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Little Wattlebird perching on thin leafy bush

Keeping an eye on birds at Munibung Hill

Munibung Hill makes for an interesting study site because she is for the most part a blank canvas.

Precious little research has been done, other than for development applications or land rezoning proposals.

While it is common to come across birds of all descriptions, and anecdotally we think there are in excess of 80 species living or visiting Munibung Hill, it’s not until we have some hard data, that can we be sure of bird life numbers and if the habitat is in good shape – diverse and healthy. 

A study conducted in 2021 is, therefore, very significant for our understanding of Munibung Hill as the important conservation site we believe she is. Judith Little is a student in the Graduate Diploma of Ornithology, Griffith University, Brisbane. Here is a summary of that bird study conducted by Judith …

The variety of habitats within the study site to some extent determines the birds observed. An example of this is the Bell Miner. There is a single colony within the study site (see the description below), yet Bell Miners are heard over most of the site due to their strident call. Similarly, the Eastern Whipbird is found only in the densely vegetated parts of the gullies where it is dark and moist, not out in the open grassland.
Of interest, no raptors or thornbills were recorded during any survey periods; however, raptors have been regularly sighted in the study area before and after the survey period. Further, spring migrants such as the Eastern Koel Eudynamis orientalis and the Channel-billed Cuckoo Scythrops novaehollandiae had yet to arrive. 

In total some 23 species were recorded living in the study area. These included the: Superb Fairywren Malurus cyaneus; Australian Raven Corvus coronoides,  Golden Whistler Pachycephala pectoralis; White-browed Scrubwren Sericornis frontalis; Eastern Yellow Robin Eopsaltria australis; White-cheeked Honeyeater Phylindonyris niger; Grey Shrike-thrush Colluricincla harmonica. 

The most unexpected observation was the Pacific Emerald Dove, which is more often found in rainforest, yet was sighted on a track adjacent to dense vegetation at best described as moist but not rainforest. In the only breeding activity observed the Little Wattlebird Anthochaera chrysoptera was observed putting the finishing touches to the inside of a nest.

The study site selected was on the north-western portion of Munibung Hill at Boolaroo. The area encompasses two gullies and the surrounding slopes and ridges adjacent to a new housing development, an area of approximately 60 hectares  The north-western slope consists of ridges, gullies, and man-made water retention ponds. The vegetation is highly disturbed regrowth of mixed native and weed species. There are few if any old growth trees.
In the southern gully, which includes dense understory forest, there is a water retention pond and open hillside with scattered trees. Lantana dominates the groundcover.  Understory species are interspersed with native species. This transect is a continuous uphill slope from the housing development. The area above the northern gully cuts across the north-eastern edge and is slightly undulating. There is a mixture of forest, grassland and patches of denser vegetation, again dominated by Lantana. 

The purpose of this study was to consider the merits and limitations of two survey methodologies: The long-recognised fixed area line Transect survey where the observer walks the midline of a defined area and the Standardised Search survey where the observer walks a route covering as much of the site as possible, as developed by Watson (2003 and 2004).

MMM … Issue 28, April 2022