A Start for Winter Around Toowoomba

Sightings within the local survey area for the period 1 Jun - 31 Aug 2010. The local survey area is a rectangular area extending from Kingsthorpe NW of Toowoomba to the Mt Whitestone/Fordsdale area SE of Helidon.

Moderator: Mick Atzeni

Post Reply
Rod Hobson
Posts: 509
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2006 8:03 am

A Start for Winter Around Toowoomba

Post by Rod Hobson » Thu Jun 03, 2010 8:07 am

Folks,

A list of species to kick off our local area count for this winter:

01.06.10

Australian King Parrot - Aubigny Street, Toowoomba
Scaly-breasted Lorikeet - Herries Street, Toowoomba
Galah - Webb Street, Toowoomba
Red Wattlebird - Webb Street, Toowoomba
Crested Pigeon - Webb Street, Toowoomba
Brown Honeyeater - Webb Street, Toowoomba
Common Myna - Webb Street, Toowoomba
Pied Currawong - Webb Street, Toowoomba
Australian Magpie - Redwood Park
Torresian Crow - Redwood Park
Noisy Miner - Redwood Park
Lewin's Honeyeater - Redwood Park
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike - Redwood Park
Silvereye - Redwood Park
Eastern Yellow Robin - Redwood Park
Spotted Turtle-Dove - Redwood Park
Striated Pardalote - Redwood Park
Grey Fantail - Redwood Park
White-browed Scrubwren - Redwood Park
Eastern Whipbird - Redwood Park
Yellow-faced Honeyeater - Redwood Park
Red-backed Fairy-wren - Redwood Park
Variegated Fairy-wren - Redwood Park
Brown Thornbill - Redwood Park
Red-browed Finch - Redwood Park
Little Lorikeet - Redwood Park
Grey Shrike-thrush - Redwood Park
Brown Cuckoo-Dove - Redwood Park
Bar-shouldered Dove - Redwood Park
Spotted Pardalote - Redwood Park
White-throated Gerygone - Redwood Park
Wonga Pigeon - Redwood Park
Fan-tailed Cuckoo - Redwood Park
Peaceful Dove - Redwood Park
White-throated Treecreeper - Redwood Park
Mistletoebird - Redwood Park
White-naped Honeyeater - Redwood Park
Rufous Fantail - Redwood Park
Golden Whistler - Redwood Park

02.06.10:

Blue-faced Honeyeater - Alderley Street, Toowoomba
Purple Swamphen - Waterbird Habitat, Toowoomba
Pacific Black Duck - Waterbird Habitat, Toowoomba
Australian Wood-Duck - Waterbird Habitat, Toowoomba
Superb Fairy-wren - Duggan Park, Toowoomba
Pale-headed Rosella - Duggan Park, Toowoomba
Australian Brush Turkey - Picnic Point

03.06.10:

Rainbow Lorikeet - Webb Street, Toowoomba
Magpie Lark - Webb Street, Toowoomba
Willie Wagtail - Lake Annand, Toowoomba
Common Starling - Lake Annand, Toowoomba
Australian White Ibis - Lake Annand, Toowoomba
House Sparrow - Aubigny street, Toowoomba

Regards,
Rod Hobson

gileas
Posts: 81
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 10:31 pm
Location: Brisbane, QLD
Contact:

Red Wattlebird, Toowoomba

Post by gileas » Thu Jun 03, 2010 12:19 pm

Hi Rod,

Red Wattlebird would be fairly unusual for Toowoomba wouldn't it? Am wondering if I should report it more widely for those who might be interested.

Regards,
Chris

Rod Hobson
Posts: 509
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2006 8:03 am

Red Wattlebird in Toowoomba

Post by Rod Hobson » Sat Jun 05, 2010 10:54 am

Chris,

Mate, thanks for your query regarding the Red Wattlebird in Toowoomba. This species, and the Blue-faced Honeyeater have a parallel and interesting history in this city.

I first started birdwatching seriously when I first met fellow club member Bill Jolly in the early 1970's. At that stage my main natural history interest was herpetological (and still is). Bill introduced me to the world of birds. At this stage the appearance of a Red Wattlebird in Toowoomba would, and very occasionally did cause a furore within the local birdwatching community. This remained the case for many years.

This started to change about a decade-15 years or so ago when the wattlebird began to appear on a fairly regular basis in Toowoomba. I should add that I'm not absolutely sure of this time frame but a search of the TBO records will give a more precise date. Anyway, this bird first started to turn up regularly in the eastern suburbs of Toowoomba and has spread across the city in the interim. It is now found throughout Toowoomba including the drier suburbs on the western side of the city. Red Wattlebirds can be seen on almost any day on a walk through Rangeville, Middle Ridge or Mount Lofty and still seems to dominate this leafier, wetter eastern side of town. (There is one calling in our garden in Rangeville, as I write).

This establishment of a previously rare species to the city has intrigued me for a long time now. My belief, which may be entirely fanciful, is that this bird (and the Blue-faced Honeyeater) have arrived hand-in-hand with the spreading urbanisation and greening of Toowoomba. Much of what is now suburban Toowoomba was rural land until the population and building booms of the last twenty years. I grew up in Rangeville, which, until this era was largely cleared holdings of agricultural and pastoral land of dairy farms, market gardens, piggeries, poultry farms and such. This sort of landscape was totally unsuitable for wattlebirds. As Toowoomba expanded this landscape was rapidly overwhelmed by suburbia. The rich red basaltic soils of Toowoomba are ideal for horticulture so that, in the interim, land that was once open pasture is now a dense landscape of thriving suburban gardens rich in flowering shrubs and trees of an ideal structure and composition for species such as Blue-faced Honeyeaters and Red Wattlebirds. They have followed in the wake of the greening and urbanisation of Toowoomba. This has been also assisted by the increasing, and desirable trend to plant native gardens rather than the exotic garden of yesteryear.

Veni vidi vici. The Red Wattlebird and the Blue-faced Honeyeater came, saw what they liked, and set up shop. Red-tailed Black Cockatoos have follwed suit some years later. This vegetative change of the urban face also saw the demise of other species. Noisy Miners, abundant locally when I was a youngster, have decreased within this new suburbia although still hang on in parts. The Zebra Finch, Plum-headed Finch, Chestnut-breasted Mannikin and Common Bronzewing, to name but a few, used to be common Rangeville-ites but have now disappeared off the local scene.

It's been a fascinating 'coming and going' of species locally over the years I've been birding around Toowoomba; a small microcosm of animal life as it contacts, and adapts or conflicts with humans across the globe. The Red Wattlebird phenomenon in Toowoomba would be an interesting study for anyone interested in the interaction between natural and Man-modified landscapes.

Regards,
Rod Hobson

gileas
Posts: 81
Joined: Mon Jan 18, 2010 10:31 pm
Location: Brisbane, QLD
Contact:

Re: Red Wattlebird, Toowoomba

Post by gileas » Sat Jun 05, 2010 11:45 pm

Thanks Rod, your post was very enlightening! I never realised they were so close to home, my nearest reliable site has always been Girraween. As for birds moving into areas with humans, I think the most obvious ones besides ferals are Galah and Crested Pigeon! Even though they have been fixtures of suburban Brisbane most of my life, I know for a fact they haven't always been here and all over the country people relate stories to me about how both species have moved into coastal areas over the last 30-40 years.

As you say, a fascinating subject!

Regards,
Chris

Rod Hobson
Posts: 509
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2006 8:03 am

Galahs and Crested Pigeons

Post by Rod Hobson » Sun Jun 06, 2010 9:44 am

Chris,

Mate, a very similar situation with the Galah and the Crested Pigeon holds true for me around Toowoomba. They've certainly been here for about as long as I can remember; back as far as my childhood in the 1950-60's. It is interesting to note that before 1901 there is only a single Atlas record for the Galah south of 20 degress south in eastern Queensland. Similarly there were only two records for Crested Pigeon in eastern Queensland before 1920 but by 1950 this bird had established itself throughout, from Townsville to Brisbane.

In the 1950-60's the Red-rumped Parrot, which we called the Grassie or Grass Parrot, reached only to the grasslands of the eastern Darling Downs on the western edge of Toowoomba. In subsequent years it started to spread over the range into the Lockyer where it is now a common breeding species. I've even seen a small flock of these parrots feeding on a headland over the sea at Redcliffe. I believe that this dainty and charming little parrot is now established around Brisbane.

Little Corellas have also established around Toowoomba and into the Lockyer Valley in the last decade or so. When I started birding seriously in the 1970's you needed to travel out onto the Condamine around Cecil Plains and Kogan to find this bird. It is tempting to blame the local establishment of the corella on flocks formed from a nucleus of aviary escapees. I believe, however, that this increase has been too rapid and widespread for this to be the case. Farmers and landowners on the Darling Downs on the eastern edge of Toowoomba with whom I've spoken have also noted this sudden increase in corellas in recent years (at Mt. Tyson and Bunkers Hill particularly). This is quite a different scenario to the colonisation of the Little Corella (and the Long-billed Corella) around Brisbane however where, I believe both species' firmly established presence has evolved from aviary escapees initially.

Species that fairly regularly visited the Toowoomba area in the 1950's such as Crimson and Eastern Rosellas, and Red-winged Parrots are now very irregular vagrants. The Diamond Firetail was quite common on the northern side of Toowoomba in the 1950's but was heavily trapped for the caged bird trade. It has now disappeared from the area. Similarly, other finch species such as Zebra and Plum-headed Finches declined alarmingly but have re-eastablish themselves around Toowoomba especially in the Lockyer Valley. In one of those paradoxes of nature the alarming increase of one of our worst environmental weeds, Green Panicum, has really benefited some seed-eating finches and other birds such as Tawny Grassbird, Golden-headed Cisticola and Brown Quail. The decline of the dairying industry in the Lockyer Valley has seen the burgeoning of Green Panicum throughout that area.

Other birds that have made a welcome return to the region have include Magpie Goose, Wandering Whistling Duck and Australian Bustard; all of which had disappeared long before I appeared on the scene. Perhaps my love for the English language belies my age but I can't help but think of the classic quote from Shakespeare's "As You Like It" when I reflect on the type of conversation we're having, Chris:

"All the world's a stage,
And all the men and women merely players:
They have their exits and entrances; "

Perhaps birds do, too?

Regards,
Rod Hobson
Last edited by Rod Hobson on Sat Jun 26, 2010 11:14 am, edited 1 time in total.

User avatar
Mick Atzeni
Posts: 1843
Joined: Sun Dec 11, 2005 9:08 pm

The Rise and Rise of Red Wattlebirds

Post by Mick Atzeni » Thu Jun 17, 2010 12:56 am

Rod and Chris

On the subject of Red Wattlebirds, I made a point of recording all my sightings of them when I first started seeing them locally in May 1980, which was at Echo Valley at the end of Ramsay St, on the southern Toowoomba escarpment. I was a student at the former DDIAE (now USQ) and was in the habit of regularly checking on the cattle my father ran on leased land at Echo Valley. Here's a list of those early records I kept:

Red Wattlebird (4+) 20/05/1980 Echo Valley
Red Wattlebird (1) 23/05/1980 Echo Valley
Red Wattlebird (1) 24/05/1980 Echo Valley
Red Wattlebird (3+) 31/05/1980 Echo Valley
Red Wattlebird 1/06/1980 Echo Valley
Red Wattlebird (1) 16/06/1980 Echo Valley
Red Wattlebird 18/06/1980 Echo Valley
Red Wattlebird (1) 22/06/1980 Jubilee Park, East Toowoomba
Red Wattlebird 23/06/1980 Echo Valley
Red Wattlebird 27/06/1980 Echo Valley
Red Wattlebird 4/07/1980 Echo Valley
Red Wattlebird 11/07/1980 Echo Valley
Red Wattlebird 13/07/1980 Trafalgar St, Middle Ridge
Red Wattlebird 28/07/1980 Echo Valley

As I had been surveying Echo Valley regularly since joining the club in 1979, and being new to the club and ever so keen, was a stickler for documenting everything I saw back then, I can say with reasonable confidence that I, albeit inadvertently, captured the Red Wattlebird's arrival and establishment in that southern part of Toowoomba.

From memory, the only other member reporting them in the survey area at that time was former club President Marilyn Jacobs at her place. She lived on the eastern edge of the escarpment near Picnic Point.

In line with what Rod has said about the greening of Toowoomba, and planting of natives, someone once pointed out to me that the spread of Red Wattlebirds across the city coincided with widespread plantings of the hugely popular grevillea cultivars with larger blossoms such as Robyn Gordon and Superb. I can certainly vouch for their penchant for these. They also love flowering Umbrella trees.

Cheers
Michael Atzeni
7 Woden St, Murphys Creek 4352
Mob: 0499 395 485

Rod Hobson
Posts: 509
Joined: Thu Jan 19, 2006 8:03 am

Red Wattlebirds in Toowoomba

Post by Rod Hobson » Thu Jun 17, 2010 12:45 pm

Folks,

Michael Atzeni's dates fit well with my thoughts on this subject. Echo Valley was relatively isolated from suburban Toowoomba at the time of his sightings in 1980 separated by large tracts of open rural land. The suburbanisation and consequent greening of the interconnecting landscape would fit well within the timeframe for the steady influx of wattlebirds over the area.

Red Wattlebirds were about the area sporadically for quite a while prior to 1980 though, as I have a record from Blanchview from 28.04.1974. I also remember seeing a bird in the very early days of the TBO (early-mid 1970's) in a garden on the corner of Perth Street and Tourist Road. It caused quite a kafuffle. I remember the owners of the property getting quite concerned about the number of people gathering on their footpath and peering through binoculars into their front yard. It was an occasion.

Bird composition has changed a lot over the years around Toowoomba since I started birding here. Whilst digging through my records on this subject I found my early records of Fuscous Honeyeaters from Sutcliffe's Road at Flagstone Creek in 1979. The spinney of eucalypts that these birds occupied has long since gone, as have the honeyeaters. The Echo Valley area that Michael talks of was an area we visited frequently in the 1960's. It was a good area for Crimson and Eastern Rosellas. They've both disappeared from this area long ago.

Interesting, also, has been a recent discussion that I had with a visiting Victorian birder, Rob Mancini, regarding Red Wattlebirds in Melbourne. Rob said that a similar thing has happened in that city with the spead of this bird. Apparently Red Wattlebirds have been, and still are a common habitant of the leafier, older suburbs of Melbourne but used to be absent from the drier western suburbs. With the change of demographics, accompanied by a trend to the 'greening' of these suburbs Red Wattlebirds have now spread into, and established there. They are now a common bird in Melbourne's western suburbs according to Rob.

All interesting stuff.

Regards,
Rod Hobson

Post Reply

Return to “Winter Within - 2010”