The Avian Cane Toads

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Subject: The Avian Cane Toads
From: "J.Reside" <>
Date: Wed, 26 Apr 2000 21:59:36 +1000
Hello Folks,
About 6 years ago when I was still working for the Victorian Department of Natural Resources and Environment and based in Bairnsdale, East Gippsland Common Mynas began appearing in the outer fringes of town and in some of the built up areas. I had grown up in Sale only 70 kilometres to the west and the Common Myna had been a resident there when I got my first slug gun as a kid, 20 years or so ago ! I was amazed and also disturbed to realise that they had finally covered the distance between Sale and Bairnsdale after such a long time.
I immediately co-opted the local birdos to assist with a census and thought it would be a good idea to also place an article in the local paper.
The response was both overwhelming and amusing. Over 150 people rang to offer advice, information or assistance, more than for any other media article that we had ever run.Firstly I was amazed by the numbers of people who had grown up in Melbourne before moving to Gippsland to either retire or enjoy the country lifestyle and were very familiar with the Common Mynas. These people were aware of the Mynas impacts on other birdlife and genuinely wanted to see if they could help. A number of locals also responded, some living on the outskirts of town declaring that they would willingly wage war on the mobs of mynas which always attacked their dogs. The decriptions provided indicated that the light grey bird with a yellow face was really a Noisy Miner. So much for the naive tourists, eh.
Results of the census suggested that we had probably fewer than 50 birds at that stage so we thought we would have a go at reducing the numbers. NRE were reluctant to officially become involved because it was believed that it was a lost cause. We discovered that the Common Myna were travelling via a little town called Lindenow, some 15 kilometres away, into Bairnsdale and for some reason had built up in numbers at this place, probably in excess of 100 birds.
We decided to tackle the problem on a number of fronts, people living outside town on propertieswere invited to destroy any Mynas (the right type) arriving at their properties if it was safe to do so, Fisheries and Wildlife Officers volunteered to remove pairs of birds from sensitive sites, some residents in the town built traps and we ventured out to Lindenow to see if we could attack the source of supply. We found that the Mynas were flocking together just before dusk and at least one large mob was roosting in a 6-7 metre high pencil pine. Our tactics were to construct long poles to support mist nets which were to encircle the roost tree after the birds had settled. In true Israeli terrorist style, balaclavas and dark clothes, intrepid volunteers crept upon the (probably suspecting) birds, about 50-60 in the pencil pine, and the nets were raised. Shouting and the flashing of lights soon created the pandemonium we desired and we cheered as nearly all the birds flew straight into the nets. However our celebrations were dashed as instead of becoming entangled they just walked up the nets and flew out from the top. The final tally of birds for the night was 3. We tried again a week later with a larger mesh net but most of the birds had changed roost to a palm tree that was out of our reach. Birds were ambushed at the tip with some success and a number of individuals of nesting pairs were removed.
I believe the combined efforts of all those involved results in a diminished number of Mynas for the preceeding 2 seasons but eventually those that were keen transferred and the project died. There are now many more Mynas in Bairnsdale and maybe the DNRE managers were right, the flood was imminent.
It would be fascinating to know what precipitates the apparent sudden expansion in their range. They seemed to arrive in Bairnsdale in a rush as though they had significantly overpopulated the nearby town of Lindenow. It seemed unlikely that they had flown all the way from Sale, even though it was only 70 ks away because they could have done that at any time in the last 20 years. The road between Sale and Bairnsdale is heavily timbered with mature Red Gums and other eucalypts. The road from Lindenow to Bairnsdale is cleared. As the Mynas appear move along the roadside corridors, do they find those that are vegetated more daunting, less competition?
Mind your Mynas,
Jim Reside
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