Red Wattlebirds (RW) & Dusky Woodswallows (DWS)

To: "chat line" <>
Subject: Red Wattlebirds (RW) & Dusky Woodswallows (DWS)
From: "Michael & Janette Lenz" <>
Date: Wed, 6 May 2009 11:01:12 +1000

Now that I am back in Australia I am catching up with some of the discussions on the chat line.


RW: Steve Holliday?s recent comment on the scarcity of RWs made me check out some suburban areas where there were normally good numbers of this species. Indeed, on a walk last Sunday, Haig Park in Braddon, Corroborree Park and many streets of Ainslie hardly yielded any RWs.


In 2007 RWs also left our area in autumn, but, according to many reports, there were large-scale mass movements of RWs to and up the coast over many weeks. In 2009 the situation appears to be different. I have not seen any reports of mass migration of RWs from the coast (at least not on the chat line). Taking Mark Clayton?s comments that the exodus from Canberra may have started during the hot February, it may well be that the movement was more of a steady trickle and geographically more restricted, hence no noted mass movement on the coast, RWs just vanishing almost unnoticed (if my assumption are correct) from our area.


The only recent sign of RW migration, apart from Matthew Frawley?s obs., was a flock of about 100 birds that I saw on 27 April flying over Gundaroo to the NE.




DWS: Just a few small additional comments. Reporting all the obs. on the chat line to get an idea what is happening this season is certainly good. However, it will generate a picture only for this season, and the conclusions cannot necessarily be generalized. In order to fully appreciate the current situation we also have to go back and compare with the past. Martin Buttterfield?s excellent analysis and summary of GBS obs. for this species clearly demonstrates notable differences over time.


Taking the long-term view, it is most important (in my view even more important) that all these observations are also entered in the COG data base (just stressing the point Martin made yesterday). Unless the obs. are added to the COG data base they are basically lost to the system!


The current frequent encounters with DWS may reflect a healthier status of DWS numbers, as Jack Holland has been suggesting, or not. Assuming these are not local birds (and the local population last summer was certainly down on other years) then it all depends on the size of the ?catchment? area from which these birds originate, whether we can conclude that the species is doing reasonably well.


It is always amazing how little we still understand what even our common species do. At the same time this gives everyone, even with the observations in their own backyard, the opportunity to contribute to a better understanding of our birds. With the extreme weather patterns of recent years we probably see bird responses we have not experienced before, or only rarely so. All very fascinating!


Michael Lenz

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