Tuesday, December 17, 2013


Given that it is now mid-December, some might well consider this monthly report a mite on the tardy side.  Yes.  However, going on the premise of better late than never, it is present here with an brief explanation as to why it has taken this long to emerge.  It was actually written by the end of the first week in November and awaited a few textual adjustments and the addition of the photographs.  Piece of cake; like falling off a log.  Then the enormity of the new Australian Curriculum dropped on me like the proverbial lead balloon.  Testing, marking and of course report writing.  Gone are the days when teachers could simply comment “worked well” or “could do better.”  November and early December [when the November report would normally be prepared] became lost in a mountain of schoolwork.  I drowned in a deluge of data that had to be prepared and transferred to varius computer files – and then forwarded to various areas.
‘nough said.  The October report for Allen Road is here.

In a blog designed primarily to record bird species noted along Allen Road over a given calendar month, this month I’ll start by referring to a species not actually observed during October 2013.  The idea for the anomaly was originally suggested by the unexpected appearance of the Superb Fair-wren on the 23rd of the month; the Variegated Fairy-wren had already put in two separate appearances [12th and 13th] by then and showed well again on the 26th.
The latter fairy-wren was recorded almost without a twitch; it’s an Allen Road regular and even inhabits the bushland area around our dam on the southern edge of the 7½-acre property.  The Superb on the other hand did raise the proverbial eyebrow – its previous sighting had been back in December 2011!

This led us to wander a little down Memory Lane.  In our early, pioneering, days on Allen Road we had often experienced the pleasure of having the magnificent fairy-wren trinity on display; the Variegated, Superb and the Red-backed Fairy-wren.
It wasn’t so much that the Red-backed had not put in an appearance during October 2013 [it last showed in January 2013] but the realization that the Red-backed Fairy-wren has NEVER been recorded in any October since the commencement of Allen Road records back in April 2001.  That inspired us to delve a little deeper.  The species has also failed to put in a showing during any May, June or July, with only a solitary appearance during August, over all those years.


Not that the Red-backed Fairy-wren has ever been a prolific species along Allen Road.  In total we have only ever recorded the Red-backed on 29 occasions.  Compare that to the 55 computer entries for the Superb and 356 for the Variegated.Over October 2013 we recorded 24 daily entries [a little less than a birding trip per day] for a total of 59 species, ranging from the 37 species noted on the 6th to the solitary Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater on the 18th.  At 42% [71 species] the passerines again dominated the species order tally; in second place, on 9% [15 species], are the parrots and allies with the pelicans and allies and raptors sharing third spot on 7% [12 species each].
Among the passerines, the honeyeaters continue to dominate the charts with fifteen species [9%]; a little ahead of the raptors on 12 species [7%].

And speaking of honeyeaters along Allen Road brings to mind the anomaly of the regular triumvirate of backyard Meliphagidae: the Yellow-faced, Blue-faced and Striped Honeyeaters; particularly the battle between the two coloured face species. 
By the end of our first year at Allen Road, 2001, the Yellow-faced Honeyeater was clearly the dominant species; 56 appearances compared to the 26 records for the Blue-faced Honeyeater. In 2002 the gap was even more glaring, 62 to 18 sightings.

Thus the mindset was established, the Yellow-faced was our most prolific honeyeater.  The thought continued for many a year before the proverbial penny dropped.  The old, perceived wisdom rankled in the back of the mind.  There was clearly something amiss with the concrete tale of the Yellow-faced dominance.  Weren’t we in fact seeing more Blue-faces?
A cursory review of our handwritten records confirmed the accuracy of the gnawing misgivings; in 2006 we had recorded only 12 Yellow-faces compared to 159 sighting of the Blue-face.  The arrival of the Bird Journal software soon added substance to the suspicions: in 2003 we had recorded both species on 56 occasions [a tie] but thereafter the Blue-faces simply soared ahead of the Yellow-faces.  In 2010 the tally was 9-133 in favour of the Blue-faces and even last year [2012] the disparity glared at 9-106.

At some point in the debate someone queried the Striped Honeyeater.  Back to Bird Journal.  Yes, this species was there in 2001, on 53 sightings compared to the 56 for Yellow-faces and 26 for Blue-faces but by 2002 it had unassumingly passed both its Meliphagidae rivals; 83 sightings compared to 62 Yellow-faces and a mere 18 Blue-faces.  It retained its undisputed leadership until 2006 when, at 142 separate entries, it slipped beneath the 159 for the Blue-faces – Yellow-face records lingered at 12 sightings that year.

Striped Honeyeaters made a brief resurgence in 2008 and 2009, 155/148 and 108/107 respectively] but from thereon lagged behind the Blue-faces until 2012 when they suddenly re-emerged as the leading Meliphagidae with 124 sightings compared to the 106 for Blue-faces [9 Yellow-faced appearances].
Was there more to say?

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