Birdwatching in Wagga Wagga


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:

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Tau Emerald
(Hemicordulia tau)

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Blue Skimmer
(Orthetrum caledonicum)

Australian Emperor <br> (Hemianax papuensis)

Australian Emperor
(Hemianax papuensis)

Wandering percher <br> (Diplacodes bipunctata)

Wandering percher
(Diplacodes bipunctata)

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