World Wetland Day

World Wetland Day

Celebrating World Wetlands Day at the Slade Point Reserve on Saturday morning February 8 were 49 participants.

Thanks to Pioneer Catchments and Landcare’s Kade Slater and Conservation Volunteers Australia’s Alexandria Volling along with two Birdlife Mackay members (Gerry Woodruff and myself) who organised the successful event.

Have a safe flight

Have a safe flight

Wave goodbye to the waders this weekend at Mackay’s newest environmental reserve. The migratory shorbirds spend from October to April each year in Australia, and include greenshanks, eastern curlews, great knots, lesser sand plovers (pictured above) and many other varieties.

As many as 23,000 waders will fly north as Reef Catchments holds its annual ‘Wave Goodbye to the Waders’.
BirdLife Mackay’s Daryl Barnes will lead the expidition. Mr Barnes explained the process the birds go through to get to our shores is “amazing”.

“All the migrating birds come from the northern hemisphere, they come from north Chins, Alaska, Siberia. They breed there,” he said. “After they’re born and they’re about six weeks old their parents leave because they’ll get snowed in – why they breed there in the first place has me – and they head south.”

Say goodbye to the waders today from 8:30am at Shellgrit Creek, near Illawong Beach.

[Extract from The Daily Mercury Article]

Strange Bird & Bat Behaviour

Strange Bird & Bat Behaviour

The behaviour of birds and bats in the Mackay-Whitsunday appears ti have been thrown into disarray in the aftermath of Cyclone Debbie.

It’s thought food shortages for the animals following the devastating weather event in late March are largely to blame.

Walkerston birdwatching, author and president of BirdLife Mackay, daryl Barnes, has noticed birds normally associated with rainforest like Eungella moving to populated areas in large numbers.

Another development – which may be seen as positive by some – is that some flying fox bat colonies appear to have moved on from some Mackay region towns. Mr Barnes said a large colony that used to roost near Walkerston home had all but vanished. He’s sure the strange scenario is down to changes in the birds’ and bats’ normal food supply, as the cyclone stripped fruit and berries from trees and shrubs.

“Anyone who takes particular interest and observes their environment will tell you that here, around Mackay, we have been seeing birds that we don’t normally associate with the area and they are here in numbers,” Mr Barnes said. “It goes to show you the devastating effects this cyclone has had on the environment, subtle changes that most people would not realise were occurring.

“Small fruit and berry eating specialists like the wompoo, superb, rose-crowned fruit doves, brown cuckoo does and emerald doves are some of the most noticeable birds affected. They are turning up around town in house backyards and other coastal bushland areas that support fruit and berry producing trees.”

Mr Barnes said the movements were putting pressure on ‘local’ birds relying on similar food sources, such as figbirds, friarbirds, mistletoebirds, silvereyes, rosellas, lorikeets and varied trillers.
“There is only a certain amount of food available to go around,” he said

When it came to the flying foxes, Mr Barnes was sorry to see the bats so badly affected by Debbie, but conceded he’d appreciate his Walkerston home not being covered in bat droppings and urine for the time being.

Discussing any potential long-term impacts on bats and birds after Debbie, Mr Barnes said he expected the animals to bounce back and eventually return to normal behaviour.

But if the apparent prevalence of severe weathe events in north queensland continues at its current rate, he’s concerned bird and bat recovery following events like Debbie will be increasingly difficult.

Generally, Mr Barnes described Mackay as an excellent, if underrated area for birdwatching in normal circumstances.

Tiny Honey Eater is Unique

Tiny Honey Eater is Unique

For the past few years a group of volunteers from Birdlife Mackay and Mackay Conservation Group have been spending many hours in the bush at Cathu and Crediton keeping an eye in one of our unique birds.

The Eungella Honeyeater is a small, elusive bird and only found in the woodlands and rainforest west of Mackay.

It was only in the early 1980’s that ornithologists realised that the Eungella Honeyeater was a seperate species. Animals with very restricted ranges are vulnerable if conditions change suddenly due to natural or human actions. The Eungella Honeyeater has the smallest range of any bird in Australia.

At first scientists estimated that there were 2500 Eungella Honeyeaters in the forests west of Mackay but further surveys have raised concerns that the number has declined. Eungella Honeyeaters were once commonly sighted in places such as Finch Hatton Gorge but these days it’s population appears to be decreasing.

Nobody is sure why that is,. It could be that at the time the bird was first counted there was an abundance of flowers and the population was high compared with today. Another theory is that logging is reducing the number of trees that the birds can feed on.

Volunteers, led by Daryl Barnes from Wildlife Mackay, have been out in the field week after week counting the number of birds in that visit a number of research sites. If the weather predictions are correct, this summer could be particularly dry and hot due to an El Nino event. Hot dry conditions encourage trees to produce more flowers which could see the number of Eungella Honeyeaters return to the peak of the early 1980’s. If there is plenty of food available and numbers are continuing to decline the it may be that logging needs to be reassessed.

by Peter McCallum, Mackay Conservation Group

Birdwatching in Mackay

Birdwatching in Mackay

by Lucy Martin, Daily Mercury

All throughout Australia, keen twitchers are counting birds for an important study – the Aussie Backyard Bird Count. Mackay birdwatcher and president of the local birdwatching group Daryl Barnes is helping locate and record species in Mackay.

How did you get involved in the count?
I received information from head office in Melbourne advising of activities coming up.

What is the purpose of the project?
The purpose of the project is to establish what people are seeing/attracting to their backyards, whether it is in an urban environment or a rural one.

Birdlife has been trying to encourage people to enhance their house, yard, gardens to encourage habitat for the smaller bird species to live, as trends suggest that larger birds are tending to dominate and force some of our smaller species into vulnerable situations where their survival becomes insecure.

We are also invited to go to our local parks and open spaces to do the survey.
The Aussie Bird Count app is at https://aussiebirdcount.org.au

It is very user friendly and easy to negotiate. All records are recorded and submitted via the app, which is timed at 20 minutes per survey.

Why are you doing it?
The more people who participate in the survey the better, as this will provide a bigger overall picture when analysing the results.

What have you seen?
So far in my backyard this week I have recorded 31 different species of birds. Some birds of note include the white-browed robin, emerald dove, nankeen night heron, azure kingfisher, red whiskered bulbul, mistletoebird and pacific baza.

How many birds have you counted?
The number of birds in total has been 104.

Where are the best birdwatching places in Mackay?
Mackay Regional Botanic Gardens is a good place to start, the mouth of Shellgrit Creek at high tide for shorebirds, the Sandfly Creek walk, the Gooseponds, the harbour wetlands, Slade Point Reserve, Blacks Beach spit and Bucasia Beach.

What is your favourite bird?
My favourite bird is the buff-breasted paradise kingfisher. It is a migrant visitor that comes from New Guinea to certain locations in Queensland to breed.

What are your tips for birdwatching?
Persistence and patiance are two words that immediately spring to mind when giving tips to good birdwatching.

To see the wonderful range of birds in our environment, you need to get out in the field as often as you can. Gaining knowledge and experience will come in time.

Ethically, the welfare of the birds should always come first, particularly when they are nesting.