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    Moths, Magpies & Marsupials Project Surveys Woodland Birds

    A highlight of the Moths Magpies and Marsupials project has been the two woodland bird surveys conducted during 2015.

    The aim of the project was to promote the protection of native biodiversity (especially woodland birds) and the restoration of their habitat on farms and smaller holdings across the region. This, in turn, helps improve ecosystem health and farm productivity by providing windbreaks, soil erosion control, climate change effect mitigation, and ecosystem services enhancement supplied by birds and insects.

    The surveys were undertaken by specialist ornothogist Andrew Huggett and took place in May (autumn) and November (spring) to observe as many migratory and sedentary species as possible. The surveys took place on each of the 12 project sites where landholders were undertaking revegetation and remnant habitat conservation works.

    Why birds?

    Birds are a key indicator of the response of land systems to revegetation and habitat protection activities and of ecosystem health generally. This knowledge is used around the world to help inform and guide programs to rehabilitate and restore degraded lands for nature conservation and sustainable farming. This work targets sites on these properties where revegetation has been undertaken and is proposed to be carried out, as well as nearby remnant forest/woodland. This allows comparisons of bird communities present in planted sites with those in the remnants.


    A total of 37 sites on 12 properties were surveyed for birds over seven days during the period 9-19 November, 2015, from south of Walcha to the north and east of Armidale (see map). Of these sites, 15 were remnants, 16 proposed revegetation, four existing revegetation (five to nine years old), one mixed proposed and existing revegetation, and one mixed remnant and revegetation. Bird surveys were undertaken by Andrew in the morning and afternoon periods when bird activity was at its highest. Some landholders accompanied Andrew on the surveys while all landholders provided access to sites and helpful land use information.

    A total of 84 bird species and 1,537 individual birds were recorded in the survey. This compared with 64 species and 1,127 birds detected in the May-June 2015 survey. These were a mix of open country species, birds that fed and sheltered in existing planted strips, and birds of forest/woodland remnants.

    Birds most frequently recorded at recently planted and fenced sites were hardy common species typically associated with more open habitats such as paddocks and stockyards - Eastern Rosella, Australian Magpie, Australian Raven and the introduced Common Starling. Most sites that were proposed for planting and fencing in the May-June survey had been completed or were in the process of being revegetated by the time of the November survey.

    Birds frequently recorded foraging and/or sheltering in existing revegetation planted five to nine years ago included Noisy Miner, Red-rumped Parrot, Common Starling, Australian Magpie, Superb Fairy-wren, Willie Wagtail, Yellow-rumped Thornbill and Yellow-faced Honeyeater.

    A mix of planted native shrubs and eucalypts and remnant eucalypts and exotic hawthorn along Pinegrove Road at Invergowrie supported 14 species (43 individual birds), including some found in woodland/forest remnants such as Striated Thornbill, Rufous Whistler, Grey Fantail and Yellow-faced Honeyeater.

    Birds that require larger, more complex (including the presence of tree canopy, shrub and ground cover layers) and relatively intact habitats were recorded only in the remnant sites. These included a core of woodland/forest birds that have been confined to these important patches of bushland by earlier clearing for agriculture. Examples included three threatened species – Scarlet Robin, Varied Sittella and Speckled Warbler, a group of species that have declined in abundance and have become more patchy in their distribution, primarily in response to habitat loss, alteration and fragmentation – the summer breeding migrants Satin Flycatcher, Leaden Flycatcher, Dusky Woodswallow and White-winged Triller and residents Eastern Yellow Robin, Grey Shrike-thrush and Striated Thornbill, and other significant species such as Superb Lyrebird, Australasian Pipit, White-throated Needletail (a migratory swift from Asia), Satin Bowerbird, Rufous Songlark, Peregrine Falcon and Wedge-tailed Eagle.

    Bird events and activities

    Various events and field days that offer a range of activities for people interested in bird identification and surveying, restoring natural ecology and increasing biodiversity in farmlands will be held in the coming months, so watch this site and the media for more information as it becomes available. Funding from the project will provide a report available for our community in 2016.

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