Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Banding in a vineyard

Yet another banding project I'm involved in!

A project has just been started by Peter Milburn and Mark Clayton, studying the birds at the Lerida Estate vineyard. Lerida Estate is beside the Federal Highway, 50km north-east of Canberra, and is set on the lower slopes of the range overlooking Lake George.

The main study species is the Silvereye, a species that has an impact on grapes and other fruit crops, however all species caught are banded.

It is an interesting site, with some mist nets being set under bird netting over ripening grapes and others in the open between rows of vines.

Last weekend we banded for a couple of hours on Saturday evening and about five hours on Sunday morning. We caught:

Superb Fairy-wren 3
Yellow-rumped Thornbill 3
Red-browed Finch 3
European Goldfinch 3
Silvereye 11 (5 retraps)

We record all retraps even if they are from that day as part of the study is to determine what birds are resident and what are just moving through the vineyard, and if birds are caught in the netted areas and released outside the nets, do they get back in again. So far nothing has actually been caught under the bird netting but there are birds inside the netting. Interestingly, three of the Silvereyes were the Tasmanian race, lateralis; these birds migrate to the mainland for winter.

Lerida Estate winery

The view across the top of Lake George, with the Cullerin Range wind farm in the background

Mist nets under exclusion netting

Mist nets in the open between vine rows

A mist net covers the end of a couple of vine rows, with the exclusion netting open, aiming to catch birds escaping from under the netting.

The main study beast, the Silvereye

This Silvereye is the Tasmanian race lateralis, with the chestnut flanks. Note the bit of purple staining on the vent and the partially digested grape skin on Mark's finger.

Female Superb Fairy-wren

European Goldfinch

European Goldfinch, showing the wing about halfway through moult of the primaries.

Juvenile European Goldfinch

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A trip to Monga NP

On 9-10 January four of us went to Monga NP for a weekend of banding. We spent a day at River Forest Rd, beside the Mongarlowe River, and a day at Tombarra, a private property about 18km downstream on the same river.

We had quite a busy morning on River Forest Rd, catching 53 birds of 16 species out of ten nets. Species list and numbers banded and (retrapped) below. The treecreeper was a surprise (we did not see or hear one all day), and the Olive Whistlers were silent. Black-faced Monarchs called all day but we didn't catch any.

Laughing Kookaburra 2
Red-browed Treecreeper 1
White-browed Scrubwren 6 (5)
Large-billed Scrubwren 7
Brown Thornbill 6 (3)
Striated Thornbill 3
Yellow-faced Honeyeater 2
Lewin's Honeyeater 1
Eastern Spinebill 2
Eastern Yellow Robin 1 (1)
Golden Whistler 3 (1)
Rufous Fantail 2
Grey Fantail 1
Red-browed Finch 1
Silvereye 3
Bassian Thrush 1

At Tombarra, we threw up six nets for about five hours and caught 34 birds of 15 species:

Crimson Rosella 2
Superb Fairy-wren 4
White-browed Scrubwren 2
Brown Thornbill 2
Striated Thornbill 5
Yellow-faced Honeyeater 2
New Holland Honeyeater 1
Eastern Spinebill 3
Eastern Yellow Robin 2
Golden Whistler 2
Rufous Whistler 2
Rufous Fantail 2
Grey Fantail 2
Red-browed Finch 1
Silvereye 2

Now for some photos...

A juvenile Eastern Spinebill. Juveniles are unmistakeable, with an almost honey-coloured plumage below, a pale lower mandible and grey eye. Check this post for a shot of an adult male for comparison.

A lovely Red-browed Treecreeper. This is a female, with a rufous breast.

An immature Golden Whistler. Juveniles are a rufous ball of fluff and quickly moult into their second pluamge inside the first month or so. This wonderful photo by my friend Julian Robinson, shows a brand new juvenile. My photos below show a bird that is probably four to six weeks old, with plenty of rufous feathers. The rufous-edged primaries are kept for the year.

A couple of banding-in-action shots. First, a tiny Striated Thornbill about to be banded. Second, a Rufous Fantail gets its band applied.

Lastly, the striking New Holland Honeyeater.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Banding seabirds

Over the last 12 months or so I have become very involved in banding research conducted by the Southern Oceans Seabird Study Association (SOSSA), based on the NSW south coast. SOSSA has a permit to trap and band birds on the open ocean during pelagic trips run from Wollongong and Ulladulla.

I have been learning how to handle seabirds through the tuition of Lindsay Smith and Peter Milburn. Theyhave a combined 50+ years of experience working with seabirds.

Below is a series of photos of seabirds being captured, banded and measured.

A Yellow-nosed Albatross is, rather unceremoniously, captured on the water using a long handled net. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

The Yellow-nosed Albatross is quickly removed from the net, ensuring to secure the dangerous bit (the bill) first! (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

The Yellow-nosed Albatross has a chance to relax before being processed. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

Being held during processing, ready to have the bill measured. (Photo by Tobias Hayashi)

Measuring the bird's wing length. (Photo by Tobias Hayashi)

One of the key species for study is the Wandering Albatross. We have retrapped birds from many places around the southern hemisphere. This wanderer patiently waits to be processed on board and enjoys a scratch on the back of the head. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

An important step in the processing of wanderers. We measure four different parts of the bill, which helps us determine which type of wanderer it is. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

A reasonably patient and placid bird in the hand(s), despite its enormous size. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

I sit on the banding step holding a wanderer, waiting for a colleague to start processing. (Photo by Tobias Hayashi)

Handling a Northern Giant-Petrel. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)
A close-up of the giant-petrel's bill. The tube is 3/5 the length of the bill. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

The giant-petrel gets a shiny new band. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

Measuring the mid-toe length. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

Measuring the depth of the unguis or bill tip. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

The most important bit; scribing the data correctly! (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

A Brown Skua gets banded. Darryl is very careful in holding this bird as it is quite dangerous at both ends; a very sharp bill and some dagger-like claws. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

A bit more detail on the Brown Skua. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

I measure the bill of a Shy Albatross. (Photo by Tobias Hayashi)

Lindsay holds a Northern Royal Albatross, ready for banding. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

Lindsay hauls aboard a Buller's Albatross. (Photo by Daniel Mantle)

And finally, a couple of photos showing how we catch shearwaters! (Photos by Daniel Mantle)

Yet another banding project

Here is a brief blurb on a project I've been working on for the last couple of years.

Well known Australian ornithologist, Stephen Marchant, conducted a study on a block of forest near Moruya in NSW. Stephen examined nesting of all species on his property called Ballara between 1975 and 1984 inclusive. He published many papers and notes on his work, including a substantial volume summarising the work which was published by the Eurobodalla Natural History Society.

Stephen's daughter and son-in-law, Sarah and Michael Guppy, are now repeating the study on the block. They have been finding and monitoring nests for the last three breeding seasons. I have been managing the banding aspect of the project, and training Michael as a bander. We have authority to colour band 19 species. Through the effort of the banding team, we have just about every bird colour banded!

Colour banding allows observers to identify individual birds in the field without the need to recapture the birds. You may have seen some pics in my previous post about colour banding Olive Whistlers at Monga NP. Here, Michael opens a split ring colour band using a small aluminium "spoon", so that the band can be placed on the fairy-wren's leg.

Our collection of colour bands of various sizes.

Below are a few of the birds that we banded on a recent trip.

Adult male Superb Fairy-wren.

Adult male Variegated Fairy-wren.

Bit more detail on the Variegated Fairy-wren.

Adult Eastern Yellow Robin.

Juvenile Eastern Yellow Robin. This bird had probably been out of the nest about two weeks. A couple of yellow feathers already poking through the speckled plumage.

Adult male Rufous Whistler.

Adult Black-faced Monarch.

Adult male Leaden Flycatcher.

Immature Olive-backed Oriole.

Immature Olive-backed Oriole. Not much olive on the back yet!

Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike.