An introduction to Birdwatching

 

It is Bird week– A celebration of Australian birds! We are very privileged in The Top End to have some fantastic bird species and relative to elsewhere in Australia some very intact bird habitat. There are over 250 species of birds in the region. 19 bird species are endemic to the Australian monsoon tropics and 3 species that are only found in the Top End and Kimberly region. (Rainbow Pitta, Silver-backed butcher bird and Yellow rumped-mannikin) Many other species are distributed only in the tropics, and are found in parts of Indonesia, New Guinea and beyond.

64 species in the Darwin region are migratory, the majority of which migrate from the region for the dry season.

One quarter of our birds are water or wetland birds. Another quarter of the birds are either shoreline or sea birds, leaving half as terrestrial (land) birds.

Different birds occupy different habitats, but many move between habitats, depending on food sources and shelter.  Honey Eaters move between Woodland landscapes and riparian or monsoon forest habitats, depending on where nectar is.

Birds such as birds of prey, some pigeon species, parrots, cockatoos, and some honey eaters inhabit the open forests and woodlands. Other birds choose the monsoon forest as their primary habitat, such as some flycatchers, honeyeaters, fig birds, the Rainbow Bee eater and the great Bowerbird.

Below is a painting of Comb-crested Jacanas by Jasmine Jan, our host and artist often specialising in native birds.

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Where and when to go bird spotting-

The best time to go bird spotting is first thing in the morning and in the late afternoon, this is when most birds are most active.

The best places to go bird spotting is where there is a food or water source for birds. Fruiting trees, flowering trees, seeding grasses and places with insects are where birds hang out. If you want to see waterbirds, then finding a wetland is the obvious place to go.

Often it is hard to see the colourings of birds, so to ID birds their shape, silhouette and what is called their “Giss”, which is how birds move. Of course another great way to identify birds is by their calls. These can be found on phone on computer apps too!

This weekend Land for Wildlife co-hosted 2 Bird watching or walking sessions for members of Land for Wildlife and friends of.

The role of National Parks, conservation reserves and Private land managed as Land for Wildlife is essential for bird habitat. Native birds do also of course love planted gardens, native and otherwise which have diversity and water.

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On Saturday The Territory Wildlife Park kindly hosted An Introduction to Bird Spotting with Denise Goodfellow who has written various books including “Birds of Australia’s the Top End”. This event was designed for Land for Wildlife members and friends of with fantastic bird painter (and Land for Wildlife member and TWP staff member) Jasmine Jan. This was booked out with 20 attendees keen to know more about birds.

This compact bird spotting session took participants on the TWP train to the natural Goose Lagoon and the bird hide, through the woodland and marginal paperbark swamp, with some stops on the way looking at plants that are sources of bird food and smaller birds.

Train

Denise gave a short introduction to the types of birds and some bird spotting tips, including the great advise that sitting a long while in one place and watching the birds and getting to know them and how they all behave is really important and rewarding. This can be done on a back veranda or in a patch of native vegetation.

Denise talks

We stayed at the bird hide some time and watched the water birds on the lagoon while those attending quietly  asked questions to our bird experts and not so quietly met other members and talked about birds on their blocks. On the lagoon we spotted Radjah (Burdekin) ducks, Black necked stalks (Jabiru), Little egrets, Comb-crested Jacana and many more.

Helen hide

di lucas

Land for Wildlife member and local author, Di Lucas shared some knowledge on bird behaviours and habitat.

In the hide

Talking birds

We learnt from Jasmine that many birds are also nocturnal and can be spotted by their calls. Goose lagoon is a natural lagoon and there are many different landscape types within the park as well as an aviary of rainforest birds.

We also learned about different ways of collecting bird data and doing bird counts and encouraged everyone to participate in the “Aussie Backyard Bird Count” for bird week, to celebrate our fantastic bird life and be part of a citizen science project. Go to http://www.aussiebirdcount.org to get involved! Bird watching is a great way to enjoy the bush (as modelled by Land for Wildlife member Cathy Hansen, below)

Cathy looks

Thanks once again to Denise, Jasmine and The Territory Wildlife Park for hosting us. Go to the next article to hear about our Sunday “Landholder’s Wildlife Walk”

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