29 Dec 2016

Banding (ringing) in Australia!

For a couple of years now I've kept in contact with Mark Clayton, an Aussie ringer of many years standing, who rings regularly at a site called the Charcoal Tank  - a local nature reserve near the town of West Wyalong and about 3 hrs north of where my daughter lives. The 213 acre reserve consists of  critically endangered mallee and mallee–broombush vegetation and is a fragmented remnant of this type of habitat. Knowing I was coming over for two weeks at Christmas Mark kindly arranged a post Christmas ringing trip and I arranged to meet him on the 27th December and stay over night at nearby West Wyalong with a view to banding again the next morning.

I got to site around 13.00 on the 27th to find that Janet and Mark had already had a good mornings ringing  with 70+ birds caught. Three mist nets were placed near standing water along a drainage line linking three man made dams on the site. With the temperatures soaring during the Aussie summer months any standing water attracts birds to drink. A fabulous place with birds everywhere and Mark was able to identify them all by call. He even got me a new bird for my fledgling Aussie list when we flushed two Painted Button Quail as he was showing me around the site. I also saw several Swamp (Black) Wallabies on site.

That first afternoon I got my first experience of ringing Australian birds and their techniques - although the ringing equipment is identical to ours and the rings made by the same UK manufacturer (Ponzana) there are difference in the naming of the ring sizes. Their size 1 is our AA and their 2 is the equivalent of our. They don't follow the Euring ageing system and  use a modified calendar year ageing system. Many of the adult birds were in post breeding moult meaning I had to get my eye in quickly again recording moult scores.

That first afternoon I ringed Silvereye, White-eared Honeyeater, Brown-headed Honeyeater and White-plumed Honeyeater. A good start!

 White-eared Honeyeater - adult in full wing moult

Juvenile White-plumed Honeyeater
Brown-capped Honeyeater.

After checking in at my motel I met the rest at a local Chinese restaurant for dinner before trying to get some sleep ready for an early start. With the weather considerably cooler there weren't so many birds coming to drink and as the morning progressed the wind also hampered mist netting. We still managed a good number of birds before eventually packing up around 10 am. Species caught included Peaceful Dove, Eastern Yellow Robin, White-throated Treecreeper, Rufous Whistler and the star bird for me - Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo - a tiny cuckoo!
 Peaceful Dove
 Female Rufous Whistler.

 Juvenile White-throated Treecreeper.

Eastern Yellow Robin.

Finally the star bird for me - the Horsfield's Bronze Cuckoo.

After we'd packed up the ringing site and checked for any rubbish Mark kindly took me to the nearby Buddigower nature reserve for a bit of birding. The team also band at this much larger reserve that consists of grey box, mugga iron bark and white cypress are found growing on lower slopes. Areas of blue mallee, bull mallee, green mallee and congoo mallee are found on low gravelly ridges. 

Buddigower NR

After an hour or so Mark dropped me off back at my car and I headed slowly back to Albury stopping occasionally when I saw groups of birds alongside the road. I soon added Apostle Bird, Blue-bonnet and several other species to the trip list! 

A great experience and with an open invitation to join the team again its something I'd really like to do more of in the future. I might even do it properly and borrow a tent or a swag! 

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