FW: 2010 BOCA Bird Count

To: <>
Subject: FW: 2010 BOCA Bird Count
From: "Geoffrey Dabb" <>
Date: Tue, 7 Dec 2010 09:05:55 +1100

The below is particularly interesting to me.  Some parallels with our area.   g


From: John Barkla [
Sent: Monday, 6 December 2010 11:17 PM

The Bird Observation & Conservation Australia 2010 Bird Count was conducted on Sunday 5 December 2010.  The count area is defined as everything within a 40 kilometre radius from Werribee, with principal efforts in the You Yangs Regional Park, the Melbourne Water Western Treatment Plant, the Werribee River Regional Park, The Spit State Nature Conservation Reserve, the Cheetham Salt Avalon Operations, Point Cook Coastal Park, Altona (including Kororoit Creek, Jawbone Reserve & Mount St Joseph’s pond) and some sites around Werribee (Werribee South, Werribee Park Mansion, & Werribee River). 


The count was undertaken by the following observers:

  • John Barkla (leader)
  • Lyn Abreu
  • Peter Fowler
  • Valerie Fowler
  • Peter Lansley
  • Chris Lester
  • Rosemary Lester
  • Elizabeth Lloyd
  • Fred Smith
  • Alison Street


Reconnaissance visits to most of the sites were undertaken on Saturday (or during the previous week) and the official count commenced from midnight on Saturday in the You Yangs and concluded at 8.30pm on Sunday at the Western Treatment Plant.  170 species were counted, which was down on the record count of 183 last year.  Whilst we recorded a high number of species in the forest habitat of the You Yangs (98), the number of waterbirds at each of our sites was well down on recent years.  It is known that waterfowl are responding to the recent flooding of inland Australia and are away breeding.  To illustrate this, we recorded 5,000 Pink-eared Ducks last year (and have recorded up to 50,000 in earlier years), but this year we found only a single bird after more than 14 hours of searching.  Overall, last year we estimated there were around 28,500 waterfowl in our count area, of which 6,000 were Australian Shelduck which breed in Victoria.  If Shelduck are excluded, the number of other waterfowl species declined from around 22,500 to around 4,300 – a drop of just over 80%.  The numbers of northern hemisphere migratory waders were also well down and it is assumed that they are also taking advantage of the inland floodwaters to replenish their fat reserves after their 12,000 kilometre migration.  Most notably, for the first time in 37 years of counts, we failed to locate a single Sharp-tailed Sandpiper.  Last year we found almost 5,000.  Similarly, we found only 61 Curlew Sandpipers (2009 1,650) and 3,220 Red-necked Stints (2009 9,650).  The other notable absentee this year was Whiskered Tern: we did not find a single individual of this species which also breeds on freshwater swamps, when last year we recorded over 5,000.


As I have reported for the last few years, during this decade, the species counts have been consistently higher than those of earlier years.  In the 10 years from 1991 to 2000, the average number of species counted was 154.  In the 10 counts since, the average has increased to 169.  I have speculated that this has been attributable, in part, to better coverage by counters, but is due also to birds being attracted to the globally important wetlands within the count area during the previous period of extreme dryness.  Given the rainfall which has been occurring, this year it is more difficult to sustain the rainfall argument.


Some highlights of the count this year were -

1)    The movement of birds at the Western Treatment Plant following the flooding which occurred during the week before the count.  Whilst there were very few migratory waders present before the rain, many of those that were disappeared.  A few weeks before the count observers had seen a small number of Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, a Ruff, a Pectoral Sandpiper and a Red-necked Phalarope on the Western Treatment Plant.  After the flooding none of these species could be found.

2)    By midday on Sunday, the group had recorded 98 species in the eastern half of the You Yangs Regional Park.  This extraordinary total included some interesting and recently difficult to find species in our area including Brush Bronzewing, Australian Owlet-nightjar, Wedge-tailed & Little Eagles, Painted Button-quail, Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo, Long-billed & Little Corellas, Pallid Cuckoo, Sacred Kingfisher, Rainbow Bee-eater, Speckled Warbler, Southern Whiteface, Varied Sitella, White-winged Triller and Diamond Firetail.   

3)    We saw 53,000 birds (2009 65,000) within 40 minutes drive of a city of 4+ million people.

4)    Our first record of Grey Butcherbird (near the Werribee Mansion), which took the total number of species we have recorded in our area of only 40 kilometre radius to 251 – almost one-third of Australia’s birds.

5)    In recent years I have been reporting that a few species are obviously increasing in number in our area.  In some cases this year’s count has shown a slight reversal of this –

a)    Cape Barren Geese were only recorded twice in the 20 years to 1994, but since 2002 numbers have been steadily increasing.  This year we had only 8 (2009 90);

b)    Black Kites were only recorded once in the 20 years to 1994 and since 2002 have been increasing to this year’s highest count of 17;

c)    Black Falcon was only recorded twice in the first 20 years of counts, but has been recorded in 4 of the past 6 years.  It was not recorded this year;

d)    Crested Pigeons were not recorded in the 26 years before 2000, but have increased enormously since then.  This year’s count was only 62 (2009 135);

e)    We recorded Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoos for only the second time (the first was in 2007).  This species seems to be increasing around Melbourne, possibly either in response to the bush fires or perhaps they are increasing generally as a result of the food provided by maturing pine plantations; and

f)     Rainbow Lorikeets continue to expand their range and we recorded our highest count of 26 (previous highest 8 in 1998).

6)    We equaled last year’s count of 12 raptor species, which is exceptional for a single day anywhere in Victoria.  Whilst we missed Spotted Harrier and Black Falcon that we recorded last year, we made up for it by finding Little Eagle and Australian Hobby, giving a total of 14 raptors over the two years.  Black Kites nest in the area, but no active nests were observed during the count.

7)    We found 1 Speckled Warbler in the You Yangs, which confirms this declining species is still hanging on in our area.

8)    There were around 100+ Shearwaters on Corio Bay, but only one came close enough to be identified as a Fluttering Shearwater.  This species has only been recorded once before, in 1980.

9)    We were advised last year by staff at Serendip Sanctuary that the Magpie Geese that occur there and in the surrounding area are free flying and not fed by the sanctuary.  They also told us that it has been more than 20 years since the Magpie Goose breeding programme ceased.  Despite not counting them prior to 2009, we have again included them on this year’s list.  

10) Once again 87 year old Fred Smith, one of the inaugural counters when the team was established over 50 years ago, was able to participate.

Finally, as perhaps an indicator of the state of Australia’s birds, it was another year when we could not find some species.  All of these species used to be regularly recorded, but have now either disappeared or become very rare in the area we cover (last record during a count is in brackets) -

    1. Eastern Curlew (2003)
    2. Great Knot (1986)
    3. Grey-tailed Tattler (1991)
    4. Lesser Sand Plover (1989)
    5. Greater Sand Plover (1986)
    6. Brown Treecreeper (1980)
    7. Hooded Robin (1995)
    8. Song Thrush (2002)

As in prior years, I am indebted to a number of people who provide assistance by allowing access to the sites we visit.  For helping me with the necessary access approvals and keys, I would particularly like to thank -    

  1. Brendan O’Dowd of Cheetham Salt;
  2. John Argote & Bernie McCarrick of Parks Victoria, based at Point Cook Coastal Park;
  3. Mark Urquhart, David Flag and Judy Lock of Parks Victoria, based in the You Yangs Regional Park; and
  4. Brad McLean, Peter Gall, William Steele and Imogen Darby of Melbourne Water.

Thank you to each of the participants for a prodigious effort, particularly Chris Lester for coordinating the count in the You Yangs Regional Park, the drivers (Peter Fowler, Chris Lester and Elizabeth Lloyd) and the sub-group leaders (Peter Lansley, Chris Lester and Fred Smith).


I have attached 2 Excel Spreadsheets which give the results of this year's count and summarize all counts since 1974 (my first).  If anyone would like more information please let me know.


John Barkla

179 Victoria Parade

FITZROY   VIC   3065

Mobile 0417 382 966




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