Vol. 12 No. 1-text

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Journal of the
Volume 12 No. September, 1977

Registered for Posting as a Periodical, Category B Price $1.50THE N.S.W. FIELD ORNITHOLOGISTS CLUB
W. Boles
The object of the Club is to promote the study and conservation of Australian birds and the
habitats they occupy.
Annual subscription rates of the Club (due 1st July each year) are:
Single Member (within Co. of Cumberland) $6.00
Single Member (Country and overseas) $5.00
Family Member $7.00
Junior Member $3.00
All members receive a quarterly newsletter and a copy of the quarterly journal “Australian
Birds”. The price of the journal is $1.50 plus postage per issue to non-members. Club badges
are available to club members at $1.30 or $1.50 if posted. The Club holds a meeting and a
field excursion each month.
All correspondence should be addressed to the Hon. Secretary at:
90 Picnic Point Road, Picnic Point. 2213
All membership fees should be sent to the Hon. Treasurer at:
18 Russell Street, Oatley. 2223
Manuscripts should be sent to the Editor at:
P.O. Box 39, Coonabarabran. 2857AUSBALIAli
Volume 12 No. September, 1977
have recently had access to seabird log -books written by seafarers during their voyages
in Tasmanian waters.
One was by Captain R. Ainsworth, for many years master of several vessels of Union
Steamship Co. of N.Z. Ltd. Much of his time was spent on regular routes between Hobart

and Port Pirie, South Australia, Melbourne, Sydney or Newcastle. His log covers the years

1948 to 1958 with the following gaps

June 1949 December 1949, when he was in N.Z. waters,

March 1952 June 1952

  • )
    April 1953 July 1953
  • periods of annual leave

April 1954 July 1954

January 1955 April 1955

  • 1
    November 1955 March 1958, in N.Z. waters.
    He has told me that his notes on observations in New Zealand have been given to the
    Dominion Museum, Wellington, N.Z. Before his transfer to the Australian coastal trade he
    had many years of experience on the New Zealand coast, during which he studied seabirds
    and recorded his observations.
    The other log -book was compiled by L. A. Amiet, a radio officer with Burns Philp
    vessels about 20 years ago and more recently with an Australian National Line vessel. Much
    of his time has been spent on the Queensland coast and his log records detailed observations
    over a long period. Four of his papers have been published in “The Emu”.2. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 12 (1)
    In 1959/1961 he paid ten visits from Queensland waters to Melbourne or Hobart, all
    between the months of March and August. From these logs all records of observations in
    Bass Strait and around Tasmanian coasts have been summarised as set out below.
    Most of Ainsworth’s observations were made during voyages between Hobart and Port
    Pirie and in a great majority of these the East Coast route was taken in preference to the
    West Coast route. The East Coast route is about 130 km longer but it generally provides
    some shelter from the prevailing westerly weather and takes less time. The West Coast route
    was used only in easterly weather which is unusual in the Tasmanian region. Fewer birds
    were seen in West Coast then in East Coast waters. He also made the observation that
    “albatrosses do not generally go through Banks Strait (between north-eastern Tasmania and
    the Furneaux group of islands) with a ship” but specifically noted some occasions when this
    did happen. It seems that these were the only occurrences which he observed and they are
    recorded under the species involved.
    Wandering Albatross Diomedea exulans
    Present throughout the year in all waters with 262 entries in Ainsworth’s log. The
    greatest number seen was 100+ near Tasman Island on 26 March 1949; on two other days
    he saw 20 or more, and on 14 days he recorded between 10 and 20. On only one occasion
    during West Coast voyages were as many as ten birds seen. On 13 October 1955 two birds
    followed his ship through Banks Strait. Amiet recorded this species on 27 days, on six of
    which he saw at least ten birds.
    Royal Albatross D. epomophora
    Ainsworth observed one near Maria Island, off the East Coast, on 20 November 1950.
    He reported another occurrence at Eddystone Point on16 July 1959 to a meeting of Tas-
    manian Field Naturalists’ Club but this is not shown in his log. In neither instance did he
    give a detailed description, but in view of his close experience of the species over a long
    period in New Zealand waters no doubt on his identification was expressed. The first pub-
    lished record of this species in Australia was in 1960 (Gibson et al. 1962) but believe
    these occurrences should be recorded.
    Amiet did not record this species.
    Black-browed Albatross D. melanophrys
    Present throughout the year on all coasts. Ainsworth recorded it on 220 days; on
    seven occasions there were 20 or more birds and on 26 occasions between 10 and 20.
    Larger numbers were recorded between May and October.
    Amiet’s log has 24 entries with maximum numbers of 20, 18, 12, 10 (five times).
    Grey -headed Albatross D. chrysostoma
    Ainsworth recorded only one, in July 1948 in Bass Strait.
    Amiet recorded three individuals, all in Bass Strait, in March 1959 and in May and
    July 1961.
    Yellow -nosed Albatross D. chlororhynchus
    Ainsworth only recorded it six times in Bass Strait and once in Storm Bay, single
    birds on five occasions and pairs twice, in the months of July and August 1948, AugustSeptember, 1977 3.
    1951 and June, July and August in 1952.
    Amiet had four single records, all in Bass Strait, one in May, one in June and two
    in July.
    These indicate that the species is only in these waters during the winter months but
    there is one record for Storm Bay in January 1972 (Wall 1973).
    White -capped Albatross D. cauta
    Present throughout the year on all coasts. Ainsworth recorded it on 134 days; on
    three days there were 20 or more and on four days between 10 and 20. The highest num-
    ber seen was 50 off Tasman Island on 11 September 1951. The larger numbers were in May,
    September and January, all off Tasman Island except on 16 January 1955 when 20 were
    seen on the West Coast.
    He noted that this species does not mix with Black-browed Albatrosses and keeps
    further away from the ship.
    Amiet recorded ten on one occasion on the East Coast, but mostly they were in ones
    or twos.
    “Sooty” Albatross Phoebetria sp.
    Ainsworth recorded ten sightings, all in 1948 between April and October, mostly single
    birds but on one occasion four birds, in June they were stated to be “numerous at Tasman
    Amiet recorded two following the ship in Storm Bay on 4 March 1959 and one in Bass
    Strait on 10 May 1961.
    Both authors recorded these birds as P. fitsca but probably Light -mantled Albatrosses
    P. palebrata were also included as immatures of both species are difficult to differentiate
    at sea.
    Giant Petrel Macronectes sp.
    Two species have been recognised since 1962 but both the logbooks referred to here
    were before that time so that the species must remain uncertain. No white birds, which
    belong to the species M giganteus were recorded by either observer but this does not
    indicate that this species was absent. It is well-known that both species occur regularly in
    Australian waters throughout the year (Serventy et at, 1971).
    Ainsworth’s log has 164 entries, mostly of between one and six birds but 20 on one
    occasion and between 10 and 20 on four occasions. The larger numbers were all recorded
    between October and December and all but one on the East Coast. On 11 November 1951
    and 17 October 1952 a single bird followed the ship westwards through Banks Strait. The

entry for 13 February 1949 noted “inclined to believe Giant Petrels live on East Coast of

Tasmania until breeding time often seen”.
Amiet recorded 20 on the East Coast on 18 July 1961 though generally they were in
ones or twos.
Cape Petrel Daption capense
Ainsworth’s log has 60 entries from all coasts. It was seen regularly between July and
November with other records in May (twice), June (five times and December (once).4. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 12 (1)
Fifteen entries refer to ten or more birds with a maximum number of 50 seen on 11 Oct-
ober 1954.
Amiet recorded small numbers in Bass Strait and on the East Coast with one East
Coast sighting of more than 100 on 18 July 1961.
Great -winged Petrel Pterodroma macroptera
Ainsworth recorded this species on 11 occasions from all coasts and between the
months of March and October. Most sightings were of single birds but one was of 50 in
Bass Strait on 18 September 1954.
Amiet has only one occurrence, two birds near Maria Island on June 1961.
White -headed Petrel P. lessonii

Ainsworth had no records.

Amiet’s log shows three occurrences several off N.E. Tasmania on 28 June 1961,
one in Eastern Bass Strait on 17 July 1961 and one on the East Coast on 18 July 1961.
Antarctic Prion Pachyptila desolata
Amiet saw “at least two with narrow tail -bands” among a large flock of Fairy Prions
on the East Coast on 18 July 1961, but identification as this species must remain uncertain.
Ainsworth did not record any.
Fairy Prion P. turtur

Ainsworth recorded this species throughout the year on all coasts and in large numb-

ers. There are 81 entries in his log but only one on the West Coast a few only on 1
May 1955.
Amiet’s log has five entries, presumably of this species (broad tail -band) in Bass Strait
and on the East Coast, one flock of 1000+ on 18 July 1961.
Grey Petrel Procellaria cinerea
Ainsworth recorded these four times between the months of April and August and on
all coasts. The maximum number seen was three.
Amiet did not record it.
Black Petrel P. parkinsoni
Ainsworth has no records and Amiet only one, on 3 March 1959. His log reads: –
“3/3/59 9 a.m. Off Flinders Island one passed close to ship. The yellowish white bill and
whitish under primaries n -o ticeable. 2 p.m. Off N.E. Tas. three. 5 p.m. S. of Eddystone
Point 50+ Black Petrels singly or in scattered groups over the sea”. The description he
gave plus the fact that there is only one other Australian record makes the identification
Wedge-tailed Shearwater Puffinus pacificus
Amiet recorded one in Eastern Bass Strait on 15 June 1961 and about ten in the
same area on 16 July 1961. There are no other records by either Amiet or Ainsworth.September, 1977 5.
Doubt has been expressed about the correctness of identification, and no detailed des-
cription was included in the log, but Amiet had spent years in Queensland waters and was
very familiar with this species. It has recently been reported also (Rogers, 1975) that the
Wedge-tailed Shearwater is migratory and not sedentary as previously believed, adding another
cause to question these entries in Amiet’s log. While this may be so it is certain that some
migratory birds do not follow the usual routine and migrate with the great majority of their
species, and the Short -tailed Shearwater has been known to remain in the southern hemis-
phere throughout the winter.
Sooty Shearwater P griseus
Ainsworth recorded one in Bass Strait in May 1948.
Short -tailed Shearwater P. tenuirostris
By far the most numerous seabird during the warmer months of the year. Early records
by Ainsworth were on 4 September 1948 and 14 September 1955 when large flocks were
seen in Storm Bay and the East Coast respectively. He also has late records on May 1949,
a small flock at Tasman Island, on 5 May 1950 a small flock in Bass Strait and on 16 May

1955 a small flock at Tasman Island.

Winter records were one at Tasman Island on 8 June 1951, and one in South Aust-
ralian waters on 29 July 1951 and one in Bass Strait on 11 August 1951.
Amiet recorded them on only one voyage. On 3 March 1959 there were scattered birds
throughout eastern Bass Strait and the East Coast. Several thousands were seen later that
afternoon and next morning about ten thousand in Storm Bay. On the northern voyage a
few days later several thousands were seen, with numbers diminishing until the last bird was
seen off Jervis Bay. N.S.W.

Fluttering Shearwater P. gavia

Ainsworth had eight entries two in January, one in March, one in June, two in July,
one in September and one in December. Small flocks were seen on five occasions and single
birds on three occasions.

Wilson’s Storm -petrel Oceanites oceanicus

Ainsworth had seven entries two in March, two in April and one each in July, Oct-
ober and November. Most were of single birds but a flock of 20 was seen east of Banks
Strait on 5 November 1953.
White-faced Storm -petrel Pelagodronia marina
Ainsworth record -e d them 11 times, generally single birds, well spread through the year.
Larger numbers were 50 in Bass Strait on 22 December 1952, 20 on the East Coast on
6 January 1953, and “numerous” in Bass Strait on 13 September 1955.

Common Diving -petrel Pelecanoides urinatrix

Ainsworth recorded them on eight occasions, all on the East Coast one in April,
one in May, one in June, two in July, one in August and two in September. Generally

singles or in small flocks, but a large flock was seen on 12 September 1950.

Amiet recorded them five times, all in small numbers once in Storm Bay and four
times in Bass Strait.6. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 12 (1)
Australian Gannet Morus serrator
Ainsworth’s log had 14 entries, none of which was on the West Coast, six times in
March, one in April, one in October, three in November and three in December. The max-
imum number seen was eight.
Amiet’s log had ten entries, mostly in Bass Strait, and all between the months of
March and August. On 15 July 1961, in Bass Strait (?) were 400+ “in lee of land, many
immature”. In Bass Strait on 16 July he recorded 30+ and on 30th April 1960 20+.

Black -faced Cormorant Phalacrocorax JUscesectis

Ainsworth recorded “three 40 miles east of Flinders Island on 20 April 1951 strong
west wind, very rough sea, overcast and squally”.
Amiet reported on 8 July 1960 “six seen on rocky islet off Wilson’s Promontory (seen
in the same position on other occasions during the winter and spring)”.
White -breasted Sea -eagle Haliaeetus leucogaster

Ainsworth recorded on 30 October 1954 that two were seen about 48 km west of

Strahan on the West Coast at 3 p.m. moderate N.E. wind.
Great Skua Stercorarius skua
Ainsworth recorded them regularly between June and August with a total of 34 entries.

There were seldom more than three together. The earliest was on 26 March 1953 and the

latest on 21 November 1954. Only once did he see one on the West Coast

1955 and this was the first for that season. The largest number seen was seven in Port
Philip Bay in August 1948.
Amiet recorded them regularly, his earliest seasonal record was on 11 March 1959
off the East Coast.
Arctic Skua S. parasiticus
Ainsworth recorded these regularly between the months of December and April, with
a total of 26 entries. All were in Bass Strait or in Storm Bay, with no sightings off either
East or West Coasts. Generally less than six were seen on any occasion but 15 were seen
in Bass Strait on 2 March 1958 and 12 in the Derwent Estuary on 22 March 1950. The
earliest seasonal record was on 6 November 1952 and the latest on 30 April 1949.
Amiet recorded this species three times, all in Bass Strait.
Pomarine Skua S. pomarinus
Ainsworth recorded them three times in Bass Strait, once in November 1948, once in
December 1948 and once in March 1949. His only other reference to this species was of
24 in d’Entrecasteaux Channel, which separates Bruny Island from Tasmania, on 12 Febru-
ary 1949. All of these records pre -date the first published record for Tasmania (Milledge,
Silver Gull Larus tuwaehollaticliae
Ainsworth did not record them.September, 1977 7.
Amiet recorded them following the ship on several occasions with one special mention,
“6 July 1961, eastern Bass Strait, although 60 miles from land three birds came to ship
apparently from a ship passing through Bass Strait on a course towards New Zealand. It is
most unusual to see this species so far from lana”.
Pacific Gull L. pacilicus
Ainsworth’s log has only four entries, all apparently close to the coast.
Amiet has only three records, all in Bass Strait. One perched in the ship’s rigging.
Southern Black -backed Gull L. dominicamis
Ainsworth had no records.
Amiet recorded one in Bass Strait near the Victorian coast on 16 August 1960. At
this time none had been recorded in northern Tasmania (Thomas 1966).
Crested Tern Sterna bergii

Ainsworth did not record them.

Amiet recorded them twice in Bass Strait three on 1 June 1960 and ten on 16
August 1960, both close to the Victorian coast.
Gibson J. D. & 1962 First Australian Record of the Royal Albatross.
A. R. Sefton Emu 62: 167-168.
Milledge D. R. 1973 A Record of the Pomarine Skua in Tasmanian Waters.
Tas. Naturalist No. 35.
Rogers A. E. F. 1975 Movements of Wedge-tailed Shearwaters Off the Coast
of N.S.W. Emu 75: 178-180.
Serventy D. L., 1971 The Handbook of Australian Sea -birds Sydney:
V. N. Serventy & A. H. & A. W. Reed.
J. Warham
Thomas D. G. 1966 The Dominican Gull in Tasmania. Emu 66: 296.
Wall L. E. 1973 Yellow -nosed Albatross in Tasmanian Waters. Tas.
Naturalist No. 32.
LEONARD E. WALL 63 Elphinstone Road, North Hobart, Tasmania. 70008. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 12 (1)
On 24 October 1976 in a small patch of rainforest on Tuglo Wildlife Refuge (49 km
north of Singleton, New South Wales) two Fantail Cuckoos Cuculus pvrrophanusVieillot were
observed for some time. They undertook frequent short flights on a fairly small, relatively
open area of the forest, usually landing within a metre of one another. One was in full adult
plumage and was originally located by tracing its call. The other, which made no sound, was
a little paler in upper parts and paler rufous on the breast. After about six short flights, the
darker specimen landed close to the paler and fed it, the food was clearly visible, the birds
being at the most seven metres away.
The birds seemed to become aware of me and the darker specimen flew openly in a
sweeping flight close to me, landing in a fairly conspicuous position nearby. The paler speci-
men flew directly into a thicket of dense vegetation and could not be found again, presum-
ably having passed right through the thicket.
As there are comparatively few published records of adult cuckoos feeding one another
and apparently, none for Fantail Cuckoos, this instance seems worth recording. Also, it is
interesting to note the behaviour change in the darker bird from the usual quiet, unobtrusive
behaviour to unusually conspicuous behaviour; this appeared to be aimed at attracting atten-
tion to itself and away from the other bird. The darker bird was probably a fully adult male
and the paler bird probably a female.
C N. SMITHERS, The Australian Museum, College Street, Sydney. 2000
The 1926 R.A.O.U. Official Checklist did not specifically indicate that New South Wales
was in the range of the Yellow -fronted Honeyeater Meliphaga plumula, no doubt assuming
that “Interior of A.” included that State’s inland areas. Both the 1908 and 1913 Checklists,
however, clearly mentioned N.S.W. However, when was gathering data for my book (A. R.
McGill 1960 Handlist of the Birds of New South Wales) previous to its publication could
find practically no information by any direct observation within the State’s boundaries.
had observed, whilst travelling to the Hattah R.A.O.U. Camp in October 1951 with Jim Pal-
mer, a bird that I felt sure was this species at Tabbita, northwest of Griffith. In seeking
confirmation of the record wrote to Harry Frith, then residing at Griffith, and he affirmed
in reply that it had been recorded on a few occasions in the Tabbita area. Whilst that assur-
ed me the record could well be correct I was surprised as I had not mentioned that locality
expressly in my letter!
In 1958 Allen Keast, then at the Australian Museum, secured some specimens south-
west of Nyngan, where he found them common. But evidence still indicated a “very rare”
State status was warranted when wrote that Hand List. Subsequent observations do now
ISeptember, 1977 9.
show that it is far from being a rare bird. When observing in the Ivanhoe district with John
Hobbs in September 1975 it could safely be regarded as the most abundant species in a
wide stretch of mallee country east of the Ivanhoe-Cobar road. had also found numbers
earlier in semi-mallee between Wentworth and Broken Hill.
During October 1976 Jim Dixon and again found it common in mallee near Weeth-
alle, although know of no other observation of the species in that area, which could be
its known farthest east record in New South Wales. However, it is noted that V. Jenkins
and R. Miller (1976 Aust. Birds 10:41-49) observed them nesting in mallee between Wee-
thalle and Barellan in 1975. As the Yellow -plumed Honeyeater Meliphaga ornata is an
abundant and largely -resident bird of the mallee in that part of the State, it proved inter-
esting to watch the behaviour of each. There was little doubt that ornata was greatly dis-
turbed by what apparently was an intrusion by a closely -related species into its territory
and hostility was noticeable by both voice and attack. During the time of our stay it was
difficult to get extended observations of a bird perched to carefully check the identification
markings but it did appear that both species were somewhat equal in numbers. The calls of
ornata were noticeably dominant and incessant as numbers of each species flew back and
forth as we watched and it was safe to assume that plumula had only recently moved into
the area to feast on the prolific blossoming mallee.
Identification of both ornata and plumula is not always easy, but helpful is the fact
that the former is heavily -streaked underneath and the black neck -patch is quite narrow
and not noticeably prominent, whilst in plumula the underparts are lightly striped and the
black bar much wider and quite prominent. The lores of the latter species also are dusky
and in ornata they are greenish. The calls of each are distinctive, but in our observations
those of ornata were so incessant and loud that we could scarcely distinguish whether any
plumula were voicing protest.
These two species, together with the Grey -headed Honeyeater Meliphaga keartlandi
form the Sacramela group of Mathews, and there is little doubt that all three are closely
related by appearance, size and habits. Whilst the known range of ornata and keartlandi
do not come in contact, that of plumula overlaps both the other two, and wherever that
happens the reaction of each pair of species should provide fascinating field study.
Whilst R. Schodde (1975 Interim List of Australian Songbirds) could well be right
in regarding Meliphaga as a large complicated genus and re -introducing Lichenostomus to
“break it up”, the Sacramela group of G. Mathews (1923 Australian Avian Record 5:37)
would clearly fit into that latter genus. As this group also includes such aberrant species
as the Bridled M. frenata, White -gaped M. unicolor and Yellow -tufted Honeyeaters
M. melanops also, it is far safer to retain Meliphaga as a whole until birds, such as the
last-mentioned three and others be safely consigned to acceptable genera also. The name
of Grey -fronted Honeyeater has also been advocated for plumula as a more correct Engl-
ish vernacular, but the long-established “Yellow -fronted” is not entirely wrong as the
upper parts of the “forehead” of the bird are yellowish. Maybe the even older name of
Plumed Honeyeater could be used if Yellow -fronted Honeyeater be considered misleading.
A. R. McGill, 95 Nuwarra Road, Moorehank. N.S.W. 217010. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 12 (1)
The coloured male White -winged Wren Malurus leucopterus normally has the whole body
and tail glossy cobalt blue and flight feathers dull blackish -brown with only the shoulders
(coverts) and scapulars white (A. R. McGill 1970 Australian Warblers; T. D. Macdonald 1973
Birds of Australia).
On 1 October 1976, a male was collected by M. Dingley at the Bulloo River Overflow,
60 km east of Tibooburra, New South Wales. It differed from the above description and other
individuals observed in the area in having the entire back from nape to lower mantle, includ-
ing the region of the interscapular gap in the spinal feather tract, the same silvery -white as
the coverts and scapulars. The rump was a mixture of bicoloured blue and white feathers
which produced a greyish appearance. The underside was similar to the rump. The head was
the normal blue with occasional white feathers on the crown and ear coverts. On the left
wing the first, second and third primaries, and on the right wing the third, fifth, sixth and
seventh primaries were partially or wholly white. The first three secondaries on both wings
were white as were all the tertials. The tail was blue as normal and considerably worn. The
nape, mantle, uppertail coverts, throat, crown and chin were in active moult.
When dissected by W. E. Boles, it had enlarged gonads (left teste 8 x 8 mm, right
teste 7 x 9 mm) and a fully pneumatised skull. The bird has been prepared by M. Dingley
and placed in The Australian Museum (AM 0.45806).
J. Gould (1865 Proc. Zool. Soc. Lond. 198-199) described M. leuconotus from such a
white backed specimen. An examination of The Australian Museum collection revealed sim-
ilar specimens from Mt. Lyndhurst near Farina (S.A.) and Silverton, New South Wales. This char-
acter appears to be highly variable with the greatest frequency of occurrence near Lake
Torrens and Frome, South Australia (Macdonald loc. cit.).
It is not, however, as suggested by Macdonald, due to wearing of feather tips with sub-
sequent exposure of white bases. This specimen had pure white feathers, still in the sheath,
emerging from the nape and mantle.
M DINGLEY The Australian Museum, Sidney. N.S.W. 2000September, 1977 11.
On 3 November 1976, whilst bird watching at the sewerage works at Griffith, a male
Painted Snipe Rostratula benghalensis was observed at the edge of an evaporation pond. The
pond contained a short growth of Cumbungi Tvpha sp. stems, about 40 cm high. The edge
of the pond was covered by a thick layer of Water Couch Paspalum sp.
The Painted Snipe did not flush in the usual manner, but moved along in a semi –
crouched position about six metres in front of me. followed the bird for about 20
metres before it flushed. This action indicated that the bird may be incubating eggs or
rearing a clutch of young. A search was made of the area where I first saw the bird, but
neither nest nor young could be found.
The next day I proceeded direct to the locality where I first saw the Painted Snipe.
Hidden by a levee bank until within ten metres, crossed the bank and flushed the bird
almost directly from the nest. The nest was about three metres from the bank edge in
a tuft of Cumbungi. Nest lining consisted of short pieces of Cumbungi and fine roots.
In water 20 cm deep, the nest was five centimetres above water level, the egg cavity was
one centimetre deep and 13 cm across.
A clutch of four eggs was lying with the smaller ends inwards. The eggs which were
pear shaped, were damp on the underside and slightly glossy. Ground colour was brownish –
bone, with overmarkings, blotches and small streaks of black, olive and grey. Markings
were slightly heavier toward the larger end of the egg.
The nest was inspected on five occasions to 17 November 1976. Each time the
behaviour of the adult was noted. On 7 and 10 November, the bird was found squatting
on the grass at the bank edge and allowed an approach of three metres before flushing.
On each visit the bird was very difficult to locate and on 14 November was not seen
until it flushed from within one metre of where had passed it. On flushing each time

the bird produced loose, white excreta when about one metre above the ground. On 16

November at 1500 hours, the four eggs were found chipped the chicks could be heard
calling from within their shells.
At 0800 hours on 17 November the nest was approached and the adult observed
at the edge of the bank in a very peculiar attitude. Standing in shallow water, the bill
and eye -line were parrellel to the water line, the body was vertical and the buff coloured
“V” on the bird’s back blended with the grass stems. The bird flushed and the nest was
The nest contained only one chick, and shell from two hatched eggs. Time did not
permit a thorough search of the area for the remainder of the clutch but my thoughts
are that the adult was in the process of transferring the chicks singularly from the nest
site to the bank. The chick was pale brown with a dorsal stripe of chestnut down the
centre of the back and on the crown. The dorsal stripe was edged black on both sides,
with an outer black stripe over the wings and over the eye.
R. MOFFATT, P.O. Box 1532, Griffith. N.S.W. 268012. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 12 (1)
Shortly after dark on 8 April 1968 was walking on Woolooware Golf Course when
a Boobook Owl Ninox nc»,aczee/andiae was observed hawking for insects from a perch in a
Swamp Oak Casuarina glauca. Although had often walked on the golf course after dark
(to observe migrating swans, small bats, and possums) a Boobook Owl had not been seen
here before. Another was observed on 12 April 1968 and, on 25 April 1969 a Boobook Owl
(the same one?) was discovered roosting amid the foliage of a Eucalypt at Woolooware Public
School. On the right of 3 July 1971 I was again walking on the golf course when a Boobook
Owl was flushed from a small drain.
On 9 March 1971 some school children drew my attention to a Boobook Owl roosting
in a poplar tree at Observatory Hill, some few yards from the heavy traffic crossing the Syd-
ney Harbour Bridge. Single birds were seen on 10 and 14 March, 18 April, and 1 and 5 June
1971, roosting in either the poplar or a palm. All of these records were obtained during the
day. On the night of 8 June one was seen perched in a Moreton Bay Fig Ficus macrophylla
at Argyle Place. On the night of 18 June one was seen in a Moreton Bay Fig at Observatory
Although lived in the area until early 1972 the species was not seen again during

  1. There are no records for 1972 to 1974 as moved from the area and rarely visited
    Observatory Hill during this period. On 5 July 1975 a visit was made to Observatory Hill
    where an owl was found asleep in a palm. An attempt was made to net the bird in order
    to band it but it escaped. A further attempt was made to catch it on 20 July 1975 but it
    escaped when the net caught on a barb of a palm. I again attempted to net it on 3 April
  2. However it was extremely wary and flew to a taller tree. After dark a hawk trap,
    containing a mouse, was placed under its perch. The owl attacked it twice only to be
    scared off by passers-by. It eventually lost interest in the trap.
    These sightings all occurred between March and July. It would appear that the birds
    are absent from these areas during the Spring and Summer months when breeding would
    usually occur. Both these areas are lacking in trees containing hollow spouts and other suit-
    able nesting sites so the birds probably leave these areas to breed in more suitable areas.
    An interesting question arises. Why don’t the owls remain in the breeding areas dur-
    ing the winter If they were Sydney birds there would be no apparent reason for them to
    leave their breeding areas which would have so much, if not more, food available. Their
    appearances at roosting sites seem to be too regular to be explained as juvenile wanderings.
    For these reasons it is considered that these owls are not Sydney birds.
    Other observers have recorded similar winter occurrences of Boobook Owls in other
    areas in or near Sydney. Mr. J. Disney has kept extensive records of a bird that has roost-
    ed in Hyde Park, City, mainly during the autumn and winter months. These records are
    detailed in Table 1. Records were kept throughout the year but the owl was only present
    on the dates shown in the table.September, 1977 13.
    Although the owl was observed during the period 13 October to 30 November 1970
    it was not recorded later than mid -September in subsequent years. The bird seems to dis-
    appear from Hyde Park during September and returns during January or February. The
    unusual dates during 1970 may indicate that the bird was too young to breed or that the
    breeding season was late that year.
    Mr. A. Colemane has kept records of the presence of an owl at Richmond since
    1972, see Table 11. According to the property owner the owl has been visiting his barn
    for seventeen years, only during the autumn and winter months. Although the owls at
    Hyde Park and Richmond are assumed to be the same ones returning annually there is the
    possibility rather unlikely that more than one bird is involved at each location.
    During March 1976 Miss A. Read observed a Boobook Owl roosting in a tree at St.
    Marks Church, Camperdown. This would probably be a winter, city owl and may return
    annually to spend the colder months in the church grounds and nearby areas.
    It is clear from the observations herein that there is an annual movement of Boo –
    book Owls into certain areas of Sydney during the autumn and winter months. It is not
    clear, however, why this occurs or from where the birds come. Perhaps they have mig-
    rated from summer breeding areas west of the Divide or in Victoria or Tasmania, as
    these areas usually experience harsher winters than Sydney, where food may be more
    The assistance of J. Disney and A. Colemane for providing records of Boobook
    Owls at Hyde Park and Richmond is greatly appreciated.
    G. P. CLANCY, 512 Blake Street, Kogarah. N.S. W. 221714. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 12 (1)
    1970 13/10, 14/10, 28/10, 5/11, 9/11, 16/11, 17-20/11, 30/11
    1971 19/3, 23/3, 2/4, 7/4, 3/5, 8/5, 31/5, 1/6, 4/6, 18/6, 23/6, 25/6, 28-30/6, 2/7,
    17/7, 12/8, 13/8, 24/8, 25/8, 13/9
    1972 26/1, 3/2, 22/2, 24,/4, 28/4, 30/4, 1-5/5, 7/5, 8/5, 22/5, 5/5, 13/6, 2-4/7,
    6-8/7, 10-13/7, 17-19/7, 21/7, 10/8, 11/8, 28-31/8, 1/9, 4-6/9
    1973 26/2, 6/3, 17/4, 24/4, 26/4, 40/4, 1-4/5, 7-9/5, 15/5, 19/5, 21-23/5, 25/5,
    28-31/5, 1/6, 4/6, 5/6, 12/6, 14-16/6, 18-22/6, 25-28/6, 2-4/7, 9/7, 10/7, 19/7,
    20/7, 23/7, 30/7, 2/8, 15-17/8, 20-22/8
    1974 late/2, 21/5, 28/5
    1972 1/7, 14/7, 28/7
    1973 7/4, 21/4, 28/4, 19/5, 2/6, 16/6, 30/6, 7/7, 11/8, 25/8
    1974 6/4, 20/4, 11/5, 25/5, 15/6, 29/6, 6/7, 10/8
    1975 22/3, 30/3, 19/4, 24/5, 7/6, 14/6, 2/8
    1976 17/4, 5/6, 10/7September, 1977 15.
    On 31 January 1977 at 1800 hrs, my family and were driving towards Tichborne
    near Parkes, when a loose flock of ten birds was observed, thought to be Black -shouldered
    Kites Elanus notatus, flying towards a dead tree, 500m from the Newell Highway. As two
    birds flew over the car towards the rest of the flock, I was surprised to see a black stripe
    in the shape of an “M” on the underwings of both birds. This wing stripe is the identify-
    ing feature of the Letter -winged Kite E. scriptus.
    From a side road it was possible to move to within ten metres from the tree, and
    only one bird was scared by my approach, moving to a higher limb. Again the black under –
    wing marking was observed. The birds appeared to be remarkably tame and took no notice
    of a car that moved past their tree, which was situated between the road and a large stripp-
    ed wheat paddock.
    When perched, six of the birds resembled an adult Black -shouldered Kite, though poss-
    ibly the black patch on the shoulder appeared bigger than in that species. The eye colour
    varied from red to brown with the black strip from the bill not going beyond the eye, a
    feature of the Black -shouldered Kite. From my observations it appeared that these letter –
    winged Kites did not perch as upright as the former. Two birds were observed to hang
    their wings out loosely and all birds appeared to be suffering from the effects of the part-
    icularly hot day as they were continually panting. Four birds were on one limb and each
    showed faint brown edgings to their feathers on the head and wings and probably were
    immatures. All birds were observed to have the black strip on the underwing.
    The flock was under observation with 10 x 50 binoculars from 1800 to 2000 hrs
    and during this time the birds never moved far away from the tree. Only one was heard
    calling and I interpreted the call as repeated “kack”, which could be the call that J. D.
    McDonald (1973 Birds of Australia) refers to as “kar”. Most of the birds spent the time
    preening and mutual preening was observed between two birds considered to be immat-
    ures. The flock was harassed by one Willy Wagtail Rhipidura leucophrys and a small flock

of Yellow -throated Miners Manorina flavigula, but the only action taken by the Letter

winged Kites was to move higher in the tree or make a short flight, then return to the
When left at 2000 hrs it was thought that the flock was going to use the trees to
roost in for the night. returned to the site at 2130 hrs and although it was dark, there
was sufficient light to make out with my binoculars, two birds perched in the tree, one
of which later left, moving out towards the open paddock.
I informed J. D. Woodhouse of the location and he made a visit early the next morn-
ing without success, as the flock had appeared to have left the area. know of no other
observation of this species in this region and can offer no explanation for their occurrence
near Tichborne. There were no mammal plagues in the area at the time although there had
been a small hatching of Plague Locust.16. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 12 (1)
Slater (1970 A Field Guide to Australian Birds Non -passerines) gives this species
range as the arid interior, irrupting during drought times into coastal areas and this could
be the most logical reason for the birds appearance at Tichborne.
N. W. SCHRADER, 28 Best Street, Parkes. N.S. W. 2870
The Black Honeyeater Certhionvx niger is usually considered to be an inland species
which has been recorded rarely in the County of Cumberland. There are only three known
records for the County as given by K. A. Hindwood (1944 Aust. Zool. 10:231-251) viz.
observed nesting during 1902 at Bundeena, Royal National Park by N. W. Cayley and the
eggs were reported to be collected by A. J. North; Henry Grant recorded them at Haber –
field “many years ago”; and on 15 November 1940 H. Pier, recorded a male in his garden
at Penshurst. Therefore an observation of this bird after an interval of 37 years is worth
On 23 April 1977 R. Graves and the author visited a heathland area off Old North-
ern Road near Maroota, 30 km north-west of Sydney. The day was bright and sunny, many
heath flowers were in bloom and several species of honeyeaters were present feeding on the
nectar. At 9.30 hours a small brownish honeyeater was observed feeding at a banksia flower
and because it was so different to the other species present, notes were made of its descri-
ption and habits. Our notes read “a small brown bird somewhat like a spinebill (= Eastern
Spinebill Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris), curved black bill, dark iris, dark brown back, tail
brownish, wing primaries lighter brown, breast has mottled appearance, fading to light
brown underparts, flight erratic.” The bird was kept under observation for four minutes
before being chased away by a very pugnacious White -eared Honeyeater Lichenostomus
leucotis and was not seen again.
On consulting a number of texts particularly P. Slater (1974 Field Guide to Austral-
ian Birds: Passerines) and Readers Digest (1976 Complete Book of Australian Birds pp.505)
we found that the bird in question very closely agreed with descriptions and illustrations
of the female Black Honeyeater. Skins were later checked at the Australian Museum before
positive identification was certain. It is coincidental that N. W. Cayley (1968 What Bird is
that? 5th Edn.) states that the Black Honeyeater has a preference for burnt out areas in
the inland, for on the day of observation, winter burn -offs were being carried out in the
general area where the bird was observed.
A. COLEMANE, 7 Redbank Place, Northmead NS. W. 2152.September, 1977 17.
The Crested Hawk Ariceda subcristata is a regular annual visitor to the Mullumbimby
area during the spring and summer months. The preferred habitat appears to be the flats
bordering the Brunswick River between Mullumbimby and Brunswick Heads, the habitat
being a mixture of cleared and forested areas. However, in spite of the frequency of sight-
ings the overall impression is that the bird’s numbers are limited to one or occasionally two
During August 1976 there was a noticeable influx of Crested Hawks into the Mullum-
bimby area, which appeared to be part of a southward movement. On 4 August four birds
were seen flying over the town heading south. They were flying at about 100 m in close,
almost diamond formation. On 13 August a bird was observed in the main street of Mull-
umbimby. My attention was first attracted by the alarm notes of a Blue -faced Honeyeater
Entonlyzon cyanotis from a low fig tree alongside vacant land. As I approached the tree a
Crested Hawk rose from tall grass and landed on a fence post where it proceeded to tear
and eat pieces of a frog it was holding. It was quite indifferent to traffic passing within a
few metres and allowed me to approach to within ten metres before flying further along
a side street.
Reports during the next two weeks of unidentified hawks in the town area came to
me from interested persons and on my investigating found them to be Crested Hawks. Just
how many Hawks were involved it is difficult to say. One bird regularly frequented a
closely built-up area, usually remaining in five metre fig trees close to a bird -feeding table

used daily by Scaly -breasted Lorikeets Trichoglossus chlorolepidotus and various honey

eaters. At no time was the Hawk observed to attack any of the feeding birds but was
frequently harassed by the honeyeaters.
Also at Rosebank, 20 km south of Mullumbimby, a farmer reported to me that a
pair of Crested Hawks remained on his farm for a week. They also allowed a close app-
roach so that he had no difficulty in identifying them. also observed them at Rosebank.
In seven years of residence at Mullumbimby this is the first time that have seen
them in such numbers or in the town area. I
M T KA VENEY, Rosebank. 248018. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 12 (1)
10 January 1977
Dear Sir,
Fraser and Mendel (Aust. Birds 11.25) comment that the “Bush -hen … is no more
difficult to observe that the other Rallidae such as the Land Rail Rallus philippensis and
the Spotted Crake Porzana fiumenea- … They then theorise that “it seems improbable
that it could have been overlooked in south-east Queensland and north-east New South
Wales since McGillivray collected the clutch on the Clarence”. I believe that this theory
may create a pos -s ible wrong impression as it fails to take adequately into account the
following points
(i) The Bush -hen is not as common as the other Rallidae therefore records are bound
to be fewer.
(ii) Rallidae are not species normally observed without a specific search and many records
are accidental sightings of birds crossing a road or pathway or as a roadway casualty.
(iii) Roadway casualties increase with the volume of traffic on any roadway and the increase
in normal travelling speeds. 20 years ago such records (casualties) would have been
considerably less.
(iv) Records of any species fluctuate from time to time in any specified district as
the number and activity of local observers changes. Many observers are reluctant
to seek out birds in swampy areas, particularly when heavily overgrown, as is the
habitat of the Bush -hen.
(v) cannot agree that the Bush -hen is as easy to observe as other Rallidae. That
may be true for some areas but certainly not for habitats in south-east Queens-
land and north-east New South Wales. The species is not uncommon in Brisbane’s
outer suburbs and adjacent rural areas in which a number of good observers reside,
yet the species is seldom seen. B. Morgan and J. Morgan (1968 Emu 68:150) have
a pair on their property, comprising a few hectares in an outer suburb yet seldom
see them, knowing of their presence by their calling.
During the winter of 1976 made an effort to ascertain if the species remained with-
in their breeding territories throughout the year. It was discovered that at least some indiv-
iduals were present in all months. They were very quiet and unobtrusive, did not call and
were completely unresponsive to the playing of a tape-recording of their calls. The only way
was able to observe them was to conceal myself by a clearing along a stream and chance
a sighting as one moved about feeding. I now believe that at least some, if not most, Bush –
hen occupy territories throughout the year probably subject to the presence of permanent
Yours faithfully,
G. R. Beruldsen, 18 Caber Street, Kenmore, QId. 4069
In the article by G. C. Fraser and G. J. Mendel (1976 Aust. Birds 11:25-27) a number of
dates are incorrect. On page 25, the observation by R. Smith at Nimbin was on 19 March 1974
and not 9 March as shown. On page 26 the observations by J. Izzard were on 4 May 1973 and
7 May 1974, not reversed as in the paper. (Editor).September, 1977 19.
Our Patron, Alex Chisholm died suddenly on Sunday 10th July 1977. It came as a
great shock to all those who knew him. He was still in good health and was booked to go
to Queensland next day.
Alex was born at Maryborough, Victoria on 28 March 1890 and left school at the
age of 12. He was a great observer of nature, a keen writer and investigator of Australian
history, and a prodigious reader. These attributes enabled him to become one of Australia’s
best known nature writers and ornithologists. He later became editor of a number of news-
He joined the Royal Australian Ornithologists Union in 1907, becoming editor of The
Emu from 1926-28, elected President 1939-40, and was made a Fellow in 1941. From
1938 to 1971 he was convenor of the Vernacular Names Committee of the R.A.O.U.
Other positions held included Secretary of the Royal Australian Historical Society for
26 years, a Fellow of the Royal Zoological Society of New South Wales, and a long stand-
ing member of the Bird Observers Club, Melbourne. For the past 27 years he has reviewed
natural history and historical books for the Sydney Morning Herald. His last reviews appear-
ed the day before he died and again one week later.
When the Gould League Birdwatchers (now known as the N.S.W. Field Ornithologists

Club) was formed he willingly consented to be Patron. He contributed ten articles to

“Birds” and one to “Australian Birds”, the latter entitled “Ramsay, Wilcox and Barnard
Notable Names in Australian Ornithology” (1975 Aust. Birds 10:14 -). He always made a
point of attending at least one of the Museum meetings each year usually Ellis MacNam-
ara’s talk and slides. Alec’s comments when moving the vote of thanks were always app-
reciated by those present.
During his long career he wrote 19 books on nature subjects and edited the 10 vol-
ume “Australian Encyclopaedia” although he will be best remembered as the author of
“Bird Wonders of Australia” which first appeared in 1948 and has run to a number of new
His most lasting monument must be the contribution he made to the general public’s
increased awareness of Australia’s natural history,
Vale Alec.
George Dibley.20. AUSTRALIAN BIRDS 12 (1)
Contributors are requested to observe the following points when submitting articles and notes
for publication.

  1. Species, names and the order in which they occur are to be in accordance with “A Check-
    list of the Birds of Australia. 1. Non -passerines”. H. T. Condon (1975) Melbourne: RAOU,
    and “Interim list of Australian Songbirds” Melbourne: RAOU.
  2. Articles or notes, should be typewritten if possible and submitted in duplicate. Double
    spacing is required.
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    slightly smaller at the right hand side of pages.
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  6. The Style Manual, Commonwealth Government Printing Office, Canberra (1966) and
    subsequent editions will be the guide for this Journal.
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    in threes and spaced by a thin gap. Commas should not be used as thousand markers.
  12. Reference to other articles should be shown in the text ‘ B. W. Finch and M. D. Bruce
    (1974) stated that ‘ and under heading
    Finch, B. W. and M. D. Bruce 1974 The Status of the Blue Petrel in Australian Waters

Aust. Birds 9:32 35.

  1. Acknowledgements to other individuals should include Christian names or initials.d -r
    Wall, L. E. Two Seabird Logs for Tasmanian Waters 1948-1961 .. 1
    Smithers, N. An instance of one Fantailed Cuckoo feeding another 8
    McGill, A. Notes on the Yellow -fronted Honeyeater 8
    Boles, W. E. & A white -backed White -winged Wren .. 10
    M. Dingley
    Moffatt, R. Observations of a nesting Painted Snipe 11
    Clancy, G. P. Boobook Owls in the Sydney District 12
    Shrader, N. W. Letter- winged Kites at Parkes, New South Wales 15
    Colemane, A. A Black Honeyeater at Maroota 16
    Kaveney, M. T. A Note on the Crested Hawk in North-eastern New South
    Wales .. 17

Letters to the Editor (G. R. Beruldsen) 18

Obituary Alexander Hugh Chisholm 19

Notice to Contributors 20

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