Environment

Backyard birds – Noisy Miners

Lure Noisy Miners with fruit and nectar

One of the joys of living on the Fraser Coast is being able to work in and around the garden pretty well 12 months of the year and be able to study and enjoy the multitude of wildlife and birds on offer, such as the Noisy Miners.

The simple selection and placement of trees and shrubs will open your garden to the splendours nature with the most prolific being birds.

One bird species that are frequent in this area are the Miner birds (not to be confused with the Myna bird).

Of the four varieties of Miner Birds, the most common to us is the Noisy Miner also known as the Micky or Soldierbird. 

Noisy Miners are one of the most animated and aggressive species to visit the garden. They are especially noisy when a predator such as a goanna, crow or the household cat wanders into the garden and will fly around the intruder calling loudly and snapping its beak at it, which is possibly why it is also known as the Soldierbird’

Noisy Miners have adapted well to suburbia and our leafy gardens and green lawns.  They’re easily identifiable with their incessant chatter call of “pwee pwee pwee’”  or the chuckling “weedidit weedidit weedidit”.

Feeding mainly on insects in the upper tree covering they do enjoy fruit and nectar and will feed on a bird feeder placed near a tree.  While they’ll have a go at most fruits they are very partial to PawPaw.  Trees such as Banksia’s and Grevilleas are  a great way of providing shelter and nectar for our Miner friends,

These little blokes are real entertainers when it comes to bath time, taking in turns to dive-bomb into the birdbath or even the family pool and then retreating to a nearby fence or tree branch whilst they preen and clean their feathers.

A close relative of the Noisy Miner is the Yellow-throated Miner. Almost identical to the Noisy excepting for a yellowish patch on the foreneck and a more pronounced white rump. It is not unheard of on the Fraser Coast but lives predominantly in drier areas to the west of the Great Dividing Range.  A keen eye is needed if you are to spot the difference.

Miner birds have been wrongly linked with the introduced Myna bird which is of the Starling family and considered a pest in many areas.
The Myna bird was introduced into Australia from south-east Asia in the 1860s and can be found in many parts of the country.  They are a similar size to our native Miners but black to dark brown in colour with larger yellow feet and have a bandy walk.

Don Watts of Maryborough attracts Noisy Miners (top) to his garden with pieces of fruit in a bowl. This is its cousin, a Yellow Throated Miner, which is more commonly seen in Western Queensland where this fellow was photographed by Jocelyn Watts in Charleville.

Don Watts of Maryborough attracts Noisy Miners (top) to his garden with pieces of fruit in a bowl. This is its cousin, a Yellow-throated Miner, which is more commonly seen in Western Queensland where this fellow was photographed by Jocelyn Watts in Charleville.

Hervey Bay astronomers reach for the stars

The overwhelming success of the solar eclipse viewing on USQ Fraser Coast’s grassed area in November has inspired the Hervey Bay Astronomical Society to “reach for the stars” with more viewings and events.

There is also talk of possibly building a public observatory in Hervey Bay.

 “We had a lot more people than expected attend the transit of Venus and partial eclipse in November, and after lots of positive feedback we’ve decided to hold more events this year to flag our existence and encourage more members to join us,” society president Joe Mather said.

“It has also strengthened our long-term dream to build a public observatory in Hervey Bay.

“That’s a fairly ambitious dream so we need to gauge the level of interest first, then its viability and investigate possible funding sources.”

The initial part of that process is to hold a series of public events, the first of which is an astronomy night this Saturday (May 4) from 5.45 pm to 8.30 pm in USQ Fraser Coast’s car park at 161 Old Maryborough Road, Hervey Bay.

“The evening will start with a 10-minute presentation in a lecture hall, while there is still some light in the sky to show pictures and explain what we are attempting to find. Then we will show people how to use averted vision techniques to see distant galaxies and gas nebulae when normal central focusing shows nothing in the eyepiece.”

Mr Mather said Mayor Gerard O’Connell, councillors and other VIPs would be invited to attend the evening with their families.

“We encourage families to make a night of it and bring along fish and chips or other snacks to eat.”

Following this Saturday’s event, local dignitaries and state and interstate professionals will be invited to attend the society’s observing nights at Robert and Jan Jocumsen’s Takura Observatory and its monthly meetings.

“The observing nights are held on Saturdays closest to a new moon and begin with a short workshop on fixing/aligning/repairing astronomical telescopes, followed by a barbecue and chin-wag while the scope temperatures stabilise. Then we enjoy many hours viewing deep space nebulae, remnants of dead stars, globular clusters and whatever else we can find.

“Our meetings are held in USQ Fraser Coast’s Room C205 at USQ on Wednesdays, two weeks after Observing nights.

“Besides presentations on astrophotography, latest NASA discoveries and Astral DVDs, we encourage members to pass on any specialised knowledge they have to the rest of the group such as servo-controlled telescopes which automatically point to thousands or astronomical objects held in their databases, or Wi-Fi control using Planetarium software running on smartphones and/or tablets, or just plain telescope maintenance.

Meeting dates can be found at the group’s website at http://www.hbastro.net, along with pictures of past nights, shots of the Takura Observatory and examples of long time-base and stacked shots of deep space objects.

WHEN: Saturday, May 4 from 5.45 pm to 8.30 pm.

WHERE: USQ Fraser Coast, 161 Old Maryborough Rd, Hervey Bay.

COST: Free, but gold coin donations to cover costs are most welcome

For more information log into www.hbastro.net, email info@hbastro.net, or phone 0419 461 532.

 

Hervey Bay Astronomical Society

From a casual group of observing enthusiast in 2008 to incorporation as the Hervey Bay Astronomical Society Incorporated in January 2010, the group has retained deep interests in the cosmos, night sky observing, the science of astronomy, and astrophotography.

Hervey Bay Astronomical Society holds one dark sky observing session and one education night each month, as well as special public events such as the November Solar Eclipse Viewing at USQ Fraser Coast.

Group membership varies from beginners to advanced astronomers but all have the same passion for astronomy and teaching others about the wonders in the day and night skies.

Interested people are welcome to attend a meeting to assess if it is something from which they could enjoy and learn the information they can pass on to others.

Floods deliver scientific data

USQ Research - Estuaries

USQ’s Dr Joachim Ribbe lowers research equipment into Hervey Bay waters. Photo: JOCELYN WATTS

By Jocelyn Watts

There is a silver lining to recent Fraser Coast floods – the surge of fresh water entering Hervey Bay is providing valuable data for University of Southern Queensland (USQ) and Griffith University research.

USQ’s Associate Professor in Climatology Dr Joachim Ribbe, USQ PhD student Daniel Briewa and scientist Johann Gustafson from Griffith University recently measured the Bay’s water temperature, salinity, turbidity and underwater light as part of an ongoing research project and found this year’s floods provided important information.

“Our main interest is to understand how the oceanic circulation of water moves from one place to another and Hervey Bay’s estuaries and marine life respond to flood and drought events,” Dr Ribbe said.

“This research is particularly important for the sustainable natural resource management of the region. For example, fish larvae are found in estuaries and being non-mobile, they float in water and ocean circulations determine where they go.

“Some years ago sea scallops were brought to larvae stage on land and released into the ocean. Fisheries were to go out many months later but where the larvae went was a mystery.

“That’s the type of knowledge we needed that motivated us to do this work and we continued from there on. It’s been ongoing since 2004 with funding from a range of sources including the Wide Bay Catchment Management Authority. Several publications have already been produced with international collaborators.”

Dr Ribbe said he was among the several scientists who have studied Australian coastal environments and estuaries of significance, including Hervey Bay, and contributed published books such as Climate Alert, Climate Change Monitoring and Strategy published by Sydney University Press.

“My research includes tracking the freshwater discharges from all Hervey Bay estuaries within the Bay itself,” Dr Ribbe said.

“Australia’s estuaries are many and varied. They’re in different climate zones with different patterns and characteristics – some are very wet, others very dry.

“The Hervey Bay region is of special interest because it’s recognised as one of Australia’s most biodiverse marine environments. Including the Great Sandy Strait, it’s referred to as the Great Sandy Biosphere.

“Hervey Bay is classed as a bay but it has the characteristics of an inverse estuary (on a large scale) due to evaporation being higher than precipitation and river runoff. Because very little fresh water came into the Bay during the 10-year drought before 2009, it became inverse more frequently with a near shore high salinity zone and the ocean appears to be fresher (less salt).

“That has implications on how water is being exchanged throughout the whole system. Classical estuaries flush quickly but with inverted estuaries, it takes much longer for water to reach the ocean.  That impacts on the ecology, for example with pollutants. There was a sewerage plant accident here a few weeks ago. Sewerage came into the system and being an inverted estuary, it potentially stays here for a longer period.

Dr Ribbe said that with heavy rain in the past two years and now the recent flooding, a lot of fresh water was flowing into the Bay.

“As that water flushes out of the Bay it will lower salinity,” he said.

“What we did on our recent visit was try to find the front between salty Hervey Bay water and the freshwater. We’re studying how long it sits there and how long it takes the Bay’s system to get back to its normal state.”

USQ Research - Estuaries

Dr Joachim Ribbe checks data as it comes to hand. Photo: JOCELYN WATTS