Meeting Report 26 April 2018
Talk by Len Waters “Birds in Aboriginal Culture”
As there was no written version of Len’s entertaining talk, I apologise in advance if I have misreported anything he said.
Len is an Aboriginal Elder who lives at Moonbi.  He is well known in our area for keeping his culture alive through leading excursions and giving talks to people of all ages.  His sense of humour and entertaining presentation style gave us a night to remember.
Len grew up on a mission, on the banks of a river and he stressed how important birds were to their community and how they helped each other.  For example, if they heard the White Cockatoos screeching, their people would know the birds were being threatened by a goanna.  The kids would rush out and catch the goanna, providing a meal for the families (“takeaway for the night”) and the bird’s eggs would then be protected.
Len now teaches youngsters to use their ears when out in the bush, to recognise the alarm calls of birds and what they mean.  He said that birds teach people the benefits of a sense of belonging.  They encourage people to work together and support each other.
He talked to us about a number of birds and the following includes some of the things he told us.
The Black Cockatoo - The red and yellow in their tails represents firesticks.  Len took a group of preschoolers up to the Botanic Gardens where there is a lone Black Cockatoo in an aviary with a number of white ones.  The children wanted to see the firesticks, but the bird stayed on a perch at the top of the cage.  Len had had no previous contact with the bird, but when he called its Aboriginal name, the bird flew down to him.  This has since happened on a number of occasions, so he feels he has a special relationship with it.
The Black Cockatoo has the same Aboriginal name as some casuarinas along rivers, which the cockatoo feeds on.  They share assets important to spirituality.
The White Cockatoo - It is synonymous with the Creation story.  Similar to the Christian belief, the Aboriginals believe that the Creator made the land, rivers, people etc.  There was one rule that couldn’t be broken, but all except one man did break it.  The righteous man hid in a hollow tree and starved to death whereupon the tree was drawn up into the heavens and became the Southern Cross.  Two Cockatoos had nests in that tree and they followed the tree into the skies.  They are the Pointers.  This demonstrates the importance of protecting your home.  There is a long mark/groove under the crest of Sulphur-crested Cockatoos.  This is said to represent the hollow tree.
The Willie Wagtail - To many Aboriginals, the Willie Wagtail is feared.  It is said to be a messenger bird.  If it perches near you, it is said to bring the message of death.  People bolt if one is near them.
The Crow - It had a humble beginning.  It had a fight with a Magpie.  Both birds were white back then, but during the fight the Magpie rolled the Crow into a fire.  The Magpie got out quickly, so still has white on its body, but the poor Crow was completely charred.  Now it is black all over.
The Magpie – It loves the sun and loves to sing.  It gets up early in the morning and sings to the Sun Woman.  Back, long before people, there was a dreadful gloom over the world.  The gloom pressed down over everything and the emus and kangaroos could not even straighten out their necks.  The Magpie stared at the gloom for ages, then started pecking at it.  Before long it had pecked a hole in the gloom and let the sunlight through.  This teaches us to stand tall in the sun.
The Butcherbird – was jealous of the Magpie and kept baiting and insulting it.  The Magpie took no notice though, and just kept on singing.  The Butcherbird eventually gave up and flew away, which teaches us not to react to teasing.  Singing makes us happy.  Instead of getting mad about something, sing inside yourself.  The women on the mission sang a lot and the children felt secure as a result.  Now the old people are no longer there, the singing has stopped, and the people have lost their way.
The Galah – got its’ pink chest because a skink was pestering it.  The lizard ran round and round the Galah, but the bird took no notice.  Eventually its patience ran out and he grabbed the skink, cutting him open.  Its’ blood ran down the bird’s chest.  The skink was tossed into a thorn bush and came out with spikes all over it.
 We call it the Bearded Dragon.  Galahs always stick together, teaching us the value of family groups.
This is just a selection of the tales Len told.  Don’t miss hearing him should he ever return to the bird group.
Annabel Ashworth
Birdwatchers from the U.S.A.
Arlyne Johnson and Mike Hedemark from Wisconsin also spoke briefly at this month’s meeting.  They were visiting Tamworth as part of a two week birdwatching trip and were being shown around the district by Eric Fair and Annabel Ashworth.
They were pleased to have the opportunity to come to our meeting and agreed to tell us a little bit about their lives.
For a lot of their working lives, Arlyne and Mike have been employed by a zoo based in New York that operates conservation projects all over the world.  As a result they have lived and worked in places such as Laos, Ecuador and New Guinea trying to encourage the establishment of wildlife reserves and general wildlife protection schemes.  They became familiar with Australia during trips they took whilst in New Guinea.  They have now returned to the States and are attempting to rehabilitate some prairie land which they own.
Mike volunteers for a group that aims to protect the Bald Eagle.  The winters in northern USA are very harsh, so the group has a particular emphasis on monitoring the eagles throughout the winter and providing feeding stations for them during the freeze.   As a result the number of eagles in their area has been boosted dramatically.
Arlyne and Mike issued an invitation to Tamworth Birdwatchers members.  They said they would love to take us birdwatching in Wisconsin, should anyone be going to that area.  Eric or Annabel would be able to provide contact details.
Outing to Duri-Dungowan Rd, Peel River Bridge and Dungowan Reserve 10 April 2018
With the weather remaining dry and warm and our later start to account for the change from daylight saving it was uncertain as to how many birds we would be able to identify. First stop was the bridge over the Peel River on the Duri-Dungowan Road.  It was here we saw a Black-shouldered Kite hovering and returning to perch with watchful eye. With water being released from Chaffey Dam the River had a steady flow and created a pleasant location for a wander along the bank. Here we were able to see a number of small birds enjoying the low hanging branches of river oak and water. Spotted Pardalote, Red-browed Finch, Superb Fairy-wren and White-plumed Honeyeater included.  Also spotted was an Eastern Brown Water Skink enjoying the watery location. From here we went on to Dungowan Reserve, again on the Peel River, a nice spot for morning tea.  Wandering along the riverbank our group were able to identify Eastern Spinebill and Double-barred Finch as well as a Grey Shrike Thrush.  Further up the bank on the trunk of an Angophora were two Brown Treecreeper, a good sighting for this area.
Altogether we ID 34 birds including:  Little Corella, Noisy Minor, Straw-necked Ibis, White-browed Scrub-wren, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Red-rumped Parrot, Peaceful Dove, Magpie-lark, Eastern Spinebill, Brown Treecreeper, Pacific Black Duck, Grey Shrike-thrush, Crimson Rosella, House Sparrow, Laughing Kookaburra, Black-shouldered Kite, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Crested Pigeon, Galah, Spotted Dove, Willie Wagtail, Purple Swamphen, Eastern Rosella, Welcome Swallow, Pied Currawong, Superb Fairy-wren, White-plumed Honeyeater, Spotted Pardalote, Red-browed Finch, Double-barred Finch, Grey Fantail, Australian Wood Duck.
Marianne Terrill
Pilliga Forest Birdwatchers Visit Timmallallie Dam 21 April 2018
Timmallallie Dam catchment must have had a large storm since the fire because it had actually overflowed, and at that time had a cover of black soot over the whole area of water.  However on Saturday the 21st most of the soot had dissipated from the water, and the only evidence of the water's presence in the creek bed was the very large area of black soot.  However there were six of us there to witness it.  Shirley, Lou and Helen from Coonabarabran, and Bruce, his friend Josephine Joy, and David from Baradine.
Timmallallie has always been notorious for low bird counts so we weren't desperately disappointed when we only recorded 28 for the day.
Even Helen when she went for one of her long walks, came back with not very much to give me!  She usually has me writing for half an hour in my notebook!  However it is strategically situated in the Pilliga and as such deserves to be monitored.  We did not choose our site for high bird recordings only, and the fact that the last fire swept across that area leaving it seriously denuded would not have helped either, I expect.
You would probably like to know what we did see :-  Emu, Australian Wood Duck, Grey Teal, Australasian Grebe, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Galah, Australian Ringneck, White-throated Treecreeper, Brown Treecreeper, Superb Fairy-wren, Variegated Fairy-wren, Striated Pardalote, Spotted Pardalote, Noisy Miner, White-eared Honeyeater, White-plumed Honeyeater, Jacky Winter, Eastern Yellow Robin, Rufous  Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Willie Wagtail, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Grey Butcherbird, Pied Butcherbird, Australian Magpie, Australian Raven, Welcome Swallow, Silvereye.
You are probably wondering how I am going to name "the Bird of the Day" out of that lot, aren't you? Well, some of you were not there, were you?  Well, two magnificent Wedge-tailed Eagles rose up just beside the dam, and leisurely made off into the great beyond.  It is always a great pleasure to see them so close at hand and not in much of a hurry to be somewhere else.
There is not much else that I can tell you really, except that it was a beautiful (dry) autumn day - cool enough to be pleasant, and warm enough to be comfortable.  We had an early lunch, gave the world a bit of a going over and drove both ways along No 1 homewards, looking forward to not much travel into Yarrigan next month.  We will (I hope) not have the effect of fire to contend with, but it, like all the Forest, is suffering from the terrible dry season.  Pig Dam is dry, and so is Dempsey.
Best Wishes and Happy Birding,  
David and Shirley
Tuesday Walk at Braefarm Road Moonbi 24 April 2018
Six of use spent an enjoyable few hours with Jill and David out on their property at Moonbi.  Everywhere is evidence of the awful dry conditions we are all experiencing at present.  We were sad to see the many trees and shrubs succumbed to the lack of rain.
As usual we started off going up the hill and our list soon started to grow.  A large flock of Apostlebirds were busy squabbling as they foraged in the gardens we passed.  We were all happy to see them but not so David and Jill, they create too many problems for them destroying and making a mess of what is left of their gardens.  We saw one Dusky Woodswallow that must have missed the trip up north with his mates but was happy hanging out with a couple of Welcome Swallows.  Double-barred Finch were seen feeding on the side of the road and Patrick spotted a bird that turned out to be a female Golden Whistler.  Unfortunately we didn't see the male who would have delighted Ros and Patrick, our relevant new members.  Eventually we turned back and made our way onto Hillier's property where we had a good look around at Fred's lovely collection of figurines and old buildings with heaps of features on each one.  It was here that we added Red Wattlebird, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Mistletoebird and Laughing Kookaburra.  We also found Fred's Emu family lurking under the trees so we had to stop for a photo opportunity   We were able to admire his many treasures around the yard.
By then it was time to have our morning tea break back at the Emmanual home where we sit out under their deck and usually are surrounded by little birds visiting the water bowls but not today.  Later we wandered down through the olive orchard but only added a Sulphur-crested Cockatoo so we had to be content with our list of 28 species.  Thank you again Jill and David for our very enjoyable time spent with you.
Birds seen; Crested Pigeon, Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Rainbow Lorikeet, Australian King-Parrot, Eastern Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot, Laughing Kookaburra, Superb Fairy-wren, Yellow-rumped Thornbill, White-plumed Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Golden Whistler, Dusky Woodswallow, Australian Magpie, Pied Currawong, Willie Wagtail, Australian Raven, Magpie-lark, Apostlebird, Welcome Swallow, Common Blackbird, Common Starling, Mistletoebird, Double-barred Finch.
Joan Dunne.
Saturday Outing to Plumthorpe TSR 28 April 2018

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