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Spend time outdoors with like minded people and learn from some keen (and very knowledgeable) plant and bird enthusiasts.

Breeding Bonanza at Fivebough Wetlands and Lake Coolah

Black Swan and young

This time last year we had the Bittern Bonanza at Fivebough wetlands with 34 birds recorded on the evening of 20 November. This year with all the winter rain both Fivebough and Lake Coolah, in particular, are again full as they were in March 2012 and the water birds have taken great advantage of the abundance of food in order to breed. This breeding breeding bonanza is also happening at Campbell's and Nericon Swamps and possibly at Tuckerbil as well if access into the swamp was easier.

As Fivebough started to fill in mid-year, the Black Swans were the first to take advantage of the increased water level and, by late July, Keith Hutton had recorded an amazing 71 nests scattered about the wetlands particularly in the northern end where they could be easily seen from Hooey Lookout. The first cygnets started appearing around early August.

Since then and with more persistent rain in August/September, all other birds have been induced to breed in great numbers. This has been particularly noticeable at Fivebough and Lake Coolah where it is relatively easy to see the birds, despite Fivebough being inaccessible still beyond the Information Centre.

Twitchathon Report / The Storkers / Virginia & Neil

Sacred Kingfisher. Photo: Phillip Williams93 species compared with our usual 130+.  It certainly confirms that we are in an unusual year.

The new format meant a rethink of strategy, no overnight camping, no listening for night birds calling through the dark.  (On the other hand, I don’t think we could have coped with camping out in these mozzies, so just as well.)

The Storkers concentrated on the Griffith area, starting at Binya before sunrise for bush birds, then going the rounds of the wetlands, with plans to get to the river but that didn’t happen.  We all know how productive Wattle Dam can be.  I have found twenty plus species within a hundred metres of the dam in previous Twitches. But this year… close to nothing.  Obviously there is so much water around that the dam visitors do not need to come in, but neither were there any of the usual species that frequent the area without using the dam.  No robins, no Speckled Warbler, no thornbills, no cuckoos, no pardalotes.  We wondered if the other factor was the extreme overgrowth of Paterson’s Curse.  The wet and mild winter creating lush conditions also means that the life cycle of the vegetation has been lengthened or delayed, so maybe the Twitch is too early this year (as compared with two weeks too late most years).

We tripped to Spring Creek in the vague hope of the Peregrine Falcon but all that we saw up the walk was a few thornbills … but wait … back at the car and consuming morning tea what happened but the Peregrine found us (thank you from the Storkers to the birdlife that advertised it’s arrival).  The Winery site gave us a few ticks but we had to work hard for them, and some that we chased would not show themselves.  We chased a Speckled Warbler for far too long without success.

Not prepared to give up on the bush birds just yet, we swung back up to Store Creek for lunch, and again … not much … but one of the best spottos of the day was Virginia’s Tawny Frogmouth nest with chick, made even better by the fact that we couldn’t find the Frogmouth later at the Golf Club.  And on the road back out, while we were searching unsuccessfully for something completely different, we happened across a immature Olive-backed Oriole which we think was probably the best tick of the day.

Wild Flower Walk - September 2016

Waxlip OrchidIt was nearly a fine day when we met in Narrandera to go orchid hunting with Nella, who has entered all the best spots into her GPS so she can actually find them again next year. We began with a quick little drive down the Newell Highway to view the floodwater, which was quite impressive and then set off towards the hills. Orchids like stony ridges because the drainage is excellent not because it is usually dry. In this very wet year there were hundreds of tiny spider orchids in spots where we saw just a dozen last year. It was hard to walk without treading on exquisite tiny flowers.

As well as spider orchids there were still a few donkey orchids, greenhoods and pink fingers to be seen. Another site had a brilliant display of waxlips in just the best shade of blue. Another result of the wet year was a proliferation of Drosera – sundews. Many were still a circle of sticky fly traps, while others had already put up a flower stalk. Bulbine lilies buds were scattered through the bush and in one little spot they were in flower producing their own patch of sunshine.

The small stand of Yarran Acacia homalophylla near the road down to Rocky Waterholes Boat Ramp is always worth a glance because it is quite rare in this area. On Sunday there were several patches of Darling Pea (Swainsona species) flowering nearby, as this pea likes to live in communities with various types of Acacia (from “Plants of Western NSW”).

Thanks, Nella. It was a lovely and very worthwhile morning.

Betty Bradney

Why are some orchids hard to see?

We generally think of flowers as brightly coloured objects attracting bees and birds, but there are other ways of luring pollinators.  Orchids like the spider, gnat and mosquito types use mimicry as lures.  They emit the specific odorous chemicals (pheromones) that particular female insects emit to attract a mate.  The males are extremely sensitive to the right chemicals, only a few molecules is enough to trigger a reaction.  Once close to the flower the poor male sees the shape of a female and tries to mate.