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.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

More Monga banding

Five banders and another five hangers-on, including a Canadian visitor, ventured to Monga NP for the day on Saturday.

We had a pretty good day considering the very hot weather the previous few days (up to 38 degrees C). We ended up with 41 birds of 16 species, which is pretty good diversity! We re-caught a number of birds banded that day too.

The site we banded at is on McCarthy's Rd, another closed track in the park. The site is about one kilometre west of our River Forest Rd site.

Banding totals:

Brown Thornbill 2
Striated Thornbill 4
White-browed Scrubwren 6
Large-billed Scrubwren 3
Pilotbird 1
Lewin's Honeyeater 1
Crescent Honeyeater 1
Eastern Spinebill 2
Rose Robin 1
Eastern Yellow Robin 2
Golden Whistler 3
Olive Whistler 2
Black-faced Monarch 1
Eastern Whipbird 2
Rufous Fantail 6
Grey Fantail 4

We caught two Olive Whistlers. We are colour banding these birds so that people may report sightings of individuals in winter habitats. Hopefully we can get an idea of where the whistlers go when they move down to the lowlands outside the breeding season.

Ok, on to some photos!

First up, a beautiful forest bird, the Black-faced Monarch. This one is a juvenile, with barely any black face! (photo by Suzi Bond)

An Olive Whistler, including a shot with colour bands.

Golden Whistler. Some of you may have seen this photo of mine a while back. Such beautiful birds, couldn't resist putting up another couple of shots.

The Pilotbird, a very special bird. A handsome little guy, not often seen well due to its liking for dense forest understorey. One of the most amazing calls in the forest. Added a shot of the undertail coverts just for the colour!

Lastly, another Rose Robin shot. This time a female, and I've included a shot of her brood patch. That's the bit of belly skin that incubates the eggs; the skin becomes highly vascularised and looks like a watery blister.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Monga banding trip

The long weekend in October saw seven of us head out to Reidsdale for the second trip for the Monga project (still in need of a name!), and our first banding trip into Monga NP itself.

This update will contain a few plugs and bits of information for everyone, as well as the usual banding data and photos from our weekend's work.

First a note on our accommodation. We stayed at a property called Fairview, a cottage owned by George Sherriff. This is the cottage that Richard and Judyth Gregory-Smith rented from George, and where Richard banded birds up until his passing in 2001. Fairview is ideally situated just outside Monga NP. The cottage is just perfect for what we want as a base for our banding project. I think we'll call it Fairview Field Station (FFS)! It is also looking good as a base for a trip next year where we invite members of the Canberra Ornithologists Group to come out to see what we do. The photo below was taken on George's property Baringa, looking south-west into the Araluen valley. The Fairview cottage is hidden in the trees in the middle of the shot, near the old shed.

Now, a couple of plugs. We had some fabulous wood-fired pizzas at Eureka Pizzeria in Braidwood. Next time you're heading for the coast on a Friday night, drop in for some dinner. You won't be disappointed. We ate there on Saturday night and had planned to cook for ourselves at FFS on Sunday night. Well that idea went out the window, as we had dinner again on Sunday night back at Eureka!

The second plug I have is for the Old Cheese Factory at Reidsdale (see The factory is a base for locals to produce and promote local foods. The factory is right next to Fairview.

Right, on to the birds. We spent all of Sunday in Monga NP, banding along River Forest Rd. The weather in the region was miserable, however the rain stayed off us while we were in the forest. Our site is in wet forest and cool temperate rainforest. We set up our nets along a closed track through the forest, looking like this:

Below is a shot of a net site, with a young-ish Pinkwood (Eucryphia moorei) centre-left and above the net. Monga is renowned for its large stands of Pinkwood.

And here is our banding station on the track:

We caught 34 birds of nine species in nine hours out of 11 nets. There were no retraps (however we did re-trap a few birds that were banded on the day). Data summary:

Brown Thornbill 10
White-browed Scrubwren 9
Large-billed Scrubwren 1
Rose Robin 4
Eastern Yellow Robin 2
Golden Whistler 4
Eastern Whipbird 1
Bassian Thrush 2
Grey Fantail 1

We did catch an Olive Whistler, but it got out of the net before I could put a hand on it! I was impressed with the number of birds calling around us during the day, including plenty of Golden Whistlers, Olive Whistlers, Eastern Whipbirds, Pilotbirds, Superb Lyrebirds and a single Cicadabird.

We caught three male Rose Robins. I've included here some comparison shots, showing adult and immature males. The mature male has a brighter forehead patch and a uniformly darker wing. The younger bird has a duller forehead patch and browner wings, with pale tips to the flight feathers and coverts.

We also caught a female Rose Robin:

An Eastern Whipbird:

A Large-billed Scrubwren. The second shot is a close-up of the head where a tick is burrowing in for a feed!

And last, but not least, a Bassian Thrush (photo by Kim Sebo)