Wednesday, November 07, 2018

One for the Birds



Crimson Rosella -  Cluan's photo - much better than my bird pics.



Oh dear,  looks like I missed the Great Aussie Backyard Bird Count which ran during Bird Week from 21 – 28th of October, but never fear, I am keeping an eye on those in the backyard. The Birds in Backyards program still allows citizen scientists to contribute not only to our overall knowledge about the health and distribution of our birds, but also about how our environment is changing. Like frogs and other sensitive creatures, birds are literally the canaries in the coalmine of our world. 

My bird photography is a lot like my seal photography. 
If you play this at fullscreen you may see the rear of a Yellow Throated Honeyeater


For instance, last year’s Backyard Bird Count involving 72, 421 people and 1,972, 250 birds, noted a decline in Kookaburra populations right across the south eastern states, though the reasons have thus far remained elusive. However, there are already indications that the drought is causing birds of prey to seek out coastal cities and driving other birds out of the bush.   

Alas, the most significant numbers of birds in the Tasmanian count for 2017, were for starlings, blackbirds and sparrows, all of them drab introduced species, not our wonderful Scarlet Robins, Superb Fairy Wrens (that is their name) or Firetail Finches, much less the endangered ones, such as the Forty Spotted Pardalote or the Orange Bellied Parrot. The Tasmanian Geographic - an excellent publication by the way, has lots of information with really good photos of many of these.  See for example, what is happening to our Shearwaters or the Forty Spotted Pardalote.

Still, Tasmania remains a great place for twitchers.* It has over 200 species packed into a compact area -68,401 square Km - about the size of Ireland, Switzerland or the State of Virginia, according to Google. At least twelve of the species are unique to Tasmania largely because of its island status and long isolation. 

It turns out that our current visitor is most likely a young or female Yellow Throated Honeyeater Lichenostomus-flavicollisone which is endemic to Tasmania, though I have yet to see its throat. (The birds in backyards website has a great bird identifying feature and also tells you what you could plant to help encourage birds into your garden). Through watching our bird we have become much more aware of the other birds in our immediate environment and also the seasonal changes –swallows and gulls swoop and dart overhead  and we see a young sparrow’s first tentative attempt at flight. Despite   the traffic noise, roadworks and renovators, there is also an amazing array of bird calls and songs. You can also hear some of those on the Birds in Backyards website.


Preparing for take -off. At least this little sparrow stood still, 
and yes, I should definitely wash that window

Any Aussies reading this can of course download the app and register on the Birds in Backyards bsite and join in on their next survey in December and January, but there's no reason why anyone with access to a window can't make their own observations and or keep a visual diary.
I have also just read that Cornell University's Ornithology Department held its first World Wide Bird Count last May and will now conduct  them in May each year. I will be interested to see whether the results of the Great Aussie backyard Bird Count will be merged with it, since the numbers listed there for Australia are only a fraction of those counted by Australians.

http://www.birdsinbackyards.net/

* Twitchers = Birdwatchers to the uninitiated

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