Friday, 22 April 2016

Birds of Bowra

Crested bellbird

Following on from the previous two posts on my recent trip to Bowra wildlife sanctuary, run by the Australian Wildlife Conservancy, here is a brief outline of what birds we caught on the trip. I thank the AWC for their cooperation and Jon Coleman for organising the study, coordinating our visit with his team from Brisbane. Also, I thank the other members of our crew, Mark Clayton, Gil and Marion, and Richard Allen who was working not far from us most of the time and shared his knowledge of birds he and his son Mark caught.

A mist net set in the scrub

We set up about five nets each evening, ready to open at first light the next day. The habitats were mostly mallee and mulga, and although it had rained a week previously, the ground was dry and easily worked. It can be a no-go zone after heavy rain, due to vehicles becoming bogged.

Gil and Mark processing birds quietly at the banding table.

We caught 152 birds of 27 species in five days, the most numerous being Spiny-cheeked and White-plumed Honeyeaters, both common species of dry woodland habitats. It was a good trip with numerous birds that had been banded on previous visits re-trapped, which is what we need to establish some idea of the birds' movements within the reserve and their ages. Below is a sample of the birds found and caught by us this time around.

White-breasted Woodswallow - adult

There were three species of woodswallow regularly hawking over the treetop and picking food from the ground in open areas. These two and the Little Woodswallow, of which I saw several flying high, too high to get caught in the nets.

Black-faced Woodswallow - 1st year/juvenile

This Black-faced Woodswallow can be recognised as a young bird, fledged in the recent breeding season, by the buff-tipped coverts and feathers on the head. The adults have a smooth grey plumage.

Grey-headed Honeyeater - adult

We were lucky to hear, see and catch a few Grey-headed Honeyeaters. They are more abundant farther north and west, although they are a bird of the mulga woodland and that was the habitat we were in.

Red-backed Kingfisher - female

The Red-backed Kingfisher was a species that I never saw or heard until we caught one. They are usually easily found as they tend to call loud whistles from high tree-top perches. This is the kingfisher of the arid zone and dry open woodlands.

Australian Ringneck

Australian Ringnecks are common and widespread in the drier woodlands, especially the mallee and mulga. They could be found readily by following their loud calls, as parties of them fed on the bushes and trees.

Bourke's Parrot - adult female

The Bourke's Parrot is a parrot of the arid and semi-arid, mid interior country. They are generally a quiet bird and easily overlooked. The best time to find them was at dawn or dusk when they fly to drinking pools and roosts.

Hall's Babbler

The Hall's Babbler is a bird that is only found in south-west Queensland and north-west New South Wales. So was perhaps the most typical bird of the area we were in. The overall dark grey/brown plumage and the high breast-line distinguish the species from the similar White-browed Babbler which is found more widespread to the south and west. The other babbler in the area was the Chestnut-crowned Babbler, which we saw and was easily distinguished by its double white wing bars.

Variegated fairy-wren

Two common species, with wide ranges over arid and woodland areas were the Variegated and Splendid Fairy-wrens. As it was the end of the breeding season, the males of both species were moulting out of their bright blue breeding plumage into the duller grey/brown eclipse plumage they take on for the winter. They then look similar to the females and immature birds, although they retain their dark bill and the others have a red bill and eye-ring.

Splendid Fairy-wren

The Variegated Fairy-wren was a little further on with its moult than the Splendid Fairy-wren, but both will complete their change over a few weeks.

Variegated Fairy-wren

Close-up, the fairy-wrens looked especially blotchy with the flecks of blue feathers not yet moulted out.

Splendid Fairy-wren

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