Friday, June 24, 2005

Chasing The Sunshine

Well, it's that time of year when the grey nomads with their caravans in tow are heading north to chase the sun. And they are not the only ones. Around Australia a range of animals are doing exactly the same, including whales and birds.

It's part of a seasonal cycle where animals migrate north to escape the cold and to feast on the flowers, fruit and insects and other food supplies that are still plentiful in the warmer climate.

Here at the Tenterfield Office, Rangers have been taking part in a national bird survey that occurs around this time each year. The survey is conducted to record the presence and movement of the swift parrot, an endangered bird species found only in South East Australia. Swift parrots or 'Swiftys' as they are affectionately known are the longest migrating parrots in the world, leaving their breeding ground in Tasmania during autumn to ‘winter' on mainland Australia and returning in the spring.

Named for their swift flight, swiftys are very colourful little parrots with a passion for Eucalypt blossoms. Similar in appearance to lorikeets, swiftys are deep emerald green with scarlet under the tail and wing and crimson on the forehead and throat.

The sporadic and seemingly unpredictable movement of this parrot means that a large number of people are needed to keep track of its distribution and to collect information on the bird's habitat requirements.

Volunteer bird observers, amateurs and ornithologists alike, from Eastern South Australia to Southern Queensland, armed with binoculars take to the bush to seek out these elusive birds. Observers also collect useful information on other bird species that they see during the survey.

In this way, scientists can build a picture of the behaviour, movement and habitat requirements of these magnificent little parrots.

When the weather warms, the Swift Parrots, just like the grey nomads will return to their original haunts.

Another survey will be conducted on the first weekend in August and anyone is welcome to join in. So get your bird identification books ready, get out into the bush and report any sightings of this little parrot to your local National Parks Office.

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