NEWSLETTER NO 68
Edited by Stein Boddington. <newsletter at absa dot asn dot au>
To search contents of this and other newsletters, click here.
This Newsletter was posted with the Corella of September 2002
We welcome the following new members to the Association:
- Malcolm Brown of Rye, Vic.
- Tiffany Mason of Bathurst, NSW
- Arid Zone Research Institute in Alice Springs, NT
- Elinor Scambler of Yungaburra, Qld.
Jessica Scheider, of the University of Frankfurt, has sent the following request:
"As I plan also to make sequential distances of the subspecies of the black kite, I need some blood or tissue samples. Perhaps there is anyone in the (BARD) list who knows someone having a black kite in a zoo or anything like that."
If anyone can help Jessica or make some suggestions, please email her directly at: <J.Scheider at zoology dot uni-frankfurt dot de>
- Members are reminded that mist net poles are now available through the Mist Net Service. For detailed information, see the note in Newsletter 67 (June 2002), or the Association's website <www.absa,asn.au>
- We are proud to publish an edition of Corella that is devoted to the birds of Western Australia. It has long been acknowledged that there are peculiar difficulties in keeping in contact with birders in WA. Our membership numbers, and financial position do not lend themselves to a decision to hold AGMs or meetings over there. The vast majority of banders are in the east, as are our members. But in acknowledging these problems, we set ourselves a task of being inclusive, and this edition of Corella is a step in that direction. Extra copies of this edition have been printed, and they are available for sale - email <president at absa dot asn dot au> or ring on 02 4721 7435 for details.
- We start, in this issue, a series outlining the recovery plans that are in place for endangered birds. The Black-eared Miner is first off the rank, and will be the subject of an activity at the AGM/Scientific Day next year.
From the American Bird Conservancy.
This year, researchers with ProAves Colombia, photographed one of the world's rarest parrots in the high Andes of Colombia confirming the survival of this long lost species. Colombian ornithologists J. Velasquez and A. Quevedo found 14 Fuertes's Parrots in the central Andes close to Los Nevados National Park.
91 years ago, Miller and Allen from the American Museum of Natural History visited the same volcano to explore its birdlife. They spent several months in the Andean wilderness, and discovered a "distinct and interesting" parrot that was previously unknown to science. The birds were described the following year and named Hapalopsittaca fuertesi, or Fuertes's Parrot, also called the 'Multicolored Parrot' by local farmers.
Between the original discovery and this July, the continued existence of this intriguing species remained a mystery with no confirmed sightings of the bird. Last year, ProAves Colombia, a Colombian bird conservation group, decided to mount a search for the species to see if it could be located and protected.
To date, just 14 Fuertes's Parrots, including 3 juveniles, have been discovered, surviving in just a few dozen hectares of forest. The critical requirements of the species appear to be tall mature trees, where they feed on berries amongst the epiphyte-laden canopy branches and find vital nesting cavities. Jorge Velasquez has stated "my team's task has only just begun, as we must commence the vital job of protecting the species with great urgency." Now the researchers know the specific habitat preferences and diet of the parrot, it is hoped that they can locate and protect other surviving flocks in the region.
The re-discovery of the long-lost Fuertes's Parrot is a great achievement for ornithologists and conservationists in Colombia, and underscores the fact that so many parrots linger on the brink of extinction.
For reproducible photographs visit
ABSA will host a web page for this co-ordinating network until it finds its feet. Click the link on our home page.
21 SEPTEMBER 2002
A day on the sea lay ahead of us, directly east for 20 or 30 miles, on a calm and slightly cloudy morning. The swell was a gentle 1.50 to 2 metres and the wind a mild north-wester. Even then, those who don't go onto the water often had taken a pill or some other trusted nostrum to avoid the dreaded stomach upheavals.
Lindsey Smith introduced everyone and outlined the work to be carried out - the aim being to catch and band as many Wedge-tailed Shearwaters as possible and also catch some albatross, a few of which would be taken back to shore for overnight tests, returning them to the sea the following morning. Pete Milburn, David Geering and Darryl loaded the banding equipment, Harry Battam the cages, and we all scrambled on board the Sandra K and were off at 7.05 am. As we left the harbour, smoke from a bush fire poured down through a dent in the escarpment and out over the water, accompanying us far out to sea. Light clouds kept the heat of the sun from warming us but the swell was reassuringly low.
Up on top Steve Anyon-Smith (with his legendary eyesight) was spotter-in-chief of birds and sea monsters and we almost immediately had sightings of Wedge-tailed, Fluttering and Hutton's Shearwaters. Humpback Whales and various species of dolphin were encountered within a few kilometers of shore. Fur Seals lay in the water waving flippers, a Sunfish of which only the dorsal fin was visible, and a few Fairy Penguins floated or dived. Gannets were in low numbers. Presumably many had already returned to New Zealand, and as we got further out to sea, Silver Gulls were replaced by Crested Terns, following the boat as burley was chucked out the stern to encourage the Wedge-tails.
Shearwater catching started as soon as numbers had built up. The boat was stopped, more burley was ladled out the stern and the two catchers waited either side, with fish nets poised to trap unsuspecting Wedge-tails feeding on the water or flying past. Once caught they were quickly extracted from the net, passed to a bander to be banded and returned to freedom. Hands and fingers of the banders soon had bloody scratches from the needle sharp shearwater bills. You have to be very dedicated to do this work, not only getting scratched and bitten but spewed on with very fishy stomach contents.
Then, as we neared the edge of the shelf at 120-140 metres, albatross began to drift in - first Wandering and then juvenile Black-browed, and a single Northern Royal (a second year bird) which gave us a quick circle but didn't fancy the food on offer and drifted out of sight. This was a 'tick' for me and my 600th Australian species! Two Wanderers (Gibson's) were caught, examined, banded and measured, and then placed in the waiting cages. A third albatross, a juvenile Black-browed, was also caught and caged, and one of the Wanderers released. Seeing these two species at close quarters brought home to one the huge size difference between them. Incidental catches were a very angry Crested Tern and a Silver Gull, both promptly released.
Several Solander's Petrels (Providence) were seen and one caught and banded - this had a whitish belly with clear demarcation at mid-chest between darker head and lighter belly. Other pelagic birds included good sightings of at least two Buller's Shearwaters, and brief sightings of a Short-tailed Shearwater, Fairy Prions and White-faced Storm-petrels. Coming back towards land we were followed by hundreds of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters and Silver Gulls as the remainder of the burley was jettisoned, and near shore a couple of Kelp Gulls and Pelicans arrived hoping for a free feed. More Humpback Whales were sighted, including a huge one with two smaller companions, one of which swam under the bows of our boat. As we watched, the monstrous one 'stood' on its head for nearly a minute with only its tail clear of the water. A few Common Dolphins came close and swam besides our bow, many pods being seen as we headed home. Several people had two separate sightings of rather distant Diving Petrels - I guess I'll have to believe them!
I have now been on numerous pelagic trips around Australia and never tire of watching the graceful, buoyant and effortless flight of these amazing birds that live almost their whole life on the wing. To be surrounded by these aerial acrobats, gliding up and over the boat, and off into the troughs of the waves, endlessly on the move (a twitch of a primary, a few quick wing beats is all that is needed to combat apparently insurmountable conditions) is a delight to which I return again and again.
NOTE: Another pelagic has been booked for Sunday 9th Feb, 2003. Get in early as places are limited. Bookings can be made by contacting David Geering on Freecall 1800 621 056 (W) or 02 6887 8440 (H), email <training at absa dot asn dot au>. Cost for the day is $70.
The Australian Bird Study Association operates a fund to provide financial assistance to researchers. The fund, known as the ABSA Avian Research Fund, provides grants on an annual basis. The next allocation will be available in the first quarter of 2003. The total value of grants is in the order of $2000 and is intended to provide researchers with assistance in the acquisition of equipment and research material.
Expressions of interest are now being sought from members of the Association. The Association would like to encourage grant applications from both amateur and professional researchers. Expressions of interest must be in writing, clearly setting out the aims and objectives of the proposed study. The successful recipients would be encouraged, at the completion of their study, to provide a paper for publication in Corella outlining the results of their research.
Please forward applications by 31 December 2002 to the Secretary, ABSA, at the address on Page 1.
I have had a poor response in the call for participants and papers for the scientific day "Conserving Petrels of Eastern Australia". I know the topic is pretty specific although several people studying albatrosses asked to include their birds. It was good to have their support. I hope to still go ahead in the future but organise it differently. However, before I cancel 2 November 2002 I would like to know how much interest is out there to participate and /or present a paper.
Nature Conservation Branch,
Department of Primary Industries, Water and Environment,
GPO Box 44,
Hobart 7001 Tas.
Phone: 03 6233 6372
Fax: 03 6233 3477
Members are reminded that the Annual General Meeting next year will be held at Gluepot station, in South Australia, on the Anzac weekend - Saturday 26th April.
Those members travelling before or after within SA and Vic need to be aware that this is in school holiday times in those states, and accommodation may be in short supply, so do your planning and booking early.
Plans are being made for a 'tag-along' tour of bird sites across NSW and SA, ending at Gluepot for the AGM. More details of this, and the hows and wherefores of the whole weekend will be published in the December newsletter.
Please keep your eyes on Pluvialis plover legs during the fall migration and wintering season - a marked bird may come your way!
Possibilities are: Pacific Golden-Plovers from various sites (Oahu, Hawaii; Johnston Atoll; Nome, Alaska); American Golden-Plovers and Black-bellied (Grey) Plovers captured on breeding grounds near Nome. Each bird wears a metal band plus some combination of color-bands. There are a few with flags. It is important to record the exact sequence on each leg, and whether there is a color-band above or below the metal band.
Please send observations with as much information as possible to:
Wally Johnson, Dept of Ecology
Montana State University
Bozeman MT 59717 USA
Email: <owjohnson2105 at aol dot com>
Summary of the draft recovery plan for the Black-Eared Miner prepared by the New South Wales National Parks and Wildlife Service, June 2002.
Conservation Status - Listed as an Endangered Species on Schedule 1 of Threatened Species Conservation Act 1995 and under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act 1999
Distribution Once occurred across the Murray mallee of NSW, VIC and SA. Today more than 95% occur in the Bookmark Biosphere reserve in SA. Since 1997 about 50 birds in six hybrid colonies have been found in NSW, on or in the vicinity of Scotia Sanctuary and Tarawi Nature Reserve.
Ecology and Behaviour. Colonial. Each colony typically consists of several monogamous, breeding pairs and up to 12, mostly male, helpers. Breeding males are closely-related while females are usually distantly-related as they are the dispersing sex. Breeding is opportunistic when conditions are suitable. When not breeding birds disperse in groups over a larger area than their core home range.
Habitat Shallow-sand mallee and Chenopod mallee (multi-stemmed Eucalyptus spp). Predominantly occurs in old-growth mallee unburnt for 50+ years. Most colonies in large contiguous blocks of mallee.
Threats and Reasons for Decline
Clearing and Habitat Fragmentation - Clearance and habitat modification have favoured the yellow-throated miner leading to an expansion in their range into areas once utilised by black-eared miners.
Habitat Degradation - Grazing by domestic and/or feral and native herbivores limits the regrowth of mallee plants. These herbivores are attracted to artificial watering points and the degradation around them further encourages colonisation by yellow-throated miners.
Hybridisation - One of the major threatening processes is genetic introgression by the yellow-throated miner through hybridisation. Hybrids are able to integrate into black-eared miner colonies in habitats that are unsuitable for yellow-throated miners.
Fire - Black-eared miners prefer vegetation that is unburnt for 50 or more years. Large wildfires are thus a serious threat. Habitat fragmentation from clearing or wildfires accelerates the decline of small, isolated colonies by impeding the dispersal of young, independent females from colonies.
Species Ability to Recover
Isolated populations will succumb to genetic introgression and extinction if they are not actively managed. Larger populations are thriving and small managed populations show every indication of surviving, suggesting the species does have the ability to recover.
Recovery Plan Objectives Expand the current range and number of black-eared miners at Tarawi Nature Reserve within five years. Within 20 years achieve and maintain a viable population of high-quality black-eared miners in the Tarawi-Scotia-Danggali region.
Integrate this recovery plan with the national recovery plan for the species. Map and locate important areas of black-eared miner habitat. Maintain and enhance the quality of black-eared miner habitat including preventing clearing of mallee important to black-eared miners. Conduct an audit of remaining artificial watering points in and around reserves where black-eared miners occur or will be translocated and upgrade as necessary. Translocation: successfully translocate ~100 individuals to Tarawi Nature Reserve from South Australia. Monitor and control genetic introgression. Encourage and inform landholders who conserve black-eared miner habitat.
Biodiversity Benefits The black-eared miner, along with the malleefowl, is a 'flagship' species for the conservation of Murray mallee habitat, which supports 12 nationally threatened bird species and 15 other species listed as threatened in one or more of the three states containing Murray mallee. Therefore, conservation of the black-eared miner has high biodiversity benefits.
For further information contact:
Black-eared Miner Recovery Co-ordinator
Threatened Species Unit,
NSW National Parks and Wildlife Service
PO Box 211
(02) 6883 5358