It is rash to draw conclusions from the bird survey counts of one cold windy winter’s day. However last weekend’s bird counts were very low with zero birds on three of the sites surveyed. This was the first time I had made counts of zero and it was surprising to do so at several sites.
The Cowra Survey had shown a dramatic decrease in bird numbers during the Millennium drought (2001 - 2010) and then an healthy increase afterwards as the countryside recovered. From the comments of experienced birders it appears the current drought is affecting bird numbers across all the woodlands areas, perhaps to even lower levels than seen in earlier droughts. Drought-wise Cowra is actually faring better than many inland towns, with 60 mm rain over the last two months, and although creeks and dams are still empty there were puddles, and paddocks had a flush of green.
The Cowra surveys were inspired by a landowner who noticed a decrease in the number of Babblers he was seeing on his farm. The project has inspired tree planting and the regeneration and protection of existing bush lands in addition to the invaluable information generated by the survey itself.
So it was a welcome consolation to see several Babbler families over the weekend, busy in their Babbler ways.