Monday, July 14, 2008

Parrot Survey

G'day All,
Yesterday, a small crew of Heyfield Birdwatchers travelled down to Jack Smith Lake. The plan was to help DF with his parrot survey that he conducts down there on behalf of the Birds Australia Orange-bellied Parrot recovery program.

I suspect that most Aussies reading this will have at least heard of the Orange-bellied Parrot. Here's a small list of facts...

Orange-bellied Parrot - Neophema chrysogaster.
Around just 200 birds remain in the wild.
Migratory. They breed in summer on the sw coast of Tasmania and winter on the mainland, from se South Australia to se Victoria and sometimes up to the s coast of New South Wales.
In Victoria, they favour coastal saltmarsh habitat where they feed on various Glasswort and similar species.
There are reports from about 1830 to 1910 of 'thousands' of birds.
Dramatic decline began around the 1940's.
The current wild population has been 'stable' for some years and is estimated to contain about 40 breeding pair.
Similar species include the Blue-winged Parrot, Elegant Parrot and Rock Parrot and, as DF and I can testify, the mutant Turquoise Parrot.

Anyway, back to yesterday. At the first site, the 5 of us set off and it wasn't too long before we'd sprung the first flock of Blue-winged Parrots from a depression amid the tussocks. We had spread out to cover the ground better, and when the first flock took off, we came together a bit to try and estimate the numbers better and to scan them as closely as we could, to try and identify an elusive Orange-bellied Parrot. Both of these tasks are not as easy as they sound.
The birds are extremely well camouflaged on the ground. As you approach, they take off en masse and circle and dive back down to ground in the nearest cover. After some time of flushing and counting, and scanning the few individuals that managed to land in open territory or on a nearby fence, we all agreed that we'd seen about 120+ Blue-winged Parrots. No one felt they'd seen an Orange-bellied Parrot among them.

(Thanks for these pics PG)

We ambled and chatted our way back to the cars, identifying a few other species such as White-fronted Chats, Striated Field Wrens and even a couple of Wedge-tailed Eagles on the way.

Then it was a short drive around to site 2 and some lunch. We set off again in much the same pattern, not being too hopeful, as we reckoned 120+ Blue-winged Parrots would just about be our quota for the day - a quota we were quite satisfied with. The Blue-winged Parrot is classed as an 'uncommon' bird and follows a similar migratory pattern to the Orange-bellied Parrot, but will venture much further inland, reaching as far as central South Australia and New South Wales.

Persistence pays off however, as eventually another couple of smaller flocks sprung out of the tussocks, with their characteristic tsit..tsit..tsit.. call. We determined another 40+ something birds this time, but once again none of us was prepared to say we'd definitely identified an Orange-bellied Parrot. (What a shame -hope I live long enough).

The plod back to the cars was long and slow, but I for one was feeling quite exhilarated at being able to see almost 200 of the beautiful little Blue-winged Parrot.

Back at home, it was a hot shower, dinner, a chat to Glen about what we'd seen, a short snooze in front of the telly and then the head hit the pillow pretty heavily. Nice day spent in nice company, thanks Jim, Peter, Ian and Duncan.


PS: For some excellent background on Jack Smith Lake and the Orange Bellied Parrot program, check out Duncan's entry.


  1. That sounds like a very interesting day. Wish we could all join you.

  2. G'day Mick,
    Yes, interesting birds, nice company, even the weather was kind, if not warm. These days I don't want much more from life! (Maybe a bogey free round of golf, but).

  3. 120+ Blue-winged Parrots would be a site worth seeing.

  4. Hi Gouldiae
    A great day was had by all, it seems.
    half your luck.
    No doubt years of research behind knowing the right place to look.
    Nice posting by both you and Duncan. Different styles and photos. Great.

  5. Thanks Denis, yes it was a good day. The 5 of us and normally 4 or 5 others, get out regularly once a month. Normally bird oriented, but sometimes 1 or 2 of us can be sidetracked by an interesting plant, or spider, or... Pretty laid back. Often ends up in a coffee shop or bakery somewhere! Good fun.