On the weekend most of the BIG crew headed out to Clarke Range west of Mackay to begin a survey of the endemic Eungella Honeyeater (EHE) (Lichenostomus hindwoodi).
This survey is a repeat of the work done by the Mackay Bird Observers Club (MACBOCA) in 2000 and 2001. Ten years later, we are revisiting the same sites to see how the EHE’s are going.
We came to learn about the EHE through Marj, a local in the area forever, and birdwatcher extraordinarie who has been involved with the species since the 80’s when they were first described.
Marj has been concerned for some time that the EHE’s are just not where they used to be. There were certain spots where Marj could almost guarantee a EHE sighting 10 years ago but not anymore. And there is no long-term data or published reasearch that quantifies the population size or studies the species in any detail. It is not known if the population has changed over time or been affected by development, agriculture or natural events like cyclones.
Most of the knowledge about the species has been garnered by people like Marj. They have observed them feeding on the Climbing Pandan (Freycinetia excels) and noticed they tend to move out from rainforest to the drier open woodland in the winter months.
After a shaky start on Saturday, due largely to Dan’s buck show the previous night, we headed up to Eungella. A crisis was narrowly avoided with a pitstop at Pinnacle Pies. Once we got up the range we were confronted with torrential rain and impenetrable cloud, which is not entirely unexpected considering ‘Eungella’ is an aboriginal word meaning ‘mountains of the mist’.
So…day 1 of the EHE survey ended with a total of zero survey work done…but a rare sighting of a flock of Regent Bowerbirds (Sericulus chrysocephalus) saved the day. Jase got some amazing photos (but that’s for another blog entry, stay tuned).
Day 2 proved much more fruitful. With Marj and her famous ginger fruit slice on board we recorded EHE’s at 3 of our rainforest sites. They have quite a distinctive call, which is very helpful when birding in dense rainforest. It kind of reminds me of a grey butcherbird.
The Clarke range is also home to some cool, endemic reptiles and frogs, which we will have to have a hunt around for on future trips. Our surveys will continue on a monthly basis throughout the year with the help of Marj and MACBOCA.
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