Heathwrens at Cocoparra NP and other NSW mallee birds

To: Birding-aus <>
Subject: Heathwrens at Cocoparra NP and other NSW mallee birds
From: Michael Todd <>
Date: Sun, 12 Aug 2001 17:05:25 +1000
Hello birdos,

I spent this morning searching for hylacolas (heathwrens) at Store Creek in Cocoparra NP which is approx. 30 km NE of Griffith in the northern Riverina of NSW. I eventually found a pair of Shy at one spot and then two pair of Shy at another spot 400m distant. However, I'm not certain that two of this second group weren't the original pair as they came from that direction. The four birds chased each other for a while through the undergrowth giving me great views of all concerned. The females were noticeably duller than the males- certainly a greater difference than with the duller Chestnut-rumped Hylacola. They seemed to be largely confined to dense Hill Tea Tree understorey with a sparse Mallee eucalypt overstorey.

While I recorded other birds I didn't have a very long list by when I left but I still enjoy seeing Mulga Parrots and Speckled Warblers.

I'm still chasing any Pulletop NR records or bird lists that people may have. Dave Stewart sent me an interesting email re Pulletop sightings. According to his observations all the mallee birds were present during the 1970's but had mostly disappeared during the 1980's. Dave mentioned he and John McKean observing malleefowl and an active mound in 1983.

For those who don't know Pulletop it is a small reserve, of approximately 1 km by 2 km, but was formerly part of a larger stretch of mallee that was on private property and has been cleared. Presumably isolation brought with it inbreeding depression, increased predation and subsequent local extinctions. This sad fate has affected many small mallee reserves in NSW. The malleefowl being the most obvious decliner as they can hang on in reserves as a couple of pairs for years and years with seemingly no hope of recovery. Probably most of the chicks that they produce are grabbed by foxes, although even if the fixes weren't there they wouldn't have any habitat to disperse to. This is one situation where not even 1080 can do the trick!

About the only positive things you can say about these small reserves is that they are good examples of the effect of habitat isolation and maybe, just maybe, they could be used as core areas for future regeneration and re-introduction projects. I would get a buzz out of seeing Pulletop as Dave Stewart must have seen it in the 1970's knowing how empty it seems now.


Mick Todd
Griffith, NSW

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