what is going on?

To: Mark Clayton <>, "" <>
Subject: what is going on?
From: David Rees <>
Date: Mon, 18 May 2020 01:23:57 +0000


'Pretty dead' would be a reasonable description of many bird watching opportunities locally at present.  I've been 'Covid sanity' walking a lot in  part of Garooyaroo NR just north of Throsby, that is walking distance from home,  including in the new bit that was to become suburb.  Yes there are large birds about, Magpies, Galahs, Plovers, Parrots, but very few small passerines.  There is more such birdlife in my street.  Was in Campbell Park yesterday morning, also fairly quiet, but at least there were a few big mixed feeding flocks about (Brown, Buff and Yellow-rumped thornbills, weebill, couple of scarlet robins, Speckled warblers, female yellow whistler, SF wrens, grey fantail.. ).  One surprise was a singing Western Gerygone - confirmed by being able to film it. Not a bird I would expect to still be about here at this time of year. 

I also suspect the drought (and fire, where applicable) has given many small birds a very hard time out in the bush, those that can live in suburbia are probably doing better at the moment due probably there being more food available.  Colder weather now will reduce already low insect numbers, seed set in grasses etc. generally would also be low due to dry weather.   Let us hope for a good spring to help these species build up numbers again.


On 18/05/2020 10:30 am, Mark Clayton wrote:

Yesterday afternoon my wife and I took advantage of the glorious weather and decided to go for a drive just to see what was about bird-wise. We left home in Kaleen at about 1pm and travelled from via Coppins Crossing, up past the cycle facility to Uriarra Crossing where we had a brief stop. From here we then headed along the Brindabella Road and turned right on to Mountain Creek Road, passing about a dozen cars parked at the "car park" at Sherwood Forest. A quick stop at what I think is the bridge over Swamp Creek then along Mountain Creek Road until we connected with (I think) Strike-a-light Road and returned to Uriarra Crossing. From here back up Brindabella Road again to the junction of the road past the forestry settlement and headed down towards the Cotter, narrowly avoiding the numerous kamikaze motor cyclists and P plate car drivers who thought the road was there to practice their rally driving skills (does the ACT actually have a Police Force???). We continued past the turn into Tidbinbilla NR and headed to Tharwa. We had a stop here for about 20 minutes before heading off towards the visitor centre at Namadgi (obviously closed for whatever stupid reason as it was nowhere near the fires) but turned down Smith's road  before turning off on to Angle Crossing Road, stopping after the crossing to check on a couple of old Wedge-tailed Eagle nests in the vicinity. From here on until we joined the Monaro Highway, where I stopped looking for birds - it was around 4 pm.

The reason for this long winded narrative? All up my wife and I saw about THIRTY birds on the WHOLE trip, most of which were in a flock of sulphur-crested Cockatoos and another flock of Crested Pigeons. The smallest bird I saw was a White-eared Honeyeater at the Swamp Creek bridge but I did hear a Yellow-faced Honeyeater at Angle Crossing. On a drive like this I would have expected to see at least a Willie Wagtail or two, some Yellow-rumped Thornbills, and in the area around parts of Smith's Road where there is ideal habitat for Superb Fairy-wrens but not one. I also expected to see Flame Robins in this area. As I said , we did do some short stops here and there but in most places it was deathly silent. I feel that the drought is mostly to blame for this lack of birds but there must be other reasons. So as the subject title about asks, "what is going on?"

Highlights (??) were two separate Brown Falcons - 1 at Uriarra Crossing, the other along Mountain Creek Road. This is a species that used to be common around the ACT but in my 60+ years of birding locally has declined dramatically. Two Emus at the Cotter was the only other species of significance!

A very depressing afternoon!


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