Munghorn Gap

Munghorn Gap Bird Banding ~ 23rd & 24th August 2019 ~

Last weekend I was invited to join a bird ringing trip at Munghorn Gap, a nature reserve located about 2.5hrs inland from Newcastle, in the NSW Central Tablelands. Bird ringing (or banding as it is known here) has taken place at Munghorn for over 50 years, meaning that a vast amount of data has been collected on the size, health, site fidelity and longevity of birds within this population. 

For those who don't know, bird banding (ringing) consists of catching wild birds and fitting a uniquely numbered lightweight metal ring to their leg. Bird ringing generates information on the survival, productivity and movements of birds which allows us to understand how and why populations are changing so that the most effective conservation measures can be put in place to protect them. The Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme and British Trust for Ornithology websites both provide excellent information regarding the value of bird ringing/banding, including examples of some incredible migration events and longevity records, none of which would be known otherwise.

Anyway, I arrived at the campsite at Honeyeater Flat on Thursday evening, set up my tent and had some dinner before meeting the other banders once they returned from setting up nets for the follow day's session. On Friday (23rd) morning we banded at the Moolarben Picnic Area, a lovely woodland site with a spring situated in a gulley adjacent to the main walking track, which proved to be a real magnet for many species, including Honeyeaters, Thornbills and Fairy-wrens.

Over the course of the morning we caught a wide variety of species, from small Superb Fairy-wrens Malurus cyaneus and Striated Thornbills Acanthiza lineata, to medium-sized White-naped Honeyeaters Melithreptus lunatus and White-throated Treecreepers Cormobates leucophaea and we even got some larger species: Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae, Noisy Friarbird Philemon corniculatus and Australian King-parrot Alisterus scapularis! We also caught some of my favourite Australian birds so far: Varied Sittella Daphoenositta chrysoptera and Eastern Spinebill Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris, which were both amazing to see up close!

Superb Fairy-wren Malurus cyaneus
Laughing Kookaburra Dacelo novaeguineae
Varied Sittella Daphoenositta chrysoptera
Eastern Spinebill Acanthorhynchus tenuirostris

We banded until about 13:00 before taking down the nets and having some lunch. Once we were refuelled, we headed to our banding site for Saturday morning, which was only down the road from the campsite and set up the nets ready for the following morning. After a bit of down time back at the campsite, we went to a nearby pub for dinner and some warmth.

On Saturday morning we were up at the crack of dawn and soon had the nets open again - there was an initial rush of birds (mostly White-naped Honeyeaters) which steadily declined until we packed up around lunchtime. Over the course of the morning we caught a variety of species, including honeyeaters, treecreepers, finches, fairy-wrens and thornbills. My personal favourites were: White-plumed Honeyeater Ptilotula penicillata and Diamond Firetail Stagonopleura guttata. 

Diamond Firetail Stagonopleura guttata
White-plumed Honeyeater Ptilotula penicillata
Once we had packed up and had some lunch, we headed back to the campsite where I packed up my tent and all my gear into the car. Unfortunately I had an assignment due in that week which meant I couldn't stay for an extra day of banding. Over the course of the two sessions, a number of the birds we caught were re-captures (banded on previous trips), and a fair few were quite old: one of the White-plumed Honeyeaters (weighs ~20g) was banded at the site over 10 years ago and a Striated Thornbill (weighs ~7g) was banded nearly 14 years ago!! This goes to show the importance of banding in furthering our understanding of these birds in terms of how long they live and where they spend their time. 
Double-barred Finch Taeniopygia bichenovii
Yellow-tufted Honeyeater Lichenostomus melanops

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