New England Tablelands

To: "birding-aus, birding-aus" <>
Subject: New England Tablelands
From: John Clifton-Everest <>
Date: Thu, 09 Jan 2003 13:06:23 +1100
Just a brief report on a three day trip we made to the Armidale area,
occasioned by the hospitalisation of a relative and therefore allowing
only limited time for birding.

There had been enough thunderstorm-precipitation to ensure that the
grass was green and the general appearance of the country pleasing, but
many of the trees were evidently highly stressed by the lack of deeper
The Stock Reserve near my in-laws' property had only a fraction of the
species and overall bird numbers you find there in a good summer.
Dangar's Lagoon, outside Uralla, now has something like 50 per cent of
its usual water surface area and the hide on the southern side, which
normally stands on piles over water, is separated from the lagoon by
some 300 metres of grassland.  Duck numbers were high, but several of
the usual species (Pink-Eared, Musk and Blue-billed) were completely
absent.  The quite startling absence of Grebes of all species (we could
not find one, where there are usually hundreds or even thousands!)
further suggests that the remaining water may be getting very shallow.
There were still Hardheads, but fewer than usual.  There were more
waders than usual around (Marsh and Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, one Glossy
Ibis and 7 Red-necked Avocets) and a good show of raptors (Little Eagle,
Whistling Kite, Swamp Harrier and an immature Peregrine).
Mother-of-ducks Lagoon at Guyra was a disappointment, as it mostly is
nowadays.  Local talk has it that the lagoon is intentionally kept
virtually empty, because the Guyra inhabitants don't like mosquitoes.
Does anybody know about this?
Little Llangothllin lagoon was, by way of contrast, quite full of water
and covered with Ducks and Grebes (all three species, though we found
only one Great-Crested). We noticed a common 'pairing' of individual
Hardheads and individual Grebes, mostly Hoary-headed but sometimes also
Australasian.  That is to say, an isolated 'pair' would swim together
within a metre of each other and with nothing else nearby, and would
dive and surface more or less synchronously, as if the one (the Duck?)
was disturbing prey for the other (the Grebe?).  Has anyone else
observed this apparently symbiosis? Musk and Blue-billed Ducks were
present in small numbers, and several Swamp Harrier and a Sea-Eagle were
about.  The most pleasing observation was of two pairs of Flame Robins,
both in the area where we found a pair some three years ago.  Otherwise
bush birds seemed very sparse.

John Clifton-Everest

Associate Professor John M. Clifton-Everest
Department of Germanic Studies
University of Sydney
(61) (2) 9351 2262
Fax (61) (2) 9351 5318

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