I suspect that Slaty-backed Thornbills may be more nomadic than people think.
Back in September 1997, I visited Nallan Station just north of Cue (about
650km NE of Perth).
I found Slaty-backed Thornbills were fairly common there. I would have
said about as common as Chestnut-rumped. I even road killed one, which I
collected and took into the WA Museum as a specimen.
I first went to Nallan in Fenruary 1996, and we found them without too much
trouble, although we were inexperienced with this species at the time (it
was a lifer for all of us). So we had a few false starts, and several
frustrating times when we thought we had SBTs, but couldn't get a good
enough view. But after we finally have excellent views of them, we then
saw them several more times.
So I told everyone that this is the place to see them.
During 1998 and 1999, quite a few people went to Nallan Station and said
that they couldn't find them. I figured they must be just overlooking
them. But then in June 1999 when I visited Nallan Station again, we had a
very hard time finding them. Indeed, we didn't find them on the station,
but saw two near Walga Rock about 60km west of Cue. By this time, I was
very familiar with the calls of both Chestnut-rumped and
Slaty-backed. There weren't that many Chestnut-rumped Thornbills either,
although they were still fairly common.
My conclusion is that SBTs move around according to the conditions, and
that their range can expand and contract significantly. I am looking
forward to going back there to see how common they are now.
Frank O'Connor Birding WA http://birdingwa.iinet.net.au
Phone : (08) 9386 5694 Email :
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