In the pre-dawn darkness on Saturday the 18th of June, twenty-five volunteers and one Park Ranger were greeted with perfectly calm conditions for Tarra-Bulga National Park’s Annual Lyrebird Survey. Overnight showers had passed by leaving moist dripping foliage in their wake.
The survey is designed to monitor the density of Lyrebirds living in 60ha comprising of wet sclerophyll and cool temperate rainforest immediately to the east of the Tarra-Bulga National Park Visitors Centre. There are sixteen monitoring points strategically placed throughout the site and volunteers move to each site before adult male Lyrebirds start their morning calls at dawn. Volunteers then use a compass to record the direction and proximity of the Lyrebird calls. This year we had enough volunteers to cover all but one of the monitoring points.
2016 Lyrebird Survey crew ready for action.
Following the survey, lines representing the direction of the calls are plotted onto a map, and triangulation is used to establish the spots where birds were calling from. This year the results indicate we had at least nine (male) Lyrebirds calling in our 60ha zone. This corresponds to a density of one adult male Lyrebird per 6.7 ha. You can also assume that there will be female lyrebirds and immature males or non-calling males within our target area. To account for this to get our overall population of Lyrebirds we multiply the number of calling males by a factor of 2.5. It is believed that male Lyrebirds do not begin to breed until they are around 6 or 7 years old.
Summary of Tarra-Bulga National Park Lyrebird Surveys
Map showing bearings taken from monitoring points and the estimated location of calling male Lyrebirds from the 2016 survey.
The Annual Lyrebird Survey at Tarra-Bulga National Park has been carried out for the last 20 years as a means of detecting any changes of the population of the birds, within an area of the park covering from around the visitors centre area to the rainforest gully at the headwaters of Macks Ck. Although Lyrebirds are not considered endangered, they are at risk from natural disasters such as bushfires, habitat decline and attack from foxes, feral animals and domestic cats and dogs. The annual survey contributes to long term data on the density of the local population and helps park management plan their future management actions.
Superb Lyrebird calling from a tree branch.
The Lyrebirds are counted not by attempting to spot them visually, but by listening out for their song. (Sometimes you may be lucky enough to see a bird but often they are out of sight perched in a tree canopy or in ferny understorey). The survey is undertaken during the Lyrebirds’ breeding season. At this time mature male Lyrebirds are all actively searching for females to mate with and it is during this time when they are reliably singing for much of the day. The survey is consistently undertaken at dawn (when the wind is often calmer and the Lyrebirds begin their morning calls, usually while perched up in a tree).
The count is carried out by distributing groups of volunteers across the survey area at
Volunteers gathering before the count.
established monitoring points. Each of these points is marked with a numbered sign so that they can be found in the pre-dawn light. As the sun rises and the Lyrebirds start singing their varied repertoire, the volunteers use a compass to establish the direction the calls are coming from and estimate the distance (close, medium or far) that the call is coming from. The survey lasts for approximately 30 minutes, after which the volunteers generally go off and enjoy breakfast at the aptly named Lyrebird Cafe.
Once the survey is completed survey sheets are collected and the direction the calls were coming from are plotted as lines onto a map, where lines coming from several surrounding monitoring points meet, we can be confident that it is a location where a male Lyrebird was calling from.
Volunteers gathering before the count.
Instructions on how to use a compass to find the direction the Lyrebird is calling from.
We always cross our fingers and hope for favourable conditions on the morning of our annual Lyrebird Survey which this year was held on Saturday May 30th. This year there was no rain but unfortunately the wind was up and noisy gusts were swirling through the canopy.
The logistics of getting a large crew of volunteers up and ready to participate at 6.15am means that we can’t afford to be flexible with our dates so it is a matter of carry on regardless. This year we had 22 volunteers turn up for the count, with most people pairing up, we were able to cover 12 out of our 16 monitoring stations, as is often the case the 4 stations in the southern section of our count area were left out.
Volunteers did a great job of arriving by 6.15 and by the time instructions were given and stations allocated it was still a rush to get into position. I found that the sun was rising and some birds had started calling a few minutes before I made it to my monitoring point at 6.55am.
Monitoring Station #4
The next ½ hour was spent listening out for birds, at our site we could hear calling from three directions and once bearings were taken and noted we just settled in and enjoyed the surrounds. I noted some noisy Yellow-tailed Black Cockatoos moving in the canopy overhead as well as the odd loud crack from randomly scattered Eastern Whipbirds may potentially cause confusion for novice counters. Once our time was up we headed back along the track and soon came across a live sighting of a female Lyrebird (or perhaps a juvenile male?) wandering along the path.
Back at the guest house we once again had a great breakfast (thanks to Torben and Pam). After all the monitoring sheets were handed in it was time to analyse the results. The number of birds detected this year was down, although hopefully this is not cause for alarm; the survey relies on hearing the calls and the background noise of the wind makes them more difficult to detect. We definitely had 4 male birds calling in the survey area with one other likely one. Instances where it was noted that birds were calling very close to monitoring stations, helped to identify some of the Lyrebird locations with certainty.
A big thank you to everyone who made the effort to drag themselves out of bed so early and travel up to Balook to help out, your efforts to help conduct our annual surveys and monitor the local Lyrebird population is very much appreciated. Also thank you to our Ranger Craig who does a fantastic job setting up the monitoring stations and organising the troops. At the start of the count Craig pointed out that this was our 20th Annual Lyrebird Survey and that he had attended every one. Next year will be a big one (our 21st).
Clink on the link for a pdf map of the survey results.
Lyrebird Survey 2015 results
Our annual Lyrebird survey is coming up on Saturday May 30th. The meeting place is at the Tarra Bulga National Park Visitors Centre at 6.15 am. On arrival the recording process is explained and people are allocated to various monitoring points around the Bulga Park area.
The survey begins at sunrise with the first Lyrebird calls and only takes around half an hour. Following the morning chorus, a free cooked breakfast is on offer at the Tarra-Bulga Guest House. If you would like to come along you need to contact us (by Wednesday May the 27th on 0488 035 314 or email firstname.lastname@example.org. Wear warm clothing, a parka, bring a watch, a torch and compass (optional).
Perfect conditions this year for our annual Lyrebird count, with a beautiful still and mild morning. Another bonus was thirty keen volunteers fronting up for the 6.15 am, which meant we could cover all our 16 monitoring points. Thank you so much everyone for turning up, with many coming from far and wide to participate.
From our mapping we identified at least 10 male birds calling, which in memory is one of our best results. At several stations tracing birds was easy because they were observed calling from trees directly overhead the post. The folk monitoring the Bulga Car Park also reported a male and female (or juvenile male) bird running through their site.
It was hard for many of us to drag ourselves away from the calling birds and across to the guest house for breakfast. The last group back had been lucky enough toc come across a male in full display next to his mound. It wasn’t only Lyrebirds that were vocal on such a nice morning with Whip Birds, Tree Creepers Kookaburras and others adding to the morning chorus.
lyrebird count 2014
Volunteers receiving instructions on our survey method.
Eager volunteers working out how to get to their monitoring stations.
All action at one of the sites with plenty of Lyrebird calls to record.
Sunrise from a monitoring site
Lyrebird calling from high up in a Silver Wattle
One of our most popular volunteer activities is coming up on Saturday May 31st. The survey, which monitors trends in the Lyrebird population involves an early start. The meeting place is at the Tarra Bulga National Park Visitors Centre at 6.15 am. On arrival the recording process is explained and people are allocated to various monitoring points around the Bulga Park area.
The survey begins at sunrise with the first Lyrebird calls and only takes half an hour. Following the morning chorus, a free cooked breakfast is on offer at the Tarra-Bulga Guest House. If you would like to come along you need to contact ranger Craig Campbell (by Wednesday May the 28th on 5172 2508 or email email@example.com. Wear warm clothing, a parka, bring a watch, a torch and compass (optional).
A couple of birds from our Remote Camera monitoring.
Less than ideal conditions beckoned for this years count, indeed when I woke up at 5.15 am and heard the rain pelting down on the roof, I fired up the computer and checked the rain radar and saw that it was going to continue to bucket down, (especially at Balook) for the foreseeable future. I put the text through to Ranger Craig, who soon phoned back and told me the decision had been made given the weather to postpone. He said he would go up anyway just in case anyone turned up, and I returned to bed.
Much to my surprise, 2 days later I heard the news, that when Craig arrived at the Visitors Centre there was quite a crowd, who despite the weather were raring to go (much kudos to those hardy souls).
Reports suggest that the inclement weather may have influenced the survey, with several sites unusually recording no calls whatsoever. There were however Lyrebirds around with reports of a group foraging directly in front of the Visitors Centre. Possibly the much needed rain produced ideal conditions for the birds to feed, so inconveniently the boys were more focused on filling their stomachs, rather than attracting the ladies with their fancy calls. Despite the visual sightings, only two male birds within the survey area could be properly counted using our call based technique. Hopefully the drop in numbers can be attributable to the conditions, rather than more sinister reasons such as increased fox numbers. In any case I am sure we will be back next year with hopefully more favourable conditions to do it all again. I also hope that despite the conditions that the hardy survey team had a great morning and the usual scrumptious breakfast at the guest house.
PS. To any of the attendees that braved the conditions and got a good photo of any aspect of the morning, it would be great if you could forward it on, so we could add it to this report.
Lyrebird Count Results 2013, two male birds only can be considered officially counted this year.