HEZ Regent Honeyeaters – How you can help!

Regent Honeyeater – Hunter Economic Zone, New South Wales, 2012
On our recent trip to New South Wales we went several times to bird the incredible habitat of HEZ – Hunter Economic Zone. On our previous visit, in 2012, we’d been lucky enough to see the critically endangered Regent Honeyeater, along with a host of other ‘iron bark’ specialities, like Black-chinned Honeyeater and Brown Treecreeper. This years visits proved equally good but with one notable exception – no Regent Honeyeater, whose dramatic decline continues! Saving this valuable habitat is now considered essential for the long-term survival of the Regent Honeyeater. For more details of how you can help please read this message from Mick Roderick and act now!
 ‘Please note everyone that this isn’t ‘just another petition’ but relates to a very important parcel of land in the Lower Hunter that is under threat.
Just to give some background to those who are not familiar, the area that the Friends of Tumblebee are proposing be added to national park estate is zoned for industrial development (Hunter Economic Zone, or HEZ). It is a vitally important site for Regent Honeyeaters and Swift Parrots, particularly Regents that are now listed as Critically Endangered in NSW and on the recent Action Plan for Australian Birds. There could be as few as 350-400 adult birds remaining.
Recent work by BirdLife Australia in collaboration with the Regent Honeyeater Recovery Team and other experts has shown that the lowland forests of the Lower Hunter, and in particular those in the Cessnock LGA, are now rightfully recognised as one of the “core” areas for the species, alongside the Capertee Valley, Bundarra-Barraba and Chiltern (Vic). In fact, the Lower Hunter has seen the largest concentration of birds anywhere for several years (in 2009 and 2012) and provided habitat for a significant breeding event in 2007/2008 that happened in HEZ. If you scroll to the back of the document on the Dep’t of Planning website link below you will see a map showing the locations where most of the nests in HEZ were (there were others found but not mapped here, including the birds photographed that appear on the petition website + many other birds found by other observers).
They were also here in 2009 and 2012. Yet the consultants who did the ecological report for a Development Application in HEZ in late 2012 said that Regents occurred only as ‘irregular visitors’ and had never bred there! Council then voted against the advice / assessments of their own ecologist to approve the DA and that matter is now before the Land and Environment Court.
Not only is the area important for Regents (and Swift Parrots, called the “most important Spotted Gum site on the mainland” by the SP Recovery Team), but it is also home to many threatened and declining woodland birds such as Brown Treecreeper, Black-chinned Honeyeater, Speckled Warbler etc. I’m sure many of you voted for it in your ‘top birding sites’ too – it’s an incredibly biodiverse area.
Please sign and share the petition with as many people as you can.
You can access the petition by following this link.
A couple more shots of this fabulous Honeyeater, whose continued existence hangs by a thread..
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You can see the damage that has already been done to this critical site from this map. The access roads and the first industrial unit have already been constructed, above the words Lower Hunter National Park!
For further information on HEZ Regent Honeyeaters visit: http://www.friendsoftumblebee.org/regent-honeyeater-national-park/

Highlands Fling

With the decision to make an earlier than expected return home to the UK, we modified our route back from the mallee to take in the Southern Highlands, south of Sydney, in an attempt to secure a few more Australia trip ticks, including hopefully another couple of ‘planet earth’ ticks. We arrived at Barren Grounds national park early, where it had rained over night. No sooner had we turned onto the entrance track when Dan said ‘stop’ – there on the grass in front of the rangers house was our first target, Pilotbird – a species I’d only seen briefly once before. So called because this species has a strong association with Superb Lyrebird and acts as a ‘pilot’ to it’s whereabouts – it looks not unlike a young European Robin. A short distance up the track, a small flock of Gang-Gang Cockatoos was a welcome addition to the list. Then on to the ‘main event’ of the morning, a search for Eastern Bristlebird – a species of very restricted range, on coastal heath, along the coast of New South Wales. Within 50 yards of the car park we’d heard and secured fabulous views of this, often secretive, species – a ‘lifer’ and another towards our trip target of 300. With reasonable views of another heathland species, Beautiful Firetail, we were ‘on a roll’, so decided to go in search of another potential ‘lifer’, Red-whiskered Bulbul – a species introduced in the suburbs of Sydney, back in the 1880’s. A drive around the streets of Port Kembla soon produced the goods and, to round things off, a brief stop at the cliff-top site of Hill 60 Park secured us Australasian Gannet and our final ‘tick’ of the trip, Kelp Gull -taking our overall trip total to over 300, including over 30 Australian ‘lifers’. Not a bad total for a family-oriented holiday and leaving me within striking distance of 500 for my Australia list!

Pilotbird – looking not unlike a juvenile European Robin



A welcome addition to the list – Gang-gang Cockatoo


Prime target of the visit to Barren Ground NP, the usually secretive Eastern Bristlebird




Not a great picture but nonetheless a real bonus – Beautiful Firetail


Red-whiskered Bulbul – an introduced species from Asia

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And finally, Kelp Gull – last bird of a great morning’s birding, 300th for the trip and a fitting end to five weeks memorable birding in Australia


Wonders of a Mallee water-hole

The plan was to bring the Australian leg of our holiday to a close with a return trip to Mallee country – my third visit but a ‘first’ for Jane. We travelled through the upper Hunter, taking in the Goulburn River National Park, before making the 400k trek to Lake Cargelligo – gate way to Mallee country. With temperatures above 40 degrees and swarms of flies the birding was unusually difficult and our first evenings visit to this unique habitat was proving to be an energy and moral-sapping event – until that is we came across the water-hole! Over the course of the next 24 hours we had outstanding views of over thirty species of bush birds here, including most of the areas specialities. Here are some of the species using the water-hole or seen nearby:

First, Restless Flycatcher


Diamond Dove, a difficult species to catch up with


Male Black Honeyeater drinking, with Spiny-cheeked Honeyeater in the background


Crested Bellbird – more often heard than seen


Gilbert’s Whistler, a mallee speciality – here a male is drinking alongside a White-eared Honeyeater


A Mulga Parrot and Common Bronzewing – we saw more than thirty of both species


Speckled Warbler


A splendid male Red-capped Robin


Southern Scrub-robin – another mallee speciality


Splendid Fairy-wren


Brown Songlark


To finish, the common but curious Tawny Frogmouth