Vol. 10 No. 2-text

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Journal of the

Volume 10 No. 2 December 1975

Registered for Posting as a Periodical, Category B Price $1.00THE N.S.W. FIELD ORNITHOLOGISTS CLUB
PATRON A.H. Chisholm, O.B.E.
R. Cooke
Dr. R. Mason
The object of the Club is to promote the study and conservation of Australian birds and their
Annual subscription rates to the Club are
Ordinary Member $4.00
Family Member $5.00
Junior Member (under 17) $1.00
All members receive a quarterly newsletter and a copy of the quarterly journal, Australian Birds.
The price of the journal is $1.00 per issue to non-members. The Club holds a general meeting and
a field excursion each month.
All correspondence, including membership fees, should be addressed to the Secretary. The Club’s
address is:
18 Russell St., Oatley, 2223.
Manuscripts should be sent to the Editor at:
P.O. Box 39, Coonabarabran, 2857.Aliiiiiiiiiiiiiii
Vol. 10, No. 2 December, 1975
During 1974, 2441 km of the New South Wales coast was travelled by 43 members and
friends of the Field Ornithologists Club and 7409 dead seabirds were found. Large mortalities
were recorded in January, which included a number of warm water species, and in September,
November and December, which consisted largely of Short -tailed Shearwaters. In contrast to
1973 few prions were found and mortality during the winter was very low. Rare species found
included a Grey -headed Albatross, three Antarctic Fulmars, a Kermadec Petrel, three Kerguelen
Petrels (the first since 1954), a Masked Booby and three Long-tailed Skuas. The number of
Pterodroma petrels found was exceptional.
This paper reports on the results obtained by the NSWFOC beach patrol scheme in 1974.
The coastline of New South Wales has been divided into ten zones by degrees of latitude (see
Fig. 1. in Morris, 1972). Coverage was very good in most zones except Bega and Mallacoota.
Within the 2441 km travelled 7409 dead seabirds of 40 species were found, giving a mean
mortality of 3.0 birds per km. The previous greatest distance travelled was 927 km in 1973.
In 1974 320 patrols totalled 717 km, while Glenn Holmes used a motor cycle to travel the
remaining 1724 km, mostly within the Maclean, Coffs Harbour and Hastings zones.22. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2)
Table 1 shows the number of dead seabirds recorded and the distance patrolled in each
zone per month (the distance patrolled indicates the catchment area examined per month).
Table 11 shows the monthly distribution of seabird mortality and Table 111 the zonal distrib-
ution of the seabirds found. Table 1V gives the details of banded Short -tailed Shearwaters
recovered dead in New South Wales in 1974.
The scientific and vernacular names used are generally in accordance with “An Index of
Australian Bird Names”, CSIRO Division of Wildlife Research Technical Paper No. 20, 1969.
As ten of the 14 Little Penguins Eudyptula minor were found in the months December
to March, which is during fledging, then most were probably juvenile. None was found in the
five northern zones, where it has not been located breeding north of Crescent Head in the
Hastings zone.
An immature Grey -headed Albatross Diomedea chrysostoma found at Collaroy on 27
August was the fifth record for (Rogers, 1975). The only other albatross found, a
White -capped Albatros$. D. cauta, was consistent with previous records.
Only two Giant Petrels Macronectes spp. were found, one of which was a Southern Giant
Petrel M. giganteus. They were within the usual period of mortality in N.S.W., June to Decem-
ber. Three Antartic Fulmars Fulmarus glacialoides found in the Ulladulla and Bega zones, one
near Jervis Bay on 22 September and two near Narooma on 22 October, were the sixth to
eighth records for N.S.W. (Rogers, 1975). Seven specimens have now been found between
Tuggerah and Narooma from June to December. Another was observed off Stanwell Park on
1 January 1958 (Hindwood & McGill, 1958). This pattern of occurrence in N.S.W. is consist-
ent with an Antarctic, summer -breeding species. As cephalopods are apparently an important
food item (Serventy et al., 1971) then the pelagic waters of southern N.S.W. constitute a
likely wintering area. Only two Cape Petrels Daption capense were found, both within the
usual period of July to January.
The number of Pterodroma petrels found was one of the more unusual aspects of the
1974 mortality. The 31 Great -winged Petrels P. macroptera formed easily the largest mortality
yet observed in this species, the previous maximum being seven in 1973 (Morris, 1974). Most
were found in autumn in the three northern zones, with as many as three in 6 km and four
in 10 km near Coffs Harbour in late April. As the species is a winter breeder these birds
could not have been recently fledged juveniles. Those found near Coffs Harbour had just
completed or were undergoing wing moult, indicating that they were older immatures or per-
haps adults (Holmes, pers. obs.). The White -headed Petrel P. lessoni, a summer -breeding sub –
antarctic species, is likely to occur in N.S.W. in any month (Kenny, 1972). Four were found
in the Tweed Heads and Sydney zones in March (two), June and November. The 15 Provid-
ence Petrels P. solandri found in the Tweed Heads, Coffs Hourbour and Hastings zones was
an exceptional number. The eight in late January were perhaps returning from the North Pac-
ific Ocean, as the species is absent at Lord Howe Island from December to mid FebruaryDecember, 1975 23.
(Fullagar et al., 1974). It is now evident from observations near the edge of the continental
shelf (by Rogers, Holmes) that solandri and macroptera are probably ecological equivalents in
northern and southern N.S.W. respectively. The large number of macroptera found dead in
northern N.S.W. is therefore anomalous, unless it is only abundant there in autumn or it is
more abundant in waters well outside the continental shelf. The Kermadec Petrel e neglecta
found at Kingscliff on 27 January was the second N.S.W. and Australian record, excluding
Lord Howe Island (Rogers, 1975). The four Kerguelen Petrels P. brevirostris, fifth to eighth
records for N.S.W., were the first since four near Sydney in 1954 (Hindwood & McGill, 1955).
The first was found alive at Rushcutters Bay on 25 August, those at Collaroy on 27 August
and at Woody Head on 29 August were freshly dead, and the last at Woolgoolga on 15 Sept-
ember had been dead about ten days. It is remarkable that these birds died at such widely
separated localities within a period of less then two weeks. Three of the 1954 birds were also
found in a short period, from 13 to 21 July. The eight Gould Petrels P. leucoptera, an unusu-
ally large number, were found within the usual period of December to April (Morris & Sawyer,
1973). This suggests that the immature birds, which would be expected to have a higher
mortality rate than the adults, are not numerous until the beginning of incubation (in late
November), as in the closely related Black -winged Petrel P. nigripennis (Merton, 1970). The
one from Ulladulla on 9 February was not considered referable to the nominate race on
Cabbagetree Island (P. Fullagar, in lilt), and the one found freshly dead at Coffs Harbour
on 27 April was a very late date.
The monthly occurrence and proportional representation of the species of prions Pachyp-
tila spp. were consistent with previous observations. As in most years the Fairy Prion P. turtur
was the most abundant species.
The occurrence and proportions of the species of dark shearwaters Puffinus spp. were
also consistent with previous observations. The mortality of Short -tailed Shearwaters P. tenui-
rostris was probably the largest since 1970 (from data in Morris, 1972, 1973, 1974; Morris &
Sawyer, 1973), with 1971 and 1972 being “average” years and 1973 a “below average” year.
From the recovery of banded birds (Table IV), 18 of known age class consisted of one just
fledged, four at the end of their first year, three older immatures and ten adults. During 1974
an unprecedented number of Grey -backed Shearwaters P. bulleri was recorded in N.S.W.
(Holmes, 1975). Three of these were found beach -washed, on 6 February near Moruya, on 8
June at Ballina and on 4 November at Woolgoolga. The mortality of Fluttering Shearwaters
P. gavia was the largest yet observed. The number found dead in each month, 1970 to 1974,
is given in Fig. 1. The maximum in February occurs at a time when very few are seen in
N.S.W. waters, but coincides with the beginning of fledging in New Zealand. Two Huttons
Shearwaters P. huttoni were found, on 26 April at Urunga and 27 August at Collaroy. The
latter is outside the period October to April given by Morris & Sawyer (1973). Eight Little
Shearwaters P. assimilis were found between Ballina and Ulladulla from March to November,
coinciding with their presence at Lord Howe Island from February to November (Fullagar
et al., 1974). The five in June was a large number for this month, which is within the incub-
ation period. The four White-faced Storm -petrels Pelagodroma marina found in September and
October in the Sydney-Wollongong-Ulladulla zones were within the breeding distribution.24. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2)
Fig 1. Monthly mortality of Fluttering Shearwater in N.S.W., 1970-1974
4 28 8 2 0 3 2 2 1 12 8 6
Of the 41 Australian Gannets Sula serrator that were found, 28 were immature and six
were adult. The previous maximum was 12 in 1973 (Morris, 1974). An adult Masked Booby
S. dactylatra found near Evans Head on 29 January was the second record for N.S.W., exclud-
ing Lord Howe Island where it breeds (Rogers, 1975). The four cormorants breeding in N.S.W.
were all found beach -washed, the Pied Cormorant Phalacrocorax varius and Little Black Cormor-
ant P. su/cirostris being recorded for the first time in the last five years. As usual the Black
Cormorant P. carbo was the most abundant species. A Red-tailed Tropicbird Phaethon rubric-
auda found near Ballina in January was the first recorded in the last five years. An adult was
found freshly dead in the dunes behind Bundagen Beach near Sawtell on 21 March (Rogers,
1975). Three White-tailed Tropicbirds P. lepturus were found, at Manly on 1 January
(immature), Brunswick Heads on 28 January (adult) and Palm Beach on 25 April (immature).
It is curious that lepturus is more frequently recorded in N.S.W. than rubricauda, for the
nearest breeding station is Walpole Island in the Coral Sea, whereas rubricauda breeds at
Lord Howe Island.
The Great Skua Stercorarius skua and Pomarine Skua S. pomarinus were consistent
with previous records. Three Long-tailed Skuas S. longicaudus, an adult and two immatures,
found at Byron Bay on 28 January were the first specimens for N.S.W. The status of this
species in Australia is unknown. The proportion of Silver Gulls Larus novaehol/andiae to
Crested Terns Sterna bergii, which in the four previous seasons has always been greater than
two to one, was similar in 1974. Sooty Terns S. fuscata were found for the fifth year in
succession, the seven this year being five adults and two immatures. As more than 100,000
breed at Lord Howe Island (Fullagar et al., 1974), it is expected that small numbers should
be recorded annually on the N.S.W. coast. An adult Common Noddy Anous sto/idus found
near Kingscliff on 27 January was the tenth record for N.S.W. Another was found alive
away from the coast at Waverton (North Sydney) on 12 January after severe north-easterly
winds (Rogers, 1975).
Land and freshwater birds found in addition to seabirds included the White-faced Heron,
Reef Heron, Black Swan, Black Duck (2), Brown Quail, King Quail, Spur -winged Plover, Eastern
Curlew, Galah (6), Barn Owl, Grass Owl, Kookaburra (2), Yellow -faced Honeyeater and Aust-
ralian Raven.AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2) 25.
Between 24 and 26 January gale force winds were associated with tropical cyclone Wanda
in far north coastal and adjacent waters, lessening to strong easterly winds up to 28 January
(Anon. 1974). This cyclone caused a moderate mortality in the Tweed Heads zone involving
several warm water species, most of which breed on Lord Howe Island. The Providence Petrels,
Kermadec Petrel, Masked Booby, Red-tailed Tropicbird, Sooty Terns and Common Noddy were
almost certainly from the Island. Other species included the Great -winged Petrel, White-tailed
Tropicbird and Long-tailed Skua. This supports evidence (Holmes, unpublished) which suggests
that the generally southward moving surface water near the edge of the continental shelf in
northernN.S.W. is an important feeding area for some species from Lord Howe Island, includ-
ing the Providence Petrel (June to October?) and White -bellied Storm -Petrel (September to July?).
Three tropical cyclones and their resultant depressions followed, Pam (5-8 February), Zoe
(8-17 March) and Alice (22-30 March) (Anon, 1974), but no mortality comparable to that of
late January was observed.
During March and April, 27 Australian Gannets were found. These were mostly immatures
that had probably just fledged and were therefore inexperienced. The protracted nature of this
mortality suggests that food shortage or perhaps disease may have been responsible, rather than
adverse weather.
In the Coffs Harbour zone 15 Great -winged Petrels and three Providence Petrels were
found 26 April and 1 May. Two other Great -winged Petrels found
at this time had been dead for 10-20 days, and one on 17 May about ten days..Seven stomachs
of the Great -winged Petrel and all of tne Providence Petrel were examined and were empty but
for cephalopod beaks. Other species involved in this mortality were the Gould Petrel (1),
Hutton’s (1), Sooty (1), Short -tailed (5) and Wedge-tailed (12) Shearwaters and Australian
Gannet (6). Of the stomachs examined in these species most were empty. Although strong winds
along the entire coast on 21 and 22 April (Anon, 1974) preceded this mortality, a widespread
food shortage may have been responsible, or at least contributing. As the number of Pterodroma
petrels in this mortality is exceptional it is possible that there was a particular shortage of ceph-
alopods. At Coffs Harbour, where cephalopodsare trawled with prawns in shallow water, the
ratio of cephalopods to prawns in March was twice that of April and the absolute amount of
:ephalopods in April was almost twice that of March (W. Hitchens, pers. comm.). However it is
difficult to extrapolate this to deeper water where the petrels feed.
In the winter and early spring only 76 prions and two albatrosses were found, compared
to 374 prions and ten albatrosses in the corresponding months of 1973 (Morris, 1974). During
this period there were occasional gale force and strong winds (Anon, 1974), but none as
severe as in July 1973. Observations at sea off Coffs Harbour (Holmes, unpublished) showed
that prions were present in large numbers from June to August, but only three were beach –
washed there in these months. The importance of storms in large prion mortalities is thus
further substantiated.
Following prolonged southerly winds between 24 and 27 September, with a maximum at
sea of 65 knots on 26 September (RAN Meteorological Office, per C. Sonter), 484 Short –
tailed Shearwaters were found in 0.7 km in the Jervis Bay area (Ulladulla zone). In early26. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2)
October a further 812 found in 8.7 km in this area, 120 in 4.8 km at Cronulla and others at
Wollongong were probably beach -washed at much the same time. These birds were near the end
of their southward migration and were undoubtedly exhausted by the strong headwind.
The mortality of Short -tailed Shearwaters, as is usual, continued throughout October, Nov-
ember and December. In the Coffs Harbour zone, where the beaches were patrolled most regul-
arly, peaks of mortality occurred on or about 16 and 26 October, 5-8 and 21-23 November,
4 and 9-16 December. In the Sydney area the greatest mortalities were apparently on about
22 November and in the first two weeks of December, which coincide with three of the peaks
at Coffs Harbour.
Observations at sea off Sydney (by A. Rogers and others) and off Coffs Harbour (by
Holmes) have shown that seabird density decreases northward in New South Wales, as would
be expected. As 1974 is the first year in which the coastline has been adequately covered in
widely separated localities throughout the year, it is now possible to determine this decrease
in density from seabird mortality. For example, from Table I, 2377 seabirds were found in
the Maclean-Coffs Harbour -Hastings zones, and 4529 in the much less well covered Sydney-
Wollongong-Ulladulla zones. However there appears to be little difference in the diversity of
species between the north and south. From Table III, 29 species were found in the five north-
ern zones, and 31 were found in the five southern zones.
During the year 43 members and friends took part in the beach surveys. All credit is
due to them for the extensive and valuable results obtained. Our thanks are extended to the
following persons who provided information:
B. Ashcroft, J. H. Benham, D. Bleach, M. Brooker, S. Chittick, G. Clancy, C. C. Davey,
J. Dixon, B. Forest, E. V. Geiroval, E. Goodiman, C. Gray, R. Gray, J. Gunn, N. Hermes,
E. S. Hoskin, M. Johnson, F. J. Johnstone, A. Leishman, A. Lindsey, T. Lindsey, J. Mcllroy,
E. McDonald, R. McDonald, A. R. McGill, S. Marchant, P. Myben, M. M. O’Neill, V. Pattemore,
A. Pearse, P. E. Roberts, D. Sawyer, A. R. Sefton, J. Silburn, C. Sonter, J. Waterhouse,
W. Watson, T. Weekes, V. Weir -Wilson, K. Wicks and H. Wilton.
A Leishman kindly prepared the tables.
D. Purchase, Secretary of the Australian Bird -banding Scheme, and D. L. Serventy
provided data on the recovery of banded Short -tailed Shearwaters.
Anon 1974 Monthly Weather Reviews January -December 1974 N.S.W.,
Dept. of S,:ience, Bureau of Meteorology
Fullagar, P. J., J. L. 1974 Appendix F, Report on the Birds in ‘Environmental Survey
McKean & G. F. van Tets of Lord Howe Island’ (H. F. Recher & S. S. Clark, Eds),
Govt Printer, SydneyAUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2) 27.
Hindwood, K. A. & 1955 Sea -bird Mortality in Coastal New South Wales During July,
A R. McGill 1954. Emu 55: 148-156
Hindwood, K. A. & 1958 The Birds of Sydney, Miller, Sydney
A R. McGill
Holmes, G. 1975 The Australian Status of the Grey -backed Shearwater.
Aust. Birds 9: 98-99
Kenny, T. 1972 White -headed Petrel off Sydney Heads. Birds 7: 21-22
Merton, D. V. 1970 Kermadec Islands Expedition Reports: a General Account
of Birdlife. Notornis 17: 147-199
Morris, A K. 1972 Sea Birds Found Dead in New South Wales in 1970.
Birds 7: 33-41
Morris, A. K. 1973 Sea Birds Found Dead in New South Wales in 1971.
Birds 7: 53-58
Morris, A K. 1974 Sea Birds Found Dead in New South Wales in 1973.
Aust. Birds 9:1-11
Morris, A K. & 1973 Sea Birds Found Dead in New South Wales During 1972.
D. Sawyer Birds 8: 21-30.
Rogers, A E. F. 1975 N.S.W. Bird Report for 1974. Aust. Birds 9: 77-97
Serventy, D. L., V. 1971 The Handbook of Australian Sea -birds, Reed, Sydney
Serventy & J. Warham
HOLMES, G. P.O. Box 795, Coffs Harbour. N.S. W. 2450
MORRIS, A. K. 10 Short Street, Coonabarabran. N.S. W. 285728. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2)
I /1131..t: I
ZONE Jan Feb. Mar. Apr. May. June July Aug. Sept. Oct Nov. Dec. TOTALS
Tweed Heads Km 56 17 28 26 2 23 10 10 10 6
Birds 95 3 20 13 1 27 – – – 205 364
Maclean BirK dm
-25 4
3 20 3 12 2 32 3 30 48
3 85
113 10 92 57
Coils Harbour Km 4 12 68 67 96 79 72 69 75 67 93 68
Birds 1 1 13 43 8 7 1 1 3 154 860 663 1755
Hastings BirK dm s – -1 37 6 18 1 2 -2 24 1 24 2 3 27 8 123 57 14 54 1 314
Newcastle BirK dm
Sydney Km 33 15 16 16 10 8 21 12 4 18 25 18
Birds 20 17 12 25 – 1 1 8 3 54 367 930 1438
Wollongong Km 5 3 7 3 2 14 3 7 5 8 17 15
Birds 2 2 2 1 – 4 1 1 – 318 418 409 1158
Ulladulla BirK dm s 1 59 8 92 41 6 5 -1 12 – 1 – 14 3 1 22 4 4978 811 57 562 3814 1931
Bega Km
Birds 2
1 2 3
Mallacoota BirK
Little Penguin 3 2 2 I 2 I 3 14
Unid. Penguin I I
Grey -headed Albatross I I
White -capped Albatross I I
Southern Giant Petrel I I
Unid. Giant Petrel I I
Antartic Fulmar I 2 3
Cape Petrel I I 2
Great -winged Petrel 3 3 20 4 I 31
White -headed Petrel 2 I I 4
Providence Petrel 8 5 2 15
Kermadec Petrel I I
Kerguelen Petrel 3 I 4
Gould Petrel 3 2 I 2 8
Unid. Petrel I I
Medium -billed Prion I I
Antartic Prion 8 4 12
Slender- billed Prion I I 2
Fairy Prion 3 I 16 2 6 3 31
Unid. Prion 2 2 7 9 9 I 30
Flesh -footed Shearwater I I II 2 2 17
Wedge-tailed Shearwater II 8 7 14 4 I 4 12 3 64
Grey -backed Shearwater I I I 3
Sooty Shearwater 3 2 I I 2 14 4 27
Short -tailed Shearwater 117 101 8 20 7 7 488 1620 1898 2662 6928
Fluttering Shearwater 3 19 7 I I 4 7 2 44
Buttons Shearwater I I 2
Little Shearwater I I 5 I 8 w
Unid. Shearwater I 5 1 I 5 13
White-faced Storm -petrel 2 2 4
Australian Gannet I 2 15 12 2 2 41
Masked Booby I I
Pied Cormorant I I 2
Little Pied Cormorant I I
Black Cormorant I 2 I I 5
Little Black Cormorant I I
Red-tailed Tropic -bird I I
White-tailed Tropic -bird 2 I 3
Great Skua I I
Pomarine Skua I I
Long-tailed Skua 3 511111 3
Silver Gull 5 3 5 4 5 II 52
Sooty Tern 5 I I 7
Crested Tern 2 6 I 2 2 2 15
Common Noddy I I
TOTAL I80 146 54 82 18 43 IC) 38 507 1683 1952 2696 740930. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2)
Little Penguin 3 2 7 2 14
Unid. Penguin I I
Grey -headed Albatross I I
White -capped Albatross I I
Southern Giant Petrel I I
Unid. Giant Petrel I I
Antartic Fulmar I 2 3
Cape Petrel I I 2
Great -winged Petrel IO I 18 2 31
White -headed Petrel 2 2 4
Providence Petrel IO 4 I 15
Kermadec Petrel I I
Kerguelen Petrel I I 2 4
Gould Petrel 3 2 2 I 8
Unid. Petrel I I
Medium -billed Prion
Antartic Prion 7 I 4 12
Slender -billed Prion 2 2
Fairy Prion 3 3 6 2 16 I 31
Unid. Prion 2 3 25 30
Flesh -footed Shearwater 3 4 2 6 2 17
Wedge-tailed Shearwater 13 I 22 5 I 16 I 5 64
Grey -backed Shearwater I I I 3
Sooty Shearwater I 3 9 I 3 5 5 27
Short -tailed Shearwater 272 291 1642 301 85 1359 1109 1830 39 6928
Fluttering Shearwater 8 I 6 II 9 9 44
Huttons Shearwater I I 2
Little Shearwater 4 2 2 8
Unid. Sbearwater 2 I IO 13
White-faced Storm -petrel I I 2 4
Australian Gannet 7 5 20 I 5 3 41
Masked Booby I I
Pied Cormorant 2 2
Little Pied Cormorant
Black Cormorant I 2 I I 5
Little Black Cormorant I I
Red-tailed Tropic- bird I I
White-tailed Tropic- bird I 2 3
Great Skua
Pomarine Skua
Long-tailed Skua 3 3
St:ver Gull I 13 I 15 20 2 52
Socty Tern 5 2 7
C:-.3ted Tern 6 I 3 I I 2 I 15
Co7mon Noddy I I
TOTAL 364 308 1755 314 97 1438 1158 1931 3 41 7409AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2) 31.
Band No. Date Pullus Banding Site Date Place Time and Distance
Banded or Adult Recovered Recovered
160-63494 10-12-67 A Montagu Is.N.S.W. Jan. 1974 Budgewoi 60 Mths, 352 km
160-34863 24-3-61 A Griffith Is.Vic. 2-1-74 Eden, 153 Mths, 672 km
161-30470 21-4-72 P Griffith Is. Port Fairy, Vic. 14-1-74 Woodburn 20 Mths, 1456 km
161-16493 3-4-74 P Montagu Is. N. S. W. 5-5-74 Ulladulla 1 Mth, 104 km
161-19916 13-3-71 A Griffith Is. Port Fairy,Vic. 29-9-74 Jervis Bay 42 Mths, 811 km
161-04097 10-4-66 A Griffith Is. Port Fairy,Vic. 6-10-74 Jervis Bay 102 Mths, 810 km
161-29636 20-4-73 P Griffith Is. Port Fairy,Vic. 12-10-74 Jervis Bay 17 Mths, 810 km
160-57601 26-4-63 P Griffith Is. Port Fairy,Vic. Oct? 1974 Palm Beach ? Mths, 964 km
161-28943 24-3-73 P Griffith Is. Port Fairy,Vic. 2-11-74 Malua Bay 19 Mths,740 km
160-53484 23-3-63 P Woolamai, Phillip Is. Vic 4-11-74 Woolgoolga 139 Mths,1170 km
161-02862 1-5-69 P Griffith Is. Port Fairy, Vic. 10-11-74 Yamba 54 Mths, 1400 km
160-13721 19-4-60 P Phillip Is. Vic. 17-11-74 Stockton Beach 174 Mths, 850 km
160-36138 8-4-61 P Woolamal, Philip Is. Vic. 23-11-74 Swansea Heads 163 Mths, 818 km
160-13161 24-4-60 P u u u 24-11-74 Blue Bay 175 Mths, 796 km
160-13782 19-4-60 P ,, u u ,, 30-11-74 Point Plomer 175 Mths, 1060 km
161-33317 25-4-74 P Griffith Is. Port Fairy,Vic. 11-12-74 Narooma 7 Mths, 724 km
161-37956 29-3-74 P South Neptune Is. S.A. 13-12-74 Narrabeen 8 Mths, 1380 km
161-33093 23-4-74 P Griffith Is. Port Fairy, Vic. 27-12-74 Crowdy Bay 8 Mths, 1183 km
161-34118 27-4-74 P 30-12-74 Eden 8 Mths, 680 km32. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2)
The status of the Darter Anhinga melanogaster in the Sydney District (County of
Cumberland) has changed very little since North (1898) wrote “New Holland Darter, not
common, but generally dispersed over the County. Frequents rivers and lagoons. Sometimes
met with at Botany, the Parramatta River and on Narrabeen Lagoon. Local namc Snake –
bird’ from its long bill and neck”.
The position had not changed when North (1912) again wrote “The present species
is found, although it is by no means common, in the neighbourhood of Sydney, a fine
plumaged old male in the Australian Museum Collection having been procured at Lake
Narrabeen”. (This specimen is still on display at the Museum and was registered on 90
June 1892).
Another skin in the Museum AM 0.26176 dated 18 October 1918 from a waterhole
at the rear of Fowlers Pottery, Marrickville, was the first since the Narrabeen bird. No
doubt the birds were occurring during the interim to 2R November 1920 when a skin
AM 0.35160 (D’Ombrain Collection) was taken in the Hawkesbury near Penrith. 20 years
elapsed before one was seen on 27 February 1940 by E. Nubiing near Kookaburra Flat,
Royal National Park whilst Keith Hindwood wrote on 25 October 1941 after having seen
a Darter at the Botany Water Reserve (which is now inside Kingsford -Smith Airport beside
General Holmes Drive) “Have not seen this species previously near Sydney”. McGill (in /itt.).
when in the Company of Allan Keast recorded two at Eastlakes on 14 March 1942, and
on a later occasion when by himself, (McGill 1942) saw one in a swamp in the lower Cook’s
River area on November 1942. There was one record in 1943, two in 1948 and four in
1951 after which there has been a steady increase in observations and, of course, observers.
In those early years it was something of a novelty to see a Darter.
Today, with the motor- car and tar -sealed roads, in contrast to the dirt roads and
horse and sulky of North’s day, one can observe up to six or more in a day, travelling
from swamp to swamp in the Hawkesbury district alone. North probably could only visit
one or maybe two swamps in a day. Nowdays there are records for every month of the
year for the Sydney (County of Cumberland) district, October to January having the
largest occurrences. On 4 January 1975 at Bushell’s Lagoon, Wilberforce (just outside the
County), saw 25 birds taking up their roosting positions for the night. The birds were
perched in tall gums beside a swamp with Black Cormorants Phalacrocorax carbo, Little
Black Cormorants P. sulcirostris and Little Pied Cormorants P. melanoleucos keeping them
company.AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2) 33.
The Darter may be found in a variety of habitats viz., swamps; freshwater streams
and rivers; and estuaries but has a preference for the deeper freshwater swamps and pools
where it swims to procure its food as do cormorants. Another similarity to cormorants is
its habit of sitting on a post in a swamp, or on a tree, with its wings extended to dry, as
its plumage is not water -proofed. Very often when disturbed it will fly high in wide circles
flapping its wings from four to a dozen times, then gliding for about four seconds. Cormor-
ants fly with quicker and more continuous wing -beats, only occasionally gliding and then
mostly when coming in to alight on the water or to a perch. The Darter may be seen
swimming, body submerged with only the small head and thin neck visible at a 45° angle
in a similar manner to a swimming snake, hence the name “Snakebird”.
On 31 October 1974 I visited a secluded swamp between hills at Greendale, 48 km
south-west of Sydney but still in the County. The swamp was approximately 460 m long
by 90 m wide. On my approach all the birds in the immediate vicinity flew to some tall
gums in the swamp where was able to count 57+ Little Black Cormorants and 12
Darters, another six Darters were scattered over the rest of the swamp. The birds returned
several minutes later after I had concealed myself behind a large gumtree. A male Darter,
recognised by its dark breast, flew to a nest in a dead paper -bark Melaleuca Sp. about
3.5 m above water and about 140 m from my concealment. The bird sat on the nest for the
rest of my stay which was about an hours duration. A Little Black Cormorant was sitting on
a nest less than two metres away in the same tree.
On a visit on 6 November 1974 the male Darter was found still on the nest and contin-
ually renovating it, and the light -breasted female was about 4.5 m away. About 23 m further
away in a dead paper -bark was another Darter’s nest, a little smaller than the other. A male
stood on the edge of the second nest for an hour or more with the female nearby. When she
approached the nest, he made a picking gesture at her and uttered a buzzing note not unlike
a similar note of the Leaden Flycatcher Myiagra rubecula, and then sat in the nest renovating
it. They later changed over, the female sitting and the male preening close by. This nest was
about 1.5 m above the water. On this occasion 87+ Little Black Cormorants were counted with
another two sitting on nests in the same tree as No. 1 Darter’s nest, but 50 m from the first
cormorant’s nest.
A further visit on 28 December 1974 revealed two large buff -coloured young in No. 2
Darter’s nest, No. 1 nest being empty and covered with white excreta. Presumably the young
fledged successfully. About 31 m away from Darter’s nest No. 2, a third nest was found con-
taining three young about three-quarters grown. This nest was situated on a slender branch
about 3.5 m above water, in a partly green paper -bark growing in the water. It was within
picking distance of three Little Pied Cormorants’ nests, two of which were on the same branch
as the Darter’s nest. Each nest adjoined the other, the third Cormorant’s nest was just below
the Darter’s nest and about two metres away near the trunk of the tree was a fourth Cormor-
ant’s nest. All the Little Pied Cormorants were sitting, probably on eggs. This is the first breed-
ing record for the Darters within the County of Cumberland and possibly the only coastal
breeding record for New South Wales.34. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2)
All the nests of the Little Black Cormorants were empty on the December visit but
covered with excreta so it would appear that the young successfully fledged too. Only 18 free –
flying birds were present on the last visit. This is only the second occasion that Little Black
Cormorants have been recorded breeding within the County of Cumberland. The first occasion
was on 13 February 1965 when F. Johnstone found a pair nesting within a small colony of
Little Pied Cormorants at Kurnell. Little Black Cormorants breed regularly within the County
of Northumberland to the north (Morris 1975).
The calls of the Darters could be heard from approximately 460 m away; every few
minutes these guttural static notes could be heard in the sanctity of the valley, each call
having up to 11 notes and lasting for about five seconds. In flight the wings of the birds
could be heard to whistle.
I wish to thank Mr. H. J. DeS. Disney for supplying information on Museum specimens.
Some of the notes and the early records have come from the Keith Hindwood Bird Recording
McGill, A. R. 1942 Bird Movements in the Lower Cooks River District.
Emu 42:174.
Morris, A. K. 1975 The Birds of Gosford, Wyong and Newcastle (County of
Northumberland). Aust. Birds 9:37-76
North, A. J. 1898 The Birds of the County of Cumberland. Handbook of
Sydney: Aust. Assoc. for the Advancement of Science,
pp. 68-116
North, A. J. 1912 Nests and Eggs of Birds Found Breeding in Australia and
Tasmania. Vol. 3:337. Sydney: Aust. Museum
E. S. HOSKIN, 44 Patricia Street, Eastwood. N.S.W. 2122.AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2) 35.
During an attempt to photograph the Black- fronted Dotterel Charadrius melanops at
Lamberts Swamp, Yelta in north-western Victoria, I became interested in a threat display
being caused by an overlap or intrusion of one pair of dotterels into another pair’s feeding
territory. At the time of observation the water level in the swamp had been lowered because
of pumping action by the Victorian State Rivers and Water Supply Commission. As was
unable to find any mention of the display in the Australian literature available to me, det-
ails are set out below.
The birds could have been induced to display as a result of the similarity between the
pumping, reducing the waterlevel and the normal drying up of an inland swamp. The status
of the Black -fronted Dotterel at Lamberts Swamp is that they are apparently sedentary, the
same number of birds being present throughout the year. However, the constant rise and
fall in the level of water in the swamp is a problem to the birds, forcing them to defend
their feeding and/or breeding territories by this display. It is also possible that at the time
of my observations, there was an influx of birds from nearby areas affected by the very slow
but definite rise in the level of the Murray River. However, Lamberts Swamp is in no way
connected to the flood plains of the Murray River, being a natural low lying depression now
used for water storage purposes by the Commission. Salinity of this swamp is high. However,
it is utilised by many species of waterbirds, depending on their requirements, particularly
when the Murray River is rising or falling.
The display was as follows:- A pair of birds (Nos. 1 and 2) would be feeding along
the water’s edge or mud when a third bird (No. 3) would arrive nearby but remain a little
distant from the feeding pair. Shortly a fourth bird (No. 4) would arrive and it would join
the stationary bird (No. 3) and together they would run towards the feeding pair (Nos. 1
and 2). The feeding pair would stop probing the mud and run forward chased by Nos. 3
and 4 whose wings were held in either an aloft or semi -drooped position. Without any warn-
ing Nos. and 2 would stop, turn and run back to meet birds 3 and 4. On reaching them,
all four would face inwards with their bills pointing to a common centre. A scolding, agitated
chattering call was then given by all birds and at the same time each fluttered its wings in a
quick repetitive manner. During this portion of the display the body was held in a hunched –
up and tense position. This position was held for only three to four seconds, whereon the
birds would break-up and retire or continue feeding until the next confrontation occurred.
Although the display, in literal form, could convey to the reader a complicated pattern
of behaviour, the process was nevertheless one of basic structure in which a social or mutual
confrontation was expressed. In all, the time lapse from the commencement to completion of
the display involved as little as one to three minutes. During this form of behaviour it was
noticed that never more than four birds participated despite the presence of other melanops
nearby. However, it was noticed that the confrontation was “open” to these outsiders since,36. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2)
during my time of observation some of these ventured (probably unintentionally) into close
proximity of another bird’s feeding area, whereon the display was enacted or repeated. On
two occasions it was observed that pairs would frequently engage themselves into a chase of
a few metres but this lacked the significance of the behaviour described above.
During my period of observation was able to discern four complete 4 X bird displays.
The area covered in the threat display involved as little as three square metres.
It would appear that the display was one of a territorial nature where a pair was prot-
ecting a certain section of the shoreline as a feeding territory rather than a breeding territory.
At the time the observation was made (20 July 1974) it would seem that the conditions for
breeding were not quite right because the water level in the swamp was too low. Previous
observations have indicated that this species tends to breed when the swamp is full, nesting
on a small muddy island. Evidently the pair bond relationship is carried on outside the breed-
ing season or is strengthened as the breeding season approaches, whereby the display is more
likely to develop into a breeding display.
This display is probably neither rare nor unusual, but is in all probability an action
easily overlooked. However, the display that I have described is not mentioned for any of
the six members of the genus treated by J. Gooders (Editor, 1969 Birds of the World
3:841-853). It is normal for melanops to converge on inland swamps overnight and set about
protecting areas for feeding and for breeding purpses. Such movements are made when either
the waters rise thus depriving them of feeding areas or when the waters fall, thus exposing
feeding areas. With such a simulated drop in the water level of Lamberts Swamp at the time
of observation, the dotterels were acting normally.
CHRIS SONTER, 7 Elm Street, Bowral. N.S.W. 2576
The only paper known to me that gives a comprehensive geographical survey of the
Painted Honeyeater Grantiella picta is that by K. A. Hindwood (1935 Emu 34:149-157). The
accompanying map indicated that, apart from the County of Cumberland, there were no other
known records in coastal areas of New South Wales. Yet, at that time, and for many years
subsequently, the species periodically visited the shale areas west of Sydney and bred there
during the late summer months, coinciding with the fruiting of mistletoe. Such movements
were eagerly awaited by Sydney ornithologists, but since around 1960 it has either been com-AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2) 37.
pletely absent from the County, or at least their visitations and numbers declined noticeably.
In the past few years it has been found nesting in the Bulga-Broke area, County of North-
umberland (Morris 1975 Aust. Birds 9:73) about 150 km north of Sydney. However, the
nomadic wanderings and dispersal pattern of the Painted Honeyeater are still little understood
and shrouded with a good deal of mystery.
At the RAOU 1950 Campout at Darra in northern New South Wales it was not un-
common in one particular area and was eagerly “listed” by all the Camp party. However, in
this State the main areas of observance concern somewhat regular movements to the south-
west. As it has been found in the western parts of both New South Wales and Victoria, it
is surprising that there is no known South Australian record. Storr (1973 List of Queensland
Birds p. 126) has shown it to be an uncommon breeding visitor to the north-east Darling
Downs arriving September to breed, departing December -February. However, Hindwood’s map
(loc. cit.) and records known to me from the Mt. Isa area indicate that the western parts of
that State could be considered its main centre of distribution, with annual irruptions into
New South Wales and Victoria to follow the fruiting mistletoe and to breed.
North of the Hunter River in coastal New South Wales it appears so far to be unknown.
Therefore, an observation on 15 August 1975 at Mitchell Island (near the mouth of the Mann-
ing River) is of general significance. I was able to secure a clear view of one bird and note
all the plumage details. The bird was feeding about 11 m up in a flowering eucalypt by the
Manning Point Road. This particular strip of tall trees was on the opposite side of the road
to a similar patch of flowering Melaleucas where I stopped to observe a flock of 25 Dusky
Wood -swallows Artamus cyanopterus alighting on the flowering blossoms and feeding actively
amidst them. However, soon found that the number of birds about the flowering Eucalypts
opposite was far greater. Noisy Friarbirds Philemon corniculatus were vociferous, abundant and
pugnacious in this clump, pestering most of the other species.
Scaly -breasted Lorikeets Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus and Little Lorikeets Glossopsitta
pusilla were common amidst the blossoms, as well as Scarlet Honeyeater Myzomela sanguino-
lenta and Brown Honeyeaters Lichmera indistincta. By their calls the latter two species were
plentiful although with the continued activity I was able to locate only a few of each with
the field glasses. I feel sure, for the same reason, that there would have been a small number
of Painted Honeyeaters for many birds of similar size were briefly glimpsed flying in and out
through the thick foliage. However, one emerged clearly on to a more open branch of an
outer limb and the full plumage characteristics, including the pinkish bill, could be clearly
seen for fully 30 seconds. Should be criticized for not remaining longer it would be well
to mention that was badly parked; that had to be back at Taree for an appointment and
that the closest could get the car safely off the narrow road was some distance further on.
Nevertheless my view of only one bird was long and clear enough to be certain of identity.
I have long held the opinion that the Painted Honeyeater was solely a fruit -eater and
many other people support this view. However, there was every indication that this species,
as well as the wood -swallows, honeyeaters and lorikeets gathered there, feasted on the flowering
blossoms and nectar that were there in profusion. Insects, of course, could have provided a food
source but no frugivorous diet was discernable. In the flowering Melaleucas, where the many38. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2)
wood -swallows were observed to land with wings outspread and feed eagerly amid the blossoming
outer foliage, no honeyeaters of the size of the Painted were observed to perch. Whatever was the
preferred food of this species, there was nothing to support the view in either clump that fruit
is the sole diet.
A. R. McGILL, 95 Nuwarra Road, Moorebank. N.S. W. 21 70

  • *
    Standard reference texts give the distribution of the Pink Robin Petroica rodinogaster as
    Tasmania, Victoria and the Australian Capital Territory. Its status is that of a common breeding
    species in Tasmania, an uncommon breeding species in north-eastern Victoria and a winter visitor
    to the A.C.T. (Wilson 1964 Emu 64:209-211). Up until 1960 it had not been recorded in New
    South Wales (McGill 1960 A Handlist of the Birds of N.S.W.).
    In the A.C.T. it is a regular visitor to the Brindabella Ranges between 1 April and 28 July
    of most years, being first recorded in the winter of 1962 (Lamm et al 1963 Emu 63:57). In
    the winters 1970-1973 none were recorded but during the winter of 1974 a pair was present in
    the garden of a house in Scullin, a suburb of Canberra (G. S. Clarke 1975 Canberra Bird Notes
    3: 2:10).
    Pink Robins have been recorded twice in New South Wales since 1960. An adult female
    was mist netted during banding operations at Lake George on 27 April 1963, some 72 km
    north-east of the localities in the A.C.T. where previously recorded (Wilson op.cit.). An adult
    male was observed at Yeramba Lagoon near Sydney on 20 August 1972 (G. and M. Dibley
    1973 Birds 7:60).
    The habitat in the Brindabella Ranges where the Pink Robins were banded is that of a
    wet sclerophyll forest, dominated by Eucalyptus dalrympleanaMountain Gum and E. viminalis
    Ribbon Gum with the scrub stratum of acacias and other plants rising to 4.5 m in the deeper
    and more shaded gullies (Lamm and Wilson 1966 Emu 65:183-205). At Lake George the
    habitat consists of Ribbon Gum with a dry under -growth of blackberries and briar -roses. At
    Yeramba Lagoon the Pink Robin was observed in a grove of tall acacias beside a creek.
    It is of interest therefore to record that several people, including myself, observed Pink
    Robins in the Kosciusko National Park during the summer of 1970/1971 when was stationed
    there. The robins were observed in small flocks comprising 3 to 10 birds between 11 November
    1970 and 6 February 1971. Each flock contained adult males and females, although in the large
    flocks more immatures than adults were present. The sightings were made at Thredbo (altitude
    1400 m); Leather Barrel! Spur (1220 m) 22 km S.W. of Thredbo; and at Leather Barrell Creek
    (1160 m) 20 km S.W. of Thredbo. There was no indication that these birds had bred in the area.AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2) 39.
    The habitat in which the birds were found was wet sclerophyll forest dominated by
    E. de/egatensis Alpine Ash, E. pauciflora Snow Gum and Mountain Gum, with an understorey
    of acacias.
    The other observers included Ranger Naturalist B. Gall and four members of the Bird
    Observers Club. Localities where the birds were found are only 70 km north-west of where
    they are known to breed in the Snowy Mountains in Victoria. It is possible that these birds
    were post -breeding flocks of local or near local breeding populations. The birds have not been
    observed since 6 February 1971 as moved from the district in early 1972.
    Lamm et al (op. cit.) states that the Pink Robins observed in the Brindabella Ranges
    are regular winter visitors arriving after 1 April. It is possible that the Brindabella birds orio-
    inated from the breeding population that occurs in the Victorian section of the Snowy Mount-
    ains. Pink Robins are ground feeders hopping along the ground or perching in the lower bran-
    ches of acacias, being very difficult to observe in the wet gullies they frequent. Consequently,
    they are often overlooked, however, once observed the absence of white from the tail of all
    birds and the overall black of the neck, back, tail and wings of adult males, makes for easier
    identification. On close observation, the pink breast of the adult male is quite distinct from
    the breast colours of robins with similar breast markings.
    The present status therefore of the Pink Robin in New South Wales is that of a rare
    post -breeding visitor to the wet sclerophyll forests of the Snowy Mountains, with some birds
    wintering in the forests of the Southern Tablelands.
    J. W. TRUDGEON, Box 25, P.O., Gloucester. N.S.W. 2422
  • *
    On 14 June 1975, six members of the NSWFOC visited Pelican Point, Woolooware Bay,
    where at 1145 hrs Julie Strudwick drew attention to a bird in Coast Banksia Banksia inte-
    grifolia and Lantana camara thickets. Although singing in an undertone, this bird was very
    difficult to locate until it flew across open ground to a flowering Coral Tree Erythrina indica
    to feed on nectar. It was then identified by me as a Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater Anthochaera
    rufogularis, as I have previously observed this species in western New South Wales on numer-
    ous occasions.
    The bird was under observation for a period of three hours and the following notes
    were taken at the time on its description and behavour:- “Smaller than the Little Wattle -bird
    A. chrysoptera; fine dark streaks on crown, broader on back; tail dark brown tipped white;
    throat arid breast apricot buff, paler below with streaking; bill pink tipped black; white band40. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 10 (2)
    behind pink gape; blue eye. Flight was undulating with erratic wing beats. The bird fed in the
    Coral Tree, returning repeatedly to the thickets to sing, mostly in undertones, sometimes with
    the head thrown back. Louder bubbling calls were heard. The party agreed that only one bird
    was present. This bird has been recorded on subsequent occasions, the last time on 30 July,
    Prior to the outing there had been a record 34 day dry spell, with dry conditions inland.
    On 12 June heavy rain fell and gales up to 56 knots blew from the south and south-west.
    These conditions eased to a few light showers with south to south-west winds gusting up to
    30 knots on 14 June. These unusual weather conditions may have been responsible for the
    presence of this Honeyeater at Woolooware Bay.
    The Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater has only been identified in the Sydney District (County
    of Cumberland) on two previous occasions. On the first occasion Hindwood (1944 Aust. Zoo-
    logist 10:231-251) recorded that E. Nubling observed a single bird in his Normanhurst garden
    feeding on Montbretia blossoms on 8, 10, 13 and 16 August 1938. This varies slightly from
    the record by Hindwood and McGill (1958 The Birds of Sydney) which concerns “a pair of
    birds …. at Normanhurst during April, 1938…”. Mr. E. Hoskin has checked the record in
    Hindwood’s files and found that the original entry was ‘single bird’ but this was altered to
    ‘Pair’. The reference in the ‘Sydney Birds’ file mentions that the Normanhurst record should
    refer to two birds. The date ‘April 1938’ was a lapse for ‘August 1938’.
    These records also state that Mr. Nubling later examined skins of the Purple -gaped
    Honeyeater Meliphaga cratitia, Striped Honeyeater Plectorhyncha lanceolata and Spiny-
    cheeked Honeyeater, and confirmed that ‘the bird’ was definitely the latter. However,
    Hindwood’s careful alteration of the original entry to ‘Pair’ indicates there were two birds
    at Normanhurst. The later use of ‘the bird’ could be taken for a reference to ‘the species’.
    The second occasion was on 5 January 1963 when Peter Roberts heard a Spiny-cheeked
    Honeyeater calling near his home at Mt. Ku-ring-gai. He taped the call and by playback
    brought the bird into his garden where it stayed most of the morning. Next day he played
    the call to Keith Hindwood over the telephone. The Pelican Point observation therefore be-
    comes the third Sydney record.
    I wish to thank Mr. A. R. McGill and Mr. E. S. Hoskin for drawing my attention to
    previous records of Spiny-cheeked Honeyeaters in the Sydney district. Mr. McGill pointed
    out the variation in the published accounts of the Normanhurst ‘,cord. Mr. Hoskin supplied
    data from the late Keith Hindwood’s records and checked these notes. thank both for their
    interest and cheerful assistance. The Department of Science supplied the meteorological data.
    MRS DARIEL LARKINS, 225 Kissing Point Road, Turramurra. 2074.e:’S-,.,,’i’,’
    Holmes, G & Seabirds found dead in New South Wales in 1974. .. 21
    A. K. Morris
    Hoskin, E. S. Breeding Records for the Darter and the Little Black armorant
    in the Sydney District .. 32
    Sonter, Chris Display of the Black -fronted Dotterel .. 35
    McGill, Arnold The Painted Honeyeater on the North Coast of New South Wales 36
    Trudgeon, J. W. The Pink Robin in New South Wales 38

Larkins, Dariel A Third Sydney Record of the Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater 39

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