Local Bird Life in Hamilton
Thursday, 4 October 2018
Received from a resident within the Ward
As September sees the arrival of many seasonal birds, I thought I would highlight a few good reasons that we should promote the birds that call in at Hamilton as well as those who are residents here like us.
Since moving to Hamilton in 2001, I have maintained a link to my Queensland working life in conservation, sustainable forestry, infrastructure delivery and in recent years through urban design and architecture by continuing with incidental recording of birds where I live. This is the simplest and easiest way for people to record birds they see (and if knowledgeable also record their presence from their calls). BirdLife Australia is a national organisation that coordinates many programs related to birds and even incidental sightings can be uploaded to their databases by anyone with an interest (see link below).
'Hamilton' residents have enjoyed strong links to the outdoors and nature for longer than recorded history, however it is with recorded history that we can see that aspects we have enjoyed and benefited from may be under threat be it from climate change, inappropriate intensification of development or pollution. Bird species surely contribute something important to what has been a very high and privileged quality of life in Hamilton (even for those with less material wealth) - and so any diminishment in their diversity needs our attention.
I make a particular effort to record the first wave of channel-bill cuckoos who arrive in September from northern Australia. This year, the first call I recorded for the beginning of this year's southward migration was on the 9th September at approximately 3:45 AM. Known humorously as the Flying Umbrellas this species causes quite a ruckus during the time it spends in the south breeding - being a lazy parent, it lays its eggs in the nests of birds such as crows and we can often see the 'duelling' that goes on over contested habitat - it does redeem itself however by taking its fledglings north in due course! They are known to be very fond of fig species and we have unfortunately lost many mature figs in Hamilton due to infrastructure demands. I hope these birds can adapt however they still need to eat something and it seems that their special EPBC protected status as a migratory species is not sufficient to address habitat change without a focus on other values they embody.
Another species of note that I have recorded in September in Hamilton was in 2001 (16 September) at my then residence on Nudgee Road, the Black Faced Monarch (see photo attached). Due to its habitat preferences this was quite an exceptional recording for the suburbs although our well treed, edge of the city, riverside and close to the coast position has no doubt been of great importance in such sightings. Sadly, the vegetation (including a large fig tree) in which the bird landed was completely removed on this property in February 2017 for a unit development that has since lapsed (not been constructed).
Many people will see and hear a multitude of bird species in Hamilton if they just think to be more in tune with what is around them. I do not go out of my way to record species however my training makes it second nature. I think this is a good skill for citizen scientists to familiarise themselves with and it can certainly contribute much to our understanding of how we can make room for nature in the city. Just as a quick account, this month I have incidentally recorded the Channel-bill cuckoo, pale-headed rosella, rainbow lorikeet, masked lapwing, pied currawong, black-backed magpie, grey butcherbird, peewee, southern fig bird, noisy miner (not to be confused with the pest species the Indian myna which is also lives here on a seasonal basis), little corella, laughing kookaburra, blue-faced honeyeater, torresian crow, crested pigeon, black-faced cuckoo shrike, nankeen kestrel, pelican to name just a few from a single backyard! (noting also that different groups of bird species tend to occur across Hamilton so there is quite a bit of local variability.
One species that I have not seen or heard recently that was a common seasonal recording in previous years is the Tawny Frogmouth (an owl-like bird). I feel concerned that I may have unwittingly contributed to the demise of this species locally by allowing at one time a pest controller to lay regulated poison to kill rats. This is a known cause of death of many owl species across urban Australia (as it is their exceptionally skilled predation of rats and mice that put them in the firing line of poison in the first place - should be be asking how to make urban space more owl friendly one might ask). I have become so concerned at the multiplier effect of individual action that I no longer allow baits to be laid and instead make the best effort possible to make my urban plot less attractive to unhealthy numbers of rats - eg. cutting palm flowers off the trees before they set fruit, ensuring no rotting timber is in any structure as rats love to sharpen their teeth on old wood.
I thought it was a good time to share something of my wildlife recordings in Hamilton and hope you can help to promote this activity to a wider local audience.