Re. Plains Wanderers and grassland management

To: <>
Subject: Re. Plains Wanderers and grassland management
From: "Simon Starr" <>
Date: Wed, 5 Dec 2012 22:04:03 +1100
Thanks Phil for sharing your experience re Plains Wanderer populations in
your area over the last run of seasons. You would have the clearest
perspective of anyone on the subject given your focus on finding these birds
for people.

I agree with you that Plains Wanderers are currently in a dire situation,
and it is fascinating to read how the recent years have panned out on the
"Hay plain"


There is however a glaring difference between what you observed, and the
situation on the Patho plains of northern Victoria. During the bulk of the
dry years here, roughly the same as yours..2001 to mid 2010, the numbers of
Plains Wanderers here actually increased. With the maintenance of a gentle
grazing regime on many of the reserved grasslands ( overseen by local
rangers )and no big rains to thicken the grasslands up too much, Plains
Wanderers were thriving. Densities were high. My average time for finding a
Plains Wanderer on foot was one hour. On many occasions I saw multiple
birds, sometimes 8 or 9.   I observed many males either nesting, or rearing
young broods, and also observed many immature birds which survived and then

Clearly the drought here was no-where near as detrimental to them as further
north. 2002 is possibly the exception, a year when winter rainfall
completely failed and temporarily the birds became hard to find.

In 2009/10 before the big rains, Plains Wanderers were in very good numbers.
This is also the time when the push to reduce or eliminate grazing from
reserved grasslands gathered pace.


This whole debate started in response to a Weekly Times article claiming the
a lack of grazing had proved detrimental to Plains Wanderers on reserved

So could the Plains Wanderer habitat have been maintained in the publicly
owned grasslands of northern Victoria through the wet period? Well, in lots
of areas this was probably not realistic, as grasslands became inundated.
However the red rises remained drier, and maintained a structure approaching
what is suitable for Plains Wanderers. Without any grazing however these
areas thickened up, and the grasses became too high as well. With some
targeted management, areas could have been kept close to that which Plains
Wanderers prefer, and this is now part of the future plans for the managing
northern plains grasslands.


As for the latest current situation, summer 2012, the grasslands are much
thinner this year due to an average to below average rainfall in 2012.
However the rank growth built up over the wetter times is still there, and
much of the area is still too thick. However I have seen privately grazed
grasslands that are currently in perfect shape for Plains Wanderers. No data
to say whether  the birds have returned, except one female being seen in the
Terrick Terick East grassland, adjacent to suitable privately grazed
grassland.  On a spotlighting walk this week, I observed numbers of Stubble
Quail, Little Button-quail, Brown Songlarks etc. It was quite lively.


Overall it seems to me that the situation in Victoria is very different to
that further north around Hay, possibly partly to do with the more intensive
nature of agriculture existing in Victoria.




Simon Starr 


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