Wednesday, April 25, 2012

Blown off course

Tropical bird drops into Tenterfield pool  25 Apr, 2012 04:21 AM

It may be getter cooler, but Tenterfield is still attracting some tropical visitors.

Last week, an endangered red-tailed tropic bird usually found on Lord Howe Island made a landing at the Tenterfield Memorial Baths to the surprise of the local manager.

“I arrived at the pool in the morning and I saw this bird sitting on the grass, it was a pretty big shock,” Jeff Moss said.

“It is not something you expect to see in Tenterfield.”

Mr Moss said he called the National Parks and Wildlife office in Tenterfield who got in touch with the Australian Seabird Rescue (ASR) in Ballina who have been looking after the bird for nearly a week.

“He is doing pretty well and eating fairly steadily now,” ASR manager Keith Williams said.

“We usually see one or two of these birds a year but I think Tenterfield is about as far inland as they’ve ever come. I don’t think we’ve had one from quite that far away before.

“He probably got caught right in the middle of the strong north-easters we had earlier… and was taken a bit off course.”

The bird (pictured) is believed to be between 18 months to two years old.

Mr Williams said the adult birds have a very distinct long red tail and have a large breeding colony on Lord Howe Island.

“As a true seabird he doesn’t work that well on land so the poor guy would have been a bit shaky on the land,” he said.

“He’s obviously tried to stay near the water though, and I reckon the pool is probably the closest you’re going to get in Tenterfield.”

The bird has been kept under observation at the ASR’s office in Ballina and Mr Williams said he and his team would wait for a slight south-easterly wind before the bird was released.

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Eastern Rosella mimicry calls have begun

Calls - Listen
Please check the Videos page for all videos of the Eastern Rosella's calls.

Unusual vocalisations of one lone Eastern Rosella
Bell Miner
Eastern Rosella
has tricked me into believing there were Bell Miners
Pacific Koel
Bell Miner
here in Tenterfield. But that is not the case. After a bit of time I discovered the true maker of these Bell Miner calls......

It all began around the 16-22nd January 2012 when I began hearing the calls of Bell Miners here in Tenterfield. There were 1-2 calls in the beginning. The closest population of Bell Miners (that I'm aware of) to the Tenterfield area is about 45 minutes drive east of here, just passed Drake, in the Great Dividing Ranges rainforest area. It took me a while to figure out that Bell Miners were not in the area, nor had they moved into Tenterfield but at first I thought they had.

The Local birds - Bell Miner mimicry calls video clearly shows an Eastern Rosella practising it's mimicry sounds of a Bell Miner with other Eastern Rosellas present even though no actual birds can be seen in this video, not clearly anyway. I was actually on my way to Bi-Lo when walking passed the back of ST. Joseph's Catholic Primary School I heard these rosellas calling out to each other. So I started filming and surprisingly got more than I bargained for, with the bird's full range of vocalisation that I could not actually hear myself. You can clearly hear the rosella starting its mimicry sounds with a few other rosellas not doing it.

The confusing part to all of this was hearing the sounds of more than one Bell Miner calls in Tenterfield before and after this video was taken. Tenterfield sits in a sort of bowl shaped formation with hills on 3/4 of its sides (it reminds me of a crater actually), and is lower than the surrounding areas. Sounds travel across town VERY EASILY and quickly, and in many directions. You can always hear the echoes of just about anything in town coming back at you from just about any direction during the day and night, if you are in the right location to hear it. This is what I was hearing - one bird's calls but many echoes.

Why this mimicry call is happening I do not know, as I have never known Eastern Rosellas in Tenterfield to make mimicry sounds of other birds or animals. This particular call only occurs late in the afternoon from about 4pm onwards and it is not heard for any longer than one hour. Before and after those calls are heard you just hear the normal sounds of the Eastern Rosella.

Maybe something unusual is happening here in Tenterfield, or maybe the birds are evolving or maybe the birds are just bored senseless. It could be a mating vocalisation thing, as a few other birds in Tenterfield also display various vocalisation mimicry sounds. The female Australian Magpie for one! The Bell Miner mimicry sounds stopped sometime in mid to late May 2012, which tells me it may be a mating call variation of it's normal mating call.

These pretty Rosellas are normally very hard to photograph as they are elusive and hide themselves very well in long grass, even on the sides of the road. Only if you walk passed where they are do they suddenly take to the air scaring the pants off of you with all their sudden screeching and wing flapping.

I have seen Eastern Rosellas on Miles, Francis, Douglas, and Manners Streets, as well as other streets in Tenterfield. They seem to like places with few houses on them and areas where there is dense to semi-dense cover for them to hide in. They often frequent areas close to the Tenterfield Creek, which is where I have mostly spotted them in town. They generally are not seen in Rouse Street but can be observed on ocassion in Bruxner Park feeding in the tall trees there. They do not generally feed on the ground anywhere where humans are present. If disturbed they usually flee to tall trees, fences, or power lines if a human is too close for comfort.

They are aggressive birds and will not share food with different rosellas species or parrots. When competing for food Eastern Rosellas always win when fighting other rosellas and parrots. In the past I have seen Eastern Rosellas fight off King Parrots as food competitors.

I have also observed Eastern Rosellas roosting in large Poplar trees throughout Tenterfield when the trees have not lost their leaves. The taller the Poplar tree the better, the birds reckon. They roost about 3/4 the way up the tree in a family group (small flock). They are quite noisy prior to falling asleep, often resettling on a new branch or ten whilst making a bit of vocalisations to each other. Sometimes you can almost hear them making a sound similiar to a sigh or a snore before they fall asleep. It is quite funny. Eastern Rosellas are easily startled prior to falling asleep. If startled they will go to higher branches within the Poplar tree and will settle down again after a few minutes.

Eastern Rosellas seem to stay in the area despite other bird species migrating elsewhere due to a lack of food. They exist in very small numbers in Tenterfield.


Sunday, April 1, 2012

Pacific Koels in Tenterfield

Mistaken identity
Pacific KoelEastern Koel
This bird (left image) has been mistaken for this
bird (right image) here in Tenterfield. I have not
seen any birds that look like the bird on the left
here in Tenterfield. I have seen one bird that
looks like the bird on the right though.
Calls - Listen
The male Common Koel advertises its presence by a loud ascending whistle or 'koo-el', monotonously repeated; the call of the female is a repetitive 'keek-keek-keek-keek'. Males often call throughout the day and well into the night.

I have only seen one Pacific Koel (a male) up close when it happened to be raining earlier this year, and it was about 20-25cms in length. It was thin looking. The bird was about 20 feet from where I stood on the side rafter of the open car garage. It had more of a broad body look with short but wide tail feathers rather than long tail feathers like that of an Eastern Koel and had the deepest of red eyes. It looked and sounded like an Eastern Koel but shorter and stockier than what it was supposed to be recognised as for that particular species. Not being able to get a photo of it I can only guess but I found an image on the Internet that shows the bird I saw. It appears to be, perhaps, a subspecies of the Eastern Koel, or something like that. It also had the noticable red eyes and black plumage but it was more jet-midnight black in colour (like the male Satin Bowerbird or the Torresian Crow), but apart from that it was hard to recognize as it was drenched from the rain and it's feathers were not all entirely in their proper places. So I could not actually determine if it had a coloured tinge to it's feathers or not. When it was raining the Koel was regularly but infrequently calling out to other birds.

As these birds are rarely seen in Tenterfield, and I was fortunate enough to see one up close, I can say that these birds don't look like your typical Eastern Koels which are supposed to exist in town.

All individual specimens of these Pacific Koel birds in the south-western section of Tenterfield appear to be of the male gender. I have heard at least 3-4 males over the summer period in the area but one male seems to have moved permanently into the area roosting in a nearby pine or gum tree at my neighbour's house.

In some instances these Koels do move on to other areas if there are no females to mate with in Tenterfield.

The Tenterfield Pacific Koel population is very small, consisting of at least one permanent male plus a few neighbouring males in the south-west corner of the township, or I am hearing an echo of that same bird coming from many directions at once which is also time lagged.

A few years back some Pacific Koel males did move out of Tenterfield due to the drought. There is a male Pacific Koel that has a large territory of at least 2-3 kilometers. The known local permanent resident is known to roost in nearby tall trees. It can be heard calling prior to the sun rising every morning, as well as late in the afternoon from around 5PM onwards. They seem to prefer the taller trees, specifically Eucylptus species to roost in. They mostly spend their time in the higher canopy of those tall trees. I have yet to see any bird on the ground.

There are no fruit-bearing trees or shrubs of any sort in the neighbouring area that would make Koels stick around to feed on their fruit. However, during the day the males that are here are barely heard so it is more than likely they are feeding somewhere else outside their own territories. This is more than likely because they cannot tree hop, instead they have to travel great open distances to find food.

There have been no known instances of Pacific Koels breeding in the south-western part of Tenterfield. I have not heard any young Pacific Koels nor seen any foster parents with a young Koel offspring.

Pacific Koels do not seem to mind humans being around as long as humans don't get too close to them. These birds exhibit "no fear" of humans in the south-western part of Tenterfield. They are still relatively shy birds though. These birds are not "opportunist feeders" meaning they will not be attracted to any food you may put out for them or for other birds, not even fresh fruit.


Updated: Saturday, 14 July 2012
The local Pacific Koel male has not been heard in the area for several weeks. No other Pacific Koels have been heard in the area since then.
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