Extraction of Eastern Bristlebird

What is an Eastern Bristlebird ? Find out here.

I was fortunate to be invited to help extract Eastern Bristlebirds from Howe Flat nearby the NSW-Vic border. An active fire was threatening their home and a number of government departments put together a plan to catch 15 – 20 birds for safe keeping at the Melb Zoo. There was a small window to get in and out before the fire arrived at Howe Flat.

There was a field team of around a dozen to catch the birds but many more people in the background working on transport food and other resources required to keep the team safe and fed. We stayed at school camp called Marshmead.

But first, we had to get to Mallacoota quickly and what better way than to call in the Singapore Air Force.

a_Chinook

The Singapore Air Force were helping out with the eastern Australian fires and as the Victorian Government saw the Extraction of the Bristlebirds as a fire incident issue, a Singapore Air Force Chinook became our means of transport.

b_Inside the Chinook

Inside the Chinook with our packs and boxes for transporting the birds. The back section of the Chinook was open the entire trip. It was loud and vibrated continuously. The seating was not very comfortable and there was no inflight movie but we all arrived safely.

jpeg Satelite Screen shot of Melb to Mallacoota

The Chinook flight plan

c_Boxes unloaded at Marshmead

Our destination was Marshmeade and after landing in a cleared area we had to sort out our “stuff”

d_

This is a photo of a small section of Marshmead and it gives an indication of the nearby fire that was approaching.

jpeg Satelite Screen shot of MLC Camp to Catching Area

The area where the birds live is Howe Flat. It was around 30 minutes from base camp by four wheel drive.  We drove there each day before sunrise to set the nets.

e_The Catching Area with fire looming

The habitat at Howe Flat is varied but this shot shows how close the fire was.  As I type this habitat may have already been lost.

f_A set net

The birds were intended to be caught in mist nets. Above is one mist net ready to do its work. A bluetooth speaker is placed on one or both sides of the net and the Bristlebird call is broadcast to attract the wild birds.

The strategy worked 15 times.

g_The tent where birds were processed (no ooops)

This tent was used as a processing area for captured birds. Some of you may be bird researchers and would know what an “oops” is. Processing birds in tent avoided birds from escaping from nervous hands.

h_The Bristlebird

And this is an Eastern Bristlebird. It is estimated there are around 180 individuals in Howe Flat and subsequently Victoria.

i_Birds in boxes being prepared for shipping out

With the Birds in boxes, they are prepared for transporting.

j_Karina With Box

Experienced people from Zoos Victoria were present to ensure the birds were cared for whilst being transported. The birds were immediately taken by boat back to Mallacoota and then to Melbourne. A Zoos Victoria employee travelled back to Melbourne with the birds.

l_Percival and Lee

As it happens, Bristlebirds were not the only birds requiring assistance. Percival the Pelican also required some help due to a fishing hook in his bill.

m_Waiting to Leave Mallacoota

Despite the efforts of fire fighters, the time came when the team had to move out of the area. Above are some of the team awaiting a plane at the Mallacoota Airport to take them home.

n_Govener of Victoria Meeing the Crew

However, before our departure, the Governor of Victoria, Linda Dessau AC arrived with her team to visit Mallacoota. She knew of the extraction project and was very pleased to meet our team.

o_Our transport home

Our plane arrived to take us home.

p_Dave with Bird Box

We arrived safely at Essendon Airport as a result of our trusty pilot Dave. But Dave not only flew some of the team back to Melbourne, it turns out Dave also transported the captured 15 birds. Well done Dave.

The whole exercise of being involved in this Extraction of Eastern Bristlebirds was extraordinary and exciting. It was hard work with early starts and most of the team were anxious. Catching wild birds in habitat like Howe Flat is not easy and there was a lot expected of a small group of people, especially those catching the birds.

There were dozens of people involved in this project, many of who were scattered across the state, making phone calls to arrange support, obtaining permits, organising food and much more. Fire fighters kept us safe and held off the fire from Howe Flat as best they could whilst we worked.

The team was welcomed at Mallacoota and Marshmead and generously supported by everyone we met. This exercise was a first for the State and whilst it’s hoped it will not be needed in the future for other species, the chances are it will.

 

Scenery of Melaleuca and Cox Bight

The scenery of the Tasmanian South West is stunning. Not many people visit the region as the only way in and out is to walk, fly or boat it.

Following are general photos and videos I took on my short stay, (clicking on links will direct you to my cloud storage site).

View of nearby ranges at Melaleuca.

General Scenery 1

Sunset over landing strip at Melaleuca.

General Scenery 2

Old tin mine which is now abandoned.

Abandoned tin mine

 

Walker’s hut at Melaleuca.

Walker Huts

Tasmania’s south west gets a lot of rain. Mosses and fungi are everywhere.

Moss and Fungi

Lichen and moss on a small tree.

Moss Lichen

Trigger plants on the track to Cox Bight.

Small Trigger Plants

A visitor to my tent, Mrs Tasmanian Pademelon.

Pademilon

Mrs Pademelon and her Joey.

Pademilon and Joey

A couple of videos below:

Video of Button Plains here

Video of Flying Home here

 

 

 

More than Parrots

There is more to do in the south west wilderness than tick birds. I took a couple of days off bird watching to walk to Cox Bight.

Melaleuca to Cox Bight

I have always heard of the Button Grass plains in the south west of Tasmania and now I have seen them.

The Button Grass Plains with an elevated boardwalk.

Button Grass Track

Button Grass and mostly a Leptospermum sp.

Button Grass and mostly Leptospermum

Button Grass flower.

Button Grass Flower

Three quarters of the trip to Cox Bight, and a couple of boulders that have rolled off the nearby range.

Approaching Cox Bight 1

Cox Bight in the distance

Getting close to Cox Bight

Beach at Cox Bight

Beach Cox Bight

Camp site Cox Bight. There were no other campers

Camp site Cox Bight

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Up Up and Away

The weather cleared and Par Avion was ready to fly me to Melaleuca. There is a second airport at Hobart for smaller commercial flights.

This is not the plane we flew in but it’s a similar model.

Plane Leaving Hobart

Things are pretty basic at Melaleuca which includes the airstrip.

Airport

Arriving at Melaleuca

Plane at Mel

The first objective of the trip was to “tick” Oranage-bellied Parrot (OBP) from my list and so after setting up my tent I visited the two bird hides established to monitor the OBP.

The flash looking bird hide on the left also doubles as a museum. The feeding station for the OBP is on the right

Bird Hide and feeding platform

A smaller and less flash looking bird hide

Smaller bird hide

A volunteer monitoring the parrots.

Volunteer on scope

The two Orange-bellied Parrots

OBP

Feed back from the volunteers is there are more OBP this year than last year but it’s still less than 50. Most of the birds have a band to distinguish the captive bred birds from those that are wild but I did see one bird without any bands.

 

 

Time to Spare in Hobart

With my flight to Melaleuca cancelled due to poor visibility, (I appreciate delaying the landing of a plane in fog, especially when I’m in it) I visited the Hobart Botanical Gardens and the museum, among other places.

Above is the veggie garden frequently used by Peter Cundall on Gardening Australia. Those of you who watch Gardening Australia will know what I mean.

Those of you don’t . . . tough.

There is also a small building in the Bot Gardens not dissimilar to a refrigerator. It is kept at a very low temperature and contains plants found on subantarctic islands. It’s a great idea but it just doesn’t quite work. I believe it is too small and a little tacky.

Nevertheless less the gardens are nice. I added many birds to my list and saw a Brown Bandicoot. I didn’t get a picture of the little treasure.

At the museum I found one of the main reasons for visiting Tasmania. An Orange-bellied Parrot. This little guy was stuffed but it’s still good to practice finding them. Being stuffed, glued to a perch and in a glass box does help.

Below is a great representation of the amount of rain that falls on the west coast of Tasmania. It’s worth tapping/clicking on the image to read the rainfall amounts. Very impressive when you consider Melbourne receives on average 650 mm per year.

Tassie

I’m having a few days off and thought I would spend it at Melaleuca Tasmania. It’s located in the South West of Tasmania and is rather remote. The only way to get there is by boat, plane or walking.

I’m going to fly with Par Avion but first Hobart.

I have had a Virgin credit card for literally decades and as such, earned several thousand frequent flier points, so I have used them to get to Tassie traveling Business Class. This was a first for me and it was rather nice. Pity it’s a short trip. The staff on the plane treat you like a “special” person, something I could get used to.

I was greeted at the airport by a lovely Beagle who thankfully didn’t want to know me.

I’m staying at the Best Western nearby the CBD of Hobart. I think the word “Best” is a little extravagant but it’s a good place to stay.

The view from my window

Needless to say I visited the Salamanca market. It was good but it rained. It didn’t seem to bother the locals. I think it’s rained here before.

There’s some fantastic old buildings and little laneways down by the docks.

However, some bad news. I’ve just been informed that my flight to Melaleuca has been cancelled due to poor visibility. It seems I will be staying an extra day in Hobart.

I may check out the Botanical Gardens and do a little bird watching.

More about Seals

Kangaroo Island is renown for it’s seals. The link here can explain the various types of seals that live around Australia.  I’ve read it often but I still get confused.

Nevertheless, the photograph below is a mother and pup which I  saw at Seal Bay. They were resting nearby the extensive boardwalks.

IMG_4214

 

Seal Bay is a wonderful place to visit. The education centre is very good and there are guided tours to the beach on a regular basis. This ensures people are supervised when checking out the seals. I was quietly impressed with the South Australian National Park authority.

 

IMG_4208

 

This is not a skeleton of a seal but a Humpbacked Whale.  Human visitors are not allowed to leave the boardwalks and explore the beach or dunes,  but the seals can and hence the tracks around the skeleton were made by the seals.

IMG_4211