BACKYARD DARLINGS

All bird species are of course most welcome at Allen Road.  We extend the invitation to anywhere along the 2km length of the road, from its junction with the main Nanango-Maidenwell Road to its confluence with Andrew Road.  Indeed, our offer covers the entire South Burnett region.  All we ask is that we [Fay and I] are there when a particularly rare species does put in an appearance.

Yet for all the above, it would be less than honest of me not to admit that there are some species in more favour than others. 

Don’t get me wrong, the humble Magpie-lark Grallina cyanoleuca or oft maligned Torresian Crow Corvus orru are not spurned or driven away as if they were the lepers of avian society.  Far from it but they are present each and every day; up close and raucous to boot.  They have become a commonplace and complacency has set in- on both sides of the biological divide.  The crows ignore our efforts to keep them away from the duck and chicken eggs while the magpie-larks take early morning duty on the verandah rails and call until either one or both of us are awake and out of bed.  We have rarely resorted to alarm clocks since moving to Allen Road.

They continue to bring pleasure: the crows when their young have fledged and continuously beg for food.  At those times we can even feel sorry for the stressed adults endeavouring to keep the ravenous young satisfied.  The magpie-larks brought a smile this year when they successfully reared their second clutch but tinged with a little sadness when the second of their well-developed youngsters simply disappeared.

Nor do we bear any malice to the introduced Spotted Dove Streptopelia chinensis or the much maligned Common Myna Sturnus tristis.   The doves are harmless enough, nay, they are really quite attractive birds.  We initially noted a pair but nowadays see only one.  

The mynas present a more serious threat.  We first saw them back in the 1980s at a north Sydney railway station where they covered platform and tracks like a writhing carpet of feathers.  Years later, our good friends Richard & Bess Newman of Redcliffe, occasional birdwatchers rather than dedicated birders, reported seeing a pair outside the Clontarf State School.  Fay and I rushed around to confirm the sighting, a sad first for the Redcliffe Peninsula.  On our last visit there, while not abundant, the mynas had certainly become common.

The Pale-headed Rosella Platycercus adscitus comes high on the list of favoured species, if for no other reason than that last year they showed a lot of interest in my “manufactured” rosella nestbox.  They entered it, they looked it over but decided against it.  We relocated it from the Dog Compound grey gum to the Wren Garden angophora; from facing southwest to northwest; we live in hope of eventual occupancy

Among Fay’s top birds is the Australian King-Parrot Alisterus scapularis, a striking mixture of vivid red and dark green.  They remain among the more confiding of the wild species and can even be coaxed into feeding from your hand.  They will land on chair backs and stare through the open French doors to investigate any human indoor activity.  The recent sighting of the “Kinky King-Parrot [see previous posting] has added an element of expectancy; will it reappear?

 

Given a Backyard List in excess of 140 species there are many among the “more favoured” echelon: the regular summer migrant continue to please, typically, the spectacular courtship displays of the Dollarbird Eurystomus orientalis; the male/female duet  of the Eastern Koel Eudynamys orientalis; the deafening call of the Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae.

Some have been “favoured” since, or near, the inception: the raptors, a Wedge-tailed Eagle Aquila audax at the original visit, a Nankeen Kestrel Falco cenchroides at the subsequent visit, the Brown Falcon Falco berigora of September 2001.  Others were considered a little special but then disappeared, some, the White-browed Scrubwren Sericornus frontalis and the Eastern Whipbird Psophodes olivaceus, making recent comebacks to once again feature in the “more favoured” list.


Many more could trip off the tongue: Australasian Pipit Anthus novaeseelandiae, Australian Owlet-nightjar Aegotheles cristatus, Dusky Woodswallow Artamus cyanopterus, Leaden Flycatcher Myiagra rubecula, Rainbow Bee-eater Merops ornatus and of course the humble Yellow-rumped Thornbill Acanthiza chrysorrhoa.

However, yesterday’s sighting of the Glossy Black-Cockatoo Calyptorhynchus lathami and Fay’s earlier sighting of eight Red-tailed Black-Cockatoos perched near the laboratory where she works served as a timely reminder that we have long since felt a special affinity with this beautiful bird.  We first recorded it for Allen Road back on 8 July 2001; the 60th Backyard List species on only our 20th visit to the property.

All three of the Black-Cockatoos present in the South Burnett region have been recorded at Allen Road: the Red-tailed Calyptorhynchus  banksii [first sighting, 27 January 2002], the Yellow-tailed Calyptorhynchus funereus [first sighting, 10 June 2001] and the Glossy. 

The Yellow-tailed, the most common of the three, is classified as “secure” in all states, in which it is actually present, with the exception of South Australia where it has been defined as “vulknerable.”  It is the most common of the Allen Road black-cockatoos.

Of the five races of Red-tailed Black-Cockatoo, concern is at its most poignant for the south-eastern form, C. b. graptogyne.  The Allen Road specimens are those from the nominate form, C. b. macrorhynchus.

And so we come to the real Darling of the Backyard List, the Glossy Black-Cockatoo, one of the more threatened of the black-cockatoos and listed as “vulnerable” both in New South Wales and Queensland.  It was the reason I agreed to take on the role of Conservation Committee Chair with BASQ – only to discover that the Glossy Black Conservancy meets during the working week!  I am lead to believe this is to facilitate the attendance of people paid to help with the bird.  Those of us prepared to give up our own free time –and without pay- are relegated to the nether ranks.

Nevertheless, Fay and I continue our work on behalf of this, the smallest of Australia’s six black-cockatoos.  We record every sighting, here along Allen Road and in the wider South Burnett community.  One of our major replanting programs on the property is the propagation of allocasuarinas [particularly the Black She-oak Allocasuarina littoralis], the favoured food of the Glossies in this area.  Plans are afoot to design and construct nestboxes suitable for this bird.

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