Thinking About Birds

In 2012 I met with Nicholas Carlile from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. Nicholas had a major involvement with the feral animal eradication project an Broughton Island, with his main task being to gather baseline data about nesting seabirds so that any future changes can be properly identified. We talked about doing the same thing for the land birds.

That led to contact with Susanne Callaghan, the NPWS Ranger for Broughton Island. We developed a 6-monthly monitoring program (centred around spring and autumn visits) in which representative examples of the various habitats of Broughton Island were surveyed for the birds present. These surveys ran from 2012 to 2016 and allowed us to establish a baseline of data against which future changes can be measured. Broughton Island does not have a wide range of types of habitat (and never will) so the number of species there will never be huge. In the 2012-2016 surveys, we found 48 species, with the main ones being Golden-headed Cisticola, Tawny Grassbird, Silvereye and Brown Quail - all of which are widespread. We also discovered that there are lots of Lewin’s Rails around the island – these are secretive birds that we mostly detect from their calls, and only occasionally seeing glimpses of one.

Since 2012, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters seem to have become resident on Broughton Island. A few Little Wattlebirds have also moved in, but the jury is out as to whether they are resident (there is evidence that they move away in summer, or at least some of them).

I continue to lead surveys of the island whenever we visit there, but the main focus has now become a banding study. The first banding visit was in winter 2017 and we aim to be on Broughton Island once per quarter for 3-day stints. Greg and Judy Little and Rob Kyte lead the banding program, which is aimed at gaining better understandings of the population dynamics for the main species. One interesting finding is that there are three subspecies of Silvereye present in winter and into early spring. The local Hunter Region subspecies is cornwalli, and these are common on Broughton Island but we also find westernensis and lateralis birds in the winter and spring visits.

Papers

Stuart, A., Clarke, T., van Gessel, F., Little, G., Fraser, N. and Richardson, A. (2017). Results from surveys for terrestrial birds on Broughton Island, 2012-2016. The Whistler 11: 46-53

Also see:

Stuart, A. (2013). Broughton Island Year 1 report

Stuart, A. (2014). Broughton Island 2012-2014 report


Poems

Thoughts Based On Three Days Spent Birding on Broughton Island

 

Media

Story about the Broughton Island bird banding project: http://www.theherald.com.au/story/5204441/broughton-holds-nest-of-knowledge/?cs=305


Latest News

After our summer 2019 visit, we've now banded nearly 350 birds on Broughton Island and we are finally starting to see some re-traps amongst them, especially with Silvereyes. We've banded nearly 270 of them although that includes quite a few southern birds (of the subspecies lateralis and westernensis) that are only present in winter. Our  "local" subspecies is cornwalli and we have established that at least some of them are regular visitors to the island - and perhaps some might even be resident birds. There are several instances now where we've had the same bird as winter and summer records.  We've also banded 26 Tawny Grassbirds and 13 Yellow-faced Honeyeaters; these counts are starting to become respectable numbers and I'm hopeful that we can't be too far off learning things about those species.

Some previous news

I proposed a banding study for terrestrial birds and in April 2017 we received word that it was approved. Greg Little is leading the study, assisted by Rob Kyte and Judy Little and the occasional extra body. I don't have and don't want a banding licence, but I provide some "gofer" support . Our first banding visit was June 2017 with one of the highlights being that we confirmed three sub-species of Silvereye were on the island (cornwalli, westernensis and lateralis).  We went back again on October 2017 when we banded about 100 Silvereyes over the three days of that visit, and had only a few re-traps. The results suggested at least 500 of them were on the island, and quite easily there could have been 1,000 or more of them.  In our first survey on Broughton (in 2012) we estimated about 50 or so Silvereyes were present.  In October we had one westernensis sub-species bird in a net, and all the rest were cornwalli birds. In our January 2018 visit, all the Silvereyes were the local cornwalli sub-species.  In April 2018 we had three re-trapped cornwalli sub-species, which is a clue that there is a resident population as well as a cohort of visiting birds.

The highlight for October 2017 came when we were checking out the artificial nests installed for Gould’s Petrels and White-faced Storm-Petrels. In one of the Storm-Petrel nest boxes, we found a feather, which NPWS subsequently confirmed was from a White-faced Storm-Petrel. In December 2018 I found a Gould's Petrel in a nest box and NPWS had records of other birds in the boxes too. However, there are no confirmed breeding records as yet.