River Postman Outing

IMG_146930 OFF members took part in one of easier outings of 2015. After a relatively early start in order to get to Hawkesbury River station by 10am, we boarded the boat for a very pleasant 3 hour cruise on the Hawkesbury River.

Postman River Boat cruise map

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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There was a good commentary and the participants were surprised at the number and extent of the many small settlements that are along the shoreline.

 

 

 

IMG_1525We dropped off mail at most stops except for one, where we met by a dog who gratefully accepted his regular ANZAC biscuit!

 

 

 

 



It was a very hot day but the cooling breeze on the water helped to keep us comfortable. After a nice lunch we arrived back at the wharf at 1pm in time to catch the train back to Central and then onto Oatley. IMG_1545

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Whilst the day was not as  active as some of our outings, it was a good opportunity to socialise and I think most people enjoyed the day.

Report By Leader: Graham Fry

 

CLICK HERE TO SEE LOTS MORE PHOTOS

Regent Honey Eater Research – Capertee NP

Capertee NP Regent HE 12-18_10_2015 174OFF members are familiar with Capertee with two trips to Capertee National Park in 2012 & 2014. The society and members have provided some funding for research of Ross Crates (ANU PhD student) who is working on Regent Honey Eaters in Capertee NP. OFF recently donated some funds to Ross’s project to buy another video camera used for monitoring nests.

On 18 Nov Ross gave a update and reports ” the Regents are about to embark on a second round of nesting in Capertee NP. He reported there are three new nests near the homestead and another near the pump house on the river. Also he has found 4 new nests on “Home Hills”, the property immediately to the north and thinks another two are likely. He also reports that three fledglings from the first nesting effort in the NP are going OK. All sounds very exciting. ”

In 5 November Ross notes “  your camera will be up on a regent nest on friday. I have two new incubating females to monitor, and a hunch that there is one more to find in the national park.”

Capertee NP Regent HE 12-18_10_2015 002The Capertee River flows west to east, joining the Wolgan River at their confluence in Newnes. The river is fed by a number of minor tributaries in the upper reaches and forms part of the Hawkesbury-Nepean catchment. From the upper reaches of Bogee River to Glen Davis, the Capertee river flows through the Capertee Valley, which is internationally recognised and designated as an important bird area (IBA) by BirdLife International. This designation is principally due to the fact that the Capertee Valley is the core breeding range of the critically endangered Regent honeyeater. Once distributed throughout south eastern Australia from south Queensland to Adelaide, the species has suffered a major and ongoing population decline and associated range contraction. Current population estimates suggest there may be only 300-400 birds remaining. The Capertee Valley is now recognised as the core of the species’ breeding range, and is the only site in Australia where the species can be seen on a semi-regular basis.

600x600_Amyema cambag 1The Regent honeyeater is a ‘rich patch specialist.’ This means that for successful breeding to occur, individuals must locate rich sources of nectar with which to provision young, in habitat that provides dense cover to conceal nests from predators. The most important breeding site for regent honeyeaters in the Capertee Valley is the banks of the river itself. This riparian habitat of river she-oak Casuarina cunninghamii provides the nesting substrate required by regent honeyeaters. The stretch of the river in the vicinity of Genowlan bridge holds breeding birds in most years, (including the present year), as does the open valley floor of the Capertee National Park.The riparian habitat is also of vital importance because the river she-oaks play host to a species of needle-leaf mistletoe, Amyema cambagei. The flowers of the needle leaf mistletoe are another important nectar source for breeding regent honeyeaters.

IMG_8549 Capertee River at CoorongoobaThe river itself provides their only source of drinking and bathing water. During hot weather, birds can be seen frequently taking water from the river, and bathing to help regulate body temperature.  A regular supply of water is likely to become increasingly important for breeding Regent honeyeaters given projected climate change scenarios. In addition, the river provides a bountiful supply of invertebrate fauna, which is an important source of protein for both adult and young birds. It is highly likely that the abundance of insects in the vicinity of the river is determined by the presence of water in the river.

Also critical to the successful breeding of the regent honeyeater in the valley is the flowering of a small number of key eucalyptus species, in particular Yellow box E.melliodora, White box E.albens and Mugga ironbark E.sideroxylon. It is widely appreciated that the frequency and intensity of flowering in these species is moderated by soil moisture content; periods of low soil moisture are associated with poor flowering events, which in turn moderates the frequency of breeding opportunities of the Regent honeyeater.

IMG_4678 Regent Honeyeater male Chiltern June 2010Given the importance of the riparian habitat of the Capertee valley described, any drop in the water levels in the Capertee River is highly likely to have a significant detrimental impact upon the long-term persistence of the Regent honeyeater in the wild. A reduction in water levels is likely to reduce both the frequency and intensity of flowering in nearby eucalyptus species, as well as in the long-term persistence of both the river she-oak and needle-leaf mistletoe. Lack of access to water during the breeding season may either result directly in mortality of offspring during hot weather or indirectly by increasing the risk of nest predation if parents are forced to commute further from the nest to obtain water. Alternatively, it may also inhibit the initiation of breeding altogether. A reduction in invertebrate fauna in foraging areas of breeding regent honeyeaters would also limit the protein resources to provision chicks, which could either cause offspring mortality of have negative effects on the long-term health of the birds. In summary, a regular and plentiful supply of water in the Capertee river is fundamental to the functioning of the entire ecosystem, of which the regent honeyeater plays a critical part.

(Contact Ross at my number 6379 7767)

Powerful Owl Study on Oatley Owlets

Powerful owlet OatleyMatt Mo and David Waterhouse OFF members have just published  their observations on a pair of Oatley Owlets in a paper in Australian Field Ornithology.
This paper extends previous observations of behavioural development in Powerful Owl Ninox strenua fledglings. The study combines a near-daily visual monitoring program on a pair of owlets in Oatley, suburban Sydney, New South Wales, with corresponding pellet analysis.
The fledglings were initially fed on possums, fruit-bats, birds and insects, and first demonstrated independence by disassembling carcasses by themselves. By October, they apparently mimicked the adults’ strategy for capturing insects, and began to chase birds and bats. Behaviours thought to be part of honing their hunting skills—including tearing and ferrying strips of bark, foliage-snatching, and swooping at animals on the ground—were recorded. Such actions intensified during a period when the adults were mostly absent in November and December.

Oatley Wildlife by Season

David Waterhouse a local Oatley resident has prepared this seasonal observation of wildlife in the local area.

Jezebel ButterlySydney does not have the marked seasonal differences in climate that characterise the northern hemisphere or the Australian Alps for example. Most local bird species are resident and some food resources are available to them all year round. There are always some insects about even in mid-winter. Some native plants flower in the winter and others bear fruit. The few native mammals in Oatley are active in all seasons, but most reptiles are less active or stay hidden.

Having said that, there are some notable exceptions. Many insects only emerge in the warmer months. Cicadas and Christmas Beetles are among the best known. Some butterfly and moth species may be active even on cold days, for example, the Jezabel Butterfly. Some species of birds only appear in Oatley in certain seasons.

KoelIn the summertime, a few draw attention to themselves by their calls, even at night. At the end of the hot season in March, they leave us mostly to go up north as far as northern Queensland or New Guinea. These include the Koel and the Channel-billed Cuckoo, both parasitic birds. The Koel parasitises the nests of the Red Wattlebird and the Channel-billed Cuckoo seeks out nests of Pied Currawongs in which to lay its own eggs. Both may call loudly in the middle of the night. The Channel-bill feeds on fruits, particularly figs. Its goose-like honking call may issue from a fig tree or while the bird is in flight. The Koel’s call gave rise to its name, but it has other calls too, including one which sounds like “wurra wurra”. Their calling is most notable in November when several males may chase a female in order to mate. Her eggs are laid mostly in November and December.

36. DollarbirdAnother summer visitor is the Dollarbird which breeds in tree hollows in Oatley’s bushland reserves and makes a distinctive cackling call particularly on dusk when it flies around flashing the pale blue round “dollars” beneath its wings. Sometimes one of these birds may call from a tree or T.V. aerial on a property close to bushland or from overhead wires.

002. Sacred KingfisherSacred Kingfishers are striking blue and white or buff-coloured birds which breed in Oatley Park. Like the Koel, they are at their noisiest in November. They nest in tree hollows or termite mounds, many of which they excavate themselves. The bushland may resound to their “kek kek kek kek” cries in the warmer months. They are not usually seen in suburbia. A few winter in nearby mangroves, but most go back north in March, only to return the following November.

 

myles dunphy res trackA few birds are winter visitors to our suburb. Myles Dunphy Reserve on the Oatley West side of the rail line sometimes contains the odd Rose Robin, Spangled Drongo and Brown Gerygone in the cooler months. Flocks of White-headed Pigeons are often present in the gully tangles where privet fruits are in winter abundance.

Spangled DrongoBrown_Gerygone_lam0833. Rose Robin

 

More Reserve Wetlands

Hoary-headed GrebeOn Moore Reserve wetlands, Reed Warblers and Little Marshbirds may breed in summer, but by winter they have left.This is when flocks of White-eared Ducks (Hardheads) and an occasional pair of Hoary-headed Grebes put in an appearance.
Most birds breed in spring and early summer, but a few including the Magpie, Raven, Rainbow Lorikeet and Welcome Swallow will breed in winter months too. There is a pair of Powerful Owls breeding in Oatley but it is strictly a winter breeder. Its deep “woo hoo” call is heard in April and May even from strips of native trees and back gardens.

 

38. Yelow-faced Honeyeater

In autumn and again in spring, on clear days with blue skies, you may hear faint “chick up, chick up” calls as flocks of Yellow-faced Honeyeaters pass overhead on migration. Most people are unaware of their presence.

RufousFantailIn springtime too another migrant, the Rufous Fantail may be spotted in bushland gullies, resting and feeding on insects for a few days before moving on to breed in rainforest. They may also occur in places like Lime Kiln Creek on their return journey in March.
With Sydney’s relatively mild climate, some birds such as the Turtle Dove and Noisy Miner, may be found nesting in any month.

Spit Bridge to Manly Walk

IMG_7104WALK FROM SPIT BRIDGE TO MANLY May 31st was the day for the rain-delayed walk originally scheduled for early in the month. Despite the unpromising weather, nineteen set out on the walk through the Sydney Harbour National Park. It was a largish group with a variety of walking capabilities.

IMG_7159The walk around the northern harbour foreshores has a range of interesting flora, helpfully identified with signs. Because of the erratic weather, some unexpected species were in flower. Some of us enjoyed using a new and inexpensive app “Wildflowers Australia.”

 

IMG_7146With the spectacular scenery, photo ops, aboriginal rock carvings and abandoned fishermen’s shacks to speculate about, we took rather longer than planned; finally signing off at Manly wharf at 2.10pm. Most enthusiastically continued for a convivial lunch in a pub over-looking the ocean; there were not one but two different styles of band playing at us from different sides. We finally made it back to Circular Quay on the ferry by 4.30pm with some hardy types still expressing interest in checking out the “Vivid” light festival!

Report by walk leader – Erica Buzo
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Oatley Park Tawny Frogmouth Family

IMG_4206In Oatley Park Tawny Frogmouths can be often seen perched a fork of a tree well camouflaged as part of the tree with their motley appearance.

On 20 October OFF members noticed a Tawny Frogmouth on a branch with a fluffy white bit underneath and being unusually active.  We speculated as to weather it had eaten a Cockatoo chick from a nearby hollow in which the cockatoos  have made a home.

 3 November – We were able to see a chick peeping out beside an adult bird. Another adult was observed in a tree nearby.

7 November – We notice that there are two fluffy white chicks ! with an adult. Another adult was observed in a tree nearby.  TO SEE VIDEO CLICK HERE

14 November – Chicks and parents have moved house. TO SEE PHOTO GALLERY CLICK HERE

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Tawny Frogmouth family OP 2014

Cropped chicks

cropped family

 

 

SOME FACTS

  • With their nocturnal habit and owl-like appearance, Tawny Frogmouths (Podargus strigoides)  are often confused with owls, but are actually more closely related to the nightjars.
  • The bulk of the Tawny Frogmouth’s diet is made up of nocturnal insects, worms, slugs and snails. Small mammals, reptiles, frogs and birds are also eaten.
  • Tawny Frogmouths have a regular breeding season (Aug to Dec), but birds in more arid areas may breed in response to heavy rains. Both sexes incubate the eggs. The male sits during the day, but both sexes share sitting at night. Normally only one brood is raised in a season, but birds from the south may have two.

Oatley Owls the First to Fledge Chicks

Matt_Bev_Peter_owlphotoUnderstanding the habitat requirements of breeding Powerful Owls (Ninox strenua) in Sydney is an important step in improving species management in urban areas. A Birdlife Australia project focusing on the population dynamics, breeding success and requirements of owls in the Greater Sydney Area is in its third year. In addition, the owls of the lower Georges River are under surveillance for a study led by Chris Lloyd, who is speaking to the Society in September this year.

For reasons that are still unknown, the breeding season in 2014 has been later than previous years, with many breeding pairs commencing nesting in July. Two breeding pairs in Oatley and surrounds are leading the charge, having laid eggs in June. In an achievement for the St George area, chicks from these owls have been heard at both sites, and seen in one. According to David Bain of Birdlife Australia, these are the first of the season.

The photograph is of the juvenile owl at one of the Oatley sites on the day after fledging.

Matt Mo, Bev Pedder and Peter Hayler 18 August 2014

REMINDER – Chris Lloyd will speak on the Changing ecology of the Georges River and Powerful Owls at next Oatley Flora and FAuna Soc. meeting on Monday 22 September.

 

Powerful Owls at Sylvan Grove

Powerful owl 116A pair of powerful owls and two fledglings are in Bankstown Council’s Sylvan Grove Native Garden at Picnic Point on the Georges River. This year’s chicks were hatched in the nearby Yeramba Lagoon bushland and moved into the garden after a hazard reduction burn. The breeding pair have returned to this area for several years.  Thanks to story and photos by Steve Painter.

Powerful-owl-084-web Powerful-owl-221-web

Lime Kiln Bay Turtle and Bird Sightings

Ibis&spoonbills1037Last week there were lots of large wading birds in the Wetland, with up to 8 Royal Spoonbills and 12 Australian White Ibis (photo left). The very low water level in the Constructed Wetland obviously exposed food for them. They had gone by this afternoon, but there was a Lathams Snipe there. Unfortunately it was camera-shy, so I couldn’t get a photo. This is a smaller wader species which migrates from the Russian Arctic to Australia via Korea and Japan!

 

 

turtle28102013turtle 2On Saturday there was an Eastern Long-neck Turtle about 17 cm long on the side of the track around the Constructed Wetland . It was spotted attempting to dig an incubation chamber with her hind flippers, but kept getting disturbed by walkers.


Common Birds

Rainbow Lorikeet
Trichoglossus haematodus Eastern Rosella Platycercus eximius
Bold, noisy fast-flying green missiles. Now the commonest parrot in Sydney. Laps nectar from flowers with a brush tongue. Nests in tree hollows and may displace less aggressive hole-nesting birds such as rosellas.

30 cm

01. Rainbow Lorikeet Colourful parrot with a red head and white cheeks. Females and young are duller than the vivid males. Feeds mostly on the ground, eating seeds including thistles, buds, flowers and nectar. Chortles and wags its tail in a territorial display.

30 cm

02. Eastern Rosella
Crimson Rosella
Platycercus elegans Australian King Parrot Alisterus scapularis
Large red and blue parrot with blue cheeks. Young birds are greenish. Prefers eucalypt forests and is common in the Blue Mountains. Feeds in trees and on the ground, on the seeds of eucalypts, grasses and shrubs. Clear piping calls.

34 cm

03. Crimson Rosella Very large, long-tailed red and green parrot. While males are brilliant red and green with an orange beak, females and young birds are mostly green and have a grey beak. Feeds on fruit and seeds in trees and shrubs. Usually found in tall forests but becoming more common in Sydney suburbs. Long, high-pitched whistles.

42 cm

04. Australian King Parrot
Sulpher-crested Cockatoo
Cacatua galerita Galah Eolophus roseicapillus
Very large white bird that raises a yellow crest to display. Congregates in raucous flocks and nests in large tree hollows. Eats seeds, nuts and roots and often feeds on the ground. Sometimes bites small branches off trees, littering the ground with leaves and blossom.

48 cm

05. Sulphur-crested Cockatoo Small pink and grey cockatoo with a short crest. Flocks composed mostly of life-long pairs. Females have red eyes, males have brown eyes. Waddles over the ground, tearing up tubers and eating seeds. Very common in inland Australia, numbers increasing in Sydney. Call is a shrill screech.

35 cm

06. Galah
Silvereye
Zosterops lateralis
Laughing-Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae
Small plump greenish bird that moves about in flocks. Feeds in shrubs and trees, eating small berries and insects. Silvereyes from Tasmania migrate north to Sydney in winter and mix with local birds. Dark reddish-brown sides and pale throats distinguish the migrants from residents which have pale sides and yellow throats.

11 cm

07. Silvereye Very large woodland kingfisher with sharp eyesight. Sits on branches looking intently at the ground, then dives down to snatch insects and small reptiles in leaf litter. Family groups call in cackling, chuckling choruses. Beware! Some kookaburras snatch food from barbeques.

42 cm

08. Laughing Kookaburra
Pied Currawong
Strepera graculina Australian Magpie Cracticus tibicen
Large black bird with yellow eyes, a thick black beak and white patches on wings and tail. Eats fruit and insects and also steals food from picnickers. Sometimes fooled into raising the young of Channel-billed Cuckoos which lay their eggs in the currawong’s nest. Loud echoing calls.

48 cm

09. Pied Currawong A large black and white bird with dark brown eyes. Males have pure white napes, females have greyish-white napes and young birds are grey instead of black. Walks along peering and listening then digs for insects and seeds. Musical carolling calls. Males defend their territories in Spring and Beware! a few may attack people near their nests.

40 cm

10. Australian Magpie
Australian Raven
Corvus coronoides Magpie-lark (Peewee) Grallina cyanoleuca
Very large, all-black bird with a heavy black beak and white eyes. Young birds have dark eyes. In urban areas small flocks fly high, searching for food scraps; also eat insects and seeds and raid nests for eggs and nestling birds. On the ground, ravens progress in hops. Call is a loud slow ‘aark, aark, aaaaark”.

52 cm

11. Australian Raven Medium-sized, slim black and white bird with pale eyes and bill. Usually seen in pairs walking briskly about short grass and roadsides, pecking at insects. Pairs display side by side on a perch, opening and closing their wings with a duet of shrill clinking notes. Builds a nest out of mud, on a horizontal branch.

28 cm

12. Magpie-lark (Peewee)
Grey Butcherbird
Cracticus torquatus Noisy Miner Manorina melanocephala
Medium-sized, grey and white bird with a black head and a long hooked beak. Young birds are greyish-brown and may be mistaken for kingfishers. Eats insects and small reptiles and birds. It sometimes wedges uneaten prey in branches, so earning its common name. Piping song and harsh scolding calls.

27 cm

13. Grey Butcher Bird Native honeyeater that lives in noisy aggressive flocks and drives other birds out of its territory. Has a yellow bill, legs and eye patch like the introduced Common Myna, but it is grey, not brown. Prefers habitat with large trees, open ground and nectar-rich flowering shrubs. Builds cup-shaped nest of fine twigs, in a shrub.

26 cm

14. Noisy Miner
Masked Lapwing
Vanellus miles Tawny Frogmouth
Podargus strigoides
Long-legged brown and white bird with black cap and flap of yellow facial skin. Usually seen in pairs stalking about playing fields and open ground. Loud clanking call, sometimes heard at night. Nest is a shallow hollow on the ground and the eggs and chicks are camouflaged by a mottled pattern. Beware! Pairs may dive-bomb people close to their nest.

36 cm

15. Masked Lapwing, Night bird with pale streaked and blotched plumage that perches during the day in a tree with eyes closed, looking just like a dead branch. Very difficult to see even when it is sitting on its flat stick nest in a tree fork. Unlike an owl, it has a very broad beak and weak feet. Feeds at night, grabbing insects, snails and worms in its beak. Call is a long low pulsed hoot.

44 cm

001. Tawny Frogmouth
Sacred Kingfisher
Todiramphus sanctus
Medium-sized blue-green kingfisher with whitish belly and neck. Like the kookaburras, it perches on a branch scanning the ground for insects, other invertebrates and small reptiles, then dives down to snatch its prey and returns to the perch to eat it. Migrates south to Sydney in Summer and nests in a hollow, often excavated in a termite nest. Loud continuous call of ‘kek, kek, kek”.

21 cm

002. Sacred Kingfisher