Hot birding down the Lachlan

To: 'Denise Goodfellow' <>
Subject: Hot birding down the Lachlan
From: Stephen Ambrose <>
Date: Tue, 17 Jan 2017 03:44:02 +0000
I’d like to encourage people to publish their observations of behavioural
responses of birds to extreme heat.  There are anecdotal reports of large
numbers of birds dying during extremely hot conditions, but there are
surprisingly few descriptions of behavioural responses of Australian birds
to those conditions, especially territorial passerines which are not near
pools of water that could otherwise be used for bathing and drinking. I
quoted known references in my 1984 short communication, but I don’t think
there has been that much more recorded in other studies since then.

Stephen Ambrose

Ryde NSW

From: Denise Goodfellow 
Sent: Tuesday, January 17, 2017 2:17 PM
To: Stephen Ambrose
Cc: Chris Charles; birding-aus; Chris Lloyd
Subject: Hot birding down the Lachlan

If I’d known I’d have invited you along!


On 17 Jan 2017, at 11:11 am, Stephen Ambrose <> wrote:

Hi All,

I can beat that - the ground temperature out in the sun when I was observing
small passerines during extremely hot conditions at Hamelin Station, Shark
Bay in Western Australia (5th January 1983) was 63 deg C;


Ambrose, S.J. (1984).  The response of small birds to extreme heat. Emu 84:


Stephen Ambrose
Ryde NSW

-----Original Message-----
From: Birding-Aus  On Behalf Of
Denise Goodfellow
Sent: Tuesday, January 17, 2017 11:05 AM
To: Chris Charles
Cc: birding-aus; Chris Lloyd
Subject: Hot birding down the Lachlan

Chris, thank you for a fascinating trip report.

On extreme temperatures and spouses: While surveying Gouldian Finches near
Victoria River, NT, in the early 1990s I spent hours lying on the bare
ground near eroded waterholes with little tree cover.  It was hot.  Once I
measured the ground temperature at 56oc.   I would never have expected
anyone else to join me in such conditions, including my (male) field
assistants.  I sent them off to watch the shadier water bodies.

Denise Lawungkurr  Goodfellow
PO Box 71
Darwin River, NT, Australia 0841
043 8650 835

On 17 Jan 2017, at 8:38 am, Chris Charles <> wrote:

A spouse that goes birding with you in 44 deg?
You seem to have won the lottery of life Chris.

Chris Charles

Licole Monopods <>

On 15 Jan 2017, at 5:22 pm, Chris Lloyd <> wrote:

Some months ago the idea of a week birding in western NSW seemed like
a good idea. A warm but pleasant amble down the Lachlan  with the
caravan brought us to Forbes and three booked nights at the CP. Now
closer followers of ancient rituals and weather forecasts would
already have noted some red flags. We simply noted that the CP was
choka-block and moved straight to Gums Swamp. Nothing spectacular but
a good collection of old friends and, like all the countryside
around, plenty of  water and greenery. Returning to the Park we found
an unusual number of men with large black sideburns and women
sporting some variation of the onesie with sequins. The penny dropped
when an otherwise perfectly competent string quartet moved from
Dublin to Memphis while rehearsing in the camp kitchen at the request
of the large impromptu audience. At this point it was 6pm and a bracing

36° with 38° for the following day.

A day of retail therapy, the library and the hysterical society kept
our cool until an inevitable return to the van and afternoon of
recline in the air-con. It was not to be as the combined assault of
frig and AC compressors brought on a denial of service from the aging
circuitry of the Park. Tempers flared as much trousers as the system

tripped out every half an hour or so.

There were compensations. For those rooting for the King there was a
crooner at a battery power mike and for us the delight of warm beer
and wine while watching the aerobatics of four first year Collared
Sparrowhawks intent of playing tag with cockies while a brace of
White-faced Heron observed both phenomena.

It was with a brave face that we informed Rhinestone cowboys and
girls that we were headed for the milder climes of Lake Cargelligo.
39° in Condobolin made the bitumen toasty for the dog’s pads and a
hefty 20 knot north-westerly made clothes driers redundant. As we
motored along the Valley Way to LC the Bureau raised the bar for the
following day to 44° and we started to consider professional help.

Then we struck the ephemeral lakes and flooded paddocks. Most of the
world’s population of Pacific Herons seemed to have descended and
around their legs wandered Black-winged stilts of all ages,
Red-necked Stints, coots, and plovers. Overhead in the wind were the
Marsh Terns in flocks of dozens while all three ibis species strutted
their stuff in the greasy water. There was nothing new, just
thousands of ‘good’ birds loafing or foraging as the whim took them.
There were stilts on to their third or fourth clutch while the
previous off-spring wandered around the sitting adults. Ducks and
grebes seemed to have endless trails of bobbing heads either behind
them or on their backs. A pair of Plumed-whistlers did not seem to
have lost one of their near grown brood to the Kites as they wove
through a forest of egret and spoonbill legs and bills. A quick dash
through the furnace blast to the water’s edge showed that, what
appeared a still surface from three metres away was a swirling stew of on

algae, insects, fish and crustaceans. It might be hot but nobody was going

Friday lived up to everyone’s expectations and to the 44° nature
added a powerful north-westerly and thick black clouds to provide an
apocalyptic edge. Gallons of water and a little bit of German
refrigeration engineering kept two adults and a small spotted dog
from joining their respective makers as lunchtime hit the 40 mark and
climbing. But nothing stopped the birds. We peered in awe out the
windows as half a dozen Major Mitchells cartwheeled across the park
and Peewees and Pied Butcherbirds used the sprinklers to assist the
luncheon efforts. Two Butcherbirds carried out a full mating display
of neck pecks and vocals on the wing while their youngster watched
on. The White-Ibis, using their suburban experience wandered about
lawns and bins exuding an air of ‘nothing to see here’ as dog and
humans cringed under wet cotton. The one great saving grace of the
west in summer is the evenings and despite the mid-forties onslaught by

midnight you are reaching for the sheet and then the blanket.

Dawn brought 30 degrees and a south-westerly that brought the ‘feel’
down to 25° but with a sun that had the bite of a White Pointer. So
it’s off for a day along the Lachlan and the lakes. Once again no new
birds but who needs new birds when thirteen adult Nankeen Herons rise
from a water race and disport themselves around the trees? Everywhere
water moved there were fishers dipping a bill in their favourite
hole. At the regulator there was a line of black and tans in their
yellow waders as the water rolled past. No one was missing out and
even the ill equipped ibis were making a catch. Just up river a human
family complained they had got little other than carp fingerlings.

The locals were as awe inspiring as the birds as they maintained
their laconic bonhomie to melting birders and still mowed lawns,
welded pipe or served customers. Cargelligo again lives up to its
reputation as a hot spot to bird.

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