Thinking About Birds

In 2012 I met with Nicholas Carlile from the NSW Office of Environment and Heritage. Nicholas had a major involvement with the feral animal eradication project an Broughton Island, with one of his tasks being to gather baseline data about nesting seabirds so that any future changes can be identified. We talked about doing the same thing for the land birds.

That led to contact with Susanne Callaghan, the NPWS Ranger for Broughton Island. With Suse, we developed a 6-monthly monitoring program (centred around spring and autumn visits) in which representative examples of the various habitats of Broughton Island were surveyed for the birds present. These surveys ran from 2012 to 2016 and allowed us to establish a baseline of data against which future changes can be measured.We've now moved to doing quarterly surveys.

Broughton Island does not have a wide range of types of habitat (and never will) so the number of species there will never be huge. In the 2012-2016 surveys, we found 48 species, with the main ones being Golden-headed Cisticola, Tawny Grassbird, Silvereye and Brown Quail - all of which are widespread. We also discovered that there are lots of Lewin’s Rails around the island – these are secretive birds that we mostly detect from their calls, and only occasionally seeing glimpses of one.

Since 2012, Yellow-faced Honeyeaters seem to have become resident on Broughton Island. A few Little Wattlebirds have also moved in, but the jury is out as to whether they are resident (there is evidence that they move away in summer, or at least some of them).

I continue to lead surveys of the island whenever we visit there, but the program now also includes a banding study. The first banding visit was in winter 2017 and we aim to be on Broughton Island once per quarter for 3-day stints. Greg and Judy Little and Rob Kyte lead the banding program, which is aimed at gaining better understandings of the population dynamics for the main species. One interesting finding is that there are three subspecies of Silvereye present in winter and into early spring. The local Hunter Region subspecies is cornwalli, and these are common on Broughton Island but we also find westernensis and lateralis birds in the autumn and winter visits.

Papers

Little, G., Little, J., Kyte, R. and Stuart, A. (2020). Silvereye subspecies on Broughton Island, New South Wales. Corella 44: 38-43.

Stuart, A., Clarke, T., van Gessel, F., Little, G., Fraser, N. and Richardson, A. (2017). Results from surveys for terrestrial birds on Broughton Island, 2012-2016. The Whistler 11: 46-53

Talks

All change for Broughton Island (presented at an HBOC meeting, October 2020) 

Reports

Stuart, A. (2020). Bird studies on Broughton Island 2017-2020. Hunter Bird Observers Club Special Report #9

Stuart, A. (2014).  Broughton Island 2012-2014 report

Stuart, A. (2013).  Broughton Island Year 1 report

Poems

Thoughts Based On Three Days Spent Birding on Broughton Island

Media

Story about the Broughton Island bird banding project 

Story about the nest boxes and the presence of a Pycroft's Petrel 

One of the several stories about the Gould's Petrel chick (you can see others here)   


Latest News

In December 2019 Greg Little and I found a Gould's Petrel sitting on an egg in one of the nest boxes. By the time of our January-February 2020 visit the egg had hatched and there was a healthy chick there, about a week old. It's the first breeding success for those nest boxes. The chick was banded in March 2020 and left the nest in the following month.

Some previous news

I proposed a banding study for terrestrial birds and in April 2017 we received word that it was approved. Greg Little is leading the study, assisted by Rob Kyte and Judy Little and the occasional extra body. I don't have and don't want a banding licence, but I provide some "gofer" support . Our first banding visit was June 2017 with one of the highlights being that we confirmed three sub-species of Silvereye were on the island (cornwalli, westernensis and lateralis).  We went back again on October 2017 when we banded about 100 Silvereyes over the three days of that visit, and had only a few re-traps. The results suggested at least 500 of them were on the island, and quite easily there could have been 1,000 or more of them.  In our first survey on Broughton (in 2012) we estimated about 50 or so Silvereyes were present.  In October we had one westernensis sub-species bird in a net, and all the rest were cornwalli birds. In our January 2018 visit, all the Silvereyes were the local cornwalli sub-species.  In April 2018 we had three re-trapped cornwalli sub-species, which is a clue that there is a resident population as well as a cohort of visiting birds.

After our winter 2020 visit, we've now banded nearly 700 birds on Broughton Island and we are now seeing some re-traps amongst them, especially with Silvereyes. We've banded almost 550 of them although that includes quite a few southern birds (of the subspecies lateralis and westernensis) that are only present in autumn and winter. Our  "local" subspecies is cornwalli and we have established that at least some of them are regular visitors to the island - and perhaps some might even be resident birds. There are several instances now where we've had the same bird as winter and summer records.  We've also banded 37 Tawny Grassbirds and 19 Yellow-faced Honeyeaters; these counts are starting to become respectable numbers and I'm hopeful that we can't be too far off learning things about those species.

There was a big surprise waiting for us on our October 2019 visit to the island. In one of the Gould's Petrel nest boxes there was a Pycroft's Petrel! The record has since been accepted by BARC as the first confirmed record for Australia. There also were two Gould's Petrels in the nest boxes in October 2019.