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

Seasonal dispersal of birds from our area

White-winged Triller_Female_Phil TenisonWhite-winged Triller_Male_Phil TenisonIt is always of interest to notice how birds move within Eastern Australia at various times of the year. In this article I am not referring to the Migratory Wading Birds that we know about but local Australian species.

At certain times some species are relatively easy to locate yet at other times they can't be found locally. A perfect example of this is the Superb Parrot. They arrive in Leeton in early Spring and are seen in town and around the district, especially along the river, in large numbers. To me it is a joy to see their return and to know that they, until recent years, were on the “Vulnerable' list with numbers in decline in the late nineties. Fortunately after a number of good breeding years their numbers have increased and they are now considered less so. At this time of year mid to late February they leave the area and are more difficult to locate – especially in the winter months. After a successful breeding season they will seek a food source where ever they can, often appearing in areas where they are not usually seen – like Nericon for example where Neil Palframan reported them for the first time this season.

They are still about but from now on they are difficult to locate although in the past year or so small numbers are able to be found all year if you look hard enough in the right places – like at Yanco Reserve or the Leeton Golf Course.

Murrumbidgee Valley National Park (Cuba Forest)

Square-tailed Kite - Phillip WilliamsOn November the 16th a group of us gathered at the Lions park in Darlington Point in preparation for an excursion into the Murrumbidgee Valley National Park at the Cuba entrance.  It was a very cool morning for the middle of November so there was some exchange of jackets before we headed the couple of kilometres back toward Leeton to the Cuba Forest.

We turned off the road and as soon as we were over the grid and into the National Park proper we pulled up to walk along the billabong that was in the process of being filled up with what I presume is Environmental Water. 

The big birding highlights from this 1st stop were the 100 plus ducks that flew off when we first arrived, the lack of water birds present (may be because they hadn’t yet found it as it was still filling up), and the nesting pair of Brown Treecreepers. The other notable from this stop was the series of blue ear tags nailed to some of the trees.  These where associated with silver insulation tied around the tree.  An email to Charles Sturt University, Institute for Land, Water and Society after I got home confirmed the suspicion that the ear tags were markers for a research project.  To quote from the email that I received back from Dr Damian Michael Senior Research Fellow, “The ear tag should have been accompanied by a silver cover which I am temporarily using as an artificial bark cover to examine arboreal lizard populations across the Murrumbidgee catchment. The tag is identifying the tree.” I am going to follow up further to see if there is more information available in relation to how long and if there are any preliminary findings yet.

Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists Trip to McCann Road & Griffith Area: Saturday 27 July 2019

 McCann Road Grey Mistletoe - Eric WhitingRufous Whistler (Male) - Phil TenisonTen brave souls met at the Tourist Information Centre in Griffith trusting in my ability to get us to McCann Road.

Fortunately their trust was rewarded, as we waited the obligatory 10 minutes after the scheduled time and then made our way to McCann Road.

This is a small patch of vegetation near Lake Wyangan which I had only visited briefly a couple of times before during Twitchathons.

It is a great spot with a good range of birds including the regular Honeyeaters, Thornbills and Wrens while a few specials were the Golden Whistler, Rufous Whistler and White-fronted Honeyeater.

After a good look around we headed for Lake Wyangan picnic area for a combined Morning Tea and Lunch.

Then off to Campbell Swamp, which didn't produce a lot of birds but the views of the Swamp Harrier, Hobby and Kestrel were very nice.

A quick stop over at the Griffith airport where we were able to find the Pink Cockies we were seeking plus some others including Rainbow Lorikeets and Mallee Ringnecks.

Black and White Bird Watching - Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists

Freckled Duck non-breeding Campbel'ls Swamp - Phil TenisonPearl Bluebush Mariana sedifolia - Rowena Whiting

I couldn’t find Campbell Swamp named on Google Maps, so it’s no surprise that I got lost (twice) on our Saturday March 16 Club outing trying to find it – even though I’d been there (twice!) before. Some might say I have a poor sense of direction; I prefer to be thought of as a person who “investigates alternative routes”.

Having eventually arrived I found the area as life-filled as I remembered, from both a plant and animal perspective. In relation to the former, I clung to Eric like a gecko on glass, both along the entrance path and the boardwalk (more on this safety hazard later) as he described many of the species extant, such as the lignum thickets and swamp couch. Striking was the crystal clarity of the shallow water, being perennially filtered by this same aqueous flora. In some places it was the inland equivalent of coastal seaweed-adorned rock pools.

The spacious bird hide, with its information display and adjacent signage, is pretty special, and I was proud that it was a long-ago initiative of the Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists. A  hide is a wonderful place for field ornithology as, not only does it allow one to be close-up and personal with our avian subjects, but one can even chat, eat and stroll about – oh, and spy on birds of course. I leave it to Max to supply the full – impressive – list for this very enjoyable and informative outing.

Glossy Black-Cockatoo Count - Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists 2nd March 2019

Glossy Black-Cockatoo - Barry AllenGlossy Black-Cockatoo - Nella SmithAfter a very extended dry period we had up to 50 ml in the Narrandera, Brobenah and Cocoparra Ranges a fortnight before the census. We thought we would struggle to find dams with water in them at all and that was the case in Binya State Forest and the Cocoparra National Park. The Narrandera Hills and Brobenah had some dams with water. This could actually have been a good thing as it concentrated the birds into one area. In the end we looked at dams that we had looked at in previous years which is a good thing for ongoing data. If anyone heard a begging youngster though I would like to know about it and add it to my records.

The total of birds seen in Narrandera Hills was 14, Brobenah 9, Cocoparra 12 and Rankins Springs 17 (In Narrandera, Cocoparra and Rankins Springs birds were seen at one dam).  The largest range of other birds seen was at Brobenah by our gun birdwatcher, Max Sullivan

Many thanks to all who participated and the landholders for assisting with the count and for allowing us access to their properties.

Nella Smith

World Wetland Evening – Thursday 31st January 2019

Spoonbills at Fivebough Kathy TenisonWorld Wetland Evening Fivebough Kathy TenisonThe World Wetland Evening was part of a global event organised to celebrate the positive input wetlands all over the world have in cleaning up river systems, buffering floods, providing habitat for a large diversity of wildlife and providing a wonderful place for us all to visit and enjoy.

Fivebough Wetlands provided an ideal venue for our World Wetland Evening. We saw a good number of bird species (28x) including Freckled Duck, Red-kneed Dotterel, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers, Yellow-billed and Royal Spoonbills. Given we are suffering the effects of a prolonged drought it was great to see these birds calling Fivebough home.

Sixty people took part in the workshop that covered such topics as wetlands in our region, birds, frogs, history, management and climate change impacts. We began the evening with a wonderful Welcome to Country by William Ingram.

Erin Lenon spoke about some of the decisions that are made in order to provide water to wetlands. It is certainly not an easy job to know what water is required where with several delivery partners involved. These decisions include maximising environmental outcomes, not intending harm/adversely, using local knowledge and negotiating consent.

ROCK OF AGES with Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists

Lake Cowal - Wedge-tailed Eagle Kathy TenisonLake Cowal Rock - Rowena Whiting Mal Carnegie is a rock: a tall, tough country boy born and bred in this same unforgiving land which hosts the Evolution gold mine, the epicenter of our outing on November 24, 2018. He is also the rock upon which the success of the Lake Cowal Conservation Centre is assured, which has its home adjacent to the gold mine.

It was in their spacious tearoom/conference centre that Mal welcomed us with a mandatory video on mine safety. Apparently, with the stringent obligations of OH&S attached to Australian mines, too much safety is never enough. And this colossal enterprise is, happily, Aussie owned and operated.

Our host then gave us an informative talk on the mine and its history; along with lots of operational facts and figures. This is indeed a major industrial complex just 40 or so kilometres north of sleepy West Wyalong.

Then he escorted us on a tour of the mine; hard hats, hi-vis vests and safety glasses for all. We looked, for all the world, like a party of desperate politicians canvassing for regional votes!