continuing to breed - a remarkable bird.
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