Victorian Grey-crowned Babblers

Subject: Victorian Grey-crowned Babblers
Date: Fri, 16 Nov 2001 10:15:55 +1000

G'day all,

Over the past week, I've been lucky enough to re-visit the northern Victorian
plains in search of Grey-crowned Babblers - an endangered species in Victoria
(please don't laugh at that you northern Australian's!).

Back in 1995, I was given the job to survey the grassy woodlands just north of
Bendigo (the southern part of the northern plain), and then in 1997, I surveyed
the rest of North-west Victoria, encompassing the area between Echuca and
Piangil, following the Mid Murray Valley.  In summary, there were few birds
picked-up in the 1995 work, but numerous records of new groups (previously
unreported) in the 1997 work.  The best areas included sites north of Boort,
north of Kerang along the Loddon River and between Murrabit and Cohuna.  These
results were most encouraging - in terms of numbers of groups, numbers of
individual birds and group density, this newly discovered Victorian hot-spot was
rival to the north-east Victorian population (ie. Euroa district).

My job now is to monitor the groups recorded in previous works as there has been
some indication of decline, especially in the Boort district.  I am also
surveying areas that were 'missed' in 1997.  So far, I have only conducted two
field trips.  Last Monday and Tuesday, I visited the area between Boort and
Kerang.  The news is good and bad.  The good news is that 24 new groups were
located, mainly in the area between Wandella and Appin (south-west of Kerang).
Birds are using Black Box woodlands on private land and along roadsides that
have an open sparse understorey of Lignum and short grass.  Nine known groups
have increased in size and one has remained the same since 1997.  Now for the
bad news.  In just 4-5 years, 17 groups have disappeared from the district, the
worst affected area being north of Boort around the Yando locality.  There is no
apparent change in habitat and I am at a loss as to why they have gone.  We have
found that groups remain resident year round so the chance they have moved-off
elsewhere is slim.  I investigated areas nearby and found nothing, so it is
highly possible that the birds have simply died-out - a great shame indeed and a
real cause for concern.

In the coming weeks, I will be visiting areas further north (Swan Hill and
Cohuna districts), so it will be interesting to see what results arise from
those trips.

Anyone with knowledge of babbler groups in north-west Victoria is encouraged to
contact me with site details.  I may have missed them in past surveys!!  Also,
has anyone who regularly visits the Terrick Terrick National Park seen GCB's? I
am unable to find them in the cypress-pine block, but they occur along the Mt.
Hope Creek in the grassland section of the park.   I last saw a group along the
eastern boundary of the pine woodland block back in 1996.  (Chris Coleborn -
have you seen any?)  If there are still GCB's in the pine block, it would be the
only single place in Victoria to my knowledge that contains White-browed,
Chestnut-crowned and Grey-crowned Babblers.  Quite amazing.

I will keep the list posted with further survey results.

Bye for now.

Chris Tzaros

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