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2016-2017 Activities: Barmah-Millewa Forest

Barmah-Millewa Forest

November 2016 – February 2017


Motion-sensing & time-lapse camera nest monitoring

During the 2016-2017 summer breeding season we used three different camera types to capture activities at the nest, including new solar-powered ‘Swift’ cameras which transmit live still images via the phone network. This meant we were monitoring the daily going-ons and development of chicks throughout the nesting season.

Like the previous breeding season (2015-2016 summer) we set up cameras on the nests of Australian white ibis, straw-necked ibis and royal spoonbills. We installed a total of 56 nest camera stations, monitoring approximately 180 nests.

ABOVE: A solar-powered ‘Swift’ camera set up on a royal spoonbill nest in Barmah-Millewa Forest. Image credit: Heather McGinness
ABOVE: Royal spoonbill parents tend to their eggs. Image captured by a ‘Swift’ camera on 5 December 2016. Image credit: CSIRO
ABOVE: An Australian white ibis nest clump. Five chicks of varying age can be seen in the foreground. Image captured by a ‘Swift’ camera on 8 December 2016. Image credit: CSIRO


Satellite-tracking of bird movements

Together with researchers from UNSW and RBGSyd (Royal Botanic Gardens Sydney) we deployed a total of 31 satellite trackers, allowing us to follow the movements of 31 individual birds. This is the largest number of ibis tracked in a single study within Australia to date!

Five Geotrak satellite GPS trackers were deployed on adult straw-necked ibis in the Macquarie Marshes in October 2016 and the rest of the trackers were deployed on straw-necked ibis and Australian white ibis adults and juveniles in Barmah-Millewa Forest from November 2016 to January 2017.

Five Geotrak satellite GPS trackers have been deployed on five straw-necked ibis adults in Barmah-Millewa Forest to track their movements during and after the breeding season. The trackers capture GPS locations hourly from 7am-7pm and at midnight each day to record the roosting and nesting locations of the birds. The trackers are solar-powered and expected to last 2-5 years. Our tracked birds will provide valuable information on foraging locations and insight into big questions like where do these ibis go after breeding and how far do they travel? and do these ibis return to the same spot to breed?

Our five adult straw-necked ibis from Barmah-Millewa Forest are Byron (male), Bridget (female), Brynhild (female), Beatrix (female) and Lex (male). Each bird was fitted with a unique colour combination of leg bands for later identification.

A straw-necked ibis with an Ecotone GSM tracker and leg bands. Image credit: Heather McGinness

We also deployed ten Geotrak satellite GPS trackers on ten straw-necked ibis juveniles. Their movements will give us an idea of where young birds go after they have left their nesting site and whether they return to their nesting site to breed as adults.

A further ten Ecotone GSM phone network GPS trackers were deployed on adult Australian white ibis and straw-necked ibis in Barmah-Millewa Forest in November and December 2016. These trackers were funded by NSW OEH. The birds comprise three adult female straw-necked ibis (Joelene, Jemima, Cobalt), three adult male straw-necked ibis (Greg, Joe, Ymir), two adult female Australian white ibis (Betty, Stella) and two adult male Australian white ibis (Tom, Douggie), and a juvenile Australian white ibis.

Please report any sightings of banded birds or birds with transmitters to Heather McGinness: 0428124689, Kate Brandis: or the Australian Bird and Bat Banding Scheme (ABBBS) (02) 6274 2407

Bird foraging habitat surveys

We are surveying foraging habitat and bird behaviour at sites where our tracked birds have spent significant time. We’re also surveying other sites within and around Barmah-Millewa Forest where Australian white ibis and straw-necked ibis have been observed foraging.

Foraging birds have been monitored with telescopes and binoculars to gauge the number of food capture events and the type and size of the prey item. We’ve also been recording the characteristics of foraging habitat sites, such as dominant vegetation species, land use and extent of water inundation.

Australian white ibis on nests in phragmites reeds within a wetland of Barmah-Millewa Forest. Image credit: Heather McGinness


Check out our image gallery for more photos from Barmah-Millewa Forest