MEETING REPORT 25 October 2018
Owls of the New England North West
For our October social
meeting, our speaker was Steve Debus from the UNE. He gave us a talk on the owls of our region
and also played us their
many calls. This was followed a few days
later by an evening of spotlighting, during which he found us a Frogmouth and
fantastic views of a Barn Owl. Steve is
always a terrific speaker and we really appreciate all the time and effort that
went into this. Thanks Steve.
The Tawny Frogmouth was
included, although it is not an owl.
Frogmouths are more closely related to Nightjars, but people tend to
lump them in with owls.
Tawny Frogmouths are common, no
hooked beak or talons, build a frail stick nest in a tree fork (misnamed
‘mopoke’ because people hear the Southern Boobook and see the Tawny Frogmouth). They freeze in a branch-like pose when
They are not owls, but have similar needs.
Big old hollow trees, including paddock trees, remnant woodland,
especially creek-side or riverine, rough grassland around the edges of paddocks,
large woodland or forest reserves (Masked, Barking and Powerful Owls)
There are two owl families
in Australia. The “Barn” Owl types
(Barn, Grass and Masked). They have a heart-shaped
face, are white or pale underneath, screech, and hunt by sound. The other family is the “Hawk” owls (Boobook,
Barking and Powerful). They are more
hawk-like, are mottled browns, with yellow or hazel eyes, hunt by sight, and hoot
(Australian species give double hoots).
The following owls can be
found in our region.
Grass Owl - Rare in our area, in tall
crops, tall grassland, cotton. They
roost and nest on the ground in dense vegetation; eat rats and mice. More common on the coast.
Barn Owl - (‘white owl’): common in
farmland, mostly eat mice and rats; nest in hollows, roost in hollows or old
buildings. Has very obvious heart shaped
- Rare, found in extensive woodland or forest, e.g. Pilliga, state
forests around Mt Kaputar NP; eat rabbits, rats, mice; nest in hollows, roost
in holes, caves, dense foliage.
Southern Boobook - Common in well-treed
farmland, woodland; ‘mopoke’ call; eat mostly mice, rats, insects; nest in
hollows, roost in dense foliage, hollows, sheds
Barking Owl - Larger than
the Boobook. Has large yellow eyes. Needs well-timbered areas and is not very
common. Its call can be confused with a
barking dog. Eats small mammals and up
to medium sized birds, roosts in foliage.
Powerful Owl - Rare, huge owl. Is occasionally found in extensive inland
forest, e.g. Warrumbungles, Pilliga? Kaputar?
Eats possums, gliders, some birds (e.g. crows/ravens, cockatoos); nest
in big hollows, roosts in foliage.
Threats and problems for owls
Habitat clearance, loss of hollow trees, including paddock trees, barbed-wire
fences (collisions), road kill, grain spill on roads (attracts rodents), rodenticides
(secondary poisoning), especially second-generation single-dose types
containing brodifacoum, bromadiolone etc. (e.g. Talon, Bromakill), pindone (anticoagulants),
Harvesting machinery, headers (Grass Owl)
What can be done for owls
Retain old hollow trees, remnant woodland on farms, be owl-aware
when driving at night, minimise grain spill on roads (e.g. cover grain loads),
minimise use of barbed wire, use 1080 (where safe for kids and pets), not
pindone, for rabbits. Use owl-friendly rodenticides, e.g. Racumin (Bayer,
coumatetralyl) or the old Ratsak (warfarin), avoid brodifacoum etc. (check
labels), follow product instructions, consider alternatives to anticoagulants
based on vitamin D3 (cholecalciferol), e.g. Bromethalm. Provide hunting perches
around crops, grain storages, consider nest boxes for Barn Owls, Boobooks, regenerate
native tree cover on farms, especially watercourses
Along the Peel River Tamworth 9 October 2018
daylight savings outing saw Penny back to join us after her and Bruce’s annual
migration to the north. We were also
pleased to have Mandy Jones as the newest recruit to the Tamworth Birdwatchers
after first joining us as a U3A member.
Before we had even left the carpark, we had seen five birds
including a Leaden Flycatcher which I have not seen on this walk before. Heading along the walking track at our usual
snail’s pace, we found that the summer migrants were back in force –
Reedwarblers, Songlarks, Fairy Martins and best of all the Rainbow
Bee-eaters. On the way back for morning
tea, we were entertained by a Fan-tailed Cuckoo, pair of Australasian Figbirds
and a mystery sighting which proved to be a White-winged Triller after
examining the photographic evidence.
By the end of morning tea, we had seen 45 species but try as we
might to get to that elusive 50, we could only manage three more.
Birds Recorded: Australian Wood Duck, Pacific Black
Duck, Spotted Dove, Crested Pigeon, Peaceful Dove, Australasian Darter, Little Pied Cormorant,
Little Black Cormorant, White-faced Heron, Australian White Ibis, Dusky
Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Galah, Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Rainbow Lorikeet,
Australian King-Parrot, Eastern Rosella, Red-rumped Parrot, Fan-tailed Cuckoo,
Rainbow Bee-eater, Superb Fairy-wren, Striated Pardalote, White-plumed
Honeyeater, Noisy Miner, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, Brown
Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike, Australasian Figbird,
White-winged Triller, Rufous Whistler,
Australian Magpie, Willie Wagtail, Australian Raven, Leaden Flycatcher,
Magpie-lark, Australian Reed-Warbler, Rufous Songlark, Welcome Swallow, Fairy
Martin, Common Blackbird, Common Starling, Common Myna, Mistletoebird,
Double-barred Finch, Red-browed Finch, House Sparrow.
Forest Birdwatchers Visit Narrabri Lake 20 October 2018
I left here at 6.00am with Bruce. The sun was not up. Travelling along No1 Break it decided to rise
and torment Bruce until he reached the Highway and turned north to Narrabri. So
we arrived at our destination in good time.
We drove slowly through the town and along the edge of what should have
been the lake, which now was an expanse of dry land with a couple of small
puddles just to prove that a shower had fallen a few days ago. Among a number of birds present we found Mary
and Innes wandering along with their binoculars ready. At this stage among us we recorded over
twenty birds so we decided that perhaps this was not to be another bird outing
failure reflected by the drought. So the
four of us were there to record the Narrabri Lake bird list for the 20th
October 2018. We had Blue Bonnet,
Nankeen Kestrel, White-winged Triller and Cockatiel among our sightings.
Feeling very satisfied with what we already
had we decided we deserved a cup of coffee. So being well fortified, we decided to walk
along the side of the "Lake".
A thick patch of reeds produced a Reed Warbler's call and presently when
a pair of Banded Lapwings rose from a pool of water, a fast flying raptor made
an unsuccessful attack. Was it a
Peregrine Falcon? No, it was too small
surely. It had to be a miniature
representative, the Australian Hobby. I
nominate it "The Bird of the Day".
There is something about these fast flying (I know what I am doing)
small birds that you have to admire.
They leave no doubt in your mind who they are. Fear accompanies them, no doubt, but this is
nature, isn't it?
What about the rest of what we saw? Here
they are: Brown Quail, Australian Wood
Duck, Pacific Black Duck, White-faced Heron, Straw-necked Ibis, Australian
White Ibis, Yellow-billed Spoonbill, Nankeen Kestrel, Australian Hobby, Banded
Lapwing, Spotted Turtle-dove, Feral Pigeon, Crested Pigeon, Galah,
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo, Rainbow Lorikeet, Cockatiel, Eastern Rosella,
Australian Ringneck, Blue Bonnet, Red-rumped Parrot, Laughing Kookaburra,
Superb Fairy-wren, Little Friarbird, Noisy Friarbird, Striped Honeyeater,
Blue-faced Honeyeater, Yellow-throated Miner, Noisy Miner, Brown Honeyeater,
Rufous Whistler, Restless Flycatcher, Willie Wagtail, Black-faced
Cuckoo-shrike, White-winged Triller, White-breasted Woodswallow, Pied
Butcherbird, Magpie-lark, Australian Magpie, Australian Raven, House Sparrow,
Welcome Swallow, Fairy Martin, Australian Reed Warbler, Common Myna, Common
At about 12 noon, we had a bit of a
consultation, and we all decided that we had an all up total of 46. "Why don't you come out to our place for
lunch", the Wheelers said. They live six kilometres out of town on five acres
of land with a beautiful bird attracted garden, finches everywhere. We thoroughly enjoyed their hospitality and
were very impressed with the tractor restoring work Innes was doing in his work
Bruce delivered me to McDonalds and kindly
waited until my daughter, Sue, turned up from Tweed Heads. We left for home into stormy looking weather.
We were satisfied with our day, but hope
that next time we go to Narrabri, the Lake will be overflowing and we will have
the pleasure of the company of those who could not make it this time. And, John, our thoughts have been with you as
you battle with hospital and what it has been offering. Best of luck from us all.
Rocky Creek Millsite next month, but more
of that later.
David and Shirley
Trip to Curracabundi National Park, 27 October 2018
It was a bright and sunny Saturday morning when 20 Tamworth
Birdwatchers, and two of Penny’s grandchildren, assembled at the Paradise end
of Peel St, competing with numerous Park Runners for a parking space, both
within the car park and on the road.
After a bit of car pooling, eight vehicles left for the trip up Port
Stephen’s Cutting toward Niangala.
Our first stop was “Omaru”, the property owned by
Alex and Dorothea Holtman, on the Cowsby Rd. Here we were greeted not only by
our hosts, but also by a visiting Emu, which had been raised on a nearby
property, and now wanders around the area looking for food. Under strict instructions from Dorothea not
to feed it, the emu eyed off our morning tea, as we sat on the front lawn to
appreciate the fantastic view over the Barnard River valley toward the
Barrington Tops. A number of birds kept
us entertained, including Welcome Swallows and Superb Fairy-wrens. As we were packing up to leave, Dorothea and
Terri discovered that they had been born in the same small town in Holland,
four years apart. Both had come to Australia as five year olds, a remarkable
co-incidence which left Dorothea quite emotional.
Our next stop was only a brief drive from “Omaru”, parking along the
road in the Tuggalo State Forest at Akehurst Saddle. Most of us walked down the grassy hillside,
seeing White-naped Honeyeaters, Brown Thornbills, and White-throated
Treecreepers. An elusive Eastern
Whipbird was calling from the gully, and new members Andrew and Bianca thought
they could hear a Superb Lyrebird calling in the distance. Varied Sittellas were spotted in the canopy
of tall trees, and a pair of Striated Pardalotes were seen coming out of a tree
hollow near the stream, possibly indicating the site of a nest. Rufous Whistlers and Grey Shrike-thrush were
calling, and Grey Fantails flitted around in the trees. It was hard to drag ourselves away, but we all
headed back up the hill, to meet up with the others who had stayed nearer the
We then headed south along Cowsby Road, past an old
hut which was now part of the Curracabundi National Park, and into the area of
the park which stretched on both sides of the road. Here we set up for lunch, and everyone was
quite amused by John and my picnic – our usual fare for a day’s outing,
including a bread-stick, prosciutto, cheese, olives, gherkins and pickled
onions. We like roughing it! It seemed like everyone needed a photo of our
laden table! After lunch, some members
headed downhill along the fire-trail, sighting Satin Bowerbirds, Kookaburras,
and a White-browed Scrub-wren. Noisy
Friarbirds were uncharacteristically silent, and we were all surprised by their
lack of “noise”!
When the group returned to the cars, we found that Penny and her
grandkids, Freddy and Benny, had seen the sighting of the day, spotting a
Pacific Baza! They had walked a fair way
south along the road, and it had flown into a tree near them. In an unsuccessful effort to repeat the
sighting, some of us walked the same way along the road, but instead of the
Pacific Baza, Andrew and Bianca spotted a Cicadabird, which as we were
technically in Tamworth Regional Council’s area, could be added to our 200 year
bird list, along with the Pacific Baza.
A pair of Leaden Flycatchers was also seen, making a nest on a small
branch. The male sat at the nest, moving
its head from side to side as it added a layer to the partly-formed nest, then
the female sat on the nest and gave it a poke here and there, as if to check on
the quality of the work!
So after a productive day’s bird-watching, everyone headed for home
– thank you to all the members who came along to make my first trip as a leader
such a lovely day.
Bird List for “Omaru” and Tuggalo SF (same GPS reading):
Emu, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Crimson Rosella, Laughing Kookaburra,
White-throated Treecreeper, Brown Treecreeper, Satin Bowerbird, Superb
Fairy-wren, Brown Thornbill, Spotted Pardalote, Striated Pardalote, Eastern
Spinebill, Yellow-faced Honeyeater, Red Wattlebird, White-naped Honeyeater,
Little Friarbird, Eastern Whipbird, Varied Sitella, Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike,
Rufous Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Olive-backed Oriole, Pied Butcherbird,
Pied Currawong, Grey Fantail, Australian Raven, Rufous Songlark, Welcome
Swallow, Common Blackbird.
Bird List for Curracabundi NP:
Pacific Baza, Wedge-tailed Eagle, Crimson Rosella, Laughing
Kookaburra, White-throated Treecreeper, Satin Bowerbird, Brown Thornbill,
Striated Pardalote, Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater, Noisy Friarbird, Varied Sittella,
Cicadabird, Golden Whistler, Grey Shrike-thrush, Olive-backed Oriole, Pied
Currawong, Grey Fantail, Leaden Flycatcher.
Sunset Owl Outing - Sunday 28 October 2018
“boo-book”, “boo-book”; “skke-arr” “skke-arr”.
we hear any of these bird calls on our Sunset Owl Outing?
Debus played a selection of owl calls to our group as part of his presentation
on Australian Owls at our TBW Social Meeting. National Bird Week was a good excuse to follow
this up with a special outing to see if we could spot any of these beautiful
nocturnal birds and record them as part of the Aussie Backyard Bird Count.
was organised to minimise the size of our convoy. The aim of this, plus the use of
walkie-talkies, was to maximise the chance that everyone would have the best
opportunity to share any sightings.
and binoculars were at-the-ready as we set off to explore the area around
Warral. This area, on the western
outskirts of Tamworth, is a flat, open farming area. There are isolated paddock trees, plus a few
more wooded areas such as Bolton’s Creek Reserve. I
couldn’t contain my excitement when we spotted a very white shape flying across
the night sky. We didn’t see it catch
it, but Marianne saw the Eastern Barn Owl swallow a rodent. It then flew to a tree nearby where we
observed it cleaning itself after the tasty meal.
the evening we also spotted another nocturnal predator, as it flew strongly and
silently from paddock tree to paddock tree. The Tawny Frogmouth is not an owl,
but is probably our most widespread and often sighted night bird.
Sunset Owl Outing was a new and positive experience for a number of our TBW
members. A few comments from the evening
saw a Barn Owl four times!” MC
saw a Barn Owl swallow a rodent J” MT
had an interesting time tonight, I’m glad we went.” GP
Frogmouth, Galah, Little Corella, Eastern Rosella, Eastern Koel, Eastern Barn Owl,
Noisy Miner, Australasian Pipit.