To follow a theme

The theme for the next month is going to be … ‘What is happening to our woodland birds … blip or collapse?’

I’ve already alluded, in recent posts, to a worrying summer decline in both species richness and abundance of our local woodland birds.

During the week I paid visits to Rotunda Park and Mia Mia Track and on both occasions observations followed recent trends – very few birds and a lack of variety. No sign of robins (apart from a single Eastern Yellow Robin in the Mia Mia) or whistlers and very few honeyeaters. Let’s see what happens over the next month … I’d be very interested in other local notes to add to the mix.

Weebill, Rotunda Park Newstead, 27th February 2020

Yellow Thornbill @ Rotunda Park

Grey Fantail @ Rotunda Park


Eastern Yellow Robin in the Mia Mia, 28th February 2020

Brown Thornbill in the Mia Mia


Postscript: Damian Kelly, another active local birder, sent me the following note after reading this post …

I read your resent blog posts about species numbers with interest. Being out and about quite a bit I have to agree with your comments. Apart from a few Yellow Robins and a couple of Jacky Winters locally I have not seen any other small insectivores so far this year. Quite disturbing. 

Not only in the Newstead orbit but further afield – for example Mount Lofty (near Redesdale) is usually a good spot for Scarlet, Hooded and Yellow Robins. A recent visit yielded none of these, although I did see a couple of Jacky Winters. No Speckled Warbler which I have seen in the past. 

Same for a couple of Coliban water race tracks at Elphinstone and Mt Alexander – Scarlet and Yellow Robins usually present, but not seen in recent visits this year. Even the wetter Blackwood area was way down on species – no robins part from a solitary yellow. Rufous Fantails and Bassian Thrush were very rare compared to previous years in January. Grey Fantail was common.

The bush surrounding parts of Tullaroop seems to be faring better with Varied Sittella, various honeyeaters, Weebills, Shrike-tits and such like in reasonable numbers, but no robins. Plus one WB Sea-Eagle the other day. Also lots of Tree and Fairy Martins.

Lynne, as you know, studies spiders quite a bit and she is reporting significant declines in numbers of both the ground dwelling wolf spiders (like the one in Frances’ recent post on your blog) and the arboreal orb weavers as well as the black house types that she encourages on the windows of our house. She reckons that insect numbers (as evidenced by fewer insects caught in webs) are significantly lower which results in lack of food and subsequent breeding.

I did a lot of surveys – 20 minute 2 hectare – for Connecting Country in spring/early summer last year and patterns were similar. This covered 17 surveys at 9 different locations and the pattern was similar. Of course less insects limits bird food as well. A link with the robins? Who knows…..

11 responses to “To follow a theme

  1. Hi Geoff,
    I have made the same observations in my local patch in Canberra. There has been a significant decrease in the number of species and the number of individual birds of those species that are to be found. It is very depressing.

  2. I have also noticed a similar decline – in Canberra. We once saw large flocks of migrating honeyeaters (mostly white plumed) and now we see only a few. Same with Silvereyes – flocks of 20 used to visit and now it’s ‘flocks’ of 5 (if we are lucky). Same with other honeyeaters like Eastern Spinebills and it’s many years since we saw a Crescent. IMHO the decline over the years has something to do with the 500,000 hectares of land (habitat) cleared every year in Australia – plus the insecticides used.
    Regards, Vic

  3. Hi Geoff – similar observations here at the foot of the Warbys, Glenrowan.
    Worrying and depressing.

  4. I have notice the same Geoff, and just imagine the consequences if burning cultural, hazard or any other dodgy or feelgood names are allowed to happen it will trash a whole eco system that will have long term negative environmental
    outcomes that will hit birds and all the other life forms they depend on real hard.

  5. Hi Geoff, I regularly visit a block within the Clunes district and I have also seen a drastic reduction in bird numbers and varieties. Bird numbers that have dropped are the likes of Red Wattlebird, White-winged Chough and all Honeyeater species local to this area. No Robin species have been seen at this block this year and also no Cuckoos of any variety seen by me. . .

  6. Geoff…..we were in WA for 3 months last year aug -October and noticed lack of little birds over there too. Lyhn and Gordon Barfield.

    Sent from my iPad


  7. Hi Geoff. In Welshmans Reef we have had a great season for bird diversity however I have noticed few Silvereyes this year. Otherwise we’ve had a wider variety than last year. The birds and roos have bred well so a good year may be ahead.

    • Hi Anne – good to hear that numbers/species are doing OK at Welshman Reef … any scarlet or red capped robins? Silvereyes tend to arrive in greater numbers in the autumn so worth looking out for over coming weeks. Cheers, Geoff

  8. We have seen a hugely depleted insect population where we live near Chiltern NP (NE Victoria), and can only assume that this is playing havoc with the bird populations that depend on insects. Is the same thing happening down there?

    Kind regards,

    Ali & Jack Pockley

  9. Hi Geoff, the trees out my way have unusually thick and healthy foliage with a total absence of lerps. Bird numbers are down and my species list is pretty thin too.

  10. Pingback: Decline or blip? | Friends of the Box-Ironbark Forests

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