Birdwatching in Wagga Wagga


Bird Routes of the Wagga Area
September 30, 2009, 8:17 pm
Filed under: General | Tags: ,

Crude though it is, the map above should give you some idea of the number of potential birding locations in the Wagga Wagga area. Within and around the city itself there is Willans Hill (1), Lake Albert (2), the Silvalite Reserve (3), Flowerdale Lagoon (4), Pomingalarna Reserve (5) and Malebo Hill (19). Slightly further afield you will find Livingstone National Park (6), Currawarna State Forest (12), Berry Jerry State Forest (13), The Rock Nature Reserve (16) and Wallacetown (17). If you are looking to head a little further, you might try Nest Hill Nature Reserve (7), Murraguldrie State Forest (8; see note), the Junee Wetlands (9), Lester State Forest (10), Kockibitoo and Matong State Forests (11), Galore Hill (18), the Tootool Wetlands (14) and Milbrulong State Forest (15). A number of birding locations can also be found in the Henty-Pleasant Hills area to the southwest; Rankins Springs, Narrandera, Leeton and Griffith to the west; and in Bethungra and Cootamundra to the northeast.

I hope to provide detailed profiles of some of these locations in future.

Note: Part of Murraguldrie State Forest has been cleared to construct a retreat for Vietnam veterans. Having never visited the area myself, I can’t say how much forest remains for birdwatching.

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The Birds of Lake Albert
September 28, 2009, 12:15 pm
Filed under: Lists | Tags: , ,

Yellow-billed Spoonbill (Platalea flavipes)

Yellow-billed Spoonbill (Platalea flavipes)

Three species of migratory wading-bird have been recorded on the lake in the past five weeks. The first to be sighted was the Common Greenshank (Tringa nebularia), a large wader with a distinctly upturned bill. It breeds in Europe, from Scotland to Siberia, and is generally seen in Australia between September and April. The second of the waders to be recorded was the tiny (around 15cm) Red-Necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis). This is one of the more common migrants, arriving typically in August. The third of the waders to be sighted was the Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper (Calidris acuminata). This is another relatively common migrant, having been recorded in flocks of around 2000 at the Fivebough Wetlands near Leeton.

Red-Kneed Dotterel (Erythrogonys cinctus)

Red-Kneed Dotterel (Erythrogonys cinctus)

It is not surprising that these birds should be recorded at the lake: any body of water would serve as a temporary stopping-point en route to a larger wetland. It is interesting, however, that two of the three species should choose to stay. The Common Greenshank has been recorded only once in my surveys, but the Red-Necked Stint and the Sharp-Tailed Sandpiper have been recorded on multiple occasions over the last three to four weeks. Several other species have also arrived or, in some cases, returned: the Whiskered Tern (Chlidonias hybridus; one flock contained almost 40 individuals), the Black-Winged Stilt (Himantopus himantopus), the Red-Kneed Dotterel (Erythrogonys cinctus), the Black-Tailed Native-Hen (Gallinula ventralis) and the Australian Reed-Warbler (Acrocephalus australis). The lake appears to have sufficient resources to support these new arrivals, without any obvious diminution in the year-round resident population.

Six species of duck have been recorded on the lake, the most common being the Pacific Black Duck (Anas superciliosa), the Grey Teal (Anas gracilis), and the Australian Wood Duck (Chenonetta jubata). Among the shorebirds, the Masked Lapwing (Vanellus miles), the White-Faced Heron (Egretta novaehollandiae), the Black-Fronted Dotterel (Elseyornis melanops), the Royal and Yellow-Billed Spoonbills (Platalea regia and Platalea flavipes) and the Eastern Great Egret (Ardea modesta) are the most common. Small groups of Silver Gulls (Larus novaehollandiae) and large flotillas of Australian Pelicans (Pelecanus conspicillatus) are often seen. Seven species of raptor have also been recorded in the area. The most common are the Black-Shouldered Kite (Elanus axillaris) and Nankeen Kestrel (Falco cenchroides). Large mixed flocks of Whistling Kites (Haliastur sphenurus) and Black Kites (Milvus migrans) are also seen from time to time.

Red-Necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis)

Red-Necked Stint (Calidris ruficollis)


The wetlands at the southernmost end of the lake support a number of small birds, including the Superb Fairy-Wren (Malurus cyaneus), the Red-Browed Finch (Neochmia temporalis), the Golden-Headed Cisticola (Cisticola exilis) and the Australian Reed-Warbler. Larger waterbirds are sometimes spotted here, most notably the Black-Tailed Native-Hen and Dusky Moorhen (Gallinula tenebrosa). Brown Quails (Coturnix ypsilophora) were recorded here several months ago but may not be present any longer.

Golden-Headed Cisticola (Cisticola exilis)

Golden-Headed Cisticola (Cisticola exilis)

The surrounding parks support several species of native woodland bird. The most common are the Weebill (Smicrornis brevirostris), the Yellow and Yellow-Rumped Thornbills (Acanthiza nana and Acanthiza chrysorrhoa) and the Red-Rumped Parrot (Psephotus haematonotus). These areas also contain a number of familiar urban and introduced species.

White-Faced Herons are sometimes seen in the fields on the opposite side of Lake Albert Rd. A group of eight Cattle Egrets (Bubulcus ibis) in partial breeding plumage was also recently recorded here.

In all, 83 species (79 native, 4 introduced) have been recorded on and around the lake since April of this year. A full list is available here.



The Birds of Willans Hill
September 25, 2009, 11:02 pm
Filed under: Lists | Tags: , ,

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Grey Fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa)

Over the course of a dozen or so visits, most lasting only a few hours, I have recorded 60 species of bird on Willans Hill. Among the most frequently encountered native species are the Yellow and Yellow-Rumped Thornbills (Acanthiza nana and Acanthiza chrysorrhoa), the Weebill (Smicrornis brevirostris), the Grey Fantail (Rhipidura albiscapa), the White-Plumed Honeyeater (Lichenostomus penicillatus), and the Laughing Kookaburra (Dacelo novaeguineae). Many of the familiar urban birds of the region – the Australian Magpie (Gymnorhina or Cracticus tibicen), the Crested Pigeon (Ocyphaps lophotes), the Willie Wagtail (Rhipidura leucophrys), and the Magpie-lark (Grallina cyanoleuca) – are found in abundance on the hill. Four introduced species have been recorded: the House Sparrow (Passer domesticus), the Common or European Starling (Sturnus vulgaris), the Feral Pigeon (Columba livia), and the Common Blackbird (Turdus merula). Of these the most common is the Common Starling. The Noisy Miner (Manorina melanocephala), an aggressive native species, has been seen on many occasions, mostly in association with especially degraded areas lacking an understorey.

In mid-August I spotted a juvenile Pallid Cuckoo (Cuculus pallidus) on the hill. Since then I have seen both adult and immature Fan-Tailed Cuckoos (Cacomantis flabelliformis) as well. Other spring arrivals include the Rufous Songlark (Cincloramphus mathewsi), the White-Winged Triller (Lalage sueurii or Lalage tricolor), the Noisy and Little Friarbirds (Philemon corniculatus and Philemon citreogularis), and the Dusky Woodswallow (Artamus cyanopterus).

Among the rarer birds are the Fuscous Honeyeater (Lichenostomus fuscus; two sightings, both of pairs), the Cockatiel (Nymphicus hollandicus; one sighting of a flock of around a dozen), and the Painted Button-Quail (Turnix varia; one individual briefly glimpsed). One threatened species has been recorded with reasonable regularity: the Speckled Warbler (Chthonicola sagittata). In one case, around six to eight individuals, including some dependent young, were seen together. See DEC’s write-up on the Speckled Warbler here.

A list of birds recorded on Willans Hill to date can be found here.



Spring Comes to Willans Hill
September 23, 2009, 11:17 am
Filed under: Observations | Tags: , , ,

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Bulbine Lilies on Willans Hill, September 18, 09

Willans Hill is a heavily disturbed patch of woodland in varying degrees of degradation. For much of the year it seems to support nothing more than a few malnourished cypress-pines (Callitris sp.) and a selection of weeds (notably Oxalis pes-caprae). In June, I noticed a few Everlastings (Xerochrysum sp.) starting to put out flowers; in July, a few patches of diminutive Early Nancy flowers (Wurmbea dioica) were spotted and Hardenbergia violacea could be be seen beginning to flower; the odd Blue Heron’s-Bill (Erodium crinitum) flowered in early August. Wildflowers were present, of course, but inconspicuous.

Bulbine Lily (Bulbine bulbosa)

Bulbine Lily (Bulbine bulbosa)

Spring seemed to come fairly abruptly. I recorded a single flowering Bulbine Lily (Bulbine bulbosa) on the hill in mid-August. By the beginning of September there were many thousands (or even tens of thousands) of individual plants in flower. Other wildflowers have appeared too: Bluebells (Wahlenbergia spp.), various daisies (probably Brachyscome and Calotis spp.), Twining Glycine (Glycine clandestina), Scrambled Eggs (Goodenia pinnatifida), Creamy Candles (Stackhousia monogyna), Twining Fringe-Lilies (Thysanotus patersonii) and Native Geraniums (Geranium solanderi). A few Black-Anthered Flax Lilies (Dianella revoluta) are starting to show flowers.

With these changes in flora there has been, unsurprisingly, a change in fauna. Butterflies (nine species recorded so far) and dragonflies (four species) have arrived en masse, and many other insects have been observed. And of course the avian fauna has changed, too. The Noisy Friarbird (Philemon corniculatus), a blossom-nomad, has arrived in numbers, as has the Little Friarbird (Philemon citreogularis), which can be seen hawking for insects from the branches of flowering gums. The Rufous Songlark (Cincloramphus mathewsi), typically a bird of open grassland, has been seen and heard on the hill several times. The White-Winged Triller (Lalage sueurii or Lalage tricolor), a widespread but apparently never very common bird, has been recorded twice. A group of eight or more Dusky Woodswallows (Artamus cyanopterus) was also recently recorded. Pied Currawongs (Strepera graculina), on the other hand, have all but disappeared.

All of these species follow more or less predictable patterns of migration. One other recent arrival is more interesting. The Western Gerygone (Gerygone fusca) is typically regarded as sedentary, moving only in response to rainfall. Its recent increase in abundance in Wagga (having been recorded on Willans Hill, Malebo Hill, Livingstone National Park and elsewhere) may be in response to harsher conditions in other parts of its range. On the other hand, its increase in abundance may in fact be an increase in vocality: most records are made on the basis of calls heard rather than birds seen. Many birds are (of course) more vocal in breeding season, and the Western Gerygone’s call is certainly distinctive. An .mp3 recording is available from the Birds of Canberra Gardens website.

The four dragonfly species referred to above are illustrated here:

_02_T_Tau_emerald_150

Tau Emerald
(Hemicordulia tau)

_02_T_Blue_skimmers_150

Blue Skimmer
(Orthetrum caledonicum)

Australian Emperor <br> (Hemianax papuensis)

Australian Emperor
(Hemianax papuensis)

Wandering percher <br> (Diplacodes bipunctata)

Wandering percher
(Diplacodes bipunctata)



Welcome!
September 22, 2009, 3:45 pm
Filed under: General

Few resources exist – on the internet or elsewhere – for those in the Wagga area interested in bird-watching. Species lists and bird-routes are available for Griffith, Grenfell, Henty, the Fivebough and Tuckerbil Wetlands and Rankins Springs, but not (to the best of my knowledge) Wagga. The best resources I have come across are the Australian Birdfair Website, which has a general list for the Riverina-Murrumbidgee area, and Birdata, which allows you to retrieve a list of species recorded in a particular area. The aim of this blog is to supplement general information of this kind with more specific details – where birds are found, how often particular species are sighted, and so on. A disclaimer: all of the observations on this website are my own, and are the work of an enthusiast rather than a professional of any kind. Most posts will consist of lists of species found in a given area, accompanied by photographs and notes on anything I consider to be relevant or of interest. Enjoy.

Note that the site will have a fairly temporary feel about it for some time – it is prone to change at any moment.