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Rare beauty returns

Wednesday, 25th March, 2020

The Little Curlew (centre) with a Masked Lapwing (left) and a Black-Winged Stilt on Box Hollow Lake. PICTURE: Geoff Looney The Little Curlew (centre) with a Masked Lapwing (left) and a Black-Winged Stilt on Box Hollow Lake. PICTURE: Geoff Looney

By Craig Brealey

Birdlife is returning to Menindee with the water and amongst it all is a migratory species that has been rarely seen in NSW for years.

Local birdwatcher and tour guide operator, Geoff Looney, said he was delighted to discover the Little Curlew, a wading bird, beside Box Hollow, a small lake between lakes Pamamaroo and Copi Hollow recently.

There have been few sightings of it since the late 1990s, and Mr Looney has been asked to provide photographs and a report of his find to the NSW Ornithological Review Appraisal Committee.

“The Little Curlew was virtually taken off the list of wading birds that visit Australia,” he said yesterday.

He said water in the river and lakes, along with unseasonal cool weather for March, had attracted plenty of pelicans and ducks but also several types of birds that he had not seen for years.

“You’d be lucky to see two species of parrot in a week but now I’ve seen 15 blue bonnet parrots and some red rump, or grass parrots.

“Although it’s still not great here, there’s a lot of little bush birds, a few wrens and heaps of apostle birds.”

Mr Looney said he expected more to flock to the lakes and that it was a pity more people could not be there to witness the spectacle because the borders had been closed to help contain the spread of the coronavirus.

Last year Mr Looney was in despair at the state of the ancient lakes upon which he had conducted fishing trips and birdwatching tours since 2003.

Before they were ruined by over-extraction upstream and their still unexplained draining, hundreds of different species of bird were found on them, he said.

“The lakes and the big agriculture we had here were a big drawcard for birds.  

“I have seen 208 species but now you’re lucky to see 40 or 50 a month. Even the poor old emu got a bit scarce.”

However, the river was flowing again at last and water was reaching the lakes so it would not be long before the birds returned in bigger numbers, said Mr Looney.

“They’re not all back, but it’s certainly looking better.”

Fellow local, Graeme McCrabb, reported seeing “thousands of pelicans” as well as wood ducks, black swans and ibis this week as the river continued to rise.

“I’m no expert on birds but there’s lots of species,” said Mr McCrabb, a grape grower and businessman.

“The flow’s not quite over Weir 32 yet but it’s rising in our weir pool and they let water into Lake Pamamaroo this morning.”

He agreed with Mr Looney that it was bad luck fewer visitors would see life returning to the lakes after years of drought.

“It was really busy in town last weekend, things were ramping up, so it is a pity about the coronavirus because it was building up for a bumper Easter.”

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