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Wings on King

February 28, 2015

 

WINGS ON KING : A project to find and tell the story of King Island’s birds

 

 

The Magic of King Island and its birds:

 

King Island is ancient and unique.  It is remote and beautiful, sometimes it’s wild and sometimes it’s gentle — even balmy. 

 

Located in the middle of the Western entrance to Bass Strait, half-way between Victoria and Tasmania, the Island acts as a biological stepping-stone between Tasmania and mainland Australia. For birds migrating North and South, the Island is a vital stopover to rest and refuel.

 

The Island is home to many species that like the:

 

There are 6 King Island subspecies — for example, the Green Rosella

 

Large numbers of international shorebirds and journey to the Island on holiday from their breeding grounds in the northern hemisphere. Some, like the Double-banded Plover, come on holiday from New Zealand. While many seabirds — including the Short-tailed Shearwater — come here to breed. 

 

‘Life’, especially bird-life, on King Island is busy.

 

 

More about King Island and its birds click here 

 

 

What we want to know about King Island’s birds:

 

Even though King Island has such an important location and role for birds, we know very little about the conservation status of the land birds of King Island or about how the birds that migrate across Bass Strait use the Island.  Long-term, systematic monitoring of land-birds has never been done on King Island. Although there has been useful random monitoring of birds on the Island, its use for conservation management is limited.  

 

We need to know about the:

 

  • Residents: the population status of all the birds that call King Island home

 

  • King Island Subspecies: There are 6 recognized subspecies; 1 of which, the King Island Scrubtit, is listed as critically endangered,  and one of which, the King Island Brown Thornbill, may be extinct. A further 2 subspecies have been nominated for listing as threatened; the Green Rosella and the Black Currawong, but we need to know more about their populations before these nominations will be accepted. What about the other two – the Yellow Wattlebird and the Dusky Robin? What is their status?

  • Land bird Migrants: Many bird species migrate between the Australian mainland and Tasmania including Flame Robins, Silvereyes and Grey Fantails. How many stay and rest, stay and breed or pass through non-stop? Are their numbers reducing, remaining constant or increasing?

 

  • Vagrants:  Many ‘occasional’ birds arrive on the island, stay a while and then move on.  As climate change warms our planet, it is possible that birds seeking cooler places will start to venture south.  King Island is on the forefront of these potential distribution shifts.

 

Without answers to these questions, it is impossible to manage the natural biological resources of King Island comprehensively – including the bird life.

There are pressures to clear more land and introduce new industries to King Island

We need to know how each of these may impact on our birdlife

We need to find and tell the story of King Island’s birds.

 

Aims of Wings on King:

Wings on King aims to answer these questions by gathering data from identified monitoring sites across the island in differing land usage zones, landscape elements, vegetation communities and habitat qualities.  It aims to find and tell the story of the birds of King Island.

 

Four ‘focuses’ of the Project

There are four different, but related, ‘focuses’ of the Wings on King project.  We aim to:

 

  • Learn about the presence, absence and populations of the land birds of King Island;

  • Establish current population levels of the King Island Subspecies and monitor these in the future;

  • Learn more about the land birds that migrate to, or through, King Island and how they use the Island when they are here; and

  • Watch for evidence of southward drifts in distribution ranges of mainland land birds.

 

Coming soon: project description and design 

Coming soon: research methodology 

 

Wings on King needs Your Help

 

King Island is a working island providing around 6% of Tasmania’s GDP — but it has a small human population, only few of whom have the expertise or time to monitor birds.   Quite simply, we don’t have the human resources to gather the data that we need.  Nor do we have funds – or not yet anyway – to pay a Project Officer to gather data or even to manage the project. 

 

This project is being undertaken entirely by local volunteers and we need your help. 

 

 

Let Us Know  - come to King Island - become a Registered Participant

 

To enable us to manage the project and make sure the most important sites are being monitored as often as possible, we need to know when you are here and which sites you are visiting. 

 

To allow visitors to monitor sites on private land, we need to make sure you comply with BirdLife Australia’s insurance criteria.  So it is better for you and better for us if you become a Registered Participant. But you can also participate without registering if you prefer.

 

 

Opportunities if you register as a Wings on King participant

 

If you register as a Wings on King participant, you will have an opportunity to see and learn about King Island in a way that no ordinary tourist or visitor to the island can.

 

Access to Private Land: There are two categories of sites:

  • those on public land that anyone can survey whenever they like - the details of these can be found and downloaded from the BirdLife Australia’s website; and

  • those on private land.  These ‘private’ sites provide an opportunity to visit and learn about many wonderful areas of King Island that few people have access to.  They include private forests, riparian zones, farmlands, and remote coasts. 

 

A personal Assistant:

 

If you register as a Wings on King participant — either as an individual or an Atlassing Group —  then a BOKI Wings on King Assistant (WoKA) will meet you at the airport and be your island liaison person.

 

To help ensure you have a comfortable and happy time on the Island, your WoKA will act as your ‘Go To’ person if you need any assistance, advice or extra information, or if you have any mishaps.  In some cases, they may come along with you if you wish them to.

 

Guide :

 

If you want a professional guide this is also possible click here

 

Field Plan and Kit

Your WoKA will have developed a specific Field Plan for your visit.  As much as possible, your Field Plan will take into account your needs, available time and capabilities. It will also reflect the needs of the Project, while ensuring you have a good look around the island and visit plenty of special places.   Your WoKA will provide you with a Kit containing a map and details of the survey sites and other relevant information. 

 

Debrief Before you leave the Island:

Your WoKA will meet you to debrief, return the Wings on King Kit and collect the copies of your bird lists.  These will be used for the project records with copies given to the landowners.

 

Insurance:

You’re insured The BirdLife Australia insurance policy requires that you sign a Field Work Plan and provide an Attendees List. This will mean that we know when you are on the island, where and when you are undertaking fieldwork. Your WoKA will obtain these signatures from you at this first meeting. 

 

How to register:  Registration forms can be downloaded here 

More information about participating can be found here

 

 

If you’d rather not register, that’s OK too

If you prefer to quietly slip onto King Island and do your own thing while contributing to Wings on King, that’s fine. We welcome your help and involvement.  However, the only sites you will be able to access are those on public land, you can see the list here click here [Birdata WoK]   

 

Also, you won’t be able to:

  • enjoy the personal assistance provided by our WoKAs;

 

In that light, please be aware that your mobile phone may not work on King Island.  In early 2015, the only networks that work on the Island are Telstra 3 and 4G.  (You can see if this has changed when you register with Wings on King, but it is not expected to change. If you are with another network, you will need to hire a mobile phone.

There are also some ‘dead spots’ where mobile signals don’t reach.  For this reason we would prefer you to work in groups or two or more.  It’s safer should there be a mishap.  If you prefer to go it alone, that’s OK but we request that you check-in with your WoKA at the end of each day.

  

 

Finding The Birds’ Stories; gathering the information

 

Over forty survey sites have been identified across the island. They represent different vegetation types, land usage and landscapes.  They will be available for monitoring as soon as they are set up.  The first 10 are ready, and the rest  will be set-up over the course of 2015-16.

 

Atlassing We hope the 40 sites will be monitored on a seasonal basis with the data entered into the BirdLife Australia Atlas.  We aim to assess the results after 2 and 4 years, but we intend the project to continue for the long-term.

 

Migration Behaviours Participants will be encouraged to look out for and record any unusual behaviours that may indicate migrations — for example:

  • a flock of Silver eyes arriving from over the sea; or

  • as observed in April, 2014, more than 400 Black-faced Cuckoo Shrikes flying steadily north over the island.

The prime migration months are:

  • March to late May, for the South to North migrations; and

  • mid-July to mid-October, for the North to South migrations.

 

Threatened Species censes On 2 weekends each autumn, we plan to conduct censuses of 2 of the known King Island subspecies.  The first of these takes place in the last weekend of April and first weekend of May, 2015. They will focus on the King Island Green Rosella and the Black Currawong.

 

Importantly, the critically endangered King Island Scrubtit and Orange Bellied Parrot are being monitored outside the Wings on King project.

 

 

Reporting The Story – sharing the information:

You will need to share your information with Wings on King by entering the data you collected into the BirdLife Atlas of Australian Birds database. This can be done:

  • on-line via Birdata or e-Bird [links]; or

  • by hard copy on the special Atlas data collection forms that will be available from your WoKA, if you request them. 

 

If you register with Wings on King, we will ask you for a copy of your records from each survey site.  You will find sheets to enter this data in your WoK Kit.  These records will be kept within the project records and a copy will be supplied to the relevant landholders.

 

 

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