Latest news from North Northumberland Bird Club
At the first meeting of 2018, chairman Richard Poyer welcomed Brian Clasper for his talk on Following A Daughter Around Australia.
As chairman of Teesside Bird Club, Brian is an authority on birds. His daughter has travelled extensively through Australia, which has had huge birding benefits for Brian, who has made four visits.
After a brief summary of the administrative and geographical make-up of Australia, Brian started with Victoria, where he sought birds around Melbourne, visiting the Yarrow River, Phillip Island, Victoria Park and Apollo Bay.
He had superb photographs and descriptions of birds, such as purple gallinule, rainbow lorikeet and parrots. The crested pigeon had an enormous crest, suggestive of a radio controlled bird.
At a 1960s’ amusement park near St Kilda, where he noted rainbow lorikeets and little wattlebirds, he was amazed when a penguin calmly walked between his legs. These birds are usually seen on Philip Island.
At Apollo Bay, the southernmost part of Australia, the sea was very rough, but Australian gannet, black oystercatcher and hooded plover were three of many sightings.
Eastern grey kangaroos are numerous, which makes night driving hazardous. Koalas are stripping the Eucalyptus trees, which raises questions about control or even culling. Swamp wallaby was seen and Brian also encountered the laughing kookaburra, which is allegedly partial to steak.
A trip to Phillip Island, with its fur seal colony, provided the opportunity to see more penguins, as well as pelicans that are partial to fish and chips. Brian also had a close encounter with a copperhead snake, the second most venomous snake in the country.
His next holiday was to Western Australia, where he stayed around Kununurra. The local sewage farm hosted diverse bird species. There is also a sanctuary for joeys whose parents are killed on the highway.
Despite being arid, colourful wildlife abounded, such as crimson finches and red-winged parrots.
Lake Argyle, one of the largest inland lakes, is home to freshwater crocodiles, known as ‘freshies’. They are not dangerous, unlike the golden orb spiders.
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Elephant Rock, another arid area, is home to flying foxes and birds of prey, attracted by frequent bush fires.
Next stop was Broome, where ‘salties’ were a big problem. These dangerous saltwater crocodiles have the reputation of closing down shopping precincts, or even the airport, when they call in.
Brian found that the Broome Bird Observatory was one of the best sites in the world for waders, such as red necked stint.
In 2016 Brian visited Queensland. Near Cairns, where mudflats provided a superb habitat for waders, conservationists were at loggerheads with the mayor’s office, which persisted in sand dumping to attract bathers. This will destroy the habitat of the rare mangrove robin. Waders were less profuse, but more confiding.
A trip to the Barrier Reef followed, with snorkelling and birding. Bridled tern and sooty tern were seen.
Inland, Yungaburra seemed stuck in the 1950s, but the surrounding grassland was a haven for birds of prey such as brown falcon and black shouldered kite. A night hike allowed sightings of grass owl and lesser sooty owl.
Brian also visited such sites as the Atherton Tableland, Granite Gorge and Mount Lewis, and enjoyed a river cruise. These habitats offered a wide diversity of colourful birds and other wildlife, from ‘salties’ to the Papuan frogmouth. Here was noted the later breeding cycle of the buff-breasted paradise-kingfisher, thought to be due to climate change.
Brian’s talk presented a kaleidoscope of excellent photographs and a wealth of information, with a spot of politics, a smattering of geography and lots of amusing anecdotes, which delighted the audience.
Brian, who will return to Australia this autumn, was warmly thanked by the chairman.
Our next indoor meeting at Bamburgh Cricket Pavilion, a change to the advertised talk, is on February 9, at 7.30pm, when Tim Mason will give an illustrated talk on The Wildlife Of The Falklands.