Hedley/Nine Mile Creek Restoration Project – Bird Monitoring Program
Interim Report- Feb 2014
The first phase of bird surveys to regularly monitor selected sites on two participating properties as part of the Hedley/Nine Mile Creek Restoration Project have been completed. The two properties participating in this Bird Monitoring Program (BMP) are within the Nine Mile Creek catchment .The landholders have been funded to complete on-ground works that will lead in time to improved habitat for wildlife (see YYLN News Vol 13 p.5 for further background).
The main objective of the BMP is to record baseline information about the bird populations present at the selected sites with particular reference to species present (species richness) and the total number of birds present (abundance).
Also the current habitat at each site has been assessed and given a quality score (out of 20) using the Rapid Habit Assessment form. At each site the vegetation is scored for quality in a number of categories, for example, the presence or absence of large trees, canopy cover, under story species, weeds and patch size. Baseline habitat quality information will be used to monitor changes in the vegetation over time.
Of the two participating properties, the bird surveys completed at Dallas & Jude Wyatt’s property will be the subject of this report. This property is in the middle to upper region of the Nine Mile Creek catchment. Rainfall is 900 mm per annum and it is within the Strzelecki bioregion. Here five sites are being surveyed – three within the property and two others (a control site and a benchmark site) are nearby, but downstream along the Nine Mile Creek. A large number of surveys have been completed at most sites (the control site was added into the program late on) over the last two years. Details of each monitored site, the number of surveys and the bird survey data in terms of species richness and bird abundance has been summarized as a table (see Table1) for the Wyatt’s property and downstream sites.
Table 2 lists the most frequently observed birds at the five monitored sites.
The Welshpool H16 Bushland Reserve (site A) although only 4 hectares in area has the most diverse bird population with 69 species recorded over 23 surveys with an average of 24 bird species per survey. This benchmark site has a medium score (11/20) for habitat quality because it is infested with blackberry. However this site being on the Nine Mile Creek has the best patch of remnant riparian native forest in the immediate area. The 4 hectares of native vegetation is also buffered by three adjacent bush blocks (which are grazed) of similar size. Also, most of the Welshpool H16 Bushland Reserve is protected from being grazed by stock. Thus the habitat is structurally complex with tall trees, good canopy cover and a diverse under story of plants. This creates excellent habitat for many forest dependant species such as White-throated Treecreeper, Varied Sitella, Golden Whistler, Striated Thornbill, Eastern Yellow Robin, Scarlet Robin, Brown Gerygone and a number of honeyeaters. Also summer migrants such as Rufous Fantail, Satin Flycatcher, Rufous Whistler and Dusky Woodswallow are observed at this site.
Site C is the second best site for bird diversity with 63 species recorded and 20 bird species per survey. This site is the house garden and scattered mature trees (cypress and gums) close by. This site has been included in the BMP to illustrate the importance of such locations for providing suitable habitat for birds. Small birds that require shrubs and dense patches of vegetation like Superb Fairy-wren, White-browed Scrubwren, and Brown Thornbill are resident around the garden. Also, Grey Fantail and Grey Shrike-thrush are commonly observed birds. Other common farmland birds observed are the Australian Magpie, Red Wattlebird, Willie Wagtail, Yellow-rumped Thornbill and Little Raven along with feral species like the Common Myna, Common Starling and Common Blackbird. Many honeyeaters and number of parrots and cockatoos visit the garden. An Olive Whistler was present for a few days in May2013.
The other three sites have lower bird diversity compared to the benchmark site and have low ratings for Habitat Quality. Wyatt’s Bush Reserve (site B) has 12 bird species per survey (50% less than site A) with many of the common farmland birds mentioned above frequently observed. A pair of White-browed Scrubwren inhabits the patches of bracken fern at this site with Noisy Miner, Eastern Rosella and Grey Butcherbird being resident species. This site although having trees present was heavily grazed in the past and lacks a diverse understory of smaller trees and scrubs.
The Nine Mile Creek restoration site (site D) has had an average of 15 bird species observed per survey (37% less than site A). The degraded habitat consists of several large old gums that have survived along the creek, clumps of blackberry (which have been sprayed), a few clumps of cumbungi (Typha sp.) and in a narrow band of remnant understory vegetation towards the eastern end. The creek has been always grazed in the past. Typically the creek flows during the wetter months, and it retains water in a small weir and in pools along its length during the summer. Surprisingly fifteen wetland species have been recorded at this site including Buff-banded Rail, Dusky Moorhen, Eurasian Coot, Australian Wood Duck, Pacific Black Duck, Grey Teal and Chestnut Teal. Also Latham’s Snipe (a migratory wader from Eastern Siberia) has been observed along the creek with 11 individuals recorded in September 2013. A number of smaller birds such as Superb Fairy-wren, White- browed Scrubwren, Brown Thornbill and Grey Fantail are regularly observed. Small flocks of Tree Martins arrive in August each year to breed in the old gums along the Nine Mile Creek.
Table 2 lists the most frequently recorded species at each site. The six most common birds observed over the five sites combined are: Australian Magpie, Superb Fairy-wren, White-browed Scrubwren, Brown Thornbill, Grey fantail and Grey Shrike-thrush.
Bird surveys will be continued at all sites over the next twelve months. The conservation works listed in Table 1 for sites B and D have been completed at the Wyatt property. Site D for example was fenced and planted with 4000 tubestock over spring 2013. The habitat on the Nine Mile Creek is already changing with long grass now dominant along the creek banks and aquatic vegetation such as Cumbungi clumps becoming reestablished along some sections of the creek bed due to the removal of stock. With baseline data for this site’s bird population well established it can now be monitored for possible changes into the future.
Table1: Summary for the monitored sites at D. & J. Wyatt’s property & downstream.
Table 2: Most frequently observed birds at the monitored sites
Table 3: Frequency of forest and understory dependant species recorded at the monitored sites
Note: Forest and understory dependant species are those birds that are generally restricted to a habitat dominated by tall trees with a diverse understory of soft and/or hard leaved plant species.