John Pople

On Saturday December 1st, four groups made up a Cohuna team to count as many birds species and numbers as we could during that day. Each year the Bird Observers Club of Australia holds this contest. The birds must be counted from within a 40 km radius of a central point. The group I was in comprised Pastor Chris Coleborn, Simon Starr, Lydia and myself. We set out early in the morning of what proved to be a beautiful day, and the abundance of birds was a privilege to see and enjoy, reminding us of the riches God has made in His world.

Lydia Coleborn was our recorder, and did a great job too, and as we set out to count our area we were all spotting for birds. Each group had their own area to cover within the 40 km radius. In the following report I only will be able to mention some of the highlights as the day was just filled with birds and then more birds. Our list was 25+ species before we had left the pleasant gardens and bush that surround the Coleborn’s residence that nestles beside Gunbower Creek.

Through Leitchville we circled Kow Swamp where we sighted such water birds as Pied, Great and Little Pied Cormorants, Darters, Pelicans, Great Egrets, Whiskered and Caspian Terns and assorted Ducks and bush birds. Turning into the Mt Hope reserve where there are huge striking granite outcrops we picked up Singing Honeyeaters, Mistletoebird a pair of Peregrine Falcons and a Brown Goshawk.

Moving further south towards the Terrick Terrick National Park, a small flock of Cockatiels obligingly flew over just as we paused to glimpse some White-backed Swallows hawking in the early morning sunlight. Arriving at the Terricks we visited several locations where we had a walk around, and the tally was rising quickly. We soon added Black-chinned Honeyeaters, Mallee (Australian) Ringneck, Southern Whiteface, White-winged Triller and Diamond Firetail Finches to name but a few.

An early stop for lunch at Regal Rock, still in the Terricks, became quite an event, as no sooner had we sat down than Chris heard, and then spotted a pair of Painted Honeyeaters nearby. He managed to call them to the very tree under which we were sitting! We all had some great views of this beautiful, nomadic honeyeater. Before leaving the park we also had Gilbert’s Whistler, Rufous Songlark, Hooded Robin, Painted Button-Quail, Eastern Yellow Robin, Dusky and Black-faced Woodswallows.

Simon lives near Pyramid Hill so we meandered across to his favourite hot spots and managed to sight a pair of Brolgas with a young chick in tow, as well as White-winged Fairy-Wrens and a solitary Skylark. Visiting a nearby saltworks we saw Red-capped Plovers, one pair of which were nesting. It was incredible how well camaflourged the little nest and its eggs were. We also saw several other waders here, including a Common Greenshank. Driving past recently ploughed and freshly lasered paddocks, Simon pointed out a couple of Australian Pratincole, which were standing in the middle of a dusty, dry paddock. What a great sighting it was, and quite close up to these elegant visitors from the north.

Continuing on and criss crossing the flat open pains country we sighted various raptors, including Wedge-tailed Eagle, Whistling Kite, large numbers of Brown Falcon and Black-shouldered Kite. At the end of the day, we heard that near one area we were searching a pair of Black Falcons were breeding, but we did not see them on the day.

Many years back in pre-European history, some low areas off Pyramid Creek had formed swamps. There are aboriginal middens in the area, and other reminders of the original inhabitants of the area. While irrigation works have greatly altered the flooding and old cycle of the swamps, these swamps are still maintained as reserves, but have been very much neglected in recent times. One such swamp is Herd’s Swamp, which we visited. These swamps were once very rich in water birds but have been in the doldrums for years, with overgrown vegetation and very little open water, just a neglected wetland (when rarely wet). Well things have changed, and how! The Department of Natural Resources and the Environment, who manage it, have recently brought this swamp back to life. Vegetation has been cleared, large areas scooped out to varying depths and big quantities of "environmental" irrigation water re-directed into it. The whole area under water was just alive with birds. Hundreds and hundreds of Whiskered Terns were wheeling and foraging just on and above the surface of the water. Huge flocks of Grey Teal were scattered about as well as Hoary-headed Grebes, Black Duck, Ibis and Spoonbills. In the shallow water and mud flats were large numbers of Black-tailed Native Hen as well as Great Egret, Sharp-tailed Sandpipers and Black-winged Stilts. Waterbirds of many varieties were actively foraging for food in this, greatly improved habitat area. Their various calls echoed over the water as flocks took off and landed creating constant movement and noise. It was a great sight to see.

Next step was a similar swamp to the north of Herd’s called Johnson’s Swamp. It has been flooded for several years now. Taking a fairly long track, winding through lignum and small box trees there is one place where a fairly good view can be obtained of a large body of open water, surrounded by tall flag reed and cumbungi reeds. Clamorous Reed-Warblers and Little Grassbirds were flitting around the reeds and calling. From a reed and tree covered island in the middle of some open water the booming call of the Australasian Bittern could be heard, with an answering boom from further across to our left. This spot pushed our tally up quite a bit, and Chris and Simon spent some time getting an accurate as possible count of the large flocks of waterbirds and ducks that were to be found here. It was great to find Freckled Ducks here as well as an assortment of others, including Pink-eared, Australasian Shoveler, Hardhead etc. as well as the usual Dusky Moorhens, Coots, Black Swans etc. On the way out we sighted White-breasted Woodswallows and moved onto our last destination for the day, a private property near Cohuna.

This small-irrigated property belongs to a retired farmer, Mr. Lloyd Hore, who kindly invites us each year to check out his mini wetland situated just behind his house and other farm buildings. Large old willows surrounding swampy pools of water nearly always produce the goods with Latham’s Snipe, Nankeen Herons, as well as assorted Egrets, Herons and Ibis. We were not disappointed on this visit, and all these species were found, including Red-kneed Dotterels.

The bird chase for the day finished at about 8.00 pm. having started the day at 6.00 am. we were glad to put the feet up and rest. It had been a most rewarding and memorable day’s birding. As I look back upon it I recall the words of the Psalmist in Psalm 104:24,
"O Lord, how manifold are Thy works! In wisdom hast Thou made them all; the earth is full of Thy riches."

The bird list for the day was as follows:

Emu Stubble Quail Freckled Duck Musk Duck
Black Swan Australian Shelduck Australian Wood Duck Pacific Black Duck
Australasian ShoveleGrey Teal Chestnut Teal Pink-eared Duck
Hardhead Australasian Grebe Hoary-headed GrebeGreat Crested Grebe
Darter Little Pied Cormorant Pied Cormorant Little Black Cormorant
Great Cormorant Australian PelicanWhite-faced Heron White-necked Heron
Great Egret Intermediate EgretNankeen Night Heron Australasian Bittern
Australian White IbisStraw-necked Ibis Royal SpoonbillYellow-billed Spoonbill
Black-shouldered KiteBlack Kite Whistling Kite Spotted Harrier
Swamp Harrier Brown Goshawk Collared Sparrowhawk Wedge-tailed Eagle
Little Eagle Brown Falcon Peregrine Falcon Nankeen Kestrel
Brolga Buff-banded RailAustralian Spotted CrakeBaillon’s Crake
Purple Swamphen Dusky Moorhen Black-tailed Native-henEurasian Coot
Painted Button-quailLatham’s SnipeMarsh Sandpiper Common greenshank
Red-necked StintSharp-tailed Sandpiper Black-winged Stilt Red-necked Avocet
Red-capped PloverBlack-fronted DotterelRed-kneed Dotterel Masked Lapwing
Australian PratincoleSilver Gull Caspian Tern Whiskered Tern
Rock Dove Common Bronzewing Peaceful Dove Crested Pigeon
Galah Long-billed Corella Sulphur Crested CockatooMusk Lorikeet
Yellow Rosella Cockatiel Eastern RosellaAustralian Ringneck
Red-rumped ParrotHorsefield’s Bronze CuckooBarn OwlTawny Frogmouth
Azure KingfisherLaughing Kookaburra Sacred Kingfisher Rainbow Bee-eater
Dollarbird White-throated TreecreeperBrown Treecreeper Superb Fairy-wren
White-winged Fairy-wrenStriated PardaloteWhite-browed ScrubwrenWeebill
Western GerygoneChestnut-rumped ThornbillBuff-rumped ThornbillYellow-rumped Thornbill
Yellow ThornbillStriated Thornbill Southern Whiteface Red Wattlebird
Noisy Friarbird Little FriarbirdBlue-faced HoneyeaterBlack-chinned Honeyeater
Noisy Miner Singing Honeyeater White-plumed HoneyeaterPainted Honeyeater
White-fronted ChatJacky Winter Red-capped Robin Hooded Robin
Eastern Yellow RobinChestnut-crowned BabblerGrey-crowned BabblerWhite-browed Babbler
Crested Shrike-titRufous Whistler Gilbert’s WhistlerGrey Shrike-thrush
Restless FlycatcherMagpie-lark Grey Fantail Willie Wagtail
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikeWhite-winged TrillerOlive-backed OrioleWhite-breastedW/swallow
White-browed WoodswallowBlack-faced WoodswallowDusky WoodswallowPied Butcherbird
Australian MagpieAustralian Raven Little Raven White-winged Chough
Singing BushlarkSkylark Richard’s Pipit House Sparrow
Zebra Finch Red-browed Finch Australian Firetail European Goldfinch
Mistletoebird White-backed Swallow Welcome Swallow Tree Martin
Fairy Martin Clamorous Reed-warbler Little Grassbird Rufous Songlark
Brown Songlark Golden-headed CisticolaSilvereye Common Blackbird
Common Starling

This report was published in The Christian Bird Observer’s Magazine, October 2001