Wednesday, August 24, 2005

2005-08-21 Nesting Regent Honeyeater

Typical scenary in Capertee Valley - farmland with sparse trees which serve as critical habitat for Regent Honeyeater.

Regent Honeyeater (Xanthomyza phrygia)
On 21 Aug 2005, I travelled to Capertee Valley for the 3rd time, to look for my favorate target - Regent Honeyeater and possibly the Swift Parrot. As it turned out that I managed to see the Swift Parrot since my last unexpected sighting at Blue Mountains 5 years ago with the help of Allan Richards.
In my previous trip last month, I had suspected some breeding activities had begun for the Regent Honeyeater. This time I was right that I was very lucky to locate an active nest. The nest was built on a tip of a casuarina branch, making the branch look rounded at the end. Both the parents took turn to feed and brood the nest. The chick(s) was too young and small to be seen from the nest at the moment.
The Regent Honeyeater had become very skittish this time and hence it was very difficult to take any photograph of the ever moving honeyeater. I guess the parents were busy collecting food for its chicks and also there were presence of Noisy Friarbird in the territory, an aggressive competitor. I only managed to get one shot in very poor lighting as shown above.
This trip to Capertee had coincided with the Tree Planting weekend - a conservation effort participated by conservationists, birdwatchers and volunteers to create more suitable habitat for the endangered Regent Honeyeater. There I bumped into a number of birders and volunteers who took part in the tree planting including David Geering and Carol Probet, whom I had met for the first time but had contacted through emails recently.
I hope I could be of any help or some sort of contribution by showing the active nest of Regent Honeyeater through my spotting scope to the volunteers and their families.
One of the preferred habitats of Regent Honeyeater, the Riparian (Riverbank) Woodland
More information about Regent Honeyeater can be found in Birds Australia.
Despite being a very excellent birding site, Capertee Valley is NOT a nature reserve or national park. It is mostly of farmland setting with fragmented woolands consisting of White Box. Many private properties have been converted to secluded residence. There are many 'No Trepassing' signboards are put up on the gates. Some properties even keep guard dogs.
There are also a number of properties that provide accommodations to visitors. Some of these properties have good habitat for birds but are not accessible to outsiders.
It is during this particular good season that birders are able to see many birds by simply scanning through trees beside the road. Look out particularly for blossoming White Box.
Beware of passing vehicles too when birdwatching along the country road. Although the country road is very quiet, most vehicles run at 60km/h onwards.

2005-08-21 Swift Parrot Galore

The highlight of the trip was seeing Swift Parrot in good number. Based on some direction given by a friend, I drove further along Glen Alice Road and look out for a specific property. As this weekend was also the Tree Planting weekend, a number of birders/volunteers were birdwatching along the road. About 11am, David Geering was very kind to alert me that someone has found some Swift Parrots at a particular spot.
When I arrived at the location, it did not take me long to locate the first Swift Parrot. Swift Parrot is very vocal bird and keeps calling around. It is usually heard first before seen. Swift Parrot's green plumage is very well camouflaged among dense leaves of White Box.

The photo on the left shows a typical sight of Swift Parrot (partial view) feeding on nectar and lerp (secretions found on leaves produced by some kind of pest insect).

Alas, the parrot kept crawling from one twig to another and the fine twigs were swayed by the wind. That made photographing very challenging and frustating.

Luckily, there were quite a number of Swift Parrots hanging around. It can be regarded as 'abundant' at this particular spot. Swift Parrot is hard to find, but once it is discovered, it is usually found in numbers because of its gregarious nature.

Better still, a lady showed me a bare branch where a few parrots were roosting. It is not common to find Swift Parrot roosting on bare branch as it is more often found either feeding on nector or flying around swiftly.

Not all Swift Parrots show forked tail. The bird shown on right might suggest how the parrot got its name. Swift Parrot (Lathamus discolor) is one of few parrot species that are seasonal migratory. During austral autumn, it starts migrating from its breeding ground in Tasmania to mainland Australia, mainly Victoria, New South Wales, and less commonly in SE Queensland and SE South Australia.

Swift Parrot is an Endangered Species. See more infor from BirdLife International.
Some information can also be found at Birds Australia where there is a link to listen to its call.

Swift Parrot, like most parrot species, is quite an inquisitive bird.

As we know that Swift Parrot breeds only in Tasmania. However, I had noticed that one Swift Parrot (probably the same individual) has visited a nest-like hollow for at least 5 times during 2 hours observation. At one occasion, it even went into the hollow to have a closer inspection. The nest hole was supposedly used by Red-rumped Parrot. A male Red-rumped Parrot was also seen at the nest hollow twice but it was the Swift Parrot that showed more interest in the nest hollow.

2005-08-21 Trip Report for the Day

Common Bronzewing (Phaps chalcoptera)

The sightings for the day are :-
Masked Plover
Australian Wood Duck
Common Bronzewing Pigeon
Peaceful Dove
Yellow-crested Cockatoo
Eastern Rosella
Red-rumped Parrot
Swift Parrot (very common, with 4 perched on a branch and 3 foraged on same tree)
Musk Lorikeet (about 5 roosting briefly at Swift Parrot site)

Little Lorikeet
Brown Treecreeper
Noisy Miner
Fuscous Honeyeater
White-plumed Honeyeater
Red Wattlebird
Noisy Friarbird
Regent Honeyeater (Active nest! Also one individual along Glen Alice Road)

Grey Shrike-thrush
Mistletoe Bird (stunning male - a lifer)
Richard's Pipit

As usual I like to wrap up the trip by stopping at Pearson Lookout point to take a scenery photo of the Capertee Valley. Part of the forest falls within Gardens of Stone National Park.

Thanks for the company of those I bumped into.

Capertee Valley as seen from Pearson Lookout at 5pm