Vol. 1 No. 4-text

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Price 10c . Published by the Gould League Birdwatchers
1st. Jan. 1967
Vol. 1, No. 4.
Patron: ALEC H . CHISHOLM 0.B .E , F .R Z .S
Hon. Secretary: L.COURTNEY HAINES,
10 Loquat Valley Road, Bayview.
Observations Committee: K.A.HINDWOOD &
Art Adviser: E . S . HOS KIN
Photogi_aphic Adviser: NORMAN CHAFFER
Editor: P .E .ROBER ,
26 Bay View Street, Mt. Kuring-gai.
Enclosed with this issue is a membership application form. The
Bird Watchers urgently need new members; unless we enrol at least
another 50 (or, better still, 100), it will be neccessary either to
raise the subscription rates or reduce the size of “BIRDS”. The
People who attend the monthly RZS-RAOU Meetings are quite familiar
with this society, and since most of those interested have already
joined it is unlikely that any substantial number of recruits will come
from that source. It is now up to the individual member to do what
he can by word of mouth to induce neighbours, friends and relatives
join. If you know of somebody who may be interested, send his name
nd address to Mr. Haines so that we can forward him (or her) a
omplimentary copy of “BIRDS”. If every member can bring in a
new recruit, our worries will be over – in fact, we’ll be able to indulge
n some of the ideas that are put to us from time to time, such as
Providing name -tags at excursions, and printing “BIRDS” by letterpress.2 BIRDS AND ANTS.
Swarming ants and termites (‘white -ants’) attract many kinds of
birds who are quick to take advantage of such a concentrated food
supply. Soon after the insects start to emerge birds are likely
to be seen nearby feasting on the bounty.
In 1944 Allen Keast recorded (Emu, 43, p. 218) Lewin Honeyeaters,
Grey Fantails, Blue -Wrens, Red-browed Finches and White-browed
Scrub -Wrens feeding on winged termites that were emerging in large
numbers from a decayed tree -stump in National Park, near Sydney.
Recently (Nov. 12, 1966) I noticed some twenty or more large honey –
eaters of two species — Noisy Friar -birds or Leatherheads and
Noisy Miners or Soldier -birds — flying into the air from trees
bordering a bush road on the Cattai Ridge, 30 miles north-west of
Sydney. The birds were “hawking”(perhaps not the right word) for
rather slow -flying “sugar -ants” rising from the ground beneath the
trees. One species of this large genus (Camponotus) is called the
“honey -pot ant” because its abdomen is often distended with nectar;
it is the one much eaten by the aborigines of Central Australia.
Some years ago, in May 1953, I watched a Soldier -bird hovering
above a “meat -ant’s” nest and capturing winged individuals as they
emerged from the gravel -covered mound.
Tree -creepers and Woodpeckers eat many ants, often taking
them on the ground or from the trunks of trees. In tropical South
America several groups feed largely on ants and thus have been
named Ant -birds, Ant -Pipits, Ant-Pittas, Ant -Shrikes, Ant -catchers,
Ant -Wrens and Ant -Thrushes.
K. A. HINDWOOD, Lindfield, N. S. W.
A Silver Gull chick was banded at Moon Island (Swansea, N.S. W.)
on November 22, 1959. Nothing was heard of this gull until it was
trapped by Dr. R. Carrick on Moon Island on October 15, 1965, while
sitting on eggs, and it was fitted with an individual colour -band,
green/white/black. The next time it was seen at Fennell’s Bay,
10 miles west of Moon Island, on September 5, 1966.
A visit to the island on September 24 last revelled the bird
sitting on three eggs – its age is now just on seven years.
JIM GRAY Blackalls Point (30.11. 66)
The little grassbird, more often heard than seen, is an
inconspicuous species possessing soft brown and grey plumage,
cryptically striped with black.
Haunting marshy wastelands, this little warbler advertises its
presence by its meloncholy piping calls. Though only one degree
of the scale is used by an individual bird, usually one short note
followed immediately by a longer drawn out tone and ending
abruptly with a very short note, the performer gives the effect of
singing in a minor key. Various degrees of the scale are used
apparently by different birds, some low, others pitched quite high.
Grassbirds call throughout the day, becoming more active during
late afternoon, but although I have spent many hours collecting
moths in places where Little Grassbirds are known to occur, I
have never yet heard them call at night, not even in bright moon-
light. In contrast, Reed Warblers seem to perform better at
night than they do by day; however, this may only appear so, as
during the darkened hours most other sounds are hushed and the
singing Reed Warblers are -then heard to advantage.
Grassbirds are inquisitive, and not infrequently when I have
been sitting very still in reedly places watching for birds, these
rather fussy little warblers have approached to within a few feet
and I have been able to observe their mouse -like movements
through the dense reeds and sedges, and also hear distinctly
their whispered chivvying which sounds not unlike the rustling of
a dry reed.
While reeds and rushes appear to be very much their natural
habitat, Little Grassbirds seem equally at home in mangrove
swamps and run and skip over the mud beneath the trees with
great agility.
The nest is a deep cup -shaped structure, 5 inches deep and 4
inches in diameter, the rim being smaller than the cavity. The
entrance at the top is nearly always completely hidden by large
JANUARY 1967.5
feathers worked into the lining. I have found Silver Gull feathers
as well as those of the Eastern Swamphen used for this purpose.
Nests are built in all sorts of places, but three to four feet above
water -level in dense bull -rushes is most favoured.
Before I discovered my first nest of the Little Grassbird, I
had assumed that the eggs would resemble those of the Reed Warbler,
but instead of the lavender, pale and dark brown colours adorning
the Reedys’ eggs, I found to my intense delight oval eggs with a ground
colour of powder -white, minutely speckled all over with red, purple
and grey. The number of eggs in a clutch is usually four, but sets
of three are not uncommon. Eggs are always similar, and I have
never found a nest with an atypical egg in it!
The nesting season begins in August and continues well into Jan-
uary; nevertheless, due to the food supply being more in evidence,
November and December are the most productive months.
The of the Grassbirds consists of small aquatic insects
such as dragon -flies, mayflies and damsel flies, as well as small
water snails, the shells of which provide valuable lime for eggshells.
During the winter when insects are scarce, seeds form an article of
To lovers of lonely fen -lands, the mournful notes of Little Grass –
birds more than any other species help enhance the brooding atmos-
phere of such places, and especially so when the golden -green back-
drop of reeds and rushes is tipped with the slender rays of fading day.

Little Grass -bird at its nest. Note the typically furtive
attitude of the bird. This nest is rather more open than usual;
most nests are partly covered by a rough hood.
Photo: NORMAN CHAFFER, Roseville.
JANUARY, 1967.6
At high noon on Saturday, November 19, on the summit of
Lamington’s Mt. Bithongabel, a plaque commemorating the first
camp organised by a society within the boundaries of the National
Park, was unveiled by author Alec Chisholm.
Nearly 200 people, 120 of whom stayed the weekend at O’Reilly’s
Green Mountains, saw the historic unveiling of the Forestry and
National Parks Department cairn and plaque. The inscription
reads: “Near this spot a party from the Queensland Naturalists’
Club camped in December 1918, thus helping to draw the public
attention to the scientific and scenic value of this great National
Park”, followed by the names of the 11 campers, including those
of Alec Chisholm the guest of honour and Herbert O’Reilly, the
guide at the recent ceremony.
Mr. Chisholm, addressing the distinguished gathering, paid
high tribute to the men whose magnificent and untiring efforts
created the National Parks Authority of Queensland, and to the
people who went on with the work and opened up the sanctuaries
for the lasting enjoyment of the people.
The building of the cairn by National Parks rangers was the
result of happy liaison between the National Parks -Forestry and
the Queensland Naturalists’ Club. Mr. Chisholm also paid tribute
to the O’Reilly family, saying that as far back as the early 1900’s
he foresaw the part they would play in developing a tourist industry.
In those days, the Green Mountains part of the Lamington Plateau
was the only accessible way. Since then, of course, Binna Burra
has been established by the Groom family, and with first-class
accommodation at each entrance, Lamington has become one of the
most popular resort parks in Queensland.
During the ceremony, Mr. Chisholm was delighted to hear the
notes of two of the most fascinating songbirds in Australia, the
Rufous Scrub -bird and the Whip -bird, and on the way up, the Olive
Whistler’s delightful song was heard.
by Keith Hindwood; A. H. & A, W. Reed, Auckland; 112pp. , $3. 25.
As an old-timer in bird watching I have been interested to see an
almost explosive trend by people in all walks of life and all ages,
towards this spare time hobby. As illustrative of this, 11 -night mention
that the outings that have been organised by the Gould League Bird
Watchers have been well attended, notwithstanding the inclement
weather that has accompanied several of them. But that does not deter
the enthusiast.
Whether this general interest that has grown in bird watching and
nature in general is the result of the many books that have been
published in the last ten years, or whether the publishers have seen
the trend and look for authorities to write on these subjects is a moot
point. Be that as it may, any well -produced book on birds will find
a ready market.
Such a book then is Keith Hindwood’s “Australian Birds in Colour.”
After reading an informative Introducation in which ornithology is
traced from the earliest records to the present day, we turn over the
Pages to see the reproductions in colour of some of Australia’s unique
The Rose Robin, photographed by Norman Chaffer, and re-
produced on the front cover, is a little gem.
This book contains 52 full colour plates, and on the page opposite
each is a descriptive account of the bird figured, and for full measure
much information is given about other members of the group to which
it belongs.
Mr. Hindwood’s background of knowledge has enabled him to give
many interesting observations, and his acquaintance with all the first
class photographers has resulted in a selection of what would seem to be
-only the best –
One wishes this book every success’
G. R. GANNON, Pyrnble.
JANUARY, 1967.8
December 4 was a wet morning in Sydney and it was surprising
that about 40 members turned up at the rendezvous in Windsor.
Bushell’s Lagoon was rather a disappointment – apart from swans
and pelicans the waterbirds were few and far between, and although
we saw plenty of Tailor -birds our efforts to find a nest were to
no avail. The main interest centred round four Musk Ducks and a
Black Swan wearing a white collar (indicating it was from Lake George)
However, things took a turn for the better at lunchtime when we
arrived at Longneck Lagoon. One of the first birds we saw was a
Lotus -bird, and it wasn’t long before Ernie Wood had pinpointed a
nest with four eggs. Our guide, Peter Roberts, had brought his
plywood dinghy and it was quite a thrill to see the beautifully marked
eggs close up. Further on, a dead tree standing in the water held a
Dusky Moorhen’s nest with five fresh eggs.
In a nearby stand of ironbarks, four species were nesting within
a radius of 15 yards – Jacky Winter, Sittellas feeding young,. Rufous
Whistlers and White -throated Warblers constructing nests.
On the way home those who stopped at Pitt -Town Lagoon were
rewarded by the sight of a solitary Jabiru. White -headed Stilts were
noted on the little island in the middle of the swamp and when we
waded out we found three nests, containing one, three and four eggs.

TAILOR -BIRD at its nest in the low-lying area on the western side
of Dee -Why Lagoon. Compare this with the picture on page 4 of the
Little Grass -bird, which often frequents neighbouring country. This
photo, as well as showing the Tailor -bird in a characteristic attitude,
gives a very clear idea of how the bird gets its name. The green
leaf in the centre has been punctured in several places, and the
stitches holding it to the side of the nest can be seen.
Photo: BRIAN WEST, Dee Why.
There is a noticeable increase this year in two honeyeaters, and
as the young birds are numerous it would appear there has been a
very successful hatching. The Eastern Spinebill is, and always has
been, our most common honeyeater, and at present is having a feast
from our Jacarandas which are in flower. Delphiniums, abutilons,
and grevilleas vary the diet with the help of a few callistemons which
still have some flower. The White-cheeked Honeyeater is the other
one which has made a marked increase around the garden. The
other honeyeaters which we have, seem to be maintiining their usual
Our most spectacular bird would be the Azure Kingfisher who
recently nested in the bank of our creek. The young were hatched
and fed for many weeks, when sudden heavy rain flooded the nest.
The Rock Warblers were more canny and nested in our pump house
right over the diesel engine. Three eggs laid, three young
successfully launched! The Rufous Whistler is at present singing
around the house, whilst the Golden Whistler remains a more or less
permanent resident down in the bush. To finish off I’d like to mention
another beauty which we have, the Turquoise Parrot, seen at times in
flocks of twenty or so as they come to feed on the ripening grass seeds

On Dec. 11 I found a female Cicada -bird quite reluctant to leave
her tiny nestling, in the small nest built into a horizontal fork at
57 feet of a bloodwood tree.
All within 15 minutes, and in one half -acre of open forest, three
parasitic species were observed on the previous afternoon; a nearly
matured Koel with Noisy Friarbirds as foster -parents, an immature
Brush Cuckoo being cared for by Leaden Flycatchers, and a pair of
White -throated Warblers engaged in the laborious task of feeding
a full sized Golden Bronze Cuckoo.
While travelling to work on December 15 through light forest, I
noticed a pair of Crested Hawkes, one carrying a leafy green sprig
to their nest. One half-grown white nestling was visible from the
ground in the small stick and dead leaf structure, placed on a
horizontal limb attached between upright twigs of a bloodwood tree
at a height of 60 feet.
A summing up of November and December reveals three main
features: the abundance of Spine -tailed Swifts, many hundreds, no
doubt attracted by the numerous insects of the air resulting from the
humid stormy conditions of the last few weeks; the number of Sacred
Kingfishers here this year, many more pairs than usual and in areas
not usually visited; and, most noticeable of all, the complete absence
of the two Trillers – I have sighted neither the Varied nor the White –
AURTHUR BOND, Yorklea, Casino
(15. 12. 66. )

Pallid Cuckoo – first observed on October 20.
Scarlet Honeyeater – first noted on Nov. 11.
Reed Warbler – first noted Nov. 27
E. A. SHORT, Rooty Hill.
On December 27 I was fishing in a small boat on Berowra Creek,
upstream from the ferry, late in the day. At 7.40, just after dark,
the silence was broken by a series of loud calls from the hills that
rise about 500 feet from the water’s edge. The call was a wild hoot
or chuckle, the first three or four notes rising in pitch,and sometimes
the last few notes would drop. The whole effect was quite startling,
and well in keeping with the spectacular nature of the scenery.
There were three birds calling, if indeed they were birds, and they
seemed to keep in much the same positions until about 10 p.m. when
I left.
Could you please tell me what birds might make such a call?
Isaak Walton, Sydney.
JANUARY 1967.12
Mr. K. A. Hindwood replies: Your description fits the call of
the White -throated Nightjar, sometimes called the Laughing Owl.
It migrates to these parts in the summer months and the birds
you heard are very likely breeding, probably on the ridges on the
NEW MEETING PLACE: Please note that the January meeting and
all subsequent meetings will be held in the Hallstrom Theatre at
the Australian Museum (this applies to Meetings of the other RZS
Sections, too). The time, 8 p.m. , and date, third Thursday of
each month, will be unchanged.
JANUARY 19 The meeting will be addressed by Ellis McNamara,
and illustrated with colour slides – if past experience is any guide,
this meeting will be treated to some really spectacular bird pictures.
In addition, a new suggestion is being tried out; the “Bird of the
Evening” will be two birds, the Southern Figbird and the Olive –
backed Oriole, and members who have slides or pictures of either
species are invited to bring them in for discussion.
FEBRUARY 16 This will be a film night, under the title “Waterfowl”
a Resource in Danger”.

  • * * * * * * * 4( * * *
    Sunday, January 22: Warwick Farm.
    Leader: Athel Colemane.
    Mr. Colemane plans to spend the day in a very pleasant area of
    shale country covered with light forest where a good range of bird –
    life can be expected. Meet at Rosetta Street, behind the Racecourse
    near George’s River (Gregory’s Map 86, A13), at 10 a.m.
    Saturday, February 18: Homebush Bay
    Guide: Laurie Haines
    In an area of salt ponds, mud -flats, samphire swamp and mangrove
    forest can be seen good numbers of migratory and other waders,
    ducks and other water birds. Meet on Underwood Road, North
    Strathfield, near the ZUE transmitting arial, 0.7 miles from
    Pomeroy Street. (Gregory’s Map 39. H14) at 2.p.m.