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2020 Canberra Ornithologists Group Red Hill Woodland Spring Survey

It was always going to be a low count: the wind off the snow-covered Brindabellas was bitingly cold and the sun, which appeared only occasionally through the 80% cloud cover, was utterly ineffectual in warming things up, birds or fingers. The total tally of 28 species ranks with the lowest for a Red Hill Spring survey, along with 2004, 2012 and 2015, and 6 species below the average over 89 surveys. Total numbers were also below average; there must have been many more hunkered down out of the wind and avoiding detection, especially the smaller birds. The counts would have been even lower were it not for one site, in a small gully comparatively sheltered from the westerly winds, which added several species not recorded anywhere else, including a young Golden Whistler, 9 Yellow-faced Honeyeaters, several Grey Fantails, a Noisy Friarbbird, and a silently foraging White-throated Gerygone. The gerygone was the highlight of the morning, being only the fourth time in 89 surveys that the species has been recorded. Only indications of breeding were a family of Australian Ravens (parents plus three fledged young), and a couple of choughs on a nest.

Harvey Perkins (and Stuart Harris)

2017 Canberra Ornithologists Group Red Hill Woodland Autumn Survey

Saturday morning at Red Hill for the Autumn Woodland Survey on 25 March was mild and calm with both post-fog cloud and hot air balloons rising slowly and drifting away. It was a pleasant survey and the birds seemed to be quite active, though the total number of species recorded was spot on average (23 within the nine sites, and a further 8 recorded between sites) and the total number of individuals (448) just slightly higher than average. No classic mixed feeding flocks, but the number of small birds was boosted somewhat by a group of Striated and Spotted Pardalotes. Otherwise, the most notable aspect of the survey was the diversity (9 species) and prevalence of parrots and cockatoos, including a couple of Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos, three Rainbow Lorikeets, and 40 very active and vocal Australian King Parrots. No sign of any smaller honeyeaters, and little of migrating species, other than the 11 Grey Fantails and flock of about 35 Silvereyes. Satin Bowerbirds (9 – highest record to date) were seen in several locations, including at the top car park where, together with Australian Ravens and Pied Currawongs, they were feasting quietly on kurrajong seeds.
           Dr Harvey Perkins

2016 Canberra Ornithologists Group Red Hill Woodland Spring Survey

The spring survey of Red Hill was done under perfect conditions, mild and calm, on Saturday 24 September. The whole site was quite active, and we rang up a total of 37 species (26 or 70% of them within sites), above the average of 33.9 over 17 surveys. Although larger birds again predominated, especially cockatoos & parrots, and magpies, currawongs and ravens, there was a smattering of smaller bush birds including both pardalotes and three thornbill species, a couple of Golden Whistlers and a pair of Rufous Whistlers, and a residue of Grey Fantails. Yellow-faced Honeyeaters were evident with several small groups of 2-6 birds moving through, even before our 7:00 am start. Olive-backed Orioles also heralded the spring weather, with 6 recorded (the highest number recorded to date during these surveys), and a Sacred Kingfisher was heard over towards the golf course. Magpie-larks also topped their recorded numbers with 17, as did Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes with 13 recorded. Only Crimson Rosellas, Eastern Rosellas and Noisy Miners showed any inclination towards nesting. Sadly, White-throated Treecreepers appear to have disappeared from the site – they were regular from the first survey (September 1998) through to autumn 2010, but since then there has only been a single record, on 29 March 2015.
Dr Harvey Perkins

2016 Canberra Ornithologists Group Red Hill Woodland Winter Survey

Complications of availability and weather meant I did the Red Hill WOO survey over the mornings of Tuesday 21 June and Wednesday 22 June, barely avoiding the misting rain that enveloped the mountain as I finished up at the final site. Although it seemed very ‘slow’, overall the numbers of birds (294) and species (30) recorded were spot on average for a Red Hill winter survey. 25 of the 30 species were recorded within survey sites. Diversity was boosted from what would otherwise have been a low total by a couple of roving feeding flocks of small birds including a pair of Scarlet Robins. Little Corellas continue to increase (total of 44 eclipsing the previous high of 11), and Rainbow Lorikeets were also recorded and are becoming quite regular. Choughs were recorded for just the 6th time over the 71 surveys, and sadly consisted of gangs of just 4 and 6 birds; and Wood Ducks made their regular winter appearance in the dead trees. Other highlights included a single Mistletoebird (only the site’s 4th record; and it would appear that this species is a feature of this year’s winter surveys) and a brilliant male Golden Whistler whose colour and contact call brightened the gloom.
Dr Harvey Perkins

2016 Canberra Ornithologists Group Red Hill Woodland Autumn Survey

The Red Hill survey was done on a cooler but pleasant morning on Sunday 20 March. Numbers of species (29) and individuals (360) were pretty typical for an autumn survey, but diversity within sites was slightly up on average. There was a distinct shortage of honeyeaters (only Noisy Miner, Red Wattlebird and Noisy Friarbird recorded), but there were several loose mixed foraging flocks about, dominated by Grey Fantails, of which 38 were recorded, eclipsing the previous maximum number recorded of 33 in autumn of 2012. Other participants included young and female Golden Whistlers, Buff-rumped and Brown Thornbills, both pardalotes, a couple of Weebills and a Speckled Warbler. A party of six Yellow-rumped Thornbills were, surprisingly, the first of the species to be recorded since December 2014. Little Corellas continue to increase slowly, with eleven recorded on this survey, the largest number so far. A couple of widely separated male Scarlet Robins were probably the highlights of the morning.
 Harvey Perkins &
Stuart Harris
2015 Canberra Ornithologists Group Red Hill Woodland Spring Survey
Stuart Harris and Harvey Perkins did the Spring survey of Red Hill on the beautiful calm and sunny morning of Sunday 27 September 2015. The number of species (33) and total individuals (317) were both pretty close to average for spring surveys at this site. Intent to breed was recorded for four species: both Crimson and Eastern Rosellas were seen inspecting hollows; two active Noisy Miner nests were seen, one with a bird sitting, the other, built only about 2 metres up in a small sapling, contained 3 eggs; and a pair of kookaburras was seen courting / pair-bonding, and finally copulating. The latter was something I’d not seen before. The pair would sidle up to each other on a branch of the large gum tree, bills almost touching, then each in turn would fly quickly and briefly to the nest hollow entrance about 3-4 metres away before returning to the branch, in what resembled a game of touch-tag. This lasted for a minute or so, perhaps a dozen or so sorties each, before they consummated their commitment through copulation. Unfortunately, their coitus was rudely interrupted by one of the three other kookaburras that were in the vicinity which flew directly at the mating pair such that all three were unbalanced and flew off to different parts of the tree.
Other signs of spring included the return of Noisy Friarbirds (3), a single Yellow-faced Honeyeater heading west, 6 Black-faced Cuckoo-shrikes, singles of both Golden and Rufous Whistlers and 8 Grey Fantails. Raven activity was also pronounced, with 19 Australian Ravens recorded across the site (about twice as many as you might normally expect) and they were very vocal and frequently obstreperous, though no sign of breeding activity was noted.


2015 The ACT Government has declared the Scarlet Robin, which can be spotted on Red Hill, vulnerable. More…

2015 Canberra Ornithologists Group Red Hill Woodland Winter Survey

The results of a survey by the Canberra Ornithologist Group (COG) is shown below:

Stuart Harris and Harvey Perkins did the winter Woodland survey of Red Hill on Sunday 28 June 2015, a foggy, cold and damp morning, though the fog lifted over the course of the survey with the first patches of blue sky emerging about 10:00 am. There was little activity to begin with and diversity would have been well below average, even for winter, had it not been for a mixed feeding flock moving about at the last two sites. This added some interesting birds including a pair of Scarlet Robins, Speckled Warbler, and a few young Golden Whistlers and Grey Shrike-thrushes. Other less commonly recorded birds included a female Common Bronzewing (the 8th record over 67 surveys), and a White-plumed Honeyeater (only the 4th record, all in winter). Also of interest were the Australian Wood Ducks, 7 of them, all up in trees calling conspicuously. Several Eastern Spinebills and White-eared Honeyeaters further  represented the winter honeyeaters for the site, along with the odd Red Wattlebird. Most of the species were actually recorded at the nine individual sites, with only three species recorded additionally between sites. So what started off as a quite dull (!) survey ended up quite successful and pleasant.

2013 Canberra Ornithologists Group Red Hill Woodland Survey

Sunday March 16 2013. The weather appears to have had an impact, with quite cool and windy conditions. Stuart Harris and Harvey Perkins of COG logged the lowest survey result for the fourteen and a half years of Red Hill surveys. The total of 22 species is the equal lowest on record (and well below the average of 32 species), and a sum total of just 150 individual birds is eight fewer than the previous low of 158 in the winter of 2007 and well below the average of 370 for autumn surveys (or 308 for all seasons).

Magpies, ravens, King Parrots and Noisy Miners were recorded in expected numbers, but everything else, even obvious residents such as the rosellas, produced lower than normal tallies. Small passerines were either scarce or inconspicuous with just a few Superb Fairy-wrens, weebills and pardalotes, and the odd Grey Fantail and Yellow-rumped Thornbill recorded. Recent hazard reduction burns at several sites probably didn’t help, and one site produced a nil return. A couple of highlights included at least a pair of Collared Sparrowhawks, and a pair of galahs checking out a hollow. A single immature Golden Whistler was the only evidence of possible autumn movements.

It is now exactly three years since either White-throated Treecreepers or Red-browed Finches, both species that used to be regular, have been recorded during the surveys.


2011 Canberra Ornithologists Group Red Hill Woodland survey

The survey was done over two mornings – the southern sites (6-9) in cool but clear and calm conditions on Saturday morning, 25 June 2011, and the northern sites the following morning in cold and frosty conditions. Overall diversity and numbers were marginally higher than average, with 31 species recorded for the whole site (mean over 13 winter surveys of 29.5). Species variety was also typical for winter but no mixed feeding flocks were observed and numbers of small birds generally were low.

The most unexpected sighting was a pair of vocal Rainbow Lorikeets that shot through site 9, seemingly on their way from Garran to Forrest. This is the first time the species has been recorded during the Red Hill surveys, and interestingly coincides with a report of a pair of Rainbow Lorikeets in Garran on June 27 2011. Other species to spark a little more interest were a Nankeen Kestrel, a halfway intermediate Crimson/Eastern Rosella hybrid (“paired” with a full Crimson Rosella as seems the norm on Red Hill) and a single White-plumed Honeyeater.


The Gang-gang cockatoo

In 2008 the Gang-gang cockatoo was listed as a threatened species in NSW, for the following reasons:

Data from the Atlas of Australian Birds clearly indicate that the Gang-Gang Cockatoo has declined dramatically within NSW.  A comparison of the first and second Atlas of Australian Birds (Barrett and Silcocks 2002) showed that between atlas periods (1977-1981 and 1998-2001), the overall reporting rate for Gang-gang Cockatoos declined by 44% across its NSW range. Within individual bioregions, a decline in reporting rate was reported in the Australian Alps (49%), NSW South Western Slopes (67%), Sydney Basin (57%), South East Corner (44%) and South Eastern Highlands (22%) bioregions. Increases in reporting rates were reported in only two bioregions: the NSW North Coast (69%) and Nandewar (420%) bioregions. Reporting rate is considered an accurate index of distribution for such a readily identifiable bird as the Gang-gang Cockatoo.

The causes of these apparent reductions in the distribution and abundance of the Gang-gang Cockatoo are not precisely known. The late age at which it first breeds and the species’ dependence and specificity in its preferences for tree hollows may have rendered it vulnerable to decline as a result of habitat loss and degradation. Clearing of native vegetation, which is listed as a Key Threatening Process in Schedule 3 of the Threatened Species Conservation Act, and degradation of habitat e.g. as a result of altered fire regimes, reduces the availability of tree hollows and may reduce the abundance of optimum foraging and roosting habitat. The distribution of the species coincides with cool temperate (Bassian) vegetation (Emison 1982), and climate change may alter the extent and nature of this vegetation. Anthropogenic Climate Change has been listed as a Key Threatening Process in Schedule 3 of the NSW Threatened Species Conservation Act.

The ACT is a regional stronghold for the Gang-gang and with six known nesting trees, such as this one photographed on Red Hill – Red Hill is an important site for maintaining the regional Gang-gang population.

Birdlife Australia placed on their website on 23 September 2020, an article about the Gang Gang which refers to a study undertaken on Red Hill and environs about Gang Gang nesting habits. More…

The Red Hill Regenerators has published a handy guide for those undertaking Gang gang observations, titled ‘Gang gang nesting tell tale behaviours, 2022′, by Mulvaney M J, Tyrrell T and Davey C


The following birds were recorded on Red Hill by members of the Canberra Ornithologists Group (COG), between 2007 and 2010

Australian King-Parrot
Australian Magpie
Australian Raven
Australian Reed-Warbler
Australian Wood Duck
Black Swan
Black-faced Cuckoo-shrike
Brown Thornbill
Buff-rumped Thornbill
Collared Sparrowhawk
Common Blackbird
Common Bronzewing
Common Myna
Common Starling
Crested Pigeon
Crimson Rosella
Dusky Moorhen
Dusky Woodswallow
Eastern Rosella
Eastern Spinebill
Eurasian Coot
European Goldfinch
Flame Robin
Fuscous Honeyeater
Gang-gang Cockatoo
Golden Whistler
Great Cormorant
Grey Butcherbird
Grey Fantail
Grey Shrike-thrush
Horsfield’s Bronze-Cuckoo
House Sparrow
Laughing Kookaburra
Leaden Flycatcher
Little Black Cormorant
Little Corella
Little Eagle
Little Pied Cormorant
Long-billed Corella
Masked Lapwing
Nankeen Kestrel
Noisy Friarbird
Noisy Miner  (Should Noisy Miners be culled to protect other birds. Read research here and report here)
Olive-backed Oriole
Pacific Black Duck
Pied Currawong
Purple Swamphen
Red Wattlebird
Red-browed Finch
Red-rumped Parrot
Rock Dove
Rufous Whistler
Sacred Kingfisher
Satin Bowerbird
Scarlet Robin
Silver Gull
Southern Whiteface
Speckled Warbler
Spotted Pardalote
Straw-necked Ibis
Striated Pardalote
Striated Thornbill
Sulphur-crested Cockatoo
Superb Fairy-wren
Varied Sittella
Welcome Swallow
White-browed Scrubwren
White-browed Woodswallow
White-eared Honeyeater
White-faced Heron
White-naped Honeyeater
White-throated Gerygone
White-throated Treecreeper
White-winged Chough
Willie Wagtail
Yellow-faced Honeyeater
Yellow-rumped Thornbill
Yellow-tailed Black-Cockatoo