Rare Bird Update Greater Albury-Wodonga Region 15th December 2002

Subject: Rare Bird Update Greater Albury-Wodonga Region 15th December 2002
From: "Matthew Herring" <>
Date: Sun, 15 Dec 2002 17:27:22 +1100
G?day All,

For the last couple of months or so there hasn?t been a dull moment for rare birds around the NSW south-west slopes and north-east Victoria, largely due to the drought that just keeps pushing the unusual species our way. It is a great time to get a better idea of what are the important drought refuges for certain species.

Black Honeyeaters have now been seen at three sites around Thurgoona, which is about 10km north-east of Albury. All these sites are new locations for the species, which is a new bird for Albury-Wodonga. The first record from Damian Michael of one male was at St. Hillaire (8/11) and just recently Adam Bester saw another single male at St. Johns Hill (December 1st). Approximately 6 were first recorded at the Thurgoona TAFE on November 11th by Matthew Stanton and I?ve since found a minimum of 12 birds, mostly males ? they are still present today. The extensive eucalypt plantings in this otherwise almost entirely cleared area appears to be providing an important food source for these drought refugees. Undoubtedly there are many more Black Honeyeaters in this area and nearby regions (e.g. one near Glenrowan  11/11 ? Ian Davidson, and see previous emails for sightings at Galore Hill, Lockhar t). For perhaps the first time in history there are more Black Honeyeaters in the Thurgoona region than Regents ? due to an exceptionally bad drought and the ongoing decline of the Regent Honeyeater. Small numbers (ones and twos) of Regent Honeyeaters have been recorded in the Thurgoona area for the last two or three months and I was delighted to find a pair nesting the other week (14/11, all info is being forwarded to David Geering). Since then, two beautiful chicks have fledged!

It has been a huge start to the Painted Honeyeater season around here. Again, this may be a response to the drought. Kentucky SF, about 40 km NW of Albury near Balldale, has been surveyed for birds fairly intensively for several years now, but to my knowledge the Painted Honeyeater record on October 26th ? Phillip Seely, is a new bird for the site. Others and myself have found them easily at Chiltern, although in small numbers. There were at least one and at least three at two different sites near Yackandandah on October 20th (Dave Watson). There were two at Mt. Lawson State Park about three Weeks ago (D. Michael). And finally, back in NSW, Dave Watson and I recorded one Painted Honeyeater at Galore Hill, Lockhart on Oct 11th. There were 4 Regent Honeyeaters and at least 2 Painteds near Carboor, south of Whorouly in north-east Vic. on Oct 28th (Philip Seely, Eileen Collins).

There have been some records of Bell Miners lately (e.g. 20th Oct. 2+ at Welsh St. Lavington, D. Michael), finally confirming their existence in our area.

A Pacific Golden Plover, first recorded October 31st by Peter Merritt at Ettamogah about 10 km north of Albury, was a new bird for the region. It was found on the same wetland that we recorded the Pied Heron on in December 1999. There have been small numbers (<10) of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Red-necked Stints here as well, which is exciting for the Albury-Wodonga region that is usually devoid of migratory waders, except Latham?s Snipe. Peter has also found all three crakes (Spotted, Spotless and Baillon?s) on a very small cumbungi dam at Ettamogah, about 10 km north of Albury (first recorded December 10th). The Spotless have three cute little fluffy chicks with them and the other two species are probably breeding as well. I popped out there on Friday and it was great to see all three species at once within 3 metres or so of where we were sitting!  Also at Ettamogah there has been a L ittle Egret, numerous Blue-billed Ducks, a probable Square-tailed Kite, 13 Glossy Ibis (30/11) and many others.

I woke up to a Common Koel calling in West Albury the other week (6/11) and I heard it again the following morning. This also appears to be a new bird for the Albury-Wodonga list, however, there are some records to the south around Beechworth.

There were at least 2 Red-browed Pardalotes at Brittas TSR in mid-November (I. Davidson). Another new bird for the greater Albury-Wodonga region.

A month or so ago Red-backed Kingfishers were seen at two sites north of Albury, near Gerogery and Walla Walla. I have no more details yet. They?ve been seen in the past (e.g. one a few years ago near Lavington) but are extremely rare around here, and another drought refugee.

Whiskered Terns, which are unusual around Albury-Wodonga, have been seen at a number of sites - no doubt we are probably seeing some of those birds that usually breeding further west. For the first time ever I have seen good numbers of Whiskered Terns on the Murray River, with at least 70 adjacent to the Hume Weir wall on October 23rd. Following Michael Ramsey?s great records of Freckled Ducks, Glossy Ibis and Red-necked Stints at the Wonga Wetlands, Scott Lucas and I found a Whiskered Tern (pretty sure this is a new species for Wonga) and Spotted Crake on October 26th. On the Hume Weir itself, there have been up to 12 Whiskered Terns (25/9, David Watson) and there were 10+ at Ettamogah on Oct 9th, P. Merritt.

I?m hoping to confirm the presence of Chestnut-rumped Heathwrens on Nail Can Hill, near Albury, which could arguably be the find of the year for this area. This resident species, highly sensitive to habitat fragmentation, has somehow been overlooked by birdwatchers in years gone by, despite about 40 000 or so people living within a stones throw. The closest known sites are Chiltern-Mt. Pilot NP and Livingstone NR, as well as a few records to the east (e.g. one near Dartmouth).

On Tuesday last week (10th December) at least 6 Pied Honeyeaters were found to have joined the Blacks at the Thurgoona TAFE ? yet another drought refugee. Thanks to Greg Slade for another new bird for our region in the last couple of months! They were still there today. There are still unprecedented White-browed and Masked Woodswallow numbers (1000s) around as well.

Just when us locals were getting over the excitement of a great Swift Parrot season for this area, we then get hit with all these amazing, unusual birds. Apart from the toll this drought must be taking on our wildlife, the only downer at the moment is, there have been no nearby Painted Snipe records for this season yet ? I remain hopeful.

Cheers and Happy Christmas birding, Matt Herring, Albury, NSW.

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