Wednesday, 7 June 2017

Bird-A-Day January 2017 bites the dust

So I logged an Australian Magpie on 5 June and could find nothing 'helpful' on 6 June, so that was me done.  This was my earliest, by 6 days, drop out of the January competition.
I will try to get a grasp on why this was so, later in the report but for now let us look at some metrics over the 4 years that I have been involved.  (I have not included - at least for now - my subsidiary efforts for periods commencing on 1 July each year, which is more similar to the experience of the North Americans who started the game.)

My first effort was to count the number of years that each species has been reported.

# years  # species
1 66
2 31
3 41
4 102
Total 240

The total of 240 species isn't too bad but, given that a high proportion of my birding - my guess would be 75% - is spent within 40kms of home, I am a little surprised that only 102 species have been used every year.  My thought is that some of the more common birds around home are
  • logged on the same days as less common species and thus discarded; but
  • cannot be located when times get tough later in the year.
The classic example of this is Grey Fantail.  Very common in our garden from September to April but not around much in May and June.

My next step was to compare the list of 240 species I have ever seen in this competition with the 156 I logged in 2017.  The difference is (obviously) 84 species. 

Of these I rate 57 as "possible" in the Canberra Ornithologists Group (COG) Area of Interest (although 29 of them are less common in the area or are only common in specific spots).  Again some of these were available (or at least sort of available).  For example
  • Red-browed Treecreepers were seen on a COG outing to the Brindabellas but were beaten out by Pilotbirds which have only just returned to the area after bushfires in 2003.
  • Pied Butcherbirds were seen by folk on another COG outing but had moved on by the time I got there.  BIG dip.
  • a single Apostlebird is usually found in a Northern suburb of Canberra, but I spent an hour searching the area without success.  Had it moved on?  Nah, others have found it since.
Of the 27 species not possible around Canberra I have recorded 5 of them in South Australia, 7 in Western NSW (neither area visited this year), 11 at Mallacoota (6 of which were seen but "beaten" by rarer species and 5 just not seen) and 3 species in other areas not visited and 1 vagrant (1st tickable  Paradise Shelduck ever seen in mainland Australia).

Let me continue with a positive: how many species did I record in BAD for the first time in 2017?  The answer is 16, of which Ground Parrot was the best as it was a lifer.  Beautiful Firetail (second ever sighting and probably even more searching) was a close runner up.  Other rare birds - at least where sighted - were Australian Painted-snipe; Tawny Grassbird, Baillons Crake, Whsikered Tern and Glossy Ibis.

Adding three domestic, but non-chook, species (Muscovy Duck, Greylag Goose and Indian Peafowl) is not something of which to be proud!

So why did I dip overall this year?

I am tempted to put this down in part to our lives being disrupted by a Bushfire in mid-February.  The major impact of that was to destroy our camper and thus no visit to Western NSW.  (We did contemplate a trip that way to check out the tent we have acquired as a substitute but the weather was foul.) I suspect the fire also messed with my head a little so I didn't record some things I should have done.

A review of some of my other records led me to wonder if migrants had snuck off earlier than usual this year.  A reason for this could be the very dry Summer leading to reduced insects and thus reduced bird food.  However looking at the missing species only shows 4 species for which this could be the explanation.

Three other species (2 Woodswallows and Black-shouldered Kite) were just not around this year.  Two species (Emu and White-fronted Chat) are available locally in specific areas I didn't visit.

With the other species it would seem to come down to not being in the right place at the right time or, in ruder parlance, shite happens!


Ian Fraser said...

Bad luck, though I think the fires provide a pretty defendable excuse. I recall you had hopes though, if you'd held on for a forthcoming trip (or was that last year?!).

Flabmeister said...

I'm not sure whether I announced it or not, but I was planning to leave on our Winter-avoiding trip in mid June rather than early July. In the event we didn't feel we could leave for 6 weeks with the likelihood of some work on the fences and sheds happening in that period. Also the camper being no more made life difficult (we have reverted to a tent for the future.

Its slightly annoying that I went for a walk around the North Weston ponds this morning and spotted three of my dipped species!