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

Bring Back the Glossy Black

Group attending the Glossy Black-Cockatoo Day_Kathy TenisonL to R Mason Crane, Colleen O’Malley (BCT) and Andrew Thompson share knowledge.  Photo Kathy TenisonOn Thursday the 24th of March Murrumbidgee Landcare and Biodiversity Conservation Trust held a Bidgee Biodiversity Day. One of six in the Riverina to create awareness of the need to improve biodiversity in the region.

Murrumbidgee Landcare along with the Murrumbidgee Field Naturalists and Narrandera Landcare thought a Glossy Black-Cockatoo (GBC) day would be a valuable way of celebrating biodiversity in the district.

Gathering a team of people who have been involved in the monitoring, protecting, research and understanding of the Glossy Black-Cockatoo was one of the aims of the workshop. Understanding what has been done in the past will help us to determine what needs to happen in the future.

Rankins Springs farmer and Naturalist Rodney Guest started the day telling us about farmers in the Rankins Springs region who have been involved in educating the local community (Farmers and School children) in the habitat required for the GBC.

They installed large nest boxes made from recycled material with cherry pickers 6 meters high in large Eucalypts to hopefully attract the GBC to the nest. Being so high they are very difficult to monitor which has been a problem for the evaluation of the idea. Major Mitchells have been seen nesting in smaller versions that have lids. But at this stage no GBC has been found in the larger open topped ones.

A Scene Serene 13 March 2022

Sandigo River Road_Rowena WhitingEarly Autumn is a lovely time of year for an afternoon of birdwatching; and Sunday March 13 didn't disappoint. A still, warm day favoured our little convoy as we headed south from Narrandera to a scenic string of wetlands in the general region of the Narrandera Inland Fisheries Research Centre. At our first stop we were greeted by a variety of swamp denizens; like a couple of juvenile Night Herons; a Great Egret; some Black Ducks, and several White Ibis.

Quite a few bush birds flitted through the canopy of the towering River Red gums standing sentinel over this tranquil scene. One welcome arrival was a Peaceful Dove, who surveyed us curiously, anointed our senses with one of bushland's most sonorous calls, and continued on its way.

There were also quite a few White-plumed Honeyeaters frolicking in the treetops, also singing beautifully; as was a Grey-shrike Thrush.

But Betty's gimlet gaze was fixated on more lowly things, like a large fan-shaped lichen growing on the bridge rails – which she generously described as “magnificent”. What was probably more magnificent was the Superb Parrot she and Warrick spied on our way to the next stop.

The state of our local wetlands Dec 2021/Jan2022

Night Heron and Egret - Anne Lepper 2022Campbell's boardwalk_David KelletWith so much rain over the past two months, all local wetlands are full to overflowing – a situation that hasn’t occurred since 2012.

I recall in early December that the water level at Fivebough was getting to a point where we might have to request eWater to be put in as Australasian Bitterns had been reported ‘booming’ there and the water had to be maintained at a good level for the birds to stay and possibly nest.

Well Mother Nature solved that problem for us, as we all know with lots of good rains over the two months that has certainly maintained the high water level in all our wetlands. Campbell’s Wetland, in particular, had so much rain in early January that the boardwalk went underwater and the walk was considered dangerous so that David Kellett was forced to install a barricade at its start (photo).

Likewise for Fivebough, the pathways were flooded in parts but the wetland was accessible with a little wading along the way. This ensured the bitterns were able to stay as the water level and massive club grass was perfect for them to set-up breeding areas and attract females with their booming. At least 3, if not 4 birds were calling in the early morning and evening, so we are hopeful that there is breeding activity taking place there for the first time in quite a few years.

Fivebough Wetlands – where are the birds?

Buff-banded Rail - Anne LepperBlack Swan and cygnets Fivebough - Anne LepperTo the casual one-time visitor, Fivebough would appear to be pretty birdless as so many people have commented to me over the past month. However, to the keen observer and almost daily visitor, things are not as bad as they seem. Before lockdown, I had been frequenting the wetlands seeing what birds come and go and since we have restrictions in place in Covid-free Leeton, I have continued using the area as my ‘exercise’ area. Since then, Fivebough has been a mecca for dozens of people using the wetlands for the self-same reason as I do, namely, to exercise.

These days it is not uncommon, especially at weekends, to find a dozen or more cars parked along Petersham Road with family groups doing the circuit but not really taking much notice of what they see. There are, however, a very dedicated group of daily birdwatchers, like me, who go to see what changes have occurred and what new birds have come in and which ones have disappeared.

There was great excitement when a family of Magpie Geese ended up in the main northern pond with 10 goslings in tow! They were there for several days but on Monday the 23rd of August, they were nowhere to be seen and since then have not reappeared. What happened to them is a mystery as a fox or two couldn’t take all 10 goslings overnight nor would the 4 accompanying escort adults allow that to happen as they are very defensive of their young. If they were moved it is inconceivable that the 10 chicks could have been moved any great distance. So their disappearance remains a complete mystery. The regulars still hope they will reappear but so far that hasn’t happened so I suspect they have departed the wetlands – where to is anyone’s guess.

Our Visit to Gillenbah State Forest

Waxflower - Rowena WhitingFungi - Rowena WhitingDid this forest exist in 1750 before Cook arrived ?  Of course it did.

The site of Gillenbah State Forest was probably a woodland with a shrubby understorey and with cypress pine regeneration.

In 1802 it was described as pine scrub which is likely to have been pine as a dominant species in association with box and a range of shrubby species.

The forest has been grazed with sheep and cattle since then. The leasees were meant to control rabbits and maintain fences but maybe they didn’t. Lack of regeneration because of grazing and rabbit infestation meant that Cypress Pine was a diminishing resource. Grazing changed the composition of native grasses.

The stock compacted the ground and weeds infestation occurred around water points. The myxomatosis spread in the 1950’s had limited impact in these forests. It was only when 1080 began to be used together with mechanical ripping of rabbit warrens in the 1960’s that regeneration occurred.

Unusual sightings in Leeton June 2021

Baillon’s Crake_Kathy Tenison“Pink” Sulphur-crested Cockatoo_Anne LepperRed-winged Parrot:

A female Red-winged Parrot was photographed by Anne Lepper in her front garden in Catalpa Road on 15 June. She was quite surprised and submitted the photo to Australian Native Birds site on Facebook. It has been seen in her garden daily ever since, both morning and late afternoon often in the company of 8 or more Superb Parrots feeding in the same trees – Chinese Elms.

There was much discussion on Facebook about the bird and it appears that the bird escaped from an aviary in Wamoon when the cage that it was in blew over and the door came open releasing the bird. It was reported that 2 birds a male and female escaped but only the female has been sighted.

This bird is native to northern NSW and is found further north than here. There have been sightings of this parrot in Merriwa in the Upper Hunter which is unusual to be that far east of its normal range.

When my father was alive and I visited in Tamworth, I would often see them along the road just out of Coolah heading north. This is possibly the southern end of their range and they are very common in western Queensland and the Northern Territory with birds easily seen around Darwin.

The Ironbark Picnic Ground Excursion 24 April 2021

 Ironbark view_Rowena WhitingMy original intention for this walk was basically follow the route we used to do some years ago but in reverse with the proviso of back-tracking from a lookout point instead of having a steep descent down to the creek above the picnic ground.  A quick reconnoitre with Rowena to check the best point to start the climb up the ridge found the lower slopes thickly covered in Purple Burr-daisy – no purple, all burr.  Two hours of pulling spiky bits out of trousers, socks, shoes, laces and at time fingers, said that plan B was required.

So the six of us that turned up (this most welcomely included the Ranger, Jess Murphy who wanted to learn from us more about her park) had a more leisurely stroll around part of the Flats.  The first part of our walk followed the foot of the cliffs to the end of the spur. Jess soon revealed her interest in butterflies when a couple fluttered by, only Common Browns and they scarcely settled on anything much to the chagrin of the photographers.  They did however spark a discussion on insects and other smaller things in life.  Why don’t we pay more attention to these?

Campbell's Wetlands outing 10 April 2021

Blue-billed Duck Family Campbells_Phil TenisonPink-eared Duck_Kathy Tenison14 people made up the group for the outing. We met in the car park at Campbell's at 9am and David Kellett gave a brief talk to the group about some recent funding he had applied for and got for improvements to the track leading from the car park to the board walk and beyond along the northern section of the wetlands.

The group set off and at the start of the boardwalk, we split into two groups so as not to put too much pressure on the fragile boardwalk with so many of us going on it at once. So Nella took about half the group to the northern end whilst I took the remainder to the hide. Despite there being few ducks in the main open area as seen from the hide, with time and patience we ended up with a good selection of duck species as they eventually emerged from the cumbungi clumps and out into the open water. Blue-billed Ducks were definitely the highlight for us as up to 4 males were seen along with a couple of females. Musk Ducks were also great to see and there were 2 juvenile birds seen along with a resplendent male close to the hide showing his leathery lobe (dewlap!) quite clearly for all to see.

Glossy Black Cockatoo Count - March 2021

Glossy Black-Cockatoo - Nella SmithThe Count was conducted a few weeks later than usual. We all probably wished that we hadn’t done it at all when the wind blew up and bent the trees in half.

I think that this year we were counting breeding pairs and perhaps a young one hanging around from last year (maybe to learn the ropes). This thinking makes it more significant than ever.

One pair from the Narrandera Hills is already nesting which makes it an early starter.  Most birds have already paired up and are getting ready to nest by finding a hollow that she approves of. Some of the birds in Rankins Springs are just getting going. When she finds a suitable nest, she finally lays her one maybe two eggs. She stays in her hollow and he comes past and feeds her every evening. She’s hanging out for a feed by the time he comes and starts calling. This could also be so that he doesn’t get lost.

Jacks Creek Outing 27 March 2021

Eatern Yellow RobinThis was a combined outing with the local Camera Club and was very well attended by both groups.

It was also a last minute change to the proposed trip to Oolambeyan National Park but the rain during the week made the Oolambeyan trip impossible because of the road into the park.

However, the group happily started the trek up the escarpment in a clockwise direction which we thought would be easier in the damp conditions. The walk/climb was more of an exercise experience and a chance for the participants to chat and discuss what they were seeing as there wasn't much by way of wildflowers to photograph. Once up on the hill, good views were had of the surrounding countryside and there were many opportunities for the members to get some interesting photos. There was plenty of talk about various cameras and what each felt about their equipment and preferences.

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